Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Cutting Corners

Another year, another easily preventable public safety disaster in South Korea:
"Jecheon police said sprinklers in the first floor lobby, near the origin of the blaze, had been shut down, accelerating the spread of the fire. 
A fire exit on the second floor of the building, where most of the dead bodies were found, was blocked by iron shelves used to store supplies.
Eight people including Lee were legally in charge of evacuating people inside the nine-story establishment, but only a few -- excluding Lee -- carried out their duties, according to police. All eight managers safely escaped the engulfing fire, while Lee is known to have sustained minor injuries."
29 people, mostly women at a sports complex / sauna, died.

I'm about to re-sign a contract for 2018 at my college.  The thought of going back to Trumpistan still fills me with dred, but these sorts of stories happen way too often in South Korea.

Then again, I won't be shot to death.  Probably just die in a nuclear blast is all.

Good times.

True Fact

I think I make far too little of the fact that my first apartment in Korea was behind the Hooter's Restaurant in Gangnam.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


Santa brought me new books!

Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood, Maddaddam

Mark Evanier, Kirby: King of Comics

Ann Powers, Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music

Matt Brennan, When Genres Collide: Down Beat, Rolling Stone, and the Struggle Between Jazz and Rock

Marc Woodworth, Bee Thousand (33 1/3 Series)

The Kirby book in particular is absolutely gorgeous – lots of full page plates of great images.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"all the fun we had last year"

Darlene Love, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" live

I wasn't sure if 2017 could be actually worse than 2016.  But it was!

Merry Christmas to you and yours though.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Star Wars! The Last Jedi! Spoilers!

I liked it.  It was long.  The final battle felt kind of gratuitous, especially since the whole point was that the rebels couldn't actually win.  And there's only like, 25 of them left.

But I really loved it when Luke threw away the light-saber.  I think that and the book-burning were really the key scenes -- the Jedi screwed up the universe by trying to codify and reify The Force.  (Luke and Yoda are, not surprisingly, hella down with Zen Buddhism, i.e., direct understanding versus doctrinal memorization.)

It really was Leia's movie.  I'm fine with that.

Phasma was wasted.  (She's not really dead though, is she?)

Rose was likable enough, but her kiss with Finn was forced.  But I did like her line about how fighting for what we love is better than fighting what we hate.  This killed a lot of fan-boi-boners out there, and I'm fine with that.

The casino planet was kind of stupid and too long.

The whole Luke arc from hating The Force to burning up all memory of the Jedi but ultimately sacrificing himself for the good of the rebellion by way of using The Force?  That worked for me and that, along with Leia, was really the heart of the film.

Dare I say it, but maybe this film really should have been "Episode Seven."  I mean, it really should have taken place after the original trilogy as a sort of "Goodbye To All That" of the Jedi and The Force, and stupid-ass laser swords and space magic.  Then you can introduce Rey and Finn and the “next generation” of heroes, because at the end of the day they really didn’t need to be in this one.

Again, it's Leia and Luke's movie, not Rey or Finn's.  It feels out of place as film number eight because in terms of actors and arcs, it is, completely and absolutely.

Come to think of it, I can remember a lot of things I really didn't enjoy about the film.  But then again, I remember walking out of it feeling really happy and uplifted and wanting to see number nine.

So my heart dug it, and my brain not so much in retrospect.  Make of that what you will.  Zen indeed.

K-Pop Is Horrible And So Are You For Liking It

K-pop star Kim Jong-hyun is apparently dead of suicide (singer for Shinee).  Condolences to his family and friends.

That said, if there was ever another good reason to shun the toxic mess that is K-pop and K-pop fandom, here you go.

Aesthetically, it's no secret I can't stand what's supposed to be a musical genre that's defined more by haircuts and choreography than it is actual music.

But that's beside the point.  K-pop is, objectively, a vehicle aimed at young women and men to exploit them financially and sexually.  The contracts alone, signed at an early age, basically ensure that even if you "make it" in K-pop you are basically fucked for life contractually.

No doubt this shit exists in America as well (#metoo, Kesha, R.I.P. Prince, etc.) but if you can write your own songs and hire a good lawyer, you've got a lot of leeway that Korean artists could never dream of.

So yes, get off of my lawn and all that.  K-pop and (kill me now) K-pop fandom have always struck me as bizaro-world parodies of actual music and love of music but rather than end with more of my bile, how about this -- next time you have a chance in South Korea, check out an indie band or singer at a local nightclub, somebody who isn't signed to YG or SM or didn't attend an "academy" for their art.  They're out there, some of them are really talented, and they could use your 5,000 won more than any entertainment agency here could.

It's a small start.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Delight And Instruct

This was a strange semester.  My students, for the most part, did a good job on their midterm and final.  But for the life of me, I could not get them to speak in a relatively spontaneous way in class.

I'm happy their ability level is decent, but it was like pulling teeth (moreso than usual).

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hot Alabama Take!

Defeating a pedophile bigot is awesome.  Electing a true national hero like Doug Jones, who successfully convicted the white terrorists who blew up four little black girls, is even better.

Beyond that, we win by expanding and motivating our base, not by pandering to so-called "White Working Class" (actually, White Upper Middle Class) voters.

Sorry, Bernie.


Another year, another "Hater's Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog" by Drew Magary:
"Price: $299.95, plus $40 delivery
Copy: 'For dedicated cheese enthusiasts'
Drew says: You better be at that price, holy shit. I like cheese as much as the next heart attack candidate but when I pay $300 for six months of cheese, that better amount to 9,000 pounds of cheese. I want a truck parked outside and tubes of liquid cheddar on tap in my basement. If you’re just sending me a stupid cheese platter every four weeks, that’s not acceptable to me. That is not six TRUE months of cheese. To me, six months of cheese means I can strip naked and tape the windows shut and live off that cheese for half the year, shutting myself in like a heroin addict. I don’t give a shit if Farmer Merle aged it in coffee and beeswax. I want quantity, otherwise I consider the Boska legacy sullied."
It's nice to know what our betters will be enjoying this holiday season.  Also, sign me up for the cheese fountain.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Buying (Bought!) A Computer In South Korea

Regarding this previous post on how to buy a computer in South Korea when you're a bit wary of the meatspace "electronic malls," I found this site: englishpcsales, apparently run by an ex-pat college English teacher like myself.  Their selection isn't quite Amazon-level, but it's good, and it seems to focus on high-quality, reputable brands.

Anyhow, I've ordered a new laptop and should get in by the end of this week (3-5 day free delivery in South Korea).  The price is, unfortunately, "Korea price" but with free shipping and no tax (that is, tax already included in sales price) it's not that bad.

Using Amazon U.S. for the better sale price and sucking it up to pay the import fee was a bit tempting, but I'm more comfortable knowing I've got a Seoul to Daegu delivery in place (for an "in stock" laptop) rather than a god-knows-what delivery chain from America, and from Taiwan before that.

Honestly, there's no perfect way to buy a computer in South Korea.  You can get deals at the big electronic malls, and apparently they'll haggle with you if you can show them a better price online.  But chalk it up to a bit of fear of the language barrier and a greater fear of a hard-sell, where a guy tries to offload something lame on me.  That certainly happens in America as well but ordering online from a reputable English-language dealer in South Korea felt like the best option, even if it wasn't the cheapest.

Oh, and I paid via Korean bank direct transfer, which has become my go-to method for big purchases.  Getting a Korean credit card is a pain, so I don't have one.  Getting a Korean bank card (not only easy, but mandatory for foreigners) and doing very fast money transfers is really awesome.  The service fee is no more than you'd pay for getting cash out of an unaffiliated bank machine (maybe 1,500 won at most).

And South Korean shipping is generally quite reliable.  If my new computer has any problems I'm chalking it up to the manufacturer.  (I got a free one-year warranty, natch.)

All that's left to do now is set it up and download Civilization VI to make sure I never have a social life again.  (But a little birdie told me Civ V with expansions is better.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Peng, Rudeboy

Pengest Munch episode 13

A nice meta-piece of food writing, Navneet Alang asks "Who Gets To Be A Restaurant Critic?" and analyzes the work of Youtube sensation Elijah Quashie -- aka, the "Chicken Connoisseur."  The interesting thing being, a dapper and pleasant Mr. Quashie only reviews London chicken shops -- pretty much the cheapest and most deeply fried eats in the country.

I'm making it all sound a lot more complicated than it really is.  Navneet gets to it:
"That, however, is just the trouble with standards: They don’t translate well across types of people, or the group divisions that help define those standards in the first place. The tension between haute cuisine and populism, a Times review and Yelp, is about competing ways of deciding what’s good — of whether chips should be fat and soft like in a chippy, or thin and crisp like bistro frites. But when the public discourse around food is so overwhelmingly dominated not just by highfalutin critics, but those who are often white, middle-income, and left-leaning, the assumed standards by which food is judged tend to reflect and replicate exactly those values. If critics these days seem to most value food which presents a vision, highlights the ingredients, or inventively mixes influences, it’s because those are the values of upwardly mobile, culturally omnivorous eaters who believe in conscious capitalism.
This is why the Chicken Connoisseur feels so pleasantly unusual. It checks off all the boxes for what modern food criticism looks like, self-reflexively paying attention to its own status as criticism, but instead of taking you to places with small plates, or omakase, takes you to chicken shops in Hackney or Tottenham or any number of other London areas that haven’t been entirely subsumed by gentrification. Those shops are, in a simple empirical sense, the kinds of places where millions of people eat, but that people concerned with food as signifier of cultural capital would rather ignore — perhaps because such places don’t represent change or novelty, the necessary fuel of the media, but also perhaps because the change they might stand for isn’t considered relevant. In putting a critical vocabulary people were already using into a polished, appealing YouTube show, however, Quashie ends up providing a model for what a food criticism that speaks to a broader, browner, less-wealthy audience might look like. It’s fast food, framed as a product of its place and time, by someone who is winning and funny in front of a camera, and who happens to be young and black."
The politics are significant, and the humor and positive energy are infectious.

First World Problems

Blogging will be a bit light-ish for the coming weeks.  I actually took some great hikes recently and snapped up a bunch of great pictures of the fall foliage, but in addition to having to enter final grades soon my home-based laptop just died.  So I get to know the joy that is shopping for a new computer in South Korea.  It's far from impossible, but the problem is that consumer electronics here are really over-priced compared to America.  (As in, nearly 200% what you'd pay in the States in many cases.)

If it was closer to August and my annual summer trip back home I could make do with my ten year-old (!) VAIO (!!) for a few months, but alas, I'm going to have to suck it up and buy one here.

Not the end of the world or anything, but I've already looked online at Korean  e-sources and the selection is absolutely horrible.  I'd be O.K. with one or two particular Samsung models, but a lot of their stuff is terrible.

Also, it's freezing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Winter Is Coming

It's kimchi-making time in lovely Korea, and my adult students basically loaded me down with a few packages of the stuff when I left class tonight.

I do not think this is a bad thing

Just Ask Susan Sarandon To Write You A Check?

I’m guessing there’s no small number of pro-Stein / pro-Bernie / anti-HRC folks currently in graduate school for an M.A. or Ph.D.  And soon, thanks to the GOP / Trump tax plan, none of them will be able to afford their programs (tuition wavers will be taxed as regular income).

It sucks that anybody can’t go as far as they want, academically speaking, but at the same time I sort of don’t fucking care if you got on the Stein-train to crazy?  Because, like, you literally voted for this?

Anyhow, November 2018 is coming fast – if you’re a USian, register to vote and try to undo just a bit of all the damage Trump is inflicting on higher education.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Your Favorite Band Sucks. And So Does Their Name.

The AV Club has its 2017 year in band names up now, and as usual it does not disappoint.

Some personal favorites:

1) Donna Bummer

2) Abhorrent Decimation

3) The New York Review of Cocksucking

4) Hans Gruber and the Die Hards

5) Grim Streaker

6) Demonfuck

7) Shitizen

8) Steal Shit Do Drugs

9) Strawberry Fist Cake

10) Drug Pizza

Sleepy Time

The next super duper trend coming out of totally overworked South Korea?  Sleep cafes!:
"Nazzzam, a sleep cafe located in Jongno, provides a beverage and offers an hour of rest for 6,000 won. Here, the guest is given a choice whether to sleep on a bed, a sofa or a hammock. No one should worry that they won’t be able to wake up on time because the staff will wake guests up if requested.
Roh Woong-hyun, the owner of the sleep cafe in Gangnam, said that on average, approximately 50 to 60 people visit each weekday - most of whom are office workers in their 20s and 30s.
'These days, people in their 40s and 50s also visit the cafe often. Since we are open for 24 hours, workers who stay up all night stop by the cafe and teenagers that visit Seoul for concerts from other cities also visit the cafe,' said Roh. He then revealed his plan to open up another shop. The cafe first opened in September 2016."
I'm lucky to live within walking distance of my job.  And I've been told I drool in my sleep.  So I'll pass.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Red Devil Blues

With the US out of the World Cup for 2018 (the less said about it the better), I was hoping a weak-ish South Korean squad might get lucky with their own draw.  Well, here it goes -- Germany, Sweden, and Mexico.

I can't imagine them winning a single game in that group.  I have a hard time imagining them scoring a single goal.

As for predictions, it's hard to go against Germany isn't it?  Teams I'd also be willing to bet five dollars on to win it all -- France and Brazil.  Obvious picks I realize, but Belgium and Argentina never seems to put all the pieces together when needed.  I really can't stand Portugal Ronaldo, but they are coming off an impressive win in Euro 2016.

And Spain is way too old, right?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

True Fact

Marvel movie trailers are ten times more entertaining than anything the DC universe has ever produced.

And I'll have you know I actually liked Zack Snyder's Watchmen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wake Me When It's Over

One of my simple pleasures is ordering English language books from Seoul every few months.  Lately I'd been thinking I should push myself to finally get to the six or seven Philip K. Dick novels I've never read (I blame Bladerunner 2049) but a small piece of my lizard brain suggested that dystopian fiction isn't really necessary right now.

Between Trump, a GOP that is officially A-OK with pedophilia and literal Nazis, and North Korea mastering ICBM's, we're living it.  Living it good and hard.

Too Soon?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Korean Weddings

I guess it's strange that after eight years in country, I went to my first Korean wedding only this past Saturday.  Maybe it's because I'm 43 and destined to die alone and eaten by my cats (just kidding -- I don't own any cats!) while the prime marrying age in South Korea is definitely late 20's / early 30's (and even that's changing quickly.)

A friend, coworker, and former adult student finally tied the knot (he's a few years younger than me so, as mentioned, an older marriage) and I was happy to share in his celebration.

Anyhow, there were things I knew going in and things that genuinely surprised me.

1)  Korean weddings are huge.  Everybody knows that, but it isn't until you go to one that you realize how true the following cliche is -- Western marriages are between two people, Korean weddings are between two families.  As best I could tell, there were at least 200 people there and many of them were standing on stage for pictures (immediate and more distant relatives, not just friends and coworkers like me).

2)  Korean weddings are fast as hell.  The ceremony itself was over in less than 20 minutes.  Also, they typically take place in dedicated wedding halls rather than churches.  So for the reception you just walk up a flight of stairs rather than drive to another hotel or restaurant.  Easy peasy!

3)  Korean post-wedding picture time is excruciatingly slow.  I don't blame anyone for wanting quality photos of their big day, but picture time went on for almost forever (at least twice as long as the wedding itself).  You've got the full on family pics, then the more immediate family shots, all the way down, finally, to bride and groom shots.  And since you aren't supposed to go eat until photos are over, hundreds of people are just milling around checking their cellphones.

4)  Korean wedding halls are huge.  So, it's your special day?  What better way to celebrate then getting married simultaneously with three or four other couples!  Again, Korean weddings are fast and feel a bit less "personal" than Western weddings, but that's the way it goes.  And frankly, having sat through some incredibly long Catholic weddings in America, the speed thing isn't all that awful.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Boring But Content Holiday Update

It's a quiet Thanksgiving day  here in lovely Daegu.  I was in the office making plans and copies for next week, with the final exam a mere two weeks away.  I wrote a genuine snail-mail letter to my Dad which I'll drop in the mail tomorrow, and I'll give him and my sister a call.  I'm headed to my first Korean wedding this Saturday, that of a co-worker who also used to take my adult class.  I'm about to finish Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, which is good enough that I'll be ordering the rest of the trilogy from Seoul soon enough.  I'm sure there's some Western bar or hotel nearby doing a "Turkey Dinner Buffet" or something but I've always found those things kind of sad.  I'll have some tofu and kimchi for dinner, and probably a can of beer because that's how I roll.

Life is boring.  Life is good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Yes It Was Racism, Stupid

If you're only going to read one "Yes, it was racism and not the economy that got Trump elected, stupid" piece I'd recommend this one by Adam Serwer on "The Nationalist's Delusion."  Short version:
"One hundred thirty-nine years since Reconstruction, and half a century since the tail end of the civil-rights movement, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who explicitly pledged to use the power of the state against people of color and religious minorities, and stood by him as that pledge has been among the few to survive the first year of his presidency. Their support was enough to win the White House, and has solidified a return to a politics of white identity that has been one of the most destructive forces in American history. This all occurred before the eyes of a disbelieving press and political class, who plunged into fierce denial about how and why this had happened. That is the story of the 2016 election."
Extended version:
"Trump’s support among whites decreases the higher you go on the scales of income and education. But the controlling factor seems to be not economic distress but an inclination to see nonwhites as the cause of economic problems. The poorest voters were somewhat less likely to vote for Trump than those a rung or two above them on the economic ladder. The highest-income voters actually supported Trump less than they did Mitt Romney, who in 2012 won 54 percent of voters making more than $100,000—several points more than Trump secured, although he still fared better than Clinton. It was among voters in the middle, those whose economic circumstances were precarious but not bleak, where the benefits of Du Bois’s psychic wage appeared most in danger of being devalued, and where Trump’s message resonated most strongly. They surged toward the Republican column.
Yet when social scientists control for white voters’ racial attitudes—that is, whether those voters hold 'racially resentful' views about blacks and immigrants—even the educational divide disappears. In other words, the relevant factor in support for Trump among white voters was not education, or even income, but the ideological frame with which they understood their challenges and misfortunes. It is also why voters of color—who suffered a genuine economic calamity in the decade before Trump’s election—were almost entirely immune to those same appeals."
It's really worth reading the whole thing.

Three Ways Of Looking At The Death Of Charles Manson

1)  I grew up thumbing through my older sister's copy of Helter Skelter, the best-selling overview of the Manson Murders.  The black-and-white pictures of the crime scenes were absolute nightmare fuel to a ten year-old me.

2)  Here's a great piece that puts Manson into the cultural context of California in the late 60's:
"For the uninitiated, the story goes something like this: Toward the end of spring, Wilson picked up two young hitchhikers, Patricia Krenwinkel and and Ella Jo Bailey, both of whom turned out to be members of Manson’s cult. He dropped them off, but soon encountered them again. The trio headed back to his mansion in the Pacific Palisades. Wilson left to record with the rest of The Beach Boys, and when he returned, he was greeted by a crazed-looking stranger in his driveway. The man was none other than Manson himself, and to assuage Wilson’s apprehension, he reportedly knelt down and kissed his feet.
The next few months saw Manson and his cadre of women moving in with Wilson, who allowed them to leech from his superstar status in exchange for group sex and servitude. The two even began collaborating together musically, so much so that Wilson introduced Manson to The Byrds’ producer Terry Melcher."
Manson and his cult decided to murder Melcher.  Melcher wasn't home.  Roman Polanski was renting the place out and he wasn't home either, but his very pregnant wife and some of her friends were.

3)  And perhaps most intriguing, how science fiction authors Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard gave us Manson in the first place:
"In 1963, while a prisoner at the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island in Washington state, Charles Manson heard other prisoners enthuse about two books: Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and L. Ron Hubbard’s self-help guide Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950). Heinlein’s novel told the story of a Mars-born messiah who preaches a doctrine of free love, leading to the creation of a religion whose followers are bound together by ritualistic water-sharing and intensive empathy (called 'grokking'). Hubbard’s purportedly non-fiction book described a therapeutic technique for clearing away self-destructive mental habits. It would later serve as the basis of Hubbard’s religion, Scientology.
Manson was barely literate, so he probably didn’t delve too deeply into either of these texts. But he was gifted at absorbing information in conversation, and by talking to other prisoners he gleaned enough from both books to synthesize a new theology. His encounter with the writings of Heinlein and Hubbard was a pivotal event in his life. Until then, he had been a petty criminal and drifter who spent his life in and out of jail. But when Manson was released from McNeil Island in 1967, he was a new figure: a charismatic street preacher who gathered a flock of followers among the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco."

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.