Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Living The Dream, Always Living The Dream

Monday, November 20, 2017

You Stupid Donkey!

Where to begin?  Gordon Ramsay, about ten years past his cultural expiration date, has been in Korea promoting Cass, a local beer that's about as light and flavorless as can be (making it not much different than, say, Budweiser).

But controversy was stirred when Gordon seemed to go a little bit too far in his praise of a brew which is, by all objective measures, not the most flavorful.

Make no mistake -- Gordon Ramsay is a true asshole.  But I've actually gone out of my way to defend Korean beer (i.e., watery lagers) before (over at my old place, in fact).  The Gor-dog is absolutely correct in stating that the spicy, complex nature of Korean food really pairs best with a simple, non-fussy alcohol (see also soju, which is basically a more flavor-less type of Korean vodka).

When tucking into a grill-full of sweating pig intestines (also from the old place), a bold red, sweet white, or dark Guinness is the last thing you'd want as a drink pairing.

That said, what is questionable to me is the notion that G.R. drank the watery domestic stuff before Cass started paying him to drink it (or at least to pretend to).

And yes, North Korean beer is superior to South Korean beer.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Succinct, Curmedgeonly Post About Music From Over 20 Years Ago

Monster > Automatic For The People

"Strange Currency" > "Everybody Hurts"

"Tongue"?  Maybe the prettiest song R.E.M. ever recorded.

"Let Me In"?  Maybe the saddest song they ever recorded.

"King of Comedy"?  Obviously, a huge dud.  But the rest of it holds up nicely.

Automatic was kind of soft and boring in ways Monster was hard-edged and intentionally fucked up and ugly.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Five Things South Koreans Are Great Big Babies About:

1) rain
2) drinking cold water in fall or winter
3) using soy-base sauce when you’re supposed to use gochu-base sauce on your raw fish
4) a single bug flying into a room in the middle of class (literally ear-splitting shrieks of despair, and the rending of garments)
5) minor earthquakes

We had a small one yesterday afternoon and my college cancelled everything.  I'm guessing if this had happened last year before Trumpolini and Kim Jong-un started shamelessly flirting with each other we probably would have just brushed it off.  (We actually had a few small earthquakes last semester but they weren't nearly as big of a deal.)

"lots of all three"

"Blood and Roses was a trading game, along the lines of Monopoly.  The Blood side played with human atrocities for the counters, atrocities on a large scale: individual rapes and murders didn't count, there had to have been a large number of people wiped out.  Massacres, genocides, that sort of thing.  The Roses side played with human achievements.  Artworks, scientific breakthroughs, stellar works of architecture, helpful inventions.  Monuments to the soul's magnificence, they were called in the game.  There were sidebar buttons, so that if you didn't know what Crime and Punishment was, or the Theory of Relativity, or the Trail of Tears, or Madame Bovary, or the Hundred Years' War, of The Flight into Egypt, you could double-click and get an illustrated rundown, in two choices: R for children, PON for Profanity, Obscenity, and Nudity.  That was the thing about history, said Crake: it had lots of all three."

-- Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Living The Dream, Part Infinity

Further Adventures In Bad Wrong South Korea

A group of South Korean nurses were coerced into wearing hot-pants and tube-tops and "sexy dancing" at a hospital talent show:
"The incident was initially exposed in a KakaoTalk open chat room hosted by the civic organization Gabjil 119 since Nov. 1, when a nurse expressed her discomfort with having to wear explicit clothing for the event. More than 100 nurses from the institute joined the chat room to write their complaints and receive legal advice from the organization’s lawyers and labor union experts.
Some nurses, however, are skeptical of the effectiveness of the investigation. 'What’s the point of the investigation when all the supervisors are going to be monitoring us?' wrote one nurse in the open chat room on KakaoTalk. She added, 'I heard the person carrying out the investigation from the ministry is a friend of the hospital.'
Many employees suggest taking stronger measures by creating their own labor union to fight the institute."
Sexism is global, and the reckoning against sexism should be as well.

America, The Beautiful

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hikin' and Templin'

I had a really nice trip on Saturday to the nearby city of Pohang, on the east coast.  Me, my boss, my foreigner co-worker, and a group of exchange students from Vietnam went to a temple and then hiking up to a series of waterfalls.

Thing is, I've still got pictures from my visit to Tokyo last month that I need to go through and put up.

Rest assured, the fall colors were outrageous.  Korea does this season real good, as usual.

So Long, tumblr

My tumblr was wiped out over the weekend.  Either it was hacked (not very many followers, so doubtful) in which case I apologize if anyone got spam or porn, or tumblr was just being tumblr.

And since tumblr is now banned on my office computer due to South Korea wanting to censor it (there are obvious work-arounds, but still) I probably won't be going back.

Which is kind of a shame.  A lot of ex-pats in South Korea these days use tumblr instead of more conventional blogs, but at the same time anything that reduces the amount of time I spend online is probably a good thing.

Still waiting to hear from tumblr support.  Given their rep though, I'm guessing I never will.

"Just Corny"

"Konglish" is the phenomenon of Koreans using English language words, or even whole expressions, in contexts that native English speakers wouldn't understand.  (Wikipedia is a good place to look it up.)  And while crimes against English are nothing new in South Korea, the significance of Konglish for marketing luxury apartments is:
"The situation is the same for an apartment complex in Godeok, eastern Seoul. The apartment complex, which is being reconstructed by a consortium led by Daelim Industrial, is named Arteon, a combination of the words 'art' and 'theon,' or godly in Greek.
Samsung C&T also named the reconstruction of Gaepo Jugong 2 Danji apartment, which will be completed in early 2019, Raemian Blesstiage, a combination of 'bless,' and 'prestige.' The company was especially keen to emphasis the prestige of the complex, and also considered luxtiage, trinitage and forestige as potential names.
'The idea that mixing English words with good meanings makes [the apartment complex] more high-end is just corny,' said a Raemian Blesstiage apartment owner."
A lot of foreigners, and in particular no small number of anal-retentive English teachers, seem to get personally offended by Konglish.  Of course, Konglish isn't for them, it's a marketing strategy to connote something exotic, elegant, or expensive (think of the use of French and Italian in America to signify luxury or fashion) to potential Korean-speaking customers.

Still, it's impossible not to cringe at some of the terrible names Korean marketing gurus are able to come up with.

While not quite Konglish and more of a translation error, the local beauty supply chain "Skin Food" is my favorite example.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Misogyny Or Racism? In America, Take Your Pick!

It’s been a good night in America with Dems both mainstream and progressive winning lots of seats at the state level.  But there’s also a lot of talk as to how badly Hillary “under-performed” in 2016.

Obviously, her campaign was far from perfect.  But also, it’s a really long-winded way of saying that way too many Americans (including, unfortunately, many women) will vote for shitty men before they’ll ever vote for qualifed women.

Which is to say, getting a black person elected president was doing the impossible.  But finally getting a woman elected might be an even bigger hill to climb.

Optimism? How Does That Work?

Good news out of Virginia and other states tonight.

My only hottest of takes: there is no such thing as an "off-year" election.

The 2018 midterms will be here before you know it -- register to vote here.

And a friendly reminder to expats like me that voting from abroad is much easier and faster than you might assume.  To quote the great political philosopher Shia LeBeouf, just do it!

Country Life

The fact is, if I only taught college students I'd probably have moved back to America and opened a Chipotle by now.  I also teach adult students, and they bring a nice balance to my work life.  They actually want to learn English, as opposed to, well, a healthy majority of my college students.  They are majoring in medical disciplines and I can't blame them for focusing less on their non-major subject of English.

In addition my adult students will ask me and my other foreigner co-worker out once in a while, maybe just for beer and fried chicken to longer trips out to the country for hiking or walking about.  After, we often go out for beer and fried chicken.

Anyhow, two weekends ago we went about 45 minutes outside of Daegu to a retired student's newly restored country house.  It was absolutely beautiful, with a full garden out front and a feral cat and her babies who had recently "adopted" the house as their new residence.  After walking around a bit we went to a restaurant called "Old Road" (in English).  And I was greeted by walls of absolutely brilliant vinyl.  Now, most of these albums were reissues so maybe a true vinyl-collector would scoff, but to be in the middle-of-nowhere outside of Daegu and find these kinds of (very American) treasures was a highlight for me.

The beer was very good.  The fried chicken was just O.K. but the setting made up for it.

And supposedly we're going back in a few weeks to help participate in tofu-making.  (If this is all a setup to turn me in to cheap labor, I have no problem with it.)

Oh, and they had a piano that my foreigner co-worker (who has a Ph.D. in music) got to entertain the restaurant with.

It was a great time and I promise my next ten posts will go back to how horrible the world is and how we're all about to die.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

14 Thoughts About Stranger Things, Season Two! (With Lots of Spoilers!)

1)  We get it -- people smoked a lot in the 80's.  But people did not smoke that much.

2)  "I am on a curiosity voyage, and these are my paddles!"  Dustin was great in season one.  He was pretty damn near sublime in season two.  His "cool" haircut was -- wow.

3)  Speaking of hairstyles, Eleven / Elle's boy haircut was really confusing.  Sometimes I honestly thought she was one of the boy characters.

4)  As great as the Winter Ball scene was at the end and how it tied so much together, I think one of my favorite things about this show are the less obvious moments of chemistry, and how even characters who don't really share an arc are still guaranteed to have a really human moment or two.

5)  The Nancy love-triangle is still fantastic.  They frame Jonathan as the moody, Clash-listening poet dude, and Steve as the rich dumb jock from the beginning.  But by the end of Season Two I was kind of rooting for Steve to get back together with Nancy, or at least find somebody new.  He's genuinely a protector of the kids, even when he's still the dumb jock who doesn't know what Morse Code or the history of National Socialism are.  (Arguably my favorite laugh lines of the season.)

6)  The theme of this season, and probably the show, is that "friends never lie."  But of course, they end up lying to each other constantly.  They couldn't protect each other, otherwise.  They couldn't survive, otherwise.  (I'd argue tying up your son / brother and jamming him with sleep medication when needed in order to save the world is somewhat deceitful, at best.)

7)  I liked Max.  Was she necessary though, beyond just "filling in" for Eleven and establishing a bit of romantic tension?  Eleven and Mike certainly don't seem to think so.

8)  I didn't know what to make of Max's brother.  It seems like he was supposed to do more, probably something awful, but beating up Steve was pretty inconsequential.  I will give no fucks if he isn't back for season three.

9)  Speaking of fucks, kids should curse more in movies and TV.  And they should do it in these off-hand, spontaneous ways, just like how kids (and adults) curse in real life.

10)  The only major letdown for me was episode seven, where Eleven goes to Chicago to find her sister.  I think fleshing out her backstory is fine, but everything with Kali and her gang just doesn't work.  Kali's buddies were very Destroy All Movies!!! (in a bad way), and loosening up the action of the last two episodes into three might have worked well.

11)  Goddammit Bob, as with most characters on this show, they set you up as boring and flawed and then manage to develop you in genuinely funny and sympathetic ways.  I wanted Bob to live.  I had many a feel when he died.  R.I.P. Samwise.  I mean Bob.

12)  Barb shall have her revenge on Hawkins, Indiana.  (She really did!  At least on the governmnent scientists who managed to get her killed, thanks to Nancy and Jonathan and the crazy conspiracy dude!)

13)  My Stranger Things season three betting pool:  What insanely neurotic behavior will Mrs. Byers engage in next season (decorating the house with Christmas lights, Will's crayon drawings) before being proven absolutely correct about everything she thinks is going on?

14)  I hated the fact they used The Police's "Every Breath You Take" for Eleven and Mike's first kiss (an admitted stalker anthem) but then, right on the line "I'll be watching you," we get the big old reversal into the Upside Down which ends the season.  For a show about inter-dimensional space demons, this show really has the lightest of touches at times.  That's not easy to pull off, and I think that's why I love it so much.

The Need For Regulation

After a slew of product safety recalls ranging from eggs to humidifier cleaner to tampons and pads, some South Koreans are becoming "chemophobes" and dedicating themselves to chemical-free lifestyles:
"Following these crises, there has been a rise in what many are calling chemophobia. Generally defined as an irrational fear of chemicals, chemophobic people try to rule out the use of chemicals in their daily routines, although to what extent differs by person.
Fifty-four-year-old Kim Kyung-ae, a mother of two, has made major adjustments to her life due to her fear of chemicals. 
After working for eco-friendly organization iCOOP for seven years, Kim realized the serious health risks chemicals can pose to one’s health. Ever since, she has minimized her use of chemical products by either personally making or purchasing eco-friendly goods like skin lotion, shampoo and detergent from small business owners. The recent crises have reminded her of the danger of chemicals, forcing her to look back on what she and her family consume."
 Of course, safer products also tend to be more expensive, leading to a society where only the better off can afford to not expose their children to poison(s).

Late Trumpistan

Not Bad For A Tuesday

I'll take my tiny life achievements as they come. Getting retweeted by Ta-nehesi Coates is one of them for today.

Monday, October 30, 2017


And so, the first of what will hopefully be many indictments.

But if 2016 taught us anything, it's to never, ever have positive expectations of any kind.

America and the world will get a lot worse before it ever gets any better.

The problem remains a really simple one -- as long as Paris Hilton is getting another tax cut, Republicans simply don't care about little inconveniences like treason and foreign powers interfering in our elections.

Friday, October 27, 2017

"bad men who are unwilling to reckon with themselves"

I'm a big fan of Drew Magary's NFL preview piece, the Dick-Joke Jamboroo.  Irreverent!  Poop jokes!  Making fun of the self-serious morons who constitute most of American sports journalism!  And this week, shit gets real:
"We are all, as a country, being forced to reckon with bad men who are unwilling to reckon with themselves. There’s a bad man in charge, and bad men in the government running amok at his behest, and other bad men who are currently either indulging in their abuses or being exposed for them. There are too many men out there who think if they can’t be bad men, they can’t be men at all. You see this in the language of the alt-right. Liberal men are pussies. Losers. Cucks. Considering the feelings of others is for hippies and eunuchs.
But that’s a huge lie, maybe the worst lie. You can be a red-blooded, beer-drinking American man who is also not a fuckhead. Portnoy is merely profiting off the endemic laziness of the male internet: guys unwilling to do the not-terribly-arduous work required to try to get better, instead codifying their sexism and racism into a full-on identity in order to lionize their own inaction."
Things have to get better eventually, don't they?  Who the fuck knows.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Let's Do This

My usual World Series protocol goes something like this:

1)  If Orioles involved (LOL), GO FUCKING ORIOLES!  (Protocol last engaged in 1983.)

2)  If Cubs involved, root for Cubs.

3)  If not Cubs, root for A.L. squad involved.

4)  If A.L. squad involved is Yankees, FUCK THE MOTHERFUCKING YANKEES and root for N.L. squad.

So technically I guess I'm bound to root for The Astros this time around.  But I'm not.  Thing is, I really like Puig.  The Dodgers also have a Korean pitcher, Ryu Hyun-jin but he's out with injuries.  So I'll happily, if somewhat lukewarmly, break protocol and root for L.A. because in the back of my little pea-brain Houston is and always will be a N.L. squad.  A fun one, though.

Dodgers in six.

Rape Culture

Sexual harassment and abuse are not partisan issues.  Men in positions of power have, for decades at Fox News or Miramax, in the White House or in a chic restaurant, felt like they could abuse women and, due to their power and money, not suffer any consequences.  Quite the opposite, actually -- it was the women who suffered when they wouldn't go along, missing significant career opportunities or simply being frozen out of journalism or acting or cooking or what have you.

So the appropriate response is, of course, for men to first shut the hell up and finally start listening to women, and taking them seriously at all times when they talk about their experiences ranging from rape to more subtle, but still terrible and demeaning, forms of harassment.

Next, let's acknowledge that rape culture is a thing that's bigger than party affiliation.

That's a bridge too far for some though.  There's a genuine glee among Republicans that hey, big-shot Dems like Weinstein are creepy rapists too!  (I'll spare you the many easy to find hot takes out there, amounting to if Weinstein does what Trump has done, somehow it's all no big deal because, and I swear this will be engraved on the figurative tomb of American Democracy, Both Sides Do It!)

And while I'm happy to blame Trump and Trump voters for a hell of a lot of things these days, this isn't on them.  This is on all of us, especially men like me, who have ever for a second thought that rape and sexual harassment were something women needed to handle on their own, or who have ever for a second decided to doubt before listen.

If there's one thing deeper than the racially charged and aggrieved motivations of Trump voters (there can't be many!), it's that misogyny might be an even stronger or insidious part of our cultural fabric than racism is.  At the very least, it's something we haven't been able to talk about in a full and open way, and our national reckoning with rape culture has started decades later than it should have.

I can do better.  We can all do better.  And I welcome -- I absolutely relish -- the naming and shaming and casting out of powerful men in the coming days, months, and years, regardless of political affiliation.  The idea that somehow I wasn't happy to see Weinstein go down, or Cosby (who should be in jail but isn't, even though his career is over), or any other supposedly "liberal" power player is crazy.

Bring it on.  Bring them down.  Bring them all tumbling down.

Honestly, that's the easy part.  For men like me, it will only be the beginning of the hard work we need to do -- radical adjustments in our behavior and our attitudes and our capacity for solidarity -- always and from now on.

Rockers Defeat Mods

Daegu is far from the supposed fashion Mecca of Seoul, and I'm pretty much the antithesis of fashionable myself.  But if my students' autumnal fashion choices  are to be believed, black leather jackets and skinny rolled-up jeans are "it" for the end of this year.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"I want to be high when I die"

Art Pepper, "Arthur's Blues" live

"We were put into a cubicle in the emergency area.  Art jumped up on the examining table and told me he was starving.  He asked me to buy him a candy bar.  I left, found one for him, and returned to find him sniffing a line of coke.  He said, jokingly, 'I want to be high when I die.'  I took the coke away from him.  Suddenly he cried out.  He said he couldn't see out of his left eye and he couldn't move his left side."
I've been on a definite musician biography / band documentary kick over the past few years.  From the expectedly and unexpectedly good (Bob Mould and Moby's biographies), to a truly outstanding and authoritative work on The Replacements, to a mostly good series of essays on L.A. punk, Pepper's biography was a bit of a left turn for me into jazz, the 40's and 50's, and drug, drink, and sexual abuse that is disturbingly unapologetic.  There's a bit of a redemptive arc here, but it's purely musical.  He's high out of his mind until the very end, literally.  And that's strangely refreshing -- while O.D.s are nothing to laugh about, I couldn't care less about musicians who get sober and then, supposedly, start making their best music ever.  (Hint: post-sobriety music is never the best work a musician will ever make.)

Anyone who's read the book (at a rather hefty 500 pages) knows that the word "jokingly" in the quoted passage is far from it.  The book begins and ends with Pepper pretty much saying that he is, above all else, a junkie first and a musician second.  (Sexual deviant third!)  He died at 57 but, true to form, still played masterfully on the alto sax up until the end.  The Youtube link here is merely one year before his death.  (I think you'd have to be really charitable to say that Miles was making significant music in 1990.)  During the final tours, he "held it together" with daily binges of alcohol and cocaine, and probably less frequently heroin and / or methadone.  He lived on candy bars and take-out.  If there's a music cliche I do approve of, it's that he found his final musical redemption by touring Japan and discovering, much to his own surprise, that he was something of a living legend there.

While many music bios will incorporate recorded interviews, an interesting thing about Straight Life is that the whole thing was done as an audio recording by his wife, Laurie, who me he met in one of his many stints in rehab.  (She admits that she was still using herself at the time of his death, in pretty much the Platonic ideal of a co-dependent relationship.)  She had majored in sociology, and while the writing comes off as very smooth and straightforward it's easy to forget that these hundreds of pages were dictated rather than composed by the subject, and that the whole thing is a borderline ethnography of sorts.  It also incorporates interviews with other musicians, family members, and junkies, and those passages are much more hit-and-miss.

The passages where he simply talks about music, and specifically what makes for great music and musicianship, are sublime.  No doubt one appeal of the book is that the transitions between utterly depraved drug abuse and sexual perversity glide seamlessly into meditations on what makes for great art.

Not an easy read by any means, but definitely worth the effort.

Uber Warning

My boss just got back from a business trip to Hanoi. He was taking an Uber to the airport to return home and got into an accident. The driver was going way too fast and playing with his phone, even after my boss (a pretty polite person overall) asked him many times to watch the road. They rammed into a truck that had the right of way, and if my boss was in the passenger seat instead of the back seat, he would have been severely injured. (The pictures he took were really scary.)

As it stands, he flew home to Korea with a sprained wrist and was very shaken up about the the whole thing. The Uber driver literally refused to call for the police or an ambulance for fear of getting arrested, and as mentioned, if this had been a more dangerous accident, my boss would have bled to death by the side of the road.

I'll admit, I've opposed Uber from the beginning because of their unfair labor practices. They are the definition of "Vulture Capitalism," not building something new, but just exploiting inefficiencies to make a buck and then move on. But I'd also suggest that in underdeveloped countries you are taking your life into your own hands in an Uber. Sure, a regular cab driver might behave the same way, but at least you could contact a cab company. Hopefully, you'd have a more experienced driver to start with as well.

As it is, Uber drivers are basically internet-contracted Gypsy Cabs, and I would never take a Gypsy Cab in New York or anywhere else.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Groovy Tunes

Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack, Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch

We're living in a pre-apocalyptic nightmare the only solution to which might be global nuclear annihilation and letting the cockroaches finally take over, but at least there's a good soundtrack available for us to listen to.

Love And Theft

It's a national stereotype that Western nations produce intellectual property, while China merely copies it.  In the case of South Korean T.V. (shows of which are popular throughout Asia), it just might be true:
"When Chinese television network Hunan TV announced late August on its official Weibo account its lineup for the upcoming television season, it was met with criticism over possible plagiarism by not only Koreans but also Chinese audiences, who wrote comments saying, 'It’s gone too far. Stop plagiarizing.' and 'I feel so embarrassed.' 
The description of one of the shows, 'The Inn,' sounded quite similar to JTBC’s 'Hyori’s Homestay' that wrapped late last month. The Korean show follows Korean pop diva Lee Hyori and her husband, guitarist Lee Sang-soon, offering accommodations at their home in Jeju Island to travelers. Similarly, 'The Inn' is a reality program centering on two famous celebrity couples offering accommodations to visitors. 
Amid the backlash, its first episode aired on Saturday. The show took a famous married couple, actress Liu Tao and businessman Wang Ke, to a remote area near Lugu Lake in Yunnan, where homes set against the beautiful landscape were prepared for the stars to take in guests. The first episode did not reveal much, as it showcased the celebrities getting ready for their guests by setting up equipment and purchasing ingredients to prepare meals. How much it will parallel 'Hyori’s Homestay' will be seen in the upcoming episodes."
I've actually never warmed up to the charms of Korean dramas.  Even K-Pop is occasionally good for a laugh or an ear-worm of a chorus, but when my Korean friends discuss the merits of the their favorite shows I, ahem, tune out.

Note:  Advanced Conversation posts are based on articles I've discussed with my adult conversation students.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"you are part of the problem"

Lindsey Adler pulls no punches as to why Weinstein and Cosby and Trump are a male problem, first and foremost:
"If you are a man who truly didn’t know—who has now heard something on this line from a woman you are close to and who is finally opening up with her story to you about a mutual friend, or family member, or colleague—ask yourself why it took so long. Ask why it took yet another run through the cycle for her to trust you. Ask yourself why the women you know haven’t shared the massive accumulation of information they have stored on their mental hard drives by their 20s if not before with the men who are good, who know better than to treat women as objects.
If you leave this issue to women, if you refuse to make your friends or yourself be better—whether by intervention or by consequence—you are part of the problem, no matter what you make of yourself. If you are closing yourself off from the information that has been out there for too long to be worth considering about gender, power, and violence, or the cyclical flows of personal anecdotes about them, you are not excused. It has been too long, too obvious, and presented too many ways for anyone to claim ignorance."
This is why "rape culture" is still such an effective term to describe what's going on these days.  Most men go through life never raping anybody (congratulations, I guess?).  All men do, to some extent, contribute actively or passively to constructing environments where women can be, in fact, raped, or at least harassed, cat-called, stared at, or made to feel creeped out.

Adler is pessimistic that things will change after Weinstein, but she's spitting fire here against the passive, enabling "not all men" perspective.

Deep Political Thought of the Day

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Eleven Thoughts On Bladerunner 2049 (Spoilers!)

1)  The soundtrack is dope.

2)  The female lead performances (Luv, Joi) are incredible.

3)  In fact, I found myself wanting to go deeper into the relationship between K and Joi.  That really felt like the center of the film to me.

4)  The virtual threesome was rad, and it felt like one of the few times these days that CGI is done right, to produce a unique and interesting effect, not just to vomit pixels all over the screen.

5)  Harrison Ford was O.K., but a script that didn't use him might have been even better.  He didn't really need to be in this other than for fan service purposes.

6)  At this stage of advanced late capitalism I have very mixed feelings about Jared Leto, but he was a commanding presence.  At the same time, he felt under-used.  Why no backstory?

7)  I liked the ending but no, K didn't die.  He's just taking a nap and catching snow flakes on his tongue.

8)  The biggest problem of the whole film is the relationship between Wallace and the cops.  Like, Luv just straight-up murders the forensic team dude to steal Rachel's DNA and nobody seems to care much about it.  Then she murders the goddamn police chief and it all seems like no big deal to anybody.  I get that Philip K. Dick (and William Gibson after him) is all about how corporations have complete power in the future, even above governments and nation-states, but this seemed really under-cooked and confusing to me.

9)  K kills off Luv and the Wallace stooges and Wallace doesn't respond?  Doesn't do anything to retaliate, even though he's super-powerful rich scientist man?  He's all-rich and all-powerful except when he isn't?

10)  The final fight scene is kind of cool except when the camera cuts to Ford and he literally has no idea what to do with his body or hands since he's tied to a chair.  Really kills the tension.  (Have I mentioned he really didn't need to be in this film?)

11)  Also problematically under-cooked -- the whole replicant underground resistance plot.  It seems like they should have been done more than provide a hooker for the threesome and to tell K he's not really the chosen one.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"nanny nanny boo boo"

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, "Blue Cheese"

Bladerunner 2049 opened here in lovely South Korea today, and I should be able to get to the theater tomorrow.  Dennis Villeneuve can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.

Meanwhile, here's a song from the perfectly pleasant new collaboration between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile.  And hey, that's Janet Weiss on drums.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

More On Why Soccer Doesn't Work In America

This whole article from 2016 (!) is worth reading as it really digs into the cultural and economic factors inhibiting the creation of a more successful national men's soccer squad in the U.S., but this part stood out:
"Economics work against the poor kids in American soccer. Lusson sees this every week as he moves between the teenage girls team he coaches in the wealthy San Francisco enclave of Pacific Heights, and the teams he manages in lower-income Hayward. One night, a few weeks ago, he listened as girls on the Pacific Heights team talked excitedly about applications to elite east coast colleges. The next day, in Hayward, nobody talked about college.
And yet he is amazed by the skill of his Hayward players, who he says would crush the Pacific Heights team in a match. These are the players who could be the future of American soccer, perhaps even rising as high as a national team. But he also knows that the Pacific Heights players will be the ones to play on their college teams and will be identified by US Soccer. They are the ones who will get a chance that the Hayward kids won’t. And this strikes Lusson as very wrong."
I'd only add that genuine skill in basketball, American football, and these days to a lesser extent baseball, are still possible golden tickets out of poverty.  It's a shame soccer can't seem to catch on as a "real" sport in my home country.

And with the disaster in Trinidad, it really feels like we're stepping back a few decades.  And to beat my dead horsie, Klinsmann got us to the round of 16 a mere three years ago.  That seems about the best result possible with the talent ceiling we have now, and encouraging U.S. players to go to Europe was the right thing to do.

Life Goals

Tampopo trailer

I've still got more pics from Tokyo to sort through and put up but for now I'm closing in on one of my serious life goals.  As much as I love sushi, as much as I love takoyaki (octopus balls!), I think my real Japanese food passion is -- to risk cliche -- ramen.

Now, Korea has plenty of ram-yon, but it's pretty much universally salty and bland.  I will very occasionally have a small cup of it with lunch in the winter, but that's about it.

Japanese ramen, however, is heavenly.  It's no secret that real Japanese ramen has a lot of love and work put in to make the broth earthy and rich, while Korean ramyon almost always starts off with a water base.  Japanese ramen is a humble food that has grown up to achieve greatness.  Korean ramyon never made that precocious leap into culinary adulthood.

Anyhow, I've put the word out to my adult students that Teacher James is desperate to find good ramen in Daegu.  On Twitter, I learned that Seoul has no shortage of great places for the Japanese style but they can pound sand.  I've learned so far that a nearby neighborhood has a good joint, as does the huge Hyundai Department Store downtown.  (Not surprising, since their food court also has very good Indian and Italian.)

Daegu winters can be cold and bleak affairs.  I want -- need -- my ramen / umami fix over the coming months.

This Is My Not Happy Face

I liked Klinsmann.  But it made sense when he left, as it seems like he'd lost the team.

But bringing on Arena?  Moving backwards, literally if not figuratively?  Huge mistake.

And so it goes.

Monday, October 9, 2017

"crack up in the sun / lose it in the shade"

The Replacements, "Hold My Life" live

I'm very stoked for this reissue, The Replacements live in '86 just before they "made it" with a major label.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Trouble Boys was that it managed to solve a great mystery for any Replacements fan -- they were, according to many, either the very very best or god-awfully shocking worst live band they'd ever seen.  In fact, the first live videos I ever saw of them had them playing pretty damn tight (even Bob!).  Turns out, Paul and the guys kind of decided before going on stage whether or not they'd put on a good show.  And of course, even mid-show they might decide to ruin it all if they didn't like the crowd or, if the stars aligned or the coke and pills and drinks were particularly good, they might decide to actually give a fuck and actually perform at their best.

Anyhow, a lot of these tracks sound awesome.

Tokyo Pics Two

Shinjuku -- fortune teller and "Robot Restaurant"

Akihabara -- Mario racers

Ueno -- Tokyo zoo

Tokyo Pics

Tokyo, Japan -- Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku

Meiji Shrine -- votives

Yoyogi Park -- graffiti

Shinjuku -- conveyor belt sushi

True Fact

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Tokyo Two

Tokyo was a blast.  Lots of pics to sort through and post.

I ate takoyaki every day and I'm not ashamed of it at all.

Monday, October 2, 2017


I'm off to Tokyo for a few days for Chuseok.  Stay safe.


Ed from Gin and Tacos says it better than I can:
"Mass shootings are to the modern US what human sacrifices were to some societies, but replace the sun with 2nd Amendment and the bountiful harvest with Freedom. If 58 people have to die so that we may enjoy the freedom to own 35 guns – the killer had at least that many – that is a sacrifice white America is prepared to make. YOU are a sacrifice they are prepared to make. You don't matter. Nothing matters is Larry Limpdick's need to feel tough or manly or important or strong or ready for the Race War he and everyone else in the comments section of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is certain is coming because BLM or campus libtards or something.
We have so thoroughly normalized a completely demented, paranoid, conspiratorial, afactual right-wing worldview that a man can buy 35 guns and not only are there no meaningful obstacles to doing so but the fact isn't even considered especially noteworthy or out of the ordinary. The very fact that we live in a society where a person can announce that they own 10 or 25 or 50 or 100 guns and the overwhelming, immediate response is not 'What in the living fuck is wrong with you?' followed by a psych evaluation is the definitive proof that this will keep happening over and over and over again."
The NRA will have its blood tax, always.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Rest of the World Totally Respects Mighty Trump Now

A round-up of Chinese and Korean play-on-transliterations for "Trump."  What Koreans have done with Orange Hitler's name:
"The nickname is 도람프 or 도람푸 — a play on the Korean word that means to be crazy/insane/mad.
Krista Ryu remarks:
돌다 (dolda) literally means to turn (v)
But when you use it after the word 'head' or directly to a person, it can mean you are crazy or 'nuts'.
So it is a combination of this verb and the name Trump
Trump in Korean transliterated would be Teuleompeu 트럼프
(Some one is crazy) dol-assda 돌았다 ('turned')
–> dolampeu 도람프"

It Comes As No Surprise

Monday, September 25, 2017

Charity Gone Wrong

"Life Release" is a Buddhist practice of freeing animals destined for slaughter.  While it sounds compassionate, it can actually lead to huge headaches when basic rules of biology and the environment are ignored:
"The ritual dates back to the third century, but has seen a resurgence in recent years. Hai Tao, a champion of animal rights, advocates fangsheng – saving the lives of creatures destined for slaughter – as a way for Buddhists to demonstrate compassion, create good fortune and earn merit.
According to Humane Society International (HSI), hundreds of millions of birds, fish, monkeys, turtles and other animals are involved in acts of fangsheng every year. But these days, it says, 'mercy release has become an industry built on the capture and supply of wild animals, for whom there are devastating consequences of injury, illness or death'. In Taiwan alone, 200 million wild animals are used every year in release rituals, according to HSI in 2012. Fangsheng is also practiced in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Nepal, the United States and the UK.
The organisation says many animals are fatally injured in the ritual, and those that survive release often die soon afterwards from exhaustion, injury or disease, or else become prey to other species. Some are re-captured after the ritual and re-sold. Release can also cause environmental harm, it adds. Animals 'may be released outside their natural habitats and in groups large enough to establish breeding populations, often wreaking havoc on local ecosystems. Some are invasive species that may threaten the survival of the native species.'”
Something about the road to hell and using good intentions to pave it.

Also, won't someone think of the turkeys?

(Hopefully) Get A Job

For young people in South Korea, finding a job -- let alone a good one -- is an uphill struggle.  That might be changing, or not, due to the new process of "blind hiring":
"As companies this season look to hire new employees, many are looking less at GPAs and internships and are instead opting for what is known as 'blind hiring.'
The trend started last June at a meeting of senior presidential secretaries, when President Moon Jae-in said he hoped to see an increase in blind hiring, so candidates can all start 'from the same starting line, with only capability as a determining factor.'
Following his request, 332 public institutions and 149 state-run companies headquartered outside of Seoul and Gyeonggi uniformly applied blind hiring in the latter half of this year. This development has now spread to private businesses as well in areas like retail, IT and finance.
Some of these beneficiaries are able to fully use this potential, which has given them a fighting chance in the job market. Cha Ji-hyeong, 27, is one of them. He applied to roughly 30 companies after facing a series of rejections in 2016 and the first half of 2017, but now he feels confident he can get a job because the companies do not emphasize educational background or other specifications, or 'specs', as much.
'I didn’t attend a prestigious university and my GPA was below average,' said Cha, 'so I have been rejected in the first round of job applications. Blind hiring gives me a newfound assurance as I have done many internships and have a lot of work experience, so if I make it to interviews I have a better chance.'”
"Specs" is a bit of Konglish meaning educational and professional certifications, but confusingly it also means where you went to college and GPA.

As for blind hiring, with nepotism being so rampant in the country,  steps like this seem like a good idea.  But leave it to the South Korean bureaucracy to manage and ignore or forsake its own rules when rubbing up against centuries-long norms.  This is still a country where you're expected to put the names of your parents and grandparents on resumes, and it's not just for show.  Your family is everything, for better or for worse.

Update: In our morning discussion class a student reminded me what's really shocking for Americans about Korean resumes -- the prominent use of headshots, along with numbers for height (!) and weight (!!).

English Teacher Smash

If you show up to my class 20 minutes late with you holding an enormous Frapa-Latte-Chino from one of the cafes next to the building, and your boyfriend with a steaming hot paper bowl of ramyon, yes, I might just kick you out of the room immediately and mark you absent.

My college English class really is quite easy skill-wise, but if students miss four classes in a semester they automatically fail.

Anyhow, I was pissed right the fuck off but I didn't raise my voice.  Still, I think the rage-beams emitting from my eyeballs might have been worse than anything my voice could do.

Not Good

90 degrees today in Daegu, and 90 degrees again tomorrow.

Fall in South Korea truly is lovely but I'm not sure it'll ever get here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why We're Doomed

Evan Osnos' long-form piece in The New Yorker is a comprehensive and indispensable account of what's going on with North Korea and Trump, the decades of history leading up to this moment, and why military threats to Kim Jong-un and his regime are pointless.  While there's a lot to take in, there are some definite highlights:
"It is a measure of how impoverished America’s contact with North Korea has become that one of the best-known conduits is Dennis Rodman, a.k.a. the Worm, the bad boy of the nineties-era Chicago Bulls. Rodman’s agent, Chris Volo, a hulking former mixed-martial-arts fighter, told me recently, 'I’ve been there four times in four years. I’m in the Korean Sea, and I’m saying to myself, "No one would believe that I’m alone right now, riding Sea-Doos with Kim Jong Un."' Rodman’s strange bond with Kim began in 2013, when Vice Media, aware of Kim’s love of the Bulls, offered to fly American basketball players to North Korea. Vice tried to contact Michael Jordan but got nowhere. Rodman, who was working the night-club autograph circuit, was happy to go. He joined three members of the Harlem Globetrotters for a game in Pyongyang. Kim made a surprise appearance, invited Rodman to dinner, and asked him to return to North Korea for a week at his private beach resort in Wonsan, which Rodman later described as 'Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.' On his most recent trip, in June, Rodman gave Kim English and Korean editions of Trump’s 1987 best-seller,  The Art of the Deal."
I think the only rational response to this information is Jesus Fucking Christ.

I'd add that only an American person could possibly imagine a world where nuclear conflict could ever be "contained" to Korea and / or Asia.

Kim Jong-un understands this calculus perfectly, as does China.

My fellow Americans?  Perhaps dimly.

Trump?  Literally not at all.

Well, Maybe Some Version of "But Her E-mails!" As Well

Pretty much the only tweet you need to understand 2017.

"Shitler Youth"

Laurie Penny cuts to the chase regarding the insufferable "both sides do it" of American political discourse:
"In the United States, radicalized extremists on the far right are also due for a rebrand, having been embarrassed on the international stage in Charlottesville by fellow travelers who took the street-fighting-Nazi live-action roleplay too far, marched around screaming about being replaced by Jews, and murdered someone. The Shitler Youth are now going through desperate conniptions trying to claim that anti-fascists are morally equivalent to fascists, that “all sides” are aggressive and forthright, which is a little like claiming that, as both take a toll on the body, cancer and chemotherapy are basically the same.
Shit got real, eh? One minute you’re a nice normal boy with hobbies and internet friends, and the next, your picture’s all over the place holding a torch and doing the Nuremberg uglyface and your parents won’t talk to you because everyone thinks you’re a militant racist, and they’re right. If I may talk directly to these self-deluding subterraneans: I’m sorry to be the one to point this out, but you have been radicalized. There’s a reason people call you Vanilla ISIS. ISIS think they’re rebels, too. Have a good hard look at these Defend Europe twits with their rickety armada. These are your people. They’re your compadres. You are paddling beside them in the shallow end of political discourse, screaming when anything living nibbles your toes."
Even when confronted with literal Nazis and Klan members in Charlottesville, the American media can't help but reach up its own ass to find some sort of inane comparison.

I mean, at least FOX knows what it's doing.  Less right-wing news outlets?  Not so much.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"rational foundations"

There are plenty of good-to-great pieces on why Trump's UN temper tantrum will do the opposite of what he thinks it will, but it doesn't get much more precise than this:
"For North Korea, Trump's words merely provide further justification for its nuclear weapons programme. Though the regime is typically depicted as crazed (and in some respects it is), its nuclear project rests on rational foundations. For Kim, the lesson from the fall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi was that tyrants pay a price for relinquishing their arms. The persistent threats from the US strengthen the regime's domestic position and reinforce a siege mentality. Though North Korea must be deterred from a pre-emptive strike, it must also be offered incentives to pursue a different path."
But remember, Hillary was the real threat to world peace.

"political and biological enemies"

What a lovely country:
"A federal appeals court has denied white supremacist Dylann Roof’s request to replace his Jewish and Indian lawyers who are appealing his death sentence for a racist massacre in South Carolina a day after he filed it.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-page, 11-word denial Tuesday.
Roof’s handwritten appeal was filed Monday. He wrote: 'It will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys that are my political and biological enemies.'
Roof was sentenced to death in January after being convicted of hate crimes in the killings of nine black worshippers at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015."
Trumpistan.  Honestly surprised the Trump White House hasn't hired young master Dylann to be in charge of racial outreach or some such.

I Love You Daegu But You're Bringing Me Down

I realize regional airports will always be more expensive than national ones, but I was shocked to find out that getting from Daegu to Tokyo costs twice as much as it does going from Seoul to Tokyo.

Not a huge deal, as I'm quite familiar with the comfy and cheap express bus that takes me straight to Incheon (Seoul) Airport, but one of these days I'd love to actually use the "International" airport located in my fair city.

Anyhow, the tickets are purchased for five days in Tokyo for MEGA CHUSEOK in two weeks.  I haven't had sake in years.

I'm going to change that.

Whiny Foreigner Returns! Why Korean Academic Ceremonies Are Terrible And You Will Die During One Of Them!

After nine years (!) in South Korea you'd think I'd have developed a thicker skin against the absolute gonzo-cheese-ball manner in which they run academic ceremonies.  While I've actually participated in some slightly lower key academic conferences (still fucking bizarro-land compared to American colleges), an academic award ceremony is truly a sight to behold.

To set the stage -- my college received an award from the Korean government for academic excellence.  (Long story short: as a technical health college we produce a lot of majors the country is in dire need of as the low birth-rate demographics are tumbling off a cliff.)  This afternoon we had the final ceremony involving our president and a bunch of other ones from colleges around the country.  My boss insisted I attend.

For starters, when you show up at the auditorium two women dressed in high heels, mini-skirts, and little 1960's era stewardess hats shout "Welcome!" more at you than to you.  (The "Orange Ladies" as I call them are routinely brought in for any campus event involving outsiders.)  I can't imagine being an actual female academic at one of these events and having to walk through a gauntlet of this unintentional but obvious misogyny buy hey, Korea.

The first hour of the ceremony was notable for the playing of Sousa-like marches between each speaker, and a mini-light show as well.  The music was truly deafening, and I can only guess it was to make sure nobody fell asleep.  Maybe I'm just a cynical creep by nature, but stuff like this is just so middle-school musical in nature and cringe-worthy for someone who went to an American college where award ceremonies didn't involve 12 speakers and two different A.V. techs.

So basically there was a string of speeches and then the award ceremony proper.  There were three "waves" as far as I could tell -- the first group of people got flowers (okay, I admit flowers are always nice), the second group got more gift bags, and the third got these honking brass plaques (동판).  For every stage there were multiple pauses so photographers and video folks from each university involved could get their footage, so what should have taken 10 minutes took 30.

And then, right in the middle of the brass-plaque ceremony, the Sousa marches swelled and then were replaced by, I swear to the FSM, the Star Wars rebel victory march.

All five minutes of it.

Basically, I'm not even mad that's amazing.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Got More Heat Than A Dollar in The Dryer"

Brand New Heavies ft. Black Sheep, "State of Yo"

Was Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1 the best album of the 90's or the bestest?  Discuss.

One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mega-Chuseok!

South Korea is weird when it comes to holidays.  If one happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, you effectively "lose it."  No fiddling about to move it to the previous Friday or next Monday, no sir.  So living here as long as I have, a winter ritual is to look at the upcoming year's calendar and figure out weather or not the Time Lords have screwed you over yet again, or if you'll get that coveted Tuesday to Thursday major holiday that you've been dying for.

It's strange, and doubly so as a teacher.  I can deal with having to make up a set of Monday classes, but a Wednesday or a Thursday?  When you could just slide it over a bit and give everyone a nice three-day weekend?

Nope.  Because Korea.

Anyhow, this year we've got MEGA CHUSEOK coming up (Korean version of Thanksgiving).  Combined with bookend weekends, it amounts to a whole ten freakin' days of holiday in a country where working on Saturdays is still sort of expected of a lot of people.

It's a big deal folks.

Anyhow, my tentative plan is to visit a friend in Japan and then maybe go down to Busan.  This would have been the perfect time to finally do New Zealand or Australia like I've always wanted, but I'm fine with some lower-key travel.  Flights to Tokyo are very cheap from here of course.

And I've seen The Lord of the Rings and all the Mad Max films so I've pretty much been to NZ and Oz already, right?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Living The Dream

This week with my college students we’re doing appearance and personality.  So my big in-class exercise was to have them write a list of features that would be a part of their “Dream Boyfriend or Girlfriend.”

But one of my students this semester in an honest-to-Jeebus nun, and I was worried last night that she might struggle with the exercise or get offended.

But nope.  Her Dream Boyfriend is tall, thin, handsome, kind, and generous, just like literally every other single one of the Dream Boyfriends.

And presumably he’s not a godless atheist but who the hell knows we didn’t get that far.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"no deeper existential reckoning is required"

You should really read the whole thing since it's such a long and thoughtful and searing piece about Trump and White Supremacy in America, but here's your excerpt from Ta-nehesi Coates' new essay:
"The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required."

In South Korea Now, The Beers Are Dark And Full of Flavors

Western Beers are making a larger push into local South Korean markets:
"In the past, the local beer market was dominated by two local power brands: Cass and Hite - lagers which still account for more than 90 percent of the market. However, the recent trend among Korean beer drinkers has been to move away from these brands toward beers from overseas that have not always had a strong presence in the domestic market.
Between January and July this year, beer topped the list of alcohol imports for the first time, surpassing wine and the long-time No.1, whiskey, according to the Korea International Trade Association.
During this period, beer imports hit $143.9 million, a 50.5 percent increase year on year. The figure is notable considering it was only in 2014 that domestic beer imports first reached $100 million. For seven consecutive years since 2011, the growth rate has never fallen below 20 percent."
My standard disclaimer regarding Korean beer: yes it is watery lager and every single domestic brand tastes exactly the same but -- it goes really well with Korean grub, especially spicy dishes or seafood.

I dare anyone to stare down a steaming grill full of, say, spicy pig and / or cow intestines and tell me they could really use a Guinness.

And because Koreans don't tend to drink alcohol without eating something, there's a bit of a cultural barrier for them to start drinking heavy or dark beers that are, among other things, quite filling on their own.

As for breweries, I know Seoul has a few but I wish Daegu had more.  There are some places that serve imports but more places that actually make them would be appreciated by this humble English teacher.

"never been thought of as problematic until recently"

A new "documentary"-style novel has made some waves in South Korea about the subtle, small indignities that happen daily to women in the country:
"Kim Ji Young Born 1982, written by Cho Nam-joo and published by Minumsa, was released in October 2016 and has sold over 270,000 copies as of Aug. 30. It wasn’t an instant sensation at first, but started gaining attention in early 2017 when readers posted reviews of the book on social media. On May 19, after Roh Hoe-chan, the floor leader of the Justice Party, gave the book as a gift to President Moon Jae-in with a message that read, 'Please embrace Kim Ji Young Born 82,' the book’s sales shot up. 
Even though the book lacks spectacular twists in the plot or extreme adventures fought by the protagonist, it has touched the hearts of readers of diverse backgrounds across Korea for its subtleness. Rather than depicting extreme situations for the sake of the plot, the book calmly describes common experiences that happen in the everyday lives of Korean women - things that have always been there, but have never been thought of as problematic until recently."
It doesn't sound like a book that will get a translation into English but you never know.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The View From Over Here

This article jibes with the opinions of many of my Korean friends and students -- they're a lot more worried about Trump than they are North Korea:
"Life continues as normal, however hysterical the rhetoric from over the border. As a Korean co-worker of mine recently put it: 'We’ve been at war for ages; it’s just war. We still have to work, the same as usual.'
Thus, even after the testing of Kim Jong-un’s hydrogen bomb (with 10 times the power of the nuclear bombs that decimated Japanese cities in 1945), the question on everyone’s lips here was whether or not the rapper Hangzoo deserved his Show Me the Money victory, rather than whether Kim’s new weapon posed any real threat to the southerly end of the Korean peninsula."
Kim Jong-un is many horrible things, but at bottom he remains what political scientists call a "rational actor."

Trump is not.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What's Korean For "Mansplaining"?

South Korean women are (rightfully) concerned about the safety of tampons and pads in their country:
“As consumer concerns over the safety of sanitary pads continues to rise, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Korean Women’s Environmental Network disagree over the authenticity of the test results that initially provoked the controversy.
The civic group threw a press conference and a die-in, a protest similar to a sit-in where protesters pretend to be dead in order to draw attention to potential health risks, on Tuesday in front of the government complex in central Seoul. The civic group urged the ministry to run an investigation on every component found in sanitary pads and an epidemiological survey to verify the relationship between disposable sanitary pads and health issues.
The civic group claimed that government tests on menstruation-related products are not extensive enough.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the majority of scientists and supervisors at the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety are dudes.  Just sayin'.

Quarter Pounder With Late Capitalism

An interview with Chris Arnade who documents the lives of people who hang out in McDonald's.  It's a lot more interesting than it sounds:
"To be blunt, I think the spaces where most reporters go are often not reflective of the broader community. They are where people who are of higher cultural and economic status go, and community leaders go. Now, those aren’t bad places to go; those are reasonable voices.
When I went to the GOP convention, I never set foot inside the convention or the neighborhood around it. I spent my week and a half in Cleveland bouncing between four McDonald’s. Two of them in a very poor African-American community, one in a wealthy neighborhood, and one in a white working-class neighborhood. In some sense it provided me with a balanced perspective of the differences in those communities. If I had gone down to the convention, spent time on the convention floor and around the convention, I would have seen people who wanted to be seen.
People focus so much on what happens in DC and on the inside-baseball part of politics, but politics is a sport where the fan decides who wins. The fans are the average guys hanging out in McDonald’s, at Walmart, at KFC, at Kroger. We tend to look at those spaces as the banal realities of life, but that’s life. Most of lower-income life plays out in those banal circumstances."
This reminds me a lot of my very pro-Trump, very Republican father.  He shops regularly at a Walmart which is famous for allowing people (let's face it, homeless people) to sleep in the parking lot overnight.

That's certainly a better option than most if you're living out of your car but, like, forcing mega-billion dollar companies to pay a living wage and improving the ACA to let poor people get affordable health care is a complete no-go.

All structural change is automatically Communist Islam Obama's fault.

Make America Great Again and all that.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Porktastic Offal Nomz!

Daegu, South Korea.

Grilling up some fresh gopchang, or pig intestines, last Saturday night.

Nerd Opinions! On The Internet!

DC seems to be moving in the direction of killing off their (terrible) attempt at a shared universe and sticking to stand-alone superhero flicks.  Marvel can't help but LOL:
"Where Marvel somehow turns the need to remind us its properties are always part of a bigger picture into a story-cultivating element – the presence of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming always felt like an essential part of that movie’s coming-of-age theme, rather than an excuse to shoe-horn in the MCU’s biggest hitter – Warner struggles to achieve similar levels of synergy. It’s not the only rival studio with this problem. Fox’s little corner of the Marvel universe, containing the X-Men films, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four, has never been linked to the MCU. But the studio has also been strangely wary of building bridges between the properties it does own exclusive rights to: hence, we saw Professor X’s mansion in Deadpool, but there was no sign of the bald psychic himself in either his James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart mode. Moreover, those X-Men who did appear, Deadpool and Colossus, manifested in very different forms to those seen in the main saga."
I think Marvel pulled off something amazing by making so many linked films of generally above-average quality.  But I also think they're basically pushing their luck towards a catastrophic flop with each iteration of the MEU.  (Although Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was pleasantly enjoyable enough for me.)  And Logan was fantastic as genre films go, and would only have been ruined if a spandex-clad Cyclops of Jean Gray had shown up out of nowhere so by all means, move away from the EU stuff.

And sure DC, try and keep your groove going with the one-off-ish success of Wonder Woman.  But here's some free advice -- your main problem isn't your EU, but Zack Snyder who's trying to hammer square pegs into round holes with various character background stories.  (Superman as brooding, nihilistic Space Dictator is not a good look or feel based on the source material.)

That, and the fact that he hasn't made a good film since Watchmen (2009) and Dawn of the Dead remake (2004) before that.

(Yes, I thought those were both very good films, even Watchmen with some flaws, and he's been un-watchable ever since.)

Also, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers will die in the next Avengers flick.  How's that for bold predictions?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Everything Is Permitted

On the one hand, the calmness and resilience of South Koreans in the face of possible nuclear armageddon is reassuring.

On the other hand, as I’ve been telling my Korean friends since Trumpolini was elected, nothing is normal any longer.  The assumption that any US foreign policy, either by a liberal or a conservative president, would generally hold to decades-long standards of self-interest and mutual benefit between the US and SK is no longer in effect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Original Nazi Puncher

A nice piece by Jeet Heer on the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby, and his huge influence on pretty much everything these days:
"The superhero stories Kirby created or inspired have dominated American comic books for nearly 75 years and now hold almost oppressive sway over Hollywood. Kirby’s creations are front and center in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his fingerprints are all over the DC Cinematic Universe too, where the master plot he created—the cosmic villain Darkseid invading earth—still looms large. It was Kirby who took the superhero genre away from its roots in 1930s vigilante stories and turned it into a canvas for galaxy-spanning space operas, a shift that not only changed comics but also prepared the way for the likes of the Star Wars franchise. Outside of comics, hints of Kirby pop up in unexpected places, such as the narrative approaches of Guillermo del Toro, Michael Chabon, and Jonathan Lethem.
If you walk down any city street, it’s hard to get more than fifty feet without coming across images that were created by Kirby or inflected by his work. Yet if you were to ask anyone in that same stretch if they had ever heard of Kirby, they’d probably say, 'Who?' A century after his birth, he remains the unknown king." 
And a reminder -- it's always OK to punch Nazis.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Well hot damn, a story that brings together language, video game culture, and long-standing Korean-Japanese tensions, with a dose of crazy impending nuclear doom as well!  A Japanese video game voice actor made a little joke about Korea (not specifically North Korea) lobbing missiles across the East Sea while on stage with some ethnic Korean colleagues and all hell broke loose:
"There are many things to unpack here. First, the word Terajima used is 'Chousenjin' (朝鮮人), which literally means 'Korean person.' The problem is that the word doesn’t make any difference between North and South Koreans, with the word for North Koreans being 'Kita-Chousenjin' ('Kita' means 'North') and the word for South Koreans being 'Kankokujin' ('Kankoku' means 'South Korea').
Koreans make up a large ethnic group in Japan. Those with permanent residency are either 'zainichi Kankokujin' if they are South Korean or 'zainichi Chousenjin.' The term 'zainichi' (在日) means 'Japanese resident.' For example, North Korean schools in Japan are called 'Chousenjin Gakkou' (Korean Schools), which are sponsored by North Korea and teach the students pro-North Korean ideology.
So although the word 'Chousenjin' is used in an official context, the word 'Chousenjin' can be considered a slur, especially if it’s directed at all Koreans. For North Koreans in Japan, 'zainchi Chousenjin' is the proper term and for South Koreans 'Kita-Chousenjin' is correct. The word 'Chousenjin' is, on its own, loaded and seen as offensive.
But the comment is more than that. This weekend, North Korea once again fired test missiles. Now might not be the best time for bad missile jokes."
Complicated stuff for an outsider, but the history and culture of ethnic Koreans (North and South) within Japan is fascinating and I wish I knew more about it.  It's easy enough to see why a Korean person living in Japan would feels slurred by the notion that "all of Korea" is a dangerous, missile-happy Juche paradise.

Because Korea

Miles Davis, Miles In The Sky

All of my classes this semester are on the fifth floor of a building with no elevators.

If it wasn't still oppressively hot I'd be OK with it.

That is all.

This Be The Post

Steven Thrasher might be a bit more effusive than necessary as to what it's like to be single after 40, but I think he's right on with most of his points:
"This is bizarre considering that, as we hit 40, many of my single friends seem much happier and fulfilled than most of my married friends. Many (not all) of my married friends, gay and straight, seem like they are stuck in a script they had to follow. Many seem to feel regret or wonder about what might have been.
This isn’t true for most of my single friends or me. We are largely still seeking and exploring (and often improvising) what the story of the script is. Opportunity still feels before us. We get to discover new authors and look at new art. And when Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter or Hurricane Sandy relief or the Trump resistance need our help, we have more space to dedicate to loving one another, ourselves and our community than many of my married friends.
This freedom can create a sense of being unmoored, but it contains great potential. We get to dream big, radical political dreams and work toward making them real without worrying about a mortgage. We get to risk loving in many ways, getting hurt and loving again."
I actually do still have a dad, and I hope he's around for many more years.  But I also just turned 43, and I keep waiting for some deeply visceral feeling in my gut to shout out for me to finally get married and have some kids.  And as I get older, I realize that feeling was either going to manifest itself in my 30's or never at all.

For some background though, I have to admit that my marriage "role models" have been absolute shit.  One of my earliest memories is that of my mom's father leaving my grandmother, recently diagnosed with cancer, for another woman across the country.  My father's parents?  I never even met them, although I know they had a very ugly divorce.  My own parents?  As ugly as it can get when I was in middle school.

Hell, my beloved dad managed to get divorced three times overall.

The point being, I've grown up with the mental category of marriage as something loving adults do that will ultimately end in disaster.  No doubt that's part of the reason I'm still single.  At the same time, I'm happy to encourage and support others to get married and start families (Weddings are fun!  Your kids are super-cute, as long as they aren't having tantrums!) as long as they respect decisions I've made, quite consciously as a matter of fact.

It's all complicated I guess.  I blame millennials.  (Not really.)

Also, the argument that "not having children is selfish" positively mystifies me.  What could possibly be more selfish than having kids when you don't really want them, let alone can't afford them?

Also, obligatory blog post title inspiration -- Philip Larkin, "This Be The Verse."