“next bus outta here”

Pavement, “Box Elder”

Well, I’m pretty pleased with this here blog but change is also good.  I’m moving over to Blogger, so Wet Casements is now over here.

If you’ve enjoyed any of my rants about teaching, life in South Korea, books, music, American politics, or the wonders of grilled pig intestines, please check out the new site.

You can still find me on Twitter over here, and on tumblr over here.  (My  tumblr is possibly a tad NSFW at times.)


Posted in Internet, Music | Leave a comment

So Long, Europe

So, the Brexit happened.

The pound has collapsed and global markets are reeling as every sane adult knew would happen.

But I’m also curious about ESL teachers with UK citizenship.  My understanding was that it was very easy for them to get English gigs within Europe as opposed to, say, ugly Americans like me.

Is that no longer the case?  Certainly there will still be a demand for English teachers, but there’s no longer an incentive to bring in Brits or Australians or New Zealanders over Americans or Canadians?

Genuinely curious about this.

Update:  On Twitter I learned from a friend that much of this might be the case, but also that Ireland remains an EU member.  So super-hypothetically, a possible boon to native English speaking Irish.

Posted in ESL, Europe, Teaching | Leave a comment

I’m Hip! I’m With It!

That thing where ESL textbook companies assume only college-age adult students want to study English, so I end up having to base lessons around “going to the nightclub” and “Do you want to try Parkour this weekend?” for 60 year-old housewives.

Posted in ESL, Teaching | 1 Comment

Oh, Korea

As somebody who relies on my supposed knowledge of the English language to earn a paycheck every month I should support stuff like this, but I really, truly don’t:

“Imposing curfew on students who receive low scores on their English proficiency test is an infringement upon human rights, said the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) in a written statement released Tuesday.

The decision came after undergraduate students submitted petitions last October and again last March to protest a university’s dormitory rule that states, ‘Those who fail to receive a TOEIC score higher than 550 within two months are forbidden from leaving or staying out of the dormitory.’”

Imagine if the American SAT didn’t just determine what college you got into, but also what companies and government agencies would be willing to even grant you an interview after graduation.  That’s how significant the TOEIC has become in South Korea, and frankly, its significance is poisonous.  There’s very little passion or love of learning for English when you know from a very early age that you will be judged on niche grammatical knowledge rather than a practical ability to communicate.

So good for these students protesting, and good for the Korean court recognizing that the university’s policy was bullshit.

For reference, the highest possible TOEIC score is 990.

Also, I’m guessing this was at Korea Maritime University in Busan.

Posted in Education, English, ESL, Korea, South Korea, Teaching | 1 Comment

Huge, Classy Grifter

I’m trying to limit my Trump info-intake, in the same way that I feel terrible if I stop to stare at the aftermath of a car crash or tire fire.  But I’m only human, and this is the story of how Trump gave Charlie Sheen (!) a pair of fake diamond cuff-links:

“‘I’m really not a fan,’ Sheen said of Trump, who spoke to him at a dinner around five years ago. ‘He says “these are platinum diamond Harry Winston” and he pulls off his cufflinks and he gives them to me.’ Six months later, Sheen asked a jeweler appraising jewelry at his home to take a look at the ’links. ‘She took the loupe, spent about four seconds, and kind of recoiled from it — much like people do from Trump — and says “in their finest moment, this is cheap pewter and bad zirconias,”’ said Sheen, who dismissed the real estate mogul as a “charlatan.” ‘And they’re stamped “Trump.” And I just thought, “what does this really say about the man, that he said, “here’s a great wedding gift,” and it’s just a bag of dog shit?’”

The majority of Republican voters think this jackass deserves to have the nuclear codes.  They should be ashamed of themselves, forever.

Posted in America, Politics, Trumpolini | Leave a comment

Five Years Later

It’s the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, when an earthquake led to a tsunami which led to a nuclear plant being destroyed.  Japanese locals are still trying to cope with both health-related concerns and a huge cultural shift:

“In Japanese society, self-interest is inextricably tied to family, work, and community. But the Fukushima disaster has sliced through those ties like an axe coming down on a bundle of rope. Virtually overnight, tens of thousands of people were set adrift. What looks on the surface like frivolous squabbles are expressions of the profound anxiety many people feel about their place in post-Fukushima Japan. The question of returning home has become a kind of loyalty test that nobody can pass, because home no longer exists.

Nobody understands this better than Kiyoshi Watanabe, president of Naraha’s commerce and industry association and a stolid member of the generation that had a duty, as he puts it, ‘to keep the house and the family tombs.’ Watanabe has returned to Naraha to help ‘create more opportunities over the next three to five years for younger people to come back and find work.’ It won’t be easy. Paradoxically, the disaster has liberated young people from traditional obligations that kept families bound to the same area, even the same house, for generations. Naraha has to reinvent itself to attract new blood.

‘In the past, even if the first son lives in some other place, he has to come back to take care of his parents if they ask,’ Watanabe explains. ‘But now he has a good excuse not to: radiation. The parents can’t say anything.’”

Click through for some great photography.

Posted in Advanced Conversation, Japan | Leave a comment

Dammit, Learn to Zig-Zag Rickon!

Was it four or five episodes ago that Sansa met Littlefinger in Moletown?  And it was incredibly obvious that although she was angry at him, she should have asked for his soldiers to take back Winterfell?

I guess it’s more dramatic for Littlefinger’s men to swoop in at the last second but the decision to write it that way was pretty bad, and Rickon might still be alive if Ramsay knew his goose was cooked.

I think overall this season of Game of Thrones is much better than the last one, but the writing is still far from perfect.

Also, more Lyanna Mormont, pretty please?

Also, “rickon zig zag” is peak Twitter.

Posted in GameofThrones, Nerdery, Team Arya, Team Brienne, Team Tyrion, TV | 1 Comment


So there’s a bit of a kerfuffle in baseball.  At the young age of 42 Marlin’s outfielder Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,257th career hit and moved ahead of Pete Rose on the all-time list.  Problem is, 1,278 of those came in the Japanese professional league.

To his credit, Ichiro hasn’t said much about it.  Pete Rose interjected himself into the discussion all by his lonesome.

Disclaimer: Ichiro has been one of my favorite players for almost two decades now.  His work ethic, his ability, and even his batting stance are all things of beauty as far as I’m concerned.  The sooner he (inevitably) gets to the Hall of Fame, the better.

But as much as I like to disagree with crusty white traditionalists, Rose does have a point.  He faced a better caliber of pitching for 1,278 of his base knocks.

But, as Deadspin notes, if you calculate hits divided by total plate appearances, Ichiro is clearly the better hitter.

To wit:

“There are plenty of quantitative arguments that support Ichiro as the greatest hitter of all time; he had 262 hits in 2004, the most ever; he had ten straight 200-hit seasons, and Rose had ten across his entire career; he grounded into exactly one double play in the 2009 season. Ichiro doesn’t have as many MLB hits as Pete Rose, but he is the best hitter of all time. When he’s 49 and still eating the same meal and doing the same stretches and hitting .305 for the Las Vegas Roll, he’ll pass Rose in major league hits, but he’s the Hit King already.”

Posted in Baseball, Sports | Leave a comment

“slinging souvlakis”

The hard-knock life of a New York City street food vendor, and the surprisingly complicated politics around what they do to make a (meager) living:

“For $50, just about anyone can get a license to sell food on a city sidewalk. The application process is cumbersome, but as bureaucratic chores go, it sits somewhere between the drudgery of renewing a driver’s license and the complexity of filling out a tax return.

The problems come with registering the food carts themselves, and with the plastic inspection sticker known as the mobile food vending permit, or MFVP, for which the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene charges $200, and which is usually valid for two years. But many permit holders, having put in their time slinging souvlakis and moved on to more lucrative businesses, such as driving a cab, keep renewing their permits and renting them out, often with the cart attached, on a lucrative black market.

Illicitly renting a two-year permit from its legitimate holder can cost as much as $20,000 for a cart that serves hot food and can bring in far more revenue than a simple coffee-and-doughnut cart, or as much as $30,000 for a food truck—a fully mobile kitchen. Because they’re so valuable but not legally transferable, these permits never officially change hands. Instead, brokers help permit seekers find permit holders who no longer want to man a cart. The vendor who needs a permit—and a cart—might pay a flat fee every two years, upon renewal, or work out a profit-sharing arrangement.”

For some reason now I’m craving Gray’s Papaya.

Posted in Advanced Conversation, Food | Leave a comment

The New (Bloody) Normal

On the one hand, lots of people have predicted that only a series of Paris-style terror attacks on US soil would ever allow Trump to be elected.

On the other, speaking as a USian, Americans were perfectly fine with 25 toddlers getting shot in the face a few years back.  Literally nothing changed in the wake of Sandy Hook.

So as awful as it sounds, over 50 dead in Orlando will likewise be shrugged off as simply the annual (weekly?) blood tax Americans pay so gun-nuts can keep their death contraptions and stroke their freedom hard-ons.

Posted in America, Politics | 3 Comments