Am I Supposed To Know My Wife’s Blood Type?

As you all have probably figured out, I am not anywhere near “the cusp” or “the cutting edge” or whatever of popular culture. So you’ll have to forgive me for being (I think) 10 years late with my review of this one movie.

The movie is “Gone Girl,” and my review of it is basically, it’s the stupidest goddamn movie I have ever seen.

Now to be fair, some of my all-time favorite movies — “UHF,” “Airplane,” “Life of Brian,” “Hot Shots,” “The Naked Gun,” etc. ad nauseam — are beyond any shadow of a doubt, pretty goddamn stupid.

But these movies are intentionally stupid. Their being stupid is the whole point: we the viewers are supposed to watch and laugh at the utter stupidity of not only the plot of these quite stupid movies, but also at the utter stupidity of the characters:

“Don’t call me Shirley.”

“Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers!”

“For God’s sake, I’ve even got my father’s eyes.”

…and so on.

Anyway, I never watched “Gone Girl” until last night, and I fell asleep about halfway through, before the evil wife character’s shenanigans are shown; and in the first half I kept saying “oh my God, this movie is stupid” until I rolled over and fell asleep.

Little did I know, the stupidity of the first half of the film was nothing compared to the stupidity of the second half. I mean without even getting into the obvious misogyny of the film’s script, without even attempting to describe the “boys will be boys” macho bullshit the film defends without apology — “I was saying what you wanted me to say,” is roughly what Ben Affleck’s character says to his wife, after she sees him on TV — the dialogue and the plot of “Gone Girl” are so completely idiotic and dumb that in my opinion, it should be in the same genre as “Hot Shots,” “The Naked Gun,” and those sort of films.

And hey, I don’t know or really care what went on between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard a few years back, but it seems like the Depp side kept saying “oh, she’s just like Gone Girl!”

And now that I have actually seen “Gone Girl,” I realize that this argument carries roughly the same weight as “but in ‘Airplane,’ the auto-pilot was a blowup doll, so there must be a blowup doll in the cockpit up there.”

Anyway, O’Bannion is still Affleck’s best role.

“I’m sorry ma’am. I was just escorting your fine young son home from school. There are some ruffians about and…”

Get Off My Lawn

Just scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, and occasionally Twitter…

I noticed something.

All this “gen x” “millennial” “gen y” “gen z” whatever, is —

And please listen to this:

The leveraging of your — yes, your — inevitable process of aging to create revenue for useless products and businesses.

“Gen Z thinks Gen X should stop wearing ankle socks,” and so on.

Personally, I wear the smallest, thinnest socks possible because my feet get hot.

A lot of body heat is dissipated through the feet.

I don’t give a shit what anybody from “Gen X” or “millennials” or whatever thinks about that.

I don’t wear the shortest socks possible because I care what it looks like.

I wear them because god dammit, my feet get hot.

Why in the hell should I care what someone else of any age thinks of that?

We are losing this, as a culture. This ability to elevate practicality over, well, over whatever “Gen X” and “Gen Z” is.

When I was a kid, adults didn’t give the slightest bit of a shit about what kids thought was cool.

Now, it’s like every adult is trying to cowtow to what flipping young people like.

Young people are idiots!

When did we forget that?

No disrespect meant to young people. You’re doing the best you can.

When I was your age, I was an idiot, too.

But listen to me: you don’t know shit about anything.

You’re getting a taste of it. And you’re understanding more and more every day.

It gets better. And it gets worse.

So what? That’s life.

The best part is, as long as you don’t grow old giving a shit what young people — or any people — think about you, you’re gonna wear the most comfortable goddamn socks you can get.

Get off my lawn.

(Spoiler Alert)

Before I write anything else, I want to say that I am genuinely a fan of Robert Downey, Jr. as an actor. I think he’s great, and he’s been in a lot of great movies.

This isn’t meant as an insult to him or his acting ability, please don’t misconstrue it as such. 🙂

Getting to the point, I watched “Oppenheimer” today, and if I were given the “Oppen-tunity” (sorry, couldn’t resist) to re-cut the film, I would limit his presence to the scene where he invites Oppenheimer to come to his retreat or whatever for physics geniuses, the one where Albert Einstein is living, and maybe one or two quick scenes toward the end.

A quick thought on that:

When Robert Downey Jr’s character — a politician who (according to the film) was behind a McCarthy-era smear campaign against Oppenheimer some years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — watches Oppenheimer approach Einstein (who is childishly tossing rocks or something into a pond) we the viewers see the two cinematic representations of these two physics icons from a distance. As Einstein turns to greet Oppenheimer, the wind blows his hat from his head, and causes his — that is to say, the actor portraying Einstein’s — hair to blow upward, momentarily reminding us of any number of photographs we have all seen of Albert Einstein, with his notoriously unkempt white hair going every which way.

As I watched the film I felt I was (perhaps) being condescended to: I mean for example instead of a few quips about relativity or (God forbid) a little more explanation about why Einstein didn’t endorse quantum mechanics (other than a reference to the famous “God does not play dice” quote), all we the viewers are given to identify this actor as Albert Einstein is a quick shot of his hair (which was probably a wig) blowing in the wind.

But with regard to that scene, as well as the one at the end where the conversation between Oppenheimer and Einstein is revealed, I think that if I were given the Oppen-tunity to re-cut this film — not remake, not recast, not redirect, merely to re-cut — I would leave both those scenes in, and leave in most of Robert Downey Jr.’s parts in those scenes, but remove most of the rest of every other scene he is featured in.

Here’s why:

His character in the film provides a frame through which we the viewers can see J. Robert Oppenheimer, in that Oppenheimer is being interrogated and asked to justify many aspects of his professional and personal life, and (as we learn near the end) Robert Downey Jr.’s character was (according to the film) the reason Oppenheimer was being interrogated.

In that sense, his presence is necessary, and I wouldn’t remove him from the film entirely… just mostly.

And again, this isn’t meant as an insult to Robert Downey Jr., I am a fan of his work.

But what happens is that the center of focus of the film’s narrative arc is shifted from the sense of guilt we might imagine Oppenheimer feeling at being responsible for the deaths of a couple hundred thousand people to some vague, poorly executed pissing contest between Oppenheimer the political figure (as opposed to the physicist) and some McCarthyist politician who (according to the film) held a grudge against Oppenheimer, and because of that grudge tried to smear Oppenheimer in the political sphere in order to advance his own career.

The reason you lost interest in that last long, convoluted sentence is the same reason I honestly almost got up and left the theater midway through the post-Trinity test anticlimax of the film, one which lasts somewhere between half an hour and ten thousand years, as cliched “suspenseful” music builds and builds in the background, getting louder and louder until the characters (most of whom aren’t even physicists) have to scream in order to be heard over it.

That reason being, it’s flipping boring.

If I were given the Oppen-tunity to re-cut the film, all of this would be removed, because (in my opinion) it transforms what could have actually been a very good film about the moral implications of inventing the atomic bomb into a political pissing contest.

That said, visually (Albert Einstein’s hair included) “Oppenheimer” is a stunning film. It’s just way the hell too long.

There is a scene where Oppenheimer is making a speech to Los Alamos scientists and employees after the bombs they built were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and during the speech Oppenheimer imagines that a bomb has been dropped on this crowd, and he envisions a pretty woman in the crowd having layers of skin being peeled back off her face, in the way that an atomic bomb blast might (presumably) affect someone within the blast radius.

After this vision, he finishes his speech and goes outside, where he sees one of the scientists who helped build the bomb vomiting uncontrollably, presumably because of guilt related to his participation in research that led to the horrific deaths of a couple hundred thousand Japanese people.

This is the climax of the film. What comes after is the frame of the story attempting to become the story itself, and (spoiler alert) other than the final scene where the conversation between Einstein and Oppenheimer is revealed, about 90 percent of all of this should be cut out, because it ruins the film.

And, to repeat, it shifts the moral question regarding guilt at having “become death, destroyer of worlds” to a political pissing contest between Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr’s character, whose name I don’t remember or care to look up.

The film could have been very good, and indeed is very good, in places. But there’s too much political bickering and too many shifts between time periods — and regarding that, the use of black and white for one time period is a tad esoteric, as the only reason I can guess it might have been used is to make this time period look like black and white television, i.e. to mimic news footage of McCarthy-era hearings?

I mean, black and white is often used to indicate that something happened in the past, right? In “Oppenheimer,” the black and white portions of the film take place in the middle of the overall timeline. To be clear, things that happen both before and after the black and white parts of the film are in color.

So it’s like, in terms of overall timeline:

Color —> black and white —> color again.

Why? I don’t know.

But like I said, the film is visually stunning, in places. In the first half of the film, the surround sound of the theater is also used to amazing effect, with the sounds of explosions happening unexpectedly from time to time.

But to give a completely honest assessment of the film, these unexpected explosions actually woke me up a time or two, when the film went much, much too far into the “political pissing contest” frame story of the film and abandoned both the interesting scientific discoveries briefly mentioned as well as the actual moral conflict of J. Robert Oppenheimer as a historical figure.

If I were allowed to re-cut the film and remove 90% of its extraneous bullshit, it would be an excellent film.

But honestly, I don’t think I could stay awake long enough to do that.

Apologies to Robert Downey, Jr., you are an excellent actor, in my opinion. 🙂

More Culture Vulturin’

Should have stayed home today. I have been sick, and I stayed in all weekend to recover.

Yesterday, I realized that my sore throat might be worse because I haven’t been drinking enough water. And I also realized, it may also be aggravated by the unfiltered tap water I have been drinking at home.

So, I decided to locate and buy a Brita pitcher. Not all supermarkets carry them. My beloved Hanaro Mart doesn’t, Lotte Mart (also awesome, but in a more pretentious, nouveau riche sort of way) doesn’t…

The only supermarket chain I found that supposedly has them is Home Plus. For the record, Home Plus is also awesome. There’s two of them in Gimpo (at least circa 15 years ago, when I lived there) and I went there all the time. The ramen aisle at Home Plus is one of the greatest things I have ever been fortunate enough to experience.

Anyway, I decided yesterday that in spite of needing some recovery sleep, I would make a quick trip to Home Plus and get a Brita pitcher. First I wanted to eat something, and I didn’t want to eat at home, so I took the elevator down to the ground floor and walked around my apartment complex to see what was open.

I walked a hundred yards or so and felt dizzy, so I decided not to go. I got 3 two liter waters before I did, because like I said, I didn’t want to drink any more tap water, because I have heard you shouldn’t. To be clear, I am reasonably sure it’s actually ok to drink it, but filtered water tastes better.

I decided to try Coupang. Coupang is a super-fast, super efficient Korean delivery service that can bring you basically anything, and it’s always there by the next day, sometimes sooner.

While I respect the good people at Coupang and stand in awe of their efficiency, as a visiting foreigner I am personally opposed to the service in a deep and profound (or maybe I should say “shallow and ridiculous”) way, simply because being in a beautiful country like Korea, and furthermore being in (or right outside) an amazing city like Seoul, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go out exploring every chance they got, especially since people like me are not permanent residents. But I digress.

Long story short, after a lot of phone screenshots and Google translates, complete with getting locked out of the signup process temporarily for entering something the wrong way too many times (Coupang has fantastic security features), I finally managed to place my order.

Initially, the Coupang app told me my Brita pitcher would arrive the next day (Sunday), so I watched a few episodes of Divorce Attorney Shin on Netflix and took a nap. Some time later in the day, I got another notification saying my pitcher would be there that afternoon or evening.

It got there about 4:00 pm or so. I eagerly tore the bag open, impressed with Coupang despite my deep/shallow philosophical objections to it, a bit giddy even…

And the goddamn thing was busted.

Luckily, Coupang has a fantastic return system. You request a return, repackage the item as best you can, and leave it by your door. Within a day, Coupang will replace your item and retrieve the damaged one.

It’s really a great service. But as I said, personally, I would rather go and get whatever I want to buy, simply to have an excuse to go look around a bit.

My pitcher came with 2 filters, one that’s in it now and one that I will put in there in about a month. And I resolved to go out and buy replacement filters, instead of having them delivered.

Getting to the point, today I felt better. So I decided to make a quick, 2 subway stop trip to Lotte Mart to stock up on Taurin energy drinks. Hanaro Mart (which is in my neighborhood, no need for a subway ride) doesn’t carry them.

Well, I got to Lotte Mart and it was closed. Apparently they close every other Sunday.

So, as I wandered around aimlessly, bored out of my skull, I decided to find and go to a nearby Home Plus to see if they had Taurin 10 packs, and to make sure the nearest Home Plus had the right Brita filters for future purchases.

I got back on the subway and rode another 10 stops or so, making one transfer, and somewhere along the way — probably when I pulled out my wallet to get a thousand won bill to buy a bottle of water — I lost my T-Money transit card, which had about 20,000 won on it, roughly $20.

I had to tell the security guard that I lost my card (Google Translate is an amazing tool, in case I haven’t mentioned that) because you have to scan your T-Money card when you leave the subway, as well as when you go in.

I bought another one at the Home Plus stop (Hapjeong) and followed the signs to Home Plus… and it was also closed today.

So, I went into a nearby Starbucks and had a Caramel Macchiato, and typed most of this on my phone. I left because a good looking, well-dressed young Korean couple needed a place to sit, and I was sitting at a table designed for two people.

Anyway, I didn’t get any Taurin drinks, I don’t know if the Hapjeong Home Plus carries the right kind of Brita filter, and I lost a transit card with about 20 bucks on it. Gonna look for it on the way back, but I am not optimistic about finding it.

Shoulda stayed home. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 3

This one’s gonna have to be short. I am in a crowded Starbucks near Seoul Forest. Not sure what that is, to be honest, a park of some sort, I am assuming.

I got here via the yellow line, which goes from Cheongnyangni Station to Incheon. I went to Cheongnyangni (I will check the spelling later on that one) this afternoon to sort of scout things out, because I want to make a solo trip out to Gangchon, an area in Gangwon-do I went a few times with friends years ago.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Cheongnyangni from my apartment, so I may as well figure on an hour traveling time, whenever I decide to make the trip. Might go tomorrow if I am feeling better.

Got kind of a light cold. Got it from coworkers.

Anyway, the train to Ganchon leaves from Cheongnyangni. I know it takes about an hour to get to Cheongnyangni, but it might take another hour to figure out where the right platform is, ha ha. I wandered around for a while there today and didn’t find it.

Matter of fact, I am here at Seoul Forest now because I was looking for the Gangchon train platform. I saw that the yellow line goes through Apgujeong — aka gorgeous Korean lady central — and I had originally decided to go to one of the 4-5 Starbucks there and type this, but when I heard “Seoul Forest” over the subway PA (in the English version of it), I decided to look around for a bit. Gonna finish my cafe latte and do that.

I walked all around Cheongnyangni Station. Like I literally made a loop around it. It’s a pretty big station, connected directly to a Lotte Mall.

The area around the station is more of an “old Seoul” area than anywhere I have been yet. I walked through an “open air” market where all sorts of stuff was for sale — fish of all kinds, kimchi, rice, as well as many different types of meat, many cuts of which still had feet attached to it — and it was a really cool place to walk through. I wore my mask the whole time — I’ve had it on all day, I have it off now to drink my coffee, but I am sitting alone — and I will wear it when I am looking around Seoul Forest.

The open air market is something every foreigner visiting Korea should experience at least once. What’s striking, aside from all the strange food items and interesting smells, is the way order seems to self-generate out of what could easily be abject chaos.

People walk every which way, in close proximity to each other. Buying, selling, carrying armloads of whatever they’re selling… and nobody bumps into each other.

Meanwhile motorcycles, scooters — the moped kind and the “rascal” kind, somebody on a rascal almost hit me but he yelled out just in time for me to move — as well as cars weave in and out of the mass of humanity… and nobody gets run over.

I mean sure, I am sure sometimes there are accidents. But they don’t seem to happen very often, considering how close everyone is to each other, in the purely physical sense.

It’s tempting to attribute this to “Korean people” and some unknown, exotic trait they must have… but I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s cultural. I think that people in this environment learn from an early age to be considerate of other people, while still making their way through the crowds in a self-interested and even aggressive manner.

Everybody’s got somewhere to be, and they’re making their way there as fast as they can. But at the same time, nobody’s running into each other.

Try this in south Arkansas, and there would be fistfights every five minutes.

Here, everybody moves smoothly through the crowd, ajosshis sitting off to the side under canopies, eating bossam and drinking makgeoli or soju, ajummas arguing over prices, foreigners enchanted with the whole scene, probably sticking out like sore thumbs.

Anyways, I gotta go. Gonna go look around in Seoul forest.

The Culture Vulture, Part 2

So it’s Sunday now (March 26) and i am in another Starbucks in Seoul. This one is in Myeong-dong, another fashionable area, albeit one I ended up at completely accidentally.

I got on the 705 bus near my apartment after seeing “광화문” on the bus route.

That says “Gwanghwamun,” and it’s an area I am somewhat familiar with, though it’s been 15 years or so since I spent any amount of time there.

Anyways, somehow I missed hearing the stop for Gwanghwamun on the bus — I was half-asleep for most of the ride — and when I realized we had gone past there a couple of stops, I decided to get off the bus.

Almost immediately I saw a Starbucks. Then I saw another one, and another one. Often, there would be one on one side of the street, and another across the street.

I walked a little and ended up in Gwanghwamun, and I was really hungry so I looked around for some food, specifically somewhere I could go in and eat by myself without feeling too weird about it. Lots of Korean restaurants feature at-the-table grilling, and those places generally only let you eat there if you’re in a group of 2 or more… or maybe it’s not so much that they “let you” as it is just not much fun to eat at one of those places alone. Not saying I’m above it, not saying I’ll never do it, I just wanted something quick.

After I passed at least a couple more Starbucks (and assorted other chain coffee places) I saw a Kimbap Cheonguk, which is perfect for eating solo… but it was closed.

About this time I realized that I was on a street near Gwanghwamun that I wandered to last time I came here briefly a few weeks ago, so I kept walking.

I walked through the main intersection in Gwanghwamun, passed a couple more Starbucks, saw a few other foreigners on the sidewalk, feeling more and more hungry, and I saw a bookstore that sells stickers, so I went in.

The kids that I teach love stickers, and specifically Pokemon stickers. But I haven’t been able to find any of those yet, so I went in, and… no dice.

Went back out and walked for a minute and saw another Kimbap Cheongook across the street from me, but there was no crosswalk to get there. So I went down into the subway entrance to try and come up on the side is was on, and I ended up on the wrong side.

So I went back through and ended up on another side of the intersection I didn’t try to get to, and couldn’t find the place. So I kep walking, and next thing I know I am in Myeong-dong.

There’s lots of street food vendors there, and I got some fried chicken gizzards with hot sauce. They were very tasty, but not very filling. And when I was done, I was left holding a paper bowl and a wooden stick, with no trash can in sight.

Then, lo and behold, if you can believe it ladies and gentlemen, I saw another Starbucks, about the 8th one I have seen since getting off the bus.

I got a $6-7 cold chicken sandwich that tasted like shit, and a blonde vanilla double shot latte that’s pretty good. I scarfed the shitty overpriced sandwich, wiped my fingers off with the provided wetnap, then whipped out my Chromebook and started typing this.

Gonna go wander around Myeong-dong a bit more and hopefully take the bus home. I’ve seen a couple more 705 stops since I got off of it, so hopefully I’ll find another one.

I love riding the subway, don’t get me wrong, but riding a bus (obviously) you can look out the window and see the areas you’re going through.

And the area between here and my apartment is (in my opinion) among the most aesthetically pleasing areas in Seoul, and among the most aesthetically pleasing areas I have ever personally been to.

There’s lots of trees, and they’re just starting to bud out for spring. Gonna be hell on my allergies, but it’s pretty to look at.

And there’s mountains in the background. The straight lines of ultra-modern apartment buildings set against the backdrop of mountains is something I could sit and stare at for hours, especially on a clear day like today.

And I may do that until the sun goes down, if I am back in my neighborhood by then. No sense in going home yet, my bedclothes are hung up in my apartment drying with the window open, and it’s cold in there. Plus there’s no room, small apartment that it is, with a comforter, mattress pad, and fitted sheet hanging up.

Gonna get out of here, more people coming in with fresh coffee need to sit down.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 1

So I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Apgujeong, a fairly fashionable area in Seoul, and I’m wondering whether I should call this blog post “The Culture Vulture” or something like that.

What it all boils down to is, I like Korea quite a bit. I lived here years ago (from 2006 to 2008) and almost from the moment I first stepped off the plane, I felt at home here. Like more at home here than from the place I left.

I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. It sounds dumb and cliche maybe, but there it is.

In case you don’t know me personally, I’m a white dude, I’m heterosexual, I’m cisgendered, and as such I am the beneficiary of all sorts of privileges, both back home in the USA as well as here in Korea.

I’m aware of things like that, and I don’t want to act in such a way that makes me seem like I’m not, or that I don’t take them seriously.

But at the same time, when I start writing anything like this, I feel like I might be venturing into “culture vulture” territory, like one of those people who appropriate other cultures and look like idiots.

So maybe it’s appropriate that I am writing this from a Starbucks. This is, no joke, about the 8th Starbucks I have been in since returning to Korea a little less than a month ago. And for sure, Starbucks here has a slightly different menu than Starbucks back in the US (I assume, there aren’t that many of them where I am from) but it’s an American chain, and so by virtue of that, I’m culture vulturing from a place that represents my own culture (such that it is) here in Korea.

Just to get to the point, man, I love Korea.

It’s such a great place.

Seoul is a huge, sprawling city, and it’s got one of the biggest metro train systems in the world connecting all the various districts together. Just about an hour ago, I left my apartment in Samsong and got on the subway. For about one US dollar, I traveled halfway across Seoul to Apgujeong, so I could sit in Starbucks, type this out, and steal glances at pretty Korean women.

See, here we go again.

White guy in Asia, talking about the pretty Asian women. Red flags all over the place, from a sociopolitcal perspective.

But what can I say? I like looking at pretty women. I can’t and won’t apologize for that. I’m not objectifyling anyone, I am just stating a true fact about myself. Pretty women come in all shapes and sizes, and for better or for worse, there are a lot of pretty women in Apgujeong.

There are a lot of good looking people in Korea in general. Fitness and “well-being” is pretty big here, and people (male and female) tend to take pretty good care of themselves.

Where I live — near Bukhansan, a popular hiking destination — there are lots of older people walking around decked out in hiking gear basically all the time. One of these weekends I’m going to hike Bukhansan myself. If not before, when one of my good friends from 2006-2008 comes to visit this summer. He, I, and another fellow partially hiked Bukhansan in 2007 (or maybe early 2008), but we started too late in the day. Plus I was in awful shape at the time, being more into the prominent drinking culture here in Korea than the also prominent fitness culture.

At any rate, man, I love Korea. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, and I don’t literally think this next thing I am going to write, I just wanted to record it for posterity.

A while back, I got the idea for a piece of fiction, or a screenplay, or something, about an American who, somehow or other, discovered that in a previous life, he (or maybe she) was Korean, and in this previous life, he (or she) always wanted to leave Korea and go to the US, but he never got to.

Might have something to do with Pure Land Buddhism, where adherents pray to be reborn in a “Pure Land.” As a sidenote, many Buddhists consider all lands to be “Pure Lands,” it’s only our perception of them that makes it seem otherwise.

But at any rate, this person is reborn as an American, but ends up wanting to return to Korea.

And like I said, I don’t believe any of that stuff. But I was here last about 15 years ago. For many people walking the earth today, that’s their entire lifetime, or even more.

So, in a sense, I myself was here a lifetime ago, and I wanted to come back but didn’t until now.

And anyway, I’m enjoying being back.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

Blah Blah Blah

I think it was “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” that did it.

In case you haven’t seen it, that show is a Korean Netflix drama about the (fictional) first autistic attorney in South Korea, named 우영우.

As mentioned, she is autistic, and the only thing she likes to eat is 김밥. And anyway, I guess it was watching that show that got me to thinking about 김밥, and at first it was like “oh yeah, I remember eating that stuff, it was pretty good” and then it was like “it would be nice to have some of that some time” and then before I knew it I was out and out craving the stuff.

I mean, when I was here before, 15 years ago, I ate it every now and then. It wasn’t (and isn’t) my favorite Korean food by far, but after seeing it on basically every episode of that show, I got to thinking about it, and how it’s basically a full meal wrapped up in seaweed, and how it’s delicious basically any time of the day…

And the next thing I know, I’m sending off documents and looking for another teaching job. And about six months later, here I am.

I’m not gonna mention where I work, or even where I live. But it’s a nice area, and I’ve been eating 김밥 like crazy since I got here. Over the space of a little less than 2 weeks, I have become a regular at the 김밥나라 closest to my work. It’s like a block away.

My apartment is about 2 miles away, and there’s a pretty nice walkway between my apartment and my work. It’s about 40 minutes one way, and I usually walk to and from work. I’ll continue to do that as long as the weather permits… it gets pretty hot here in the summer, so I may start taking the subway then.

There’s a subway station close to my apartment, and from there you can go basically anywhere in Seoul for a couple bucks, and get a ticket to basically anywhere else in Korea for pretty cheap as well. So I intend to do some traveling while I am here.

Anyway, 김밥 is delicious.


I guess I’ll file this one under “Movies/TV,” but it’s really more of a continuation of my last post, which is case it wasn’t clear, was anti-communist in its politics, just in case that wasn’t clear.

That may not have been clear, since in the post I compared how communist governments tend to run themselves to how corporations run themselves: in a top-down manner, with an authoritarian leader at the top – a “great leader” of some sort at the top of a communist regime, a CEO at the top of a corporation – and with workers at the bottom. 

Anyway, I was watching some movies today (it’s Sunday, October 23 as I type this) and the first one I will mention was a Korean movie with the English title “El Condor Pasa” that I ended up turning off a little more than halfway through, because to be frank it wasn’t very good. But as you may or may not know, there’s a Simon and Garfunkel song with the same title, and it features the lyric I used for a title here, so I figured that I would at least mention it. 

The title fits better with regard to the next movie I started watching just now, a Canadian documentary called “Letter From Masanjia” that I would like to briefly discuss, with regard to the last post, which may or may not seem controversial to some readers. 

I don’t think it’s controversial, and for the record I’m glad I live here in the USA, where I’m allowed to write about pretty much anything I want to, as long as I’m not threatening violence or anything like that.

Anyway, the letter that the documentary is about was written by a Chinese man named Sun Yi, who was in a forced labor camp in China. 

Sun Yi was put in the prison camp for his involvement in a religious group called Falun Gong, one that the Chinese communist party outlawed several years ago because of their alleged – emphasis on alleged – involvement in murders in China, as well as for creating political discord in China. 

According to Sun Yi, the real reason Falun Gong was outlawed in China is that their membership (according to him) reached somewhere between 70 and 100 million people, and was beginning to have more influence than the communist party, which only had around 60 million people. 

Sun Yi was sent to a the Masanjia Labor Camp near Shenyang, China because of his involvement with Falun Gong. While there, he was forced to make Halloween decorations that would be sold in English-speaking countries, a fact he deduced from the English writing on the boxes that the decorations went out in. 

Sun Yi wrote several letters in English and Chinese – more than 20, I think the documentary said – secretly in bed, a few words at a time, while guards weren’t looking. He slipped the letters into boxes when the finished products were sent out, and hoped for the best.

A woman in Portland, Oregon found one of his letters, and the story went viral. Sun Yi – who had since been released from the labor camp, and secretly bypassed China’s internet firewall to read Western news – saw her story. He’s in the documentary, filmed secretly over Skype. I haven’t finished it, so I am not sure if he gets arrested again for filming it.

The main thing I wanted to briefly write about is how a communist government – which, remember: the stated goal of communist “revolutions” is to liberate the working class from oppressive capitalists – is using forced labor to produce inexpensive goods that will be sold in capitalist markets. 

It’s strange, how this all works out: some American company (or a Chinese company that does business in the USA) is in the business of using communist party-sanctioned forced labor to produce goods that will be sold to capitalists overseas. 

In a country (the USA) which is far from perfect, but nonetheless does not (currently) feature forced labor as part of its political system.

I point this out to illustrate that the stated ideology of the communist party does not in any way match up with its actual treatment of workers. 

And to flip it around, “forced labor” is not something that American capitalists claim to endorse. Everyone reading the story about Sun Yi’s letter was outraged, yet very few (presumably) gave a second thought about it the next time they went to buy Halloween decorations, or Christmas decorations, or any number of inexpensive “Made In China” items that may have also been produced in a forced labor camp like the one Sun Yi was imprisoned in. 

At any rate, it’s a well-documented fact: labor conditions in communist China are among the worst in the world. And it’s not just cheap decorations. Apple has been criticized often for the conditions at its factories in China, which feature “suicide nets” to prevent overstressed workers from literally killing themselves from being overworked. 

Which think about Apple for a minute. Their current CEO is Tim Cook, and he’s the bigshot who has the final say-so and all, and he’s the guy who currently does the little presentations a few times a year, where Apple trots out a slightly modified version of the same small product line and acts like they’ve reinvented the wheel every time. 

To be sure, Apple makes quality products. Not denying that. But at the end of the day, it isn’t Tim Cook who built my iPhone, it’s some working-class Chinese person who didn’t get paid very much, who was overworked, and who lives under a “revolutionary” regime that was supposed to eliminate classism and elevate the worker to a higher level in society. 

So much for the revolution, I guess. 

But think about political figures in China briefly: the current President/General Secretary of the Communist Party is Xi Jinping. But he’s not the guy you see on the big banners, any time Chinese government buildings are shown. 

That guy is Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong, the “great leader” behind the communist revolution that brought about China’s current political state. 

Strip away all the ideology, and just focus on the optics here: there’s an actual leader (Xi Jinping) who has control over everything in the country, basically, with a “legendary” type figure in the background of everything, a figure who is still viewed with reverence as being the one who started it all, everybody loves him, movies are made about him, he’s quoted often, etc. ad nauseam. 

Remember, just going on superficial optics, no ideology here: look at how Xi Jinping runs the country, with the ghost of Mao in the background, gently smiling, his “revolution” still going strong, inspiring Xi Jinping and his communist party to run China in a way that would make him proud…

And then look at Tim Cook and how he runs Apple: in the shadow of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs, who “started it all,” everybody loves him, movies are made about him, he’s quoted often, etc. ad nauseam.

And yes, I absolutely am comparing the Xi Jinping – Mao Zedong dynamic to the Tim Cook – Steve Jobs dynamic, purely in terms of optics. I.e. how it appears superficially. 

If you’re following along here – even if you think I’m off my rocker – remember that “ideology” is not being considered in these comparisons. Because the “free market” capitalist ideology of Steve Jobs is diametrically opposed to the communist ideology of Mao Zedong…

But on the one hand, the legacy of Steve Jobs requires abhorrent labor conditions to continue, and Apple is supposedly against that…

And on the other hand, Mao’s legacy requires it to do business with capitalist entities like Apple and subject it’s supposedly “liberated” workforce to conditions that capitalist countries don’t allow. 

So, what you should understand is, it’s not actually controversial or even unusual for little ol’ me to “strip away ideology” and point out similarities between two supposedly opposite systems. 

Why not? Because leaders in both systems act in ways that oppose their stated ideology all the time.

Thank you for reading. 🙂