Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Emperor(s) Of Ice Cream

The ongoing ice cream wars in New York City fascinate me to no end:
"Mister Softee and New York Ice Cream Company — the city’s bitterest enemies, at least if you limit it to vendors cruising the streets with 'watch for children' signs — are starting off the summer of 2017 right where 2016’s left off. The two soft-serve foes have been pulling bats and other shenanigans on each other ever since disgruntled Mister Softee franchisee Dimitrios Tsirkos broke off and started NYICC in 2013, but the Post reports that Mister Softee is pursuing a new strategy this year that stresses brains, not brawn: It’s hired a detective agency to spy on NYICC drivers, who are notorious for doing everything from decaling their trucks with 'Master Softee' logos and playing their rival’s trademarked jingle, to telling Mister Softee employees 'there will be problems' if they venture onto their alleged turf.'"
Late capitalism never fails to astonish.

And at least New Yorkers have their priorities straight.


Damned If You Do, Yadda Yadda

After almost ten years and two conservative administrations which have overseen a stagnant South Korea economy the new president, a liberal, wants to raise (an incredibly low) national minimum wage:
"One of President Moon’s campaign pledges was to raise the hourly minimum wage from the current 6,470 [$5.80!!!] won to 10,000 won in the next three years, and while the initiative is meant to prop up low-income earners, various studies have shown that small business owners could bear the brunt of the raise.
According to research by Hana Financial Investment, department store profit is expected to fall 3.2 percent, profit at large discount chains by 10.3 percent and convenience stores 9 percent if the minimum wage goes up to 10,000 won."
No doubt small businesses will carry the burden of an increased minimum wage.  But hey, feel free to fall off the demographic cliff as young people continue to not get married and not have children.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

White People

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Get Out would be playing in Korea.  And it didn't disappoint.  There were so many subtleties and unexpected beats, and the performances were amazing.

I'll never look at a stuffed deer head the same way again.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Delight And Instruct

This semester is almost over, and it's been grueling.  I'm teaching a department I've historically had major problems with -- attendance, behavior, attitude, and department heads who are perfectly fine with English class being "play time" for their students -- and I've also had a ton of make-up classes lately.  (There are, frankly, way too many spring holidays here in Korea.  Move some of those to winter, bruh.)

Yesterday I walked into an empty classroom and assumed I must have missed the memo about a class field trip or something.

But nope.  They just, to a person, decided to skip.  Roughly half of this class is already getting an F for attendance policy issues.

Can't wait for the angry and / or tear-filled phone calls I 'll get in a few weeks when the final grades go into the university computer system.  No, seriously, I can't wait -- my Korean is good enough to let them know they're idiots for failing what will be the easiest course they've ever taken.

I give F's for attendance issues only, natch, because if you couldn't tell already I am composed completely out of sweetness and light.

Notes From Trumpistan

Just another day in the greatest country in the world:
"A black Bowie State University student who police say was fatally stabbed by a white stranger was honored Tuesday at the commencement ceremony where he would have walked across the stage.
The gown of Richard Collins III was draped over a chair in the front row, and his family accepted his business administration degree.
The historically black school's commencement was held in a sports arena at the nearby College Park campus of the University of Maryland, where Collins was killed early Saturday."
"White stranger" my ass.  He was a known white supremacist.  And they feel completely emboldened with the racist pussy-grabber in the White House.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

So Much Winning

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Here's some cool news -- the very talented Jordan Peele is going to adapt one of my favorite recent novels, Lovecraft Country.

It's a great novel.  Highly recommended.

And a good excuse to link one of my favorite sketches of all time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


I went to graduate school in Charlottesville, Virginia (home of the University of Virginia).  Sightings of Confederate flags hanging from the frat houses and the occasional "black face" Halloween party were nothing new.

But a full-blown KKK rally?  In an ostensibly "liberal" southern town?  That's incredibly sad.

But it's also very much where America is right now as a country.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Fresh Hell? pt. Three Bajillion

"No speaka the Taco"

A great little article where the title says most of what you need to know -- "Dragons Are for White Kids with Money: On the Friction of Geekdom and Race."  The point is basically that the heady mixture of toxic masculinity and straight-up racism in geek culture is possibly even worse than that of jock / sports culture:
"In high school in Los Angeles, I had a hard time creating a network of geeks simply because the price of entry into the geek world was too high, or my friends simply did not want to associate themselves with something so clearly 'white.'  The insults that my small band of geeks endured while we played Magic: The Gathering or discussed Dragon Ball Z were pretty inventive.  Even now, some of my students snicker or laugh derisively when I make fantasy or science-fiction references, simply for the fact that, and I quote: 'Dragons be for white kids with money.' It’s hard to argue against this reasoning when the most popular fantasy novel and TV series since Lord of the Rings features a platinum-blonde white woman saving thousands of adoring and helpless brown people.
You’d think that when I found geekdom, I’d be welcomed in with open arms, but my ethnic identifiers have often caused friction.  One of my favorite geeky pastimes is Warhammer 40K, a tabletop miniatures game.  I have played this game off and on since I was about 12, and its sweeping background of grimdark science-fantasy hits a lot of my geek buttons.  Some years ago when I was building an army, I wanted to paint my soldiers to be more reflective of me, my family, and my friends.  When I asked an employee at a store how I would paint darker skin, he laughed.  He both didn’t know how you’d go about doing this because he hadn’t thought about it, and he thought it was silly that I wanted to do it.  I have played against armies with not so subtly painted SS symbols on the sides of tanks.  When I have spoken Spanish to one of my few Latino gaming friends I have heard in response, 'No speaka tha Taco' from a passerby."
And as much as I like HBO's Game of Thrones (more than the books, which I've also read) the "white woman saving thousands of adoring and helpless brown people" is spot on.

Smokes Bad, Booze Good

South Korean televisions shows have pretty much fazed out scenes of smoking, but scenes of heavy drinking?  No problem!:
"Article 28 of the country’s broadcasting review regulation stipulates that TV broadcasts 'must exercise prudence when dealing with obscene, decadent subjects, narcotics, alcohol, smoking, superstition, gambling, vanity, luxury and wasteful trends.'
Standards weren’t necessarily applied equally to these supposed ills to society. For example, scenes with TV stars smoking weren’t difficult to see in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. But nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to see such scenes, as they’re excluded from preproduction. When a rerun of an old show or a movie is aired, such footage is often blurred out.
But drinking, by all accounts, seems to be going the opposite direction - it’s not only common to find shows featuring drinking nowadays, some are even seen depicting booze in a romantic fashion."
 Other than sports and the news, I watch very little Korean television.  But I would only add that a year ago my college, with great fanfare, introduced a campus-wide ban on smoking with great big banners everywhere.

As of today, if you want to find dudes smoking just stop in front of one of these many banners.  Or a campus bathroom.

It Was Nice Knowing You, Spring

It's supposed to hit 90 by the end of this week here in lurvely Daegu.

Friday, May 12, 2017

It Only Gets Worse

This game is getting a little too easy to play but, let's imagine Obama invited two Russian higher-ups, one of them a known spy-master, into the Oval Office but only allowed Russian state media into the room.

Who the fuck knows if we'll make it to 2020 before we're wearing leather jackets and scouring the wasteland for fuel and cans of dog food.

My guess?


Thursday, May 11, 2017

More New Books!

John Doe, Under The Big Black Sun
Margeret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
Howard Chaykin, American Flagg!
Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem
Art Pepper, Straight Life
Lauren Beukes, Broken Monsters
Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Yes It Was Racism, Stupid

As long as we're focused on 2016, turns out people like me were right -- it was racism "racial anxiety," not economic anxiety, among white voters that led to Trump's victory:
"Economic factors played a much smaller role, suggesting that Trump’s rise was shaped more by cultural and racial concerns than by economics. For example, white working-class voters who displayed economic fatalism — measured through the belief that getting a college education is 'a gamble' — were only twice as likely to prefer Trump.
And economic hardship among white working-class Americans actually predicted more support for Hillary Clinton, not Trump: Although not highly statistically significant, the survey found that '[t]hose who reported being in fair or poor financial shape were 1.7 times more likely to support Clinton, compared to those who were in better financial shape.' This finding rebukes the common sentiment that poor white Americans came out in droves to put Trump over the top in 2016."
In the American media "working class" is coded entirely as meaning "white people."  That's pretty much the heart of the problem.

But if only liberal elitists like Hillary had gone to Pennsylvania more often then she wouldn't have lost to a down-to-earth, man-of-the-people New York real-estate mogul / reality TV star.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

President Moon

After the impeachment of the conservative Park Geun-hye, Korea has a new president named Moon Jae-in, a liberal:
"'I will work toward peace on the Korean Peninsula,' he said. 'If necessary, I will travel to Washington right away. I will go to Pyongyang if conditions permit. For peace on the Korean Peninsula, I will do anything.'
He also said his government will engage in serious negotiations with the United States and China in order to resolve the conflict involving the deployment of the U.S. antiballistic missile system."
A lot going on here.  First of all, he'll have no transition period.  As of today he is now living in the Blue House (Korean White House) as president.  Transitions are tough on anybody, but he's filling a huge vacuum left by an unexpected impeachment and he'll have no grace period to speak of.

Second, conservatives have been in the South Korean presidency (Lee Myung-Bak for five years, then President Park for almost four) for almost a decade.  There's going to be a big shift with regards to relations with North Korea and China, at a time when Trump is pushing for the conservative "hard line" approach.

Still, at the end of the day, I'd imagine many Koreans are happy to just have a president in place and restore a bit of normalcy to what's been a very tumultuous year.

Meanwhile, an adult student (avowed PGH fan) let me know that the South Korean economy would now collapse since a liberal is in charge.

I was unable to check my cheek in letting him now that after nine years of conservative stewardship, the South Korean economy is completely stagnant, especially for young people.

It's no secret that Koreans are in favor of change, for better or worse, that voters in England, America, and France also voted for (terrible change, horrific change, pretty good change, natch).

Beyond Farce

The next time any Republican tries to talk to you about the importance of a) the rule of law b) ethics or c) the importance of national security, please laugh heartily into their hypocritical little faces.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Also, fuck Boston.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Again

George Benson, "Giblet Gravy"

This is a strange week -- we've got Buddha's Birthday and Children's Day, so the work-week is only two days long.  However, I had a ton of make-up classes to take care of and I had to grade my midterms.

Basically, holidays suck.  They just throw off everybody's schedule, and the students are salty about having to come to class on an irregular day.

But for the very long weekend I'm going to pull of one of my patented Daegu Staycations -- a soccer match, a ball game, and some hiking.

The Problem With Korean Food And Food Culture, Globally Speaking

With the South Korean Winter Olympics less than a year away, lots of problems are popping up.  In particular, local restaurants aren't sure how to bring in business from foreigner visitors:
"The opening and closing ceremonies for the Pyeongchang Olympics will take place at Hoenggye. Forty-one out of 102 Olympic events will take place there for bobsledding, ski jumping and alpine skiing events. However, the restaurants in the area are ill-prepared for the more than 100,000 visitors expected. 
Restaurants near the Hoenggye Intercity Bus Terminal had a noticeable dearth of English-language menus, except for the larger 50-seat establishments. Even when smaller restaurants offered English language menus, their items were translated inconsistently. 
One restaurant wrote 'pork belly' for samgyeopsal and another wrote 'pork loin.' Another was satisfied using Korean romanization for beef short ribs soup, using galbitang.
Not a single restaurant provided an explanation of their menus in English. Restaurant placards in English were nowhere to be seen. A tiny 'Korean Restaurant' in English, affixed to some Korean language restaurant signs, was all."
It's kind of amazing how many of my pet peeves regarding South Korea are nailed in this seemingly innocuous article.

Where to begin?  In increasing orders of subjective opinion:

1)  I've traveled throughout Asia (with the notable exception of mainland China) and I've never had a problem eating delicious, exotic food despite obvious language barriers.  Why?  For starters, pointing at a plastic model of a dish or a simple picture of one using mere body language suffices in every country except Korea for some reason.  Koreans will simply freeze up in the presence of a foreigner and possibly even refuse to serve them to spare themselves the embarrassment of having to deal with one of them.  And no doubt, foreigners in South Korea don't always act like angels.  But hey, if I can order shark curry on a beach in Goa, or Pho in Hanoi, or dim sum in Hong Kong, places where I speak literally none of the local language, it's amazing that body language isn't enough for many restaurants in South Korea.  But why?

2)  Well, it's complicated, but before we even deal with English translation let's get to Korean food and restaurant culture.  Moreso than other countries, there are very specific rules for Korean food and if you break any of them Koreans will visibly cringe.  Dip your slice of pork belly into pepper sauce rather than salty shrimp paste?  You have basically insulted somebody's ancestor.  Leave the country and never come back.  (I'm not kidding here -- I've had good Korean friends physically grab me and stop me from dipping into an inappropriate sauce.  And if you asked them, they thought they were being polite.)  Because?

3)  Korean food and food culture are awesome, but paradoxically if Korean food wants to make more progress in the global food scene it needs to (ahem) get the fuck over itself.  Yes, kimchi and doenjang and gochujang are unique and delicious.  Yes, certain dishes really are unique in the truest sense of the word.  But for all of the goodness that is Korean cuisine, there's basically an annoying attitude of control that goes along with all of it.  (Cf. number 2).  Why?

4)  South Korea remains, despite many appearances, a deeply (scarily?) authoritarian culture, and to have a "genuine" Korean cultural experience (food-related or otherwise) without the watchful gaze of a Korean person renders the whole experience inauthentic.  I'm getting more out on a limb here, but I think this is really the problem in a nutshell -- Koreans don't trust foreigners to fully appreciate what Korean food (and culture generally) has to offer on its own terms.  But guess what -- at the end of the day, it's just food.  You can find the most gregarious and talented Korean grandma to cook up a dish of, say, stewed chicken, but as delicious as it is it's still stewed chicken.  It's a great, unique Korean dish, but chances are a foreigner has probably had some variation of chicken, veggies, and a starch before.  That's what I mean by "get over itself" -- food is more universal than Korean cuisine will ever be profoundly unique.  Variations of meat, veg, salt, and starch exist in every country and have for thousands of years.

5)  tl,dr -- the perfect is the enemy of the good.  Until Korean food culture realizes this and tries to cater to foreigners rather than beat them over the head with the snowflake-y "authenticty" of Hanshik (Korean food) it won't go far, globally speaking.  There's no reason it has to be the next big thing, and maybe at the end of the day it lacks the basic adaptability of national cuisines that aren't nearly as anxious about changing as they go global.