The Lineup
B.I.R. Column Of Fame
Man of Steel... Wood... and Mud: Bear Grylls
Rock Legend: Tom Morello

League Gods: The Emperor and Alfie

Str-8 Shoota: Malcolm X

Str-8 Shoota: Zack de la Rocha

Super Bad mofo's

Comrade Hillary

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Leaping into work 

Back into work today, but not without a little research into leap years. As the Guardian explains here , a leap year occurs if the year is divisible by four, unless it is divisible by 100 however not by 400. This means that 1984 and 2000 were leap years but not 1900. Apparently women are allowed to ask men to marry them on February 29ths - great, one day out of every 1461 (or so).

I'm also thinking about developing a Vancouver Canucks drinking game on this blog. A few preliminary suggestions:

1 drink

- Todd Bertuzzi visibly mouths the word "f*ck"
- A Sedin falls over
- Brent Sopel gives the puck away (although fair play to him for scoring two goals in last night's game)
- Marcus Naslund receives the puck somewhere other than on the boards

2 drinks

- Jarko Ruutu gets sent to the penalty box within 30 seconds of arriving on the ice

3 drinks

- Dan Clouthier attacks the opposition goalie.

Anyway, in other news, Russell Brown is dead right to say that if Britain hadn't been bugging Kofi Annan, there would be no harm to national security in saying so. Blair can't say that, of course, because it would be a lie. Of which there have been quite a few lately. On a related note, Blair just doesn't understand that his personal conviction that "invading Iraq was the right thing to do" isn't a valid justification for war. I don't actually doubt that he managed to convince himself that the invasion was moral and necessary, contrary to most informed analysis, but that's hardly a rational basis for foreign policy. Similiarly, if Blair managed to convince himself that the Earth was flat, it wouldn't be appropriate to teach this in public schools.

Until next time.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Media Blackout 

Well, I'm just back from Arizona, where I escaped the incessant rain and grey clouds of Vancouver. We flew over the Grand Canyon, which was an impressive sight indeed, before heading to our destination: the city of Yuma. It's a long way from the Canyon, but very close to the Mexican border. A day trip to Algodones, BC (Baja California) was in order, and we re-engaged with all the colours and sounds of a Mexican "tourist town". Did the usual bartering and had a blast.

Anyway, during my 8 days away I was in a semi self-imposed media blackout (my exposure to the world of TV, radio, newspaper and the internet being limited to local weather forecasts and a few minutes email). It's interesting how it's so possible to live without any real knowledge of what's happening in the outside world, even in the US. I still have no idea how the Primaries are going, whether John Kerry is still on track, whether Howard Dean pulled out of the race, etc. I had a sneaking suspicion that Tony Blair would be forced to resign, but that doesn't appear to have happened. How could someone with such promise have gone so wrong? And, on an issue of similar gravitas, I wasn't following the triumphs of the NZ Cricket team. Stay tuned for some statistical analysis, courtesy of the great record keeping of Cricinfo.

Well, I need to tune into the world again. And recruit a third contributor!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Meanwhile life goes on in Korea.... 

and on, and on...

actually that link doesn't work so here you go...the definitive guide to company life in Korea, and just about any life for that matter.

[I'm putting this in months later just in the off chance that people browse back through the archives. The guy who wrote what's below came out with THE most racist diatribe against Koreans that I have seen online in 4 years of living here a while after this effort. So read it with that in mind. I'm not going to delete it though as there is still a fair amount of useful 'info' to be gained by what he wrote here. But the guy embarrased himself with his later effort.]

Working, Drinking for Long Hours in Korea

By Conor Purcell
Senior Writer

In August of 2003, Hyundai executive, Chung Mong-Hun, jumped from the window of his 12th floor office and fell to his death. His suicide illustrated some of the main problems with Korea today: corruption and the desire to save face at all costs. Before his death, Chung Mong-Hun had undergone 42 hours of questioning, spanning three days, concerning the illicit transfer of $400 million to North Korea. The underhanded nature of some of the transactions was under scrutiny and the beleaguered Chong obviously could not take any more.

While his case was an extreme one, the pressures of Korea can get to those from all walks of life, both Koreans and foreigners. The "nod and wink" culture here claimed another victim, and a particularly high profile one at that. However, the symptoms of these problems run deep and while the local media has scratched the surface of the issues, massive changes in social norms would have to take place for any real changes to be made. Judging from my experiences in the past month or so, this does not look likely to happen anytime soon ...

Having left teaching, I joined a Korean company in a non-teaching capacity. Working in an office and not a classroom was something that I was looking forward to. No more screaming kids, fights over pencils, timetables or humiliating open days. No more, "How's the weather today? It's sunny." No more inane, childish remarks, embarrassed giggles, or breathtaking ignorance. For now I was leaving the twilight zone of the Korean classroom and walking into the altogether more civilized office space. I should have known better.

The work itself was challenging and in a field I am interested in. But soon the office politics began to get wearing. As did the garbled conversations in Korean the rest of the office employees would have, interspersed with "waygook" and followed by glances in my direction and staccato giggling. One day, one of my co-workers started pointing at my face and laughing. "So red, so red," he exclaimed. He bounded over and started rubbing my face with the back of his hand. "Ooooaaaahhhhhh!" he shouted and soon the whole office was laughing at the poor waygookin (foreigner) who couldn't stand the 86 degrees Fahrenheit the office is normally at.

To stop this farce I literally had to grab his hand and tell him to stop. "Stop, stop," he mimicked and bounded off as happy as Larry. These moments of juvenility were to be expected and I usually laughed them off, knowing that these people really did not know any better. I often wondered how Korea managed to become the economic powerhouse it was before the IMF crisis. I had visions of Chaebol chairmen rubbing U.S. congressmen's faces in Capitol Hill boardrooms.

More eye opening was the discrepancy between the amount of hours at the office and the amount of actual work done. Our hours were officially ten to seven, but every night everyone would stay later, often until ten or eleven. Add on a 90 minute commute both ways and that's a long day. However I soon began to realize that when people were in the office, not much actual work was being done. Five minutes was about the longest that anyone sat in their seats before they were up wandering around, making tea, looking out the window or aimlessly chitchatting.

Michael Breen, in his book "The Koreans," writes about the farmer mentality that the Koreans have. This seemingly counter-productive work ethic would seem to part of that phenomenon. Part of the reason for the long hours goes back to the pressure to get ahead and not lose face. For most office workers, leaving before the boss does is a no-no, even if it entails three hours of chatting on messenger. I used to leave when I had my work done, and I relished the look of barely concealed contempt on the rest of the office as I strolled out.

These long hours are only part of the extreme nature of much of Korean society. Once the boss does leave, he will often invite the staff out for drinks. This does not mean a swift half in the local but half a dozen bottles of soju, until everyone is rat-arsed. At this point, who the boss is, is immaterial. Under the influence all is forgiven, and soju can be a very effective venting process where the stresses of conformity can be blown away for a few hours. Unfortunately these nights out take their toll, and the sheer amount of public sleeping that goes on in Korea is a testament to that.

Naturally, soon after I joined the job I was dragged along to one of these nights out. We went to an extremely expensive Japanese restaurant where everyone got shit-faced. I was on antibiotics at the time so could not drink alcohol. Trying to explain that to my bosses was like trying to tell them I was a hermaphrodite. Blank looks were followed by concerned nods as they poured another drink into my glass.

"If I drink one glass of alcohol, my intestines will melt and my testicles will dissolve."

"Really? That's terrible. Cheers!"

Luckily I escaped further promptings due mainly to my foreignness. The other staff members weren't so lucky. One of the other lads turned red. Vomited. Came back and started drinking again. He admitted he hates drinking, but Koreans judge their staff and their potential business partners by the amount of booze they can hold. They will not choose the company that has the best offer or service, but the company whose representatives make them feel the most comfortable on a night out. Drinking is seen as a test of manhood rather than something to be enjoyed. As my co-worker wiped regurgitated kimchi from his face, I couldn't help but feel relieved I had been born thousands of miles away.

While Koreans pride themselves on being a member of the group, part of the problem with the group culture is that it leaves little time for themselves. The sheer stress of constantly living up to other people's expectations means that Koreans frequently need to blow off steam. Now, of course, that in itself is causing the problems. The drinking culture here is so extreme that earlier in the year the Korean government introduced a moderate drinking night. Once a month. On a Monday. On this day Korean's were advised to drink "moderately." This can plainly illustrate the extent of the booze problem in this country.

A recent article in a local vernacular daily pointed out that the binge-drinking phenomena was due to the strict hierarchical nature of Korean's lives. Under the influence, Korean's are allowed to say and do things that would never be tolerated in a normal situation. Another reason for the binge culture is the limited time Koreans have for leisure activities. Byte-size entertainment is the order of the day, whether it be a noraebang, PC room, barber shop or soju tent, Korean's like to get to the point.

While this might seem convenient in theory, in practice it's another story. The Confucianist nature of Korean society, far from harmonizing relationships, seems to further complicate things. Who are you most answerable too? Your boss? Your parents? Your wife? Confucianism may have worked thousands of years ago, but into today's intertwined society, its tenets seem to be holding Koreans back. And this medieval streak running through Korean society will have to changed if Korea is too live up to it's much vaunted potential.

Conor Purcell, an honor graduate from Griffth College in Dublin, Ireland, is currently working as staff writer for The Seoul Times. More writings from Conor can be seen at

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Great Debate Race, I mean Race Mass Debate

I mean to enter the 'race argument' in NZ at some stage but it's a bit hard when Russell Brown writes as comprehensively and as well as he does here...

In my opinion the government needs to do more to educate NZers as to what 'special' treatment Maori are getting (if indeed any) and why. Let's face it, people are dumb and always feel as though they are getting shafted even when they're not.

The anecdotal evidence suggests that they are being favoured in areas of health and unemployment over and above other sick and unemployed people (yes that comes directly from my mother who works at Income and Support). To me that kind of favouritism is wrong. An out of work (insert race here) is just as deserving of help as a Maori in my opinion.

Obviously the issues regarding cultural preservation, education etc are somewhat different and I have no qualms with money and resources being pumped there. I get a kick out of seeing 'Maori culture' thriving as much as anybody and in many respects it's part of me as well even if I don't have an ounce of Maori blood.

I just don't feel that others should be disadvantaged that's basically it. Right time to move along perhaps.

Hell did I have food poisoning or what?! "How would I know?" I hear you say. Shut up.

Came at a perfect time, what with visas coming up on expiry and our last soccer practice before our season starts and all. I'm going to have to make a dart to Japan in the next couple of weeks to get a new working visa for Korea which I will also turn into a three night trip with my other half. It's one of the more ridiculous things about Korea that every time you start a job with a different school/company or whatever you have to leave the country and find your way to a Korean consulate or embassy to get it stamped and then return. Often in the same day. This despite the fact that you have already had all the documents approved already by the Korean authorities.

Still none of this would have been happening if my wankhole (soon to be ex)boss hadn't decided he didn't like NZers and not renewed my contract. He is a short evil little man who lied to my face about why he didn't want me back (well he made no eye contact actually) in fact doesn't like foreigners fullstop yet finds himself in the strange position of being in charge of them in A FOREIGN LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT!!!! Wake up you dick head, there is an easy solution to your problem!

I'll tell you oh so much more about my school and this guy in coming months and maybe even years as the scarring may last a long time. I guess that's the thing with scarring. Everybody has to leave Korea with a horror story though so I will count the last few months as my effort to the cause. I was just joking now about going to this years opening meeting at this school I am leaving with some colleagues. We figure our other boss wouldn't even notice anything strange as he can't even remember our names after two years of working with him. It's all the internet porn addling his brain I think.

Right a day of apartment moving and maybe a few games of pool beckon me.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Cruised into Korea alive and tired last night. Got my 8 hours sleep undisturbed by small Korean barking dogs in neighbouring apartments and people singing at the top of their lungs, fighting, vomiting and the general behaviour of Korean society at close quarters.

I did have some pretty nasty nightmares though. Seems to happen when I sleep on my back...go figure. Kind of strange, kind of cool to come back here after two months away. NZ and Korea are so far different that it's a bit hard even knowing how to describe it. I just got an email from an American friend who has just gone home from here after two years. He has said it's weird trying to settle back into it and jump through all the paperwork/re-start your life things. Still he said the Arizona University girls (no it's not the other guy blogging with me) are taking his mind of that stuff (and he doesn't even study there, KENT GET OFF THEIR CAMPUS!). It was whiskey that was doing it for him in Korea. Me, I prefer, copious amounts of beer, dried squid, soccer playng and watching, surfing the www and watching Korean gameshows.

I'm in a smokey pc room (they are supposed to be smoke free but good luck finding one that is) listening to A Perfect Circle on my headphones (how were their NZ concerts in the last few nights...anybody? gutted I couldn't go). By the way we have broadband here and it's only about 5 times faster than NZ. Imagine being able to bring this screen up in .3 of a second!!!

anyhow, I'll drip feed you Korean life and have a nice day won't you and we will endeavour to keep blogging it real and not worrying about grammar and overusing and.

if you've got any feed back or whatever the fluck you can email us at (and here comes the spam!!!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Me, well I'm off to Korea tomorrow at the arse crack of dawn (that means in that dark space shortly before the rising ball of flame). To change topic wildly I whacked, stroked, flumped and scratched my way around The Grange this afternoon and fired a 398 over par round of 112. Not quite sure why I am keeping score if I'm going to perform like that. Still, acceptable for my third ever round of golf after no training whatsoever.

This will be my last blog from NZ for a good ten months. You'll be in for an odd ride with me during my last teaching stint in Korea I can assure you. Can't wait huh?! can. Well then f-off.

Weather Report: Auckland has now had 129mm in Feb (70mm average) and it rained more last night and today. Still it could be worse, it could be a New Plymouth summer where they have had 221mm and basically had half the area down there fall into rivers. Kind of reminds me of that TOOL song where Maynard James Keenan sings about an earthquake on the western sea board of America thus causing California across to Arizona falling into the Pacific Ocean, except that it doesn't remind me of that at all.

Don't worry, I have a 12 hour flight to actually plot what I want to say here for the next wee while. The Maori 'priveleges' issue is obviously fresh in NZ so I'll probably chip in with my fence sitting 10 cents worth....and....NZ dicked the Afrikaners tonight which was nice after a bit of smack talk from the green robots. And I heard Brian Waddle call Shoaib Ahktar, 'Shoaib Chucktar' (got his first name wrong didn't I?). My god, and here was me thinking that Waddle and Ian Smith were competing to see who could win the most whiny, negative "why do they have to play music during the games and let the crowd have fun" bastard of the year award. Well, looks like Smithy's got the front running now.

This blogger is off to Arizona tomorrow, from where he may file a report into, well, whatever he finds. Scorpions in his tequila or something. Another exciting border crossing awaits.... Until next time.

Greetings! Oddly enough, it is also raining in Vancouver. Including on my desk, which suffered catastrophic flooding over the weekend, resulting in unprecedented destruction of valuable items. On a more positive note, I did manage to see delayed coverage of the Wellington Rugby 7s final. A good game and a great crowd. Not too often do you see Kiwi crowds getting into the singing, dancing, and ridiculous costumes. It sure puts the old "kick and clap" formula (as seen in the NPC and elsewhere) into perspective.

Monday, February 16, 2004

OK, so I'm blogging am I?

Well this will be a joint effort involving myself and one, two, or possibly three other people over the coming weeks, months, years or decades (please god, NO!). On the menu (what a wanky thing to say) will be politics, social commentary, sports (plenty of that), a bit of funny stuff from Korea and who knows what else. I think for starters I'd like to mention the weather. 119mm of rain in Auckland by the 16th of Feb. For those who don't know Auckland averages 70mm for the entire month! And I think Auckland has got away fairly lightly. Just as well I'm leaving the country in two days so I can get back to the cool climes of Korea where it's currently hovering around zero degrees celcius. Right, f-this. I'm off to play with the settings in this blog site. yeehhaaah.

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