Thursday, May 29, 2008

After moaning about Dunkins in my last post. . .

At least they got this much right: how to handle potentially/actually offensive content in an ad.

From the linked article, about a Dunkin' Donuts spokesperson wearing a scarf that unintentionally resembled the keffiyeh, a scarf symbolic of Palestinian jihad:

“Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, given the possibility of misperception, we are no longer using the commercial," the company said in a statement.
They pulled the ad entirely because of a possible misunderstanding of its meaning.

To Coreana (who merely rephrased a slogan and narration and attempted to smooth over a Nazi reference, and to my knowledge, is still running the offensive ad): are you listening?

(Update: Seoulpodcast says Coreana did pull the ad, finally, in mid-April.)
Hat tip to Sonagi and Gypsy Scholar.

(meanwhile, I can hear sirens in the distance from the beef protests. Hundreds, maybe thousands of North Koreans die weekly in death camps or of starvation, and South Koreans save their outrage for American beef imports???)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Roses in Samchungdong

Soundtrack: hit play and start reading. The Shins

Song: Red Rabbit

On Sunday, before seeing Indiana Jones together (enjoyed it. Love the kitchen-sink action sequences of the Indy series...) I spontaneously suggested to Girlfriendoseyo that we meet a bit early and stroll around, because the weather was nice.

I had no idea we'd be mugged by roses once we got to Samchungdong.

Girlfriendoseyo was like a kid in a candy store.

She described this wall as "a waterfall of roses."
Words. Superfluous. Look.

But. . .

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
--Yogi Berra

Samchungdong is in danger, dear readers. Dire danger. The dastardly Dunkin Donuts dilemma: people like what's familiar, but the appearance of a chain like dunkins seems to me a blight on a cool, hip little neighbourhood of Seoul. What's next? A stinking starbucks? We have enough of those already. We don't have enough Samchungdongs. It's the old dilemma -- people find a hip neighbourhood that's free of the trappings of chain stores and corporate crap; word spreads, it becomes a hot-spot, so the chains move in, in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the neighbourhood, and because they have the resources to squeeze out the hip little independent coffee shop owners who play unique, funky music and let you write your name on the walls, and make a panini you can't find anywhere else. In the corporate attempt to cash in, the mucky-mucks and their cookie-cutter franchises dillute the unique colour that made the neighbourhood into a hot spot in the first place, it gets co-opted, and starts to suck.

The same thing happens to pristine "best-kept-secret" beaches in south asia -- a few intrepid backpackers blab, word spreads, and suddenly all the reasons people had for going there in the first place get squeezed out by the usual tour groups and noisy camera-toting bus-touring foreign currency-monkeys, to the point that you say "Phuket! Forget these hidden-away hovels! I may as well just go to Phuket after all."

Dunkin Donuts in Samchungdong. . . everything that is wrong with the (corporate) world. Is there no remaining refuge?
One more gripe about Samchungdong: Too. Many. Waffle. Houses.

Don't get me wrong: I love samchungdong! Even the waffle houses can stay, if they're nice, and each different from the other. But dunkin's has got to go.

This is an ad for Stylish Beer -- if you drink it every day, you'll look like her . . . I swear!
A Jewelry shop in Jongno 3 ga. (a site dedicated to jews in rock music, including their patron saints, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen) ought to know one of their indie stars opened a jewelry store. Maybe Ben Kweller?

Korean store openings: across from the entrance to my work last week were these, gyrating inflatable phalluses. They skimped on the sexy dancing girls, though (a mainstay on the Korean grand opening circuit). One was there, but she didn't dance much, and mostly just talked.

The air compressor makes the phallus twist like this:This is how you open a business in Korea, almost without exception.

More US Beef protests this weekend. They're starting to get rowdy -- people were arrested over the weekend, and the left-wing, anti-American string-pullers are more open about the real motivation behind their misinformation campaign to smear American Beef's reputation.

Han-woo (that's what the first two syllables on every menu item reads) means "Korean Beef" -- stores are starting to advertise their Koreanness in the beef department.

Almost every beef-serving store had "hanwoo" stickers up by their entrances, advertising that they only served Korean beef. Whether the signs can be trusted or not is another matter. Whether Korean beef is even safer than American beef at all is also completely unknown, because the Korean Beef industry has refused to allow mad-cow risk-assessment organizations to inspect their farms and slaughterhouses.In Korean, saying "Majah majah majah" (the equivalent to "OK OK OK OK") is a way of saying "I'm listening intently," while to English speakers, repeating "OKOKOK" is a sign of impatience, tantamount to saying, "I get it already -- move on". . . this can be a source of misunderstandings between Koreans trying to show they're listening carefully, and Westerners who think the Korean is acting impatient.

You know you're in Jongno 3ga when. . .
If you've ever told someone, "I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot-pole!"
Here's the guy to call:
Lush is a soap, etc., store. I love the goofy names of their fragrances. "Sonic Death Monkey" -- a must-have body-wash for those early mornings when a little giggle will help you wake up.
'nuff said.

be well, all. That's it for today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interesting article for a conversation (class)

Life is risk. . .

After an exhaustingly long post/response cycle on the "Korea Herald" post...

I read this: some very interesting food for thought.

soundtrack: Cat Stevens

Where do the Children Play, with clips from "The Lorax"

Rosa Brooks, a columnist from the LA Times:

Remember 'go outside and play?'

Overbearing parents have taken the fun out of childhood and turned it into a grind.
May 15, 2008

Can you forgive her?

In March, Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mother, gave her 9-year-old son, Izzy, a MetroCard, a subway map, a $20 bill and some quarters for pay phones. Then she let him make his own way home from Bloomingdale's department store -- by subway and bus.

Izzy survived unscathed. He wasn't abducted by a perverted stranger or pushed under an oncoming train by a homicidal maniac. He didn't even get lost. According to Skenazy, who wrote about it in a New York Sun column, he arrived home "ecstatic with independence."

His mother wasn't so lucky. Her column generated as much outrage as if she'd suggested that mothers make extra cash by hiring their kids out as child prostitutes.

But it also reinvigorated an important debate about children, safety and independence.

Reader, if you're much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called "going out to play"?

For younger readers, I'll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house -- as long as they were over age 4 or so -- went to the door, opened it, and ... went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they "played."

"Play," incidentally, is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

All in all, "going out to play" worked out well for kids. As the American Academy of Pediatrics' Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg testified to Congress in 2006, "Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles. ... Play helps children develop new competencies ... and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges." But here's the catch: Those benefits aren't realized when some helpful adult is hovering over kids the whole time.

Thirty years ago, the "going out to play" culture coexisted with other culturally sanctioned forms of independence for even very young children: Kids as young as 6 used to walk to school on their own, for instance, or take public buses or -- gulp -- subways. And if they lived on a school bus route, their mommies did not consider it necessary to escort them to the bus stop every morning and wait there with them.

But today, for most middle-class American children, "going out to play" has gone the way of the dodo, the typewriter and the eight-track tape. From 1981 to 1997, for instance, University of Michigan time-use studies show that 3- to 5-year-olds lost an average of 501 minutes of unstructured playtime each week; 6- to 8-year-olds lost an average of 228 minutes. (On the other hand, kids now do more organized activities and have more homework, the lucky devils!) And forget about walking to school alone. Today's kids don't walk much at all (adding to the childhood obesity problem).

Increasingly, American children are in a lose-lose situation. They're forced, prematurely, to do all the un-fun kinds of things adults do (Be over-scheduled! Have no downtime! Study! Work!). But they don't get any of the privileges of adult life: autonomy, the ability to make their own choices, use their own judgment, maybe even get interestingly lost now and then.

Somehow, we've managed to turn childhood into a long, hard slog. Is it any wonder our kids take their pleasures where they can find them, by escaping to "Grand Theft Auto IV" or the alluring, parent-free world of MySpace?

But, but, but, you say, all the same, Skenazy should never have let her 9-year-old son take the subway! In New York, for God's sake! A cesspit of crack addicts, muggers and pedophiles!

Well, no. We parents have sold ourselves a bill of goods when it comes to child safety. Forget the television fear-mongering: Your child stands about the same chance of being struck by lightning as of being the victim of what the Department of Justice calls a "stereotypical kidnapping." And unless you live in Baghdad, your child stands a much, much greater chance of being killed in a car accident than of being seriously harmed while wandering unsupervised around your neighborhood.

Skenazy responded to the firestorm generated by her column by starting a new website -- -- dedicated to giving "our kids the freedom we had." She explains: "We believe in safe kids. ... We do NOT believe that every time school-age children go outside, they need a security detail."

Next time I take my kids to New York, I'm asking Skenazy to baby-sit.,0,3304418.column

Monday, May 26, 2008

My final word on Korean beef. . . lolcows!

Is said best with lolcows.
(for background information: lolcats is one of the dumbest internet memes out there. See more here.)

For other, more worthwhile posts, on topics that actually merit discussion, skip to the next post.

Whew! That's my week's quota on stupidity in a single post! (Not that that's ever stopped me before.)

Send in YOUR lolcows picture, and I'll post it here... roboseyo [at] gmail [dot] com

Thanks, Lunalil, for the link.

A perfect marriage of music and video: Alice, by Pogo.

You've never seen Alice in Wonderland like this before. . .

The song is "Alice" by electronica artist Pogo, who used samples from the movie to make it. More about Pogo here.

One of my five favourite albums ever was also about Alice in Wonderland: "Alice" by Tom Waits. Tom Waits is one of those otherworldly artists who took a full three years to grow on me, but now that he has, I literally can't get enough. In my opinion, the greatest lyricists of the rock era were:

1. Leonard Cohen
2. Tom Waits
3. Bob Dylan

Here are two of the prettiest songs from Tom Waits' "Alice" album. The album is odd, funny, strange, wildly fascinating, lyrical and haunting, but these two are sure gorgeous.

Fawn: Melissa says the violin's bow needs more rosin.

I'm Still Here

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Photos, and A Message for my Korean readers, when a Canadian mentions Terry Fox to you. . .

To my dear Korean readers:
Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. He is as important to us and our view of who we are as Gwanggyeto, Yi Sunshin, or Yu Gwan-sun is to you. He lost his leg to cancer, and instead of giving up on life, he tried to run across Canada (the second largest landmass) to raise money for cancer research. Just before he reached the halfway point of his Marathon of Hope, he had to stop, because the cancer returned, now in his lungs. He was hospitalized, and he died in a coma about a year later, in 1981. His story is heartbreaking and inspiring.He is a Canadian hero, so, my dear Korean readers, when your Canadian friends mention him, it is not considered appropriate to say "Oh. Like Forrest Gump." That's about tantamount to saying, "Yi Sunshin -- oh. He's great. Like Luke Skywalker." Except worse, because Star Wars is a better movie than Forrest Gump.

Terry and Forrest: NOT THE SAME


Every freaking time I've mentioned Terry Fox to Koreans, they've compared him to Forrest Gump, and it just sticks in my craw to have one of Canada's greatest citizens thoughtlessly trivialized by comparing him to the least believable segment of Tom Hanks' sappiest movie. (And Tom Hanks' sappiest movie. . . that's really saying something. That's like Marlon Brando's weirdest episode, or George W Bush's most inarticulate sentence, you know?)




Don't trivialize my culture, please.

Now that that's off my chest. . . pictures.

Soundtrack: Freddie Robinson. Hit play and start reading.

Title: Off the Cuff

From the weekend of the 12th, and the weekdays in between.

Another soju ad: she's not my type, so I don't find this one particularly attractive, but notice the colour combination. . .
I suddenly have a craving for watermelon.

Just take one letter off, and you can't quite pin it for copyright infringement, can you? Meanwhile, a K-pop band just released a song titled, "I cannot get no satisfaction." (not really)

Near Jongmyo park:
Basically, anything long and thin is considered good for a man's "stamina" and maybe even other stuff, here in Korea. (eel is too)

My sister brought her kids to visit my brother, who's a new father. As you can see, his kids are going to laugh a lot as they grow up.
Carrie-ann (left) hasn't quite gotten the hang of making funny faces for the camera (though her oldest brother got photographed so much he'd learned to pose by age two), but Bethany sure knows what to do.

On the phone, my sister-in-law summed up being a new mother about as well as I think I've ever heard: "It's the best, hardest thing I've ever done."

Only my Canadian readers will understand this.
There it is. What's the problem?
NOOOOoooooo!I'm out of Tim's coffee. I bought a package of Starschmucks, but it's so strong I've been hopping all day long on the caffeine buzz.

The roses are out in force in Seoul.
Near Anguk station.

In Jongno 3ga station: this picture sums up exactly what I love about the Jongno/Gwanghwamun area.

Signs like this are actually illegal, because they block pedestrian traffic.
On windy days, they also blow over and sometimes hit pedestrians.
A few windy days ago Girlfriendoseyo said to me, "Don't go outside. The wind blows over illegal signs and they hit people sometimes." (In Korean culture, this kind of fussing [which in N. America is the domain only of mothers] is considered endearing, and a sign of high affection between lovers as well. It may include gestures like over-assiduously fixing my appearance [ie, straightening my collar, smoothing wrinkles on my shirt, and even cleaning out my ears] and encouraging me to eat far beyond the point when I'm satisfied. Exgirlfriendoseyo once even reached over and tried to cut the meat on my plate for me, which, as any North American knows, is one of the cardinal sins of Western eating etiquette: Hands off my grub, honey! These attentions are meant affectionately here, though a North American sensibility would read them as patronizing and a little intrusive.)To her warning, I answered, "Cutie, I'd rather die, killed by a street sign blown over in the wind, than live a life where I'm afraid to go out in the wind, on the off-chance I might." And I'm pretty sure I meant it. (Knock on wood... no need to tempt the gods of irony.)That one looked pretty bedraggled after a long, windy day.

My daily snicker: restaurant signs that say "homemade"
So, did you make them at home and bring them to the restaurant? Has the health inspector certified your kitchen at home? Or do you sleep in the restaurant at night, so it is your home? Why not say "made fresh" or "made fresh on site" -- doesn't have the same ring, does it? Anyway, unless you're at someone's house, it's always a misnomer, and makes me grin.

Seen near Sinchon: my family name's Oprivacyhand, so considering the way I came up with my nickname Roboseyo, and then extended the 'oseyo' suffix to everything else around me (joboseyo, girlfriendoseyo, officeteloseyo, bossoseyo, poposeyo [that's you, Dad]), this seems like the best name for the family pizza chain:
If they open a sister franchise called Pizzaseyo, I'm gonna flip.

New to the "hire a proofreader, nimrod!" file.

You pretty much don't find better pictures of ol' roboseyo than this: girlfriendoseyo took this one, and I guess she just brings out the best in me.
This is Lee Hyori, an entire cultural phenomenon unto herself. (See James Turnbull, here here and here and especially here for a start.)
Advertising a waterpark. I do believe if we created a database, we'd discover that Lee Hyori has officially now been pitchperson for every product made in Korea.

Speaking of which, here's 조수미 - Jo Sumi, Korea's top opera star, (very good) apparently using her décolletage to try and convince me to sponsor hungry children.
I think they told her "Every inch you lower your neckline, another thousand children will be sponsored!"

Not a bad idea -- showing skin for world hunger. Too bad there isn't a slogan they can use that's as catchy as "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" to justify it.

At the Leeum near Itaewon: giant spiders.

Re: Mad Cow Public Hysteria in Seoul: I don't really want to talk about it. Read this, this and this instead.

Some pictures, though: students gearing up for a protest.
An old guy in Kinko's, very thoughtfully making a tract to be handed out later:

Don't know what it said, but he seemed to be giving it a lot of thought.Seen in Seoul: a girl wearing a t-shirt with an arrow to her right, (like the "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts), that said, "I think he's gay."

Some more Buddha's Birthday weekend pictures:

Buddha's birth, from a lotus flower:

On Buddha's birthday itself, at Jogyesa, people lined up around the corner to go in and pay their respects to Buddha.Lining up to pour water onto a statue of the Buddha.
As you can see, the coloured lanterns hanging above the main courtyard made a pattern.
They were kind enough to put an aerial photograph up, so we could see the pattern the lanterns made. These people are all lining up to bow to the Buddha.
(there he is, presumably very pleased with himself, all the adulation he's receiving)
There was a sign that said "3000 bows ceremony" 3천배
That's right. These people each bowed, face down, and stood up, 3000 times (or, I suppose, until exhaustion - whichever came first. You'd need to train for Buddha's birthday the same way you train for a half-marathon!)

All chanting, with each bow, "석가모니불 석가모니배" which, if memory serves correctly, means "Buddha heaven , Buddha bow" -- feel free to correct me in the comments if you know better.It was pretty impressive to watch them all go.
The lamps hanging from above were in two sections. The coloured ones you saw above were above the main courtyard. There were also some white ones on the other side of the main temple.
The white ones, Girlfriendoseyo explained, are prayers for the dead.
While the coloured ones are prayers for the living.
See the contrast.
Last one: saw a girl with her grandma, who insisted on climbing each of the sidewalk barriers and jumping off it, and that made me think how, if I were four, I'd want to do exactly the same thing with a bunch of just-climbable-height barriers. Have a great day, dear readers. Go climb something, and jump off it, just because you can.