Sunday, March 26, 2017

For The Love Of Chicken

I can't think of many better ways to start off a week than a global guide to fried chicken.  Here's the low down for South Korea:
"To me there are two different kinds of Korean fried chicken. First there’s tongdak, which is the original fried chicken. It’s traditionally dredged in sweetly seasoned rice flour, but other than that it’s just plain fried chicken, served with radish pickles.
The newer version—the very, very crisp double-fried wings, often lacquered in some kind of sauce—started to proliferate  in Seoul in the early nineties. Back then I’d go to Korea every summer, and on one trip my grandmother—who did not speak a lick of English—asked me if I wanted to go get some “chik-kin,” because it was the cool new thing. Now it’s spread around the world with chains like Bonchon and Kyo-Chon. As “Korean” as it is, to me, it’s really a product of fusion. It’s the combination of two Asian cultures—Korean flavors and Chinese cooking technique.
The multistep process-—cooking the wings, cooling them, then frying them in hot oil—is certainly something you find in Chinese cooking. One of the most exceptional chicken wings I’ve ever had was at Celebrity Cuisine in Hong Kong, where they cooked the wings, cooled them, stuffed them with bird’s nest, and then deep-fried them. All the moisture trying to escape the bird’s nest puffed up like crazy, and the skin crisped like Peking duck in the deep-fryer."
I think I know what I'll be ordering for dinner tonight after work.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where Does The Time Go?

Alton Ellis, "Whiter Shade of Pale"

I'm going to the immigration office this afternoon.  2017 will be my ninth year in South Korea.

For all the complaining I've done over the years, there's no denying I really like it here when it comes to the people, my job, and, let's admit it, the food.

Please Prove Me Wrong

I've resigned myself to basically muttering "Jesus Christ, what an asshole" for the next four years (I can haz impeachmen, plz?) whenever Cheeto Von Pee-On-Me or one of his loathsome spawn say something.  Anything.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Anti-Immigrant Hypocrisy

As the South Korean economy continues to stagnate, a backlash against unskilled foreign labor is growing:
"'Globalization and the possibilities of travel and relocation divide the world into three groups of countries: Poor countries where the majority supports immigration, the middle and upper Income countries where the majority is in opposition to immigration and the rich whose majorities are divided between supporting and opposing nations,' said Gallup. Korea was categorized under the middle and upper Income countries.
Government data showed that the number of foreign workers in the country has been rising fast. The number of foreign workers registered with the government rose from 791,000 in 2012 to 962,000 last year, up 21.6 percent, according to the government. Officials predict that there are about an additional 300,000 foreign workers here illegally. 
In Korea, there are rising conflicts in the country as some say foreigners are taking away jobs for locals, while others believe foreign workers are essential to the country."
Picking vegetables and working on factory floors is hard work, full stop, and in a country where 98% of the population has a junior college degree or better it's easy to see why these less prestigious jobs are often hard to fill with native Koreans.

But with a laughably abysmal minimum wage of $5.70 an hour, it's sheer hypocrisy to blame foreign workers for filling the inevitable gaps in the farming, construction, and service industries.

The connections to the current situation in America are obvious.  Immigrants and foreign workers boost economies and richer countries should be grateful to have their willingness to work back-breaking and/or menial jobs.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Encouraging Creativity?

In South Korea, a country obsessed with education and competition even at early ages, there's a growing trend of parents waiting to put their children into the educational rat-race:
"Lee’s daughter attends a kindergarten that focuses more of its time on letting the children play together. After she comes home, she spends three hours every day at a playground. Lee watches on as she plays with other kids and does not interfere when she throws dirt and sand into the air at the playground, soiling most of her clothes. 
When the pair returns home, Lee fills the bathtub for her daughter, who spends another hour or so playing in the water. After dinner, she plays with stuffed animals and paints with her mother. The family goes on trips every weekend, too.
More parents like Lee are opting to delay teaching their children reading and writing in Korean and English and basic mathematics like counting until they enter elementary schools. They are a growing group here as some thousands flock to online communities on portal websites like Daum and Naver that promote more play time for kids."
 I tend to be skeptical about these kinds of articles.  I have no doubt many parents want to encourage their children to progress along a more "creative" educational path, but I also wonder how long this sort of desire lasts.

My first gig in South Korea was at a private kindergarten in the most expensive neighborhood in Seoul.  My (very successful) boss marketed her school with this sort of "creative" or, frankly, "Western" pedagogical approach in mind.  We would teach English, but also art and music and drama.

And parents ate it up.  Until the second week of the new semester, when the complaints started rolling in because -- wait for it -- we weren't assigning homework or tests.

By that afternoon we were assigning nightly homework sheets and planning weekly Friday tests.

And this was almost ten years ago, so go figure.  Certainly there's a strong desire for kids to have artistic abilities and critical thinking skills but when the rubber hits the road nobody wants their son or daughter to fail to keep up with the pack.

Thinking Out Loud

Here's a wild thought experiment: if Bernie Sanders is the scrappy savior-in-waiting the Democratic Party so desperately needs, maybe he should actually become a Democrat?

If You Thought 2016 Was Bad

Chuck Berry, "Havana Moon"

Dead at 90.

As a kid in high school I was determined to integrate the guitar styles of Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Mark Knopfler.  It didn't quite happen but I regret nothing.