Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jens Lekman at Freebird

Yesterday night I saw Jens Lekman sing at Freebird in Hongdae. It's rare enough that the kinds of artists I like play in Korea, because I generally go for the indie, undergroud, DIY songwriter stuff that doesn't show up on a noraebang playlist, so when Jens came, I had to try and catch him.

He was good. First off, if I can rock a receding hairline as well as he does, I'll be in good shape if I ever lose my hair. Second, that mopey crooney voice, along with fun arrangements, some bouncy twee pop and a light touch, made for a night of good music, if not the kind of thundrous arena rock which has people spinning out their car tires in the concert hall parking lot.

Finally, I swear, two thirds or more of the females there had epic crushes on this cat... which goes to show what you can do if you have a moon-spoon-croon kind of voice. If you don't know Jens Lekman, you should give him a try: his last two albums have both been listenable, clever, fun music that isn't too intrusive on your Sunday afternoon tea.

It was fun; I for one, particularly enjoyed the light show, and of course, I made a video.

He's playing again tonight at 7pm in FF Club, a few doors down from Jokerred, in Hongdae, if you're in the area. Catch him if you can: who knows when the next time a sensitive but fun hipster whispery white-bread crooner-songwriter my-girlfriend-has-a-huge-crush-on-this-pop-singer-with-widows-peaks-who-wears-plaid-collared-t-shirts-in-publicity-photos will come to town. (Sufjan Stevens, anyone?)

Ssomi and Roboseyo

For you, Joe. I liked this one a lot.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The final say on How To Order Takeout In Korea

So Tuesday's Borrower and her fiancee sent me a video breaking down the "ordering takeout" conversation that is very informative, and funny, and I edited it to be a bit less chatty, and added a bit of roboseyo spice, because DB don't do that video editing stuff too good. (She's a very good writer, though).
Watch it. It's cute.

then they did a final run-through of the conversation, so you can hear what to expect.

These are a nice companion to the stuff I posted earlier, found by Otto, and done by Mr. Ed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FIle under WTF: Toys in Dongdaemun Market, Bum Jokes in Korea

Bum and poop jokes are a refined art here in Korea:
see Zenkimchi and Brian for more.  (Especially this one.)

Knowing this makes it no less surprising to come across something like this.

Found in Dongdaemun Market.

Uhh... yeah.
And that's all for today, folks.

Stay warm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Uhh...that's weird.

Blogger analytics tells me that two people found my page by googling "Roboseyo nude" today...


Now Brian has a feature on his page where he checks the google search keywords that brought people to his page, and sometimes writes about the things people typed in to learn about, and found their way to his site instead -- to fill in the information gaps, if you will.

I thought I'd be similarly obliging, for my (creepy) fans.
Here you go.  A Roboseyo nude, for whoever that was that wanted it.
Have a good day, weirdo.

*special note: no, just because I obliged this one time, I still will not post photos, no matter how often you google "Roboseyo bestiality gay foot fetish tentacle porn"  Sorry, Evil Jennifer.

Dec 2: Update: Somebody googled "Roboseyo Bestiality" three times yesterday. Not gonna do it. Nope.

Making Your Way in Korea: Ordering Food: "Tell Me That's Not Awesome!"

Under the "Awesome Things about Living in Korea" file, Otto Silver, at "I, Foreigner" has a helpful, informative video about ordering food to your home in Korea.  Takeout Delivery is a wonderfully cheap, and convenient part of living in Korea, and it's not hard.

**Update/correction: I am told, by the Otto himself, that it is not him in the video, but simply a video he found online.  My bad.**

Here is Otto's Video [correction: the video otto found], which goes step by step through the process of ordering food, and even tells you what to do with the dishes afterward.

Here's all you need to know:

1.  Enough Korean to read the restaurant menus they stick on your door or hang on your apartment door handle.  (And you have ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for not learning this much Korean, when the Korean lettering system is so easy to learn.  Go here.  Or go here to do it by video.  It's a bit "Golly gee, this is SOOOO simple!" but it's well laid out.  It doesn't take very long, especially compared to how long it took you to read English: King Sejong, the guy who helped design them, said, "These twenty-eight letters are so simple and precise that the wise can master them in one morning and even the fool can learn them in ten days."  So quit your whining, quit procrastinating, and learn them, before we have to get Mr. T to pity you.)
2. The address of your apartment, in Korean.  Get your Korean coworker or your boss to help you with this if you're not sure.
3. The numbers, so you can tell how many of each thing you want.
4. The Korean names of a few foods you like.

Here's all you need to have:
1. A phone.
2. A flyer from a restaurant.
3. A little cash.
4. An appetite.

Otto uses the phrase "Hangug-eo chogum arayo"  "한국어 조금 알아요" which means "I speak a little Korean."  To Otto's very helpful video, I want to add two phrases that would also be useful in this situation (and many others):

"Hangug-eo chal moatt-hae-yo" "한국어  못 해요"= literally, "Korean well can't speak" -- I don't speak Korean well.


"Cheon-cheon-hee mal-hae-juseyo"  "천천히 말해 주세요"= literally, "Slowly speech-make-please" (juseyo actually is the polite form of "give," so it literally means "give me slow speech please" or paraphrased, "please speak slowly"... I'm not sure if that's grammatically perfect...but when you're telling someone you can't speak a language well, bad grammar might help you get the point across more emphatically, anyway.

Here's Mr. Ed, to help you with those two phrases.  The pronunciation is Roboseyo-CanucKorean, rather than perfect Seoul Korean, but it'll get you through.

Have fun ordering your food!

Plus, Otto has a kind of funny address: there's a little squeaker noise in there.  I wonder what neighbourhood he's in: maybe this guy lives nearby.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Want something to get mad about? How about this abortion of justice.

 Extended family members look after handicapped girl, repeatedly rape her, get suspended sentence in order to take care of her in lieu of parents.

HT. to Brian in Jeollanamdo, who continues climbing the "Must-read K-blog" charts.  Me, I got nothing.  If I say more then twenty words about this I'm going to lay down a rant so vitriolic that unicorns and elves will be killed by all the evil will and poisonous bile pouring out of me.

Saturday Night Fun-Times

So on Saturday night, The Hub Of Sparkle's first Sparkledown was held near Hansung University, and it was hella fun.  Cheesy McCheesington was there, and her happy, shiny review of the night is more joyful and excited than anything I could write, so I'm just gonna quote from it, as a pretty good reminder of why it's important to expand one's circle of friends and connections while living in Korea, and how much being connected and putting oneself out there (for more than just drinking binges in Hongdae, if possible) enhances one's experience here:
Last night was probably one of my best nights in Seoul. For the past nine months, I've been lugging this sense of isolation and loneliness and un-bliss around inside The Belly. And last night, I feel like the ol' uterus of my soul gave it up and I birthed friends. A community, really. A community of like-minded and beautiful people who drink good beer and have deep, authentic conversation and at the same time have ridiculous non-conversations and laugh really hard at each other because we are happy and not alone. Well, at least, I was happy and not alone.
You should read the rest, too.  In fact, the post before that, where DreamoMcDreamington decides to attend the Sparkledown in the first place, is quite the read as well (skip to the second half).  Wanderchomp Korea, another new K-blog, also attended, and has a similarly great time.  His post was titled, "A Night of Awesome" and it kind of goes from there.  Here's his closing:
Home isn't about a building or a location, it's about the people in your life. I've got my family, and now I have friends. I'd like to think that the Night of Awesome is the start of something special, perhaps a new home for all of us to build together. I hope so.
So, between Danielle's birthing uterus of joy, and Wanderchomp's sense of home and connection, I'd say the night was a success just on that alone.  FatManSeoul took pictures of the whole thing, and I'm looking forward to her finding some new wireless internet to steal in her building, so that she can upload the pics at the Hub Of Sparkle or something.  Until then, here are the pictures I took, which probably won't be as good as hers.  These are also available at the Hub of Sparkle's facebook page.  There were some good conversations, some great laughs, some tasty drinks and side dishes, and then some more great laughs, and some smart people really worth talking to and listening to.

[Update: Kimchi For Breakfast also attended, and finally blogged about it.  You can read here.]

Enough bloggers attended that there was occasional confusion about whether to introduce or address each other by our handles or our real names, exacerbated by the fact Roboseyo really IS my nickname.

So to everyone who came out, Thanks for coming out!  It was really nice to see/meet/hang out with/talk to you (again, where applicable); to everyone who didn't come: whatsamattayou?  Ya missed out, but we'll see you next time, when we choose a larger venue, right?


Update: FatManSeoul has photos and incriminating evidence up on Flickr and at the Hub of Sparkle.  The flickr album has a handful of good ones, so go see it, and visit FatManSeoul, Korea's best new food blog which updates regularly and actually talks about food.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Korea Goes Viral; Hub of Sparkle Get-Together

Anyway, this video of weirdly dressed dancers in pink spandex, doing their odd performance in various venues around Seoul, was up on today.

If they were really savvy, Seoul City would be silently encouraging these kinds of groups to make these kinds of goofy videos featuring Seoul, and sending them out viral-wise on the InterWebs, instead of taking the heavy-handed "Press Release Names Seoul New Hub Of Asian Tourism; Seoul Mayor Expects People to Flock Here on Sheer Power of his Declaration That it Will Be So; Releases Advertising Video that Resembles North Korean Propaganda With More Cellphones" tack.  (OK, it's not QUITE that bad...) Tourism Korea ad 1: come to korea, where everyone has a cellphone, and you can eat side-dishes; Ad 2: Come to the Computer Generated Land of Korea, where Hangeul Characters float around like clouds, and people play traditional instruments over disco basslines, and we're going to try and fit EVERY SINGLE THING we think is cool about Korea into one five-minute ad, while white people make faces of bliss, tasting Korean food; Ad 3 (after World Cup '02): Come to Korea, where Soccer Fans wear traditional masks; Ad 4: Let a star who's famous here, but you unknown to you, convince you to come to Korea.  Ad 5: We can't decide what's the best thing about Korea, so we're going to throw it all up against the wall, and hope something sticks.  (Which, according to Dale Carnegie, is bad sales.)  OK.  Sarcasm off.
An ACTUAL "Tour North Korea" ad, date unknown.
I know what you're thinking: How can I get these guys to pitch MY product?

(I don't know: maybe the Tour Israel people could think of a better way to sell Korea.  They sure know how to raise bloodline pride.)

Of course, everyone knows by now that this Canon Rock-playing baseball-cap-faced Youtube Legend is also a Korean...for a country that loves the internet so much, I wonder if Korea could savvy up to the fact the internet could be a really effective way to increase its visibility in the world through videos and content...and create an image a little more flexible and varied than what people get from official, imperious sounding press releases, newspaper ads, TV spots, and the world news (where Korea always seems to come off looking bad, between associations with North Korea and the economic troubles these days)  It would help if the entire Korean internet, and almost all content about Korea were not sequestered behind Naver and Daum's gilded cage bars (not showing up on google searches), so that my blog comes up higher on Google than most of the content created by citizens of the most wired country in the world. Anyway, ranting about the puzzling techno-ass-backward-ness of Korea (it's a really odd contradiction...) is more Chosun Bimbo's turf than mine, so go there if you want to read some really great vitriol about Korea's addiction to Windows and ActiveX programs.

Second thing:

The Hub Of Sparkle is down with server problems right now (we're working on it), which is a pain, because there's supposed to be a Hub of Sparkle Get-Together tonight, and people might be wanting to check for directions, so I hope they find this instead.

If you're looking for instructions to hang out with the Sparkly People, here's how: 1. you can check for detailed instructions on the Hub of Sparkle's Facebook Page. At six we'll meet at a great spit-roast-barbequed-stuffed-chicken place near Hansung University Station (Seoul Metro, Line 4, exit 6, walk five or seven minutes, look on your right), called Cham Namu Dalk Nara (Gingko Tree Chicken Country), that looks like this. We'll start there, and from there, at 8 (or whenever the crowd gets too big for the little restaurant,) go farther down the road in the same direction to Song's Kitchen (Fatmanseoul wrote about this, but Fatman is also down right now, so here are some pictures I took of it.) You have to go down some stairs into a little hanok gully beside the road, but once you get in there, it's pretty darn cool. This is what it looks like (though it looks much nicer when it's lit up at night, or photographed on a pretty day). Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 It's a bit of a walk from the station: you have to follow the road around a corner, so don't be worried if you've gone a little ways. You'll know you're close when you pass a bank on your right, and then a spot where the road starts going up, but to the right, there are some Hanok (traditional Korean style) houses whose roofs are at or below the level of the street. (On the left there's a big church.)  If you have trouble finding either spots, there's emergency contact information at The Hub of Sparkle's Facebook page.

Hope to see you there!

Ssomi & Hobo is a Very Unfunny Comic

I was on the SeoulPodcast again a little while ago, in a big ol' double-down party podcast loaded with a whack of cool K-bloggers and other assorted Korea personalities.  Go check it out.  It's shorter than the last one, and everybody's a bit giddy, because we recorded it the evening after Obama was elected, but I enjoyed listening to it, and maybe you will too.

Next item: so, some people looked at some of the very unfunny comic strips out there, and decided they needed to be mercilessly mocked.

So Scott Meets Family Circus, and makes it funny again.
Garfield Without Garfield is an incredibly sad portrait of Jon's actual loserness...and it's funnier without its titular character than with.
And Marmaduke explained is awesome too. At least, it was a year ago, when I first came across it.

Well, Ssomi & Hobo is a comic that appears daily in the Korea Herald.  Now, whether it is actually funny in the Korean language in which it was obviously originally written, before it was translated into dull, lifeless, unfunny and just weird English, I don't know.  But in English, it is mostly proof that either some types of humor don't translate, or what Koreans think is funny is very different from what Koreans do.  The kindest thing I found said about it in English (on the only page of google hits) was from spunangel, who blogs, "It's a good cartoon to read when you're hungover and nothing makes sense."  The unkindest things were...less kind.  Dave's people didn't like it much.

Over at Zenkimchi, Joe has been posting SoSueMe & Hobo comics, parodies made by a guy named Karl.  I like them, but I wanted to take a crack at Ssomi & Hobo myself.  Here is a sample of the sheer unfunniness of Ssomi & Hobo, followed by two attempts by moi to improve them.  The text is small, so you might have to click on the picture to see a close-up.

Hope ya like it.

The original:
My first crack at improving Ssomi & Hobo:
And, in what might become a recurring send-up here at Roboseyo (if you like it), I thought I'd start a parody of my own, and try to make this thing funny for you, my dear readers.  Without further ado, I present: Ssomi and Roboseyo. 
Have a good one, all.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ji Man-Won... Korea's Ann Coulter? How To Shoot at Someone Who Outdrew Ya

Post subtitle explained at the end.

Soundtrack: "I'm An Asshole" by Dennis Leary (uhh... warning: some bad words in this song)

so then, to balance out that unrestrained joy-down from the previous post...

Conservative Critic Ji Man-Won, and a bunch of netizens, actually attacked Moon Geun-Young for anonymously donating to various charities.

Add another item to the list of things to call "Korea's X" -- things in Korea that are like more famous things elsewhere.  Korea's Ann Coulter. (picture stolen from The Korean's site, but altered here at Roboseyo)

This goes to prove that many pundits, and (not all, but certainly enough) netizens are dicks.  I've written before about how too many netizens are dicks, and bring the dialogue down to the level of the lowest common denominator, instead of trying to raise their own level.  Here in Korea, where netizens have to use their actual ID numbers, and so the things they say can be traced back to their real identities, even that isn't enough to dissuade them from being duh-icks (read it out loud) online, and pundits will always be jerks if it can make them more famous. (photo stolen from Brian's write-up on the topic, but altered here at Roboseyo.)
Matt from Popular Gusts has a really great write-up about Moon Geun-Young's grandfather (one of the reasons she's being attacked is because he was affiliated with the communist party), and Ji Man-Won, the obnoxious conservative pundit who led the attack on her.  He also directs our attention to Mike Hurt's article, "My Stomach Hurts" where the Metropolitician talks about how envy at others' success brings out the worst in Koreans.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Moon Geun-Young, like Tiger Woods before her, when somebody said something stupid and ignorant about him, has responded in the only appropriate way: by remaining silent about the whole fustercluck.  Now she has doubly impressed me as a class act, rising above a whole bunch of ugly with grace.  I might even start liking her TV spots, and forgive her voice for being so. darned. cute.

Post subtitle explained: this is a line from the lovely Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, as sung by John Cale:
"Maybe there's a God above, all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya"
Which is exactly what these petty parasites are doing, for fame, or for release of the frustration at their own unhappy lives, or for the sheer lulz of being a dick anonymously.  They're taking aim at someone who outdrew them, who accomplished more in life, lashing out in spite, rather than taking aim at the kinds of accomplishments that Ms. Moon has been achieving with her success.

To all such netizens, and the pundits who sic them on classy people trying to make their way as best they can:
Go fester.

Now here's something beautiful, to put you (and me) back in a good mood.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Love the Heck Out of Korea

(this is the expanded version first posted at Hub of Sparkle: including more pictures!)
[Update: blogger replaced all my pictures with ads, so I'm taking them out]

I know, I know, everybody's been wondering, "You seem like a cheery cat. So what makes a happy expat, Roboseyo?" well, fortunately, the guru is open for advice, with a bit of photo/video documentary evidence to back him up.

Fortunately for all concerned, it isn't too hard, if you take the initiative to actually follow the instructions given by your wise old guruseyo. Soon, you'll be as giddy as my former student, Jesse. (Balloons between your knees are optional.)

So, without further ado, but with one more picture, here goes:

How To Love the Heck out of Korea

1. get some friends (preferably evil ones) who will taunt you with K-pop music, and mock your suffering.

Hey Brian! Mwahaha!

2. Get out of the house as much as you can, so that you're around to notice stuff like this, instead of being at home browsing the web and missing all the awesome:

3. Get out of the city as often as you can, to enjoy the amazing landscapes, the small towns, sights, and people of the countryside.

Damyang, Andong

also: see the sights IN town, which are worthwhile, too - Seoul Forest

Last weekend, I went to Paju, and the Hyerin Art Village over there, with Girlfriendoseyo. It was really great.

Here was the coolest building in the whole art village: in the windows, they'd stacked slabs of glass that caught the sun in gorgeous ways. (Play this one: the music is one of my favourite compositions anywhere).

4. Enjoy the seasons. Yep. I said it.

See, we westerners often kind of derisively mock Koreans' trumpeting "Korea's Four, Distinct, Seasons" as if Korea had invented seasons or something. . . and I guess it's stylish to mock things, in some circles. . . except it makes me a surly old crank.

But seriously, the pictures I took of the Fall colours this year were so great (and the best ones got swallowed by my faulty memory card, so even what you're seeing on this slideshow are the weekends before and after the peak, not THE. PEAK. WEEKEND. which was ridiculous, and approaching obscenely beautiful), that I finally understood the enthusiasm. I wanted to grab tourists by the shoulders and shout in their faces, "HEY! Did you know Korea has four seasons?" too! -- I mean, why let a shell of cynicism put a too-cool-for-school dint on that kind of happiness? 

Korean autumn is effing beautiful, and there's no need to take anything away from that! So yeah, enjoy the seasons. Don't hate on the Koreans who love the seasons, too--they darn well oughta, living here. Yeah, other places ALSO have four distinct seasons, and yeah, Autumn in Southern Ontario, where I grew up, was pretty great too, but so what? Korea has a beautiful Autumn! Am I allowed to just be happy about that, and get my butt outside to enjoy it?

I think so.

5. Watch the people, and let the people-watching make you happy, because people are wonderful.

At the art village, these folks were taking pictures of their kid, and trying to make him/her smile; it was my favourite people-watching moment of the weekend.

6. Pay attention to ALL the details, and allow them to make you smile, not in a "Koreans are backwards, goofy people" way, but in a "Life is full of intriguing details" kind of way. Keep a journal where you write it down if you must, so that you remember the juicy bits, instead of noticing them, smiling for five seconds, and ten forgetting.

The a-little-TOO-excited bus announcer on the 273 makes me giggle every time I ride.

7. Eat good food.

8. Find something you like about the culture, and dig in.  One thing is enough, for starters.  Why watch Lee Hyori videos if she annoys you? There are a lot of aspects of Korean culture worth enjoying, from indie/underground music in the Hongdae area, to traditional performance arts, to the food culture, the '80s acoustic guitar stuff, the goofy fun of trot, not to mention the b-boy culture, the online gaming stuff, the wacky cool street fashion -- pretty much everyone I know who's been here a long time (as Gord Sellar pointed out, too) is involved in some meaningful interaction with some aspect of Korean culture. Don't pay attention to the annoying stuff: there's enough good stuff to never NEED to. Study the language, so you can meet a greater variety of Koreans, and have them like you for trying to learn the language. (Duh.)

Here's something I like about Korea's culture: Jang Sa-ik. Stay tuned for a full write-up on him later.

This is his song Jillaegott -- which (according to the Apple Translator on my dashboard, means "It will steam, ley the flower" uh...yeah. Keep working on that). The youtube page said "Mountain Rose" which sounds nicer. Anyway, he's my new second favourite Korean singer. (After this guy.)

9. Share the good stuff with people, instead of only sharing the complaints when you're around your friends.

Up at the top of my page, I have this quote, from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet":
"If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame IT, blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place." -Rainer Maria Rilke

I'd say that doesn't just apply to poets, but to any human, anywhere, who feels that their everyday life seems barren and joyless. If I can get out of my own head enough to start noticing the country around me...well, I'm on my way to loving the heck out of anywhere, aren't I?
(P.S.: See you on Saturday)

Wanna Hang out with the Hub of Sparkle?

Find out more at the Hub of Sparkle Facebook page. (and join it, if you haven't already, silly!)

If you aren't on Facebook, but you still want to hang out with all the cool sparkly people, send me an e-mail at hubofsparkle[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll send you instructions.

It's on Saturday evening.

Random Linky Stuff

Welcome 2 Seoul has a good primer on Korean street food...except that Kimbap isn't like Korean sushi.  It's closer to Korean california roll, except kimbap came first, so really, California Roll is American style kimbap...but if we steal away Korea's right to name things that are uniquely Korean after more famous things that AREN'T Korean, (in order to convince people of their inferiority, rather than establish their uniqueness) Christmas will be cancelled.

Makes you wonder when the shoe's gonna drop

on pirates being as stupidly brazen as this.

this seems like a really stupid thing to do, as they're basically inviting US stormtroopers to take care of this piracy problem once and for all.

sure kim jong il is not far from actually building a nuclear bomb, and he's dealing out counterfeit US money to beat the band, and trafficking drugs, and flouting every international agreement they've ever been a part of... but he doesn't mess around with oil, and whaddaya know: his ass is alive (probably)

as every person in the world learned when US invaded Iraq:

go ahead and be an @$$hole, but don't f__k around with oil.

To the Somali pirates: jeez, guys, think you might have bitten off more than you can chew this time.

I predict this overreach will be the beginning of the end of the Somali pirates' halycon days, as world governments decide to take them more seriously, and send in some serious countermeasures.

I could be wrong, though.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Belly Laugh for Sunday

They're available for YOUR bar-mitzvah... who could say no?
(posted on Facebook by Expat Jane)
and by the way: just so you know, they save the best clip for last in the video. Hang on...even skip ahead if you must.

Pure brilliance.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

So Moon Geun-Young just went from Annoying as Hell to Over-Exposed, but Cool Nonetheless

So Moon Geun-Yeong, the Korean pop-star whom I have lampooned before (I even feel a bit bad about that now), just went from "really, really annoying" to "over-exposed, but kinda cool" when news came out that she was the donor sending large amounts of money to Community Chest Korea, a charitable organization. . . anonymously. Not with a shining light on her back saying, "Look! I'm a good person! Buy my merchandise! Pay no attention to the rumors that I throw furniture if restaurants don't serve me quickly enough!" A. No. Ny. Mous. Ly. God bless her bright, squirrelly eyes, even as they stare at me from the side of every fifth bus in Seoul.

Hopefully, this kind of celebrity leadership leads to copycatting behaviour from Korea's youth, rather than some other recent celebrity trends.

A mini-retrospective on her cutest/most annoying TV spots:

selling pizza with crab on it...

my personal favorite...

And finally, encouraging soccer fans to move around a bit during the 2006 World Cup...

Respect, ms. Moon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

For now...

About to head off for the weekend and Do Fun Stuff.

If you think I'm super-cool, (or just think the kind of people I hang out with are cool, which they are) and want to hang out with me in Seoul, this is just my notice for you to set aside your November 22nd evening...more details to come.

Until then, for your entertainment and edification...
some links

1. putting stuff in a microwave

2. Wanna know what it's like to surf the internet in China? See what gets through The Great Firewall Of China.

3. A little high-brow humor from a Korean skit... for those who don't think Koreans have a sense of humor. (sigh: this advanced comedy technique of running a middling gag deep, deep into the ground, reminds me of the old days, watching Saturday Night Live)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Peak of Suicide Season: A Prayer for Korean Students

Today is the day of the Korean College Entrance Exam.

Last night, I went downtown to see Girlfriendoseyo, and we had a very pleasant night. However, on the way through the winding alleys of Samchungong, we passed the entrance to a high school, and saw a cluster of underclasspersons sitting together, wrapped up in blankets.

You see, every year, High School Seniors take the High School Entrance exam, basically the most important test of their lives. Their score on this exam determines what University they can enter, and which university they attend, in this credential-obssessed society, basically determines your employability for life.

For example, despite all the efforts of the Education ministry to reduce the dominance of the three top universities in Korea (SKY: Seoul National, Korea, Yonsei Universities), 80% of the judges appointed between 2003 and 2008 were SKY graduates: a veritable stranglehold. You would find similar unbalances in most other sectors where power, money, and influence concentrate.

Because of the importance of the exam, students NOT in their senior year gather at the entrances of their high schools to cheer on their seniors, as they enter the school.

Today, roads will be blocked off to eliminate traffic noise around test sites. Airports will even re-arrange flight approach paths, so that airplanes' drone does not distract students in their seats, during the exam. Police wait by subway stations to speedily escort late students from the subway exit to their exam site, to help them arrive on time. High school seniors have been living on four hours of sleep a night for the months leading up to today; some parents even rent their kids a room in a goshiwon -- a cheap hotel -- so that they can study without distraction from their brothers and sisters, or from the TV or internet.

SeoulGlow made this video, interviewing students waiting outside a university's gates, a few years ago.

The dark side of the hope and expectations tied up in this one exam (and it's big: I've asked adults in their 30s, "What would you change about your past, if you had a magic wand?" and one of the most common answers was "I'd study harder in my last year of high school, to get into a better school: eighteen years later, people are STILL looking back at THIS test, as the turning point of their lives), is the depression and despair that comes with the fear of failure.

This article, "On a College Entrance Exam Deathwatch," suggests that probably 200 (mostly teen) suicides a year in Korea are directly connected with anxiety over this test. The stories the writer tells are sometimes shocking.

This is a story about students protesting the exam: they wore masks to hide their identities, because they were afraid they'd be put on some university admissions blacklist if their identities were known. They're just that afraid of not being able to get into a good school. A Korean Teachers' Union actually told their students to cheat as a way of protesting the exam. . . and were rightly called by Brian from Jeollanamdo for putting their students' careers on the line, rather than putting their OWN careers on the line, if they believed so strongly in their cause.

The exam is mostly multiple choice...and soul-killing, and emblematic of a lot of the things I criticize about Korea's culture (I even wrote about it on my "Five Things I'd Change About Korea" post. . . )

So if you know any Korean kids writing the exam, say a prayer today (their moms have been praying eight hours a day for a month now; you can at least spare one or two), and hope that this year, more students choose to skip suicide, and instead do that other awful things underperforming students do, and put their entire life on hold in order to study for ANOTHER year after graduating high school, just to get a better score and get into a better school.

The public school teacher exam was on Sunday, too, so a lot of people's futures are hanging on the results of this week's tests.

(the number of years lost to studying by Koreans taking these once-a-year-exam, including the civil service exam, the bar exam, the public school-teacher exam, and the high school exam, and the number of person-years of lost productivity, as well as the drain on the finances of the parents of these study-monkeys, ought to be calculated, in order for their impact/drag on Korea's economy to be quantified...I'd bet the only thing holding Korea's economy back MORE than all these years of work lost, from some of Korea's brightest people, is the gender empowerment gap.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Lovely Eulogy

My wonderful friend back in Canada, Melissa, wrote a really lovely eulogy for an old woman who started out as a babysitter, and became a family member over time.

It is a beautiful tribute, and also a touching expression of the way family extends so far beyond the narrow bounds of blood relation, and love supercedes any other relation, or lack thereof, between humans.

Go read it, and extend a bit of support, if you wish, I suppose.

Sorry you have to miss your Grandma Kadie, Mel. Thanks for sharing her with us.

a nice thing about writing at the Hub of Sparkle is, when you're piping mad about something...

I can save my social commentary/moral outrage about Korea's social problems stuff for there, and keep Roboseyo a mostly happy place.

But I'm mad, readers.  Flaming mad.

Because the people who are supposed to be protecting kids: parents and teachers and stuff, are covering up acts of violence against minors.  Rather than raising a holy stink to high heaven, and throwing the perps up against a wall, with a good strong smackdown, to show everyone around that this is not acceptable behaviour, and will be punished by the law, a lot, and is also bad, parents and teachers at schools deny things and cover things up, in order not to lose face.

Losing face, dear readers.  
In other words: they are not doing their jobs properly, because they don't want it to look like they aren't doing their jobs properly.

Yeah.  When you word it that way, saving face is absolute bullshit.

Now, I know it only raises my blood pressure to get worked up about things too big for me to change personally... but this time, I'm at least pitching in, boys and girls.

See, the biggest problem with all this violence against kids being tolerated or ignored, is that people DON'T TALK ABOUT IT.  And I can talk about it.  And now that a few people read my blog, I can even get other people talking about it.

Because here in Korea, the only time shit actually seems to get done is when someone in power gets embarrassed for not having done his (yeah, it's usually a guy, this being Korea and all) job properly up until that point.  I could reference numerous incidences where as soon as something went public and embarrassed some people, decision-makers finally got around to doing something.

It is also well-known to anyone familiar with Korea, that Korea really hates being criticized in the International Media (even the Lonely Planet gets'em up in arms, and a Singaporean textbook...heaven help us all!).  If a major network picked up a story about Korea's apparent lack of care for all the corporal punishment and, even worse, the denials, cover-ups, and general flippance TOWARD these acts and much, much worse, maybe the right feathers would get ruffled, and things would start to change.

I've started a page over at Hub of Sparkle where I'm collecting all the ugly incidents of schoolteacher coverups, parents refusing to cooperate with police investigations on violence against kids, because it brings shame to the family, of police neglecting to properly investigate crimes against kids, because it sounds too much like work, so that if/when a journalist DOES decide to do that exposee, they'll have their job made easy, because the last round of stories, news links, and blog anecdotes (see the post after the link) has just been a bridge too far, and I want to do something about it.

So go check the link repository at Hub of Sparkle.  Send me links at hubofsparkle[at]gmail[dot]com if you have a story, or leave it in the comments.  I'm especially looking for stuff a journalist would be able to use, for example, news articles from creditable sources, or articles in translation with links to the original Korean articles.  Help me build up a stockpile of yuck, so that the right people can be embarrassed into actually making this country a better, safer place to be a kid.

Leave comments about the kids over there, not here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

James Bond, Quantum Of Solace

Saw the new Bond movie. Hit Play. (the official video)

A few notes.

First of all... it doesn't immediately come to mind, but once you think about it, while he was also born to do much more, Jack White was born, born, BORN to sing a James Bond 007 theme song. He brings the thunder and howl the franchise needs -- like the wailing wild horns in the Gold-finger theme, as well as the menace in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," and the swagger of the original theme. His duet partner hits it, too -- heck, I want (the amazingly talented) Alicia Keys to play a Bond babe now. The rhythm and wordplay of the lyrics -- seriously, the only recent Bond theme that comes CLOSE to being this memorable was Garbage singing "The World Is Not Enough" (another band born to do a Bond theme).  (other artists born to sing Bond: Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever), Tom Jones (Thunderball))

Honestly, beyond the fact that if you brainstormed all the stuff Guys want to see in a movie, you'd come up with James Bond (think about it: car chases, spy stuff, guns, hot slutty girls, and a badass hero who's the ultimate uberman for all seasons -- are we missing anything? That formula's never gonna run out), I think the thing that drives the James Bond movies, and has helped the franchise last for so long, is that the music for Bond ROCKS, and made Bond the spy movie that endured, instead of being Just Another Spy Movie from 1962.

There are five elements every Bond film contains, by which they can be measured against each other.
1. the action sequence before the opening credits (the Pierce Brosnan bonds were always strong here, but the last two are among the best ever)
2. the opening theme song (best: Gold Finger; worst: the ones by Madonna and Duran Duran; most surprisingly good: Live and Let Die: who knew Paul McCartney had it in him?)
3. the opening animations (would have to rewatch them all to say; don't feel like it)
4. the bond babe (best: Halle Berry, a handful of the early Connery Bond babes; worst: Denise Richards, didn't like Grace Jones, either.)
5. the villain (pick'em: this category depends a lot on what you like; I lean toward Christopher Walken in View to a Kill, though some of the early ones were awesome, too)
6. (i suppose) the actor for Bond

(7. if you want: the action sequences in general, though this one's hazy, because it could be divided into the car chases and the climactic sequences, and there are so many ways to categorize action sequences, that might just boil down to preference)

Previously you could have added
8. cleverness of catchphrase deliveries ("Martini, extra dry..." "Bond. James Bond", etc.)
9. cheesiness of puns
10. godawful cheesiness of closing line (Worst ever: ""I thought Christmas only came once a year." [the world is not enough])
11. silliness of the "Q" (and "R") gadget scenes (and the ridiculousness of the gadgets)
12. the car (and the goofy bells and whistles in the car)

Let it be known that I love the Bond franchise, because it's mindless popcorn action at its finest. One summer, I watched every Bond movie with my dad; he systematically rented two or three a week, and we got through all of them. Watching movies and TV shows has always been the way Poposeyo and I bonded. (haha. bonded). It's amazing how similar they are to one another, other than the elements above, and special effects technology of the era.

So, how does Quantum of Solace stack up?
1. The action scenes before the opening credits for the most recent two Bonds were more visceral and right-out thrilling than most of what we saw in the past: Daniel Craig actually sells the action much better than most of the other guys: no way Roger Moore could jump that far.  Daniel Craig jumping that far. . . maybe!)
2. Music: as I said: maybe the best Bond Theme since the '60s, in my opinion.  Whatever it is, it's got it.
3. Opening animations: good.  Very good.  Not world-changing, but the colours and style fit the music, and have a kind of throwback feel, with cool muted '70s colours and bullet-traces in wacky psychadelic contrasts to the backgrounds.
4. Bond Babe: Primary Bond babe Olga Kurylenko looks really really good with a dirty face (important for this Bond Babe, as she actually gets in on the action).  I'd put her above average, quite good, in fact, in the "Halle Berry's asskicking bond babe" mode, rather than the "screaming hostage in distress" mode we used to see.  Ms. Olga's pushing, but not necessarily in the top seven.  The secondary Bond babe (every movie has two) was kinda weak sauce, though, unless you have a thing for librarians.
5. Villan: again, kind of weak sauce.  Since the end of the cold war, it's been hard to come up with a really delicious bad guy, and the fact these new Bonds are trying to get away from the silly overkill of the underground-fortress-stuff kinda cock-blocks the writers from inventing a good, juicy megalomaniac.  Yeah, this guy's plan was evil and grandiose, but while I don't want to give away spoilers, let's just say that it didn't have the kind of "Sink all of California into the ocean" ambition that former villains did, and he wasn't very scary or menacing, either. Especially appearing so soon after Heath Ledger's Joker, a bad guy who dripped menace and the threat of unexpected, gleefully sickening violence at any second.  Sorry, Bond people.  Don't give your villains French accents, for a start.  Just stay away from the Romance language aisle entirely, if you're shopping for evil accents.

Soundtrack II: Gold Finger. Best Theme Ever. 

But here's the reason I like these new Daniel Craig Bond movies:

The absence of Bond Standbys 8-12.
See, after Austin Powers sent them up so deliciously, the REAL Bond people couldn't make any more movies cut from the old cloth, because now that Mike Myers lampooned those tropes, going back to that well again would have devolved quickly into self-parody.  You might have noticed (especially when John Cleese's "R" replaced Desmond Llewellyn's "Q") that Pierce Brosnan's Bond movies were heading in that direction, having no choice but to get sillier and sillier, just to come up with something you haven't already seen before in another Bond film.

These new Bonds, they lampoon some of the old cliches, and you see references to the old Bond films (for example, the Gold Finger tribute that any Bondophile will notice), but they don't go saying the goofy names directly, or making the kinds of "I just threw up in my mouth" puns that you waited for, but still cringed at, in the old Bond movies.

Finally, on the last two Bonds:
1. Roger Moore is the most divisive of Bonds; he's kind of a love'em or hate'em guy.  I liked him, but he hung on a bit too long, and he made two or three too many movies before he hung up his laser GPS radio cufflinks.
2. The problem with every Bond after Connery is that the best they could ever be is a pretty good imitation of Sean Connery -- if you're starting off trying to be someone else, you're never going to create something fantastic of your own.  Being the best Bond since Connery was previously like being the best runner-up for MVP in Baseball History.  
3.  Pierce Brosnan took old Connery Bond as far as it could go.  He was a very credible Bond, and he quit at the right time.  He rescued Bond in the '90s, and made a few very good films: I'd rate him as the second best Bond after Connery.  However, after Brosnan, there just wasn't anywhere to go, except either farther over the top (which would have ended up like Batman And Robin, going too far and nearly sinking the franchise forever...) or back to basics.
4.  Daniel Craig is the first James Bond who isn't mostly just trying to be Sean Connery.  He brings his own thing to Bond, and sells it.  He does still manage to look really good in a tuxedo, but he also looks better (at least, more convincing) covered in dust and grime than any of the other Bonds, and when he chases a bad guy down across rooftops or wins a knife-fight on a speeding motorboat, he does it in a way that you believe he actually could.  When people punch him, it hurts, and when he jumps from a moving car, he gets scrapes on his face.  Most importantly, his Bond actually has an internal life, rather than just being a cartoon puppet in either a tux or a t-shirt with a ripped pectoral, moved through set pieces in order to show the maximum number of either boobs or bombs per frame of film. 

But the main reason I think these are the best Bond films since Connery is that they've finally hired a really really good writer, and given Bond some dialogue as good as the music backing it.  The conversation in Casino Royale, when he first meets Vesper, Eva Green's character, was so well-written and clever that it played like a proclamation: "Hey everybody!  This is a different James Bond than you had before" and unlike when George Lazenby tried that, and the world wasn't ready for their icon to be flooped around, this time, everybody knew it was time.

I'd put both of these new Bonds in my top seven, frankly, and one of them (but not both) in my top five.

Now I'm gonna go download Thunderball (first or second best Bond ever; underwater fight scene: most thrilling Bond action sequence ever), before I get carried away and say Daniel Craig is as good as Sean Connery or something silly like that.

Update: Olya, the Bond Babe of the hour, has been accused by a group in Russian communists of being a traitor, for appearing in this film; they also think that the Bond people were insulting Russia by implying that Bond boned with her.  Smells like "we can get international attention if we criticize her" to me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Kim Jong Il is the new Waldo

A few other bloggers have linked to this, but it makes me laugh nonetheless.

The theme of the photoshop contest was "Kim Jong-Il lives," and go see the gallery at

Another great pair of photoshop contests: "If a major war had gone the other way" and "What Campaign Ads Would Look Like if The Voting Age Was 6."

A Few Kim Jong-Il Highlights:

I found him. Can you?

I've heard they like Kimchi, too!

Foreigners (gasp! foreigners!) sing a nice little a capella version of Korea's best-loved folk-song, Arirang, around a dinner table.

It's a great song, beautiful as all-get-out, if you find a good version of it, though as I've blogged before, kind of like the The Star Spangled Banner (first place): in the hands of the wrong show-off, it can turn into a piece of overwrought yuck (speaking of self promotion and misuse of a cultural treasure, here's the last time I mentioned arirang, as pertaining to its being plundered for the closing credits of a horrible movie, in a crass, cheap ploy for movie promotion based on nationalistic pride).
Here's my favourite version of that song, linked before, because of the slow build-up, ending in the crowd singing along at the climax.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Here ya go, all you U. S. of Americans.

Hugh Laurie

You may recognize this singer, a brilliant comedian...from his most recent television role.

Personally, I prefer his early work.

(the Prince Regent, from Blackadder)

While Everybody Else is talking about the Election... Funny Story Contest!

Here's what might be the funniest story I've read on a Korea blog.

ROK Drop, an excellent blog that I would feature as a Blog Of The Month, if it weren't a far better, more popular blog than mine which didn't need a boost from me in any way, shape, or form, has this brilliant story about a bunch of Philippina juicy girls getting into a snowball fight at the Dongducheon ville.  Warm up your imagination juices and try to create a mental picture as you read it.  It slew me, and ought to crack you up, too.

Here's the setup:
The funniest fight I ever saw in the ville has to be this alteracation that happened a few years back.  Like the beginning to any good military story, "there I was" buying a kebab from the Turkish kebab stand at the Dongducheon Ville.  I’m pretty sure it was December, but it was winter and it was snowing very heavily that night.  A number of Philippina juicy girls were out in front of their clubs checking out the falling snow.  For many of them it was probably the first snow that they had ever seen.  Anyway I’m standing there waiting for my kebab and suddenly from the corner of my eye I see this snowball fly through the air and smash a juicy girl in the back of the head standing in front of the New World Club. Absolutely a perfect shot.

I'm sure it was much funnier than this.

(If you have a funnier Korea story from a Korea blog, put the link in the comments or e-mail them to me at the sidebar address.  I'll hand out hat tips and whatnot of course.)