Friday, June 30, 2017

"the diner is a very democratic place"

A sad and poignant little article on the decline and probable death of the New York City diner and coffee shop:
"Among members of this comfort-food-obsessed, single-origin-bean generation, it’s become fashionable to mourn the passing of this old diner culture. In the past few years, the closings have spread, from Manhattan (the famous Cafe Edison in the Theater District, La Taza de Oro in Chelsea, the Lyric Diner in Gramercy Park), into the outer-boroughs (the Del Rio Diner in Gravesend, the El Greco in Sheepshead Bay), and lamentations in the food press and on the blogs have reached a fever pitch. But in a world filled with a dizzying numbers of choices — an array of options on everything from $25 chef burgers, to how you like your Ethiopian coffee dripped and what shade of almond milk you’d like to pour in it, to what kind of artisanal pork you desire on your haute breakfast sandwich — the diner has become more of a symbol and a curiosity than a regular place to eat. 'I grew up on iceberg lettuce, but this new generation knows that iceberg is the butt of all lettuces,' says Griffin Hansbury, who writes under the pseudonym Jeremiah Moss, and whose forthcoming book, Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul, chronicles these slowly disappearing institutions. 'For me, the diner is a very democratic place,' he says. But in this new, more moneyed era where it’s fashionable to say that everyone’s a restaurant critic, and arugula replaced iceberg as the green of choice long ago, this new class of eaters favors what he diplomatically calls a 'more curated dining experience.'”
It was pretty understandable when the Carnegie Deli shut down --  a 20 dollar pastrami sandwich wasn't the greatest business model.  But it's sad to think that the lesser known neighborhood type places are also on the way out.  The world always seems to be getting a little less colorful, a little less strange.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Revolution Will Be Podcasted

Starting at about 20:00 here's an interview with China Mieville about his new work of non-fiction on the Russian Revolution, October.

Some interesting listening as I finish my final load of paperwork for the semester, and I've got the book downloaded on my tablet for vacation reading in August.

(Courtesy of Chapo Trap House.)

Friday, June 23, 2017

"determind to transform themselves into human cannonballs"

From Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk:
"There was a lot of adrenaline churning around, yes, but mostly we were a ragged pack of kooky people in pursuit of genius and fun.  This came to a screeching halt when Black Flag and the rest of the South Bay crew on SST Records came roaring onto the scene.  Greg Ginn founded SST in 1978, but it wasn't until the early eighties that its ascendancy began, and when it did, it unleashed a furious wave of testosterone on the scene that was crushing.  Women were the first to leave -- there was no place for them in the world of hardcore punk; gays and sensitive artist types went next, and the audience began to change.  People who went to punk shows in the early days were respectful, they listened, and they were genuinely interested in the band onstage, even if they'd seen the same band four nights earlier.  We knew we'd always see something new, partly because these were mostly not professional musicians, and nobody did the same show twice, because they weren't able to.  Professionalism came later for some, but in the beginning the scene was truly experimental, and the audience was tolerant and supportive.  With the arrival of hardcore, punk became a blood sport, and the mosh pit was colonized by sixteen-year-old boys with plaid flannel shirts tied around their waists, determined to transform themselves into human cannonballs." -- Kristine McKenna
"Now, if you wanted to ask me something, you could ask me about the backlash from the violence.  You could ask me if I mind the night terrors and the inability to be close to another.  You could ask me whether I could ever live vanilla when I had raped and slashed my way through he soft flesh of a rainbow.  I apologize for nothing.  I refuse to stand as some repentant fuck while the crimes of my past are read aloud in the court of post-punk history.  I love waking up afraid, and although I no longer hold those beliefs, I don't regret them." -- Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.)
With a bit of simple editing (unless you're ee cummings please don't do no-caps, Mike Watt) this book could have been the Platonic ideal of a great music history read.  Compiled by John Doe, most of the stand-out chapters were by the women of the scene -- Kristine McKenna, Jane Wiedlin, Pleasant Gehman, and Charlotte Caffey.

Henry Rollins is always interesting as is his chapter, but unlike Jack Grisham he doesn't have much to say as to whether Black Flag and the other suburban punk groups "ruined" L.A. punk.  A lot of the people in this book seem to feel that way.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yankee Go Home

Apparently there's going to be an anti-US protest in Seoul tomorrow.  Korea ex-pat Twitter went into convulsions over it.

Some scattered thoughts:

1)  According to Korea ex-pat Twitter, this is Moon Jae-in’s fault.  Unless he personally organized this, it’s not.  (Hint: he didn’t.)

2)  War with North Korea is now more likely than it has been since, well, 1953.  A Trump-led US will have no qualms about launching unilateral action against NK (i.e., not telling Seoul in advance) and (at best) tens of thousands of Seoul-ites will die.  If NK has a nuke, we all die.  So at the very least I think SK citizens have a right to protest the fact that the US is now led by a pussy-grabbing madman.

3) “But, but, Trump doesn’t represent all Americans!”  As of January 2017, yes he does.  Sorry, but speaking as a USian myself none of us gets to play the “not all Americans!” card any longer.  (Even if you voted for Jill Stein!)

4)  If you were inspired by the anti-PGH protests that led to her impeachment like I was, you can’t selectively get pissed off by anti-US protests.  It’s called democracy, stupid.

5)  THAAD is more about spying on China via radar than it is protecting South Korea from North Korea.  That was the plan all along.

6) Trump is one more scandal away from deciding to bomb either North Korea or Iran.  As far as the “strategic partnership” between SK and the US goes, it’s a bit of a shit sandwich for the country where people will actually die.  People have every right to protest shit sandwiches.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not Good

The University of Virginia student who supposedly tried to steal a North Korean flag, was imprisoned and sentenced to 15 years hard labor, mysteriously fell into a coma, then returned to his parents in the U.S. in a vegetative state has died.

I've previously believed that companies like Koryo Tours, which basically set up trips for Westerners to get into North Korea, were basically harmless (despite the fact that their cash was being funneled directly into the DPRK military).  But it just seems like the height of foolishness to want to travel their now, let alone facilitate the next murder of a U.S. or British or Australian citizen.  (Their website and Twitter feed says nothing about the Warmbier case, albeit it's my understanding he traveled with another tour company.)

All I have to add is that Trump is desperate to find a reason to start a war with either North Korea or Iran.  North Korea was, on cue, more than happy to oblige.

I don't think it's too outrageous to expect war on the Korean peninsula before the start of 2018.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Samsung Fighting!

I made it to the ballpark, the new one, a few weeks back with some friends and adult students.  The Mighty Samsung Lions of Daegu (Korean pro teams go by the corporate sponsor's name) are having a hugely terrible season after four consecutive championships between 2011 and 2014.

The weather was perfect and given how bad the team is playing I was surprised at how crowded the game was.

Samsung actually won, beating the KIA Tigers 6-5 on a 10th inning walk-off single.

But a few things I noticed since last year -- the stadium really needs to increase the number of food and drink vendors.  A friend went to get food for all of us and was away for almost four innings.  Who knows what shenanigans are going on but one of the great things about the old ballpark downtown was the rows of ajumma selling friend chicken and cold beer outside of the stadium.

Also, take the subway.  The parking situation at the stadium for a weekend game is an absolute nightmare.  If you drive, your choice after the game will be to wait 45 minutes for a shuttle bus to the parking lot or walk 45 minutes over to the parking lot.  It's pretty ridiculous they didn't do basic planning to sort this stuff out, considering they intentionally build the stadium in the middle of nowhere to not have these sorts of issues in the first place.  Because Korea.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Living The Dream

"working for the man every night and day"

Ike and Tine, "Proud Mary" live

I've been in a really reflective mood lately about, well, pretty much everything.  (I blame inevitable Trump-initiated nuclear annihilation, but YMMV.)

So my job is "English teacher."  I mostly teach college students here at lovely Daegu Health College, but I also teach adults in a continuing education setting.

I usually have Friday afternoons off, but today I came in to do mock interviews with a group of students who are applying for jobs at a big new venture in Incheon (where the main airport is, near Seoul).  I actually do a lot of these kinds of things, and they're one of my favorite parts of the job.

Interacting with students outside of the classroom is always refreshing and usually positive, but these interviews really drive home what it means to be an English teacher abroad -- at best, you really are going to help some of these guys get jobs in new places.  And that means employment, which is always a good thing, but also new experiences, new girl- and boyfriends, new opportunities, and new vistas in general.

As mentioned, these students are applying for gigs near Seoul.  At other times of the year I do mock visa application interviews for students looking to study or work in Australia, Canada, or America.  Those are even more critical, and more satisfying for me.

So I guess this makes me the ultimate neoliberal shill or something, working to put cogs into place in the machinery of late global capitalism.

I can live with that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ex-Pat Life

You may or may not have a high tolerance for Vice (I happen to think they're the definition of hit-or-miss) but this short piece on American ex-pats and why they've chosen to continue living abroad is pretty good.

Looking back on almost a decade in South Korea, I think the big things (covered in the Vice article) remain true -- health care is critical, as is work / life balance.  No, my health coverage isn't free -- I pay roughly the equivalent of sixty dollars a month to have full (and mandatory) insurance as a legal alien.  Other than check-ups I've never actually been to a hospital here or had a medical emergency.  I had a bad cold once and picked up some very cheap and very infamous "blue pills" for a few dollars at a pharmacy (which are ubiquitous) and they did nothing.  Any ex-pat here in lovely Korea will tell you they are placebos.  Any Korean will tell you you will die within a few days without them.

I would mention, however, that I have heard many horror stories about dealing with shady doctors who tend to over-prescribe meds.  Then again, it's not much different than America in that regard.  But the worst stories routinely come from female ex-pats looking to maintain or update their contraception routine (either pills or IUD's) and dealing with doctors who simply won't write scrips for single women for that sort of thing.  That's an absolute nightmare of course, and one I wouldn't want to try and ignore.  To be blunt, you will catch a lot more shit here as a woman (native Korean or ex-pat) than you ever will as a dude, and it's a shame to think how carelessly certain Korean men don't care if they tarnish somebody's generally positive views of the nation as a whole due to their sexism and entitled dickishness in general.

As for work / life balance, working as an English instructor at a college automatically gives me over three months of vacation time a year, something that would never happen in the more common public school and private academy gigs.  Korea is actually quite horrible when it comes to employer expectations of how much free or vacation time a worker should have, but as a foreigner at a university I've definitely got my comfortable little bubble which allows me to visit my family every summer for a few weeks and to take a long vacation every winter.  Good and good.

But as a relative old-timer now, while solid, cheap health care and abundant vacation time is all good, I always come back to smaller things that I love about living here.  First off, the food -- not only is it delicious, but you can eat in a decent, sit-down restaurant and stuff your face with mostly home-made grub for less than five dollars.  I've pretty much given up on cooking because it's cheaper and easier just to enjoy one of the dozens of places near my apartment.  Oh, and delivery is free if you're too lazy to walk.  And no tipping, ever.  If something says it costs 5,000 won on the window in front, it's going to cost a total of 5,000 won ($4.50 USD).

Speaking of walking, I haven't had to fill a tank of gas, make a car payment, mail an insurance payment, fix a tail-light, get a new set of tires, or worry about some methed-out idiot keying my side doors just for chuckles in years.  This is heavenly.  Which is to say, if I ever move back to America the hardest thing for me will probably be having to buy a fucking car if I don't live in one of the few cities with decent public transport.  (Fun fact -- I actually do like to drive, but I hope to never own a car again.)

In Korea, you've got your basic bus and subway options.  You've got a bullet train between major cities that is clean and comfortable.  And you have an overabundance of cabs.  Mark my words -- you will never step into a dirty cab in South Korea, let alone one that's over five years old and has obvious brake problems and safety issues.  (DC represent!)  Want to guess why Uber failed to catch on here?  Each cab company already has a free on-call service.  And you'll probably never need to use it anyway.

So that's my take.  Are there problems?  Sometimes, yes, but every year here I've also made progress with the language, and that's taken care of most of them.  I also have a very solid (Korean) boss who lived in America for six years doing his Ph.D. and this has made a huge difference as well.  He understands how Western and Korean management styles differ, and it seems to me he's one of those rare exceptions who actually prefers the former (hands off, willing to engage in dialogue / with feedback from us workers, and maybe most importantly, not a heavy drinker who constantly demands we go out and get shit-faced with him).

Honestly, the older I get the more it seems "don't have an asshole for a boss" is really one of the keys to living a happy life.  And that's not always easy in Korea due to cultural differences, I'll admit.

So what do I miss about America?  My family, of course.  Finding perfectly quiet spaces to walk or hike to by myself and be alone for a few hours (tough, but not impossible to do in a relatively small, relatively crowded country like South Korea).  The American "spatial sense" where keeping a few feet of distance between you and a stranger is expected, as opposed to Korea where bumping and pushing and shoving your way onto, say, an elevator or an escalator is expected.  Gourmet cheese.  Well-made Bloody Marys (they do not exist in Asia).  Doing cannon-balls near my nephew in my sister's swimming pool.  Watching football and baseball games as they happen rather than catching up on them in my office the next morning.

That's about it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion

This humble little Not-Really-A-Korea Blog, but Kind-Of-A-Korea Blog, has been getting an uptick in traffic as of late.

For a little background about me, I used to blog over here (Wetcasements I, so to speak).  I jumped over here to Blogger about a year ago.

I tweet over here, and I tumbl over here (very occasionally NSFW).

I teach English at a small-ish college in Daegu, South Korea.  I've been at this school for seven years, and I've lived in Korea for eight.  For 95% of the time I truly love living here, and for the other 5% I will certainly make angry, whiny posts about the cruel injustices of ex-pat life.

Thanks for stopping by!

The New Old Math

In South Korea, technology and education trends tend to come in the most fast and furious of fashions.  But these days, some parents have decided they want their children to go "analog" with activities like abacus math, baduk (Korean word for the Japanese game go), and the intensive study of Chinese characters:
"There are at least 100 private academies offering abacus classes in Seoul, according to the National Abacus Mathematics Education Association.
'I couldn’t find one near us so my husband and I are looking to hire a private tutor to teach abacus math to our 8-year-old daughter,' said a 42-year-old resident of Gwacheon, Gyeonggi. 
'I’m hoping to improve my son’s attention span and help him become a better person by learning Go,' said Cho Eun-joo, a 36-year-old resident of Munrae-dong, western Seoul. Her son, 10, attends a Go class at his school.
'Some people don’t understand parents who send their kids to afterschool programs for more traditional education instead of to private academies for English,' said Nam Ji-seon, a 40-year-old mother. 'My son, 12, has been learning hanja for seven years now. No matter how much the world changes, there are things that children must learn from traditions.'
She added, 'We often discuss the traditional analects of Korea written in hanja, and I know that this kind of education will give him an edge in the future.'”
While I doubt the demand for private English academies will subside that much, it's nice to think Korean parents are finding other paths for study and success for their children.  Reading ancient Korean philosophy in its original form?  Not too shabby.

Let Them Eat Shitty, Slave-Made Off-The-Rack Dresses

We're pretty much just documenting the atrocities now but here you go -- life inside an Ivanka Trump sweatshop:
"Alia makes the legal minimum wage for her job in her province: 2.3 million rupiah, or about $173 a month – but that legal minimum is among the lowest in Indonesia as a whole, and as much as 40% lower than in Chinese factories, another labour source for the Ivanka Trump brand.
PT Buma, a Korean-owned garment company started in Indonesia in 1999, is one of the suppliers of G-III Apparel Group, the wholesale manufacturer for prominent fashion brands including Trump’s clothing.
Many Buma workers know who Ivanka Trump is. Alia noticed her labels popping up on the clothes about a year ago.
Ahmad, who also works in the local garment industry and who, like his wife and most of the workers at her PT Buma factory, is an observant Muslim, said: 'We don’t like Donald Trump’s policies.'”
At least Marie Antoinette had a pretty strong fashion game.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

This Lawn -- Off Of It You Shall Get

I do not and never will understand the appeal of Royal Trux.

I've never done heroin or coke either though, so maybe that's it.

Small Victories Are Still Victories

Trump is too afraid to visit a post-Tory-wipeout England:
"The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time.
The call was made in recent weeks, according to a Downing Street adviser who was in the room. The statement surprised May, according to those present."
Remember when Lord Smallgloves was too much of a coward to show up at Opening Day?  I do!  I do!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"fifty thousand watts out of Mexico"

The Blasters, Carl Perkins, Willie Dixon, 1982 Television Special

As my Wiki / Youtube spiral into late 70s / early 80s L.A. punk and rockabilly continues, here's an insanely good hour of music with The Blasters featuring Carl Perkins (!) and Willie Dixon (!!).

I'll be grading final exams to this today.

I Can Haz Spending, Please?

I'm happy to say my Orioles are one of the most exciting teams to watch in baseball, what with so many come-from-behind, clutch wins.  Buck Showalter manages to squeeze as many runs out of a solidly average rotation and bullpen as possible, and the offense continues to bring in young guys who can really hit.

So maybe now is the time to start thinking about investing in another A-level starter or two?  Pretty please?

Then again, and as is often the case, the AL East is meat grinder this year.  The Yankees and O's are both over-performing, the former like crazy.  And Boston is just really, really good.  The Jays and Rays aren't slouches either, and could both likely finish about .500.

Still, that's no excuse not to try and make a pretty good team into an excellent one.  The pieces are there, and while lucky finishes are more than welcome, so would be some solid seven-inning starts.

Noted Without Hyperbole

Trump committed obstruction of justice, full-stop.

Either Comey's revelations lead at least a handful of Republican congresspersons to take the Russia investigation seriously, or the American democratic experiment is dead and gone forever.

(And Comey, a life-long Republican, is still an asshole who in no small part lost the election for Hillary.)

Music Opinions, On The Internet

The Avengers, "Paint It Black"

Pet theory about the final show by the Sex Pistols in '78 in San Francisco: the dual-openers, The Avengers and Nuns were so damn good and relatively, in punk terms, tight, that Johnny Rotten knew his strung out crew could never compete with them.  So what better time to give it all up?

Youtube has the full sets by The Avengers and Nuns.

Good times.

Monday, June 5, 2017

"downtown Hollywood / I'd shoot 'em down if I could"

X, "What's Wrong With Me"

I just started Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk curated by John Doe of X.  So far, it's mostly good.

It's divided up into small-ish chapters written by a single player from the late 70's / early 80's L.A. scene.  It almost feels like Doe was going to write a memoir by himself but then decided to include others (including, naturally, Exene Cervenka).

This is a fine choice -- a multi-voiced oral history of L.A. punk, but it also leads to some Liverjournal-esque sloppiness ("i had never seen so many punk kids w/ drugs ZOMG").  That's cringe-worthy in what should be taken as a significant work of pop culture history, to say the least.

That said, the best chapter so far is by The Go-Go's Jane Wiedlen.  Having read some short articles and seen some interviews with her, it's no surprise that she's funny and self-aware and seemingly a pretty reliable narrator of what exactly went down, despite the fog of drugs, sex, violence, and more drugs.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tear Them All Down

Across the American south, monuments to Confederate generals are being pulled down one by one.  This is an Objectively Good Thing and my fellow USians shouldn't rest until all of them have been destroyed.  Because, at the end of the day, even Robert E. Lee was a slavery-loving racist, a terrorists who took up arms against the United States and, actually, a pretty shitty military leader to boot:
"The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.
There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.
But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a 'foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.'”
The American Civil War was entirely about slavery, full stop.  And not just slavery (as horrible as it was), but about a literal belief in the superiority of whites over blacks.  Sorry, but these two essential facts are baked into the cake of American history.  To not pull down every single monument to white supremacy is to fail in our civic and moral duties as Americans.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Daegu World Cup Stadium

A few weeks back I made it to my first Daegu F.C. game way out at Daegu World Cup Stadium (officially it's called Blue Arc, but nobody calls it that).  Daegu F.C. are finally back in the top tier of the K-League but frankly they aren't all that great.  Still, it was a nice way to spend a spring afternoon as they took on relative powerhouse Jeonbuk F.C.

Daegu put up a good fight for the first half but eventually lost 2-0.