Monday, March 31, 2008

Why isn't THIS guy a star?

Just watch the drummer go. Just watch him.

(hat tip to the Marmot for telling me about this one.)
That's all.

Aw heck. With me, that's NEVER all.

More about what I discussed in the last post:

A little performance art from the metropolitician.
"Only in a society where plastic surgery, high heels, and makeup are OPTIONS, can they NOT be symbols of women's subjugation. Designer noses, stiletto heels, and prada bags can only be beautiful and fun when they are a choice, not a requirement for life." (this protest took place in Myongdong, the high fashion district in North-central Seoul).

(retired from the quotes of the day sidebar:)
Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.
- Anonymous

Friday, March 28, 2008

English is hard, soju, and ranting about objectification of women, yet again.

Soundtrack time: hit play and start reading.

nina simone - sinnerman. Boy, this song is great. Let it build. Listen to the whole darn thing.


Here's an ad for soju, Korea's national cheap alcohol (think Russians and vodka). Originally, soju was brewed from rice, but during food shortages in the 1910s and 1960s, laws were passed that required rice to be used for eating instead of brewing. The soju recipe changed: instead of brewing something using a process even vaguely traditional, they just took pure alcohol and diluted it with water and chemical sweeteners. The result is something I avoid drinking at nearly all costs, whose taste I liken to a cross between Japanese sake, cheap vodka, cheap tequila, and ass. It's cheap as spit and tastes like butt: it's the very definition of an alcoholic's drink. In fact, in the '90s, some companies tried to bring back traditional soju, prepared according to the pre-Japanese colonization methods, but because it was nine dollars a bottle instead of a buck fifty (and because they were released on the market just before the Asian Economic Crisis, when nobody had any money to spend on pricey alcohols, but had lots of sorrows to drown, as cheaply as possible), Koreans spurned the traditional drink in favour of the cheap-ass alkie sauce.

My nickname for it is "tequila light" because it's a little weaker than tequila, but it acts the same way: a tendency towards an angry drunk, and when you get drunk on it, it kind of ambushes you: you're fine, you're fine, you're fine, then suddenly you're really trashed. Anyway, here's a poster for soju I saw recently.

In an attempt to turn a negative to a positive, chamiseul is actually trading on the face you make when you ingest something disgusting, telling buyers that if your drink forces you to make this face (see below), ladies will reward you with coy smiles (bottom right, above) and showing you their bare shoulders while making wanton come-hither looks (top left, above: you just know she's giving him the guns with her hands just outside the frame).

Usually soju is advertised with pictures of really really hot girls (see below, and here), but if they decide to switch to pictures of men crying. . . well, I won't stare at the posters as much, but I'll giggle more.

It's actually kind of funny that in the west, a female star knows she's "made it" when she gets a contract with Chanel No. 5 or Elizabeth Arden, while in Korea, a female star knows she's arrived if she's asked to pitch for cheap alcohol.

Strolling about the downtown:

There are a bunch of nightclubs in Jongno which hire people called bikkis to try and recruit cute girls (and guys who look like they have cash) to go to their club (as a draw for males). The cuter a girl is, the more insistent the bikkis will be, trying to get her into their club. I've heard the bikki's behaviour defended as being "flattering" to their targets, but to me it looks like bald-faced sexual harassment. Yes. He's grabbed her hand, and is trying to physically pull her into the club. This is a common occurrence. I can't believe they haven't had their asses sued to high heaven for this kind of behaviour, and I'm trying to imagine how many kneed groins and pepper-sprayed eyes those obnoxious bikkis would suffer if they tried to pull this kind of garbage in a city like New York. As you notice above, passersby don't even give this kind stuff a second glance, and sometimes I can take it in stride, but other times, it really rankles.

A minute later two of his friends were helping, and the guy in the white jacket didn't want me to take any more pictures.

And you know, that "many girls just feel flattered" thing is garbage. I don't buy it anymore. "I'm flattered when they slaver over me for my looks" basically means "I've internalized the male gaze and sexist lookism so deeply that it validates me as a human to be fawned over and even harassed for my looks" -- the same way a rich person can go ahead and feel good about himself because he's surrounded by sycophants and yes-men/women, but in reality the respect he receives is a sham, completely contingent on his deep pockets, and has no reflection on his integral quality as a human being whatsoever. "She should be flattered when they try to physically pull her into the club" follows the same logic as "Well if she didn't want to be raped, she shouldn't have dressed that way," but to a lesser degree, and applied in a slightly different direction.

Here in Korea, women spend SO FRIGGIN' MUCH TIME on their looks, they wear mini-skirts in the dead of winter and cake on makeup and consider it a requirement of life. One of my (older male) students told me point blank that he thinks women who don't wear makeup are lazy. Some of them do it because they need to appear professional for their job; fair enough. Male bankers also need to be well-groomed. Some of them do it and they're honest enough to admit that it's mostly because it improves their social or business prospects. Some even get plastic surgery for that reason. (Korea has one of the highest per-capita plastic surgery rates in the world. The double-eyelid surgery is a common high-school graduation gift for girls.)

I'm still not sure what to think, though, of women who dress like a tart and then intone, "Oh, I don't even CARE if men stare at me. I just dress this way because it makes me feel sexy" (or even worse: "I dress this way because it makes me feel pretty. . . I hate that men ogle me just for expressing myself") -- is there a disconnect between self-perception and reality? Is that basically another way of saying, "I've internalized media beauty/femininity standards so deeply that I can't create an image of myself that I like without acting out the fantasy a sexist, objectifying media has foisted on me"? Or is it a little white lie because it'd sound cynical to admit "I put myself on display because I like the attention, or the benefits I receive from letting men stare at my legs"? What are the other options/rationalizations?

I mean, I'm a dude, so I don't really have the right to speak on anyone's behalf, and I ought to stick with asking questions instead of making statements about this business until I know more, but it upsets me sometimes to see women in Korea (and all around the world) tie so much of their self-image onto an impossible standard of beauty, and I don't know if saying, "I do it because I feel more confident" (that might be the number one excuse for women getting plastic surgery here) is a way of sidestepping the need to find a positive self-image based in one's character (because looks are easier, if you've got'em, and make a quicker first impression), or if it's basically an admission that they've internalized the image of beauty programmed into them by advertisers and beauty magazines. I'd prefer to listen before I speak on this topic, so to the women who read this: I'm very interested to hear what you think -- do you dress "sexy" or "pretty" according to some image or standard? Where does that standard come from, and why have you chosen to follow it? What do you think of the "It makes me feel confident/sexy" justification: does that hold water, and if not, where does it come from? Do you feel pressure to dress "prettier" or "sexier," and what do you do about that pressure? What are the other justifications people use for spending an hour in front of the mirror in the morning?

I mean heck, I get better responses from people when I dress nicely and take care of myself too, but I think of the outward appearance basically as something that can either help or hinder someone from getting to know, or wanting to get to know, the person I actually am, and I make sure that the reasons I love myself are not connected to things one would notice better when I'm wearing a bathing suit, or spot on first glance, and disappear when I get old, anyway.

speaking of sexism. . . so does that sign imply that being female is a disability, or am I just being obtuse now?

Some more Soju ads: I think they're selling sex here.

Look at the kittenish way the girl acts in this one -- the objectification of women in soju ads is really blatant, and often leans toward this type of childish persona.

This is Kim Ah-joong, one of Korea's hot young stars. Again, she really plays up the submissive role; this situation and her voice/body language makes me think of a hostess bar, where men pay women to pour drinks for them (and sometimes much, much more); the shaky camera work and the in-and-out of focus shooting makes it seem more like a first-person, slightly drunk point of view, and look at the way she makes eye contact with the camera, goes in for the "love shot" at the end, and calls the camera "oppa" which is the term for older brother common in hostess bars, because (again) it strikes a submissive and slightly childish pose.

Interestingly, that exact "love shot" was in the news recently here in Korea.

In other news. . .

Wires in the sky. Look at that tangle!

The Big Hominid (see my sidebar) "found the following at this nice blog:"

22 Reasons Why English Is Hard

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
22) He decided to comb the tomb to find the bomb.

Near my house: for the (dwindling number of) people who tell you there are no gays in Korea:
There on the door is the rainbow flag, the symbol for gay pride.
When my boss first walked me to my current apartment, he warned me and my coworker to avoid a certain street near our house, because homosexuals meet there. Neither of us quite knew how to respond to such a warning, so we made it into a running joke.

There was about a kilometer's worth of buses near chunggyechun stream on Friday: there are protests going on, and LMB (Lee Myungbak), Korea's new president, has promised to be tougher on protesters than the previous, socialist president.
Working as a riot control officer must be the most boring job in the world: "Hey. We want six hundred of you to sit in a bus for eight hours today and sweat in full riot gear, just in case something happens.

That's all for today. . . but any females still reading: I really AM interested to hear what you think about the questions I asked above.

(ps: thanks to James Turnbull from The Grand Narrative for the link and the kudos. I've been very interested to read your articles on sexism in Korea, and it's informed what I wrote here.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sometimes even pros get the words wrong.

Soundtrack: hit play and start reading.
Elvis was actually kind of a goofball. Listen to him crack himself up here.

hee hee. hair.

In case I didn't post this before, this is a new favourite photo of Seoul: it was published in the Korea Herald, and it's just fantastically beautiful.
This is the temple right across from COEX Mall/Convention center, a surprisingly quiet temple, given that it's across the street from Asia's largest underground mall.

On Friday I came across Boshingak right at noon, and they had their daily noon bell-ringing ceremony; for hundreds of years, they rang the bell here to mark the opening and closing of the daily market; the rang it on New Year's as well (as I wrote about here).

(more photos of Boshingak like the one above here)

Usually the gate's closed to the public, but at noon, four days a week, they open it up, set out the ceremonial guards, and do the traditional ceremony. You can walk in, and up, and see them ring the bell.

I'd never been before, though I've heard the bell toll at twelve: dear readers, it RESONATES! Several blocks away, through a few layers of buildings, I still felt that tone right in my guttiwuts. Figured I'd get a close up look at it, given the chance.

We marched up the line of guards you see here:
And onto the second floor, where the bell hangs. This stinker is HUGE, boys! YUUUUGE! Somewhere between four and five meters tall!

There were people in traditional Korean outfits standing around. . . I didn't find out what their roles or functions were.
The light was low, so it was hard to get clear pictures. This was one of the flowers engraved on the bell -- the bell was engraved all around, quite nicely.This guy looks like a guard: the fact he's holding a weapon gives him away, not like the other guys in red and green.

As always, the detail work in the gate was amazing: I love the colourful care given to every square inch of these Korean heritage buildings. Again, the lotus flower motif: lotus flowers are an important image in Buddhist traditions.When the ringer-thingy is INSIDE the bell, it's called a tongue, but I can't find what it's called when it's on the outside like this. The bolt? Dunno. Anybody out there know?

Anyway, they let some ordinary, not-dressed-in-hanbok people help the badass imperial guard guy ring the bell. But (see above) they had to wear white gloves, the way I used to do when I worked in the museum.Boy that bronze beast was noisy!

As always, there were people there with camera phones to record the event.

oh yeah.

As always, there were other people with cameraphones to record the event, too.

(ever heard this one:

Did you hear about the guy who held up a Korean tour bus? He stole all their travellers' checks!

Fortunately, police have 8000 photos to help them identify the suspect.)

Check out that badass costume, man.
Rarr! Ring that bell!
And line up for the group photo, after.
It was cool going in there and seeing the insides of the gate I walk past just about every day of my life. Glad I finally got that off my "things to do while I live in Jongno" bucket list.

This is Wood & Brick, the maker of the olive ciabatta I swooned over in an earlier post.
Soundtrack: hit play and keep reading.
Ella Fitzgerald - Mack the Knife, Live

my favourite word gum-up ever. Listen to the words. Howlingly funny. Might be her best performance of the song!

There's a place in Insadong where they make a special candy out of pulled sugar. They have an entire explanation/routine worked out involving chants, echoes and hups and shouts in unison or quick succession that's actually quite a ritual, entertaining and charming to watch--makes me think of some kind of litany or lullaby or something, and behind/above the little stand there's a tree
That is, from time to time, absolutely loaded with little birds raising up a holy racket and flitting from this tree. . .To this tree
All the noisy day long.

When it rains in Korea, everybody but everybody brings an umbrella -- even for just a little.

It creates interesting brolly landscapes like this
And this.
So many people, not a single face.

Near the entrance to Ssamzie Square (a very interesting new artistic shopping center that's a great new design, but has nothing to do with any kind of traditional Korean architecture I know of. . . except the presence of walls), you can see a little street-food stand that serves up a new favourite confection.

The stand looks like this.
It's a bit of sweet black bean paste mixed with batter and cooked on a hot, imprinted surface.

You get seven for a thousand won, and these ones are thinner, and thus crisper, than the ones I've gotten in other places, where they're too thick and battery. (The still-wet batter in the middle scorches your tongue at those places, but not here.)

The coolest thing is, the people who run the little stand are, as far as I can gather, deaf. All their serving and communication is done with gesture, and they're very nice.
And it's my favourite. The cinnamon-filled, oil-baked heott-ddeok you can get up the way is famouser, and often has a line wrapped right around the stand of people waiting to buy some (in the winter, no less) and it's really good, too, but I just kind of like these people. They make me smile.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thanks, Harry Connick Jr.

Soundtrack: hit play and start scrolling and reading.

Harry Connick Jr.: It Had To Be You

So a few months ago, I started seeing this poster, advertising a concert for "Harry Connick Jr." -- now, while I DO enjoy it, and even prefer it for swing dancing, jazz/pop/big band isn't usually my very, tippy-top FIRST choice of musical styles (that honour would have to go to singer/songwriter; thanks, Nick Drake, Tom Waits and Micah P. Hinson); however, from what I know of Girlfriendoseyo, and from what I know of Harry Connick Jr., I had a feeling they might like each other, and considering he built his reputation in New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz and all, and held his own opposite Sandra Bullock in the movie Hope Floats, I also had a feeling he'd have the charisma to put on a tootin' good show.

So the next time I was with Girlfriendoseyo, and we saw a sign for old Harry's show, I pointed it out to her. "Hey. This is an artist I like; I bet we'd really enjoy seeing his show together." (Sure, I should have tried harder to get tickets to see Bjork, too, but I just dropped the ball on that one. Still waiting for Radiohead to show up here; I'd skip a day of work to see THEM play.)

One of the first dates I went on with girlfriendoseyo was to see one of her favourite Korean pop singers, Kim Geon Mo, a beloved singalong popstar with a goofy grin and a really charming way of working a crowd -- between songs he had the whole Sejong Art Centre in stitches. The joy of live music is such a wonderful thing -- being part of a crowd, enjoying the same performance somehow connects people, and I feel like masks drop.

The band Wolf Parade
Even when I went to see Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, two indie-ish bands whose fans pride themselves on "Knowing more about music than YOU do," in Vancouver, a city with underground hipster-pride to rival Portland, Seattle, or Greenwich Village, where people say stuff like "I liked The Saber-Toothed Misanthrope BEFORE she sold out and made a CD," and where I saw a girl walking around in a tizzy of self-consciousness, trying to justify her presence at an INDIE ROCK SHOW by pointing at her shirt and saying, "I've got cred! I'm wearing an ironic T-Shirt!"

Yes, even at THAT show, once the bands started flying, there were a few moments where all (well, most) of those music snobs dropped their cooler-than-thou guards and actually shared something.
Eight months later, they might see each other in a record shop (vinyl, of course, NEVER *gasp* CD's), and realize, "Hey. I was at Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, too." And instead of saying something viciously critical of the show, they might just let their guard drop, meet eyes, and say, "cool. Me too."

Ironic t-shirts. For the emo in all of us.

At the Kim Geon Mo show, I saw something similar, some kind of communal joy, in Girlfriendoseyo's face as she sang along, off-key to the greatest hits and swayed her arms over her head, side to side for slow songs and forward and backward for fast songs (like everyone else in the crowd waving their goofy glow-sticks). It was charming, joyful, and sweet, even though I understand about 5% of the words being sung or spoken.

Kim Geon Mo's goofy smile.
So hell, yeah. I wanted to see a live show with Girlfriendoseyo! After a hiccup during planning: I had a brainfart, and rescheduled my last class for the Thursday BEFORE the actual show, and then had to make up classes THAT day AND the actual day of the concert, we went to see Harry Connick Jr. at the Seoul Art Center.

The man did not disappoint. He showed up with a full big band, and family in tow; the drummer was cooking, in all the right ways, and gave even a slow marching piece a kind of rhythmic drive. The band was tight as a pop-star tank top, and old Harry varied the pace, switched from big to small arrangements, and alternated between voice and piano as he ran the show.

He brought his daughters on stage and they talked about how much they enjoyed wandering around the Namdaemun market, and he made a funny face and groaned, "I wish somebody'd told me it's BAD to eat TOO much Kimchi." (Next time, if he and his family needs a guide around downtown Seoul, I'm in. Just get in touch with me on the comment board, Mr. C!) He said Korean women are beautiful, thanked the crowd for its warm welcome, riffed on how much he enjoys the Korean phrase for "thank you" (Kamsa'amnida), and by the time he sang a few lines from the Korean folk-song Arirang (which I've talked about here before), he had everyone in the palm of his hand.

His song selection was a tribute to his hometown, songs about New Orleans, written by New Orleaners, or (in one case) played in the New Orleans Jazz style. The sweetness and warmth of the man singing about his beleaguered hometown (sorry 'bout Katrina, eh?) was touching, and that emotion (in Korean it's called Han -- the melancholy wishing for a home to which we can never truly return) is one that's deeply embedded in Korean traditional art, so it's no surprise he connected with the crowd.

Between his daughters sailing across the stage on wheelies (shoes with wheels in the bottom) and cheering, "Go Korea!", and one of Harry's old buddies, who came out and wowed everyone with a trombone solo, and joked around with him on-stage for the rest of the show, even when he wasn't playing, the whole show had a feeling of a happy dude hanging out with his good friends, and when he danced as the big band carried the groove, he kept the crowd either swaying or laughing (the butt-shaking dance was goofy, but totally hilarious). By the climax of the show, and the encores, people were spontaneously standing up and dancing or swaying to the music, which is pretty surprising in Korea, where crowds are generally quite shy, even for local acts, and his ovation was wild. Harry himself was overwhelmed by the size of the crowd (he packed the place out, which he hadn't done at other venues on the Asian leg of his tour), and he was overwhelmed again when, by show of hands, the crowd revealed itself to be predominantly Korean (unlike in China, where most of the audience were North American expats, revealing that his local fan-base in China was still small).

(his daughters wore shoes like this)

Yes We Can Can - he sang this one at the show.

Girlfriendoseyo was beaming all through the last third of the show, and she was definitely charmed by Connick's fine, funny showmanship. It was great for me, too -- some musical styles are better on CD than live (things like mellow house, DIY indie rock (do it yourself can sometimes be pretty rough live), math rock or certain kinds of electronica where the layers and textures are the main point of the music, arguably classical) most musical styles are better live than in recording (rock, pop, songwriter stuff, arguably classical) by a reasonable margin, but big band and jazz in general is certainly right up there with the blues as musical styles where the live experience FAR FAR outstrips the recording -- enough so that I might even be inclined to argue you're wasting your time buying the CD. Girlfriendoseyo's been having a hella tough month with a handful of different kinds of stress flying at her all at once, but the show really got her mind off all the yucky stuff for an evening, and she told me she was so excited about Connick's performance that back at home, she put on one of the jazz CDs I gave her and danced around her apartment to it, imitating Junior's stylings.

That made me grin: she's almost ready for me to take her swing dancing!

So anyway, thanks a lot, Harry Connick Jr., for putting on a fantastic show, for giving your best and making my and my girlfriend's week; you made a new fan, and secured another one for life.

Here's Kim Geon Mo, the singer girlfriendoseyo really likes. . . the English version, no less!

Plus, lots of examples of his cute, goofy smile. He puts on a really good show, live.

From the website Japan Probe: There's a Ninja Festival in Mie Japan; your approaching death has never looked so cute.

And finally: survey of the day!
which bands would YOU skip a day of work to see live, and screw the consequences?

I'm gonna go with. . .
Modest Mouse
White Stripes
and Tom Waits. . . and that's about it.
And for Tom Waits, I'd probably even fly to Shanghai, if I had to.

I'd skip half a day to see U2, or reschedule all my classes, 'cos I've heard they put on a great live show, but I don't think I could bring myself to skip a full day for them, with all due respect. Ditto for Micah P. Hinson, Elvis, and Jimi Hendrix.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter! here's someone to pray for.

No soundtrack. This is sad stuff.

the North Korean Arirang Games: a propaganda gala that might just be the biggest spectacle on earth, performed yearly.

The Ryugyong Hotel, maybe the ugliest building in the world, and certainly a contender, was never completed. It would be one of the world's tallest, and during one year of the 1990s, North Korea put a full 2% of its entire GNP into its building, but bad engineering, no money, and low-quality concrete doomed it to never being completed.

Things are getting worse in North Korea. The food shortage has reached the capital, and Kim Jong-il's reign might be entering its death throes. That throws a wildest of wildcards into East Asian geopolitics, and meanwhile, people in NK are starving.

I went there once. . . you can read about it if you like.

These kids were chosen for the propaganda video, and probably trained brutally, because they looked healthier than the other kids in Korea. This article might make you cry: the reporter describes a hospital in NK, and the health care adults and children receive.

Follow these links. Read them. Let them break your heart, and then go call your local government representative, write letters, and ask them what they're going, and what your government can do, to help these people.

This is a series called "The Vice Guide to North Korea" -- an utterly fascinating account of a TV crew that entered North Korea as tourists, and poked around, surreptitiously recording things on camera (despite the risk of being arrested and detained for doing so). Their take on North Korea is really eye-opening, and sad as hell.

also, while you're writing letters:

Get mad, real mad, about the way China has stifled criticism about Darfur, Tibet, North Korean refugees, religious prisoners, rampant deforestation and pollution, and every other topic, in the lead up to these Olympics. It's EMBARRASSING that the Olympics are going to Beijing, given China's human rights record, and it's pathetic that no country is willing to step up, say "We're willing to pay more for cheap plastic toys, because China's behaviour is not fitting for a developed nation, and we will not send our athletes to such a violent, repressive, country, where groups and entire countries and cultures are dehumanized and repressed without accountability.

Every time China has been criticized, they're responded NOT by changing policies or improving the situation, but by counterattacking, smearing the critics, and increasing export tariffs to those countries, using its economic clout to stifle criticism.

Instead of discourse and reform, we get bullying and intimidation, and bullcrap like this.

The more I think about it, the more upset I get.

Ya gotta respect China for what they're doing (unheard of growth), but the way they're doing it just cooks my grill. And blaming the Dalai Lama for the violence in Tibet is the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard. . . this is a world leader, IOC? Seriously? (yep, that's right. I'm putting the SH-poop-word on here. I'm that fucking mad.)

This is an award-winning documentary about North Korea.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Saturday before Easter.

Red Cave by Yeasayers

This is a live version of the song I wanted to play along with THIS post.

There was a recent story in the Korean papers about a family murdered. (actually, there's been a spate of kidnappings and murders and missing childrenings lately; it's getting so bad it's even being reported in the English newspapers in Korea, which usually kind of forget to print news that casts Korea in any kind of negative light -- "Korean Player Pitches Three Innings and gets One Strikeout in Major League Baseball's Spring Training" "murder? what murder?" "Korean Soap Operas are Popular in Indonesia!" "serial rapist on the loose in a suburb of the city where Anglophone female readers might want to use the buddy system for a while? oh. . . let's just bury that one and hope one of their Korean friends warns them. there's no more space after that full-page writeup on the popularity of Korean movies in Laos." [sigh] that's why I get my news from the Marmot.)

But back to the death of that family, on a very, extremely tangentially related, and much lighter note, I found this picture on the internet and it made me snicker.

I'm writing this on a subway, on my portable word processor (yay word processors!) and I just saw a group of three older ladies (ajummas) standing near the subway car door waiting to get off. . . but the exit was on the left, and they were standing on the right side. When these ladies get together, sometimes you'll have a pocket of ladies who gaggle exactly like a group of middle-school girls --that excited, high-speed yammer-- but with lower voices and more throaty hisses for emphasis. Anyway, the subway car stopped, and they in their gossiping, still hadn't noticed that there was no platform outside their door, and finally when the doors slid open, one of them realized their mistake and hauled the other three ladies out the right door with all the comic double-take timing of Buster Keaton.

Another old lady just came up to me and fixed my collar, which was tucked under my vest, before she got off the subway. I love Korea.

These are the dumplings I can by near my house for four dollars (less, now that the won is dropping)

They're filled with hot, savoury liquid, and they're made while you wait by two fat ladies from China who barely speak any Korean, even less English, and one of them has a permafrown. They're amazing.

The Maxx: volume 4: "Besides, even if you COULD move a glass of water with your mind, you'd still be the same screwed-up person you were before, right?"

Now I understand waiting in line for something good, and I believe that some things are really delicious enough that it's worth it to wait a little longer. . . but there has to be a threshold, you know, where you have to say "Yeah, these steaks are better than steaks from GenericFamilyRestaurant (tm), but are they actually thirty five dollars better? Are they actually waiting in line for an hour better?" -- I mean, you have to draw a line somewhere, don't you?

And maybe the food in this Pomodoro restaurant is good, but is it really waiting forty minutes for a table and lining up out the door better than the lineup-free Italian restaurant around the corner? Maybe it's the old sunk cost fallacy: "I've waited twenty minutes; may as well wait thirty more and get what I came for."

At least it's spring; in the dead of winter, there was a special street-food stand in Insadong serving cinnamon-filled cakes (heott-deok) where the lineup would curl around the stand once, and halfway around again; people would wait forty-five minutes for these confections, and yeah, they were great, better than the other heott-deok available at other street-food stands, but forty-five minutes shivering in line in the winter cold better? Seriously? Why not come back in the early afternoon, or on a weekend, when the line is shorter? I guess they can do what they want, and sure, the longer line adds a little prestige or mystique to what you're consuming (I firmly believe roller-coasters would be half as fun if you just walked onto them without waiting in line: watching others get on and come off, seeing the cars rattle around on the tracks, builds up anticipation, and anticipation is a great experience-enhancer), but waiting forty-five minutes in the cold is a bit like paying the hundred-dollar extra "just because Koreans are so brand conscious, so we can, and screw you if you don't like it" prestige markup on brand name handbags in Korea. You can if you want, but I'm not biting, anyway.

Insooni is a pop-star, as far as I can tell. This picture of the singer is simultaneously both the best, and the worst popstar publicity photo I've ever seen. I'm still confused by what I'm seeing, and why it's both appealing and awful at the same time.
Let's look, and be confused together.

This restaurant has a giant mask on it. I kept waiting for it to puff steam out its nose and bellow, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! i am the great and powerful o-juh" (which is how Koreans, unable to pronounce the "z" sound, say "Oz").

Three-piece band. Sometimes I walk by them on my way to work. Yeah, I'm rubbing it in, but. . . What do YOU walk by on YOUR way to work?

Hee hee hee.

Today Seoul smelled very good. Walking around Seoul can be a smell adventure -- anything from boiling pig fat to spilled soju, fresh tempura street-food, raw sewage, garbage, garlic farts, cigarette butts or fresh bread and charbroiled, marinated beef can waft by and startle your nostrils at any given time, depending on the wind and such, but this weekend so far has been nothing but roasted coffee grinds, fresh belgian waffles, barbeque chicken, scorched rice (nurungji) and green tea everywhere I turn.

(if there were a function whereby I could apply a scratch-and-sniff patch onto your screen here, I would. And I'll be the first to buy a computer featuring such a feature.)

Oh yeah. and also spring. It's been smelling like spring more and more.


Happy Easter, everyone. It's the most important day on the Christian Calendar, and weather permitting, I'm gonna read the passion story on the top of a mountain tomorrow. That failing, I might even go to church again.

love you all.