Wednesday, October 16, 2013

MESH at the Colorful Daegu Festival

Got time for a quick one. MESH Printing (also known as Chris and Jess) went downtown this weekend to sell some prints. It actually turned out to be worth our time! We met some cool people, showed people our work, and sold some stuff. Lots of fun.

The reason we were able to do this was the Colorful Daegu Festival. The yearly festival hosts art vendors, musical performances, and a big parade as well. All sorts of quirky and creative things are going on for the whole weekend.

Some people had so much fun they couldn't even stay awake.  A nice little Saturday evening blackout in the subway station is a nice way to say "I'm finished for tonight." I thought the use of the soju (the Korean alcohol of choice) bottle as a pillow was as creative and hilarious as it was sad.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I realized recently why this blog doesn't get the attention it used to. Sure, it's been over 3 years now and some of the thrill is gone, but there isn't a day that goes by that I see something I could possibly blog about. I still carry my camera with me most days just in case I see something I haven't seen, yet I only get a new post up once a month if I'm lucky.

The reason this blog is so neglected is because of [b]racket. I helped start this magazine a year ago on a whim with some friends, and it has officially monopolized my time. And I love it.

When I got here in 2010, I realized that I needed some art friends. I found a few like-minded souls via facebook and started a small collective dubbed (by Lucas) "Art Beans." We organized a few gallery shows, taught some art classes to kids, and even published our own zine. It was good while it lasted, but with a rotating cast of characters with varying degrees of commitment, it became a whole lot of work without much reward.

I saw an art magazine while visiting friends in Gwangju in our first year here. I was so impressed, and wanted to know more. I was also frustrated that my city, of similar size, didn't have an equivalent. Oh well. What was I going to do, publish my own version?

One night, on our friend Greg's rooftop after a few drinks, decided to do just that. Greg Laychak, Chris Cote, and myself threw caution to the wind and came up with [b]racket. We had no idea what we were doing,  or how to do it. But what was the risk? We could do a giant bellyflop but there really wasn't anyone to witness it. Who cares?

Our first issue.

Through Greg's connections we found financing for the first issue. We didn't have to spend any of our own money to pay for it, and that was a big mark in the "win" category for us. We printed 200 of the first issue, and distributed them to spots we thought were cool. Surely everyone in town (a city of nearly 3 million ) would hear about the magazine and rally around it, right?

That wasn't exactly the case. Though we managed to stay afloat with advertising, barely paying for the cost of printing, we were determined. Greg put in an amazing amount of work, work that I simply took for granted. His vision for the design for the magazine and attention to detail set us apart from everything else in town. Chris and I scrambled to fill roles of finding artists and getting advertisers, but it seemed through Greg's connections and design prowess that everything (somehow) was going smoothly. We hadn't worked out all the kinks yet, but we also had no idea that we hadn't.

Then Greg left. One of our founders flew the coop (though we had prior knowledge to this departure, it still came as a shock). Chris and I were left to tackle all the responsibilities. Greg had a car. How would we distribute? Greg designed the mag. How would we do layout? Luckily Chris picked up where Greg left off with an issue of training. Chris was a quick study, and started to layout the issues with his own voice. We started getting the magazine out on our bikes. Things were rocky but okay.We started looking for writers instead of asking the artist to write their own pieces. Then Sharon entered the picture.

Sharon is one of my wife's best friends, but Sharon and I had a history of butting heads every now and again. At this point it's hard for me to remember that time, but it was definitely there. Nevertheless she, an English major, offered to work with us on the magazine. We needed writers badly and agreed to see what happened with her as part of it.

[b]racket blossomed once Sharon was on board. We had no idea how our magazine would improve with a dedicated words editor. Sharon helped to broaden our magazine and to make it not only something aesthetically pleasing (Chris was doing all the work on that) but also a good read. She made [b]racket feel more than just self indulgent; now it felt important.

As proud as we were, and as good as the magazine was, we were still struggling for advertising. From day one we'd agreed that we weren't looking to make any money on this, just enough to cover the cost of printing. What seemed an easy task of finding advertisers turned out to be a lot of work, especially since all the connections that Greg had made dried up the minute he'd left.

I'd beaten the streets looking for money, but the truth is there are only so many people you can ask when you can't speak Korean (and that is completely my fault). Just when we thought we might not be able to continue though, the clouds parted. Over the past few months I'd interviewed some important people in the arts for another magazine in town and they were interested my magazine. I'd also made a few connections at the university I worked at, and the combination of those connections turned into a government sponsor, covering the full cost of printing.

That was 6 months ago. Since then, we've been featured in two different national newspapers, been on a major network TV, done an international broadcast in Seoul, and held an art exhibition at a major university in Daegu. We're printing 500 issues a month now, and have plans to expand that to 800 in March. We've done quite a lot in a year.

Setting up our gallery show, [b]list.

[b]racket takes a ton of my time, but it comes with an enormous sense of accomplishment. We have started something that people truly look forward to each month, and we have ambitions of moving to other cities in the peninsula. What started out as a drunken goof on a rooftop a year ago has now become a monthly art magazine with an editor (me), a designer (Chris Cote), a words editor (Sharon Reichstadter), an online guru (Kita Mendolia), and 6 other monthly contributors. We have a website  and a facebook page that you should visit and like.

Lisa, Sharon, Chris and myself (Kita is missing from this photo somehow).

So don't expect much from this blog.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Bike Trip.

I've never in my life been a huge exerciser. I tried weight lifting early on in high school and it didn't take. I like being healthy, but I have to chase a ball or a frisbee to get active. I ride my bike to all the locations that I can, but that's more a product of being cheap than to stay healthy ( competing with Korean traffic isn't too far off from a death wish). This was the trip I was looking for and we didn't even know it.

Our good friend Whit organized the whole thing, so it was just a matter of commitment on our part. We bought a rack for our bike, bought some trail mix and beef jerky, strapped our bags onto our bikes and headed to Busan, the second largest city in South Korea.

Somehow it all worked out. We rode about 50 miles each day, through beautiful countryside. We've grown so accustomed to the high rise apartments and the subways it was eye-opening to see the other half of the peninsula. There is a paved path that for the most part hugs the major rivers here, that eventually meet the ocean.

It's called the 4 Rivers project, and the paved bike pathways cover all the major rivers in Korea. You can bike from Seoul to Busan.

We camped 2 of the 3 nights. We had a convenience store near us both nights, and were able to get any supplies we needed (food or otherwise).

It wasn't all easy.

But it was all beautiful.

There was one mountain that was particularly punishing. We all had to push our bikes up, it was a black diamond for sure. It was miserable getting up this thing, but going down was great.

This was the 5th member of our team. Finn spent time in the back of his father's cart, sleeping, or singing "the wheels on the bus....."  Occasionally he was allowed out of the trailer. He did a celebratory dance at this point.

Whit and I knew it was a priority to keep these ladies happy. We did an OK job.

Don't you dare steal this image and use it for a postcard.

We made it, exhausted (and in my case sunburned) to Busan. In a country this size, what an amazing way to see Korea. On bicycle.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Recent Curiosities and Misspellings

Thought I'd share a few photos of things that made me laugh or look twice recently.  

This mannequin was cruising down the road in rush hour traffic. Shirtless.

Apparently in Korean the word Moran refers to a flower.  Unfortunately, in English it means something totally different.

Amazing how chilling the message becomes with a simple misspelling of the word pray.

Body parts for sale from a street vendor.

They got it right on the column.

I'm pretty sure this phonetically reads "I Love Rape."

Sunday, May 19, 2013


doodoop doodoop doodoop duhdoop...the worst is over.

Friday is a breath of fresh air.  After a typically hellish Thursday, the final day of the work week is a welcome change.  It couldn't be more opposite than it's weekly predecessor.

I get started teaching at 1:10.  The school isn't too far from my studio, so some weeks I'll get to the studio early and then head to work. When I arrive, my co-teachers have a plan, have control of their students (not to mention their respect), and have lots of aids for teaching (flash cards, games, etc.).  They both speak English very well, and they are patient with me.  They keep the students in line.  It's golden.

My classes every other day of the week are 40 minutes long, but at this school they are 30.  Huge difference.  I split time between two teachers, making the day go by that much quicker.  Both are exceptional teachers and are appreciative of me being there.  They are professional.

The students are excited to see me, and have limits.  They aren't jumping all over me, and they will attempt to speak even if they don't feel comfortable.

My day ends at 4:30.  The school is located right next to where Beth works, so it's pretty common for us to meet up after I finish and have coffee or something.  The week wraps up quite nicely.

I leave Bongdeok Elementary each Friday thinking "that was awesome, bring on the weekend!"

Monday, May 6, 2013


Thursday is easily my worst day.  I teach from 9:30 to 4:50.  Although the school is in Daegu, it's almost a longer commute to get to than the out of town Gumi.  It takes a solid hour to get there with a subway/bus combo.  It's a Middle School.  It's rural.  It's in a lot of ways unbelievable.

At least the view is nice.

My day starts with adults.  I teach about 12 housewives, with the occasional male, for 3 hours.  Non stop.  Their levels of english vary greatly, so it's pretty difficult to keep the advanced students interested and the low level students with me.  All things considered, this is the easy part of my day.  The students are pretty interested in just about anything I say, and have good questions.  They even took me to lunch last week, which was awesome.  We had barbecued duck and some other stuff that has no english name.  It was very generous.

Stretching stuff for 3 hours is certainly a challenge though.

One other plus to this gig at Gachang Middle School is the free lunch.  I get to go have an authentic Korean school cafeteria experience.  The food is always pretty good and healthy, but lunch usually consists of a lot of what I call "drive-by english," students walking by and almost yelling "hello" and "nice to meet you."  Sometimes the occasional "I love you!"  I try to finish lunch quick so I can mentally prepare for what is coming.

The Cafeteria

At 1:15 I get a class of about 25 first year middle school students.  They are usually throwing erasers as each other, using their cell phones, and yelling at/chasing each other.  It takes about 5 minutes for them to settle down.  My co-teacher is a joke; the first day I taught he sat down in one of the students' desks and went to sleep, complete with snoring.  Most of these students can't read english, and can speak very little, yet the class is conducted entirely in english.  

My second class consists of at least three mentally challenged students who are impossible to speak with, a mute kid, and about 25 other students who don't have a clue what is going on.  There is a lot of yelling in this class.  It's too many students.

But the worst class, by far, is the 3rd class.  Even my co-teacher understands that this one is brutal.  There are 40 students in it.  Again, I have about 4 students that have some sort of mental disability where they can't communicate regularly with me.  They might yell out random english, but they can't put together answers or participate in class.  They typically disrupt the rest of the class.  These are 2nd year middle school students, so they are old enough to realize that this whole english charade is a joke.  They couldn't care less, and it's easy for them to hide in a sea of 40 students.  
The class is a success if it is kept to a medium murmur.  The co teacher walks around wielding a stick like a prison guard to hit students misbehaving, but since that practice has all but been abolished here it isn't much of a threat.  It's a long hard 40 minutes.  I tried to end class with a game 2 weeks ago, and the team that lost started yelling "I PLAYED THE FUCKING GAME!! I PLAYED THE FUCKING GAME!!" I nearly run out of this room after it's finished.

Yeah Right.

My final class of the day should be easier than it is, but it isn't.  There are between 12-15 students but I can never be sure because they are often missing class.  There are 4 students that cannot read, write, or speak english.  So I'm left to try and have a conversation class with the remaining students, who I constantly have to separate, yell at, and kick out of class.  Literally, there is one student that is following what I am saying in that class.

I leave to catch the bus home, which can take about an hour before I even get to the subway, relieved.  I typically leave Thursday's saying "That was hell, but the worst is over."

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Before this job actually began, the schedule they offered me is pretty different than what I actually have to do.  What was going to be a school very close to me became an out of town gig, a real kick in the pants.  I have to travel to another city, a 30 minute train ride away.  Gumi (their city slogan is "Yes, Gumi!") is a small town outside of Daegu.  Every other week I have to take the train to Gumi, the other weeks my co-teacher drives me.  This drive is full of awkward silences and empty small talk.  Luckily she can speak english pretty well but it is utterly boring.  I only work 1:10-4:50, but because of the commute my day is more like 11:30-6:30.

Gumi has actually been much better than I anticipated.  Despite the dull conversation the co-teacher is organized and active, and teaches with me.  The students are pretty great, and the school itself is fairly new.  Even with the commute, Wednesdays are one of my better days.  Situated on the outside of what is already a small city, the school is situated between high rise apartments and farmland.  And of course, gorgeous mountains.

The playground/field

My hallway.  You can see the students' uniforms.

My co-teacher and my classroom.

Getting home on the slow train to Daegu.  The train is comfy, and only costs $3.

I typically leave Wednesdays saying "that wasn't as bad as I thought.  Now how long will it take to get home?"