Sunday, November 10, 2013

Belated Halloween

I've complained before about how Korea doesn't "do Halloween right." Be aware that I'm biased. By many country's standards, Korea doesn't just do Halloween right, it actually goes overboard with parties for the kids, costumes in the stores, and the whole expatriate community throwing multiple celebrations all week long. But by American standards, Korea's Halloween can be a bit disappointing. "Why doesn't everything come in a pumpkin flavor?" we wonder, trudging through the non-spooky streets. "Where are the trick-or-treaters demanding candy? Why don't all the stores have at least five aisles dedicated to  costumes and Halloween home decor? In short, why is there still money in my pocket in October?"

I'm pleased to say, though, that Halloween: Korean Edition was actually quite nice this year. There was a pumpkin carving party, a costume party, a party at my university, and a Dia de los Muertos party. I received my usual fabulous Halloween Care Package from home, which included many artificial candles that are flickering around me as I write. Best of all, Linus and I got to do something we've wanted to do for years: dress as Gomez and Morticia Addams!
The creepy and the kooky!
Morticia loves her plants.

A less artistic shot, so you can see the bottom of the dress. The lace tendrils extend only from the back, for easier walking, but in this shot I have them wrapped around my feet.

So yes, Halloween was a success.

In other news, I've been thinking about doing some outfit posts. My style has a lot of incarnations these days, including Vampire Schoolmistress, Black Forest Mori Girl, Cozy Goth, and Laundry Day. We'll start with this shot, which was a selfie I took to show Linus my new hat.

The hat is Russian Princess, but the lace shirt and Victorian brooch are Vampire Schoolmistress.
So...Russian Vampire Princess?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"The Finger" from THE FROZEN WITCH

             Eric approached the table, then delicately lowered his backpack to the floor. Even the way he unzipped the bag bespoke supreme caution. When he lifted out the large, dusty glass jar, Hildr saw why.

             Inside the jar, something was moving--a human finger. It was an extremely dirty digit, to say the least. There was mud caked beneath the yellowing nail, and the wrinkles on the knuckle were black with ingrained filth. Splintered bone protruded from its end. More to the point, the thing was still animated. As Eric lifted the jar up, the pad of the dismembered finger pressed and pulled uselessly against the slick glass, causing it to flop about in place. Hildr thought the thing was trying to propel itself forward, inch-worm fashion.

             Eric set the jar down on the table with a decisive little thump. This bounced the finger, but otherwise had no impact on its behavior. It just kept scrabbling for traction, and twitching with--it was hard not to anthropomorphize--frustration.

             "Hello, Thing," murmured Adan, bending over the jar's strange contents. When both Hildr and Eric looked puzzled, Adan said hastily, "Old TV joke. Never mind."

             "Where did you find this?" Hildr asked.

             "On my grandfather's farm," said Eric. "You know where it is. I was thinking. Could it be part of that revenant we killed?" Hildr thought she caught a slight emphasis on the we, and smiled inwardly at the pride that warmed his voice.

             "It’s not blue," was what she said out loud. "This looks human."

             "Ugh," said Eric, making a face. "That's worse, somehow."

            "It is," Hildr agreed. Picking up the jar, she tilted it. The finger slid and fell silently against the side of the jar. It continued to squirm, its nail clicking frantically against the glass in a vaguely threatening fashion. Hildr hadn't the faintest idea what it was.

             "Adan?" she asked.

             "Not a clue," was his prompt response. "I've never seen anything like it."

             Adan had never seen it before--that didn't happen often. Underneath the headache and muddled anger and lingering sense of violation, Hildr felt a gut-clenching flash of excitement. Something new.

             "Where exactly did you find this?" she asked.

             "I can show you," said Eric. "I took a rock and made a sign exactly where Miriam and I--Miriam is my friend--where we found it. I tried to follow its tracks, too, but they weren't very clear. I think it came from the north, though. Which is another point against it being part of the revenant, because the grave is over to the east."

             Hildr lifted her eyes from the finger to Eric. He was still the same bespectacled, round-faced boy who'd come to her with a haunted sword. And yet, he wasn't. Amazing, what beating a dead monster into submission could do for self-confidence.

             "All right," said Hildr. "Show me."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Get Ready to Wriiiimooooo!

Nice chain.

I'm sure I'm not the first blogger to use that title.

November 1st is fast approaching--a little too fast--somebody make it stop! It's not that I don't love the Day of the Dead, but this year it marks the start of quite an undertaking: my first attempt at Nanowrimo.

I'm sure some of you are veterans of National Novel Writing Month, and are scoffing at my panic even now (preferably chewing on a cigar, scotch in hand: "Welcome to the frontlines, kiddo.") For those of you who aren't, Nanowrimo is an event in which hundreds of thousands of novelists agree to write 50,000 words in thirty days. That's 1,667 words a day, for those of you who don't like math (such as myself).

I'm a fast writer when I'm motivated, and I'm excited to finish my third manuscript, which is only 10,000 words in. But I've also been editing The Frozen Witch like a madwoman for the last month, trying to get her ship-shape before the start of November. It's left me a little burnt out, especially because it looks like I won't even have a few days to rest between this last novel and the next one.

Still, I've been waiting for YEARS to try my hand at Nanowrimo, and by gum, it's finally going to happen. I've got a profile on the site ( and some great ideas and, hey, it's only thirty days. As my Korean students would say, "Figh-TING!"*

Is anybody else doing Nanowrimo? I'd love to hear about your projects!

* That's Konglish. Rough translation: "You can do it!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Holy $*@*, I'm On Neil Gaiman's Tumblr!

Like the title says: Holy @#&$, I'm on Neil Gaiman's Tumblr!

I'm a big fan of both Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, mostly because a) they make awesome art and b) they actively encourage others to make awesome art. So when one of their friends held an art contest for All Hallow's Read, I talked my fabulous photographer, Marli, into holding a special shoot.

Three hours, ten mosquito bites, and a lot of editing later, these were the results:

Add caption

There were some other great shots, but I thought these ones turned out the most "Halloweeny." Even though it's October Korea is still quite warm and green, which was a bit of a disadvantage.

So yes, I am the model in the photos. I probably should have mentioned Marli by name in the submission, but I honestly didn't think the pictures would get much traction. If you like her work, this is her Facebook page.

Didn't win the contest, but still--Neil Gaiman's tumblr!

Monday, October 7, 2013

No Sleep For the Wicked

The train station

I haven't posted much recently because my life has been pleasantly boring. Even the advent of October hasn't shaken things up much. Unlike in the U.S., the whole month of October is not a madcap celebration of all things Ooky Spooky, and although the expat community gamely tries to compensate for this lack of holiday spirit, the celebrations haven't gotten rolling yet (which is a pity, seeing as I was ready to start doing Halloween in September).

So boring, yes, but in a nice way. UNTIL THIS FATEFUL CONVERSATION:

[Yesterday, in the train station in Seoul]

Me: "Hey hon, should we get our return tickets now, or just see how things go?"
Linus: "Let's just see how things go."


When we made this blissfully carefree decision to delay the purchase of our train tickets, we didn't know the following:

1) That weekend, Seoul was hosting a fireworks festival.
2) The last train leaves before eleven, not at one a.m. as we had previously assumed.

So around 11:00, when we and our cohort are wearying of sitting on a terrace, sipping drinks, and judging people's outfits, Linus and I decide to get on the train and go back to Jeonju.

"Uh oh," I say intelligently, looking at my phone. "This says the last train left fifteen minutes ago. Anjee, when does the last bus leave?"

"Midnight, I think."

The problem is, Linus and I hate buses--or, to be more accurate, bus drivers, who seem to be universally cranky men with secret death wishes and a predilection for skipping the bathroom stops. "Maybe we should get a hotel," I suggest. "I could use a bath and some TV."

This leads to a solid half-hour of calling every hotel we've ever even heard of in Seoul. All of them are booked, thanks to the aforementioned fireworks festival.

"Well, then, let's take the bus," Linus says.

I cheerfully agree, because at this point I'm still cheerful. It's like an adventure! We're being spontaneous!

When we get in the cab to drive to the bus station, we discover the other side-effect of the fireworks festival: traffic. We arrive at the bus station with thirteen minutes to pee, get tickets, and get on the bus. Of course we go straight to the wrong part of the terminal, and spend those precious minutes wandering around wondering where the hell we are and why we can't see the word "Jeonju" anywhere.

By the time we find the right ticket line, the next bus is at 5:30.

"The next train is also at 5:30," Linus points out. "If we have to wait that long then we might as well take the train and not the bus. So let's go back to the train station, get our tickets, and camp out on the benches there."

I agree, but not cheerfully this time. I am getting tired, and the train station is not my ideal place to catch a nap, as it's much hotter, smaller, and dirtier than the bus station.

Still, the evening doesn't really sour until we arrive at the train station.

"Sorry, we are closed," the man tells us, shooing us out with widespread arms. "Until 5:00."

"What kind of train station closes at night?!" Linus shouts indignantly as soon as we're back in the open air. I am trying hard not to cry. All I can think about is sleep.

So there we are, in the middle of Seoul in the middle of the night, in an area of town where you can't even find a coffee shop to hide in. Luckily, I have a bright thought. I remember that there's a movie theater attached to the train station, and that it frequently shows films as late as one o'clock.

They're all Korean films, with no English subtitles, as the helpful clerk tells us. It hardly matters at that point. We buy caramel corn and a chili dog to console ourselves and huddle into the plush seats of the theater to watch the historical drama.

Of course, despite the bright lights, cranked-up sound system, and idiot behind us kicking our seats, I manage to fall asleep. Linus wakes me up when the movie is over and we wander back out into the dark plaza.

Linus tries to explain the plot of the movie to me. "There's the guy and his brother and the pretty guy, and the madame with all the prostitutes. And there's the bad guy, who kills one of the prostitutes for some reason I can't explain, while they're all swearing allegiance to him. And then later the guy and his brother and the madame drug the bad guy and cut his forehead and draw three tiny dots on it, and then cover it with makeup. So when he visits the king the sun shines on his head and the king sees three dots and freaks out and runs to the library to look up what it means, I guess, and it scares the shit out of him. But then nothing happens to the bad guy!"

"Really? Nothing?"

"No, he's still in power at the end of the movie. But they killed everybody. They divided up the whole room and killed everyone who was on one guy's side and threw the bodies down the steps. But the one old magistrate had balls. I thought the bad guy was actually going to have to fight someone, but in the end one of his henchman got the old magistrate with a spiked club. They used the spiked club quite a lot, actually, in the second half of the movie."

Thanks to the caramel corn and nap, I have regained some of my happy-go-lucky attitude. "At least we're in Seoul in October," I point out, as we skirt a tiny little man, no more than three or four feet tall, who is passed out on the sidewalk. "It's Korea, so I feel safe, and it's still warm at night, so we're comfortable."

With an hour and a half left to go, Linus and I take up residence one of the benches just outside the train station. We're just in time to watch a spectacular fight between a couple, who are taking advantage of the relative solitude and silence to shout profanities at each other.

The problem is, they are doing more than just shout. Linus watches them earnestly as the boy begins to manhandle the girl more and more--grabbing her arm, pushing her down on the bench, and finally, it seems to me, twisting her wrist. At this point Linus gets up and walks briskly over. I see him shaking his fist in the boy's face before he comes back.

"How'd it go?" I ask.

"He seemed pretty shocked," Linus says. "I don't think anyone's ever intervened before."

The two argue in more dulcet tones after that. Before they leave they have clearly made up.

At about a quarter to five, we notice people walking into the station. We follow them and discover quite a crowd. Obviously, and contrary to what the guard told us, the station has been open for some time.

Without further mishaps we buy our tickets and get on the train, which pulls into Jeonju at 7:30. By 8:30 we're in bed. We had gotten up the day before at 9:00.

Yes, that's enough "adventure" for me. I'm pleased to be returning to my regularly scheduled boredom--at least until Halloween!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Turn of the Screw: Let's Not Talk About Sex

I was in the mood for some spooky fall reading, so I picked up Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. I've read it at least twice before but not for some years, and I was surprised that I'd actually forgotten quite a bit of it. The text is quite dense, even for me, the Victorian novel afficionado, so that might be why I couldn't remember how it ended. Oh, except that the little boy dies. I remembered that part.

Oh, is it too late for a SPOILER ALERT? Get over yourselves, the book's over a hundred years old! There's no excuse for not having read it already!

Of course, the main reason to read The Turn of the Screw is to decide the great question: are the ghosts real, or is the governess just crazy?

Yes, and hell yes.

To me, the textual evidence indicates that the ghosts are real. Even though she never met either Quint or Miss Jessel in life, the governess can describe them well enough that the housekeeper knows who she's talking about. Unless the governess was doing some serious sleuthing before coming down to the house, and didn't bother to mention it, there's no way she could have known what those two looked like.

Besides, the story is better when the ghosts are real. The real strength of the tale is how dry, brief, yet tightly wound her encounters with the spirits are. There's no rattling chains or blood running down the walls; the ghosts never speak, and neither does the governess. There's only the sudden encounter, always someplace vaguely precarious--a tower, steep stairs, the edge of a lake--and the mutual, understanding, yet absolutely silent stare. Bone-chillingly beautiful and perfectly executed.

I think most readers prefer the second explanation--that the governess is insane--because that makes the story more convoluted and psychologically intense. But I think in this case we can have our cake and eat it too. The ghosts are real, but the governess is just nuts. I don't mean clinically so; I mean she's a completely incompetent, sexually repressed weirdo with a Messiah complex. Oh, and she's a rotten teacher, too.

Obviously this isn't pure literary analysis, more of an emotional reaction. But after several years of teaching, I find myself wanting to drag the character out of the pages and have a little "chat" with her.

Governess: ...and then the letter came from his school and said Miles had been expelled. I didn't want to say anything, so...
Me: Wait, what? Did you ask Miles why he'd been expelled?
Governess: Oh, no! He seemed like such a beautiful little angel that I thought there must be some mistake!
Me: So you believed him instead of all his teachers and the headmaster. Right. Okay, what did his uncle say when you contacted him?
Governess: Oh, I didn't! Their uncle said he didn't want to be disturbed with their care in any way.
Me: So you handled the situation yourself? Punished him appropriately, made sure he learned his lesson, and then got him into a new school?
Governess: Oh, no! I never punished the darling little things. Not even when Miles sneaked outside the house at night, just to "show you that I could be bad!" I just tucked him back in and kissed him good-night.
Me: Wait, wait--your student was wandering around outside at night and you didn't do anything about it? Not even a scolding?
Governess: Nope, not a word! And I didn't find a new school for Miles, either. He seemed so content playing with me and his little sister in the house. Besides, those terrible ghosts were after them, trying to lure them into evil!
Me: How?
Governess: What?
Me: How were they trying to lure them into evil?
Governess: I really don't know, but I'm sure it was happening! My darlings needed me to protect them. I had to be with them every moment, watching their every move!
Me: Didn't Miles get tired of all this eventually?
Governess: Yes. It was terrible! He threatened to talk to his uncle, and insinuated that he was going to get me in trouble for not putting him in a new school! I was so distraught that I abandoned them at the church and raced home, intending to resign immediately.
Me: Wait, what? Your student gets a tiny bit uppity with you for not doing what you damn well know you should have done in the first place, and your response is to freaking run away and quit?
Governess: It was, but I didn't! I stayed with them until the bitter end, and at the very last I reclaimed Miles's soul from those horrible demons.
Me: How?
Governess: By making him tell me what he'd done to get expelled.
Me: mean the thing you should have done at the very beginning of the book? The thing that would have been the completely obvious response to getting that letter from the school? That thing?
Governess: Yes. But poor Miles! When he'd confessed his sin he couldn't see the ghosts any more, and his heart broke from sheer disappointment.
Me: I'm sure he was sad...
Governess: He died that very moment.
Me: What the fuck?! Your ten year old student dropped fucking dead in the middle of a conversation?
Governess: Yes. It was truly tragic. But the important thing is, I saved him!
Me: What was he even doing at that school?
Governess: Well, nobody ever states it outright, and there's all kinds of guesses as to how, exactly, the ghosts corrupted the children. But I think what happened was that Miles learned about sex, and he talked about it to some of his friends at the school.
Me: What. The fuck.
Governess: I know! So unnatural!

The Turn of the Screw. Great ghost story. Terrible teaching manual.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Honeymoon in Hawaii

The long-awaited Tropigoth episode!

Both Linus and I had been to Hawaii when we were young, but neither of us had more than fuzzy memories and, in my case, a coconut bra somewhere in the corner of my closet.
Can't leave Hawaii without a pair. Heh. Pair.
But we were both terribly excited because a) Linus plays ukulele and b) it's Hawaii. Sun, sand, and surf! Well, not sun, because I jealously guard my deathly pallor, and not surf, because we tried the stand-up paddling thing and it was rather meh, and not sand, because we actually didn't spend that much time on the beach.

Does that sound cranky? It shouldn't. I had a glorious time wandering around Oahu for a week, hiking and shopping and eating and shopping and sleeping in and just generally enjoying island culture. And eating. And shopping.

Linus got another ukulele: 

And I fleshed out my Midnight Island Princess wardrobe:

Eating delicious shave ice at the International Marketplace.

At the Dole Plantation, where we had Dole Whip. Not as kinky as it sounds.

At the Chief's Luau at Sea Life Park.

Because I genuinely hate to be sunburned, I always carried my parasol or wore my hat. For those of you planning to guard your epidermis in Hawaii, I have two words: hat pins. Those ocean breezes are stiffer than you think.
After years of searching for a hat that he liked, Linus finally found this one on the Waikiki strip. It was true love, and well worth tourist prices. 

That band was just for the luau. He doesn't walk around with leaves on his head, I swear.
We went to the luau on the last night of our trip. The Kalua pork was mind-bogglingly delicious and all the dancing was pretty incredible--especially when they brought out the fire.

You didn't think all the dances were done by skinny girls in coconut bras, did you?
But my favorite part was when the Chief called up all the honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries onstage and asked us to dance. Linus and I were in the back, well-shielded from audience eyes, and we felt quite comfortable slowly rocking back and forth in each other's arms. There hadn't been any dancing at our wedding reception, so that was our first dance together as husband and wife, and it was perfect.

Then we came back to Korea, and were cranky for a while, because as much as we enjoy South Korea it is decidedly not Hawaii. But now the weather has cooled and the school year has started, and our thoughts are turning to Halloween. Well, at least my thoughts, because I whole-heartedly agree with evilsupplyco.