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."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Delight and Instruct, Part Infinity

I know it's not the teacher-ly thing to do, but when it comes to the various departments I teach I've got favorites.

I won't name names but this semester all five of my classes are from one of the better ones.

Hopefully this will make up for the bonehead-a-palooza that was last semester.

Maybe not.

Republicans At Work

I wouldn't wish a natural disaster on anyone, but good fucking grief:
"Cruz and Cornyn voted against the final Sandy aid package. During that debate, they voted for an amendment that would have cut domestic spending to pay for the emergency funding. Cruz at the time said that not all the funds were being allocated properly. Cornyn 'voted for a Sandy aid package without the unrelated spending, which included things like repairing fisheries in the Pacific,' said Cornyn spokesman Drew Brandewie.
Both senators wrote to Texas Governor Greg Abbott Friday urging him to expedite emergency funding for the state this time around.
The fiscal bind also extends to the White House. In 2005, Pence, who was then a congressman from Indiana, led an effort called Operation Offset aimed at requiring deep spending cuts to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief."

Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer Books!

By far the best thing I read over vacation was food historian Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene.  Twitty re-enacts the slave kitchens of 18th century American plantations, but his project is so much more than that as he demonstrates that what we think of as “American” or “Southern” food is directly informed by the cuisines of Africa and the Caribbean.

Kim Young-ha’s newest, I Hear Your Voice, didn’t work for me.  I’d recommend any of his other novels in English before this one.  Also, while violence and darkness are always part of his books, here the gang rape and torture feels kind of gratuitous rather than deserved.

I’ll admit, China Mieville’s October, a dramatic retelling of the Russian Revolution, was kind of over my head.  Other than Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, I had a really hard time simply keeping people’s names straight.  Not a bad book by any means, but I probably should have stuck to a more conventional historical introduction.

Finally, Lauren Beukes The Shining Girls was a drag.  I’d heard lots of good things about it but read her much better, more layered Broken Monsters instead.

I guess almost two-for-four isn’t too bad, but by all means get a copy of Twitty’s book.  It’s awesome.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer Updates

I've done the unthinkable and joined Facebook (here).  My sister and some other people who I really care about use it, and while I won't be on it too often I figured I'd give it a go.

I tweet here.

I tumblr for ya over here (mildly NSFW at times).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pike Place Market, Seattle Part Two

Pike Place Market, Seattle Part One

Before heading up to Bellingham to visit my Dad, my sister had the excellent idea of visiting Pike Place Market in Seattle.  It's been about ten years since my last visit.

Even at a very early hour the place was bustling, with the restaurants still opening up the but flower and produce vendors in full swing.

Orioles Game!

Is there ever a bad day for an Orioles game?

The August weather was surprisingly mild, as you can tell by the happy anthropomorphic condiments.

My sister scored us awesome seats, and the O's won over Detroit 12-3.

Smithsonian American Indian Museum

One of the great things about growing up in the DC area are the Smithsonian Museums.  Excellent in their own right, they're also completely free to visit.  (Imagine my shock realizing most museums don't operate this way!)  Opened in 2004, this was my first visit (along with my nephew).

While the Smithsonians are very cool, they're mostly the product of a somewhat bland 70's artistic sensibility.  The American Indian Museum is different though -- the building itself is as big of a star as the exhibitions are.  The exterior in particular incorporates water into its design in really interesting ways.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

"Washington Will Burn With Them"

Billy Bragg, "Help Save The Youth of America" live

Back from the U.S.A.  I'm wiped out but for the most part the trip was good.  I can't believe this is the eighth year in a row I've done the Washington, D.C. area-to-Bellingham, Washington circuit.

I've got meetings and paperwork to do this week and then I start teaching again next Monday.  Huzzah!

Lots of pics to sort and upload too.

And I miss Chipotle already.  Fake Mexican food is my greatness weakness.

Monday, July 31, 2017


I'm off to America for three weeks.  Blogging will be light to non-existent.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Totally Wired

The Fall, "Brillo De Facto"

Does the world really need a new Fall album?  Not really, but so what.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Chicken Soup For The Insanely Ridiculous Heat And Humidity

Daegu, South Korea.

Here's my first bowl of samgyetang, ginseng-chicken soup, of the summer.  I still think boiling a whole chicken rather than frying or roasting it is a waste of good poultry, but the overall experience has grown on me.  I’ve lived here long enough to appreciate how a bowl of steaming hot soup can actually cool you down on a ridiculously hot day.  And a few shots of ginseng liquor helped out.

The inside of that little fellow is stuffed with rice which kind of melts down into a porridge, along with jujubes.



I'm off to America next week for summer vacation.  This week was the last of my adult courses, so this being Korea I've had a lot of free meals lately.  Yesterday was cold soy bean soup with some outrageous mushroom pancakes, tonight is good ol' chicken and beer, and tomorrow for lunch it's the traditional hot-weather dish samgyetang, or ginseng-chicken soup.

In my humble opinion, samgyetang is kind of a waste of chicken.  It's boiled.  Boiled chicken is about as boring a protein as possible.  But then again, the overall experience with friends kind of elevates the whole thing a bit, as does a shot of ginseng-infused liquor.

Fried chicken is always welcome, of course.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"a conversation that I've never really stopped having"

A very cool Pitchfork interview with Jonathan Lethem.  On The Beatles:
"It’s a conversation that I’ve never really stopped having with my mother. After she died, I just kept having it in my head. For her, living through those transformations, it was like night and day, like when Dorothy goes from black-and-white to color in The Wizard of Oz. She was like, 'Once you’ve heard Sgt. Pepper and everything that came after, how could you ever care about those early Beatles records?' It was part of her coming of age—discovering sex and drugs was concurrent with the Beatles going from being square, short haired, black-and-white pop stars to being these revelatory counterculture geniuses.
She kept trying to nudge me into the paisley world. But I felt and still feel that the songs on the brink are better—Revolver and Rubber Soul—which, of course, are the records being pillaged for Yesterday and Today. To me, 'Day Tripper' was the greatest song that anyone had ever created. I loved the convulsive energy and slang. It’s got this great double reverse where John Lennon is trying to catch up with her, but he doesn’t know the lingo. If only he’d known, if only he’d got the memo—she was a Day Tripper, but it took him so long to find out."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Some Humble Thoughts On The State of Democracy In The United States

Either Trump and his crime family go down or America is over. It's as simple as that.

Just How Old and Lame and Boring Is James?

I got offered free tickets to tonight’s Samsung Lions game and I turned them down.
Even for a night game, the thought of sitting outside for three hours in Daegu’s heat and humidity without air-conditioning literally frightens me.
All the cold beer in the world can’t fix it, and I don't take the power of cold beer lightly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"no money, no culture, no time"

Bamseom Pirates, "Uber Oui"

"'Korean society continually asks you the question of, "Whose side are you on?" and forces you to really come out and reveal what stance you have whether it’s politics or whatever,' Jung said. 'And I really feel like that also shows quite a violent side of society.'"
They don't shy away from politics either:
“When you take a look into the South Korean society, there are a lot of other issues beneath the surface,' he told me. 'There’s a lot of class struggle and economic struggles and generational conflicts as well.'
The refusal of Korean society to address these very real issues in favor of 'communist vs. anticommunist' rhetoric has left Korean youth pissed off. (In the film, Jang describes the three big issues facing Korean youth: no money, no culture, no time.) They are tired of the zealous performative nationalism and capitalist-driven misery imposed on them. In fact, they threw a president out of office over it."
I can't claim to understand the entirety of the political situation in South Korea, but the song and video are rad.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Game of Thrones!

The season seven premiere was excellent, hitting high notes at both the beginning and the very end. (I'm starting to warm up to Emilia Clarke's performance which until recently had been kind of flat and lifeless).

And more Lyanna Mormont, pretty please.

Also, there've been some tortured attempts to draw analogies between the Trump Family Mafia and the Lannisters.

Nope.  Not gonna happen.

The Lannisters are way smarter and more stylish and humane.

Trump is, at best, Vargo Hoat.  Or Shitmouth.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

(this is good)

The Black Person's Guide To Game of Thrones:
"Wait. Is everything about white people?
Exactly! But Game of Thrones teaches us that not all white people are the same. That’s what I’m trying to show you, if you’d stop being so racist!
Me? How am I being ... OK, so are there any black people on the show?
Yes. There is a group of castrated warriors who were once slaves, called the Unsullied.
What? Let me guess, they were freed by ...
White people. Yes. A blond lady named Daenerys, who is impervious to fire, was born with the ability to ride dragons and was gifted at birth with dragon eggs that would eventually hatch. Daenerys rode the dragons (or her privilege) to save the slaves. And of course, after she frees them from lives dedicated to fighting in wars for their masters, they decide to spend their lives fighting for her—their 'queen'—and help her ride her privilege dragons all the way to the Iron Throne."

"I can see your life disintegrating / Into ashes in your hand"

Husker Du, "Friend, You've Got To Fall"

And no, I'm not exactly giddy about Fredo coughing up the family secrets.  There's still a long ways to go, and at the end of the day as long as Republicans can push through further tax cuts for Paris Hilton they do not care about guarding the integrity of our democratic institutions.

But I'm cautiously optimistic.  More leaks are coming, both from within the White House (spite, jealousy, back-stabbing) and from outside (revenge of the deep state).

Monday, July 10, 2017

It Comes As No Surprise

A majority of Republicans now think universities have a "negative effect" on the U.S.:
"A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years."
George W. Bush went to Yale and Harvard.  Mitt Romney?  Harvard.  For fuck's sake, even Cheeto Hitler went to Penn.  Not just four year degrees, but four year and graduate Ivy degrees.

As others have noted, this major shift has happened within the past two years.

America is truly in a race to the bottom, and 35 percent of the country is actively cheering on our collapse into a third-world plutocracy.

"Dumbfuckistan" indeed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Friday, July 7, 2017

"world’s most obvious Oberlin alum Lena Dunham"

Drew Magary is almost always good.  On Lena Dunham and her insane dog story, he's golden:
"HOLY SHIT. She’s going toe-to-toe with a no-kill shelter! WHO DOES THAT? I’m ready to question everything now. Is there REALLY an L.A. facility called Zen Dog? Why was Lamby drinking his own piss when he arrived? 'Wow, this unstable dog that I’ve been the custodian of for four years was definitely traumatized by the PREVIOUS three owners, yessir.' Did Lamby REALLY find a new home? Where is Lamby, dammit? WHERE IS LAMBY, LENA?! Tell you what: that facility is gonna get two crazyass breeder dogs dumped on it four years from now."
"Walking New York Times hateread" is good.

"World's most obvious Oberlin alum" is better.

Go Kenyon!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


National Public Radio re-tweeted the Declaration of Independence in 140 character bite-size capsules.  "Real" Americans responded as only they can:
"For the past 29 years, National Public Radio (NPR) has broadcast on-air readings of the declaration.
This year, the NPR Twitter account decided to do things a little differently but the exercise was lost on many.
Clearly unaware of what the tweets were, a number of Twitter users slammed NPR for tweeting 'trash' and accused the organisation of trying to push an agenda."
But hey, if only out-of-touch libruls like me had been nicer to these people they wouldn't have been forced to vote Trump.

Baby Steps On Employment

The new president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is trying to make a dent in the country's notoriously nepotistic and elitist hiring system for government workers:
"Public institutions under the central government are reportedly planning to make new hires of 10,000 employees in the second half of this year. 
This includes Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), which plans the number of new hires: 718. The health and welfare sector is planning 1,250 new hires followed by the energy sector with 929. 
The new job application form will not have a space for a picture or ask where an applicant was born, family relations - such as who their father is and where he works - or height or weight. 
Companies that hold exams will be allowed to require applicants to post photos in order to identify the applicant during the testing process. 
In job interviews, companies will not be allowed to ask personal information of applicants."
This is very good news for a number of reasons, but as with many things here there's a good chance of back-sliding into the old ways.

First off, government jobs (like ones in the US) are generally quite stable and offer good benefits.

Unlike the US, government jobs are also quite prestigious.  The testing process is rigorous and the positions are held in fairly high regard.

As for resumes, I've mentioned that I do a fair amount of mock visa interviews, which includes helping students with them and also their cover letters.  What's still striking to me is just how different Korean resumes are from American ones.

For starters, a head-shot is mandatory.  This would be borderline illegal in the US outside of the entertainment industry.

Second, one of the first things you list are the names of your parents and grandparents.  I obviously don't understand all of the intricacies, but your immediate family connections are crucial to finding a good job in Korea.  This happens in America as well, obviously, but it's much less blatant.

So, I'm all for these changes but, as mentioned, let's hope it's not another decent idea that gets ignored when put into practice.  It would be easy enough to save the family / physical appearance issues for later in the interview process of course.

Pressing Life Questions

Medeski, Martin, Wood, w/ John Scofield live 2015

Is enjoying the hell out of MMW and John Scofield too close to enjoying jam-bands for me to retain my hipster card?


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I Wish This Wasn't A Serious Question

Happy Fourth of July!

X, "4th of July" live

/insert snarky post about how, despite its many flaws, America has a lot of good things going for it just kidding it's a fucking dumpster fire filled with hateful, racist idiots and we'll all be dead soon so fuck it all

Friday, June 30, 2017

"the diner is a very democratic place"

A sad and poignant little article on the decline and probable death of the New York City diner and coffee shop:
"Among members of this comfort-food-obsessed, single-origin-bean generation, it’s become fashionable to mourn the passing of this old diner culture. In the past few years, the closings have spread, from Manhattan (the famous Cafe Edison in the Theater District, La Taza de Oro in Chelsea, the Lyric Diner in Gramercy Park), into the outer-boroughs (the Del Rio Diner in Gravesend, the El Greco in Sheepshead Bay), and lamentations in the food press and on the blogs have reached a fever pitch. But in a world filled with a dizzying numbers of choices — an array of options on everything from $25 chef burgers, to how you like your Ethiopian coffee dripped and what shade of almond milk you’d like to pour in it, to what kind of artisanal pork you desire on your haute breakfast sandwich — the diner has become more of a symbol and a curiosity than a regular place to eat. 'I grew up on iceberg lettuce, but this new generation knows that iceberg is the butt of all lettuces,' says Griffin Hansbury, who writes under the pseudonym Jeremiah Moss, and whose forthcoming book, Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul, chronicles these slowly disappearing institutions. 'For me, the diner is a very democratic place,' he says. But in this new, more moneyed era where it’s fashionable to say that everyone’s a restaurant critic, and arugula replaced iceberg as the green of choice long ago, this new class of eaters favors what he diplomatically calls a 'more curated dining experience.'”
It was pretty understandable when the Carnegie Deli shut down --  a 20 dollar pastrami sandwich wasn't the greatest business model.  But it's sad to think that the lesser known neighborhood type places are also on the way out.  The world always seems to be getting a little less colorful, a little less strange.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Revolution Will Be Podcasted

Starting at about 20:00 here's an interview with China Mieville about his new work of non-fiction on the Russian Revolution, October.

Some interesting listening as I finish my final load of paperwork for the semester, and I've got the book downloaded on my tablet for vacation reading in August.

(Courtesy of Chapo Trap House.)

Friday, June 23, 2017

"determind to transform themselves into human cannonballs"

From Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk:
"There was a lot of adrenaline churning around, yes, but mostly we were a ragged pack of kooky people in pursuit of genius and fun.  This came to a screeching halt when Black Flag and the rest of the South Bay crew on SST Records came roaring onto the scene.  Greg Ginn founded SST in 1978, but it wasn't until the early eighties that its ascendancy began, and when it did, it unleashed a furious wave of testosterone on the scene that was crushing.  Women were the first to leave -- there was no place for them in the world of hardcore punk; gays and sensitive artist types went next, and the audience began to change.  People who went to punk shows in the early days were respectful, they listened, and they were genuinely interested in the band onstage, even if they'd seen the same band four nights earlier.  We knew we'd always see something new, partly because these were mostly not professional musicians, and nobody did the same show twice, because they weren't able to.  Professionalism came later for some, but in the beginning the scene was truly experimental, and the audience was tolerant and supportive.  With the arrival of hardcore, punk became a blood sport, and the mosh pit was colonized by sixteen-year-old boys with plaid flannel shirts tied around their waists, determined to transform themselves into human cannonballs." -- Kristine McKenna
"Now, if you wanted to ask me something, you could ask me about the backlash from the violence.  You could ask me if I mind the night terrors and the inability to be close to another.  You could ask me whether I could ever live vanilla when I had raped and slashed my way through he soft flesh of a rainbow.  I apologize for nothing.  I refuse to stand as some repentant fuck while the crimes of my past are read aloud in the court of post-punk history.  I love waking up afraid, and although I no longer hold those beliefs, I don't regret them." -- Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.)
With a bit of simple editing (unless you're ee cummings please don't do no-caps, Mike Watt) this book could have been the Platonic ideal of a great music history read.  Compiled by John Doe, most of the stand-out chapters were by the women of the scene -- Kristine McKenna, Jane Wiedlin, Pleasant Gehman, and Charlotte Caffey.

Henry Rollins is always interesting as is his chapter, but unlike Jack Grisham he doesn't have much to say as to whether Black Flag and the other suburban punk groups "ruined" L.A. punk.  A lot of the people in this book seem to feel that way.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yankee Go Home

Apparently there's going to be an anti-US protest in Seoul tomorrow.  Korea ex-pat Twitter went into convulsions over it.

Some scattered thoughts:

1)  According to Korea ex-pat Twitter, this is Moon Jae-in’s fault.  Unless he personally organized this, it’s not.  (Hint: he didn’t.)

2)  War with North Korea is now more likely than it has been since, well, 1953.  A Trump-led US will have no qualms about launching unilateral action against NK (i.e., not telling Seoul in advance) and (at best) tens of thousands of Seoul-ites will die.  If NK has a nuke, we all die.  So at the very least I think SK citizens have a right to protest the fact that the US is now led by a pussy-grabbing madman.

3) “But, but, Trump doesn’t represent all Americans!”  As of January 2017, yes he does.  Sorry, but speaking as a USian myself none of us gets to play the “not all Americans!” card any longer.  (Even if you voted for Jill Stein!)

4)  If you were inspired by the anti-PGH protests that led to her impeachment like I was, you can’t selectively get pissed off by anti-US protests.  It’s called democracy, stupid.

5)  THAAD is more about spying on China via radar than it is protecting South Korea from North Korea.  That was the plan all along.

6) Trump is one more scandal away from deciding to bomb either North Korea or Iran.  As far as the “strategic partnership” between SK and the US goes, it’s a bit of a shit sandwich for the country where people will actually die.  People have every right to protest shit sandwiches.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not Good

The University of Virginia student who supposedly tried to steal a North Korean flag, was imprisoned and sentenced to 15 years hard labor, mysteriously fell into a coma, then returned to his parents in the U.S. in a vegetative state has died.

I've previously believed that companies like Koryo Tours, which basically set up trips for Westerners to get into North Korea, were basically harmless (despite the fact that their cash was being funneled directly into the DPRK military).  But it just seems like the height of foolishness to want to travel their now, let alone facilitate the next murder of a U.S. or British or Australian citizen.  (Their website and Twitter feed says nothing about the Warmbier case, albeit it's my understanding he traveled with another tour company.)

All I have to add is that Trump is desperate to find a reason to start a war with either North Korea or Iran.  North Korea was, on cue, more than happy to oblige.

I don't think it's too outrageous to expect war on the Korean peninsula before the start of 2018.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Samsung Fighting!

I made it to the ballpark, the new one, a few weeks back with some friends and adult students.  The Mighty Samsung Lions of Daegu (Korean pro teams go by the corporate sponsor's name) are having a hugely terrible season after four consecutive championships between 2011 and 2014.

The weather was perfect and given how bad the team is playing I was surprised at how crowded the game was.

Samsung actually won, beating the KIA Tigers 6-5 on a 10th inning walk-off single.

But a few things I noticed since last year -- the stadium really needs to increase the number of food and drink vendors.  A friend went to get food for all of us and was away for almost four innings.  Who knows what shenanigans are going on but one of the great things about the old ballpark downtown was the rows of ajumma selling friend chicken and cold beer outside of the stadium.

Also, take the subway.  The parking situation at the stadium for a weekend game is an absolute nightmare.  If you drive, your choice after the game will be to wait 45 minutes for a shuttle bus to the parking lot or walk 45 minutes over to the parking lot.  It's pretty ridiculous they didn't do basic planning to sort this stuff out, considering they intentionally build the stadium in the middle of nowhere to not have these sorts of issues in the first place.  Because Korea.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Living The Dream

"working for the man every night and day"

Ike and Tine, "Proud Mary" live

I've been in a really reflective mood lately about, well, pretty much everything.  (I blame inevitable Trump-initiated nuclear annihilation, but YMMV.)

So my job is "English teacher."  I mostly teach college students here at lovely Daegu Health College, but I also teach adults in a continuing education setting.

I usually have Friday afternoons off, but today I came in to do mock interviews with a group of students who are applying for jobs at a big new venture in Incheon (where the main airport is, near Seoul).  I actually do a lot of these kinds of things, and they're one of my favorite parts of the job.

Interacting with students outside of the classroom is always refreshing and usually positive, but these interviews really drive home what it means to be an English teacher abroad -- at best, you really are going to help some of these guys get jobs in new places.  And that means employment, which is always a good thing, but also new experiences, new girl- and boyfriends, new opportunities, and new vistas in general.

As mentioned, these students are applying for gigs near Seoul.  At other times of the year I do mock visa application interviews for students looking to study or work in Australia, Canada, or America.  Those are even more critical, and more satisfying for me.

So I guess this makes me the ultimate neoliberal shill or something, working to put cogs into place in the machinery of late global capitalism.

I can live with that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ex-Pat Life

You may or may not have a high tolerance for Vice (I happen to think they're the definition of hit-or-miss) but this short piece on American ex-pats and why they've chosen to continue living abroad is pretty good.

Looking back on almost a decade in South Korea, I think the big things (covered in the Vice article) remain true -- health care is critical, as is work / life balance.  No, my health coverage isn't free -- I pay roughly the equivalent of sixty dollars a month to have full (and mandatory) insurance as a legal alien.  Other than check-ups I've never actually been to a hospital here or had a medical emergency.  I had a bad cold once and picked up some very cheap and very infamous "blue pills" for a few dollars at a pharmacy (which are ubiquitous) and they did nothing.  Any ex-pat here in lovely Korea will tell you they are placebos.  Any Korean will tell you you will die within a few days without them.

I would mention, however, that I have heard many horror stories about dealing with shady doctors who tend to over-prescribe meds.  Then again, it's not much different than America in that regard.  But the worst stories routinely come from female ex-pats looking to maintain or update their contraception routine (either pills or IUD's) and dealing with doctors who simply won't write scrips for single women for that sort of thing.  That's an absolute nightmare of course, and one I wouldn't want to try and ignore.  To be blunt, you will catch a lot more shit here as a woman (native Korean or ex-pat) than you ever will as a dude, and it's a shame to think how carelessly certain Korean men don't care if they tarnish somebody's generally positive views of the nation as a whole due to their sexism and entitled dickishness in general.

As for work / life balance, working as an English instructor at a college automatically gives me over three months of vacation time a year, something that would never happen in the more common public school and private academy gigs.  Korea is actually quite horrible when it comes to employer expectations of how much free or vacation time a worker should have, but as a foreigner at a university I've definitely got my comfortable little bubble which allows me to visit my family every summer for a few weeks and to take a long vacation every winter.  Good and good.

But as a relative old-timer now, while solid, cheap health care and abundant vacation time is all good, I always come back to smaller things that I love about living here.  First off, the food -- not only is it delicious, but you can eat in a decent, sit-down restaurant and stuff your face with mostly home-made grub for less than five dollars.  I've pretty much given up on cooking because it's cheaper and easier just to enjoy one of the dozens of places near my apartment.  Oh, and delivery is free if you're too lazy to walk.  And no tipping, ever.  If something says it costs 5,000 won on the window in front, it's going to cost a total of 5,000 won ($4.50 USD).

Speaking of walking, I haven't had to fill a tank of gas, make a car payment, mail an insurance payment, fix a tail-light, get a new set of tires, or worry about some methed-out idiot keying my side doors just for chuckles in years.  This is heavenly.  Which is to say, if I ever move back to America the hardest thing for me will probably be having to buy a fucking car if I don't live in one of the few cities with decent public transport.  (Fun fact -- I actually do like to drive, but I hope to never own a car again.)

In Korea, you've got your basic bus and subway options.  You've got a bullet train between major cities that is clean and comfortable.  And you have an overabundance of cabs.  Mark my words -- you will never step into a dirty cab in South Korea, let alone one that's over five years old and has obvious brake problems and safety issues.  (DC represent!)  Want to guess why Uber failed to catch on here?  Each cab company already has a free on-call service.  And you'll probably never need to use it anyway.

So that's my take.  Are there problems?  Sometimes, yes, but every year here I've also made progress with the language, and that's taken care of most of them.  I also have a very solid (Korean) boss who lived in America for six years doing his Ph.D. and this has made a huge difference as well.  He understands how Western and Korean management styles differ, and it seems to me he's one of those rare exceptions who actually prefers the former (hands off, willing to engage in dialogue / with feedback from us workers, and maybe most importantly, not a heavy drinker who constantly demands we go out and get shit-faced with him).

Honestly, the older I get the more it seems "don't have an asshole for a boss" is really one of the keys to living a happy life.  And that's not always easy in Korea due to cultural differences, I'll admit.

So what do I miss about America?  My family, of course.  Finding perfectly quiet spaces to walk or hike to by myself and be alone for a few hours (tough, but not impossible to do in a relatively small, relatively crowded country like South Korea).  The American "spatial sense" where keeping a few feet of distance between you and a stranger is expected, as opposed to Korea where bumping and pushing and shoving your way onto, say, an elevator or an escalator is expected.  Gourmet cheese.  Well-made Bloody Marys (they do not exist in Asia).  Doing cannon-balls near my nephew in my sister's swimming pool.  Watching football and baseball games as they happen rather than catching up on them in my office the next morning.

That's about it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion

This humble little Not-Really-A-Korea Blog, but Kind-Of-A-Korea Blog, has been getting an uptick in traffic as of late.

For a little background about me, I used to blog over here (Wetcasements I, so to speak).  I jumped over here to Blogger about a year ago.

I tweet over here, and I tumbl over here (very occasionally NSFW).

I teach English at a small-ish college in Daegu, South Korea.  I've been at this school for seven years, and I've lived in Korea for eight.  For 95% of the time I truly love living here, and for the other 5% I will certainly make angry, whiny posts about the cruel injustices of ex-pat life.

Thanks for stopping by!

The New Old Math

In South Korea, technology and education trends tend to come in the most fast and furious of fashions.  But these days, some parents have decided they want their children to go "analog" with activities like abacus math, baduk (Korean word for the Japanese game go), and the intensive study of Chinese characters:
"There are at least 100 private academies offering abacus classes in Seoul, according to the National Abacus Mathematics Education Association.
'I couldn’t find one near us so my husband and I are looking to hire a private tutor to teach abacus math to our 8-year-old daughter,' said a 42-year-old resident of Gwacheon, Gyeonggi. 
'I’m hoping to improve my son’s attention span and help him become a better person by learning Go,' said Cho Eun-joo, a 36-year-old resident of Munrae-dong, western Seoul. Her son, 10, attends a Go class at his school.
'Some people don’t understand parents who send their kids to afterschool programs for more traditional education instead of to private academies for English,' said Nam Ji-seon, a 40-year-old mother. 'My son, 12, has been learning hanja for seven years now. No matter how much the world changes, there are things that children must learn from traditions.'
She added, 'We often discuss the traditional analects of Korea written in hanja, and I know that this kind of education will give him an edge in the future.'”
While I doubt the demand for private English academies will subside that much, it's nice to think Korean parents are finding other paths for study and success for their children.  Reading ancient Korean philosophy in its original form?  Not too shabby.

Let Them Eat Shitty, Slave-Made Off-The-Rack Dresses

We're pretty much just documenting the atrocities now but here you go -- life inside an Ivanka Trump sweatshop:
"Alia makes the legal minimum wage for her job in her province: 2.3 million rupiah, or about $173 a month – but that legal minimum is among the lowest in Indonesia as a whole, and as much as 40% lower than in Chinese factories, another labour source for the Ivanka Trump brand.
PT Buma, a Korean-owned garment company started in Indonesia in 1999, is one of the suppliers of G-III Apparel Group, the wholesale manufacturer for prominent fashion brands including Trump’s clothing.
Many Buma workers know who Ivanka Trump is. Alia noticed her labels popping up on the clothes about a year ago.
Ahmad, who also works in the local garment industry and who, like his wife and most of the workers at her PT Buma factory, is an observant Muslim, said: 'We don’t like Donald Trump’s policies.'”
At least Marie Antoinette had a pretty strong fashion game.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

This Lawn -- Off Of It You Shall Get

I do not and never will understand the appeal of Royal Trux.

I've never done heroin or coke either though, so maybe that's it.

Small Victories Are Still Victories

Trump is too afraid to visit a post-Tory-wipeout England:
"The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time.
The call was made in recent weeks, according to a Downing Street adviser who was in the room. The statement surprised May, according to those present."
Remember when Lord Smallgloves was too much of a coward to show up at Opening Day?  I do!  I do!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"fifty thousand watts out of Mexico"

The Blasters, Carl Perkins, Willie Dixon, 1982 Television Special

As my Wiki / Youtube spiral into late 70s / early 80s L.A. punk and rockabilly continues, here's an insanely good hour of music with The Blasters featuring Carl Perkins (!) and Willie Dixon (!!).

I'll be grading final exams to this today.

I Can Haz Spending, Please?

I'm happy to say my Orioles are one of the most exciting teams to watch in baseball, what with so many come-from-behind, clutch wins.  Buck Showalter manages to squeeze as many runs out of a solidly average rotation and bullpen as possible, and the offense continues to bring in young guys who can really hit.

So maybe now is the time to start thinking about investing in another A-level starter or two?  Pretty please?

Then again, and as is often the case, the AL East is meat grinder this year.  The Yankees and O's are both over-performing, the former like crazy.  And Boston is just really, really good.  The Jays and Rays aren't slouches either, and could both likely finish about .500.

Still, that's no excuse not to try and make a pretty good team into an excellent one.  The pieces are there, and while lucky finishes are more than welcome, so would be some solid seven-inning starts.

Noted Without Hyperbole

Trump committed obstruction of justice, full-stop.

Either Comey's revelations lead at least a handful of Republican congresspersons to take the Russia investigation seriously, or the American democratic experiment is dead and gone forever.

(And Comey, a life-long Republican, is still an asshole who in no small part lost the election for Hillary.)

Music Opinions, On The Internet

The Avengers, "Paint It Black"

Pet theory about the final show by the Sex Pistols in '78 in San Francisco: the dual-openers, The Avengers and Nuns were so damn good and relatively, in punk terms, tight, that Johnny Rotten knew his strung out crew could never compete with them.  So what better time to give it all up?

Youtube has the full sets by The Avengers and Nuns.

Good times.

Monday, June 5, 2017

"downtown Hollywood / I'd shoot 'em down if I could"

X, "What's Wrong With Me"

I just started Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk curated by John Doe of X.  So far, it's mostly good.

It's divided up into small-ish chapters written by a single player from the late 70's / early 80's L.A. scene.  It almost feels like Doe was going to write a memoir by himself but then decided to include others (including, naturally, Exene Cervenka).

This is a fine choice -- a multi-voiced oral history of L.A. punk, but it also leads to some Liverjournal-esque sloppiness ("i had never seen so many punk kids w/ drugs ZOMG").  That's cringe-worthy in what should be taken as a significant work of pop culture history, to say the least.

That said, the best chapter so far is by The Go-Go's Jane Wiedlen.  Having read some short articles and seen some interviews with her, it's no surprise that she's funny and self-aware and seemingly a pretty reliable narrator of what exactly went down, despite the fog of drugs, sex, violence, and more drugs.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tear Them All Down

Across the American south, monuments to Confederate generals are being pulled down one by one.  This is an Objectively Good Thing and my fellow USians shouldn't rest until all of them have been destroyed.  Because, at the end of the day, even Robert E. Lee was a slavery-loving racist, a terrorists who took up arms against the United States and, actually, a pretty shitty military leader to boot:
"The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.
There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.
But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a 'foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.'”
The American Civil War was entirely about slavery, full stop.  And not just slavery (as horrible as it was), but about a literal belief in the superiority of whites over blacks.  Sorry, but these two essential facts are baked into the cake of American history.  To not pull down every single monument to white supremacy is to fail in our civic and moral duties as Americans.