Thursday, July 28, 2011

Here I Go Again

I don’t know where I’m goin.’ I mean this in the literal sense, and not so much in the metaphorical David Coverdale kinda way, at least tonight.

Summer vacation at my school starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Like so many Korean institutions, out summer vacation makes as much sense as a goat in a cannery. We have three actual work days off, Monday through Wednesday. It is forbidden to request Thursday or Friday off, as it is our intensive period. See, during the kids’ summer and winter vacations, private language academy teachers such as myself actually teach more. If the kids are off school, they spend even more time in academies such as mine. Since our three day (5 with the weekend) vacation falls at the end of July and beginning of August, it is super-crazy-thunderdome peak season in Korean travel.

EVERY Korean travels this week.

I’ll use Cebu, Philippines as an example. I know some people down there. It’s also a popular place for Korean tourists. If I wanted a flight from Seoul to Cebu (and I wanted to avoid a Manila to Cebu flight on a sketchy Filipino airline) it would be literally impossible. Every flight from Seoul to Cebu is sold out. Coach, Business, and First. Direct, via Hong Kong, or via Tokyo. Even the ghetto Chinese airlines are sold out, both Friday and Saturday. I’m not actually in the market for a Cebu flight, as I feel the Phils are better to lolligag around in than to attack in a four day blitz, but this kind of shows what I’m up against.

The way I see it, I have four options.

1. Bangkok. My first choice, with a bullet. I’ve been a bit stressed out and down as of late, and the BKK ranks pretty highly for blowing off steam. I could chill out, eat awesome food, and drink cheap whiskey on a motorcycle taxi. Plus, one of my oldest friends lives there, and two other buddies of mine from here are going there that same week, so it would be a party.

Downside - expensive plane ticket (though I hope it comes down).

2. Jeju Island. Two of my work friends are going, both of whom are awesome, and the weather should be beautiful this week. I haven’t been in years. Renting scooters and hanging out on the beach would be involved. No currency exchange. My cell phone would work.

Downside - three is an awkward number for lodging. From my research, a lot of hotels are sold out, so it will be crowded. My first trip to Jeju was aight, but it wasn’t transcendent. I don’t feel like it will be a party, which is kinda what I want.

3. Taipei. I’ve never been to Taiwan, so it would be cool to check out somewhere new. If I ever wanted to move to Taipei (always an option in these parts) it would be nice to know some basics about it. Good Chinese food. Two of my co-workers are also going here, although on unrelated trips.

Downside - Both co-workers have divergent agendas on different parts of the island, so other than Saturday night I probably wouldn’t see either, I’d be on my own. Flights are almost as pricy as Bangkok. I’d tell myself that I’d explore the countryside, but I’d just end up boozing in Taipei, so I’d feel regretful for whatever reason. I have no similar delusions about Bangkok. I know going in that I’d spend 4-5 days in bars, and I’d feel no remourse. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to Bangkok and seen its major tourist attractions, and I’ve seen how horrible its regional beaches are, so I wouldn’t feel bad about being a drunken scumbag there. Again, stressed out and depressed, so I kind of want to be an unapologetic drunken scumbag for a few days.

4. A TBA solo peninsular Korean adventure. Kinda like last year. My trip last year resulted in my most-read blog post by a large margin. I’m sure I could find something cool. I could listen to podcasts and be left alone. It's clearly the cheapest option, which rules for my pending 6 month epic in SE Asia or South America.

Downside - I'd end up in dull bars in cities like Cheonan. I'd be going to places that I could hit on weekend trips. Beaches are off limits, as I know what a zoo Busan will be and how horrible it is to go to other Korean beaches on my own.

I guess I'll find out where I'm heading soon enough. Till then, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that BKK airfares will drop.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Korea n00bs - Seoul is the only city that matters!

I wrote something else this week, but I’m not going to post it, at least not yet. It felt too personal. Moreover, it didn’t feel like what this blog is anymore. Bummer, since it was surprisingly well-written. Anyway, I wrote this advice for Korean n00bs piece a couple weeks ago, when I planned on creating a whole new space dedicated to that topic. Since I know less about internet architecture than Frank Lloyd Wright’s corpse, I’m just going to post it here. K people - this is relevant to you. Back home people - check out the perty pictures!

So you’re on your way to Korea. Good for you. With lightning internet, better living facilities, Koreans getting used to foreigners more, relative peace, the advent of local (sorta) low cost airlines, massively increased food and booze options, world-class transportation infrastructure, and Taco Bell, today is literally the best day to live in Korea over the course of its long history. Of course, with greater employment competition, stagnating wages, higher food prices, and more restrictive and complicated immigration policy, it ain’t as easy as it used to be. That’s life though, eh? I first came here in the fall of 2006. Despite the drawbacks and occasional pangs for the “old days” that any old timer like me will have, you are coming here at the right time. Korea is a better place today than it was then.

Cagey Methuselah that I am, I have one big piece of advice: live in Seoul. Sure, food and entertainment options have improved around the nation, but in Korea, Seoul is very much the center of the universe. Do you have romantic notions of living the most Korean life possible? Wanna live like a “real” Korean? Well, real Koreans live in Seoul Around 50% of South Korea’s population lives in Seoul or its metro area. Want to just live your life and exist in “the bubble?” Seoul is the Leviathan in the room. Right now, I’m sure the notion sickens you, but trust me, after a few months, you’ll crave the bubble, or at least access to it.

Seoul has a lot going for it. It has the best subway system in the world, for starters. It also has Korea’s best museums, best restaurants, best bars, best clubs, and easily the best acting/writing/comedy/music/dance/whatever you’re in to scene. Also, Seoul has far more nature and green space than you would expect. Mountain hiking is a short subway ride away from anywhere in town. Namsan, Seoul Forrest, and Olympic Park are massive urban oases. The Han River has parks along its entire length, and lots of smaller streams have walking/biking paths and often feel far away from the city that surrounds them. I live in a dirty alley in an extremely urbanized area of central Seoul, but I can get to mountains and forests via a 10-20 minute bus ride.

Don’t believe me? Still have your heart set on that country town or mid-sized college town? Trust me, I’ve been to more Korean cities than most Koreans. There is no “New England Village” or hip “Madison” in Korea. Let me break all Korean cities in categories.

I’d actually do it:

Busan - Okay, Busan rules too. I’ve been to Busan eight times, and the city gets better each time. Haeundae is unquestionably the most happening beach in Korea, and there are quieter beaches too. Samyeon, PNU, and Gwangalli are all fun places to play. Also, it’s the only place outside of Seoul with a somewhat legitimate airport. I would be okay with living there. Its main problems are the fact that it’s quite spread out, so you might end up living somewhere an hour from the coast, and that jobs tend to be lower paying. Plus, one of the best things about not living in Busan is that it’s such a great place to visit. If you plan on spending one year (and you have a hard out and won’t be tempted to extend) than Busan would be a great place to live.

I’d consider it, but only in the right neighborhood:

Gyeonggi-do - This is the province that surrounds Seoul. A lot of it is connected to the Seoul subway, or to Seoul via express buses. Ilsan (Goyang) and Bundang (Seongnam) are the Cadillacs of Gyeonggi life. Both are rich, somewhat happening, and have good connections to cool parts of Seoul (Hongdae for Ilsan, Gangnam for Bundang). Suwon is the largest city in Gyeonggi with over one million people, so it has its own life and own history, and is easily accessible via the subway and express buses to Gangnam. Yongin/Suji are also pretty new and have good facilities and shopping/dining options, and are near Seoul. Anyang and Ansan are within easy reach of south and southwest Seoul, and Anyang has a fairly international population for suburban Korea. Uijeongbu is close to Nowon, which isn’t the coolest part of Seoul, but has a few cool bars and restaurants. Bucheon is between Seoul and Incheon, and a short ride to western Seoul. Gwacheon is on the Seoul Subway 4 line, so it’s easy to get to Gangnam or Downtown. Guri is due east of Seoul, and if one is close to Guri Station, it’s easy to get to central Seoul.

Incheon - Incheon is a major city in it’s own right, with nearly three million people, and it’s also part of the Seoul metro area. Subway Line 1 connects Incheon with Seoul. Incheon s the home of Incheon International Airport (duh), although it’s easier to reach the airport from many places in Seoul than in is from many places in Incheon. Incheon also has a lot of coastal islands with beaches, such as Muuido, and has it’s own little boardwalk amusement park called Wolmido near its downtown. Incheon could be livable, but the main problem is how big it is. Do not move to Incheon unless you know exactly where you will be living. Parts of it are basically Seoul, other parts are BFE.

Chuncheon - Because of the new Chuncheon subway line, it’s now a viable place to live. Chuncheon has a lot of awesome natural features, and it’s also the home of Dalkgalbi, a spicy chicken dish that happens to be my favorite Korean food. The subway line really sells it though, as Seoul is now 60-72 minutes away, and with continuing subway improvements, downtown Seoul will soon be 45 minutes from Chuncheon.

Only if I had an unbelievable offer:

Daegu: Daegu is a big city in its own right. It has good Indonesian food. Most everything to do in Daegu is centered around its downtown. so it’s easy to navigate - so long as you live near downtown. Daegu is also pretty close to Busan and an hour and a half from Seoul via train (but the train costs $45 one way.) For those who want “city but not Seoul,” you’re living a fantasy. Daegu has the same noise, pollution, horrible traffic, and shitty architecture as Seoul, all without the distinct neighborhoods, cultural diversity (by Korean standards, nobody would confuse Seoul for San Francisco) and easy transit options. Daegu has a similar population to Chicago (city proper, not metro) but only has 2 subway lines. It also has horrible weather, with the hottest summers and coldest winters in Korea.

Daejeon: Daejeon is like Daegu lite. It’s closer to Seoul, a 53 minute train, but farther from Busan. Daejeon is more centrally located, so it’s easier to get to a lot of places in Korea on the weekend than from Daegu, but harder to get to the beach. Daejeon has 1.5 million people and 1 subway line. Like Daegu, you’re looking at all of the disadvantages of Seoul (noise, traffic, pollution) with none of the cultural advantages. Both Daegu and Daejeon (and Busan) boast a Costco.

Gwangju: Gwangju is the big dog in its region, by far the biggest city in southwest Korea. I like Gwangju. It has a few fun bars, a lively downtown, some parks, it’s close to some nice mountains (but then again, so is every Korean city), and, full disclosure, baseball-wise I’m a Kia Tigers fan, and they hail from Gwangju. Gwangju also has amazing Korean food with fresh local veggies and killer kimchi. That said, I don’t think I could live here. It’s just too isolated. It has a quasi-KTX high-speed train service, but the train takes conventional tracks between Daejeon and Gwangju so it’s still a hike to Seoul. For what it’s worth, there’s no Costco.

Ulsan: Ulsan was better than I expected it to be. However, it still sprawls a lot, and its mostly known as Korea’s industrial capital. It’s quite close to Busan, so it has that going for it.

Not unless I was married to a girl who lived there:

Jeonju - For smaller towns, Jeonju is pretty cool. It has it’s self titled Bibimbap and a lot of cultural attractions like it’s hanok village (although Seoul has a better Hanok village and also has Jeonju bibimbap restaurants). Jeonju is cute and walkable and well worth a weekend, but too isolated to really be a sensible place to live.

Jinju - I loved my weekend in Jinju. It’s a walkable town, has a nice riverfront, and is close to some cool national parks. I actually preferred Jinju bibimbap to it’s Jeonju counterpart. Then again, it’s so far from anything that it would be a difficult place to live. If I lived there, I’d get bored in a week and a half. No night life at all.

It’s a nice place to visit, but...

Jeju - Best weather in Korea, of course. Cooler summers and warmer winters. Delicious fruit. Natural Beauty. A volcano. On the flip side, it requires an airplane to get anywhere on the peninsula. It’s super isolated. The nightlife is really lame. Plus, it’s the primary tourist destination for Koreans, so most everyone you meet will be a tourist. Many of them will be honeymooners wearing couple shirts. I imagine this would get old in about 4 days.

Gyeongju - An absolute must-visit for anybody living in Korea. Gyeongju is the ancient capital, and it’s historic sights are unmatched outside Seoul. However, it’s completely unlivable. The food options are horrible. Unless you are, in fact, an ancient Korean history scholar or an archeologist, there is no reason to live here.

Cheongju - Rock City isn’t too shabby for nightlife. Its university area has more western friendly bars than most Korean cities 4 times its size. There are some solid food options too. However, it feels like the kind of town in which you would meet everyone on your first weekend. As in many provincial Korean cities, I felt like a celebrity at the bar for being an out-of-towner. It isn’t far from Seoul, but rail options are poor, forcing you onto the bus and brutal weekend traffic jams. A theoretical 90 minute bus ride will often take 3 or 4 hours. Also, it’s in the landlocked Chungbuk province, so it’s a long way to the beach.

(not pictured)- a mid sized city at the end of Seoul subway line 1, and also on the main train line and KTX. It isn’t too hard to get from here to Seoul, and it’s a fairly big city in its own right, the largest in its province. Then again, it is 2 hours from Seoul on line 1, and two hours of subway time is like 11 hours of real time.

Gangwon coastal towns
- by this I mean Sokcho, Gangneung, and the like, These towns have nice beaches with clear water, and like everywhere in Gangwon province, impressive mountains abound. These are fine towns to spend a weekend, but lack the food, shopping, and transportation options to make them livable. The Gangwon coast to Seoul or any other major city can take several hours by bus during weekend traffic jams, and the local train is so slow that it’s better to take your chances with the worst traffic snarls than to take them.

Dishonorable mention - Any place that I didn’t name means that its either of such little consequence that I haven’t been there yet, or that I was there and either forgot about it or hated it.

tl:dr - live in Seoul. You won’t regret it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top Five Most Hatable - Sports Edition

I wrote a solid five-worst gimmick piece two months ago. Hey, who doesn’t love to hate stuff? Why not continue? This time, instead of the previous “five worst” moniker, I’m going with “Five most hatable.” On a sports list, this only makes sense. Obviously, I won’t be talking about teams and players that are bad, as in can’t play, as that would be really dull. Statistically, I think Tommy Maddox’s 1992 season for the Denver Broncos was the worst of all time, but who wants to read an article on the Tommy Maddoxi of the world? No, this list is fully subjective. No statistic will back up my statements. This piece is solely my inarguably correct opinion.

Whenever possible, I will specify the most hatable year for the given team. Once I get to World Cup countries, baseball and individuals, stating a specific year will become impossible.

The five most hatable college football teams ever:

5. Kansas State Wildcats (1998). I’m no fan of Bill Snyder and his cupcake scheduling. They moved up the rankings feasting on the Texas Pan-Americans of the world. Their fans were insufferable, a usual trait of most teams listed here. In retrospect, I somewhat regret hating on the Cats so much, as they were never nearly as good again and clearly never will be.

4. USC (2005). A team so good it was against the law. Literally. I was particularly angry at their defeat of Notre Dame on a totally horseshit (and I’m pretty sure illegal) play. Had the Irish won, they would have gone on to the Rose Bowl to play Texas for the chip. Sure, ND would have been crushed by Texas, but at least the game wouldn’t have been vacated.

3. Colorado (1990). The Bill McCartney Buffaloes were really contemptible. For fuck’s sake, McCartney went on to found the Promise Keepers after this. Anyhow, Orange Bowl, January 1, 1991. Rocket Ismail returned a punt for a touchdown. Game over, Notre Dame wins. Oh wait, flag on the field. Clipping. Who committed the clip? Must have been an angel McCartney prayed for, since no humans on the field actually did. Have fun in the PAC 10, Fauxlarado.

2. Missouri (2007). Missouri is always easy to hate, but this team dashed KU’s national title hopes at Arrowhead. I’d be amazed if the Kansas Football Jayhawks are a national title contender again in my lifetime. At least justice was served - we went to a BCS game and they didn’t. Plus, the next year, a so-so KU squad beat a contending MU squad on the same field.

1. Florida State (1993). I can’t even discuss this rationally; I could go on for pages. At the end of the 1993 season, both Notre Dame and Florida State had one loss. Florida State’s loss was to Notre Dame, and it was decisive. Somehow FSU went to the championship, largely because Bobby Bowden cried like a little girl after losing to the Irish, begging the poll voters not to drop his team too far.

The five most hatable NFL Teams

5. Dallas Cowboys (2002). The 2002 Cowboys were nothing special. In fact, they were more notable than, say, the 2002 Seattle Seahawks, as neither team was interesting in any way. However, since the Cowboys are “America’s Team,” they were on national TV like every week, despite the fact that they went 5-11 and their only stars were on their helmets.

4. Los Angeles Raiders (1990). I kinda hated the Raiders more when they were in LA. I really hated their 1990 team because they were lucky enough to win the AFC West and get a first round bye despite losing to the Chiefs twice. At least I have the lasting image of Deron Cherry crushing Bo Jackson at Arrowhead. (Bo, BTW, is a strange study for me. In those days, he was simultaneously my favorite baseball player and my least favorite football player).

3. Miami Dolphins (1971). It’s tough to pick a year here. I hate the ’72 Dolphins for being arrogant douchebags. I hate the ’85 Dolphins for giving the ’85 Bears their only loss, and then folding in the playoffs to avoid getting crushed by the Bears in an awesome display of vengeance in the Super Bowl. Still, I’d really have to go with ’71. Despite this happening well before I was born, this team beat the Chiefs in the longest NFL game ever played, setting the table for two decades of Chiefs mediocrity.

2. Washington Redskins (1987). Beat the Bears in the playoffs in what turned out to be Walter Payton’s last game ever. Unforgivable.

1. Denver Broncos (1997). Again, tough to pick a year. Picking the Broncos’ most offensive year is like picking the year that Stalin did the most damage. I’ll go with ’97, simply because that was the Chiefs’ best year in my lifetime. Unfortunately, the two best teams in the NFL that season were in the same division, which meant they played in the divisional round of the playoffs rather than the Super Bowl. The Chiefs could have won the whole thing that year, if not for a horrible 4th down play at the end, and if only the Broncos had refrained from cheating earlier.

The five most hatable college hoops teams:

5. Bucknell/Bradley/Northern Iowa/VCU/UTEP/Rhode Island/Kentucky/Illinois/Maryland/Memphis/Holy Cross. As a KU fan, it seems I get new teams to hate every year.

4. Syracuse (2003). As my buddy Jack presciently wrote on the wall of a Florentine bar a couple years prior to this mess - Fuck Syracuse. Every day, I peruse the papers hoping to see something along the lines of “Gerry McNamara Found Stabbed in Delaware Rest Area.” So far, no such luck.

3.Arizona (1997). Really, I hate Lute and his hair every year. Like the ’97 Chiefs, the ’97 Hawks were gangbusters and overwhelming favorites to win. I saw this loss in Colorado surrounded by Missouri fans, which left me somehow hating Missouri even more.

2. Duke/North Carolina. These teams are bitter rivals, but they are equally scummy. I started hating Duke in 1986 when they beat a loaded KU squad in the Final Four. It was my first college basketball memory. Carolina and their 2000/2003 shenanigans were pathetic. At least KU murdered them in 2008.

1. Missouri (2002). I hate Missouri every year, but in 2002 they had it all going on. Horrible fans. Terrible coach. Overrated early, then underseeded despite their talent. Rush. Johnson. Stokes. Clemons. Nobody could miss a dunk like Arthur Johnson. KU defeating them in Columba on their senior night in 2002 is still my favorite regular season college game of all time.

The top five most hatable NBA teams:

5. San Antonio Spurs (1999) - lead to years of boring basketball and the dullest “dynasty” of all time.

4. LA Lakers (2010) - I liked the Shaq-Kobe Lakers of the early 2000s. However, this championship put Kobe within striking distance of Jordan’s 6 rings. I can’t get down with that.

3. Heat (2011) - no brainer here.

2. Phoenix Suns (1993) - Charles Barkley got MJ’s rightful MVP. The Suns completely ripped off the Bulls’ pre-game introductions, down to the Allan Parson’s Project. Coach Paul Westphall was a pussy, best summed up by my mom - “he reminds me of Dan Quayle.” Danny Ainge was prominently involved, though Scotty Pippen clowned him in game 3. Justice was served.

1. New York Knicks (1992) - one of only two teams that had the audacity to take the 90s Bulls juggernaut to 7 games. I still loathe John Starks.

The top five most hatable Word Cup countries:

5. Sweden - And Anderson passes to Larson! I dunno, I just don’t trust the Swedes.

4. Ghana - How the hell does America get knocked out by Ghana in two consecutive Cups? They’re like Bucknell and Bradley rolled into one.

3. North Korea - Sure, it was funny that they brought in random Chinese people to South Africa to wave their flag and “cheer” for them. I like a good totalitarian plot as much as the next guy, maybe more. On the other hand, I don’t really have to worry about any other country on this list personally gunning me down.

2. Germany - their efficient precision concerns me.

1. Switzerland - If you’re neutral, than what the fuck are you doing here? Oh yeah, there’s money to be made.

The top five most hatable professional baseball teams:

5. Chicago White Sox - I didn’t hate the Sox before I moved to Chicago, even though they were in the same division as the Royals. Sox fans made me hate the Sox. During inter league play, Sox fans would come to my neighborhood and act like high school kids with fake IDs. I don’t care for any fan base that can’t hold their drink.

4. Colorado Rockies - a fake team with a fake fan base.

3. SK Wyverns (Incheon, Korea)- SK has won the KBO championship 3 of the last 4 years. They play boring, inelegant baseball. They also hail from Incheon, South Korea’s dullest major league town.

2. St Louis Cardinals - As a Royals fan, a Cubs fan, a Kansan, and an American, it’s easy to hate the Cardinals and everything they stand for. They play in a stadium named after shitty beer. They play in one of America’s worst cities. They still bitch about Denkinger, even though the pinch runner who replaced Jose Orta was thrown out at third so it really made no difference in the game anyway.

1. New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox - It’s the same thing!

Top five most hatable individual sportsmen:

5. Eric Chenowith - Kansas Basketball is elite, particularly over the last 30 years. Unfortunately, Chenowith happened to be about the same age as me. It may not be all his fault, but it is notable that my years at KU coincided with his, and that KU was unseasonably bad throughout my college career. The Chenowith Jayhawks were seeded 1, 6, 8, and 4 in the NCAA tournament, and lost in rounds 2, 2, 2, and 3. By comparison, the following 4 years featured seeds of 1, 2, 2, and 3, and losses in rounds 5, 6, 4, and 1. The previous 4 years involved seeds of 4, 1, 2, and 1 and advancing to rounds 3, 3, 4, and 3. Chenowith - Average seed 4.75, average round 2.25. Post 4 years - average seed 2, average round 4. Pre 4 years - average seed 2, average round 3.25. The Chenowith effect - 2.75 worse seeding, 1.5 games worse in tournament performance. Fuck, I actually used concrete stats.

4. Neifi Perez - okay, here’s where most hatable player and worst player could mesh. The Royals’ trade of Jermaine Dye for Neifi in 2001 is one of the worst in baseball history. Neifi couldn’t field, couldn’t hit, and he was an asshole.

3. John Calipari - as an Italian America with an open relationship with the law, I feel like Calipari gives us a bad name.

2. John Elway - only two or three ex-girlfriends have caused more misery in my life than Elway has.

1. Johnny Damon - again, I’m going to have to quote my buddy Jack, who stated this best: fuck Johnny Damon.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pyeongchang! (or the sports suits do the right thing)

I’ve been pretty angry at the various international sporting associations that determine the locations of major events as of late. Tonight, I feel like these poo-bahs of sport finally did something right. The Winter Olympics are coming to Korea.

Before examining the current decision, let’s look at some recent decisions by these international sporting suits.

2010 - Winter Olympics in Vancouver, World Cup in South Africa - I’m okay with both of these choices. Pyeongchang (the winning town in South Korea’s Olympic bid) was narrowly defeated by Vancouver. At the time of the bidding, Korea did not have anywhere close to the Winter Olympic tradition that Canada did. I like making fun of Canada as much as the next guy, but Vancouver was absolutely the right choice, and probably the most interesting city to ever host the winter games. South Africa fell into FIFA’s commendable goal (no pun intended) to host their premier event in every continent. It was a smart place to host the event, although I’m sure the voters may have gone a different way if they could have predicted vuvuzelas.

2012 - Summer Olympics in London. Fair enough, London is certainly a real city. As I’ve stated before, in a lot of ways, London, New York, and Tokyo are the only real cities in the world. However, London has hosted the games twice before (though never since 1948). New York has never hosted. Also, the Summer Olympics were just in Europe in 2004. New York should have taken this.

2014 - Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Really? Where the hell is Sochi? Pyeongchang should have won this bid, but Russia won because Putin shockingly spoke English when giving his presentation. Also, I suppose saying no to Putin is generally a bad idea.

2014 - World Cup in Brazil. Sure. Nobody else bid for it. Plus, the WC hadn’t been in South America for some time. No problems here.

2016 - Summer Olympics in Rio. Bullshit. Given that Brazil was already getting the World Cup, and that Brazil isn’t exactly known for its infrastructure, this vote was in many ways a “fuck you” to America. Madrid came in second, even though their bid should have been dead in the water since London got 2012. Chicago should have absolutely won. How often does the IOC get a chance to host their event in the greatest city in the world?

2018 World Cup - Russia. I thought England got robbed. Soccer is religion there, and they haven’t hosted since 1966. Spain/Portugal or Belgium/Netherlands would have been better choices too. These are all real soccer countries, except for Belgium. Russia sucks at soccer. Had Moscow gotten the 2012 Olympics over London, I would have been fine with it, but England deserved to host this cup.

2022 World Cub - Qatar. Fucking fuck. Worst choice evar. USA, Korea, Japan, and Australia were far more worthy. Australia would be a new continent for Fifa to host from, and the Socceroos are regular participants in the event (plus, they’re called the Socceroos, so that’s fun). Japan and South Korea co-hosted a successful event in 2002, and both have moved forward in soccer ability since then. Both countries have good infrastucture and top notch stadiums that could host the event tomorrow. Both have several large cities. Between the two, my bias leans toward Korea, but Japan would have done a good job too. Of course, theses slights are just side dishes in this poo-poo platter. America really got fucked in this vote. Does FIFA want to make money? The 1994 US-hosted even is still the best-attended World Cup, even though the tournament has since been expanded from 24 to 32 teams. Does FIFA want to reach a new audience? When it comes to room for soccer expansion, the US is still the elephant in the room. Do they want infrastructure? Like in Korea and Japan, the US has the stadiums ready to go today. Plus, Arrowhead Stadium would have hosted games if the US had won, and that would be awesome. Qatar? Qatar? The entire country has a handful more people than the city of San Antonio, and two thirds of them are non-citizen guest workers.

Even America’s local event choices have been a bit weak as of late. Over the last 10 years, the Superbowl has been hosted by Houston, Jacksonville, Detroit, and suburban Dallas, suburban Phoenix, with Indianapolis coming this year (maybe) and an outdoor game in New Jersey in 2014. These are places where people want to vacation and party in February? Bill Simmons is right on this - the Superbowl should rotate between New Orleans, San Diego, and Miami, period.

This brings us back to Pyeongchang, and this sort of committee making the right call. Why will this work? Because Korea can run an event. The 2002 World Cup brought Korea out of the soccer doldrums, and the 1988 Seoul Olympics brought South Korea to democracy. Korea has its problems, which I haven’t been shy in pointing out in the past, but this is the sort of thing Korea does well. They built an auto industry and a ship-building industry largely from scratch. They’ve built world class road and rail systems in a couple of decades. Seoul probably has the best transit system in the world, and most of it didn’t exist 20 years ago. Pyeongchang itself is a backwater now (hell, I’ve never bothered to stop there) but I’m certain it will be world-class by 2018, with bullet trains connecting it to Seoul. Plus, unlike Russian or Qatari soccer and British or Brazilian Olympic prowess, Korea already has world champions in figure skating and speed skating, two of the biggest money sports in the winter games.

Well done and congrats, chingu. 화이팅!

Friday, July 1, 2011

80s TV

I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. I couldn’t give you the name of the last girl I made out with. I often forget how to spell simple words without the help of spellcheck. The other day in class, I misspelled the word “rock” on the white board. I don’t remember the name of Britney Spears’s former husband, and I used to make fun of that guy all the time (I want to say Jason something, but I refuse to google it). Once, when doing a crossword, I forgot Julia Roberts’s last name. I used to forget things other people said mid-conversation, now I often forget things that I said. It’s clear I’m getting dumber by the day.

I remember the important things, of course. Things like the names of the starting offensive linemen on the 1991 Kansas City Chiefs (Alt, Lutz, Grunhard, Szott, Baldinger), or all of the control cities on Interstate 70 (I’ll spare you), or the fact that John J. Pershing lead the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. I can quote every line of Airplane or Rocky IV. I know the hub airports of airlines that no longer exist, like USAir (Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia; Phoenix and Vegas after the merger with America West) and Northwest (Minneapolis, Memphis, Detroit, Amsterdam, Tokyo). I know the Konami code, and I wasn’t even a Konami guy outside of Castlevania games, which of course don’t use said code.

One complete waste of space in my brain is my continuing memory of the Sunflower Cabelvision channel configuration in the mid 80s. Hopefully, by taking on these demons now, I can finally forget this worthless information to make room for, say, the fact that “rock” has a silent “c.”

Channel 2 - MTV. I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Of course, the second my parents left the house or the room, I switched over to it. As we had a cable box with a button for each channel, I couldn’t use the remote to watch MTV, or anything for that matter. I had to get up and walk to the box and hit the “2” button. Obviously, I had to hover around the TV and watch, so that I could hit another channel if I heard my mom coming downstairs. I still don’t know why MTV was forbidden fruit. How corrupted was elementary-school Jaehak going to become by watching a Los Lobos video? By the time I had my own TV when I was 12, MTV was channel 35 and TNT was channel 2.

Channel 3 - The channel for using the VCR or later, the NES. Also, this was KSMO-TV 62, an independent channel that largely ran syndicated episodes of The Brady Bunch. In the 90s, this channel was the home of The Wonder Years and Saved By the Bell reruns, so good times. Though Sunflower Cablevision often changed their channel numbers as they gained new channels, KSMO stayed on channel 3.

Channel 4 - WDAF out of Kansas City. This was NBC when I was a kid, and became a Fox affiliate in the 90s, but always as WDAF. Phil Witt did the news on both networks.

Channel 5 - KCTV 5, a CBS affiliate. Even today, Channel 5 on Sunflower is KCTV/CBS. The Price is Right was here.

Channel 6 - Lawrence’s own Cable 6. Back in the day, Cable 6 never had any shows except the 6 o’clock news. It was just a news crawl all day. It was a good channel to watch for people that didn’t own a thermometer or a clock.

Channel 7 - PBS. This was Kansas City’s PBS affiliate, channel 19 over the air, I presume it still is. In theory, I would have watched Sesame Street here, but it was on at the same time as The Price is Right.

Channel 8 - KSNT 27, an NBC affiliate out of Topeka. Other than local news, they generally showed the same thing as Channel 4.

Channel 9 - KCMO, Kansas City’s ABC affiliate. I pressed this button to watch Mr. Belvedere, Growing Pains, and of course Perfect Strangers.

Channel 10 - TBS. Seemed to be mostly Atlanta Braves games that I didn’t care about, and non-stop Flintstones episodes. All of the shows started at 5 or 35 after the hour. I never understood this marketing strategy. If their shows started at a normal time, I may have watched it more.

Channel 11 - KTWU, the Topeka PBS station. If I were to watch Sesame Street, it was on this channel. Usually, even as a little kid, I preferred watching “sophisticated” Kansas City channels rather than “provincial” Topeka channels, even though they were often showing the exact same thing. PBS was the exception to this. I can’t tell you why.

Channel 12 - KSHB 41. I watched the hell out of channel 12. It started as an independent channel where I could watch syndicated Diff’rent Strokes and Jetsons. When Fox started out, KSHB was the Fox affiliate for Kansas City. I watched Married With Children and Tracy Ullman here, and then The Simpsons once it started. Channel 12 also became the place for Simpsons reruns, and even after WDAF and KSHB swapped networks and KSHB became NBC, they still ran The Simpsons every day. For a UHF channel, they really brought the goods.

Channel 13 - WHB Topeka, a CBS affiliate. Topeka’s oldest channel, which you can tell by the fact that it’s name only included 3 call letters, and that they started with a “W.” I still generally stuck to Channel 5 when I watched CBS. The best part of WHB - sometimes they would show a different NFL game or NCAA tourney game than Channel 5.

Channel 14 - KTKA 49, an ABC affiliate from Topeka. This is the last of the over-the-air networks on Sunflower Cable in the 80s. KTKA featured Lori Hutchinson on the 10 o’clock news, an anchor who was hot enough to work in Kansas City rather than Topeka. Years later, I would work there. Sadly, as I worked mornings, I never got to meet Lori, but she was a little long in the tooth by then anyway.

Channel 15 - Cinemax. We didn’t get it at my house. Bummer, because there was a pretty glaring lack of nudity in my life at the time.

Channel 16 - HBO. We did have this. Best part of HBO in the mid to late 80s - I got to see every Tyson-in-his-prime fight (except Michael Spinks) live.

Channel 17 - CBN, or whatever Pat Robertson’s channel was called at the time. I never watched it.

Channel 18 - ESPN. Because I didn’t care about tennis or biathlon, I rarely watched it, at least until later in the 80s or early in the 90s when they started showing NFL Primetime and College hoops games.

Channel 19 - Nickelodeon. Given my age at the time in question, I watched this all the fucking time. When Nick started, it signed off at 7 PM and became A&E, which was the opposite of awesome when I was 8 years old or so. Nick used to run a show called Pinwheel, which was like a poor kid’s Sesame Street. Pinwheel was 5 hours long, 7 a.m. to noon. After Pinwheel came a Canadian import called Today’s Special, where I first heard the words “aboot” and “soory.” After this came You Can’t do that on Television, another canuck import. My mom had the same opinion of this show as she did of MTV, so of course it was my favorite.

Channel 20 - USA Network, USA mattered to me for one reason - USA Cartoon Express. Cartoon Express featured lots of shitty 60’s era cartoons like Grape Ape and Jana of the Jungle and Clue Club. Generally, these shitty 60’s cartoons had an 11-episode run, yet USA would air them all the time. It’s safe to say that I saw every episode of Jabber Jaw at least 14 times, yet enjoyed it 0 times. Further proof that less channels didn't equal less TV, just worse TV.

Channel 21 - CNN. Not my bag then.

Channel 22 - WGN. Lots of Cubs games. Also, the home of Bozo the Clown, which my cousin once appeared on. I liked all the Chicago-based commercials. 5-8-8, 2 three hundred, Empire!

Channel 23 - Showtime. We didn’t have it. Whatever, I’d rather watch late 80s Tyson fights than late 80s Holyfield fights anyway.

Channel 24 - The Disney Channel. At the time, this was pay cable too. I felt pretty awesome bragging to my friends about watching Dumbo’s Circus or Donald Duck Presents. Yes, even in grade school, I was kind of a douchebag.

Channel 25 - No such thing. 24 was the end of the line on our cable box. Once TVs advanced a bit and we didn’t need a cable box (and could change the channel with a remote), 25 and 26 were the end of the line, at C-Span 1 and 2.

I feel purged now. I finally got that out there. Now I can start to remember important things. Sadly, after writing this, the first piece of lost information that came back to me was... Federline.