Monday, 28 April 2008

Olympic Torch Relay in Seoul, April 2008: The Olympic Spirit is Dead

Thugs and goons. Thugs and goons. Thugs and goons. Thugs and goons.
Take that.And that. (feeling a bit cowed yet?)
Well, their intimidation tactics worked. Here's my new official line:

Soundtrack courtesy of Monty Python. Don't want to piss anybody off, eh?

Saw history today right out in my face, waving flags, noisy feet forward. Sure, it wasn't Ground Zero, Archduke Ferdinand-level history -- I won't get a book deal just for surviving it, but dear readers, I saw history nonetheless.

It started innocently enough -- I went to a Seoul Writer's club meeting near City Hall. . . but on my way over there, I noticed what looked like a new trend in fashion accessories: red capes with yellow stars on them.


On second glance, I realized what they were: Chinese flags. The Olympic Torch came through downtown Seoul on Sunday afternoon, starting at Olympic Park (where I lived in 2003) and ending in Jongno, by City Hall (where I live now.) You may have heard some rumours about protestors hectoring the Chinese Olympic Torch Relay -- over in Paris and London they caused a fair bit of embarrassment, and San Francisco bent so far backwards to avoid turmoil and embarrassment (and a pissed off exporter of cheap plastic toys, clothing, and shoes), that it wasn't so much a relay as a game of hide-and-seek.

Starting a fifteen minute walk from City Hall, the boosters came out in Red.
And the riot police buses came out, too.
I don't know where they got so many, huuuuuge flags (I know I took my wall-sized flag out of the suitcase when my luggage was overweight at the airport), but they were literally everywhere.

Recently, Chinese news sources and netizens have responded to protests and criticism with hurt outrage: the Western Media wants to sabotage our party; like ants at our Olym-picnic, those biased Western journalists want to ruin our fun! And meanwhile, back home, the propaganderthals in charge of the media are playing up the us-vs.-them narrative to stoke nationalistic rage.

(One of my students saw this picture and said, "Are we in Korea?")
Meanwhile, anyone who suggests that this kind of hurt-pride defensiveness is less than the best possible way to respond to the attack, is thrown, nay, hurled up against the wall, gored on the spike of nationalistic pride, slaughtered as a scapegoat: a Chinese student at Duke University had her picture and her parents' address in China published on the internet (scroll down after the link to see a youtube clip, and read the poison on the Chinese comment board, too). She was attacked on the net (and her parents house was vandalized) for stepping between a group of Chinese boosters and Tibetan protesters having a holler at each other, and trying to suggest that, in the spirit of free speech, the Chinese boosters ought to stop shouting down their pro-Tibetters. (She should have sided unthinkingly with her fellow Chinese and found something heavy to use as a weapon -- anything short of that proves she hates China and might be a spy, it seems).

Giant flag. Big as my classroom. And blurry. Moving quickly as they shook it.
Things are ugly back in the mainland, too, and even paralympic athlete Jin Jing, who protected the torch from protesters in Paris and became a hero to the Chinese nationalists, couldn't talk them out of their "Boycott Carrefour" fervour -- instead, they turned on her, too. It must feel pretty lonely to be ostracized by a 1.3 billion strong nation -- the most I've ever been ostracized by is an elementary school class of twenty-six.

(metal detector to enter the main seating area)

There's a new strategy in play with this [debacle] torch relay: it started in Australia, and will rear its head, no doubt, through the rest of the torch relay.

On Sunday, 6000 mostly young Chinese, probably overseas exchange students, descended upon the torch trail in force, wielding huge flags (big enough indeed to block a Tibetan flag from view), waving them, and chanting pro-China, pro-Beijing Olympic slogans loudly (loud enough to drown out any protesters, in fact).
This kind of a preemptive napalm-strike strategy works, insofar as it drowns out any voice of dissent in an ocean of unison, marching in lockstep, chanting in time, and they might have needed it: South Korea has its own grudges with China, including a historical grudge about the kingdom of Goguryeo, and (the big one) the Chinese policy of sending captured North Korean refugees back to North Korea (to near-certain torture and incarceration in a death camp). In fact, a North Korean protestor tried to jump in front of the relay route and set himself on fire in protest.

Here are some pictures I took, making a strong case for my need for a better camera.
I wasn't getting closer to the scrum than that. Robert "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough," Capa I ain't.


What you can't see is the torch actually moving along the column of gray-shirted police officers.

More pictures better than mine are here. (like this one: highly recommended link)

So many flags.
As far as I could tell, the basic goal of the Red Army Escorts was to haul any protester to the ground as fast as possible, hopefully before any media outlets pointed their cameras.

This Tibet protester was beaten down in the lobby of four-star Seoul Plaza Hotel -- I'm told the crowd is chanting, among other things, "Apologize" and "beat him to death," as the police surround him.


Bullying and intimidation, friends. When you don't want to listen to criticism, making a fist and snarling "shut the hell up" will do. It was kind of disgusting.

The Olympic spirit is dead to me.

(begin sarcasm) But you don't have to believe my account: take it from the Chinese media! (end sarcasm)

I mean, with this extra Nazi-twist, the western media IS piling it on pretty thick, but you're not winning any sympathy from me when stuff like this happens:

More video. Watch them fast, before the Chinese government demands they be taken down, and the news agencies (naturally) comply.

More pictures, courtesy of Stafford, and Smokehard via the Marmot's hole -- the downtown area where I was. . . with a better camera than mine. From Stafford: the biggest Tibetan flag scrum I personally witnessed (video here) was about ten meters over from where this picture of loyalists was taken.
Also from Stafford:-- just repeat the party line, louder than the dissenters. Effective strategy for their purpose.

See what the Chinese media are saying. And a letter written by Chinese students from M.I.T. -- worth reading (summary: give us a break; we're still a developing country. If you're still developing, why are you hosting the Olympics? Why jump onstage if you don't know your lines yet?)

8000 Seoul police came out to keep order.
The lump of red in the middle of the picture are Chinese flags thrown up to mask a bunch of Tibetan flags that had just appeared. Before the police got there, all the Tibet protesters had been hauled to the ground, overwhelmed by rabid China-boosters.

Vehicle escorts: a big bus gives protesters another obstacle to get around, and increases the chance they'll be intercepted before they can reach the torch.Coke led the procession in a shiny float. Write a letter to Coke and tell them you won't buy more Coke products until they withdraw their sponsorship of the Olympics.
Ditto for Samsung.
In the hotel lobby again.
The ugly, disrespectful (to Korea, to Korea's police force, and to Korea's laws about freedom of expression), disruptive behaviour of China's own citizens in Seoul and other cities is more embarrassing to China than any protest could be.


Some of the facts in this video montage are off base -- it's not a policeman stabbed, but a journalist hit by a projectile in the picture of the guy in green bleeding from the head, and I can't vouch for the text that goes with the footage in the other countries. . . but just look at the footage!

The Propaganda Olympics will go on -- really, whether they go smoothly or tank doesn't even matter to China anymore. Either they go badly, and China can use the embarrassment to stoke the "West hates us" resentment for their propaganda purposes -- a powerful, angry country full of rabid nationalists is just perfect if China decides to go expansionist, or the Olympics go well, and China can use it to strut and preen, declaring they're "arrived" as a major world player, and fuel the nationalism that way.

Last word goes to this kid: a sign held by a college-age student with big old glasses, standing quietly (but confidently: he has 1.3 billion brothers and sisters standing behind him).
It reads: "Respect the Olympic Spirit,
All men -- are brothers!
Interfere with China's internal affairs,
Annihilate -- in the far distance."

Somehow the first and last two lines don't quite match, eh? And how does the threat of annihilation fit with the proclaimed wish for a peaceful torch relay? Dunno.

Not that I was going to ask him: don't care to be wrestled to the ground and sat upon by 6000 angry China-boosters. Yup. The intimidation worked.

Possibly the worst person in the world...and some race-relations satire to balance it out.

It's like somebody took a checklist of awful/disgusting/taboo things and made a news story about it. All that's missing, really, is cannibalism.

Read here.

At least the people in my next post have mob mentality to partially explain how they went so far.

To balance out that big, heaping pile of disgusting, here's something funny.

You've all heard of the site "stuff white people like" -- one that satirizes the insularity of upper-middle-class white North American privilege (see also black people love us and rent a negro for a bit of satire along the same lines) -- boil all these sites together and you might end up with something like this (warning: sound starts automatically).

Well, here is my personal favourite answer to the "Stuff White People Like" viral (that site is going around the internet like mad these days, along with a few responses like "stuff white parents like" and "stuff everyotherethnicgroupyoucanimagine like" click here for a list of google results).

Stuff Stick Figure People Like
. And my favourite thing stick people like: the Sistine Chapel


Enjoy.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

I CRIE out for more! (what is a KimCheerleader?)

OK now.
For your soundtrack needs, hit play on the clip below, and start reading.

Mahna Mahna, by The Muppets (1976 version)

I'm heading into dangerous, controversial waters here. . .

There is a cultural phenomenon here in South Korea that partly comes from being sandwiched between China and Japan, two countries which have given Korea a great deal of historical grief. It just plain rankles here, that China and Japan continue to have more influence than Korea in geopolitics -- more people, more money, etc.. Due to this, Korea has the national equivalent of "Short Man Syndrome."

This phenomenon is not unique to Korea, of course: walk up to any Canadian and say, "But honestly, Canada's basically the 51st state, right?" and you might get a response something like this:



Try telling an All-Black rugby-player from New Zealand you like his Aussie accent, or mutter "Ireland is part of the UK, right?" to a leprechaun, and you'll be farting four-leaf clovers for a month, either way. Ask anybody whose teacher once said to them, "You know your older brother always handed in his homework on time..." people like to be known for who they are, and not just for who's nearby.

Add on top of this inferiority complex, a deep, intense (and, yeah, rightful) pride in Korea's current situation, having clawed out of abject post-Korean-War poverty, and developed into one of the richest nations in the world. Then, raise that to the power by which nationalism was programmed into school-aged Koreans during Korea's industrial revolution in the '60s '70s and '80s (as a way of unifying the people, suppressing dissent, and getting everyone to buck up and build infrastructure and industry without complaining, the way they needed to do, to [html nerd joke] [cliche] rise from the ashes of the Korean War [/cliche] [/html nerd joke]), and you have a fierce national pride that likes to show itself around.

You can see this here in Korea, in the large number of what The Joshing Gnome calls "Kimchi Boosters"; I'm debating whether to use that phrase, or coin my own: "Kimcheerleaders". These are the folks who will tell you that Kimchi cures SARS, that the Japanese language came from Korea (possibly, partially true), that Korea invented the printing press (partially true, though its effect was not as revolutionary here as Gutenberg's movable type printing press in Europe), that Korean is the most scientific language in the world (their lettering system is; the language itself is as messy and goofy as any living language composed of more than 1's and 0's).

This can be exploited: my strategy for getting a new class of students to like me goes as follows:

1. Explain I've lived here a long time.
2. Show enough knowledge of Korea's culture and history to prove my interest in them.
3. Compliment Korean food, hospitality, culture, language, etc., until everybody's smiling. It's really just that easy, as long as you play by the rules.

Now I have nothing against a healthy degree of national pride, and sometimes, the warm, deep pride some Koreans have in their country, the affection and ownership people feel for their culture and compatriots can be touching. At other times, it comes across as a bit needy -- you know the girl who walks around asking people, "Do you think I'm pretty?"

(bad language alert: Eliza Skinner as Amy, the platonic ideal of the needy girl)



But you know, every country is guilty of varying degrees of boosterism. In this post about sexy music videos starring underage girls, among many other things, esteemed K-blogger Gord Sellar mentions a "standard, near-universal conviction among Koreans that a positive image of Korea must be presented to the world" that makes a serious discussion about any Korean social issue nearly impossible, "as soon as it involves even one Westerner."

Now I don't mind being positive, but I refuse to be a sycophant just to get what I want (other than in the classroom), and so, when it goes too far, it is time for a reckoning. And Korea Herald, it is time you got yours.


There's something called "Hallyu" (what? Haven't you heard of it?) that is a source of oodles of national pride these days in the Republic of Korea. Basically, Korean pop music, TV Soap Operas, and some movies, have become quite popular in much of Asia and a handful of other places, because of high production values, more conservative/less racy content than what you'd find on American soap operas (love triangles, rather than wanton infidelity; life-threatening diseases, rather than gay romances; domineering mothers-in-law, rather than date-rape), and a closer similarity between Korean cultural values and other Asian cultural values, that makes it easier for other Asians to relate to Korean soaps than to American ones.

Awesome, right? It's great! Well, heck, yeah! But here's the thing. Because of that inferiority complex, the moment the Hallyu starts gaining recognition, that aforementioned tendency to be loud and proud kicks in.

Why am I writing about this? Any non-Canuck who's spent time around a Canuck has heard their Canadian friend drop a "He/She's Canadian, eh?" into a conversation about the likes of Feist, Jim Carrey, Neil Young, Michael J. Fox, or Steve Nash -- but here's the difference. [Most] Canadians don't twist a conversation around to the topic of basketball, just to bring up the fact Steve Nash is Canadian; we don't say things like "Godfather II, eh? Speaking of sequels, have you seen the Back To The Future trilogy?" just in order to squeeze in an exultant, "Michael J. Fox is Canadian! HAH!"

Some Koreans do. Not all -- many, maybe even most Koreans are rational about their nationalism, but the ones who aren't. . . well, clear the room, bud!

Stephen Colbert encountered the Kimcheerleaders: Time Magazine runs an annual online poll for "Who is the most influential person of the year?" You may have heard of Stephen Colbert. Having heard of someone would probably be an important requirement for being the most influential person in the world, yah? Well, turns out, a few Korean netizens heard about this Time online poll, and decided that Korean Hallyu popstar Rain should top the list, and started a ballot-box stuffing campaign that led to this exchange:

(which stirred up outrage among those same Korean netizens. . . what did you expect, goofballs?)

(Rain [or 비 - Bi, the Korean word for rain] himself: handsome, isn't he? Sure he is, but all my readers back in Canada and USA who don't have Korean roots or friends read Stephen Colbert's name and went "Oh, him," and then read the phrase "Hallyu popstar Rain" above and went, "Who?")

(update: call me a hater if you want, and nothing against Korea, but THIS does not happen to the world's most influential person.)


(soundtrack time: Feist. She's Canadian, eh?)

Mushaboom

Korea's pleased with itself about Hallyu, as it well should be, I suppose. Hallyulluyah! But this self-congratulation sometimes goes too far.

The Korea Herald, which fancies itself a legitimate news source, has been publishing a running series about the Korean Wave as it appears in various countries around the world. Here is their article about Spain, and it deserves, quite frankly, to be mocked. I don't hate Korea, I don't hate Hallyu, and I don't even have a problem with a series of full-page articles about Hallyu in a major English language newspaper (Korea Herald calls itself "The Nation's #1 English Newspaper").

But here's the thing: there is no hallyu in Spain! The first ten or so installments in the series covered countries where the Korean Wave was a true cultural phenomenon: in Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc., the Korean Wave merited full write-ups.

Now, we're on installment #32: Spain. I'm gonna write that number out for emphasis: THIRTY TWO.

The headline shows almost everything you really need to know about both the Korea Herald, AND the Korean Wave in Spain: Spain discovers Korea and crys out for more [sic]

Some choice snippets from the article:

. . .the majority of Spaniards may still have difficulty finding Korea on the world map. High-level visits from the King of Spain, politicians and members of parliament to Korea usually get little attention in the national media.

Meanwhile, Korean companies chose not to label their products as "Made in Korea," instead veiling them among well-known Japanese products in Spain.

Weak sauce, boys. Weak sauce.
In 2000, President Kim Dae-joong visited North Korea for the first time since the separation of the two Koreas. This historic news appeared in Spanish newspapers, which helped make Korea more familiar to Spain.

This is the best you can do? Why is this series still going? Keep grasping at straws. . .
The year 1999 was the year of letting go of Korea's inefficient traditions and actively seeking ways forward. However, there were negative consequences such as higher suicide and divorce rates, which nobody could ever thought of in a traditional, Confucius society [sic]. Women became more independent in all aspects, and new ways to choose partners for marriage were put in place following the changes in the familial values.
And this has to do with the Korean wave in Spain how?
Between 2004 and 2007, more than 13 Korean movies arrived in Spain, including "Memories of Murder," "Run Dim," "Two Sisters," "Samaritan Girl," and "The Host." During these four years, the percentage of Korean movies shown in theaters went up by 400 percent.
From 3 to 13. Wow, let me sit down before I get washed away. (sarcasm over) How did they do? Were they all unqualified smash hits, because if they weren't, why are you doing write-ups about the Korean wave in countries where there is none?
[Both Korean and Spanish movies] often tell love stories accompanied by violence and sorrow, but always end happily and humorously. Also, [Korean movies] indirectly show Korean culinary habits that are quite different from that of Spain. Besides the different food, what is more interesting to the Spaniards is how the food is displayed in a table based on a combination of colors, size and portion. There is no single way to eat Korean food. People can enjoy the liberty of choosing what they want to eat and how much they want to eat.
I know I only watch foreign movies to learn how other cultures eat. Don't you? Wait! Wait! There's a straw over there! Get it! Quick!
What can be done to insure the success of the Korean Wave in the future?. . . Given the fact that Korea is so little known in Spain, it may be more effective to target more traditional, historical Korean values and images than to make it modern, since this tends to fail to impress upon the viewers with a particular, rememberable [sic] image.

It is necessary to come up with a delicate marketing strategy to reach out to a larger population in the long term. Korean people are known to be peace-loving, integrationists and nationalists. They deserve to be proud of their own country and of escaping from the extreme poverty in the 50s and 60s with hard work and individual motivation. Spain finds all of these factors interesting, once they are exposed to them.

So basically, (you can read the full article write-up here, and if you look carefully, you'll discover my real opinion about it all) Spanish people don't know much about Korea, except newspaper headlines for major historical events, but a few Korean films have appeared there in film festivals, and it Spanish people might become more interested in Korea's culture if they were exposed to it more.

Does that just about cover it?

As I said before, from a newspaper that wants to be taken seriously, this is laughable, friends. Sorry. I don't mind national pride, I don't even mind a little boosterism for fun, but this Hallyu series has gone on too far, like this clip:



Yesterday they had the next installment, number 33, a summary of which might read, "a series of if/then speculations on how the Hallyu could gain a U.S. audience among non-Asian-immigrant Americans, and why Americans would like Korean wave TV soap operas if they watched them."

Korea Herald doesn't allow you to link directly to its articles, so I've imported the text onto pages of my blog: you can read the write-up about the Korean Wave in the US here. It's pretty painful.

Hallyu-wood is an amusement park about the Korean wave. Its site is a jewel of unintentional comedy and overblown rhetoric. (HT to Brian for this link and the clip below. . .)

I just wonder if the Herald's editors realize that these full-page write-ups of made-up speculation and KimCheerleading narcissism have the exact opposite of their intended effect: rather than making me think "Hey! Korean culture is awesome and it's spreading around the world!" writing like this, grasping for international validation where there is nothing but ignorance, instead shines a glaring spotlight on the aforementioned inferiority complex, and ends up portraying Korean culture as a little delusional, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, and self-important (as well as making the Herald look like nothing better than a propaganda-rag or a tourist brochure, rather than any kind of respectable news-source). Is it really THAT important for outsiders to think you're cool? Will you really not be satisfied until we give you what you want and write in reams of letters to the editor saying, "I never realized Korea was so great until I started reading the Herald!", like the self-esteem case moping around the party saying, "Do you think I'm pretty? God, I'm so fat!" and waiting for someone to say, "No, that's not true. You're beautiful"? Why does it matter so much that outsiders from every country approve of the Korean wave, that a major English newspaper will write a half-year-long series of self-congratulatory pieces that have devolved into near-fictions, speculations, and self-parodies? Will it not stop until there's been a full-page article on all 195 countries in the world? (Week 184: Vatican City: The Pope likes Lee Young-ae!)

Hallyuwood.

is an amusement part dedicated to Hallyu.
As any regular reader of this blog knows, I love Korea, and Korean culture -- if you don't believe me, take a look around. But if your friend has a bit of food stuck in his teeth, making him look silly, you'd tell him, "Hey, bud! There's something in your teeth," right? This kind of rabid boosterism makes Korea look foolish to any outside observer -- such a voracious craving for validation is a sign of insecurity, and friends, Korea IS a major player. . . if it'd only realize it is and start acting like one!


PS: Thanks, Brian, for the link love.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Best Conversation Topic in a While


"Cows with Guns" by Dana Lyons (as heard on Dr. Demento)


(don't forget to vote in the poll on the left)


This is an article about a fighting bull breeder who wants to clone his greatest stud, in hopes of maintaining his meal ticket -- this bull has sired a number of top bulls.

It's here, and it brought up a lot of interesting questions for my conversation class:

Is it an ethical decision, or just a financial decision for him to clone this bull? Is he playing God, or just trying to take care of his family, and his legacy for his kids?

What about if a popstar decides to get plastic surgery to increase her/his earning power/extend his/her career? Is that merely a financial decision, or are there ethics involved?

If you think it's wrong to clone a bull that breeds fighting bulls because it's playing God for the sake of an (ethically murky to begin with) entertainment spectacle, what about cloning, say, a seeing eye dog, or one of those monkeys that's been trained to find landmines? Yeah, the clone wouldn't have the skill automatically, but what if there was an especially smart seeing-eye dog or minefield monkey that took less time to train than other dogs/monkeys? Wouldn't it be our moral obligation to clone them and clear those minefields as fast as we could?

What about genetically modifying german shepherds to create seeing eye dogs that live longer?

Or making cats cuter?

If it's wrong to clone cats or genetically modify dogs, is it OK to do so with crops?

How is genetically modifying a plant different than carefully breeding it to bring out certain features -- it's just expediting the process, right?

Really interesting conversations.


"What?"


Here's the article text in full:

Breeder plans to clone 'genius' fighting bull
from the International Herald Tribune
By Victoria Burnett
Published: March 24, 2008

GUADALIX DE LA SIERRA, Spain:
He is a mean, magnificent beast. And during his 16-year life, Alcalde has sired scores of bulls that have proved awesome opponents for some of Spain's most celebrated bullfighters. Now, however, the splendid stud is in his twilight years, and his owner, Victoriano del Rio, has turned to science to safeguard his precious genes.

Del Rio, a fifth-generation bull breeder who sports a Barbour jacket, has decided to clone Alcalde, marrying cutting-edge genetics with one of Spain's most traditional enterprises. ViaGen, a cloning and genomics company based in Austin, Texas, will take cells from the aging bull next month in the hope of producing a double.

"This bull is a genius," said del Rio during a visit to the rolling pasture where the hulking Alcalde, or Mayor, grazed with a small herd of tan cows and calves. "If you owned a painting by Rubens, or Velázquez, you would do everything in your power to preserve it. Alcalde is my Velázquez, and I want to preserve him."

To the uninitiated, the matador is the star of the bullfight.

However, experts say a great fight is as much about the bull as it is about the man in the sparkly suit.

"The bull allows the matador to create a work of art, a beautiful dance. It's a joint performance," said Lázaro Carmona, a veedor, or inspector, who visits ranches on the matador's behalf and helps select animals for the fight. A strong, aggressive bull that runs at the matador's cape allows him to shine, he said. "I think the bull should take 90 percent of the credit for a matador's triumph."

Animal rights advocates dismiss such eulogies, saying the bull is an unwilling partner in a cruel contest that it is fated to lose.

Using cloning to produce animals that are doomed to a barbarous death adds insult to injury, said Leonardo Anselmi, president of an anti-bullfighting organization, Stop Our Shame.

"It's dangerous to put a tool like this within the reach of such ignorant people," said Anselmi, referring to breeders of fighting bulls. "Before we know it, they'll be crossing a bull with a tiger to see what new creature they can produce for their Roman circus."

Alcalde sires about 40 bulls a year, and an unusually high proportion of those turn out to be top fighters, said del Rio, who has about 400 bulls on the 485-hectare, or 1,200-acre, farm where he keeps Alcalde. The prize bull's offspring are sought by some of Spain's most famous matadors, and two of them so impressed Julián López Escobar, known as El Juli, that he had their heads mounted for display in his house, del Rio said.

Del Rio says he is motivated by curiosity and sentimentality, rather than money, in seeking to clone Alcalde, a process he expects to set him back about $50,000, including travel and transportation costs. ViaGen charges $17,500 for the first calf cloned from a cow or bull, a rate that falls progressively for further clones from the same animal. However, insuring Alcalde's bloodline could prove a worthwhile investment in an industry where the best bulls can fetch nearly $30,000.

Scientists will take the nucleus of a somatic, or nonreproductive, cell from Alcalde and insert it into an egg cell from a cow, from which the nucleus has been removed. The resulting embryo will be grown inside an incubator and then implanted in a cow to develop.

ViaGen, which has cloned cattle, horses and pigs, is in the process of trying to clone another stud for a Mexican breeder of fighting bulls, José Manuel Fernández. If all goes well, Fernández's clones will be born later this year, a few months ahead of del Rio's.

The question, geneticists and breeding experts say, is whether the clones will have the same qualities as the originals. A clone is genetically identical, but its temperament may not be, they say.

Carmona says he looks not only at physical traits, like the curve of a bull's horns or the way it gallops, but at the way the animal looks at him and what its behavior says about its "soul."

"The characteristics breeders look for in a bull, such as its strength and courage, have a lot to do with what it eats, its environment and how it is treated," said Estrella Cortés, a biologist who specializes in genetic engineering at the Open University in Madrid. Cortés said she was skeptical that del Rio's experiment would change the world of bull breeding.

It will be some time before success or failure can be determined, about six years, in fact. The clone will start to reproduce at 24 months, and its offspring will not enter the bullring until they are 3 or 4.

Del Rio recognizes his project may fail, but he says he has a penchant for experimentation. He looked into cloning Alcalde's father, Aldeano, about 10 years ago but dropped the idea because it would have cost the equivalent of $1.5 million today.

"If Victoriano succeeds, he will have discovered a new path for us breeders. But it's complicated," said Eduardo Martin-Peñato, president of the Association of Fighting Bull Breeders. "He may create an animal that is like a photograph of the original, but inside their characters could be very different. This is the great unknown."

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Free encyclopaedia britannica for Bloggers! (and a cool video)

Hat-tip to Japundit: wow, this'll blow your mind.


I have NO idea what it means, or who these amazing dancers are, but watch twenty seconds of this video, and see if you don't want to watch the rest.

Next: SeoulBuffoon turned me onto this: Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to push back against Weakipedia with its sometimes fishy information (fishmormation), by offering a FREE one year subscription to their online encyclopaedia to bloggers.

If you blog, and you want something a little more authoritative than woulditpleaseya, follow this link, and register your site. I did and it was absolutely painless.

And now, for some totally unnecessary information, that's cooler than normal unnecessary information, because it's FREE:

Mantis shrimp (Squilla)[Credits : Jane Burton—Bruce Coleman Inc.] any member of the marine crustacean order Stomatopoda, especially members of the genus Squilla. Mantis shrimps are so called because the second pair of limbs are greatly enlarged and shaped like the large grasping forelimbs of the praying mantid, or mantis, an insect.


MLA style citation:
"mantis shrimp." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 Apr. 2008 .

Thanks, Seoulbuffoon!

And, to celebrate free information on the internet (free information on the internet? who'd'a thunk?)
Come To Me, by Koop. Really, really cool song. Plus swing dancing. Dreamy. Give it a listen.

Completely randomly, my student introduced this song to me, when I was looking for a totally different song that'd been running through my head. She came in and said, "I found the song you were looking for. . . " and told me about these cats. Rarely has a student been so wrong, and so right, both at the same time.


(ps: don't forget the survey on the sidebar)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Family News, the Side-bar poll, and Youngme Nowme

Soundtrack time:
"One More Time" by a band called Jewelry, a kind of K-pop hottie supergroup. Kind of like Eric Clapton's old band Cream, or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, except with less rock legend and more sexydance.


Observe here some traditional Korean dancing styles (I don't, unfortunately, know the Korean names for old dancing moves like the classic butt-jiggle or the shoulder-wiggle torso-twist). Also note the traditional fashions they use to present the best of Korea to the world.

Also, you can play a game of "who's using pitch correction," if you listen to their singing.

This song has been emanating from every cosmetics shop in the downtown for three weeks straight, now, and that accordian/guitar chords riff has been bouncing through my head like a pinball all that time. And now it can be stuck in your head, too. Catchy, that's for sure.

Family news:

As some of you know, my sister, and my brother's wife both got pregnant last summer. Well, on March 25th, my brother's wife had a little boy named Silas David Oprivacyhand, and a week later, on April 1st, my sister made me an uncle twice in a week, with her little one, Aria April Jarvis. If you want to read the detailed stories, you can read them on their sites, but let's leave it at both babies are now home and healthy and doing baby things like crying, sleeping, eating, and pooping. But unlike other crying, sleeping, eating, pooping babies, I'm related to these ones! So I'm giggly and glad, and moreover thrilled for my brother, sister, and their spouses, who get to head out on the parenthood adventure. I'm limiting myself to two, small-sized pictures per niecephew, to protect myself from accusations of being a sappy, unclish goober.

My sister Deb was a really beautiful pregnant woman -- you can see the picture on her blog -- and I think she's a beautiful mom, too. You can see the feeding tube on Aria's face, because she was born a bit early, but she's doing just fine now, thanks. There are a few important reasons why this is a very, very special niece, and I can't wait to meet her.


Here's Silas David Oprivacyhand. My little brother announced they were having a baby during the last week I was in Canada before returning to Korea for this most recent stretch. I miss'em. Dan's a special friend to me, so I'm thrilled he has a kid now. I love the change that parenting brings to a person -- every friend of mine who's had a kid has turned softer and gentler in a really touching way -- it's just dead obvious that there's a new Most Important Thing in their life. I'm thrilled to have these lill'uns in the family, and they're sure lucky to have a cousin so close to their age -- that's how it was on my mom's side, with six or so cousins within five years of age, and the way we got along and connected together was really fantastic.

Now there's only one more of my nearest, dearest expecting, and she's also a beautiful pregnant woman, with two amazing little boys already. You can read more about how great she is here.

So then, two more links:

1. Thanks Mongdori for the sidebar love.

2. Found this really funny site: Youngme Nowme. You take a baby picture of yourself, and then a picture of yourself now doing the same thing, and the gallery is consistently cute and/or hilarious.

some highlights:






















































































You can now vote for my "next big blog topic" on the sidebar. Tell me what you want me to write about, or suggest a topic in the comments.