Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why's Everybody Hatin' on Jon Huer? The Gauntlet.

(cross-posted at The Hub of Sparkle: please leave your comments there.)

“We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him. ”

Michel de Montaigne quotes (French Philosopher and Writer. 1533-1592)


You may have noticed the sudden spate of apoplectic K-Bloggers hating on Jon Huer's "out-of-touch" top ten list of things Foreigners like about Korea: a list which, admittedly, seems like it should have been titled, "The Top Ten Things THIS Foreigner Likes About Korea"

An Expat in Korea, Brian in Jeollanamdo, and Hub of Sparkle's own Stafford have added their ire to the pile-on so far, and doubtless there are more. In fact, Expat in Korea even sent Mr. Huer an e-mail, to which Jon Huer indignantly (and probably unadvisably) replied.

I don't really care to reprint the whole train-wreck here, ere Stafford's head explodes... but how about this.

If you don't like Jon Huer's list, let's do him one better. What are the top ten things actual foreigners, really living in Korea, like best about Korea? Instead of hating on Jon Huer, let's talk about the good stuff about Korea-- it feels better than smearing some old guy, anyway.

Here's Jon Huer's list.

  1. Safe streets

  2. The sweetness and charitable disposition of Korean women over 60.

  3. Korea's countryside people's unique attitude to foreigners.

  4. The famous Korean fighting spirit

  5. Spontaneity

  6. A group of songs called ``Lyrical Songs of Korea.''

  7. Sense of humor and gaiety.

  8. Pansori

  9. Koreans are extraordinarily forgiving toward those less-fortunate than themselves.

  10. Konglish

Now, if that list deserves the deluge of disdain it's been dished so far, let's write a better one. Post it on your blog and link it in the comments, or post your list in the comments for this post. If we have a strong enough response, I might even make it into a survey or something.

There's the gauntlet, folks. Now whatcha gonna do about it?

I've turned off comments for this post, so that you can leave your comments at the version of this article at The Hub of Sparkle. Head over there and say your piece!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Facebook has jumped the shark.

Sad but true.

Delete application
Delete application
block application
block application
block friend
block friend
delete friend
delete application

(image source)

what is jumping the shark?

Weekend Pics, and Go See Klimt in Seoul!

Nouvelle Vague (recommendation from a friend): Dancing With Myself- startlingly, a cover of an old Billy Idol punk song.

Anyway, hit play, and start reading. I really like this song.

First: from Andong (yep, the Andong Writeup seems to have been swallowed in the mists of time... if there's a loud enough outcry I might try to revive it, but Joe Zen and Fatman Seoul both did such good jobs writing it up already. . .)

Here is one great picture of me and my bud Juhee, on the train, in some nice light.
Girlfriendoseyo and I found this fantastic little tea room. The raspberry tea tasted like pulling off the road in the Okanagan valley and picking raspberries off a bush somewhere. So good.
the owner had a green thumb, too. Girlfriendoseyo was impressed by the foliage. I was mostly just amazed at the perfectly balanced flavours in the teas.

Walked up and down Namsan this weekend. Flowers (jindalae) were blossoming, which have han, I'm told.

These trees remind me of Dr. Seuss illustrations:

I liked the lines of this step/fence combination.

I saw Gustav Klimt and Youssef Karsh this week. The Seoul National Art Center, by Nambu Bus Terminal, was in fine form.

The two artists were, too. You should go see these shows (find the place) at the Hangaram Art Museum, south of the Han River, but north of Gangnam. You'll know Klimt from these paintings mostly--however, let me remind you that the difference between seeing a JPG of a picture on your computer screen, and seeing the actual thing (especially when it comes to paintings), is kind of like the difference between reading a car's engine specifications in an auto magazine, and being hit by that car on the street.
Judith, above, was there. The Kiss (below) was not: convincing Austria to give up The Kiss and send it overseas would be about the equivalent of asking America to send Abe Lincoln's log cabin on a world tour. National treasure, you know? However, the show was quite impressive (though the nude females were...uh...supercharged with...uh...not for children...energy). A recreation of the Beethoven Frieze was also there, and pretty amazing: basically a visual depiction of the Ninth Symphony, in a way. I learned a bunch about Klimt, and saw some amazing art, and was duly impressed.
Next up, in the same building, no less, was Youssef Karsh, the ridiculously amazing photographer. Here's a game: think of somebody who was really famous between 1930 and 1970. Now think of their most iconic portrait photo. Odds are about 50-65% that photo was taken by Youssef Karsh.

You may recognize some of his work.

responsible not only for this photo:

and this one,but also this one, and a whole host of others.
Plus, he's Canadian. (Karsh, not Winston Churchill)

We got to take these pictures, too.
the queen
and grumposeyo
Gimme back my damn cigar!

Then on Saturday I ate at one of my favorite restaurants in downtown seoul
Where they cook the food on this great squared gas grill that's all loaded with spilled-over deliciousness.

Watching the lady cook is fun. The food is just amazing: the best dwenjang soup I've had by about a mile.

Took this picture while walking around Bukcheondong with Girlfriendoseyo: missed the Walkabout tour that happened on Sunday, but saw some nice stuff anyway.

Most ironic book in the world (right up there with, for a dollar on the discount rack, all the evangelical apocalyptic milennial Christian books about "50 reasons why the world will end in on New Year's Day, 2000AD, and How To Prepare for Christ's Return"): "The Roaring 2000s: Building the Wealth and Lifestyle You Desire in the Greatest Boom in History" spotted by Danielle.

OK folks. that's it for now.

have a good one!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Roboseyo's K-blog of the Month for March 2009: On My Way to Korea

So there's a dude called Matt Strum, who is
just one American white-guy who loves everything about Korea. . . I’ve never been to Korea, but that just makes me try to learn and understand harder (as Koreans would day, with a heart of passion - 열심).

And he runs this blog called "On My Way To Korea" -- see, he plans to come to Korea, and from here, it seems like he plans to be the most knowledgeable first-year ever to arrive in Korea.

He runs an interesting little blog, where he tries to post every day. The posts are usually short, which makes it easy to peek over and see whats up (unlike certain blogs I love, but don't dare visit unless I have ten minutes free) and Matt's Korean Culture reading list is pretty eclectic: he'll run anything from tips on doing business in Korea, to language mini-lessons or vocab, to whatever movie or music video floated across his radar: it gives the blog a fun "whatever he can get his hands on" feel wherein the song that filled up the Korean radiowaves back in 2002 might show up next to the latest song by Girls' Generation, and sandwiched between a Korean language vocabulary list, an article about negotiating with Koreans, and a brief report on an urban legend making its way through the Korean memeosphere.

Of particular interest is the "Mastering Business in Korea" series, and the studying Korean wiki that he's hosting: you can go sign up yourself, and start posting articles about studying the language.

At this point, Matt's still just using his blog to study and get to know Korea before he arrives; I hope he keeps working on his site, and look forward to seeing what happens to the blog once he arrives.

Go check him out!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who's a Kid? I'm a Kid.

Where the Wild Things Are, the movie.

I love this book so much I even own it in Korean.

Nice use of The Arcade Fire, too.

Yeah, I'm geeking out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Name Lists

Students choosing names don't interest me. Skip me to the next post, about freedom of speech: a much more interesting topic.

Brian linked a list of English names his colleague has been using to help students choose a name.

Brian rightfully points out that many names on the list are dumb.

Here's that list...with convenient Korean translations of the names. And a lot of dumb names.

Here are some lists I made, back when I taught Kindergarten, and got tired having every darn parent name their kid Sam or Sally, or having kids choose their own names, and having classes go like this:

Me: Red Ranger! Sit down. Sam one: how many bears were there?
Sam one: Three bears.
Me: Tiger! What was the girl's name?
Tiger: Goldilocks.
Me: Sam two! Leave Batman alone! Sarah three! What did she do first?
Sarah two: Teacher, Red Ranger took Cinderella's pencil.
Me: What's the answer, Sarah two?
Cinderella: Teacher I am the new name and my name now new name Goldilocks.
Pikachu: Goldilocks is a stupid name.
WisdomSong: I agree.

List one: overused boys names.
Try to avoid choosing these names for boys: they are either too common, so they will be easy to forget, or much, much less common in English than in ESL classrooms.

Try to avoid choosing these names for your girls: they are either too common, and will be easy forget, or much, much less common in English than in ESL classrooms.

If your son's Korean name is Jae-kyun, go ahead and choose the name "Jake", and if your daughter's Korean name is Soo-jin, choose the name "Susan," because similar sounds make a name feel more natural to a student. Otherwise, avoid them.

Here are some names from the top 100 most common names lists, either in England or North America, which are not overused by ESL students, and are also pretty easy for Koreans to say and spell.

Names that are fine both for boys and girls:
Addison, Alexis, Ashton, Avery, Bailey, Cameron, Campbell, Carson, Casey, Dakota, Devon, Harley, Hayden, Jaden, Jamie, Jessie, Logan, Morgan, Parker, Payton, Phoenix, Quinn, Reese, Riley, Shea, Taylor, Teagan, Tyler

Names that are good for girls:

Names that are good for boys:
Alexander (Alex)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Want To Kill The President (just kidding)... Free Speech and What NOT to Joke About In Korea

OK. So there's this interesting subplot going on right now, where a Korean blogger named Minerva has been arrested... basically for being popular, and right. He wrote stuff that seemed to show access to inside information about Korea's economic policy, and his predictions were so uncannily accurate that some think his soothsaying turned into self-fulfilling prophecies (or so the prosecution claims) as his following began to use his posts to guide their financial decisions.

Now, he never claimed to be an insider...he just happened to be right, again and again and again, speaking as if he were one, until people assumed he WAS one, until one of his correct predictions supposedly led to a big drop in the Korean won, costing the government a bunch of money needed to restabilize it. (So sez the article.)

I took a shortened, simplified version of this article from the Korea Times into my conversation class this evening (it was written by Sean Hayes of The Korean Law Blog), along with this story, about three bloggers in Suncheon who are being investigated for manipulating their posts' readership statistics in order to get on web-portal DAUM's "Most-read articles" list and gain wider readership for their anti-Lee Myung-bak articles.

The basics of the article I brought to class:

1. Foreign bloggers are nervous about Minerva being arrested basically for being popular, and right: a lot of us write stuff that might actually be illegal, naming names, saying bad things about public figures, and such. However, it would be a big black eye, and possibly cause an international incident for Korea if a foreign blogger is investigated for pure speech.

2. There are so many people writing material on blogs that might be construed as illegal, that the bigwigs pretty much get to pick who to prosecute and who to ignore. Unsurprisingly, they pick on people who disagree with them.

3. Free speech in Korea is not protected in the same way it is in the West. Korea's free speech laws balance freedom of speech against the limitation that "neither speech nor the press shall violate the honor or rights of other person nor undermine public morals or social ethics" (quoted from my shortened version, not the original article)... not to mention, rights may be restricted again as necessary "for national security, law and order, or [the public good]"

Now I'm not a lawyer, so I might be getting this all wrong. If I am, please correct me in regular English, not legalese. However, being a Westerner, it makes me nervous that such vaguely defined terms as "honor" "rights" "public morals" and "social ethics" are included in these laws, because terms like "public morals" can be twisted to fit pretty much any definition, if a clever enough sophist is involved.

Anyway, some interesting things came out of the discussion, which I brought into two different classes.

A few of the things I gathered:

1. In America, truth is the ultimate defense against libel: that is, if what you say is true, you're protected from charges of libel. Not so in Korea: as my friend Joe discovered when he got sued by his ex-boss for blogging his attempts to get his contractually-guaranteed severance payment, you can still be found liable for libel, even if you're telling the truth, if you damage someone's reputation, here in Korea. Calling his boss a crook got him in hot water, even though his boss WAS a crook!

2. Now, I'm not a lawyer, but what I gathered from the article and the conversations is basically that in Korea, freedom of speech is balanced against the public good, and social harmony, where in the West, generally truth is the final arbiter of freedom of speech, and other than hate speech or things like holocaust denial, you're pretty much free to say what you like.

3. We discussed the difference between bloggers and journalists, and whether the government just painted themselves as the bogeyman by picking on bloggers, making bloggers who disagreed with the government's policy into sympathetic figures. On the other hand, we also discussed who, if not the government, was to hold journalists to account for distortions, yellow journalism, or agenda-driven writing.

North Korea came up here: see, comparing the USA or Canada, which have enjoyed democracy and a free press just about forever, with Korea, enjoying democracy since 1987, is a case of apples and oranges. Sure, USA can have lots of free speech laws: they don't have an open enemy bordering it, sending spies across their borders with instructions to use whatever means possible to stir up civil unrest and destabilize the government.

4. We discussed some other aspects of what is and isn't discussed in Korea, and how it is or isn't discussed, and I came across this:

First of all, I mentioned how mocking our leadership is practically a national sport in Canada: one of the high points of my week back in high school was the weekly episode of the "Royal Canadian Air Farce," a comedy troupe that deliciously skewered the leaders of the day, and I asked, "I've watched some Korean comedy...do Korean comedians imitate politicians and laugh at them, or make fun of them?"

Blank stares.

Nope. No, they pretty much don't, according to my class.

I showed them this clip, as an example of just. how. far. people push free speech in America, and how these guys got away with giving instructions on how to kill the president (hence the post title: I seriously don't want to kill anyone except that mosquito in my room), under the banner of free speech, and the defense that "I was only kidding!"

One of my students found this video laugh-out-loud hilarious. One was visibly bothered, and several just glazed over with quizzical looks.

5. When harmony instead of truth is the main currency of discourse, identity suddenly becomes important again, doesn't it? After all, if words must be balanced against one's responsibility to play their part in a harmonious society, how is one to be held accountable? Well...maybe the way Koreans are required use their ID numbers to log onto web portals starts making sense then.

6. When I asked two of my students, "If a Korean blogger wrote a page that seemed anti-government, but was actually all a satirical piss-take (I didn't use the word piss-take, but you know)... if the police came to arrest that blogger, and he said, 'but it was all a joke' - what should we do?"

And I was floored by their response. Both my students agreed that the comic intent was beside the point when spreading dissension, even sarcastically, and wouldn't have a problem with that satirist being brought to account. Does this reveal a focus on the effects of one's words, rather than the intentions... I'm not enough of a sociologist to say, nor to fit that into a larger context, but it's something I'll be watching for in the future, and maybe also asking others to weigh in on. It should be noted, and even they mentioned, that they belonged to an older generation, and that it's possible "the young kids" wouldn't have a problem with that kind of satire, even though they, the fogeys, did.

7. In asking about a person's freedom to tell a joke about assassinating a world leader, one of my students spoke up quite passionately, saying that it's not fair -- apples and oranges (I provided that idiom) to compare Canada or America's tradition of free speech with modes of discourse in Korea, that comparing Korea with China or Japan, rather than the USA, gave a more fair context for comparison.

On the other hand, I responded, globalization is pulling societies out of their comfortable contexts, and shining spotlights into dark corners and unspoken social contracts that nobody wanted to mention, in all kinds of countries, and making things way more complex than they used to be, before the days of instant communication.

If a South-African is arrested on Korean soil for running a website through a British portal that uses satiric humor to mock the Korean president, and he says, "I was just kidding: don't you understand my quirky South-African sense of humor?"...which country's rules should we use to judge him?

Personally, I'm torn. Even for a Korean on Korean case, for example, if Jang Ja-yeon, the Korean actress who committed suicide, knew that the truth was an iron-clad protection against libel, she might still be alive and fighting against the bastards who mistreated her, instead of her dying, and her manager facing a libel lawsuit from the same @$$holes who (allegedly) abused her. On the other hand, is my hard-nosed "The truth will set you free" wish for such unflinching truthspeaking just a leftover of my upbringing, and an unfair judgement on a high-context culture I ought to judge from the inside instead of the outside? Ech. I don't know. I think I'm not against free speech being balanced against responsibility. As a blogger whose real name is on his blog and circulated out and about, I know that my words will be attached to me. And I'm OK with that. In a way, yeah, I think people shouldn't write stuff online that they wouldn't want attached to their real name. Unless, for example, you're getting information about police suppression of Tibetan citizens out to the world. But you know, if your idea of fun is to write the most offensive blog you possibly can (and no, I'm not linking it), well, that's being irresponsible with your right to speak freely, frankly, and while I suppose you're free to do what you like as anonymously as you wish, buddy, I have nothing but contempt for your cowardice and pettiness.

I have a much lower "delete comment forever" threshhold for comments left anonymously, compared to commenters who leave a name and a link.

Let it be known that my students are not stupid. They know that the system ain't perfect, that right now the person in power gets to define what "the social good" means -- I asked if they thought those Suncheon bloggers would be in trouble if the articles they'd cheated to promote were pro-Lee Myungbak, and I got the kinds of knowing smiles that said they knew who had the power, and exactly how it was being wielded. I also asked what they think the president should do instead of arresting bloggers, but didn't have much class time to tease that out.

But until next time..."I was only kidding" doesn't quite carry the water it did back home, so be careful and all.

Now that I think about it, it might be another step towards understanding why discussions with Koreans about hot topics are often fairly humorless: When I joked back in World Cup '06 that the winner of the next Korea-Japan soccer game should keep Dokdo, my Korean friend snarled, "But DOKDO belongs to KOREA!" failing completely to catch my attempt to make light of a hot topic. Even just last Saturday, a friend's offhand Dokdo quip got girlfriendoseyo's hackles up a bit, the topic had to be changed rather than things smoothed over. Sure, she was tired at the time...but still. This might well be a language gap, or a gap in types of humor...but might a cultural tendency not to make light of current affairs (at least not in a mocking way) play a part of it?

So the question of the post, after all that meandering, is:
I've heard it said before that Korean comedy shows are pretty much devoid of political humour. What about conversations? Especially for those of you who are behind the language barrier (because Koreans who have learned English very well have adapted more to western modes of discourse, so as a sample group, they're spoiled): is there such thing as a Dokdo joke behind the language barrier? Are politics made light of, laughed about and mocked, or does the awful earnestness of Dokdo advertising campaigns, for example, or humourless political discussions in English conversation classes, carry right through into the Korean language discussions of the same?

Other food for thought about limitations on free speech: you might enjoy checking out South Park's brilliant two-part "Cartoon Wars" (Part 1) (Part 2) series in season ten, not long after the controversy over Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed, which ends with Jesus, George Bush, and a pregnant, single woman all crapping on an American Flag, and gets away with it because of the context in which they framed it. (See the clip here. Warning: there's crap.)

(speaking of censorship:)

I'm looking forward to an interesting conversation about this topic, readers. Don't let me down.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When I'm busy, music makes me happy.

Last time I talked with poposeyo, he mentioned that these days, the general feeling on blogoseyo is that Roboseyo is really busy. Oseyo. And popopseyo would be correct. Oseyo.

And when I'm busy, music makes me happy.

As I slowly reveal the awesome music I've found through recommendations by a few friends, as well as Metacritic.com's "30 Best Reviewed Albums of 2008" (an awesome bittorent I found), here is a video of a just lovely song I found.

Paavoharju is the name of the band, and all I know about them is that their album Laulu Laakson Kukista ranked 21st on the Metacritic top thirty. However, after two listens (because anything that makes a top thirty general critics' consensus list deserves at least a few listens), the music started growing on me fast. It's ethereal, and lovely, and why are you reading this when you could be listening to it?

This song wasn't on Youtube, but the title, Tyttö Tanssii, means "Girl Dance" according to Google Translate (which is more infallible than the Pope, you know) so I put it up with video clips from various videos I found of...uh...dancing girls.

More on Paavoharju (they're Finnish. And Lutheran. Who knew?)

and here's another track from the same album. Ready to buy yet?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Story and Survey

OK, readers. First of all, a video of those odd live models I saw in Coex the other day.

Next, the most epically goofy moment of the andong trip:

that's my buddy Evan. And keep yourselves in check, ladies: he's single.

Next, a little videos of some old Korean ladies doing Korean culture.

Sometiems I like doing Korean culture, too. A few times, Girlfriendoseyo and I even did Korean culture together. But after a while my knees hurt from sitting on the floor.

Next, a story:

I was bopping around my neighbourhood, eyes agape in wonder at the Springiness of new Spring...I lost a bet with Girlfriendoseyo; I thought winter had one more snowfall in it before it got warm; looks like I owe her some cooking. But I was standing in the front lobby of my hotel building, waiting for an elevator, and obstructing the path of one of those creaky old ladies who collects trash in a cart. She didn't know how to tell me to get out of her way, so she said, in this whimsical voice, "Baang baaaang!" essentially honking the horn at me.

It was fantastic.

The next day, I was walking around a university near my neighbourhood and saw some more people doing Korean culture, this time with drums. I like Korean culture with drums, so I sat and watched them play. It was great. I love seeing people Korean cultureing.
Unfortunately, crappy cameraphone the second was all I had to commemorate the mosh pit of drum-holders in plain old regular everyday cloths, bobbing and rockstepping to Korean culture. Anyway, it was great.

Finally, ol' Roboseyo has been working hard at teaching, as well as studying Korean, being insanely happy with Girlfriendoseyo, maintaining Roboseyo, updating The Hub of Sparkle (and defending both from trolls and jerk-faces, while trying to figure out which wankers are trolls and which wankers are just regular wankers,) cooking up ideas for my next Korea Herald article, reading and writing for my own edification, thinking up silly stuff to say and crack up my coworkers, and trying to have more than one friend, too.

It's been a while since Roboseyo has dropped one of those really nifty Roboseyo type posts...

so I'm turning the wheel over to you, dear readers, to choose the next topic on which I hold forth at length, at my colourful Roboseyo best:

go up to the top of the page, and you can vote on which of these topics you would like to hear Roboseyo write about:

Some of these are recycled topics from previous vote-ins, and some of them are new:
Great Korean Movies you should track down and see
Create a country that combines the best of Canada and Korea
The movie I hate the most
What I REALLY think about Dokdo
Why I suck up to Korea so much on your blog?
Why I got involved with The Hub of Sparkle, and what I you hope to accomplish there

and if you have another really cool topic which I didn't think of, put it in the comments, and I'll put it in my (tobacco) pipe and smoke it, and see if a post comes of it, too.

Go to the survey on the side, and vote!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oh, by the way...

I've been downloading and watching a lot of old Hong Kong action movies, and I've gotta say...

Bruce Lee, in vengance mode,


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Roboseyo's Bliss-Out Of The Week: Modest Mouse

'seyo likes fire.
and cozy pubs in Daehangno.

OK, so I've been listening to a lot of really cool music lately:

One friend put me onto Spiritualized, another recommended Space Hog's Chinese Album, and yet another got me onto a group called Nouvelle Vague, which will probably be the subject of a post of its own.

Anyway, your bliss-out of the day is from Modest Mouse's first album: before they started broadening their appeal (though I personally still think they sound great, even as the snobs declare them sell-outs -- indie music has been so completely co-opted by now, and the internet spreads word so quickly, that the idea of selling out doesn't mean much anymore anyway, and if you've even heard of a band at all, chances are you'll hear them on an i-pod ad next week, because (damn them) the guys who choose music for commercials have pretty bloody great taste in music...so much so that I used to laugh at the way the commercials' music upstaged the quality of the music in the videos on MTV.

Back on target: I used to be fond of saying that if you took an ordinary rock band, and stuck them in a pencil sharpener, the result would be Modest Mouse. Their first few albums and LPs especially, and even now, a few tracks per album, have a ragged intensity that will drag you along. The style isn't for everyone: the vocals can be rough-hewn, and the lead singer manages to wail and bark through some of the songs, though the lyrics are durn worthwhile if you listen to some of them. Their debut, "This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing To Think About" is loaded and laced with clever and inventive musical moments and turns of phrase. Listen to the first forty seconds of this track for just one example of how they build momentum. Well, the entire last third of the album, also builds momentum, along a thirty-minute arc, of fast-song/slow-song alternations, increasing in intensity, to this, the final bliss-out on the album there's one more track: a kind of coda, but this song is the climax to which the whole things builds, this is what all the other wail-outs, bliss-downs and stomp-drives have led up to, and dear readers, it is worthy. This is one of the best songs I know to listen loud: in fact, this whole album is probably best listened to in the car, out on the open road.

The way it builds in the first half, starting very slow, and then gaining speed before the screeching bliss-out at the end, flipping between sounding like a siren or a kid squeaking two balloons together, to the mechanical birds of the track title soaring in wild patterns, the song only makes sense really loud, and played loud, it never fails.

(the video is from the fireworks festival in Andong)

The song is also a textbook example of the way a bliss-out needs, NEEDS a build-up. Not always a long one: U2's Beautiful Day only spends about a minute leading up to the bliss-out chorus, but a dynamic shift really helps startle the listener into that other place the band is reaching for. Now really, this bliss-out starts six songs earlier, as the album gains momentum during the last half, with most of the best songs coming during the lead up. Then, on this track, too, the band builds for about half the song, before it finally leaps into bliss-out territory, and then in the last thirty seconds or so, it even has the courtesy to slow down a bit and ease us out of the bliss zone. If you don't enjoy the sounds, that's OK, but you can at least appreciate the mechanics of the song dynamics, can't you? I love Modest Mouse, partly for that. I'm a sucker for dynamics. I'm not that sophisticated a music listener, but a good shift in tone or tempo keeps me listening.

Don't like it? That's OK. I know Modest Mouse ain't for everybody. But don't write it off until you've listened to it as loud as you can, and preferably in a situation where you can experience some kind of motion (walking on a sidewalk, doing yoga, driving) -- that might help.

Meanwhile, I took these fun pictures at ATEK's book release party for their extremely useful English Teacher's Guide to Korea, and while there, we noticed that Tony's jacket coincidentally matched the bench on which he sat.

We almost lost him a few times. Fortunately, his voice carries.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good Weekend, plus, Remember This Video?

Well, I'm getting grief for being unable to top my "Come on Toshi" video from back in the day, so here's another just brilliant one. Yeah, it's been around before, but it's just so awesome, I thought I'd re-post it:

How's that, Jason?

Meanwhile, I had a good weekend.

Saw Bobby Kim on White Day/St. Patrick's day, and had the third-worst sangria so far on my mission to find the best sangria in Seoul, and bummed around a bunch with Girlfriendoseyo. Then on Sunday, I took her to Wolfhound for the first time, and got to enjoy watching her experience her first taste of the fantastic Wolfhound burger.

Now, I love Wolfhound, but I do have one gripe:

Dear Wolfhound Pub:

I like your place. I like your food. I like your beer. Your breakfast ain't too bad, either. However, I'm asking you to do one of three things:

1. serve your coffee in a smaller mug, so that I don't feel ripped off by getting a coffee mug that's 40% full
2. fill your flurbing coffee mugs to the top, or at least near the top
3. charge less than three thousand won for four mouthfuls of coffee, when down the street, Rocky Mountain Tavern gives free coffee refills with all their breakfasts, and Starbucks gives nearly a PINT of coffee for a tiny bit more than the price of your tiny coffee puddle.

I like your food a lot, Wolfhound, but the paltry amount of coffee you serve to your poor, hung over customers on Sunday mornings, for THREE FREAKING THOUSAND WON, is, frankly, insulting, and every time I order a coffee from Wolfhound, I hate the place for a while, until my hamburger comes out. And it wouldn't take much to fix this problem. Just do it, and I'll love you forever.

Some pictures from a while back that I wanted to share:

Hey? Wanna get paid to be really good looking? VIOP has hired live people to model their little thingys instead of having them holler into microphones and do sexy dances... it was a bit surprising, but it sure gathered a crowd.

Mustve been boring as heck.

So the Seoul City Tour Bus got some sponsors... it's kind of bad planning, though, to have a poster on the side of the bus which obscures the view.
Yeah, you can see through it, but, uh, still...isn't this getting the priorities wrong for a tour bus trying to put Seoul on display as well as possible?

Other than that...

It's official. Girlfriendoseyo was asking me about the Canadian health-care system, and I couldn't answer her questions. I have been in Korea too long to be up on stuff back in Canada. Which is awkward when I'm regularly asked to speak for Canadian culture, as well as Western culture at large (jeez. What do I know about Denmark? How can I answer for all of "THE WEST"?)

Get your hands on the old Hong Kong Movie "Master of the Flying Guillotine". Just do it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The UCC Music Video Thing

I'd be interested to know which song started this whole fan music video imitating choreography thing... but it's sure fun.

You might know the Beyonce song "Single Ladies" which is everywhere right now, and the video's getting about a bajillion hits. Well the song, and the dance, is so catchy, that a bajillion MORE people are making their own versions of the song.

Here's the original.

Here's the fan version I like the best so far.

And let's not forget Justin Timberlake going wild on SNL.

This is not the first fan ucc video craze: just here in Korea, there was the "tell me" dance -- one of the genius moves of the WonderGirls' producer, the spectacularly not-handsome JYP (seen here with his face in a backup dancer's crotch) is coming up with dances that are cool and distinctive, but also easy enough for people to try to learn.

Here's the Wondergirls' Tell Me, for any of you who have forgotten.

And there were a zillion imitations of this one, too, among them...this one.

Which leads to horrific train wrecks like these.

Girls' Generation had to get in on the action, and I like the self-awareness of this video's intro, where they start out as indistinguishable mannequins before they come to life as indistinguishable mannequins that can dance. The song's catchy, with a driving beat, and another cute but not-too-hard dance that people can learn in their jazz-dance class at the health club -- kind of the choreographer's equivalent of the way many modern church praise songs are written to be played with simple chords, so that near-novice guitarists can still play them competently (see also: the vocal difficulty of every Korean Trot song ever written).

And then there were UCC versions like this: not that skilled, but must have taken those boys a lot of work and time.

or the rock version, the (actually pretty good) traditional instruments arrangement or the most common: the either inept, or mechanical living room webcam.

I wonder about the origins of this fancam music video thing, and where it all started...

I've been wrong before, but I think it might have started (or at least become cool outside Korea) with Michael Jackson's Thriller dance, which still pops up from time to time, in increasingly clever/random ways.

There was the just plain weird Bollywood thriller.

Prison Thriller

A couple of wedding thrillers.

And my personal favorite: the Tube Thriller.

Imagine being on this car.

And wait for it... how about this one. So nerdy it flips back and becomes epically cool. Imagine having the story of winning a Star Wars Dance-off by doing The Thriller as Darth Vader in your pocket: nobody'd know whether to give you a wedgie or buy you a beer.

Anyway, post your favorite Girls Generation, Wondergirls, or Thriller fan version in the comments. See if you can top Darth Vader.

Have a good day, my lovely readers.

WTF? A Korea Times Cartoonist Capable of Irony? Oh. Unintentional.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the comic portraying Obama supposedly casting ideology out of the realm of science, chooses to portray the archaic and anti-scientific ideologues as a dinosaur...

when one of their biggest ideological flash-points was the teaching of creation and evolution in school, along with the denial of dinosaurs' existence by some?

Portraying anti-scientific ideologues as dinosaurs would be kind of like portraying Salem's Puritans as warlocks, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Korean fusion food. A-MAyonnaiZ-ING!

Now, anybody who spends long enough here knows about Korean restaurants' tendency to put (sometimes a lot of) mayonnaise or sweet mustard sauce on just about any food that is not considered "Korean". It's one of those funny quirks that keeps you on your toes anytime you're in a fusion or foreign restaurant here.

Well, if you read Zenkimchi's Andong post, you'll know that my new favorite thing is complaining to restauranteurs in pidgin Korean.

You'll be happy to know that while there is tons of good food to be eaten in Seoul, there are also ample opportunities to practice my new hobby.

Today I went to a restaurant and ordered a seafood salad. Wanted something fresh, you know?

Dear readers, the thing came swimming in so much sweet mustard/mayonnaise sauce that I couldn't even taste the shredded cabbage. (And you know, you could read that sentence and probably guess that I was in Korea, even if you knew nothing about this blog whatsoever). I actually got out the tissues and dabbed away the excess sauce, because it was so egregiously over-sauced, and built up no small mountain of sopping, saccharine napkins in doing so. (Photos when I get home and download them off my crappy cameraphone). Even so, there was still a puddle of sauce in the bottom of the bowl. It made me feel a bit nauseous looking at how much mayonnaise I could have consumed.

Thanks to crappy cameraphone the second, it's hard to see the veritable pool of sauce still in the bottom of the bowl.

And that was after removing this many napkins' worth of sauce, already.

This was a restaurant I used to like, too, until a few bad choices in background music (speed techno doesn't help me relax and enjoy my food, as awesome as Lee Jung Hyun is in other contexts), and this mayonnaise debacle left, um, a sour taste in my mouth.

Lee Jung Hyun: Wah. Try tucking in to a nice california roll with this on in the background.

However, not to be deterred, I got out my cellphone dictionary (after taking some gross-out pictures of the mayonnaise soup in the bottom of my bowl), and finally looked up the word "taste" and the structure "could/couldn't taste". When I went to pay, I was very proud of myself for saying, in broken Korean, "Too much sauce. I couldn't taste the vegetables."

Yep. After all that talk about complaining expats, I'm learning to complain in Korean.

Look out, world!