Category: Language


Just Another Saturday

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Went to a baseball game with a friend and two of his friends. Drank a little at the game and met a third friend in a new area. Having already missed the subway home, it was decided I should stay the whole night, and we’d have lunch with the friend the next day and meet his wife and kid.

One of the most hilarious moments was getting a cab from the college area where we met the last guy to my friend’s house. Being that there were five of us, one stayed behind nearby cars until the first four got inside, then he quickly jumped in. The cab driver made a big deal about not going, my friend repeating the directions over and over and over again until he finally did. The more we traveled, the better my friend’s Korean “became,” with all of us a continual chorus thanking the driver and requesting him to have just one drink with us.

Got a little sick and started drinking water only. Situated outside a convenience store, two of my friend’s friends told some Korean guy with a handbag that he was gay. Then an older Korean asked one of us if he was Korean, and he said, no, I’m Chinese. I told the Korean that he was a North Korean conspirator, and the guy said, “Shit you,” or something like that as he stormed off across the street.

A little while later, the cops showed up. I figured it was because of what I said. It wasn’t. The “gay” handbag guy and his friends were upset. My friend with the wife and kid has been here a year longer than me and his Korean is better, but he didn’t do anything, so I ended up being the translator. Also, I wasn’t as drunk as the others and had something like a clear head.

The older Korean returned, yelling at us and pushing the cops. They told him to get out of there and were pretty ruthless to him, as he was to them. Actually, I thought he was going to be arrested. After a while, he left. The cops said that the Koreans were bad and thus being stupid and that we should just move. I agreed and told the others so. They said they were going to be stubborn and sit there. Thus the convenience store worker took the chairs and they had to sit on the floor. I stayed standing, negotiating with the police. I explained to them that my friends were stubborn, and also, talking to the guy they called gay (he was pissed), that the others were stubborn too. I explained that it was a miscommunication partially brought on by a difference in language, but more so a result of different cultures.

One of the guys started having a discussion with the younger cop, telling him it was racism, while I continued to negotiate with the older one. He told me he wasn’t telling us to leave as a police officer but as an older brother. I said I could respect that, but that my friends were stubborn and wouldn’t listen to what I said. Finally, the cops relented and left. Explaining the situation to the others, I agreed that calling the cops was most definitely an overreaction, but told them that you just can’t start calling others gay, which they started to do again. I told them to stop. They said that someone with a bag like that in the States would be considered gay, and I told them that they couldn’t think about it like that, that they have to consider the other culture’s perspective, and that no culture is superior to any other, nor are they equally relatable.

Finally, out of nowhere, the last friend we had met hit me in the back of the head, screaming, “Shut up, I’ve had enough of you!”

I gave him a glare yet said nothing. I think he knew what the glare meant. Walking to an alley to discuss the matter with my friend, I told him that I was leaving and was sorry, but that people can’t act in such a manner and except me to accept it.

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“…An idea. All writers are unhappy. The picture of the world in books is thus too dark. The wordless are the happy: women in cottage gardens: Mrs. Chavasse. Not a true picture of the world; only a writer’s picture. Are musicians, painters happy? Is their world happier?” Thursday, September 5th, Nineteen Forty. A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf.

While I agree with her sentiments especially regarding journals/diaries, and the brunt of classical literature catches an inherent deep human sadness, I’m writing against that trend with this book. Focused; on fire. And if not this book, then another. And another’s another…

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Welcome the next era…

Took the Test of Proficiency in Korean (basic edition) today for the first time. It’s separated into two sections: expressions, grammar and writing, and listening and reading. Each section is ninety minutes.

There were about five words I didn’t know in the first section, and the short essay question just happened to be about my best friend, something I practiced last night with my girlfriend (who it’s about, of course). So, if a woman grades the writing section (which I really hope), I’ll get a good grade because of the romantic things I wrote. Probably the same if a guy grades it, as this is Korea.

More than ten words I didn’t know in the second section, but the listening was super easy, while reading was a bit more challenging. Both sections took almost an hour each, and afterward I had lunch with a Turkish guy who was in the same group of test takers. Won’t know the grade until 6월 2일, but that’s what, a month and a half away?

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A book takes years. This one has been in the oven for six… fifteen drafts and it’s just about ready. In a few weeks, when it’s all retyped, I’ll send it out to agents. Promise!

Being a writer, an artist isn’t romantic or exciting in the least. At times. Here it is three in the morning with wake up at six-fifty and I can’t sleep because I realized the most recent novel doesn’t begin right and I’m actually stressed out about it, something that’s not even real or wasn’t until I created it. And I don’t care if that’s a run-on sentence, cause if this ain’t insanity, what is?

Success!

13 books for a total of 4316 pages.

The biggest book was War and Peace at 1273 pages. It was written by Leo Tolstoy, and is unlike any other novel I’ve yet read. Many critics consider it to be the best Russian novel. It is also the first Russian novel I’ve ever read, and is the most highly recommended fiction of the year. Thus far.

The three other novels were: We, Journey to the End of the Night, and Omensetter’s Luck, which are all excellent. Each in its own way, and all have been added to my favorite novels.

The smallest book was Gregory Corso’s The Happy Birthday of Death at 91 pages. Cesaire’s The Collected Poetry (clocking in at about 208 pages, as it’s bilingual at 408 pages) was far more enjoyable: a two page poem often supplied ten or fifteen new vocabulary words.

Cortazar’s Blow-up and Other Stories was a bit underwhelming (compared to Hopscotch), but what short story collection isn’t? Also, Barthelme’s Forty Stories may have better stories, but Sixty Stories (read in February) has more cohesion and feels like a more solid collection.

Other nonfiction included: The Professor and the Madman, about the history of the OED, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Chomsky’s Profit Over People, The Poetics of Space and Oulipo.

During this month I started taking notes as I read, and completed about 20 (double sided pages) in a slender notebook commonly used by journalists. Not just vocabulary and ideas, but also stealing amazing lines… the best writers steal.

On the momentous cusp of finishing War and Peace, I experienced vivid daydreams about future novels, which focused mainly on the past and rummaging through whatever remains survive. The first novel I completed was the fifth one I attempted, so there’s a lot of fodder to edit, revise, and use again. This happened again recently when I attempted the sixth novel. Three false starts, not failures: Attempts I can store away for later.

Six: Resurrect the first novel I attempted. It was too advanced ten years ago. It’s manageable now.

Seven: An idea I’ve had for a number of years now. Historical fiction. It will require extensive travel, language acquisition and mastery, and detailed research. The trilogy will be the 1800+ page range.

Eight: A dystopian?

Nathan’s Birthday

Spoke to my seven year old brother yesterday. He requested some TV character cake for his birthday May 8th, to which our sister said May 6th. He then informed me that he had changed the day and that others tell him it’s May 6th, 5th or 4th. I asked if he knew when his birthday was, and after a pause, he sighed. “No.”

Posts in Korean?

Why not? Can’t promise any particular frequency, though once a week is doable. Keeping a daily journal in Korean has helped me master words I use everyday, words that are close to my mind and heart. Maybe I can’t always keep up in every simple conversation, but I can express my tastes and desires with greater confidence and frequency. The obscure and archaic words I learn from the Handbook of Korean Vocabulary are the ones I have no trouble remembering. Actually, I have little trouble remembering most words these days: looking up something using my phone dictionary today, I remembered the word and a cousin word after looking at them each once. Now that’s progress.