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Bob Kennedy

Bob Kennedy is an expat English teacher who has worked mostly in South Korea and People's Republic of China. He spent 25 years working in the newspaper printing industry until its sudden collapse in 2009 (You may have read about it on the internet). He currently lives in Seattle, WA.

How men should dress for success

Men should dress for success for all occasions with these tips

I want to talk about how men should dress for success.

Everybody looks better under arrest. –John Waters

Do you drive? You will spend some time in traffic court.  Maybe you and your roommate will sue each other in small claims court. Perhaps—and this is a longer shot—you’ll be implicated in a mass murder, through absolutely no fault of your own. At some point in this weird, litigious society, you’ll find yourself in a courtroom. What if I told you that judges and juries always—Always!—find for the better-dressed of two parties? Next time you find yourself in a courtroom, look around. Some of the defendants look like they’re dressed for a trip to the 7-Eleven, and some look like they shop at Brooks Brothers. The clothes you wear show how much respect you have for courts and judges, and if you don’t know how judges feel about Contempt of Court, you’ll get a real good idea after watching who gets found guilty or not guilty, over and over again.

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And this goes double for job interviews. If you show up dressed like a pizza delivery guy and the job involves any kind of office work or dealing with big-money clients, you just shot yourself in the foot. Did you notice the other job applicants in the lobby with grey suits and briefcases? One of them is getting this job, and you’re not.

You need a grey suit. Worsted wool is best, summer weight (You can wear a sweater in the cooler months).  An understated pin stripe is nice, or a Prince of Wales plaid (Sean Connery made these famous). A solid grey is also good, especially in flannel. Go for darker over lighter.

You also need a black suit. This is the go-to outfit for weddings, funerals, and (if you’re a criminal defendant) court. Pin stripes are available, but they’ll make you look like a cartoon gangster. If you’re in a jazz band or a chamber quartet, this will come in very handy.

You’ll find a navy blue suit handy, or at least the jacket. Put brass buttons on it and it becomes a sport coat, and those go with every pair of pants and shoes you’d ever consider owning.

Get a couple of Oxford shirts: White, blue and pink. Stripes are good; plaids, iffy. Also, have at last two pairs of dress shoes, one pair black, one pair brown. Here’s a secret: The shoes don’t have to match your suit; they have to match any other leather you’re wearing, like a belt or a watchband. Your tie? Silk or wool. Simple Repp ties are best. Gag ties and Rayon are a problem, so don’t buy them.

Ideally, you want the nicest suits you can afford. If you’re still in college, chances are that’s not very much, but you have three things going for you:

·      This is an expense your parents could be persuaded to spring for. Yeah, I’m assuming your parents are footing at least part of the bill for your college education, and possibly that’s not the case. But if Mom and Dad are paying any of your bills at all right now, they assuredly want you to line up a middle-class (or better) job as close to your graduation date as possible, and this is an investment for them, too. If law school or an MBA program is in your future, you’ll need these kinds of clothes for that as well.

·      You are, in all likelihood, still skinny enough to buy these clothes off the rack. I know, you think your slim, athletic build is the result of your sterling personal qualities and your dedicated love of Ultimate Frisbee and Hacky-Sack. You might feel differently at 30 or 40. Enjoy it while it lasts.

·      Many men’s clothing shops have “3 for 1” sales where you can buy three different suits for, like, $500 or thereabouts. It’s good to have expensive clothes, but empires have been built on clothes that can just pass as expensive (See: Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Banks, et al).

Finally, ask yourself: “Would James Bond/Frank Sinatra/Don Draper be caught dead in this?” The answer to that will tell you whether to buy it or not.

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Books students should read in college

Here are books I wish I would have read in college

Here is a list of books college students should read. These are books that gave me great, helpful insights that might have been helpful to me in my college years. Unfortunately, most of them were not written until after I graduated.

An Underground Education by Richard Zacks  (2010). Zacks is a wiseass with the lurid stories behind what you’ve heard about in literature, history and other sacred disciplines. Dirty jokes in Shakespeare? The sordid original tale behind Sleeping Beauty? How did people empty their bowels and bladders indoors before the invention of toilets? What kind of underwear did women wear in earlier centuries? I can’t vouch for the guy’s accuracy, but at the least, you’ll never look at history quite the same way again!

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Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss (2003). There are two kinds of people: the ones who can see the rich potential for humor in discussions about grammar and punctuation, and the ones who cannot. I can only recommend this book for the former group. She’s the patron saint of punctuation nerds. “To some people, the fact that I am not married, or don’t have children, would be the reason I have written a book on punctuation.” I think she’s hilarious, but your mileage may vary.

How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce (1967). This is the autobiography of the famous “sick” comic from the 1950s and 60s. He lies through his teeth at every opportunity–about his drug use, his marriage, his family life and his career–yet paradoxically, this may be the most honest showbiz autobiography I’ve ever read, and the funniest. I don’t want to confer too much sainthood on Bruce; there was a point towards the end of his career when his act consisted of reading the transcripts from his (then) most recent obscenity busts onstage, which violates the only real requirement I have of stand-up comedians, and these are about the only videos of his live performances that survive on YouTube. But once, before he was “important,” he was brilliant.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (2000). I sure wish I’d had this book when I was 15! The whole scary, intimidating task of writing fiction is demystified here by someone who credibly knows a thing or two about it. The first third of the book is his autobiographical background and the last third is about the utterly preventable accident that left him hospitalized and convalescing for years (He was out walking his dog and he got hit by a van, driven by a character as freakish as any in his novels). The middle third is useful, common sense advice about the task of writing stories. That’s the part you should focus on.

Parliament of Whores by PJ O’Rourke (1991). What does the US Government do? How did it get so big? Why does it cost so freakin’ much? The questions Alexis de Tocqueville probably meant to ask 200 years ago are addressed here (early 90s) with the appropriate level of awe and reverence (not much). O’Rourke made his name as a writer and editor for National Lampoon back in its glory days and as a columnist for Rolling Stone, Atlantic Monthly, The Weekly Standard and others. He’s written 18 books since leaving the Lampoon, many of which are compilations of his magazine articles. Around 1995, satire took a back seat to conservative polemics, but Parliament (1991) was the peak of his humorous period.

Where I Was From by Joan Didion (2003). People have strong feelings about California in a way that they don’t about, say, Delaware or Wyoming. Didion has spent much of her life there and this book collects essays about it. Her family came over with the Donner Party. Each wave of transplanted Easterners believes itself to be the only true Californians, but they are kidding themselves. High points in this collection include “Trouble in Lakewood” (a penetrating look at the home of the infamous “Spur Posse” and their community’s Depression and wartime roots) and a chapter on the history of California water mismanagement, a prescient look at the current drought crisis there.

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Classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons

We take a look at classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and their method of adding a dog to tweak shows

Have you ever tried to write a new song by writing new lyrics for an existing tune, then coming up with a new tune for those lyrics? That is pretty much what classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons are. That’s not plagiarism at all. It’s not wholly original, but it hardly infringes anybody’s copyright. Now, imagine you did this on a slightly larger scale, coming up with new ideas for a television animation house, where they’d like to adapt the most popular TV shows into cartoons, but don’t want to pay pesky licensing fees. Most film studios do something like this from time to time, but one animation studio did it often, with some great success.

Hanna-Barbera no longer exists as an animation studio and barely exists as a brand (it was bought out by Warner Brothers in 2001), but at its peak, it produced a huge percentage of popular American animated TV shows. They pioneered a process called “limited animation,” drawing fewer frames per second and greatly simplifying the ones they did draw (There’s a reason all those animal characters wore collars with no shirts: it masked the simplified head movements on stationery bodies). And they had a winning formula for coming up with new shows: they often took existing shows, tweaked the characters and settings slightly, and added a dog (or a dog-like character). They used this formula many, many times.

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The most obvious example of this was The Flintstones. The four main characters were based on Jackie Gleason and company from The Honeymooners. Fred even talked a bit like Ralph Kramden and Barney closely mimicked Art Carney’s Ed Norton. Fred had a blue-collar profession. Barney likely did as well, though the only work I ever saw him do involved stealing Fruity Pebbles. They were moved to a Stone Age suburb and the family had a pet named Dino, but the basic group dynamic stayed intact.

The Jetsons likewise aped a popular show that H-B didn’t have the rights to straight-up adapt, a then-popular sitcom called Hazel, about an eccentric maid who manages and life-coaches a suburban family. Did you ever wonder why the Jetsons’ robot maid, Rosie, talked at all, much less with such a distinctive voice, even though she was a fairly minor character? Mystery solved! And as a trademark creative flourish, the Jetsons had a dog named Astro.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You? cherry-picked some characters from a once-popular sitcom, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, most conspicuously basing Shaggy on Maynard G. Krebs (played by a pre-Gilligan Bob Denver). The other humans were based on the brainy Zelda and some minor supporting characters played by Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld. Weird how no analogue for Dwayne Hickman’ Dobie ever appeared. Plus, of course, they added a dog, Scooby. Years later, they got rid of all the humans except Shaggy and added Scrappy Doo, one of the most hated fictional characters this side of Jar Jar Binks. This showed a breakdown in the Hanna-Barbera formula: Their source show already had a dog at the center of it, and they gave that dog a dog. They would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids and their dog!

Another one of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Wacky Races, took its premise from a popular Tony Curtis movie, The Great Race. The only obvious character taken was Jack Lemmon’s Professor Fate, showing up as Dick Dastardly (with a dog, Muttley). Penelope Pitstop was vaguely analogous to Natalie Wood’s Maggie Dubois, and Peter Perfect was a bit like Tony Curtis’s The Great Leslie, but Wacky Races was pretty explicitly the Dick Dastardly and Muttley show.

Not all of their shows followed this formula. Sometimes, they did straightforward adaptations, as with their Fantastic Four and Addams Family cartoons. Sometimes, they would keep the characters intact but put them in a different environment (Partridge Family 2200 A.D., Laverne & Shirley in the Army, etc.). Top Cat was derived from multiple sources, including Sgt. Bilko, Guys and Dolls, and The Bowery Boys. Jonny Quest was a pastiche of old comic strips like Terry and the Pirates and Captain Easy, but it differed from them in significant ways. Plus, it had a dog.

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Don't Fear Our Chinese Academic Overlords

Is China leaving America in the dust academically?

Is China really leaving America in the dust, academically? I see so many articles and Facebook posts about how low American students’ and schools’ scores are by comparison and how it’s vital that we emulate Asian teaching and learning techniques before we’re consigned to the dustbin of history and relevance. Well, I’ve been working with Korean and Chinese children for years and, while there may be something to these claims, I really wouldn’t worry too much about it.

First of all, the whole “We’re losing ground” claims imply that we used to have an edge on the rest of the world and suddenly we’re losing it. I’m pretty sure that’s never been the case. Historically, America’s greatest scientists have never been home-grown. Einstein, Fermi, Tesla, von Braun and Teller were all born in 19th Century Europe. The sharpest minds in America, from Edison to Bill Gates, didn’t invent stuff so much as repackage other people’s ideas in clever money-making ways. We still do it. We were never on the cutting edge of the hard sciences, but have always been better at making a buck off of it than the people who were.

Secondly, the Chinese don’t have some kind of genetic superior intelligence. The test scores that imply otherwise are subject to some statistical sleight-of-hand; SLATE once ran a story describing how China compiles its scores differently from other countries. Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are all listed as separate countries in these rankings, although the listing for “China” includes the scores of these cities as well. If you were to list Greenwich Connecticut, Fairfax County Virginia and Scarsdale New York as separate countries, I bet the US would look a lot better in these rankings too. What China has as a driving force is the Confucian work ethic, which values learning for its own sake. Compare this to America’s Protestant Work Ethic, which values a big paycheck over scholastic achievement. 

Asian kids are pushed towards success by demanding parents. I’d be more outraged about this situation if my paycheck didn’t depend on it. A lot of Asian parents go to extraordinary lengths to get their kids into American Ivy League schools. But if this were truly a case of “China smart, America dumb,” wouldn’t all the prestigious schools be in Asia, and wouldn’t wealthy, achievement-obsessed American parents be funneling their kids to Tokyo and Shanghai? That isn’t happening. A surprising number of Americans go to medical school at Shandong University in Jinan, but–and I say this delicately–it’s seldom their first choice. 

East Asia has some great colleges and universities, and they have a lot of bright, hard-working students. Why aren’t the schools more prestigious? I have heard that they are hobbled by grade inflation. And before anybody leads a crusade to clean up this sorry state of affairs, consider that without grade inflation, not only would a lot of these schools go out of business, but the local student suicide rate–already scandalously high–would probably triple, so let’s not rush into any solution that might be worse than the problem.

If China were so much smarter than America, I’d expect them to have jet packs and flying cars at this point in their development. What they actually have is a plurality of tables and chairs with one leg too long or too short. Every chair and desk wobbles. This isn’t the mark of a technologically advanced nation; it’s the mark of one that measures once and cuts twice, often. Their cars used to do the same, but they fixed it with an ingenious solution: Most Chinese-made and -designed cars have three wheels.

China has come so far in the past thirty years. They have a large and growing middle class that simply didn’t exist a generation ago. It can look a little threatening. But they still have a ways to go, and the best of their best young minds mostly want to come to America and make the big bucks. Of all the ways this can play out, the likeliest is that we’ll hire their best geniuses to come over and make American shareholders richer. And isn’t that how we’ve always played it anyway?


A pizza history of America

How this delicious confection came to capture the heart of America

It’s a very simple dish: Some bread dough pounded flat, covered with tomato sauce and some Mozzarella cheese scattered on top, baked. Other ingredients can be thrown on (Pepperoni, sausage, black olives, green peppers, onions and anchovies are big favorites), but none of them is essential. In fact, even the tomato sauce and cheese are considered optional; traditional Roman pizza has no tomato sauce (which in some circles would qualify it as Welsh Rarebit), and traditional Sicilian has little or no cheese. There is no pizza equivalent of the Laws of Kosher; people can throw just about anything on flatbread and call it. But if justice prevailed and Pizza were held to the same standards of strictness as German beer or North Carolina tobacco, the defining ingredients would be flat dough, tomato sauce and Mozzarella cheese.

In 1830, the first restaurant specializing in pizza opened: Port’Alba in Naples. And in 1889, Italy’s Queen Margerithe–having discovered Pizza on a holiday in Naples–commissioned Don Raffaele Esposito, Naples’ top pizza chef, to create a pizza fit for royalty. He came up with Pizza Margerithe, a pie combining tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil (red, white and green-the colors of Italy’s flag) for possibly the first time, legitimizing both pizza and the new Italian monarchy in the eyes of the world. Pizza was now popular among all social classes in Italy, and soon after in Spain, France, England and the United States. 

An 1890s Chicago street vendor on Taylor Street began selling slices out of his wash tub for “two cents a chaw.” In New York in 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened America’s first dedicated pizzeria at 53 1/2 Spring Street. The dish wasn’t yet explosively popular; Like Dim Sum or Pho in America today, pizza had its fans and the people who tried it invariably enjoyed it. Pizza stayed in the margins in America until the 1940s, when Ike Sewell’s Pizzeria Uno (and subsequently, Pizzeria Due across the street) opened in Chicago in 1943; three years later, GIs returning from occupied Italy brought a sizable postwar pizza craving with them.

Paparazzi snapped the likes of Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio in pizzerias. L’Oro di Napoli, a 1954 Italian movie starring Sophia Loren as a pizza vendor, made the rounds in America as an art film. That same year, the first Shakey’s Pizza opened in Sacramento in a converted grocery store; its first franchise, in Portland, opened in 1957. In 1958, the first Pizza Hut opened in Wichita, Kansas, followed the next year by its first franchise in Topeka. Straw Hat Pizza, a huge Western chain of California-style pizzerias, debuted in 1959; Pizza Hut bought out the company-owned locales in the 80s, but most of the franchisees kept the name and recipes. And in 1960, Tom and James Monaghan bought DomiNick’s, a pizzeria in Ypsilanti, MI that would eventually become Domino’s, America’s premier delivery pizza. (James promptly swapped his share in the restaurant for Tom’s Volkswagen Beetle; an unfortunate Jacob & Esau-type bargain in hindsight, but it was a really nice Beetle.)

In the last 30 years, pizza has been pushed down some strange roads, Hawaiian pizza being one of the first true deviations from tradition; the ham was acceptable, but the pineapple chunks invited chaos. The 1985 advent of California Pizza Kitchen (whose recipes strongly resembled Wolfgang Puck’s earlier but far less ubiquitous Spago’s specialty pizzas) brazenly threw open the gates. CPK’s toppings include chicken, goat cheese, caramelized pears, barbecue and hoison sauce. Can Socialism and the Metric System be far behind? Although for traditionalists, Papa John’s (whose first restaurant also opened in 1985; now it’s a chain of 3000+ restaurants worldwide ) has always stayed close to the conventional pizza ideal. I’m concerned about their “Philly Cheesesteak Pizza,” though.

Pizza is the immigrant experience in a pan, the Horatio Alger myth given form with mushrooms and melted cheese. The American Dream is predicated on creating wealth from a few humble raw ingredients, and what could be humbler and rawer than pizza ovens and a few bucks’ worth of dough, cheese and tomato sauce? Just look at the vast and numerous empires based on these and little else! No food says “America” more than pizza.

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How to make the most out of being a tourist in China

We give you the 411 on the best tourist spots to visit

Unless you have compelling business there, you’re not likely to visit China as a tourist any time soon. But they set the bar lower than you might think for what constitutes “compelling business.” Do you want to open a KFC near Tienanmen Square? Are you a serious Wushu buff? Do you have a 24-hour layover in Shanghai even though you’re going somewhere else? You just might qualify for a tourist visa!

China is huge and most of it isn’t very touristy. You can get into Hong Kong or Macao easily enough; those are semi-autonomous districts with their own currency and border controls, which makes them “China with an asterisk.” Taiwan, the Schrödinger’s Cat of foreign countries (“It’s part of China!” “No, it’s an independent country!”), requires no visa for US citizens, but it’s of limited interest to American tourists right now. If you want to visit the People’s Republic as a tourist, your main choices are Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Hainan.

(A quick note on Chinese proper names: About 40 years ago, most American publications and diplomats used southern Chinese, or Cantonese, as their default for pronunciation and transliteration. They switched to northern Chinese, or Mandarin, shortly after Chairman Mao died. Mao Tse-Tung and Tsingtao became Mao Zedong and Qingdao, among many other differences. The Chinese consider Cantonese and Mandarin to be different dialects of the same language, although few American linguists agree, and anyway I’ll be sticking mostly with Mandarin.)

Beijing is China’s capital. By most measures, it’s one of the largest cities in the world. It’s divided into 16 different districts, but as a tourist you’ll be focusing on one, Dongcheng, the heart of downtown. It has the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Gate and Mao’s Tomb (all of these are part of the same complex) and big, fancy shopping malls and restaurants. Some tourist maps make it look like the Great Wall is just a few subway stops away. In fact, it’s about 20 miles north of the city and you need to hire a tour guide to drive you. The tour guide is also getting paid by various schlock merchants to stop by their stores on the way to and from the Wall, so adjust your expectations. The “Teahouse Scam” is big business here, so be wary of cute young Chinese women who want to “practice English” at a local teahouse with you, unless 700 Yuan ($117 US) sounds like a fair price for tea to you. Beijing is often smoggy and has the freakiest skyline of any major city outside Barcelona.

Shanghai is bigger, richer, fancier and more expensive than Beijing. It straddles the Huangpu and Yangtze Rivers. The touristy parts are the Bund, on the west bank, and Pudong on the east. The Bund has all the fancy hotels (In China, most hotels are not licensed to lodge foreigners) and shopping on Nanjing Road. It also has more “lady massage” pimps and touts per capita than pre-Giuliani Times Square, so be cautious about making eye contact. Across the river, circling the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, is a super-modern complex of shopping malls and office buildings. About 30 years ago these were slums and mud flats; now it’s the most distinctive skyline in the world. Stark Tower would look very much at home here.

Qingdao (pronounced CHING-dow), formerly “Tsingtao,” is where they make that beer you keep seeing on the menu in every Chinese restaurant in America. The city was more-or-less a German colony around the turn of the 20th Century and they have a lively nightclub district you should find with little difficulty. Qingdao is a beach and port town, and they offer a wonderful variety of scenic boat rides.

Hainan is a province, not a city. If you look at a map, it’s the big island off China’s southernmost mainland, kind of near Vietnam. It’s balmy, it has beaches, and it has the best air quality you’re likely to encounter in China. It’s where most Chinese go (or want to go) for vacation. It’s the nearest part of China to the disputed Spratly Islands, so there’s a big military presence there. But they do encourage tourism, both foreign and domestic. It’s also where a US military plane had to land after colliding with a Chinese plane back in 2001. You could say they’re used to foreigners.

Knocking Woody: A review on 'Irrational Man'

Woody Allen, Dir. Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey

In Woody Allen’s most recent release, Joaquin Phoenix plays his most unsympathetic character since his turn in Gladiator. Here, he is a self-absorbed philosophy professor at a liberal arts college in Providence, Rhode Island. He has a cult following and a round-the-clock Scotch whisky buzz. And because the ladies love surly, brooding intellectuals, Parker Posey (as an age-appropriate fellow professor) and Emma Stone (as a too-young undergraduate student) both make clumsy plays for him. He’d rather get drunker and freak people out at a student party with an impromptu game of Russian Roulette.

In a restaurant booth with Stone’s character, he overhears the sad story of a local divorcee on the short end of a child custody case. Why he finds this woman’s plight so compelling isn’t explained, nor is his lack of curiosity about the husband’s side of the story. Because he’s deep and philosophical, he decides he must take bold action and (spoiler alert) murder the judge in the case. Instead of being a bold Man of Letters, he just comes across as one of those creepy teenagers who think Nietzsche was writing about them personally.

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A recurring theme in most of Allen’s films since around 1989 has been the importance of creating one’s own “moral universe.” (This is first addressed by name in Husbands and Wives by Rob Reiner’s character, but the roots of it go back as far as Crimes and Misdemeanors, if not farther). Allen has become to this theme what M. Night Shyamalan has become to twist endings. The difference is, Shyamalan still has time to outgrow it.

A lot of people knock Allen kind of reflexively these days, and I don’t want to be one of them. This film is beautifully shot; is there a more gorgeous college town than Providence? The performances were all quite fine. I understand that protagonists don’t need to be sympathetic every time, though this film might have benefited from making Emma Stone’s character the central one (without it becoming a remake of 2006’s Scoop). The soundtrack, heavy on modern jazz, is first rate. Even Allen’s failures are worth watching, and lately he’s been hitting about .300, pretty good for cinema’s greatest baseball fan. Blue Jasmine got a lot of acclaim, and I would personally rank 2011’s Midnight in Paris as one of my favorites.

Phoenix’s character Abe has depth, but lacks breadth. Does he believe Providence benefits from losing a bad judge and gaining a mass murderer? As a practical matter, does he think it’s a good idea to tell a bunch of people how great it would be if the judge were killed, before attempting to do it? His research on how to kill somebody was comically slight (which reminds me: this isn’t a comedy and doesn’t have many light moments, a valid thing to ask before you see a Woody Allen film). It’s a little unclear whether this college philosophy professor owns or uses a computer; I’m sure there are internet message boards about the relative merits of cyanide, arsenic and digitalis as death delivery systems.

Another running theme—also consistent since Husbands and Wives, but the roots go back much further—is that fidelity is for suckers, that if you stay in a monogamous relationship, you are being dishonest with yourself and therefore immoral within the context of your own moral universe. Rita, Parker Posey’s character, is married but willing at every stage of her acquaintance with Abe to shitcan her marriage for a fling with a psychopath. Jill, Emma Stone’s character, is also in an apparently monogamous relationship with a fellow student; as soon as she goes gaga over her brooding rebel of a philosophy professor, suddenly she keeps saying “Of course, we never committed to being exclusive…” Do committed, long-term relationships exist in this director’s world? Woody’s a gifted filmmaker, but I’m increasingly glad I don’t live down the street from him.

If you’re already a fan of Woody Allen, Joaquin Phoenix or Emma Stone—and I’m generally inclined to like the work of all three of them—by all means see this in the theaters or wait a while and rent it on iTunes. Absent that connection, though, I’m on the fence about whether or not to recommend it on its thematic merits.

Life Lessons After Graduation

Learn from my mistakes with this useful insight

There are some life lessons you’re supposed to have learned by the time you graduate from college, like the “three date” rule or that you’re expected to own a grey suit for job interviews, or at least a navy blazer. There are actually a lot of these—and speaking from experience, I didn’t learn some of them until well after my commencement ceremony. I’d like to share some of them with you.

Be careful about volunteering to help friends move. My first few cars after college were pickup trucks, so I got enlisted to help friends move a lot. But if they weren’t close friends of mine, helping them move didn’t make them any closer.  The guy who made some excuse not to help them move? They still like him more. You’ll never get that weekend back. Make sure you know why you’re helping these people move.

Don’t paint other people’s homes. Unless this is a close blood relative or you are a professional housepainter, do not do this. If you do anything less than a perfect job, your “pal” won’t look at it in the years to come and think “My buddy sure came through for me that day!” They’ll blame you for marring one corner of their home forever. Better they do it themselves or hire a professional. Don’t get involved. And don’t ask for volunteers to paint your house; this simply isn’t done outside of beer commercials and movies about the Amish.

After college, women get a lot less sexually experimental. I’m sure there are exceptions, but for the most part, American women have a bucket list of things they want to try while they’re in college, and once they cross it off their list, that’s it. After college, men want to keep the party going forever—and the women they meet do not. Men have a bottomless appetite for threesomes and light bondage, and women don’t. That’s why so many women get married right out of college, and why so many male alumni keep hanging around college bars until they are conspicuously creepy. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Don’t work night shift, ever. When you’re looking for a job, you want to secure one as quickly as possible. If a company’s only opening is a night shift position, you might reasonably think that once you’re inside the company, you can be first in line for the next day shift opening. You will never be considered for that daytime opening, ever. If a hiring manager ever gets the sense that you’re willing to work on the dreaded late shift, he or she will bend time and space to make sure you never get an opportunity to get off of it. Every aspect of our culture is set up to accommodate people who work from 9 to 5. You know that friend of yours with a big house, a pretty wife and a fulfilling, high-paying job? Did he ever take a night shift position? Neither should you.

Don’t babysit. I mean, unless it’s a relative. The “harried” parents will lie shamelessly about the severity of the circumstance that makes them cross social and ethical lines by asking you to babysit their darling. This is traditionally a task delegated to middle-school neighborhood girls; if they won’t do it, there’s an awful reason you’ll discover the hard way. And the “but there are no middle school girls in our neighborhood!” line? A lie.

A word about kittens: The most diabolically ingenious plots in our culture are not about making money, seducing ingénues or breaking into show business. They are about getting rid of kittens. Some cat owners seem to come into a lot of circumstances where they suddenly have a bunch of kittens they need to get rid of, and they’ll do some underhanded stuff to do it. One guy getting rid of kittens put them one at a time into a newspaper vending box. Every time someone bought a newspaper, they saw a kitten in there and had to decide whether they were the sort of person to leave it in there or take it home with them. Eventually, they all got adopted. No, I don’t want to watch your cat while you go on vacation.

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The good and bad of vacationing in Korea

Here’s everything you need to know about being a tourist in Korea

Ever since the 2010 Winter Olympics—where they brought in more medals than anybody but America, Canada, Germany and Norway—South Korea has become kind of hip in the world scene. Psy had a monstrously big hit in “Gangnam Style,” which made people all over the world curious about K-Pop, with its catchy melodies and elaborately choreographed videos. Seoul has become famous for its amazing skyline and one of the world’s least disgusting airports. And most American grocery stores have kimchi available in chilled jars. The place has come a long way since M*A*S*H used it as a metaphor for, well, any Asian land war!

Is it the kind of place you’d want to visit for Spring Break? It’s worth considering. Here’s the good and the bad of a Korean vacation:

·      They love American food… But they get it comically wrong! Any Korean schoolboy will sing the praises of hamburgers and pizza, but it’s doubtful he’s ever experienced it for real. The burger joints, especially the ubiquitous Lotteria (part of the Lotte chain of stores) skimps on the ground beef and loads up on the lettuce—like that’s a fair trade-off! The pizza joints are even worse. The crusts are like cardboard, tomato sauce is a scarcity, and they load it up with stuff that was never meant to be a pizza topping, like corn and Thousand Island dressing! Don’t ask any questions about that “cheese”; it came from a lab, not a cow. Pizza Hut and Papa Johns franchises contribute to this sorry state of affairs. They are catering to local tastes, not yours.

·      Itaewon! You know how most American cities of any size have a Chinatown? Seoul has an Americatown, outside a big US Army base. You can find great international food here, including real burgers and pizza (and borscht, Mexican, Pakistani, Chinese…) You’ll find great Korean food anywhere. When you need a break from it, though, come to Itaewon!

·      The KTX South Korea is about the size of Indiana, and the bigger cities are connected by high-speed bullet trains. All passenger trains are run by Korail, but the high-speed trains are called KTX, for Korean Train Express. (Note: in some cities, like Gumi, the Korail and KTX stations are a couple miles apart, whereas in Seoul and Busan, they’re the same building. Make sure your cab driver knows which one you want to go to.) Anyway, you can get from Seoul to nearly any other city in the country in under three hours. Make sure you reserve a specific seat, though; some of these trains are standing room only. A first-class seat doesn’t cost a whole lot more and it’s kind of worth it.

·      Barber Poles A barber pole can mean one of three things in Korea. It can mean a barber shop, where you can get a swell haircut for just a few dollars. It can mean a jjimjilbang, a public bath house where you get an amazing massage and steambath (These are segregated by gender). These have a sign with a bowl of hot water, with wavy lines indicating steam. The barber pole can also indicate a massage parlor/brothel, and which one it is can depend very heavily on how recently the police have raided the place. Caveat emptor.

·      Soju The national drink of Korea (North and South) is Soju, a rice-based distilled beverage sold in little bottles. It tastes like watered-down vodka, but don’t be fooled; it can sneak up on you and get you unbelievably intoxicated. Most restaurants and convenience stores sell a lot of it. People get together at bars, chicken restaurants and karaoke joints (called noraebangs) and make a party out of it. Some people stick with beer, like Cass or Max. Some people pour soju into their beer.

·      Jeju Island While there are many fine beaches on the Korean mainland, especially in Busan, the best place for sun and surf is Jeju-do, a big island off the southern coast. It attracts tourists from all over the world and has resorts all along the shores.

·      The DMZ Most big hotels in Seoul can hook you up with a tour of the Demilitarized Zone, or at least the part of it in Panmunjom, on the border of North and South Korea. One memorable sight is the meeting room where peace talks occurred during the war. It is your one opportunity to set foot in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, checking off one more nation, without causing an international incident. Um, the guards’ guns are real.


Teach English Abroad: Is the Life Of An EXPAT Teacher For You?

Consider teaching abroad when deciding your career path

As graduation nears, you might notice more and more ads in your Google and Facebook feeds enticing you to teach English in China or Japan. Maybe you already have a lucrative career planned, or perhaps you’ve already had enough exotic foreign travel to scratch that itch. But for a certain type of pending (or recent) college grad, teaching English in a foreign country is a definite career possibility. Is it an option for you?

As employment possibilities go, this one has surprisingly few barriers to entry. Most prospective employers want somebody who:

·      Is a native speaker of English, from the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or South Africa

·      Holds a BA or better

·      Has taken classes and gained certification in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages).

·      Is in good health

·      Has a clean criminal record

·      Can pass a drug test, and

·      Is under 50 years of age.

Many of these requirements are negotiable, by the way. If a particular country or school isn’t getting enough applicants who can pass all of these requirements, they will waive one or two. Except for the drug test and various headline-grabbing diseases, none of these requirements is an absolute deal-breaker.

Do you like working with children? Many unsuspecting teachers have signed contracts believing they’d be working with college-age students and older, only to be surprised by a classroom of kindergarteners awaiting them. If you prefer working with a particular age group, make that very clear ahead of time.

If you teach in east Asia, some countries are more touristy than others. But from Seoul-Incheon Airport, flights to Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand are a lot cheaper than from out of New York or Los Angeles. And while Americans are barred from teaching in Western Europe (Those gigs are set-asides for European Union citizens), Paris and Rome are a cheap train ride from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and other parts of Eastern Europe where teaching jobs are still available.

Some countries pay a decent wage and provide housing, but can be expensive to live in. These include Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Others pay $1000 a month or less, including Russia, Eastern Europe and pretty much anywhere in Latin America, and you may have to find and pay for your own apartment. These places are cheap to live in, which is great for a year or so. But if you’re sending half your paycheck to your bank in America, there’s a difference between sending $500 and sending $1600 every payday. Many teachers supplement their income by selling their services as a private tutor, even though their contracts specifically forbid it.

As a foreigner, you’re on the police’s radar, and they’re almost looking for an excuse to put you on a plane home. Over half of teachers who get fired, deported, or both are due to alcohol-related offenses. (As a rule of thumb, make sure your last drink and your earliest class are at least eight hours apart.)

While some foreign teachers work in “real” schools, most do not. The greatest demand is from hagwons, or after-school ”cram” schools; the closest American equivalent would be those Kaplan SAT prep schools. Hagwons are businesses unaffiliated with any school system, often run by businessmen who speak little or no English. These are a big business in Asia, where speaking English is often the dividing line between a professional vocation and a blue collar one.

Some teachers make a career out of expat travel. Others just do it for a year or two while putting off law school or something equivalent. If it’s something you might be interested in, your first step should be a TESOL/TEFL/CELTA course, which typically costs about $1000 for 100 hours, then look at the job postings on http://www.daveseslcafe.com and start e-mailing cover letters and resumes. Sure, you could backpack across Europe and live out the lyrics to “Eurotrash Girl,” but teaching abroad looks a lot better on a grad school application!