Friday, May 28, 2010

An open letter to Misters Obama, Lee, Hu, and Kim

Dear Sirs,

I know you are very busy these days, but I hope you can find time to read this letter. I’m not one to interfere with those that run the world, but I can’t help but notice that your recent course of action seems to be leading down a path that will result in me being dead. As a rule, I am opposed to any policy, foreign or domestic, that results in me being dead. If you don’t mind, I will first address each of you individually, followed by collectively.

To Mr. Kim, Dear Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: You have a great deal of say on this matter. I know that you are planning to cede power to your son in the near distant future, and you want to make a splash on the international stage beforehand. I implore you to find another way to make such a splash. I know, it must be fun to troll your neighbors and the most powerful nations on earth, and I know that there’s a decent chance that you’re just doing it for the lulz. If I ran a country, I’d be tempted to pwn n00b heads of state as well. However, I am afraid I must interject when your trolling interferes with my being alive.

There are better ways to build your son’s legacy outside of threatening a war that will kill me and millions of other people. You could follow the example of the other Korea and become the “hub” of something. I would recommend air travel. It’s no secret that flights through Seoul and Tokyo are massively overpriced. Beijing and Shanghai are cheap to fly through, but nobody wants to deal with the clusterfuck that is Chinese visa regulations if it can by avoided. If you update Air Koryo’s fleet and build a world-class airport in Pyongyang, you can easily undercut Tokyo and Seoul in price while creating a more convenient transit point than the Chinese hubs. I would also suggest that you start building relations with other countries. Start small, but not too small. Don’t bother with third world kleptocracies. Also skip over island nations like Kiribati or Palau that nobody cares about. I’d go with minor northern European states, like Luxembourg or Estonia. Remember, the South moved from being your redheaded stepchild economically to the 15th largest economy in the world in 30 or 40 years. Your half of the peninsula is blessed with more natural resources than the South.

To Mr Lee, President of the Republic of Korea: I know the whole Cheonan sinking thing has kinda got you by the balls (assuming you’re telling the truth about its sinking), but settle the fuck down. Restoring North Korea as the State’s Official Archenemy? Are you in high school? We’ve grown to accept these sorts of shenanigans from your peer north of the DMZ, but you should know better. Apply sanctions and close sea lanes as punishment for the Cheonan incident if you must. Resorting to juvenile pedagoguery along the lines of this “archenemy” thing is downright Bushian. Remember, Bush’s needless “Axis of Evil” horseshit was how this most recent nonsense with the North started to begin with.

Second: Stop with the threats to set up the propaganda loudspeakers at the DMZ. If you proceed with this foolishness, you are just begging the North to shell the speakers. They have already said that they will destroy them, so they pretty much have to now to maintain credibility. Blaring propaganda and K-pop at the border is a ridiculous plan. This isn’t 1957. All you will succeed in doing is to further antagonizing the North, which in turn greatly raises the odds of the North making me dead.


To Mr. Hu, President of the People’s Repbublic of China: You largely hold all the cards here. You are the only state that has any real influence in the North. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Your country is responsible for the deaths of more civilians than Hitler or Stalin. Historically, that’s a lot to answer for. While these crimes can never be fully paid for, you are now in the singular, unique position to prevent the deaths of millions of more civilians, and the death of me. Help a brother out, yo.


To Mr. Obama, President of the United States of America: Long time fan, first time writer. I understand that you don’t have a whole lot of say regarding what happens on this little peninsula. American sanctions against North Korea are already to the point that there isn’t a lot more the U.S. can take away from the North. I realize that U.S-North Korean relations have never been particularly rosy, and that your predecessor, as he was wont to do, took a bad situation and made it far worse. As there is not much you can do at this point to influence the North, I have one simple, modest request. If hostilities do commence and Seoul is reduced to a fiery hellscape, please dispatch President Clinton to get me and (time permitting) my friends to safety.

Gentlemen, as you can see, this potential war is simply a bad idea . This war would level the second largest city on earth, cause the total destruction of North Korea, obliterate the world’s economy, kill millions of people, and discontinue the future prospects of this blog. Take a deep breath, collect your wits, and create a plan that results in my ongoing existence. I would totally owe you guys a solid.

Yours,

Jae-hak


P.S. Should all this fail, I’m going to have to go with Plan B: An open letter to Mr. Norris. Trust me, you don’t want that.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Base - a -bol (yep, another re-run)

I wrote a blog post last night lamenting the demise of convenience store drinking. Then, within 48 seconds, I ran into some people in front of the convenience store and drank with them. This space is no stranger to quickly debunked horseshit, but this was the first time that it was debunked in under one minute. Since I can't post what I wrote yesterday as it is no longer true, and because I'm too lazy to write something else this week, it's time to dig into the archives.

I originally posted this on my old MySpace blog in May of 2007.




I went to a Korean baseball game recently, and it lived up to my expectations in a big way. Sloppy play, strange and complicated chants, cheap beer, loose smoking policies, and cheerleaders – really this game had it all.


The stadium is in the Olympic complex, next to the giant white elephant Olympic Stadium, which is no longer used even for low level Korean league soccer games. The baseball stadium is small, I'd say a capacity of 20,000 at best, and was maybe half full. It's also about the same age as New Comiskey, yet feels as old as Shea. The small crowd was really the only downer. It was the second game of the season, and the first on a weekend day, and it was a beautiful day in the metropolis of 23 million. Seems like such a game would draw more people.


The concession stands are actually convenience store stands, run by a large local c-store chain. They sell hot dogs, at least, along with canned beer, smokes, squid jerky, and your usual convenience needs. Other food options were Burger King and KFC, at normal prices, plus you can bring any type of food (or drink) you want into the stadium.


The altogether set up of the stands is not drastically different from that of a high school football game (or baseball, but who the fuck ever went to a high school baseball game?) with the home team's fans (LG) sitting on the first base side, and the equally large away-team contingent (Kia) sitting on the third base side. Both teams' cheerleaders and drummers were at the front of their respective sections. Also, much like at a high school football game, at least in my day, you can smoke simply by walking up to the higher seats. Still in the lower bowl of course, the stadium only has one deck, which means that every seat is fucking awesome, and even the smoking "areas" provided a great view of the game.


The corporate aspect of the game was quite different from an MLB game. The stadium has no corporate name, there aren't many ads inside the stadium, no commercials on the Jumbotron, and there are no skyboxes. Yet, the teams themselves are named for corporations. Strangely, the corporate moniker replaces the city name rather than the team nickname. It's not Seoul LG versus Gwangju Kia, it's the LG Twins versus the Kia Tigers. It wasn't until speaking to a Korean friend at the bar later that I even learned where Kia hailed from, as their hometown was never mentioned at the game.


There's Thunderstix. Dear god, are there Thunderstix. The LG fans had red ones, and the Kia fans had yellow. I have no fucking clue where they got them, but my buddy and I were probably the only people there without them.


They sell draft beer in the stands. Guys with keg backpacks walk around the stands selling it. A beer is a cool 3 bucks, and just like everywhere else here, there's no tip. There's no seventh inning stretch, but also no last call for beers, which is a trade-off I can live with.


Not surprisingly, professionalism in the MLB sense was lacking from the whole operation. For example, there is a Jumbotron, and the game was televised nationally thus proving that there were cameras at the game, yet they never showed any replays or live action on the screen. In fact, the Jumbotron was blank for most of the game. At the start of each at-bat, they would show a picture of the player batting, his stats, and his name (all in Korean of course, but I could theoretically figure it out) but they would keep this informative screen up for maybe 3 seconds, so it was impossible to actually learn any player names or anything about them at all. There was also a lack of pro-syle on the field as well, as the game was chock full of hilarious errors and 100 km/hour "fast balls."


Perhaps the strangest phenomenon regarding attending a foreign sporting event is the overall foreign-ness of it. By this, I mean the team songs and team cheers that everyone knew. Like a European soccer match, but somehow weirder and more conformist in the Asian style. I sat on the LG side at the game, and LG got their asses kicked, yet everyone was happy all game. I mean, I know, it's baseball, and a day at the ballpark is a day at the ballpark, but this trumped anything I'd seen, even at Wrigley. The crowd seemed quite excited to be losing. At the midpoint of the 9th, and LG down 9-1, there was a rousing round of team songs and chants, with everyone on the LG side singing along. And it wasn't a dwindling crowd, virtually every person stayed until the bitter end, when LG hit into a no-on, 2-out 3-2 fly-out to settle the game at 9-2. Will I go back? I already have tickets for next weekend.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Off the rails

I’m too lazy to clean my apartment tonight. Should I bring any girls home this weekend, they’ll just have to put up with dust on my floor and smudges on my coffee table.

I had this dream last night. I had a girlfriend in it, but the part of the girlfriend was played by the actress Sarah Chalke from Scrubs. It wasn’t a dream that Sarah Chalke was actually my girlfriend, but that she was playing the part of the girl that was. Later in the dream, we went to some sort of small time basketball game played in a high school gym, and for some reason Larry Bird was playing. Not Bird in his prime, but Bird now. I shouted insults at him, and he heard me, and I retracted them. We then yelled across the court at each other, while the game was being played, about how much we both hated the particular book that I was reading at the time.

I have no feelings for Larry Bird one way or the other in real life. Nor do I for Sarah Chalke for that matter. I am pretty sure that this was the first dream that I ever had that prominently involved two celebrities.

As you probably have guessed, this blog is going right off the rails tonight. I’m not even drunk, though I imagine I will be by the end of this.

I saw a Korean version of my elementary school principal Mr. Stauffer yesterday. Same build, same glasses, same face, same cheap grey suit. It was uncanny.

For my own amusement, I will now list a series of inside jokes regarding my friends. The trick? Each joke will only be one word. Also, I won’t name the friend. Some friends may be repeated. See how many you can recognize. Konkus. Toast. Intercept. Insert. Mexico. Welch. Keys. Ladyboy. Shorty. Rusky. Marquis. Pocahantas. Leavitt. Rupp. Horse. Ssob. Ditka. Pigeon. Book. Bundy’s. Drake. Kristov. Chenowith. King. Jackhammer. Iowa. Taco. Enron. Resourceful. 45. C. 75cents. Barton. 919. Toothbrush. Dunk. Ozarks. Fact.

If you happen to read this and I’m not personally acquainted with you, then a) sorry about the last paragraph, it must have been boring, b) thanks for reading, you rule, tell your friends! and c) sucka, there’s never a “c.”

I was talking to this girl at the bar the other day. Korean girl. Not the one I mentioned in the last post. She told me that I needed to learn Korean to understand Korean culture more. Korean culture? Quiz me, baby. Confucius, blood type, Super Junior, King Sejong, Dokdo, Starcraft, Admiral Yi, I’m on the motherfucker. Turns out I knew every answer to all her questions on Korean culture. Then, she started talking about the importance of family in Korea. See, here in the ROK, family is the most important thing. In fact, family is more important to Koreans than it is to any other nationality, thus spoke this chick. Horseshit, I said, because every nationality would say the same (okay, not us, and probably not the Canucks or the Brits or the Aussies). Every Italian person would say that family is more important in Italy than it is in any other nation. Ditto every Russian person, every Chinese person, you see where I’m going here. She agreed with this statement, but she said that the difference in Korea is that here, this statement of family mattering more than in any other country is actually true! Yeah baby, I retorted, but every Greek, Kyrg, or Congolese would feel that it’s actually true! about their own country. Anyway, I won the argument in fact, but not in theory. Long story short, I didn’t sleep with her, though I likely could have had only I agreed with her. Internet porn is the haven of the righteous.

I will now list five concerts that I didn’t see, but should have.

Mayhem - Lawrence, KS, 2002(ish) A Norwegian death metal band, throwing down quotes like “Jesus Christ was a goddamn fag” and “Satan will rule this town again.” I still quote it, even though I wasn’t there.

Fugazi, Bercy, Paris, 1999. Yeah, I saw Fugazi a year before that, but it was in fucking Olathe. Seeing them in Paris would have crushed that.

Nirvana - The Outhouse, Lawrence, 1990 (ish). Okay, I was in grade school and had never heard of Nirvana, and was in fact a big fan of Janet Jackson and MC Hammer at the time. It never could have come to pass that I would have gone, but it sure would have been awesome if I did.

Johnny Cash, anywhere, anytime. He must have played near a city I was living in at some point in my life.

Pearl Jam, Day on the Hill, Lawrence, 1992. I have no excuse. They show was free. My buddy Shane and I were too lazy to walk to the KU campus to see the show, and this in a year that Shane and I walked downtown (twice the distance from home to KU) pretty much every Saturday. I’ve since seen grainy Youtube footage of it - Eddie Vedder singlehandedly saved rock and roll on that day.

In this middle school class last week, the chapter we were covering was about lying. The chapter asked about common lies told by students or teachers or bosses or employees and whatnot. One question was to name a common lie that a husband may tell his wife. One middle school boy’s response “That woman is my co-worker.” Another question was what lies parents may tell their children. Another middle school boy: “I love you.”

Student gallows humor never fails to amuse me. I may have mentioned this before, but whenever a student is absent, this is the usual conversation. I will ask where Min-hee is today. One of the students will say “Oh, Min-hee die.” Really, that’s a shame, I will announce. What happened to poor Min-hee? “He bus hit.” “He the swimming, and the shark eat.” “He was shot.” “He have the cancer,” That’s just this week. The proverbial Min-hee has died more times than Kenny.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bender Season

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve befriended random strangers, stayed out all night, re-ignited my love affair with McDonald’s breakfast, traveled across town for free on more than one occasion, and even had a good old fashioned bout of passing out in public. Yep, It’s bender season again here in Korea.

Like any good bender, the specifics are foggy. It’s a series of bars, conversations, video games, subway, bus, and taxi rides, and lonely late night walks, soju in tow, around shadowy streets that are rarely, if ever, seen by white people. There’s work too, but no concept of something as pedestrian as 4 p.m. or Thursday.

I went to Itaewon on a weeknight to drink with my soon-to-be-leaving buddy Eric. I made it home on the last subway of the night and went to Metropolis bar in Nowon already trashed. I saw a rival trivia team playing darts there. I remember nothing of my conversation with them, other than the fact that I definitely talked shit on Ohio a lot since one of them is from there. I hope that I also mentioned that my trivia team cannot be defeated, but they probably already know that since they lose to us every week.

I spent Saturday afternoon with my buddy Ryan, walking around the rich part of town and surreptitiously drinking soju out of a Gatorade bottle. We later went to a bar called Monkey Beach. I last saw Monkey Beach on Don’s birthday, the famous night that featured all manners of sketchy drunken behavior. I was excited to go back. We drank buckets and things got a bit blurry. We planned to go to Itaewon, but that plan crumbled along these lines:

“Let’s go to the ‘Twon!”

“Cool,” I replied. “But I don’t want to pay for the cab back home.”

“Mine only costs 10 bucks.”

“Mine costs 20. Ryan, dude, give me 5 bucks, it’s only fair.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuckin A, dude!.”

“I’m getting in this cab to Itaewon. You going?”

“You giving me 5 bucks?”

“No.”

“Fuck off, I’m taking the train home.” I walked to the subway station, which was a longer distance than I remembered it being. While waiting for the last train home, I dozed off. Next thing I knew, a subway worker was clearing the station and I had to leave. I considered taking the bus home if it was still running, but some random dude was taking a taxi to a neighborhood just beyond mine so I shared a cab with him. Once we got to Nowon, he refused payment for my half of the fare. The lesson here? There are no repercussions for passing out in the train station.

Wednesday was a holiday, thus Tuesday was a big night out. Things were winding down at around 4, as I sat at the convenience store with my friends drinking what I assumed to be my last beer of the night. The subject of the casino came up. Martin, maybe thinking that the casino would be closed for the holiday, bet Ryan and I a hundred bucks that we wouldn’t go to the casino then and there and return to Nowon with proof of having been. Once we worked out that Martin wasn’t bullshitting, we took the bet and hopped in a cab. Martin came along to further verify that we went. The casino wasn’t closed. I’d been to this very casino on Christmas Day a couple years back, there was no way it would close for Children’s Day. Ryan and I took our cash from Martin.

I ended up dipping into my own money of course. Ryan did too. Not a lot, just a few bucks. Anyway, the lesson here? Don’t play roulette at 6 a.m.

On the way home, I got separated from Martin somehow. It was 7:30 in the morning as I walked to my apartment (by way of Egg McMuffinland,) so I decided it was a fine time for drunken dialing.

This would be a good point to bring up why this bender started. I’ve been bored at work, more socially than anything. I only have one American co-worker, and he’s cool, but we never hang out. I don’t have his phone number. He’s not even a Facebook friend. Worse, he’s better friends with the girl at work that I have a crush on than I am. Every bender has a different specific reason, but it’s always the same general thing. Malaise. Boredom. The feeling that my life got off on the wrong exit somewhere, that I should have made that left in Albuquerque. Everybody feels that way sometimes, but for me the reason is almost always the same: girls.

Technically, in a lawyer kinda way, I’ve only been dumped twice. My first girlfriend Liz and my second girlfriend Katie hold those honors.

I went out with Liz in seventh grade. Over our 9 week relationship, we spoke on the phone four times for a cumulative three minutes. Throughout the latter seven weeks, there were rumors in the hallway that she had already dumped me, but we managed to avoid speaking a single time. Finally, at a school dance, Liz resolved the issue by ignoring me and dancing with my two best friends (not at the same time) and telling them to tell me that she was breaking up with me.

I went out with Katie during the summer between 8th and 9th grades. I met her on vacation at an amusement park, and then asked her to be my girlfriend at a mall two days before I went home. For some reason, she agreed. Katie broke up with me via letter. The funny part was, she actually wrote a full page letter, chit chatty stuff about the rest of her summer and what she and her friends were doing and what have you. She didn’t actually dump me until the last paragraph.

I kinda miss break ups. I never thought I would feel this way, but break-ups are humane. Given the choice between ebola and a bullet in the temple, I’ll take the bullet. I presume you would too. This means that you, much like me, are not a Korean girl. Having been in-country for literally over 1,000 days, I’ve noticed a pattern when it come to dating Korean girls. When it’s over in their mind, it’s over. This point can happen at any given time. It’s happened to me on more than pi occasions.

Recently, I’d been dating this girl. We’d been on a few dates, and I stayed in with her a couple Fridays ago, hung out on the couch, ate pizza, watched 30 Rock, good times. Like all 28 year old Korean females, she lived at home and had an early curfew, so I took her home before one. The next evening, we went for dinner. I was delightful in conversation with her monolingual friends. I was wore a cool shirt and my hair was fine. No mistakes. She went home early again, so I walked her to a cab. We planned to meet the next afternoon.

I called her when I woke up. She didn’t pick up. Every other time I’d ever called her, she’d picked up right away. I texted her a few minutes later. No response. Ever time I’d texted her up until then, she’d responded within 5 minutes. Without warning, it was over. That’s how it works with Korean girls.

A couple of weeks later, I woke on Wednesday afternoon after the casino adventure. I did my usual phone/internet check to see what horrible things I may have done. I saw that I called that girl. Twice. 7:30 and 7:41. She gets up early, so I doubt I woke her, but I knew I didn’t talk to her. Also, because she’d made the last contact (a text saying she’d call me later a week or so ago) I’d won the breakup on on technicality. Now, I’d clearly lost. I deleted all of my texts, all my call history, and her from my phone book. I won’t make the mistake of calling her again.

Just like that, the bender had (probably) ended. Now that its (presumably) over, I once again begin the task of becoming a better person. I bought some apples and bean sprouts. The next step is to actually eat them.
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