Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Hero For Our Times

Koreans sure love them some drama when it comes to air travel.  Not too long back there was Nut-gate, where a high-ranking Korean Air exec lost her mind when she wasn't given a complimentary dish of nuts before takeoff.  Now, we have 80's pop-star Richard Marx (!) and his wife Daisy Fuentes (!!) saving a planeload of Korean passengers from a drunk asshole / "businessman":
"South Korea’s biggest airline has defended its staff after the US pop singer Richard Marx said he had helped restrain a violent passenger during a flight and accused the crew of being 'ill trained' to deal with incidents of air rage.
Marx, who had several hits in the 1980s and 90s, said he and his wife, the TV host Daisy Fuentes, were on a Korean Air flight from the Vietnamese capital Hanoi to Seoul on Tuesday when a male passenger assaulted the person sitting next to him.
After female cabin attendants spent four hours attempting to subdue the man, Marx, 53, and another male passenger stepped in and tied him up with a rope."
My first thought before watching the (widely available) videos of the incident was, of course Korean Air stewardesses couldn't restrain a crazy person.  They weigh 90 pounds at most soaking wet, and are hired for their looks above and beyond anything else.  (This is true of most Asia-based carriers.)

Granted, US carriers are complete dumpster fires when it comes to customer service but at least they wouldn't take more than a few minutes to incapacitate, one way or another, a drunken dickhead.

The fact that this guy was allowed to literally terrorize an entire flight for four hours, the stewardesses were helpless, and the captain apparently did nothing makes me wonder if paying a few hundred dollars more for objectively better service on Korean Air or Asiana is ever worth it.

Oh, and the best part -- the guy was let free by the police because he was too drunk.  As far as I know, South Korea is the only country on earth where being a drunken asshole is one of the best legal defenses you can mount.

And the symbolism of a stewardess holding a taser but not knowing how to use it is about as Korean as it gets.  Appearance always trumps actual competence here, especially when it comes to matters of public safety.

"still spell America with a triple-K"

Run The Jewels, "A Christmas Fucking Miracle"

This is all I got.  But this video is everything.

Annus Horribilis

George Michael dead at 53.  Carrie Fisher "stable" after a heart attack.

Christmas is a time to mend wounds and look forward to a better 2017 but somehow these days my primary feeling is simply one of mental exhaustion.

I'm fucking tired.  Other than family and close friends I really just want as little to do with the world as possible.  Other than work and exercise I really just want to stay in and watch movies.

I can't even read newspapers any more, speaking as someone who's a life-long news junkie.

And it's only going to get worse.

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Madonna. And Slayer."

My attempt to catch up with 2016's film offerings continues apace.  I finally saw Green Room, the progressive-hardcore-band-gets-taken-hostage-by-Neo-nazi-rednecks that America had been desperate for and I liked it a lot.  But I wouldn't recommend it.

The set-up is fantastic -- a gigging hardcore band is down on its luck and agrees to play a bill with "mostly" not racist skinheads.  Things quickly go wrong, and within 15 minutes you're thrown into a tightly paced, hellishly claustrophobic nightmare that basically takes up the rest of the movie.  The performances are mostly quite good, with Captain Picard (!) playing the sadistic Nazi ring-leader.

But -- my god it's violent.  And the violence is shot in a very matter-of-fact, naturalistic way.  It just sort of happens without warning and without much of a justification.  (If I never see a box cutter again I'll be a happy boy.)  There are also dogs trained to eat human flesh.  They are arguably some of the main characters in the film.

Obviously, this was not an easy film to watch.  And while I should have known what I was getting into, I would have loved to have gotten to know the (very likable) main characters a bit more before, well, things go down as you'd expect if you were held hostage by racist skinhead hillbillies.  There's some very dark humor as well, which I'm always in favor of.

I really enjoyed it.  But please don't blame me if you lose sleep after watching it in all of its ultra-grim glory.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Nomz, I Must Have Them

A Halal Guys branch just opened up in Seoul.

Seriously considering a Christmas visit up to the capitol now.

Meanwhile, young Koreans who can't find decent work and Korean restaurant owners coping with the same sluggish economy are locked in dubious battle over all-you-can-eat restaurants:
"But while happy eaters might be glad to pay less for more, many restaurant owners are biting the bullet to keep up with the high demand. 'They’re struggling to make a profit,' said Kim Sang-hoon, head of the business consulting firm Start Business.
As more all-you-can-eat joints open up, the increased demand for raw ingredients raises their prices. So even though the restaurants might see more customers, the owners have to spend more than half their revenue on buying ingredients to keep up, according to Kim. 'Quite often, they’re left with only 10 percent of the sales as profit,' the consultant said, while most restaurants in Korea make margins of 25 to 35 percent. 'In the long run, they just can’t survive.'”
In my college neighborhood, the all-you-can-eat joints actually aren't all that popular among my students.  Even with little money and a 20-something's appetites, they know that the "bottomless" restaurants are serving a lower grade of meat.  The most crowded restaurants are usually the same four or five mom-and-pop joints serving large portions for under 6,000 won.  Hell, I go to those places.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Serious Business

South Korean ramyon prices (their pronunciation of what the Japanese and Americans call ramen) are going up for the first time in five years:
"Neoguri Spicy, one of Nongshim’s oldest products, known for thicker noodles, raised its price from 850 won to 900 won, a 5.9 percent hike.
The price of Chapagetti, Nongshim’s version of jajangmyeon, rose from 900 won per pack to 950 won.
Nongshim said the price hikes were inevitable due to the rising cost of human resources, logistics and marketing.
'Since ramen products are closely related to people’s daily lives, we tried to minimize the hikes as much as possible,' said a Nongshim spokesperson."
Is nothing sacred any longer?

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Well, here it is -- the final draft of the research paper that pretty much consumed my entire semester.  But it's done, and I'm mostly pretty happy with it.  We were all kind of shocked that it came out to 80 pages total.

It went into my school's library collection yesterday, and now we're going to work on whittling it down for publication in an honest-to-Jeebus education journal.

Good times.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

First Against The Wall

There's very little in the universe to laugh about right now.  This will have to do:
"The National Assembly is getting close to tracking down Woo Byung-woo, the former presidential secretary for civil affairs who has been on the run to avoid questioning over his role in the abuse of power scandal that led to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye.
Its uncommon allies in the hunt: average angry Koreans."
It gets better:
"People all over the country are spending their own money riding in taxis and buying coffee in this blistering cold, shivering as they search,' said Kim Seong-hoe, Sohn’s aide. 'I don’t think any of these people are actually out for the reward.'
'We’re getting 20 to 30 calls every day,' said Kim. 'They’re really out investigating. There’s one person who calls us all throughout the day, giving us clues like how he’s standing in front of a building [in which Woo is suspected to be] and that the lights on the third floor are on.'”
Nobody said Late Capitalism would be pretty, but at least we'll have a little bit of fun now and then.

Documenting The Atrocities

Hillary Clinton lost to Trumpolini in no small part due to interference from Russia, directly aided and abetted by F.B.I. head and Republican partisan James Comey.  This will continue to happen until Dems stop acting like babies on issues of defense, intelligence, and national security:
"It’s no secret that the military, the FBI, and other security services skew right wing. This partially explains why Democrats frequently select Republicans to run the Pentagon and why the FBI has never been run by a liberal. Appointing Republican bureaucrats is one way to avoid dissension during periods of Democratic rule.
But this—the capture of powerful arms of the government by partisan or ideological cohorts—is a toxic development and one no party should tolerate in perpetuity. Republicans certainly don’t. When they come to power, they don’t cede control of bureaucracies with more progressive missions to Democrats. To the contrary, they send vicious foes of progressive politics to run these agencies—the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development—and start cleaning house."
Why Obama hasn't shit-canned Comey yet is beyond me.  You'd think after eight years of blatant GOP obstruction, if not potential treason, he'd see the light.

The only Dem who doesn't seemed to be drained of a will to fight right now is, predictably, Harry Reid, but that's not going to be nearly enough as the Orange One takes over and begins transferring the U.S. Treasury directly into his family's many hidden bank accounts.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

How Democracies Work

It's official -- South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been impeached, despite trying to arrange a deal where she would have resigned a year early.

I'm far from an expert, but the second and final stage of impeachment in South Korea is in the hands of their equivalent of the Supreme Court.  Six of nine judges have six months to decide if she should face the ultimate punishment.

The public is calling for blood, but it's interesting to note that non-elected officials make the final decision and won't have to suffer any election-related consequences if they choose to defend the daughter of Park Chung-hee.

In what's been the darkest of years it gives me the smallest bit of hope that quaint things like the will of the majority and democratic institutions still have some role to play in the coming decades.

Opinions, On The Internet

Living in South Korea I don't get to see nearly all the English language movies I'd like to in a given year, but in any case every December I try and play a little catch-up.

As for Swiss Army Man -- the repetitive, film-long fart joke didn't kill it for me.  Using Daniel Radcliffe's corpse as a jet-ski didn't kill it for me.  Using his corpse as a weapon didn't bother me at all.  Terrible fart jokes and magical realism are fine by me!

What killed it was a terrible ending and the realization the the main character is basically a creepy stalker.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Everything Is Now Permitted

Life under Trumpolini:
"On Sunday afternoon, Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong, a popular pizza spot in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, wielding a shotgun and fired three shots, according to the charging documents. Comet has been part of a bizarre fake news conspiracy that drew unsubstantiated links between the Hillary Clinton campaign and a fictitious child sex ring, which the stories said were being run from secret tunnels beneath the restaurant.
Police said that Welch had gone into Comet to 'self-investigate' the restaurant. Welch told police he had 'read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there', according to the charging document. He said he was armed to help rescue them. And police said he 'surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant'."
Expect a fuck load more, not less, of this for the next four years at least.

America is now a post-factual nation.  Hell, it's post-reality now.


Train To Busan (부산행) trailer

I finally got around to seeing this last night, and I wasn't disappointed.  The first half is straight-up one of the better zombie apocalypse films ever made, set on a bullet train from Seoul to Busan.  The pacing is tight, the characters are interesting and flawed and downright twisted in meaningful ways, and the chemistry between the two main characters is properly antagonistic.

Things do drag a bit in the second half (the whole thing feels like it could have lost 15-20 minutes) but the ending is strong.

Two things that stood out:

a) When the zombies come to South Korea, take comfort in the fact that you will be bitten in the neck by a creature with perfectly white, perfectly shaped teeth.

b) No guns.  I can't think of any other zombie flick that exists where guns don't play a major role.  Refreshing, really, and very Korean.  Real men and women will use baseball bats when the apocalypse comes.