Friday, April 28, 2017

Is This Real Life?

Simple Pleasures

I just ordered a bunch of new books from the always great WhatTheBook? in Seoul.

Here's hoping they get here before World War III.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

R.I.P. Jonathan Demme

For my money, Silence of the Lambs and Swimming To Cambodia are basically perfect films.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pride Goeth Before The Yadda Yadda

The Orioles are 13-5.

And I haven't been to my first Samsung Lions game of the year yet here in lurvely Daegu, but there are some national holidays next week so I might be able to rectify that situation.

Here I should  say something about how a great-hitting squad with a shaky starting line-up won't make it very deep into late summer  in one of the better divisions but no, no I shall not.

Friday, April 21, 2017


#waygookconfessions is trending on Twitter ("waygook" being a Korean term for foreinger).

What can I say?  It made me LOL and LOLs are in damn short supply these days.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Radiation and Hellfire

Art Pepper, "Arthur's Blues"

This is my nuclear apocalyptic jam.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Let's Get Weird!

I had two conflicting thoughts when I finished China Mieville's The Last Days of New Paris.  On the one hand, at a mere 200 pages (and surprisingly breezy ones at that) it's nice to know that people new to Mieville can enjoy his weird universe(s) in novella form, as opposed to the slightly overwhelming tomes he's better known for.

On the other hand, while writing something "light" isn't a crime, it also seems like a missed opportunity to really dig into the themes he's working with here -- how the point of difficult art isn't just to obfuscate and confuse, but rather to counter the preening banality of what the Nazis (yes, those Nazis) embodied.

Interesting moments abound, but too much of Last Days feels like a book report on lesser-known Surrealists who've dropped out of the canon of modernism.  It feels like a 700 baggy monster is precisely what's called for here to do justice to both the characters and the larger themes of accessible versus problematic art.

Also, I wish he'd included more plates of art work and done more analysis of them.  That feels like another missed opportunity.

Still, I enjoyed it.  But I'd still suggest one of his shorter but relatively meatier novels, The City & The City, as the best place to start with his important, kaleidoscopic body of work.


Damon Young on the on-going flaming train-wreck that is Sean Spicer:
"Of course, for those who’ve studied the peculiarities unique to the culture of White Mediocrity — the anthropological subcategory exclusively comprised of candy corn-ass White people who’re convinced they’re king-sized fucking Snickers — none of this is a surprise. This is what happens when they’re promoted above their abilities and allowed statuses they haven’t earned and platforms they don’t deserve. They reach for shit their mediocre-ass arms are too short to grab. Just as a tiger is going to eventually just go tiger, because that inevitability is coded into his DNA, an aggressively mediocre White man is going to go mediocrewhiteman as long as he’s able to.
If the world were truly just, Donald Trump would be hocking 17-year-old Hyundais in a vacant Youngstown, Ohio lot and Sean Spicer would be his mascot on the sidewalk, holding a 'No Credit, No Problem' sign, dressed in a giraffe costume, and using his lunch breaks to masturbate in the bathroom of the Arby’s across the street. But life aint fair, and White Mediocrity rules Washington, so all we can do is hide the diaper bags."
Failing upwards is an art and a badge of honor for these people.

A Home Is A (Luxurious) Castle

Social changes tend to come fast and furious in South Korea.  A new one comes with singles deciding to spend money on their apartment and enjoying singledom rather than saving for a (married) future:
"'People like Hwang see their home a bit differently from what people living with other family members think of as home -- a communal place for family or a means of financial gain, according to a survey conducted by Macromill Embrain. Those who live alone said home is a place for themselves when the company did a survey on the meaning of home and home interior in 2016. 
It gets easier to decorate one’s home after people turn 40, as their income increases and their home tends to be as big as 128 square meters. 
'The tendency to spend for themselves without thinking too much about what others think is now expressed in a place we call home,' said Lee Hyang-eun, professor of service design engineering at Sungshin Women’s University."
Entertaining non-family members at home, even close friends, is pretty rare in South Korea.  And frankly, with so many restaurants and coffee shops on every block, it's hard to know if this trend will have staying power.

Andong Cherry Blossoms (Woryeonggyo Bridge, 월영교)

Andong, South Korea.

Me and some friends went on a quest yesterday (Sunday) to see the last of the cherry blossoms.  We went about an hour east of Daegu to Andong and a traditional foot bridge across a branch of the mighty Nakdong River.
Overall, it was a very pleasant, last-minute thing to do before the week started up again.  This was my third trip to Andong and I really enjoyed the slow pace and the chance to see some cherry blossoms.  (Andong is most famous for its annual Mask Festival, which is also worth checking out.)

The Mother of All Chicken Dishes

Andong, South Korea.

I pity the fool who thinks they’ve had jjimdalk (찜닭) without visiting one of the chicken joints on the main drag of Andong Market.

The chicken is incredibly moist, and there’s so much of it.  The sauce has a nice salty tang, with raw red chilis diced directly into the dish depending on how hot you want it.

And underneath all that goodness await a bunch of glass noodles, made from sweet potato flour.

I miss it already.  I want to marry it, in fact.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"the strawberry girl"

Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Christine"

Midterms are next week.  Semesters don't even pretend to move along at a reasonable pace any more.

I finally finished Trouble Boys, and I can't recommend it enough if you have any interest in American rock music.  If anything, the tragedy of Bob Stinson is even worse than you could imagine -- he had a son, Joey, who was born with some terrible medical issues.  He died at 21.  And Steve Foley, the Mats drummer on their final tour, OD'd in 2008.  As much joy as their music has brought me since high school, there's definitely a dark side to almost every tune Paul Westerberg has ever penned.

Oh, and Axl Rose saw The Replacements exactly once back in the day and thought they sucked.  But somehow that translated into Tommy Stinson joining the new version of Guns N' Roses.  Go figure.

I just started China Mieville's latest, The Last Days of New Paris.  It's surprisingly short, and so far pretty much what I expected -- weird fiction meets the surrealists and the Nazis.

This is a timely work of fiction, to say the least.

Meanwhile, in addition to teaching, my boss handed me a science article on x-ray technology by a colleague of his and asked me to edit it.  The problem is, it's literally unreadable word salad.  A lot of the editing I do here at my college is actually re-writing, from the ground up.

I'll get a free lunch or dinner out of it though.  That's how Korea works, and that's fine by me.

Your Positive Thoughts For The Day

Blogging has been light as of late for no very good reason.  My office computer was having some issues and all I really had to say was that Trump's missile attack on Syria, which literally accomplished less than nothing, will now only embolden him to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

Of course, in a best case scenario, tens of thousands of Seoul-ites would die.

Worst case, meaning Pyongyang has a launchable nuke?  World War III.  We all die.

I take comfort in knowing that any ex-pat who voted for Jill Stein or refused to vote for Hillary in a pique of moral purity will somehow be protected from the nuclear fire and radiation pulses.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Where We Are

Alex Pareene:
"There’s plenty Trump’s minders can accomplish despite how distractible and unmanageable he is. They’ve already planted right-wing shock troops in all the federal agencies. They’ll fill the judiciary with extremists. They can do a lot of damage simply because the boss doesn’t care about the actual details and responsibilities of his gig. But on the major legacy-building (or other side’s legacy-destroying) stuff, really anything involving Congress or extensive public debate, there’s no coherent path toward anything that looks like victory. If the bullshit-peddlers who attached themselves to Trump truly want to remake the nation—beyond making it meaner in the areas in which it is already pretty persistently mean, or beyond simply raining death down upon foreigners with even less regard for casualties or consequences than evinced by prior administrations—they’re screwed. They’re screwed because they and their predecessors engineered a perpetual misinformation machine, and then a bunch of people addicted to their product took over the government.
Now, and for the foreseeable future, the grifter-in-chief sits alone in the White House residence every night, watching cable news tell him comforting lies—that he’s a hugely popular president, that responsibility for his myriad setbacks and failures lies with the many powerful enemies aligned against him a grand conspiracy—in between the ads for reverse mortgages and 'all-natural male enhancement.' There’s an image of America in the age of the complete triumph of bullshit. You spend a few years selling lousy steaks to suckers, then one morning you wake up and you’re the sucker—and the steak."

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Out Of The Rubble


The story of Han Young-soo, the photographer who put a face on the struggles and triumphs of post-war South Korea:
"Poverty, devastation, division, disarray, hopelessness and bleakness are often what are associated with Korea reeling from the Korean War (1950-53).
But that was not the case in the eyes of photographer Han Youngsoo.
In the desolate landscape of postwar Korea, he captured modern sophistication from people’s everyday lives and their facial expressions. 
This is perhaps why although about 60 years have passed, his photographs remain so stunning."
Do click through to JoongAng Daily for images, but an even better source for his amazing photography is here.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Comes To Daegu, South Korea

A boy can dream, can't he?