Saturday, July 28, 2007

The beats keep comin

It all starts with a little bump and a tap. Then a rap and a few more taps. Before I know it, my whole class has got the fever and once again, I have to calm it all out and get everybody back into English mode. My kids love it and it has taken the elementary schools and the middle schools here by storm. There is not a kid here who cannot knock their pencil to a simple beat or doesn’t have a friend who can’t.

I first noticed it when it started with a little bit of tapping and beating by one of my students on his desk a couple months ago. This student seemed just a little too excited and enthralled in clicking and clocking his pencil but I dismissed it as the normal mind wandering that most students go through now and then. But it continued day after day and then other students started to join in. By now, many students were all beating there pencils on the desk. I am not sure how many times I had to say, “Stop! Stop beating your pencils on the desk¨ before I finally realized what was going on. It was “pen beat” as they call and I know it well by now. They love it. I hear it all day now. Rip, tip, tip, tap, and rip.

Pen beat is when kids try to rap their pencils on the desk to make a nice beat. Everyone knows or knew that person, that kid in school that loved to beat his pencil on the desk. But hip-hop is king today for the young culture not the rock music of my adolescents (although not to make myself sound old, I would like to note that I even listened to rap in elementary). Anyway, hip-hop = beats, even pen beats. You tube is also rampant and that means people can easily videotape their beats and put them on the net. A new age is born. Kids love to compete and a latest competition is who has the best pen beat and it has all been digitized and uploaded for the world to see.

After all, it is not that complicated, right? I mean after all, even a kid can beat a pencil on the desk. I have even got into it a little bit myself. But the key is that kids are putting the videos on the net and are thereby becoming “pen beat artists” that inspire other kids to do the same. Next thing you know, all the kids in my class are beating their pencils to different beats with aspirations of being like that one guy they saw on youtube and yes, it does sound bad. A few are good, but most are bad but this is what being a teacher is all about anyway so I like it. So now, here are some videos so you can see what I am talking about. The first one is a kid in Korea who would be good pen beater as far as my students would go but I have some that are better. And lastly, there is a beat of somebody who is clearly better than my students.

Have fun and keep the beats a tappin,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cold as Ice

I was in Hongdae in Seoul. This is known as the ‘club’ district. People go out there at night. They talk, they drink, they dance, they have fun, and they go home when the sun comes up and I have many times done this exact thing in this exact order. Last Saturday I was walking around with my buddy Nick and saw a bar that I heard of a while back. I told him, “Lets go check it out.” We found the place in the basement of the building and started to check in. It was $15 for entrance but included was one drink. It was a little more than average for Hongdae but we paid our cover, and then we started to get ready to go into the bar.

The guy giving us our jackets/ponchos told us the longest anybody ever stayed here was a little over three hours. “That is not long,” I thought, “to be hanging out at the bar.” This bar was a bit different though. The catch was it was made of ice.

To enter the Ice Bar, I walked in a door that is much like a door to a walk-in freezer, and, well, that is what this place was, a giant walk-in freezer. It had chairs made of ice, a bar made of ice, ice walls, ice glasses for drinks, and ice decorations. It would have only been complete with an ice ceiling and Frosty serving drinks.

Fifteen minutes into the experience I started to realize that I was indeed getting cold. To make it worse, I had to pee. That was the secret I thought the three hours thing. The cold is hard enough to manage for three hours but to be in a bar and be drinking and not go to the bathroom for three hours, well, that is another thing.

Needless to say, thirty minutes went by and now I was dancing/shaking to stay warm. I thought I was dancing. I am normally an okay dancer, but I wonder if other people just thought I was shaking. I was thoroughly cooled off and put my sights on lasting an hour, not three. I made the hour and celebrated by holding one finger up to symbolize one hour as I stood next to an ice lady who I can only imagine had been there a lot longer. After that, I got a t-shirt to say that I have done that and been there and am probably not going back.

Cold times and cool bars,