Thursday, August 21, 2008

Leavin Town

I’m off again. Back on the road. I know it seems it’s all I ever do, but I’m still pretty excited about this trip. First, I’m going back to the BKK, then jetting off to Malaysia for 5 days as well. Flights to Bangkok were amazingly cheap last minute (don’t get me wrong, any air ticket out of Korea is a huge rip-off, but one must pay a huge premium to leave this Indiana-sized country. Then again, a drink at an airport bar is a huge rip-off as well, but I pay it, as boarding a flight sober is about almost as unpalatable as spending a week’s vacation at home) and I found an actual cheap flight from BKK to Malaysia. I had more written about this, but it was lame and dull so I cut it. Anyway, it’s my 8th and maybe final (for a while) international Asian trip, and also my most ambitious with two countries involved. This will either be a warm-up for a potential mega Southeast Asian run this winter, or a grand finale of sorts. Either way, I plan to do it up, and thus finally have something to write about.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Korean Randomness and more Olympics

First off, a couple pictures from walking around in Seoul

Those are always the best. Why haven't I been to this bar?

Nothing says Sicilian like sweet potato (the yellow stuff around the edges), mayonnaise, and, as always, corn.

Now, on to the Olympics. There are good and bad aspects of watching the Olympics in Korea. Due to my lack of knowledge in the local language, I don’t know the tumultuous back-stories to any of the athletes. That kicks ass. I don’t need any soap opera with my Olympics. Korea also broadcasts the Olympics on 4 different channels, rather than NBC’s monopoly, thus theoretically allowing for variation i n events. I’ve also enjoyed watching weird-ass sports that we never see in the US, like handball or soccer. Judo has been pretty interesting as well, along with weightlifting. The US sucks at all of these, but Korea is pretty good (well, maybe not at soccer) so they’ve been on a lot. Even badminton has it’s moments, although it seems strange to have a backyard barbecue sport as an Olympic event. I mean, why not ultimate frisbee too?

On the bad - those 4 channels showing the games? 90% of the time, they all show the same thing. One channel sometimes varies (SBS Sports, but it’s a sports channel) but the three major Korean networks pretty much always show the same thing all the time, same camera angles and everything. Not surprisingly, they replay Korean victories - a lot. I saw Park Tae Hwan’s gold in the 400 meter freestyle about 30 times. That one I understand, because it’s Korea’s first ever swimming gold, and the race is only 4 minutes long or so. But, they will also replay women’s basketball games or archery matches (which last roughly 9 hours) in their entirety as well. This brings me to archery. Apparently, Korea is phenomenal at it. Korea beat a German archer named Hitzler, so there’s that. Archery has too be the dullest television sport I’ve ever seen. That, or air pistols, which of course Korea also excels at, leading to roughly 5 or 6 hours of coverage a day of fat bastards shooting fake guns at targets 10 meters away. Korea’s women’s teams have been a disappointment looks-wise as well, especially considering how much foxy talent I see here every single day. Korea isn’t any good at sports that draw babes I guess, no Korean beach volleyball team or anything. On the badminton, basketball, archery, handball, and, amazingly, the field hockey team, there’s not a looker among them.

Before moving on with non-Olympic Korea stuff, I’d like to send out a special “fuck you” to NBC. I have no clue why they black out their online Olympic coverage (or any online programming, for that matter) outside of the US. Plenty of American channels don’t, But, the fact is, it’s both pointless and harmful for NBC. The Korean channels didn’t show the US-China basketball game live (no surprise, there were archery matches to replay after all) and I can’t watch the feed on NBC. Of course, I was going watch the game, despite being a fairly mediocre internet user, and after a couple of minutes I found the game on a Macedonian feed. That’s right, Macedonia. The feeds are out there, and NBC are idiots if they think people outside the US won’t get them through another source if we can’t get them from NBC. If NBC allowed the feed outside the US, I would have been exposed to their advertising and would have a positive opinion of the network. Plus, if I were in the US, I’d either watch the game on TV or Tivo it, I wouldn’t watch it online. Also, after the US comeback in the 4x100 relay, I had to search for 20 minutes to find a video, but I still saw it. Sort of funny how everybody’s talking about China and their ridiculous internet censorship, when NBC isn’t much better. This isn’t a law thing, as I said, other US networks show sports and programs on the internet outside the US, and NBC doesn’t just block the Olympics, they block all their shows. So NBC, fuck you. Rant over.

Funny Korean things in class - I’ve been giving tests this week (speaking tests, one on one with hundreds of students, it’s awful) and have gotten some pretty awesome answers from, uh, not the brightest kids in class. I asked one student “Do you play a musical instrument?” (and slowly annunciated each word) and he said, “Yes. I play soccer.” I asked another student, this time a middle-schooler, to name a type of food that came in a bag. His answer? Water. Pretty much the most wrong answer possible. Speaking of which, on Wednesday, I asked a student what date it was today. Granted, about half the students confused “date” with “day,” an understandable mistake, but not so much when he answered “Saturday.”

Anyway, as you made it this far into this post, which ran longer than I intended, I'll post another sweet Konglish pic. When translating to English, sometimes "C"s and "K"s can be fairly interchangeable. After all, seeing Korea spelled "Corea" is quite common. Of course, lots of times, it does matter which letter you use.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympics: Good

I love the Beijing Olympics so far, despite the fact that they kept me from visiting Beijing. I love seeing the events live, which I haven’t in forever. The Korean announcers kick ass. Every local announcer is biased, but the Korean announcers cheer and celebrate openly on air like a high school broadcasting team. It’s awesome. Imagine Bob Costas cheering out loud at a US win - that’s pretty much Korean Olympic coverage. Best of all, since I don’t speak fluent Korean, I can’t understand what the announcers are saying when they are giving the tragic back-story of each athlete. That definitely rules. Plus, I watched something like an hour and a half worth of live Olympic coverage this afternoon (fencing, women’s weightlifting, judo, some sort of unidentifiable indoor soccer-lacrosse hybrid, and other events) with exactly zero commercials.

So, you don’t follow me? You want more awesomeness to Beijing 2008? How about this - a US basketball team that should goddamn win the gold (and our first likable team that I bothered to cheer for an follow since 1996). I also love the Olympics being in Beijing (this year, at least.) It’s been since the Olympics were in this fair city (Seoul) that we’ve had such a fitting “Evil Empire” Olympic rival as China. Over the last 20 years, the Olympics have been sorely missing the USSR and the East German “women’s” team. After watching women’s weightlifting today, it’s good to see China bringing it back.

For the record, regarding team sports, I’m pro-USA basketball, but I’m cheering for Korea in baseball. The US team is only AA players or lower, and I’ve not heard of a single one. On the other hand, 2 of Korea’s starting pitchers come from my beloved Kia Tigers. In soccer, as always, I’m pro-Italy (who Korea starts against) though I hope Korea does well for the party in the streets factor. Plus, it would be nice to see Koreans take to the streets for purposes other than protesting beef or because of a couple of uninhabitable rocks in the middle of nowhere.