Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dakdoritang: Korea's answer to freedom fries (plus recipe)

Koreans like chicken, but they are in their hearts pork people. There aren't many good Korean chicken dishes, in fact by far the most popular chicken dish in Korea is battered fried chicken.
A distant second, the most popular traditional Korean chicken dish is samgyetang, a whole chicken stuffed with sticky rice, jujubes, gingko, and ginseng.
Samgyetang (literally 'chicken and ginseng soup') is the number one traditional Korean chicken dish, but it doesn't seem to be eaten all that often by the average Korean. That said, it is exceedingly delicious and said to have tremendous health benefits, none of which I believe in.

There's also jjimdak (steamed chicken),
which was a hugely popular fad several years ago. It is basically chicken, carrots, onions, potatoes and glass noodles in a dark soy sauce base. Most jjimdak restaurants also have the 'seafood jjimdak' option, which is all of the above plus octupus and crab. In fact, the incredibly crass overkill of that combination led me to write the song Hog Heaven. Ninety-nine percent of the jjimdak restaurants that flooded the nation a few years ago are gone, but only the strong have survived and thrived, and you can still find jjimdak joints tucked away on backstreets.

Dakgalbi ('chicken ribs') is a pan-fried mix of boneless chicken, rice cake (ddeok), cabbage, red pepper paste, and other vegetables.
A personal favorite, dakgalbi is not really an option for home cooking and is best enjoyed with a cold beer in a hot restaurant.

Then there's buldak ('fire chicken')
As I have said many times before, Koreans tend to turn a lot of things that others regard as enjoyable into opportunities for group bonding through shared suffering. That includes Korean comedy as well as Korean food. Buldak is boneless chicken repeatedly basted with red pepper paste and grilled over an open fire. The successive layers of hot sauce render the chicken all but impossible to eat. Buldak exploded as a fad in 2005, starting in the downtown hotspots of Seoul. it quickly spread to the four corners of the country, and now those restaurants are mostly either closed or in the middle of a long painful decline. As a fad, buldak was similar to jjimdak, in that it took everyone by storm and couldn't keep up the momentum to become a fixture. I personally hate buldak, because it divorces food from everything enjoyable about eating, and gives you the spiciest trip to the John you've ever had the next day. Don't eat it.

Last but not least is dakdoritang. The reason I call dakdoritang Korea's answer to freedom fries is because of a dispute involving the name of the food. As you may have figured out by now, dak means ;chicken'. Tang means 'soup' or 'stew'. The offending morpheme is dori, which is actually the Japanese word tori, which means 'chicken'. So it literally means 'chicken chicken soup'. There are a lot of nationalists in Korea, and they don't like Japan, or the Japanese colonial period, or something about Japanese culture, depending on whom you talk to. These people, including the people who make television, don't like to see a Japanese word sticking its tongue out at them from the middle of their menu, so they rather thought-politically change the name from dakdoritang to dakbokkumtang (bokkum, pronounced as in "Poke'em? I hardly even know'em!") means 'pan-fried' or 'braised', so that would make dakbokkumtang 'braised chicken stew', which would be fine, except that not everyone braises the chicken, as you'll soon see. This linguistic revisionism even goes so far as to change every utterance of the word dakdoritang to dakbokkumtang in the closed captioning, even though the only people who say dakbokkumtang are young liberal nationalists.

And now, without further ado, here is my mother-in-law's recipe for dakdoritang, with my advice for how to make it outside Korea.

2 chickens
soy sauce
a lot of garlic
fresh ginger
black pepper
gochujang (red pepper paste)

1. Get two chickens at the market. Tell the chicken man that you're making dakdoritang and he'll cut it up approriately. Outside Korea I recommend buying chicken thighs, bone in and skin on, because that's where the flavor is.

2. Put the chicken in a pot full of water and bring it almost to a boil. Some schmaltz will appear on the top of the water.

3. Discard the water.

4. Your chicken should now look like this.

5. Add some soy sauce.

6. More soy sauce.

7. Add even more soy sauce. I reckon she poured in about 1/2 of a cup of soy sauce. At this point it's the only liquid in the pot so the chicken soaks it up.

8. Add red pepper powder. You'll notice that in the picture my mother-in-law is in fact adding red pepper paste. That is because she was not happy with the quality of the two kinds of red pepper paste currently in the house. I suggest that if you are making this outside Korea this wil cut down on expenses, in that you too can use red pepper paste twice instead of buying paste and powder. A heaping wooden spoonful will do. Incidentally, my mother-in-law has thrown her weight behind Haechandle brand gochujang (red pepper paste).

9. Add water. My mother-in-law said she added extra water because I like the sauce, but you can leave it up to taste, adding between 1/2 cup and a cup.

10. Add potatoes, cut roughly as for stew.

11. Add black pepper to taste.

11. Add sugar. I would guess about four tablespoons.

12. This much.

13. Stir and taste.

14. This is where you would normally add the red pepper paste. Again, Haechandle, and about a heaping wooden spoonful.

15. Chop and smash about 8 cloves of garlic.

16. Chop and smash one chunk of fresh peeled ginger. Ginger is the Korean's go-to odor eliminator, and I don't know if dakdoritang usually contains it, but, in an interesting side note, my mother-in-law hates chicken. She never ever eats it, since she was a child and she witnessed a particularly gruesome chicken beheading.

17. Add the garlic and ginger. By now the stew should look like this.

18. Add onions, cut large like the potatoes.

19. Add green onions, again cut roughly into one inch pieces.

20. I reminded my mother-in-law at the last minute that I like carrots, so she added half a carrot to appease me.

20. Cover and let it cook for about 10 minutes and it's good to go.

21. My mother-in-law is a natural showman and insisted that I take this more beautiful and well presented photo of the finished product. I am sure you'll agree she was right.

22. Serve with rice, kimchi, cucumbers, ssamjang, or whatever you want. Serves four.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Your Eyelids and You

So I've got this really wacky class of kids, and they usually spend every moment in class that they possibly can screwing around. Yesterday two of the boys in the class, Nate and Richard, started showing everyone their talent for forcing a crease in their natural epicanthal folds. Here's Nate in his normal state

And here's Nate after giving himself a 'double eyelid' or ssangcouple (쌍꺼풀) as they say round these parts.

Yes, Nate is kind of cross-eyed in these pictures, because he chose to stare directly into the camera four inches in front of his face.

Here's Richard before creasing

And after

Very sultry.

The topic of double eyelid surgery or ssangcouple surgery (technically Asian blepharoplasty), as I'm going to choose to call it, is a complex one. So many of my friends here in Korea have had the surgery both before and after I've met them. The results vary from attractive and natural to jarring and artificial. The motives usually involve making the eye look bigger and more attractive, although some claim that they've been ordered to do so by their doctors for various reasons. Korea's president Roh Mu-hyun had the surgery last year, but I highly doubt he did it for aesthetic reasons. The word on the street is that heavy epicanthal folds get heavier as life goes on, and eventually they can weigh heavily on the eyelashes, which I guess is what happened to Roh. Here he is before and after
Limpid pools.

Here is a somewhat more typical before and after pair from an actual advertisement for a hospital that performs this procedure
To get an idea of how big a deal all this ssangcouple stuff is, check out all the people who posted pictures of themselves and their ssangcouples. Truly staggering, the number of people crowing about their new ssangcouples, their babies' ssangcouples, and anything that even looks remotely double-lidded.

According to the website of Dr. Frank Meronk, a plastic surgeon specializing in Asian patients based in Santa Barbara
Irrespective of ethnicity, an upper eyelid is typically considered more attractive by most people if it lacks excessive skin and fat, possesses a reasonably defined crease (which makes the eye appear bigger--a universal signal of youth and attention), and displays at least some platform of exposed skin between the crease and the eyelashes (which, in ladies, allows for a more effective application of makeup).
[M]ost experienced eyelid surgeons agree that the qualities noted here are generally appreciated across many diverse cultures and not solely a matter of Western bias.
This website is truly fascinating and has a lot to teach us about the procedure, but be warned that it does contain graphic images. I just accidentally exposed a bunch of little kids to an interior view of uneven fat deposits in a Vietnamese lady's eyelid, which is a sight none of us is likely to forget soon.

I don't know what you think about this procedure and I frankly don't know which side of the issue I am on, but I do know that ssangcouples make it possible for Richard to do his signature "haughty seductive CEO" face.

Cool Things Korean (part 4)

Icheon Ssalbap (이천 쌀밥)
This restaurant takes its name from the town of Icheon, once the farming region from which the Kings of the Joseon Dynasty's rice came. The hypse would seem to suggest some kind of superior quality to the land in Icheon, some salient geomantic advantage for the region or perhaps an ancient pact between the king and the local leaders, but most people believe that the Kings sourced their rice from Icheon because it wasn't too far from Seoul. Ssalbap means rice: Korea has two distinct words for uncooked rice (ssal, pronounced sort of like the name Sol) and cooked rice (bap, pronounced like bop). So ssalbap translates to "ricerice". Anyway, the restaurant's official name is The King's Icheon Ssalbap (임금님의 이천 쌀밥), but folks round these parts usually drop the King.
Truth be told, nobody goes to this restaurant for the rice. After all, not being far from Seoul is no longer a marketing advantage for rice growers, and I suspect a large portion of the CO2 that the rice paddies in question consume comes out of tailpipes. The rice is cooked in a stone pot, and then scooped into a bowl. Hot water is added to the stone pot, where the rice that's scorched onto the red hot bowl soaks in the water and creates a palate cleansing chunky tea called nurungji (누룽지, sometimes translated as 'scorched rice') to be enjoyed at the end of the meal. The real draw here is the side dishes. For 8,000 won apiece (about $8), my wife, mother-in-law and I enjoyed 24 side dishes, a large broiled fish, crab soup , poached egg and kimchi jjigae (all three not pictured) and lettuce and cabbage leaves for wrapping.

The side dishes were:
pulled pork and boiled egg
lettuce with Thousand Islands dressing
sweet and sour pork
bean sprouts
shiitake mushrooms
garlic stalks
dotori (acorn) muk
doraji (Chinese bellflower root)
potato salad
steamed octopus and broccoli with vinegared red pepper paste fer dippin' (tastes alot better than it sounds)

Sure, some of the side dishes are straight junk (Thousand Islands?) but for the experience alone this place is well worth the eight grand. Plus you get all the plum juice and shikhye (kind of a sweetened rice juice, with rice still floating in it) you can drink.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bucheon done right

Gusts of Popular Feeling has an expansive post on the history of Bucheon with many fascinating maps and photos. Be sure to check it out, it is awesome.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Great Songs: "A Passing Feeling" by The Thermals

If you aren't familiar with the Thermals, you certainly should be. The song (You can listen to it at this sparse Myspace page) is about the ephemeralness of life, but the power and enthusiasm of the music makes it clear that rather than being concerned by the facts that memories fade and die, triumph turns into regret and vice versa, and in the end we are, like any machines, destined to wear out and die, and our minds to die with us, that we still have a lot to celebrate about the whole set-up. We have our baggage and all that that implies, but in the end we don't really want to be rid of all that baggage, because what would we be left with? The stand-out line of the song is of course "The hum is gone when the power's off". I highly recommend this song for jogging, when you and your body are most at peace with your mechanistic nature.
Memory wise
Memory flies
Memory barely satisfies
The past steals
It's a passing feeling

Memory wise
Memory flies
Memory rarely satisfies
The past tense
Tense and bleeding

You can choke
Or you can focus
I wanna forget
I don't wanna forget
I don't wanna forget

Memory knows
Memory goes
Memory dulling
But I'm learning slow
The passing heals
The past is healing

Memory knows
Memory stops
The hum is gone
When the power's off
The passing heals
The past is healing

And you can choke on it
Or you can focus
I wanna forget
I don't wanna forget
I don't wanna forget

If you have no wishes
You can still have an opinion
Everybody's got one
If you have the free time
I'm sure there's something
We can agree on
When you're passing the blame
No one remembers the same

Memory wise
Memory flies
Memory barely satisfies
The past steals
It's a passing feeling

Memory knows
Memory stops
The hum is gone
When the power's off
The passing heals
The past is healing

And you can focus
Or you can smoke it
I wanna forget
And I don't wanna forget
I don't wanna forget
I don't wanna forget
I don't wanna forget

Monday, April 23, 2007

15 Things Vonnegut Said Best

Check out the Onion AV Club's list of great Vonnegut quotes. All are good.

A Really Fun Lesson

I had a really fun lesson with one of my adult classes. We read and discussed the following example of natural spoken English. The focused phrases are in bold.

"Hey, I want to tell you something, OK? And I want to leave a message for you right now. 'Cause again, it's 10:30 here in New York on a Wednesday, and once again I've made an ass of myself trying to get to a phone to call you at a specific time. When the time comes for me to make the phone call, I stop whatever I'm doing and I go and I make that phone call. At 11 o'clock in the morning in New York and if you don't pick up the phone at 10 o'clock at night. And you don't even have the G**damned phone turned on. I want you to know something, OK?"

"I'm tired of playing this game with you. I'm leaving this message with you to tell you you have insulted me for the last time. You have insulted me. You don't have the brains or the decency as a human being (= human decency). I don't give a damn that you're 12 years old, or 11 years old, or that you're a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass who doesn't care about what you do as far as I'm concerned. You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone."


"And when I come out there next week, I'm going to fly out there for the day just to straighten you out on this issue. I'm going to let you know just how disappointed in you I am and how angry I am with you that you've done this to me again. You've made me feel like s--- and you've made me feel like a fool over and over and over again. And this crap you pull on me with this G**damned phone situation that you would never dream of doing to your mother and you do it to me constantly and over and over again. I am going to get on a plane and I am going to come out there for the day and I am going to straighten your ass out when I see you."

"Do you understand me? I'm going to really make sure you get it. Then I'm going to get on a plane and I'm going to turn around and come home. So you'd better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with me. So I'm going to let you know just how I feel about what a rude little pig you really are. You are a rude, thoughtless little pig, OK."

The students really loved it. I recommend a role play.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"We here at public radio couldn't be more pleased with ourselves."

Read this story from The Onion, "This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence". It is now and forever shall be the final word on This American Life and all that it stands for, and it also proves the continued value of The Onion, which itself had seemed to accomplish everything it set out to years ago.

New Song: More More More

You can download it here. There is another, let's say, saltier song available at the Candy Atoms Myspace page.

Incidentally, the chorus of More More More, "If you've got something in you that you wanna get out" comes from one of the first songs I wrote when I was nineteen on my first mandolin, 'The Coffin'. It was called "Shoot Off" and the lyrics were, in their entirety:

Shoot off
Shoot off
When you've got something in you that you wanna get out
Shoot off
If you gotta piss then you gotta piss
If you gotta shit then you gotta shit
If you gotta cum then stroke your dick or clit
or even better go find a bitch and shoot off
Shoot off
If you've got something in you that you wanna get out
Shoot off

It was intended to be ironic on some level, although I am no longer able to discern what level that may have been.
Anyway, I think the lyric is being put to much better use in this new song.

The perfect comment

Commenter Susan on the Metropolitician's blog knocked one out of the park on the role of Korean American culture in Cho Seung-hui's mass murder, the needless and ridiculous apologies coming from all corners of the Koreasphere, and several other related topics. Some highlights:

He arrived in the US when he was 8, and he lived here for nearly two decades, he was Korean-American, and truth be told, those two cultures mesh poorly.

It has been my experience that Koreans (fine, MOST Koreans, not ALL) hate everything black. They hate all races, including other Koreans, but they're most scathing vitriol is directed at blacks. I suppose the LA riots didn't help - and I speak from experience. My parents' grocery store was looted. My father was indeed one those badass Korean men in a vest, gun in hand, on the roof of his store, firing shots into the sky. Thankfully, no one was killed, but the hatred lingers.

I want US, Korean-Americans to talk about it, because something is indeed rotten in Denmark, or Korea, or Korean-America, whatever. The funny thing is, a friend and I, another Korean-American (a male, by the way, who despite his parents best efforts managed to turn out okay), were discussing the shooting, and the first thing both us said was it was totally his parents. Here's the profile they don't talk about: 23 year-old UNDERGRADUATE SENIOR at VIRGINIA TECH with a history of MENTAL ILLNESS. His older sister is a graduate of PRINCETON and works in some private subsidiary of the State Department. Look, my parents made it very clear that college lasts FOUR years, i.e., you finish at 21, because you go in at 17, if not earlier, and you have approximately ten choices of college - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford being the top four - and allowances wil be made for schools like Columbia, UPenn, Williams, Cornell, UCBerkeley, UCLA, and that's about it - VA Tech, while I'm sure is a fine
institution in its own right, was probably akin to community college to Cho's parents. Before anyone complains that I'm stereotyping and generalizing, please, don't even start - you can't bullshit a bullshitter.

Why is it that when a Korean-American high school student makes 1600 (or 2400 now) on the SATs it is on the friggin FIRST page of the Korea Times (LA Edition)? Can you imagine any mainstream American publication, e.g., LA Times, NY Times, writing an article like that (and I'm not talking about those self-aggrandizing, voluntary "announcements" these papers have in the back celebrating weddings and the like). And add insult to injury, Cho had psychiatric problems - to my parents depression = not studying hard enough. Fine, I don't really know what went on in his house, I can only make assumptions and educated guesses, but I'm thinking his parents weren't all that supportive, loving, and actively seeking their son help. More likely than not they probably called him a dumbshit on various occasions asking him why he couldn't be more like his sister. So he withdrew into the voices in his head. He became delusional, and progressively more violent until he decided to shoot up thirty-two innocent students and himself.

There is something very wrong with Korean-American and we are in deep denial. We pretend we don't see our fathers smacking around our mothers, we pretend that it's somehow okay to be told you're stupid because you only managed to get an B+ in AP Calculus, we pretend it doesn't hurt when our parents wave around some article in the Korean newspaper about the latest Korean-American whiz kid and demand to know why we're not like that - yeah, I'm generalizing and stereotyping, but I dare anyone who says that they're Korean-American to tell me that their childhood wasn't littered with episodes like that. I have several Korean American friends, probably because they grew up exactly the way I did, and we laugh about our childhoods. Our non-Korean friends look at us with confusion and at times, something akin to horror. But my Korean-American friends laugh hysterically, because what is the alternative - despair, depression, withdrawal?

And I'm pissed off with all of these Korean people apologizing for Cho's actions. What exactly are you sorry about? That he killed thirty-two people? Or are you really sorry that he brought SHAME upon our good name? Those are two different things. And words without actions are meaningless. The candlelight vigils, the trusts in the name of the injured, the tears, the mea culpas, blah blah blah . . . worthless. If we want to truly show remorse, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. Why is it that domestic violence runs rampant in Korean America? Why is it that so many second generation Korean American females avoid their Korean American male counterparts like the plague? Why is it that college students would rather hang themselves in their dorm rooms than face the scrutiny and castigation from their parents at poor grades? And why is it that we don't talk about it . . . EVER?

And for anyone who wants to challenge the assertion that Korean and Korean-American culture is mysoginistic, sexist, and often abusive, stop lying to yourself. And I don't just blame the abusive SOBs, I blame the women too. Why? Because ladies, we take it. Our mothers take bullshit from their husbands, and then they pamper and baby their sons. And for the most part, their sons turn out just like their fathers, and their daughters turn out like their passive-agressive mothers. Yes, there are exceptions - I KNOW, okay?

I'm not just angry at the "Korean" side of Cho. There's a lot that's screwed up with mainstream American culture too. . . Cho, like me, like so many of us, walked that fine line where he wasn't just Korean, or just American. He was both, and unfortunately, it seems like he absorbed the shittiest characteristics of both cultures.

There's more but it has to be read in context. Check out the Metropolitician for some of the most insightful interpretations of Cho.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"The most ridiculous hypothesis yet"

That's what Bob Cesca called the idea that Cho Seung-hui was reenacting the movie Oldboy when he massacred all those people at Virginia Tech. I agree.
First of all, the 'evidence' is one picture of him brandishing a hammer, like Choi Min-sik does in that movie. I counseled everyone I know in Korea that Americans are smart enough to know that this is a home grown violence problem and that no one would be stupid enough to try to make a connection between Korea, Korean culture, and Cho Seung-hui, but obviously it's true what they say about underestimating people's ignorance and stupidity.
Oldboy had nothing to do with this killing. The scene that they claim the picture is reminiscent of is one in which Choi Min-sik, having been imprisoned for 15 years in an illegal 'private prison', fights his way back in through a long corridor of thugs armed only with a hammer. It is something truly amazing to behold, and if you were a psychotic young would-be murderer you may seek out such entertainment. The picture shown in the above link doesn't even show Choi Min-sik's character, who never, if I recall correctly, holds a gun.
This kind of thing really disappoints me. Incidentally, here's the scene. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More apologies for Cho Seung Hui

Incidentally, 'Seung' has the vowel sound of the word 'foot' and 'hui' is pronounced 'he'.
Yesterday a student apologized to me from the bottom of his heart and said that the Korean government should compensate the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre's families. I started the morning with another heartfelt apology from one of my other students. Interesting that both are older men, although the sentiment seems to be ubiquitous.

I don't want to suffer the fate of David Sedaris, so I'll just say up front that the following story, a complete work of fiction, is completely 100% true.

Sally Cho was in shock to discover that the perpetrator of the deadliest shooting in American history was a Korean, and not only a Korean, but one that shared her last name and initials, S. Cho. When she heard the news she was floored, and spent the evening worrying what her schoolmates would say. "You're a crazy maladjusted foreigner" sprang to mind. She clutched her stomach in pain. Her parents had been fielding frantic telephone calls from Korea for the past hour. "We just heard the news. Are you safe? Is there a palpable sense of menace?" The family was in an uproar. Then she realized that her friend Choi Sung-hui must be doing even worse, his name almost the same as the killer's. It was a tense night at the Cho residence. A church leader called to say that Saturday's Korean language class was canceled.
The next morning before school Sally's stomach was in knots. As she waited for the bus she thought up a million nightmare scenarios. A circle of children pointing accusatory fingers at her. Her cousin Sunny getting her green card revoked. The teacher singling her out to talk about the event. It was driving her mad in homeroom, but nobody said anything. Too polite, she guessed. It was like that all day. She wished the feeling would go away and someone would say what everyone was thinking. Sally is a Korean, just like that mass murderer in Virginia. Eventually she felt that the wall of silence would never fall unless she brought it down herself, confronted it head on. In eighth period AP History class, the Rockville High School version of NPR's Talk of the Nation, Mr. Pope initiated a discussion about what had happened at Virginia tech. He asked the class how they felt about gun control, about problems fitting in and academic pressure. Sally was desperately looking for a way to bring up her Korean ancestry, get it out in the open where, under the tempering influence of Mr. Pope, perhaps convince her classmates not to believe all Koreans were like that. "My parents are from Korea and all the Korean Americans that I know were really shocked and sorry about what happened."
A voice from the back of the class said "Nobody cares."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nerdiest graffiti ever

"Kim In-su TOEIC score 900"

TOEIC is the Test of English for International Communication. It's taken by most Koreans looking for good jobs. It's a crammable test whose score does not typically conform to the test-taker's actual English ability. The top score is 990, and 900 is considered a very good score in Korea. But still, graffiti about it? A way down the same street I saw the traditional "penis and testicles" graffiti that has existed since at least Roman times a few weeks ago. Could this be the work of the same artist? An expert in English and anatomy?

Who's sorry now?

All the wrong people, it turns out. Like most people with the Korean connection, I'm wondering what's up with all the apologies for the Virginia Tech shooting from Koreans in and out of America. It all seems very obsequious to me. Why should you be apologizing? To top all the apologies, one of my students, a man in his fifties, told me the Korean government should compensate all the victims' families. Weird.

Update: I imagine, as many have said here, that the Koreans are projecting what would happen if a foreigner did the same in Korea, namely mass anti-foreigner sentiment would flare up, as it did in fall of 2002 after two girls were accidentally run over by an American tank. This is the result of that event

This also includes some of the anti-American sentiment left over from Japanese American Anton Ono's Olympic victory over a Korean speed skater.
Check out the original, supposedly produced by the North Korean government but popularized in South Korea, here.

Cho's parents' suicide?

The buzz here in Korea is that mass murderer Cho Seung Hui's parents have committed suicide, but apparently this is not the case. I assume that's just what people here either imagine or wish they would do, since they seem so sure that this will be the end of South Korean-American relations for all time.

After VA Tech shooter, the deluge

So the shooter who murdered 33 people at Virginia Tech was a Korean. I just woke up and I don't have the time or will to spend the time it would take to personally read every single thing that has been said about this situation in Korea, but luckily Robert Koehler Korea's premier English language blogger did it already, so check this out if your curious how Korea reports on such a thing.
Like a person witnessing a nuclear bomb blast in the far of distance, I can see the firestorm of shoddy logic, pat answers to 'why he did it' and near-sighted national soul searching that is flying intractably towards us and will commence today. Hours of magazine shows about the state of Korean America, the practice of migratory fathers (기러기 아빠) who live in Korea while their wives and children live abroad, the Korean education crisis that is driving kids abroad for education, and a number of other things that will be talked to death and persist unchanged. Does Seung Hui Cho (or Cho Seung-Hui or 조성희 or 조승희 or however you pronounce his ambiguous name) have anything to do with these Korean societal phenomenon, seeing as how he has lived in the U.S. since the age of three?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Song: Woo Woo

It's about cursing and non sequiturs, and seems to have something to do with magical thinking

Best Version
Version 2
Version 3

Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm screwed

Today, at my school, 5:00, Elementary C Class, students' age: ten and eleven.

Me: OK everybody, take out your notebooks, time for a test!
Judy: How do you say "Gongbu anhetta" in English?
Me: "I didn't study."
Freddy: How do you say "Mang hetta" in English?
Me: "I'm screwed."
Freddy: I'm screwed!
(long pause)
Judy: Me too I'm screwed.
Nate: I'm screwed too.
Richard: We're screwed.
Kristen: Everybody screwed.
Freddy: Mr. Mondello today's test and everybody screwed!
Me: No, "I'm in trouble" is better.
Nate: We're screwed.

They retain so little of what I say, and yet any little slip-up and they never forget.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Seoul Auto Show

I had the pleasure of going to the 2007 Seoul Auto show at the Kintex convention center yesterday. I got a chance to see a bunch of new cars, a lot of talk about hydrogen and hybrids, and the car that everybody's talking about, the 2008 Kyron!

My trip to Kintex began with a shuttlebus trip that included toilet paper dispensers scattered throughout the bus. Not much to add, really.

I knew there would be Racing Girls there, and frankly the whole concept of RGs offends me to the core and makes me uncomfortable, so I went about doing the progressive, non-sexist thing and took lots of pictures of men objectifying Racing Girls. Also, although they all had great bodies (if you've been to prison and consider a perfect woman to have the slim hips of a high school boy) I was highly disappointed at their faces. This was definitely not the A squad of RGs.

The next generation of Mondellos will have this to deal with.

This was the first of many hybrid and hydrogen powered cars we saw. For some reason car companies feel the obligation to show you their newfangled engines, even though they provide no information about what such an engine actually consists of.

Like one-third of the people at the auto show, my sister-in-law (see her get married here) was taking pictures with her camera-phone.

God, look at all these guys objectifying women, it's sick! A curvy, wonton-looking sickness. I am the world's biggest hypocrite.

No, wait, now I am the world's biggest hypocrite.

The funny thing is that all the while I am doing my best to somehow communicate to the model that I'm only interested in the car. Because I am different.

Hmm, Volvo.

Mmm, yes, go on, Volvo, what else you got? Weird me out.

Here's Miyoung with a Racing Girl who was taking a kind of half break sitting on this LandRover. I'm not sure if she was relieved or insulted that I didn't want her to seductively loll her tongue and arch her back, but she looks to be just about as chilling as a girl could be in an RG costume.

Land Rovers may appear rugged on the drawing board, but in real life they just look cheap.

Bentley forewent the RGs entirely, allowing the cars to classily speak for themselves from behind a velvet rope. Well played.

Sometimes the Racin Boys get in on the action. Check out this suave gent pimping Audis.

The Hyundai Hellion, one of the few actual concept cars at the show. The concept seems to be "aquadynamic".

Aft fins

Fore fins.

The full profile view. looks like a bar of soap, and I particularly like the bucket seats.

Miyoung approves.

Here's Kia's hydrogen-powered chassy. As I understand it, hydrogen fuel cell cars make no sense when compared with plug-in hybrids, so eh, whatever.

Here's Kia's decidedly Ssangyong-y concept car. Concept: "money - class = the future"

Miyoung just caught a look at the rear end of this thing, and she's defiitely in on the joke.

Nothing to look at here, I think Miyoung thought I was being sarcastic when I said I wanted a picture of this car, but actually this drab, hybrid electric workhorse is exactly the kind of car I want.

Finally we made it to the Ssangyong pavillion, which had five (!) Actyons. Really. They are still incredibly ugly.

The front end reminds me of Skar from The Lion King, for some reason.

By the way, Ssangyong's bad taste doesn't stop at cars.

Even the interior is full of blustery hooplah. check out that babo gotten emergency brake. What are they protecting your hand from with that thing? Is there a chance you'll disengage the brake too much and shear off yout fingers?

If there's any good news at this show, it's that Ssangyong has seen my blog and decided to fix the rear end of the Kyron. It used to look like this:

It now looks like this:

First Rhie Won-bok, now this. I'm on a roll.

Miyoung and I realized that since we don't socialize with people who buy Ssangyong cars, this would be her only opportunity to be photographed in one.

Here's the Civic hybrid. Again, since there's nothing explaining what lies under the hood, why make the hood clear? I guess if you don't there's really nothing to see except a Honda Civic with little lights on the side mirrors.

Unlike our RG friend from before, this one did not know how to take a non-seductive photo, with the odd result that she seems to be beckoning me into some weird fantasy of betrayal Or maybe I'm just psychologically incredibly opaque.

Again, what does this tell us about hybrid vehicles? They look kind of like conventional cars inside.

I want one of these.

She wants one of these.

Here's the Jeep Hurricane concept car, a car so special tht it's the only one with a foreign Racing Girl. She appears to be vaguely Australian-themed, however.

Another Hyundai concept car. This one, I just noticed, is remarkable for its cloaca-like tail-pipe. Better watch out or you'll have alligators and large sea birds trying to mate with this thing every time you park.

We went outside for a bite and found that even in their off-time Racing Girls spent most of their time making sultry faces at cameras. These girls are apparently trying to make their ice cream look orgasmically delicious.

Again, my money is on hybrid-electric vehicles. Check out this ultra-futuristic bus.

Miyoung: "We are riding on a bus."
Eunhwa: "Yes."

The last thing we came to was the best, in my opinion, the Bongo section. There were a lt of new applications for the Bongo, and here are some of the coolest.
Dump Truck

Snow Plow

Lunch Wagon. I was realy excited to see that this all-new Bongo lunch wagon received not one but two Racing Girls. Good on you, Kia.

Miyoung refused to believe that this guy standingin front of the Mini Cooper was a model until five women had taken their pictures with him. Note that he is wearing an iPod as part of his Racing Boy costume. Now that's cros-marketing.

And there you have it. A lot of foreign cars that, thanks to the recently completed FTA, may some day be seen in increasing numbers on Korean streets, plus a bunch of domestic Korean cars that will most definitely be pummeling the eyes of every peninsula-dweller for the next several years.