Tuesday, June 30, 2009

from the golden age of MJ:

billie jean, baby. 1983, Motown: the first moonwalk (by MJ)

Yep. I said the first moonwalk by MJ. hang on to the end of this video:

that's bill bailey, in 1955.

one of my biggest annoyances about proprietary rights and such is that, while a lot of other artists see how making their stuff available on Youtube is good, free publicity which could increase your exposure, Michael Jackson's videos are all embedding disabled, and Prince (maybe my favorite artist of the '80s) won't share.

A few links:

Concerned as he is with gender perception in Korea, and the mechanics of females in society and gender relationships, I wonder if James Turnbull would be interested in this article, service, or treatment of topic:

from the Korea Times:
Is 'Substitute Man' Modern White Knight?
it's an article about a quick service enterprise gaining momentum these days where, basically, (for example, in the case of a business called "Any Man," if a single woman has a "man" issue to deal with -- say, a bookshelf to move, a bug to kill, or, I suppose, a swoon to revive, she can thumb up the service on her speed-dial, and a "white knight" on a scooter will arrive at her house within ten minutes to put his thumb on the ribbon for the gift-wrapped present, properly operate the plumbing snake, or open that darn pickle-jar. It's written up as if it's exclusively women who use the service, and exclusively men who are employed as such.

In other news:

My friend's recent experience with a bank's slap-in-the-face credit card acquisition policy for foreigners seems to put the lie to this one, but the article says banks are looking at expat customers as their next big customer demographic: Banks See Expatriates as Gold Mine

Monday, June 29, 2009

Korean Historical Films

Now, Korea's film industry has been pumping out about a film a year of important moments in Korea's history: now that the industry has the skill and money to tell stories a little better than they could in the '90s, and the freedom to do so that they didn't have during the dictatorial censorship of the '80s, it's time for some historical filmmaking! The movies made in the name of this sort of historical record keeping have been uneven, at best, and whether they are even mildly accurate to the actual events is not mine to discuss.

A quick rundown of a few:

Shilmido was quite good -- it was about a bunch of Korean men who were recruited by the South Korean military, pulled out of headed-nowhere lives to be trained into a bloodthirsty assassination squad with a mission to raid (I can't remember if it was Kim Jong-il or Kim Il-sung) the North Korean president's house and cut his throat -- in response to an attack on South Korea's president by North Korean assassins that led to a three day shootout between North Korean commandoes and the South's national guard, around the blue house.

Taegukki was the Korean equivalent of Top Gun, to me:insofar as it was the worst good movie Korea's ever made, or the best bad movie. I saw it with my dad when he came here in 2006, and it's about two brothers who end up getting ensnared in the Korean war, and the whole "brother against brother" thing gets examined, poked, exploited, and then beaten into the ground in slow-motion as machine guns fire in the background, the world grows silent, and a character shoutes, "NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" and holds its head in his lap while it breathes its last. Frankly, I thought it was awful, manipulative and gory and about an hour too long (and that last hour took the melodrama over the top, into "so bad it's good" territory, and then BACK into "so bad it's bad again" territory.)

There was a movie about the May 18th Gwangju Massagre of 1979 (maybe 1978; too lazy to fact check) that featured a line up of more top Korean stars than you could shake a stick at, and a lot of violins and slow-motion in the preview, that got tapioca reviews (at best), and that I decided not to see until somebody I knew said something good about it, and encouraged me to see it. Let's leave it at, I still haven't seen it: the most enthusiastic review I've heard so far prompted me to teach my class the phrase "damn with faint praise".

Movies to come: it should be noted that a number of these historical figures have been given the historical drama (TV Series category) treatment, but have not yet (to my limited knowledge) been given the full historical (film category) treatment. On second thought, in some cases, it might be better that way. Who'd want to see Yu Gwan-sun get the "Pearl Harbor" treatment...but then, if she got the "The Pianist" treatment instead, it might fly.

An epic about Yi Sunshin's naval battles with the Japanese.
A biopic of Yu Gwan-sun (a student, and independence martyr tortured to death for protesting Japan's colonization of Korea)
Something about the 1987 Democratization movement
Was the assassination of Park Chung-hee covered in that barber movie? I haven't seen it.
A biopic of Kim Gu
Possibly an epic about Goguryeo's King Gwang-Gye-to, Korea's greatest expansionist king, who conquered Manchuria and large portions of China's eastern coast, and who, like T.S. Eliot, who appears in both English AND American poetry anthologies, is claimed by both Korea and China as one of their own, but he's had a TV series made about him already.
Hopefully, a story about King Sejong, the greatest Korean, and one of the greatest leaders in history . . . though his life doesn't make as good copy as the others, because he was a scholar and a scientist, rather than an asskicker. The story of how he came to the throne is pretty cool, though.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael.

yeah, that's two posts in a row not about Korea. deal with it. The song's "Fan Letter to Michael Jackson" by the Rheostatics - sorry about the quality. It's the only version on Youtube, and it's a cool song I remember from the '90s, and have always wanted to hear again.

I like the "It feels good to be alive" refrain near the end.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Movie Franchise Tagline...

Just saw Terminator 4, and rewatched Terminator 1 on my computer. The first one is a really nice, taut action movie, though one of the new retro-pleasures of watching these old '80s action movies is snickering at the action effects that were so riveting/revolutionary/terrifying in the '80s.

(My favorite this month: Tarman, from the Return of the Living Dead movies. Awful movies, as zombie films go: they seem more based on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video than anything scary, but Tarman's pretty cool...almost scary, and pretty awesome for '80s effects. The way he moves is occasionally really cool.)

Here's Tarman. Warning: tarman.

But The Terminator films have one thing going for them:

A super-de-duper great movie catchphrase.
"Come with me if you want to live"

(Yes, I know "I'll be back" is in there, too, but that's an Arnold line, not an exclusively Terminator line, so it doesn't count.)

And the question is:

Is there any better movie franchise catchphrase?

Here are the candidates I can think of:

1. "Yippiekiyay, Mother#*@&er!" (Die Hard)
2. either "Use the force" (a bit cheesy) or "I have a bad feeling about this" (Star Wars)
3. "Come with me if you want to live" (Terminator)
4. (are we including comedy here?) "Yeeah, baby!" (Austin Powers)
5. "What're you looking at, butthead?" (Back to the Future)
6. (maybe too short, but...) "Whoa" (Matrix)

Any others I'm missing? Help me out here, readers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Greetings, Korea Herald Readers.

Soundtrack: hit play and start reading.

Hi there. I'm Rob. I write a blog. (this is the other blog I contribute to)

If you're a Korea Herald reader, you may have found your way here by way of the URL at the bottom of my article, "News firms of questionable quality abound". This article was a response to these two articles, which basically accused English teachers of being unfit, unprofessional, vulgar, and sex-crazed. The Pressian Article- "We are Vampires" (the original Korean) The Yonhap News article (the original Korean). Here is the original blog post I wrote about Yonhap: it's stated a little more strongly than what I put in The Herald. Here's an article in the Korea Times about the same Yonhap piece. (Yay Jason Lim)

If you are annoyed that foreigners are criticizing Korea's media, then ask yourself why we have to do it: why aren't KOREANS holding their journalists to a higher degree of accountability? If you're here to tell me Koreans ARE, great! Good for you! Keep fighting the good fight, and don't give up! Get your friends to join in. If you're here to tell me it's only the right-wing papers that do it, or only the left-wing papers that attack English papers, check out the links below: they go right across the political spectrum. (p.s.: why do newspapers all have positions on the political spectrum? isn't that weird to other people, too?)

The article I wrote is about the ugly pattern of racist journalism promoting stereotypes of English teachers: often they are stereotypes based on rumors, with no statistical proof. For some actual statistics on foreigner crime, check pages 16 and 20 in the report embedded on this page.

If you don't believe what I say about the Korean media's anti-English teacher bias, check out a more in-depth look at the way Korea's media has been systematically dragging down the reputation of English teachers in this post at a friend's blog: "A History of Scapegoating English Teachers"
and also pages 9-13 of the report here.

If you're annoyed that I named your news outlet (those would be The Chosun, the Joongang, the Hankooki), here are the links to articles where your news outlets treated English teachers in an unbalanced or sensationalist way.

This article talks about the Joongang daily's reporting on the playboy party: http://news.naver.com/main/read.nhn?mode=LPOD&mid=sec&sid1=001&sid2=119&oid=044&aid=0000048618
and this article talks about how Joongang's coverage of the playboy party was biased and selective:
This one does too.

here's the hangooki on unqualified English teachers

I'd recommend linking Matt's blog post, "A brief history of scapegoating English Teachers," which gathers most of these sources in one place. http://populargusts.blogspot.com/2007/09/brief-history-of-scapegoating-english.html

"Beware the Ugly White English Teacher" http://sports.chosun.com/news/ntype2.htm?ut=1&name=/news/life/200705/20070528/75827008.htm

English Joongang Daily: connects English teachers to a group of pedophiles who never tried to become English teachers, and many of whom had never even visited Korea. http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2889573

If you really, really agree with me, and want to help hold the Korean Media to a higher standard, check out this brand-new site created to do exactly that, and contact this guy about how you can help contribute to the site. It's a worthwhile project that needs people power to become all that it could be.

I know that not every Korean is a racist. I'm not stupid. I also know that not every Korean journalist is a racist. As I said: I'm not stupid. I also know that English teachers are not all angels in white, living like monks in Korea. (Not stupid, remember?) however, I wish news outlets were responsible and balanced in the way they reported minorities, especially when those reports DO cause our lives to be more difficult. I've been told to my face by students that after Christopher Paul Neil's arrest, they didn't trust Canadians for a while. To my face. I do not like being held responsible for the actions of other people who share nothing with me except the country of birth, and if I AM to be associated with my birth country, I wish it would be for the positives and the high water marks, not the low points. Associate Canada with socialized health care, Tommy Douglas, Terry Fox, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Oondaatje, not Robert William Pickton and Clifford Olsen and Christopher Paul Neil, in the same way I'm sure you'd rather I thought of King Sejong, Shin Saimdang and Yi Sunshin than Kim Jong-il, Cho Seung-hee, Park Han-se, and Woo Bum-kon when I think of Korea.

And honestly, though I don't know why my motivation should matter, I write this stuff because I care about Korea, and I'd like to see Korea become a better place. Not out of some kind of smug, colonial arrogance, but because my Korean friends are just as frustrated as I am that Korea isn't always what it wished it could be, and writing about the gap between what Korea is and what Korea wants to be, is the beginning step to closing that gap. If I didn't care about Korea, I'd drink more, finish my contract, pack my bags, say "I'm tired of this shit. Fuck it." and leave. And a lot of people do, but telling me to go home isn't helpful.

To know more about why I, and other expats complain about Korea, I recommend this series: Why do Expats (in Korea) Complain So Much?

And to see how I really feel about Korea, I recommend the links in the sidebar to the right.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 22, 2009

PimatGoodbye, Pimatgol. Redevelopment at a great loss

Photos from here

Pimatgol: one of the loveliest little side-alley tangles in Seoul, is being razed.

Soon, this:

Will be replaced with more of this:
and this: the La Meilleur building, and one of the more eyesorey eyesores in downtown Seoul,
and this: tossing a bone to the destroyed pimatgol with this mockery of the original back-alley (600 year history?...needs a 7-11)
I hate when Seoul's cool neighbourhoods get ruined by redevelopment or gentrification... in Dali (and that CHINA, folks, freakin' CHINA!) the municipal government has laws about certain neighborhoods, requiring new buildings to match the style of the old buildings, in order to maintain the local feeling, and a city that wants to be a world hub of everything can't even preserve one of the coolest alley networks in the city, and the kind of area that COULD BE MARKETED. Dumbasses.

Seoul is poorer for the loss of pimatgol. It was such a lovely area, and really should have been cleaned up rather than razed. I lived around here for 16 months, and it was one of my favorite times in Korea, and pimatgol is like a maze of wonders, but now it's been cleared right out, and if those homey, bustling little alleyways with their awesome hole-in-the-wall restaurants get replaced with another glass-and-steel abomination. I hate, hate, hate, how the local color gets bleached out for steel-and-glass, and I rue the fact Seoul was hyper-developed during the steel-and-glass era, which remains to my mind the ugliest architectural aesthetic out there.

Matt from Popular Gusts has written a lovely elegy for pimatgol: the kind of place where you might accidentaly have a bowl of makkeolli with a poet. At La Meilleur, you're more likely to accidentally brush shoulders with a social climber or a made-up gold digger.

King Baeksu, who connects with Pimatgol in a very personal way, has more.

And Korea is poorer.

Korean Mental Illness Treatment: So Bad it's Tantamount to Persecution? Refugee Says Yes

Hat tip to BiJnD

Holy crap. This is one of the stories so embarrassing that Korean Tourism should suspend operations and send all its people over to work in Korean mental health programs to improve them, before they continue promoting Korea in conventional ways.

Canada just awarded refugee status to a paranoid-schizophrenic Korean woman, not because her church was out to get her, as her original complaint went, but because Korean mental health care is so poor that it amounts to persecution.

Yep. You read that right. Korean health care is so poor that Canada awarded refugee status to a Korean woman. Vancouver Sun reports.

from the article:

South Koreans with mental illness are treated as an extreme underclass, with one hospital room sleeping 100 women with just 15 mats and no room for personal belongings, according to a letter submitted to the board and written by Daniel Fisher, executive director the National Empowerment Center in Lawrence, Mass.

However, before we get too high on Canada as the greatest country in the world...read some of the comments below the article. Sure, it's no Korea Times comment board, and some of the people might be right about Canada's ability to care for its own mental illness patients, but it's still pretty bad.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Game at Roboseyo: weirdest "please hold until a customer care clerk becomes available" music

Rules are simple:

What would be the weirdest song to hear while waiting for a call-center clerk to become available?

Put your answer in the comments. You can go weird: (Bela Lugosi is Dead) or ironic (like playing "Alive" as an in-flight movie), or whatever you like.

Bonus points if you include a link to a youtube clip of the song.

My first submission: not too out there or anything, but a great video: "Pick Up The Phone" by Notwist.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ten Albums that Make Roboseyo Happy

Here are the ten CDs that have really made me happy over the last half-year.

Including my bliss-out of the week: slow with horns, by Dan Deacon, from the album "Bromst"

The rules are simple: I must have discovered the CD sometime in the last six months. I don't care if some of them are old news to you, and I also don't care if some of them don't float your boat, for any reason. They make me happy, and that's enough. In no particular order:

6. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I were an Eagle. Rich, deep voice, gentle arrangements, quirky lyrics: so much to like in a really, really nice, intriguing but relaxing Sunday afternoon album. Favorite song: "Rococo Zephyr" for having a Rococo Zephyr as a character in the song. Here's another song from the album, on Youtube.
I've talked enough about TV On The Radio that I won't write about it here.

4. Dan Deacon - Bromst - some artists have music good for parties. Dan Deacon's music sounds like the instruments are having a party. Favorite track on the album: "Slow With Horns". "Wham City" from "Spiderman of the Rings" is a better song than any on Bromst, the newer one, but Bromst wins out for more consistent awesomenity.
listen to Dan Deacon on his Myspace Page.

9. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion - the whole album is a big, noisy, fun bliss-out. Here's one track with a pretty trippy video, too. Stars AND bubbles.
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

1. Camper Van Beethoven - Key Lime Pie - a classic from the 1989, a solid songwriting effort with wit and that something extra that makes you want to listen to it again a week later, and snags lines and phrases in your head.

7. Jamie Cullum - Twentysomething - best Jeff Buckley song I've heard by Not Jeff Buckley so far: Lover, You Should Have Come Over. High and Dry gets a nice, mellow jazz version that reveals the song's strong songwriting.
Jang SaIk 장사익 -- 하늘가는 길 the song 찔레꽃 is just heartbreaking.

2. Mugison - Mugiboogie - wacky, weird, noisy and then touching. This album is all over the map, and continuously intriguing, if a bit inaccessible. You really, seriously never know which instrument or sound is going to jump out of a corner and startle you next.
The Music Tapes - Music for Clouds and Tornadoes

3. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - Naturally - wins by a nose over 100 Days, 100 Nights, because of the song "Stranded in your Love" an awesome, awful, co-dependent duet, which unfortunately isn't on Youtube. Here's the title track from 100 Days, 100 Nights, which contains all the reasons you should love Sharon Jones: she's a throwback to that old '70s motown sound, that rich, fat sound, the swaggering Aretha Franklin swing. The power, the heat, all that!

5. Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas - Vol. 1-5. I wrote about these before, so I won't now.

8. Swan Lake - Enemy Mine - creaky, articulate, odd but compelling, Swan Lake is the team-up of two indie rock-superstars. Their first album was uneven, as if they hadn't figured out how to sound TOGETHER yet, but this one is a really nice, tight effort from Spencer Krug (a favorite of mine from Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, who brings something sweeping yet childlike to his instrumentals) and Dan Bejar (of Destroyer, the awesome The New Pornographers, who brings verve and wit to his lyrics) Here's a nice track with a claustrophobic feeling that suddenly opens into one of those great bridges that Spencer Krug pops off with startling frequency. (at 2:00)

10. - The Walkmen - You & Me - didn't impress me at first, but it's been growing on me more and more. Another solid album from top to bottom, that's got some strong songwriting (I'm a sucker for good songwritine) and an atmosphere all its own. The emotive but slightly adrift vocals, and then frantic, mounting choruses and bridges, create a nice counterpoint. There's a lot of open space in here. In the New Year is a good track that shows off their strengths.

11. (bonus:) Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space - Broken Heart - sweeping orchestral spiritual sadness. After the hypnotic repetitions of intro song "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space," this is the one that actually carries the album off INTO space.

There. Enjoy that for now.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Do something about the Yonhap Race-baiting Article

Two things to do:

1. Want to send an angry email to the reporter? Use this. Be sure to CC the Yonhap ombudsman.

To: ssahn@yna.co.kr
CC: ombudsman@yna.co.kr

포털 네이버에 올라온 6월 11일자 당신의 기사 “자질 시비 원어민 교사 판친다”를 읽고 매우 충격을 받았습니다.

많은 대다수의 원어민 교사들은 매일 매일 그들의 수업에 열심히 참여하고 있으며, 실제로 그들이 하고 있는 일에 즐겁게 참여하고 있습니다. 대다수의 원어민 교사들은 아이들과 아이들의 미래에 대하여 고민하고 있습니다. 그러나 항상 예외는 있게 마련입니다. 하지만 당신의 기사는 마치 대다수의 원어민이 자질에 문제가 있는것처럼 만들었습니다.

저는 당신의 기사에서 어떤 원어민의 인터뷰도 없는 것을 보았습니다. 단지 전해 들은 이야기이다라는 식이었습니다. 사실과 그 사실을 증명할 만한 증거는 어디에 있는건가요? 언론의 기본과 기준은 어디에 있나요? 언론으로서의 전문적인 기준은 모든 측이 공평하게 이야기되어져야하며, 양측에게 모두 이야기할 수 있는 기회가 주어져야함을 요구합니다. 당신이 기사화했다는 것만으로 그것이 사실이 되는 것은 아닙니다.

이런 종류의 선정적인 기사 보도가 마치 철저한 조사에 바탕을 둔 기사처럼 보인다는 점에서 저는 분개하지 않을 수 없습니다. 불행한 것은, 이런 식의 접근이 언론에서 너무 흔하게 발견된다는 사실입니다.

당신의 기사는 한국의 전문 뉴스 통신사로서의 기준도 지키지 않고 있을 뿐만아니라, 외국인 혐오증과 자민족 중심성을 더욱 촉진시키고 있습니다.

연합뉴스! 그런 기본도 안되는 기사를 싣는 당신이 부끄럽습니다.


I was shocked to find your 6-11 article “자질 시비 원어민 교사 판친다” on naver.com.

The vast majority of native English teachers show up for work every
day ready to teach, and actually enjoy what they are doing. They care
about the students and their future. There are always exceptions, but
this article makes it seem like the rule [norm].

I noticed that there are no quotes from English teachers in this
story. It is all hear-say. Where are the facts and supporting
evidence? Where are the journalistic integrity and standards?

Professional standards demand that all sides be equally represented
and given a chance to speak for themselves. Just because you print
something doesn’t make it fact.

I’m outraged that this kind of sensationalist opinion piece actually
passes as investigative journalism. Unfortunately, this approach is
too common in the media.

Not only is this story below the standards of a national newswire, it
also fuels the fires of xenophobia and ethnocentrism.

Shame on you, Yonhap, for printing this ignorant hate speech!

2. Help me gather material for an article I'm planning to send to various news sources and Korea brand promoters.

Here's the explanation, with a link to the survey at the end.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dear Korean Journalists: You are Making Your Country Look Bad

I don't want to say anything about Yonhap News' latest piece of racist muckraking. But I have to.

However, it must be said that when racist garbage like Yonhap News' latest hit piece on English teachers comes out, people know. Koreans are not the only people who read Yonhap news, and even if most Koreans don't read what is written about Korea in English (why bother when I'm sure Naver has another essay up today about Korea's glorious four seasons), other people, in other countries want to learn about Korea, and when they find things like this: Yonhap: Unfit, Foulmouthed, Drunken English Teachers Running Rampant it doesn't matter how many Korean language articles there are to be found on Naver and Daum about the health benefits of Kimchi: English speakers still read mention of articles like this one, and frankly, here's the impression it gives:

Only a country full of racists would allow a media outlet to publish a piece as full of unchecked racism as this.

Now, this isn't necessarily true: we've all met a lot of Koreans who are super-cool, cosmopolitan, global-minded, who deplore such bald racism... but why aren't they storming down the doors of media outlets that publish this kind of yellow journalism, and demanding accountability... their silence reads as tacit approval, and Korea looks bad.

And Korea SHOULD look bad, until its media is roundly, and loudly criticized for playing on people's worst fears. Korea DESERVES to be embarrassed on the world stage, if it allows their media so much unchecked irresponsibilty. That's all.

Shame on you, Yonhap, and shame on every media outlet that publishes junk like this, and on every editor who approves it, and on every Korean who is silent while media outlets make their country look like some kind of racist backwater. Shame on all of you.

(Yeah. I'm mad. So?)

PS: let's not forget Korea's Foreign teachers are not the only ones who behave badly.
More here from Brian.
HT to Korea Beat.

Not Quite a Bliss-out, But Definitely a Glee-down

Art Brut: "Good Weekend" -- funny funny song. You can totally tell he's singing to sixteen-year-olds.

The chorus: "Got myself a brand new girlfriend" is adolescent glee, but the real clincher is the end of the bridge, with the triumphal cry, "I've seen her naked...TWICE!"

Can't embed it, but click the link and have a laugh.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eaten by Zombies: 'Seyo's Guilty Pleasure Corner

I have a few guilty pleasures.

Soy Caramel Maquillados from Starbucks.
Lindt Dark Chocolate
Banana Chips
outrageous inappropriate shock humor
hitting the snooze button three or more times

and... four kinds of movie:
1. James Bond
2. Superhero/Comic Book Action
3. Hong Kong Kung-fu action - I'd even argue that this one isn't purely a guilty pleasure: see, it's amazing, what these dudes can do with their bodies: the athleticism and skill of choreographing and performing those things is a thing of wonder.
4. Zombie movies!!!!

Soundtrack: the Zombeatles: It's Been a Hard Day's Night Of The Living Dead. Hit play and read.

Yeah. I found this list of The best Zombie Movies ever made: a few lists. Askmen.com, some random guy, and so forth.

I downloaded a bunch, and I've been devouring them with glee: working on other stuff while doing this.

See, Zombie movies are awful. Dramatically, the premise of zombies is incredibly limited: they all follow the same line --

1. zombies break out,
2. spread inexorably, and then the last half of the movie always, ALWAYS ends with
3. humans hiding in various buildings with boarded up doors and windows, keeping zombies out, hoping zombies don't come in:
4. at best, the good guys escape from one shelter to another shelter...but wouldn't they just be followed there by zombies as well?
5. At worst, zombies breach the shelter and everybody, or almost everybody dies (though the sympathetic ones might yet make it to some other refuge...where they STILL have to just keep zombies out).

But within those awful constraints, there's so much fun to be had: the jump scenes when Zombies burst through doors or out of shadows, the "will they get in" suspense of that endless pounding on doors, the creativity of filmmakers trying to find new, even sillier ways to kill zombies, the go-to-town delightfulness of absolute mayhem in the costume and make-up department. The creepy deaky music... every zombie movie checks the same boxes, not unlike James Bond movies.

Meanwhile, many '80s Zombie movies (Return of the Living Dead Trilogy in particular) are just goofy.

So, here are the best/most enjoyable zombie movies I've seen so far.

Creepiest: Lucio Fulci's "Zombie 2/Zombi" (1979) - the zombies in this one were the creepiest, and the atmosphere was the most ominous - which is the best you can hope for in a good zombie movie. They were so slow, yet that made their catching the good guys seem even more inexorable. The last-stand in a makeshift hospital building was thrilling, the zombies had this cool way of taking a while to die and fall over, even after you shot them in the ahead, as if they were trying to decide whether to die or to just keep coming after you. There's even some alright dialogue and !gasp! character development... Plus, before they get to the really scary stuff, there's an AWESOME Zombie/Shark fight. The undead vs. nature's purest killer. Sweetness!

(Warning: zombie)


This video gives the soundtrack: one of the best creepy ones, and shows how scary a slow zombie can be. So deliberate: so inevitable! Warning; a lot of gross footage in this tribute.

Most unique/interesting:

Day of the Dead - George Romero made this one: after first popularizing the zombie genre with "Night of the Living Dead" (1968, one of the creepiest zombie movies so far), making "Dawn of the Dead" in 1978 (maybe the best classic zombie movie; remade louder and grosser and more cynical in 2004) this one was both best and worst of the zombie genre: the scientist experimenting on zombies was interesting, and a gross way of bringing in more variations on the zombie legend. The characters were either cool or really really awful: the soldiers were some of the worst ass-munching stereotypes out there, but some of the other characters were likeable. The right people got theirs at the end. Bub is the coolest zombie out there: he's actually domesticated by the end of the movie, and demonstrates something close to feeling. Interesting take on the genre: like no other zombie movie I've seen. In fact, the central dramatic point of the film is the conflict between the people trapped in the military compound, rather than just being "run away from zombies. hide. hiding place compromised. run to new hiding place. lose a few people. repeat" the way most zombie movies go. Just for that, it's worth seeing.

28 Days Later: a modern zombie film:

it seems modern audiences don't have the attention span to allow menace to develop: the slow pacing of a movie like the 1968 Night of the Living Dead allows a lot of anxiety to build up before the climactic scene, but I guess somebody decided that modern audiences want the release without the build-up, so they just jump straight into the fast-paced stuff...and then have trouble building up any sense of dread later. The zombies can run. Fast zombies are more immediately terrifying, and seriously, they ARE frightening: the scariest zombies I've seen, but they don't make an impact as lastingly creepy as Lucio Fulci's ghoulishly slow zombies (second scariest, stay with you longer). Sorry. The scary thing about zombies isn't that the first one you see might run you down and get you. It's that if you see one, there are probably more nearby, and more, and more, and yeah, you could avoid them, but they're persistent, patient, and they don't stop, and if one of them gets its hands on you, you're probably done, so you can't let your guard down for a minute, and you better be sure there aren't any waiting behind the door on your escape route, and next time you look out the boarded-up window, there will be more waiting outside than last time you looked. On the other hand, 28 Days Later does have legitimate thrills.

before I go on too long, here's a history of the zombie genre: I still have a lot to see, but I've had myself a good start. Cheesy, but fun as heck!

Zombies. Go see one yourself. I recommend Fulci, or the original Night of the Living Dead.

'cause if you're gonna watch a crappy movie, watch a crappy zombie movies: crappy action, suspense, comedy, and drama films are just abominable: no fun to be had whatsoever, but with a crappy horror or zombie movie, you at least get the fun of some shameless attempts to frighten you, some fun make-up, and the joy of mocking the filmmakers if they fail to actually frighten you...and the fun of a good scare if they DO!

Oh by the way, one last thing:

Don't you love it when, at the end of the credits of a movie titled something like "Rock Zombie Elvis Impersonating Detective Agency From the Fifth Dimension and Their Loyal Zombie Space-Dog Poofnark... The Musical!", there's a little disclaimer: "Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Shinhan Engineering & Construction and the Korean Supreme Court Damages its Own Reputation by Pissing on Choi Jin-Shil's Grave

image from all Kpop

For the crime of being beaten by her husband, Choi Jin-Shil was sued by Shinhan Engineering & Construction Co.: she was hired to promote their company, but by appearing in public with burises on her face, she damaged the image of the company she endorsed. The Korean Supreme Court upheld their suit.
(image from the story about the original filing of the suit, 5 years ago.)

That's right: Choi got sued for being a victim of domestic violence. And found responsible for damages to the company. And the supreme court upheld it. And Korea wonders why they are 68th in the world on the Gender Empowerment Measure, despite being 25th on the Human Development Index: a disparity of 43 places. This is an embarrassment Korea, and a despicable action by the company. Here's the company's page. I can't find their e-mail, so you'll have to phone them and tell them how you feel. They should have pressed charges against her husband for damaging their "property". Cripes.

James Turnbull has more about Korean women getting royally screwed, in reputation or financially, for things that weren't their fault. (Happened to IVY, too.)

Mike Hurt on Korea's GEM

On a more sarcastic note: comedy site Yangpa reports on Korea's "Let's Keep Domestic Violence Domestic" campaign: hit your wife at home, not in front of the KFC!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

You want Random? I'll give you Random

1. one of the coolest compliments I ever received:
"Rob is the thinnest person I've ever met who likes food as much as he does."

2. when a narcissist like myself googles his own name, he might discover...

I have a namesake: another Rob Ouwehand, who is a prog-metal guitarist in the Netherlands. Here's what he sounds like.

Here's what he looks like.

And here's a funny song about another person who likes to google himself. (warning: mature content)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

F-Visas vs. E-Visas...This again? A Correction in the Korea Times.


So back in October of last year, a Korea Times writer named Kang Shin-who wrote an article about Visa status for foreigners in Korea.

Here's that article.

This was in October of 2008 -- long before the Wagner report was filed with the NHRCK. Among other things, he wrote:
South Korea’s visa policy has been accused of favoring ``gyopo’’ or ethnic Korean English teachers over other foreign nationals, with this favoritism creating loopholes in the system making it easier for those with criminal and drug records to go undetected. However, the government has indicated it has no immediate plan to change visa rules....

He said he has witnessed some English instructors who were once expelled from Korea return to the country with other visas such as an F-2 or F-4, taking advantage of this system.

Under the Korean visa rules, native English speakers seeking E-2 visa are obliged to submit police background checks. However, foreigners who are ethnic Koreans or married to Korean nationals are exempt from the requirements as they are eligible for F-4 and F-2 visas, respectively.

Most other foreign English teachers call it ``discriminative.’’
Where he went to find his "most other foreign English teachers" is never explained, but that was his idea, that was the main thesis of the article. You can read it. Let the record show: this was last October.

In February, when Ben Wagner filed his report, somebody in the Korea Times office probably shouted across the press room, "Hey! Anybody here care to write up this story about discrimination against E-2 visas?"

Whether Kang Shin-who thought, "Hey! I already wrote about that before; I'll totally do it again: it's like my strong point" and volunteered, or his editor thought, "Kang wrote about this before; I'll ask him to do it again," once again, Kang was the man covering the Wagner report.

He made a mistake. See, he had a deadline, so he took this idea from his article back in October, and used it again when he wrote up the Wagner report:
In response, many E-2 visa holders have complained that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas. They are urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas.
He even pulled a quote from Wagner out of its original context, and put it right after his own idea, to make it sound like Wagner supported his thesis.
``The visa rules for E-2 visa holders should be revised as they clearly discriminate on the basis of national origin,'' said Benjamin Wanger, a professor of Kyung Hee University. He filed the complaint with the human right agency.

ATEK made it clear that they don't oppose background checks per se.
Well, he's at it again. See, a group of Korean lawyers are filing a petition with the Constitutional Court protesting the discriminatory visa rules. (As for why they're discriminatory, go read up here.) Once again, Kang got tapped for the KT write-up, and once again, Kang has dropped his own total misunderstanding of the Wagner Report, based on a preconception of visa discrimination he'd formed the October before the Wagner Report was filed, into his write-up.
E-2 visa holders have contended that the government should apply the same visa screening rules to foreign English teachers holding other visas, urging the government to use the same restrictions on teachers holding E-1 (professorship), F-2 (spouse of a Korean) or F-4 (ethnic Korean) visas. They made it clear that they don't oppose background checks as a rule.
If you look at the texts side-by-side, I wouldn't be surprised if he simply cut-and-pasted his own article. They're almost word-for-word.

Now, everybody who has a lot invested in this: look at the three texts written by the same Korea Times writer. The guy got it wrong. Really wrong. His previous article contributed to a nasty, nasty rift in the expat community which has just finally started to be repaired on either side, and it would be a real shame if this guy's misunderstanding of Wagner's report caused a re-fracturing where we were so close to getting ourselves back on the same page (take Ben up on this offer, f-series friends! It'd be a really great gesture of solidarity in the face of what's threatening to pull us apart).

I just got off the phone with Ben, and Ben just got off the phone with Kang, and Kang finally gets it, that his sloppy journalism is causing huge misunderstandings and division in the expat community. Ben reports that Kang actually feels awful about it, and is in touch with his editor to get his flub corrected in the online edition. I'm going to write a letter to the editor asking for a retraction, even though I'd previously promised myself never to write to the Korea Times again, after that horrible, horrible two weeks of printing any old junk.

So hey everybody.
1. let's not crucify Kang: journalists writing under deadlines get sloppy, and he didn't realize the effect his carelessness was having on the community, and actually feels bad about it: Ben's been on the phone with him a few times tonight.

2. Let's not let this guy's gaffe screw up the positive movement toward a truce and a clearer understanding of each other that had been slowly coming around, thanks to gestures of openness and good faith on both sides.

On the bright side: Korean lawyers are coming to their own constitutional court, calling their own laws discriminatory, and calling out the use of prejudice in the process of lawmaking:
Chang Suh-yeon, an attorney with the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group ``Gong-Gam,'' told The Korea Times Tuesday that her group will take the issue to the court this week or next.

``The visa law violated the Constitution that guarantees a basic right to freedom, equal treatment, the pursuit of happiness and the protection of privacy,'' Chang said.

``The visa law is based on vague prejudice and bias that foreign English teachers have disordered sex lives and use drugs,'' she added.
For anybody who's invested in living in Korea for a long time, and who has gotten tired of defending ourselves from unfounded, lazy stereotyping and scapegoating, an open public discussion about media scapegoating, led by Koreans talking to Koreans on our behalf, is about as good news as I can imagine.

I'm hitting publish now, and once I've written up the call for a formal retraction and sent it to The Korea Times, I'll publish it here, too. Screenshot of the offending article, with the paragraph under question highlighted (10:30pm).

(also covered at Brian in JND)

Update: Wow! That was a really fast correction. Here is a screenshot of the corrected article online (11:46pm), with a more accurate description of the nature of the complaint. The paragraph was removed, and the first sentence was also changed to more accurately reflect the content of Wagner's report, and the nature of the Korean lawyers' petition.

As the error has been corrected, a call for a retraction and a nasty letter to the editor is no longer necessary...so I won't write one. Thanks, Kang Shin-who, and The Korea Times editor, for doing what's necessary to get it right this time.

Once again, readers: let's make sure that if the expat community disagrees about stuff, it's only once we all have our facts straight.

Update: this article explains things the way I've heard Ben Wagner explain them.