Thursday, March 30, 2017

Democracy In Action

I'm sure many people in the know regarding South Korean politics saw this coming, but it's shocking to me that former president Park Geun-hye is about to go to jail.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Bats Shall Be Flipped

Deadspin has put together a nice little guide to the glory that is the Korean Baseball Organization (Korean MLB).  Here's the skinny on Daegu's local team, the Samsung Lions:
"One of the league’s official franchises, the Samsung Lions, are based in the city of Daegu in Gyeongsang Province, in the country’s southeast, where it is hotter and more humid than other regions, earning the nickname “Daefrica” (Daegu + Africa). They primarily play at Daegu Samsung Lions Park, which opened in 2016 and can hold about 29,000. Once in awhile, they play at Pohang Baseball Stadium (capacity: 12,000), located an hour away from Daegu."
Sadly, the franchise has definitely fallen on hard times.  After winning four consecutive championships (2011-2014) and moving into a new stadium, they've kind of fallen apart as of late.

Read the whole article though for some interesting background on the nine other teams that currently constitute the KBO.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Was it really 17 years ago that, in another stolen election, Republicans claimed they would "restore dignity to the White House"?

"embarrassed a black guy was your boss"

Lindy West cuts to the chase when it comes to what the modern Republican Party, the Party of Trump Forever, is all about:
"I don’t know that America has ever seen a political party so divested of care. Since Trump took office, Republicans have proposed legislation to destroy unions, the healthcare system, the education system and the Environmental Protection Agency; to defund the reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion; to stifle public protest and decimate arts funding; to increase the risk of violence against trans people and roll back anti-discrimination laws; and to funnel more and more wealth from the poorest to the richest. Every executive order and piece of GOP legislation is destructive, aimed at dismantling something else, never creating anything new, never in the service of improving the care of the nation.
Contemporary American conservatism is not a political philosophy so much as the roiling negative space around Barack Obama’s legacy. Can you imagine being that insecure? Can you imagine not wanting children to have healthcare because you’re embarrassed a black guy was your boss? It would be sad if it wasn’t so dangerous."
Republicans don't just hate the poor, they believe it's a moral imperative to hate the poor.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

For The Love Of Chicken

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where Does The Time Go?

Alton Ellis, "Whiter Shade of Pale"

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

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

Please Prove Me Wrong

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Anti-Immigrant Hypocrisy

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Encouraging Creativity?

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking Out Loud

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

If You Thought 2016 Was Bad

Chuck Berry, "Havana Moon"

Dead at 90.

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


The curious notion among certain "leftists" that Hillary working for a national minimum wage of 12 bucks an hour and not actively working to strip 20 million people of health-care is just the same as Donald Trump and his horrid family looting the coffers of the U.S. treasury.

Oh, and maybe World War III.

Soft Power Politics

South Korea recently deployed U.S. made anti-missile defense systems.  China is very unhappy about them :
"China’s boycott against Korean culture is in full swing. The country that once was the largest fanbase for Korean stars, television programs, K-pop and so much more is shunning not just its popular culture, but also the fine arts, expressing their growing discontent to Korea’s plan to install the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system.
It started with removing Korean celebrities from China’s TV commercials, dramas and reality programs, followed by halting all joint productions of Korea-China dramas and films. Then recently, the country went a step further and began rebuffing scheduled events of Korean artists in China and even canceling its own events in Korea."
It's interesting that China isn't just boycotting tourism, a big source of revenue for South Korea, but also Korean "soft power" in the form of Hallyu, or the Korean cultural wave.  Losing money is one thing, but a threat to South Korea's perceived cultural significance around the world is another thing altogether.

Friday, March 10, 2017

"in a cryptic fashion"

As we transition from a life-in-Korea blog to a Replacements fan site, here's a moment from 1984 when Paul Westerberg first met fellow Minneapolis musician Prince:
"Prince was rumored to have lurked in the shadows at some of The Replacements' shows at First Avenue, but it was in the bathroom of a club in St. Paul where Westerberg finally ran into him.
'Oh, hey,' said Westerberg, seeing the dolled-up singer standing next to a him at the urinal.  'What's up, man?'
Prince turned and responded in a cryptic fashion: 'Life.'"
From Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements

Thursday, March 9, 2017

INTP Thug Life / Daegu Friday Night

Beyond Insane

In West Virginia, people are overdosing faster than they can be buried:
"Deaths in West Virginia have overwhelmed a state program providing burial assistance for needy families for at least the fifth year in a row, causing the program to be nearly out of money four months before the end of the fiscal year, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Funeral directors in West Virginia say the state's drug overdose epidemic, the worst in the nation, is partly to blame."
West Virginia is overwhelmingly Trump territory.  If they genuinely thought he or Paul Ryan and the Republican Party gave two shits about their plight I don't know what to say.

It's Done

South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been impeached.

This is huge, to say the least, but the consensus was that with an approval rating of five percent (!) it had to happen.


National elections will be held within 60 days, and the liberal parties (there are two major ones here) have a lot of momentum on their side.  (Park was the leader of the country's conservative party which is in a lot of obvious turmoil now.)

And the big one: Park is now subject to criminal prosecution.  She could very likely wind up in jail.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day!

My two cents: a permanent 1% lifetime tax on all men everywhere that pays for the health care, contraception, pre- and -post natal, and abortion needs of all women everywhere.

Done and done.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Hootenanny In E"

The Replacements, "Buck Hill"

Things I've learned about The Replacements from the first half of Trouble Boys, an excellent and authoritative work on the band:

1)  Buck Hill is not, in fact, a person, but a ski slope in Minnesota.  I find that strangely disappointing.

2)  The band's relationship to Bob Mould and Husker Du was complicated, but not hostile.  As The Replacements started to take off, Husker Du had to start their own record label and pretty much invent the concept of D.I.Y.  Also, in early 80's Minneapolis you were either a Mats fan or a Husker fan, but never both.

3)  Paul started recording solo stuff very early on but literally had to hide it from his band mates.  Bob in particular would be quick to point out if one of Paul's songs wasn't punk or fast enough.

4)  R.E.M.'s relationship with the band was a lot more than just Peter Buck playing guitar on "I Will Dare."

5)  Bob and Tommy were half-brothers, and didn't actually have a relationship until Tommy was in middle school.  Bob forced Tommy to learn bass guitar, Tommy didn't want to learn it, but Bob forced him and physically pushed the thing on him when he didn't want to practice.  Fortunately, of all the members of the band, Tommy was probably the most naturally gifted when it came to music.

This is the second-most Replacements thing ever.

6)  While early tune "Shutup" was specifically written to piss off any audience at a moment's notice, they actually had an entire set of country covers (Glen Campbell especially) to break out if they felt an audience deserved to be fucked with.

This is the most Replacements thing ever.

Seriously, if you have any interest in American rock music check this book out.  After you thank me, get Bob Mould's biography which is also excellent.

Monday, March 6, 2017

In With The Ink

In a country where traditionally a tattoo means "I am literally a gangster, not just pretending to be tough" younger Koreans are turning to body art with more innocent intentions:
"At a time where even the most ordinary people are starting to get tattoos, it remains a question to many whether tattoos should continue to be perceived as unethical and unhealthy. To find out, the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, met with a number of people with tattoos. 
A 27-year-old university student surnamed Yun got a tattoo of a unicorn on her wrist last month. When she visited a tattoo shop, she initially did not intend to get one, but was just tagging along with a friend getting a tattoo. But she was mesmerized by the design and ended up handing over her wrist to the tattoo artist. '[Since getting the tattoo], I always wear long-sleeved shirts at home in case my parents find out and scold me,' she said and continued, 'But permanently being able to have a design that I adore on my body strangely makes me excited.'”
My perspective from teaching at a college in the very conservative city of Daegu is that, yes, over the past few years I've definitely noticed a rise in the number of visible tattoos among my students.  (A lot of cursive-script incongruous English self-help sayings on male forearms, for what it's worth.)  I'm sure female students are more reticent to get openly visible ones, so I imagine a lot of lower-back and ankle work is going around.

But what do I know?  I made it through the 90's without a single tattoo or piercing.  I probably deserve some kind of a medal for that.

Note: Advanced Conversation posts contain material that I've used with my adult conversation students.

Dear Obama: Please Engage "No More Fucks To Give" Mode

Obama's greatest flaw as a president was having too much faith in the small-d democratic institutions and commonsense understandings of how Washington works.  It took him far too long to wake up for the fact that Republicans were never going to meet him with good faith on any issue, even if it was good for Americans.

So I can only hope in the bottom of my wretched little heart that Barry will now feel no compulsion not to go after Trump.

I have no doubt Obama takes the role of ex-president as seriously as anyone else possibly could.

But really, you're not going to fall for these chicken-shit Republican games again, are you?  You've done more than your fair share of bringing dignity and class to the office.  It's no longer on you to always take the high road, especially after you threw the guy a fucking life raft when you didn't have to.

Friday, March 3, 2017

"misrule and disaster"

I probably don't link to enough pieces by Charles Pierce because they're all worth reading.   But this one on why regretful Trump supporters deserve less than zero sympathy from adults who knew putting a pussy-grabbing fascist in charge would cause some problems is better than usual:
"Holy mother of god, I'm tired of reading quotes from people who live in places where the local economy went to hell or Mexico in 1979, and who have spent the intervening years swallowing whatever Jesus Juice was offered up by theocratic bunco artists of the Christocentric Right, and gulping down great flagons of barely disguised hatemongering against the targets of the day, all the while voting against their own best interests, now claiming that empowering Donald Trump as the man who will 'shake things up' on their behalf was the only choice they had left. You had plenty of choices left.
In Kansas, you could have declined to re-elect Sam Brownback, who'd already turned your state into a dismal Randian basket case. In Wisconsin, you had three chances to turn out Scott Walker, and several chances to get the state legislature out of his clammy hands. And, now that the teeth of this new administration are becoming plain to see, it's a good time to remind all of you that you didn't have to hand the entire federal government over to Republican vandalism, and the presidency over to an abject loon on whom Russia may well hold the paper.
You all had the same choices we all had. You saddled the rest of us with misrule and disaster. Own it. I empathize, but I will not sympathize."
These voters -- the so-called white "working class" (working class always and only means white people in American political parlance) -- are lost.  The way forward for Democrats is to energize its own bases, not pander to people who thought blowing up the universe would be good for a few LOLs.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"I had to move fast /To get my baby back from the trouble boys"

Dave Edmunds, "Trouble Boys"

I'm about 100 pages in to Trouble Boys, a biography of The Replacements.  It's dense, to say the least, but very well written so far.

It's no secret that founding guitarist Bob Stinson, who would die of heart failure at 35, dealt with an ungodly amount of childhood trauma.  But it's tough to go through it all, page-by-page.

The book actually begins at Bob's funeral in a poignant bit of framing.

And the title comes from this song by Dave Edmunds.  Apparently, as Paul and Bob and Tommy (11 years old!) and Chris started jamming on covers as Dogbreath, this was the first tune where they all felt they'd clicked as a unit.  I'm pretty obsessive in my Replacements worship and even I didn't know that.