Thursday, May 2, 2013

Are You There, Readers? It's Me, Becky

*Knock knock*

Hello? Is anybody in here?

 *A door creaks open*

Oh, wow, it's really dusty in here. Nobody's been inside this blog for quite a while.

That's because I took a break from Internet writing to work on some other kinds of writing. First it was my thesis, but when that was finished, I wrote a few fantasy novels and some short stories.

Now I'm back on the Web, and I've started a new blog: "From the Crow's Beak." I'm blogging as Rebecca now, instead of Becky, but it's the same old me!

In the new blog I continue to write about goth and Korean stuff, but I'm also going to talk about my current writing projects and give publication updates. So if you liked the last blog, please consider following my new one.


Sunday, November 6, 2011


 or, "How My Master's Thesis Ruined My Life."

Many of you know that both Rebecca and I had finished the coursework for our respective MAs before we left the US for Korea. We both had also made significant headway on our theses before we shipped out - Rebecca had turned in a full draft of hers, and I had defended my prospectus and been given the green light to finish my analysis (which should have been the easy part). We got on the plane with laptops and backpacks full of data, and plans to finish up and defend in the summer. 

Once we got here, all that changed. We had new jobs to figure out, new foods to try, a new city to explore, and a new language to learn. We left the frozen wastes of Wyoming while it was still wintery and arrived here in time for the full bloom of spring, the season that many consider the most beautiful in Jeonju. We just couldn't sit in front of computers everyday while everything was green and flowering outside. Slowly, we let go of our summer graduation plans, and set our sights on December. 

We established a schedule that called for us to rise each day at 8:00AM and dedicate hours to our theses before working out, showering, and heading in to work at 2:00PM. This meant returning home after work and basically heading straight to bed, which is completely counter to my natural rythms. We were quite dedicated to this schedule for a time, but then we met and befriended other ex-pats in Jeonju, and like us, they got off work late in the evening. Going out for dinner with friends until 1:30AM makes it hard to get up at 8:00AM and generate quality academic writing.

Local friendships led to us becoming more active in the Jeonju internet communitites, which led to volunteering at orphanages, a Dinner in English group, and the final straw - taking a Korean class at Chonbuk University. The class met daily, and moved quite quickly. Eventually, trying to keep up with the new grammar and vocabulary was taking up all of my spare time. Everything else fell off (including posting to this blog), and soon I realized that three weeks had passed without me even looking at my thesis. 

My thesis glares at me from a dark corner of my mind constantly, like an ugly and unloved doll on a dusty shelf. I know that I should fix it up and get it ready to present, but there is always something newer and shinier clamoring for my atention. In the light of my new suroundings and new interests it seems ill-concieved, trivial, unneeded, and broken somehow. Yes - my thesis now lives on the Island of Misfit Toys, and my intended graduation date has slipped away to next May.

Although I have embraced every distraction that has come my way, I have finally realized that my unfinished thesis is sucking all the joy from my life. In my college career I never failed to turn in a paper and I never took an incomplete, so the thesis dragging on feels like a huge failure. I have reached the point where every moment of free time that I spend doing anything else, no matter how important or valid it is, is tainted because the thesis is not done. Everything - volunteering, movies, shopping, hiking, clubbing, literally everything we do for fun - reminds me that I have the debt from a Master's degree, but not the diploma. It is beginning to keep me from sleeping - I have dreams in which I face a committee that demands my paper, but there is nothing in my folder but old bus tickets and empty gimbap wrappers. This must end.

I have several friends who participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every year. They crank out around fifty or sixty thousand words in 30 days each November. I don't need anywhere near 50K - I'm just about thirty pages from done. Another form of inspiration comes from Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School (she is inspirational in so many way) who has declared this to be her "Finish the Damn Novel Month." So, to keep myself from descending any further into this pleasureless spiral of avoidance and annoyance, I have declared November to be "Finish My Master's Thesis Month." We shall call it "FiMyMaTheMo."

I am done with Korean class and I am returning to a strict schedule of writing 5 days per week. I will allow myself to play on the weekends only if I have put in the time Monday through Friday. Let this serve as notice to my friends - I will be turning down any new social engagements during the week and staying in my cell until it is done (I am still having midnight pancakes this Tuesday with the cool kids from Junghwasan-Dong because it is already on the calendar - but after that I'm like a nun).

This should allow me to finish the damn thing by December 1st. I will not be able to put together a defense before the university goes on Winter break, but I should be able to corral my committee sometime in January or February. Hopefully by my birthday in March it will all be just an awkward memory.

After that, I will be free again. Food and friends will be guiltless again, and I will enjoy the sleep of the righteous (or at least the sleep of the exhausted teacher, which I heartily deserve). The writing project that Rebecca and I have been discussing can get underway, and perhaps I will finally have time to sign up for Taekwondo or Hapkido classes like I had planned when we first got these jobs. 

Wish me luck, and don't invite me to anything cool for a while...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Halloween Blues (Or Should That Be "Oranges"?)

Normally, I read the latest post at Gothic Charm School with delight. Today, however, scrolling down the page only gave me a sinking feeling, as the Lady of the Manners gleefully describes how the Halloween season offers the chance to stock up on macabre housewares, skeletal jewelry, Halloween-themed clothing, craft supplies, stripy tights (which I desperately need - the last pair is wearing thin!), and various other necessities to maintain that "Every day is Halloween" spirit all year round.

And it's true - about this time last year I was running around the stores with my wallet held upside down. Bad for the budget? What budget? I was having fun!

This year is quite different, however. I'm ashamed to say that my enjoyment of Halloween is largely based on cheap, corporate cr...I mean, on the way every business in America joins in the Halloween spirit. I like walking into Wal-Mart and seeing all the terrible, cheesy, plastic costumes. I appreciate being able to order a pumpkin latte in a ghost-covered cardboard cup. I think funny Halloween t-shirts ("Witchy!" "Bats-tastic!") are a wardrobe essential.

But there are other, less consumerist joys of the season, too: mounds of little pumpkins at the grocery store; small tots dressed as princesses and pirates, two weeks before any actual trick-or-treating can take place; carved pumpkins on every doorstep; haunted houses, corn mazes, and pumpkin launchers; and, most importantly, the general air of spookiness that seems to settle in around October 1st.

That is all...not here in Korea. The only two businesses with any sort of Halloween theme are Baskin Robbins and Dunkin Donuts, and I can only save so many decorated cardboard cup holders. Pumpkins are yellow in Korea, not orange, and I haven't seen any tiny ones that our students can paint. Our students are clearly wondering why we're so Halloween-obsessed when it's so far away, and I haven't even spotted a Wolfman mask outside of the foreigner district in Seoul. Add all this up, and October in Korea is about as spooky as "My Mother the Car."

Sure, Linus and I have decorated the school within an inch of its life (we'll post pictures, I promise), have forced Halloween into every lesson since October 1st, and will have an absolutely smashing Halloween party next Friday. But there is definitely something lacking to our Korean Halloween. Would I trade my amazing job and my life here for black lipstick and plastic bat headbands? Of course not. But I have to admit, this is the first time I've had a legitimate craving for home since I got here.

Thank goodness for Mom and Dad, who sent me a care-box stuffed to the brim with glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs, Halloween stickers and tattoos, a light-up pumpkin and ghost, spiders, sparkly pumpkin garlands, and other Halloween essentials. There's no Halloween-y gloom that a cute li'l plastic pumpkin bucket can't cure.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

10.5.11 Everything Shiny and New In Our Lives

In honor of our fortieth follower (welcome, Raphael!), I have gotten off me lazy bum for another post.

As many of you are already aware, I have taken the Big Leap into Real Gothdom. No, no, I didn't get that pierced. I dyed my hair black.

I've always been pretty experimental with hair colors - my all-time favorite was dark purple - but I held off on black for two reasons: 1) I wasn't sure it would look good with my skin tone, and 2) I didn't want to look just like every other little goth girl on the Internet (not to mention most Koreans). But as the Lady of the Manners wisely points out, we're all walking stereotypes anyway, so why not embrace the cliches? As it turns out, black hair looks much better on me than my natural hair color. Koreans, or at least the Koreans I know, are very outspoken about personal appearance, and when I was brown-haired I would get told about every third day that I looked sick, tired, and/or like I'd just cried. I've been ebon-haired for a week now and have yet to be accused of ill health or constant weeping. The black stays.

Linus took a less conventional - and also less intentional - route to awesome hair.

This was supposed to be a dark golden blonde, close to his natural hair color. As you can see, this is not dark golden blonde. That's fine by me; I always fancied gingers. This is just one of the steps Linus is making towards modifying his appearance. We visited Seoul for the first time recently and Linus bought many fancy items that will dress up his patent-pending Tactical Goth look. Less "Blade," more Great Gatsby... if Jay Gatsby had been a day-walker/hit man/sketchy priest, that is. It's hard to describe, but he has a clear picture in his head, and when his custom-made clothes are delivered (I told you they were fancy!), he will post a photo shoot.

The other primary piece of news is that we have welcomed two brand new members into our family. They're beautiful, pale-skinned, hermaphrodite twins. Beneath their tough exteriors they're truly delicate creatures, vulnerable to the slightest touch of a cruelly unmoistened hand. No, we haven't adopted circus freaks (although we're open to the possibility - you know how to reach us). Actually, we bought two pet snails from Home Plus. Have you ever had a snail ooze up your thumb and gently nom on your knuckle with its cat-like, raspy tongue? Trust me, it's a much more adorable experience than it sounds. Their names, of course, given our current TV obsession, are Barnabas and Josette. How do we tell them apart, you ask? Barnabas is whichever one looks bigger at the time. It's an imprecise system, but I'm pretty sure our albino lovelies don't mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9.21.11 My New (Old) TV Boyfriend

Edit: We're further along in the series now, and my evaluation of Barnabas is steering away from "likeable" and closer to "crazy, creepy, control-freak d**k." He's still fun to watch, though!

My life is full of Remarkably Bad Timing. In this case, Linus and I have simultaneously started our new (good, but stressful!) curriculum at school, a demanding Korean language class, and getting serious about our theses again. So when do we get so obsessed with a new TV show that it actively interferes with us getting anything done? Right now, of course!

"New" is actually not a good way to describe this show. It's "Dark Shadows." No, not this one:
That one hasn't come out yet. No, we're talking old school:

For those of you who don't already know, "Dark Shadows" is a cheesy, melodramatic, poorly acted supernatural soap opera from the sixties. Like a lot of the things Linus and I watch (Flash Gordon, anyone?), part of the entertainment value is how bad it is, particularly at the beginning of the series, when there isn't a whole lot of plot to distract us from the high-school-play feeling of some of the performances. The music is pretty hilarious, too. As Linus puts it, "Roughing the theramin - five yard penalty!" Yet as we've continued to watch, we've slowly grown more and more fascinated. Forget being intellectually amused by the shoddy, yet adorably gothic product of a bygone era - this stuff is good.

The best part is trying to untangle the mythology of the "Dark Shadows" universe. The most famous character, and the one who popularized the show, is Barnabas Collins, a two hundred year-old vampire recently released from his coffin by general ne'er-do-well Willy Loomis. Much of Barnabas's story (so far) pulls heavily from the classic Dracula plot: vamp meets girl, vamp makes her sleepwalk, vamp repeatedly drains her blood, she dies and comes back as a vampire "bride," etc.

At the same time, "Dark Shadows" has a unique take on many aspects of vampirism. For example - Barnabas drinks from Willy at least once, and clearly has some sort of control over Willy's behavior, particularly at night. In addition, Willy is unable to eat or drink anything after his first encounter with Barnabas. So Willy appears to be well on the way to vampirism. Yet Willy recovers from his near-draining and regularly goes into sunlight. However, he still feels compelled to remain near Barnabas and work for him, while at the same time his free will remains quite strong, even to the point of his defying Barnabas on occasion.

Wait...what? we asked bemusedly as the series continued. What is up with Willy? Is he a World-of-Darkness-style ghoul? Does Barnabas actually control his movements, or is Willy just too frightened to run away? Barnabas keeps sending Willy out at night to do a "job" for him - so is Willy the one who's draining the local cattle of blood? If so, how, and how does he bring it back to Barnabas? And, and, and...

I apologize; this probably isn't too terribly interesting to most of our readers. But to a vampire lit. nerd like myself, it's fascinating. And the questions about Willy are only the tip of the fang, so to speak. There are so many interesting aspects of vampirism to be found here - everything from an induced aesthetic appreciation of night to heavy-duty brainwashing to the ability to control doors. For the life of me, I can't tell if one of the writers spent a long time considering vampirism, or if the show just keeps randomly throwing out ideas and Linus and I are the ones over-complicating things.

A lot of the fun is that Barnabas Collins makes such a likeable vampire. He's romantic, he's smooth, he seems genuinely interested in and fond of his descendants, and he has a touchingly vulnerable streak. True, he beats Willy with his cane and tries to turn a local girl into the living personification of his dead lover. But hey! For a vampire, that's really not that bad! I wouldn't bet on Barnabas Collins against any of Laurell K. Hamilton's or Anne Rice's far more terrifying vampires - but I absolutely would be rooting for him.

Monday, September 12, 2011

추석 잘 보내세요! (Happy Chuseok!)

Chuseok is the biggest holiday of the Korean calendar. It is a time when families gather to give thanks for an abundant harvest. As far as we can tell this involves offering food at the ancestor's graves, eating songpyeon (rice cakes) and fried foods, and wearing hanbok (traditional garb). This little lady is clearly ready to get started.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wait... What?

Once we moved to Korea, I put a picture folder on my desktop labeled, "Puzzling." Here are some of its contents.
One of these things is not like the other...
This a common issue for coffe shops. I have another picture (unfortunately too blurred to post) that offers "fresh wapples."

I love these examples of hybrid copyright infringement.

There is an AD&D joke here, but it's not funny enough to justify the several paragraphs that it would take to explain it for the RPG impaired.
Initially, I thought this was the biggest box of tampons I'd ever seen...
Two gaming jokes in one post? Yeah, I'm a dork.
Not just happy - mighty happy.