Friday, May 06, 2016

change in plan

I've been sick since at least Wednesday night—sore throat, sneezing, coughing, you name it—and it's been raining all day today, so I'm not inclined to hike up Daemosan tomorrow. Tomorrow's supposed to be bright and beautiful; I had been slated to hit Daemosan with my buddy Jang-woong (and, presumably, his son), but I just now counter-proposed a double loop around Seoul National's perimeter road tomorrow. First, the loop is safer than a mountain hike because it's paved; second, I think I can handle the perimeter road better than a mountain trail if I'm still sick come morning.


goodbye, faithful steeds

Bought new walking shoes today.

Thursday, May 05, 2016


A Children's Day gift from my company:


Wednesday, May 04, 2016


My 21.2K-step walk this evening involved a radical change: while walking east along the Yangjae-cheon creekside trail, I decided I'd climb every single staircase along the way. Turned out there were ten of them along my chosen path, each about 55-60 steps high, from creek level up to street level. I did all ten, so that's almost 600 steps, just counting the steps as I ascended them. Were I do to every single staircase on both sides of the creek, I'd end up climbing about 23 or 24 separate staircases. If the average number of steps per staircase is about 57.5, and the total number of staircases is 23.5 (because I can't remember whether I'd counted 23 or 24 staircases), then the total number of steps ascended is approximately 1351. That's slightly more than the number of steps I'd be climbing were I climbing up Namsan from the library side of the mountain, starting at Soweol Street. But as I said, I did only the steps while walking east tonight, so my staircase-step count was less than half that total.

Adding the staircases to my walk radically changes my walk's cardio profile: there's a lot more puffing and sweating now, but it's not too awful because the staircases are spaced roughly 150 to 200 meters apart. In reality, they're actually much more bunched up toward the beginning of the eastbound walk, then they become scarce by the time I make my U-turn and walk back west. That said, what had been a mere stroll has now become, as of tonight, a legitimate workout, and it's one I can handle compared to, say, the brutality that is Daemosan (take a look one more time, Dear Reader, at the infinite steps of Daemosan, which I'll be facing again this Saturday... goddammit).

Increased intensity will be good: it'll ramp up my metabolism and help with weight loss. I've tried to keep my diet low-carb ever since I finished my great experiment, but the sad fact is that I've regained a few kilos. I don't see rapid weight loss happening for me unless I plunge into something like a grueling and rigorous Biggest Loser program (and even those programs don't always stick, as this recent article pointed out; the body is always resisting attempts to lose weight because weight loss is anti-entropic). But something like that may be on the horizon as I consider making the move to join a local boxing gym, then maybe re-sign up for taekwondo (there's a dojang in the building where I work).

But tonight's decision to climb the staircases was an important step. I'm happy I did it, and I look forward to climbing up 24 staircases soon.


my brother's dawg

A cute photo of my brother David's dog Penny, who seems to be snarling while sleeping.


Ave, Jeff!

Dr. Jeff Hodges, who's been on a one-line poetry "break" (more like a vacation, given how long this has been going on) offers his quirky take on the Euthyphro dilemma.


she'd have been 73

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

"Captain America: Civil War": review

WARNING: it's impossible to discuss "Captain America: Civil War" without revealing a mess of spoilers, so please expect them. If you don't want the movie ruined for you, leave off here and come back after you've seen the film.

First things first: in keeping with the Marvel "Civil War" storyline, CAPTAIN AMERICA DIES.

Okay, I'm just fuckin' with you. He doesn't die.

Or does he??

No, seriously—he doesn't die.

As far as we know. But we'll miss him, the big lug.

Still just fuckin' with you.

The Plot

"Captain America: Civil War" (hereinafter CACW) is the latest entry in what is called the MCU: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to Wikipedia, it's the thirteenth MCU film and the first of "Phase Three," the chapter that will include the titanic Infinity War, set to happen as a two-movie event in 2018. Viewed within this larger context, CACW is a chance for the Avengers (and this is an Avengers movie, of sorts, despite the "Captain America" in the title) to acquire new team members and figure out just where they stand on one or two major issues. You can think of this film as a kind of shakedown cruise to work out all the interpersonal kinks that might diminish the effectiveness of the Avengers' teamwork. The only problem, as we soon discover, is that those "kinks" aren't merely minor problems: they're serious impediments to building trust. More on this later.

The shit-stirrer, in this case, is former US Army General—now Secretary of State—Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt, reprising his role from "The Incredible Hulk," which starred Edward Norton as Bruce Banner*). Ross informs the Avengers that the world can no longer tolerate US-based superheroes who consistently violate other countries' sovereignty, and who cause enormous property damage along with the loss of innocent lives. Ross says the United Nations has drafted the Sokovia Accords, which provide for international oversight of the Avengers and other "enhanced" beings. Under the new laws, the Avengers would go only on missions approved by the UN oversight committee. Tony Stark, experiencing a crisis of conscience after an encounter with a mother (Alfre Woodard in a cameo) who lost a son in the Sokovia battle against Ultron, is all for the accords. Steve Rogers—our Captain America—is very much against the accords, and the Avengers begin to split along ideological lines recognizable to anyone who has followed American politics since 2001.

This ideological split runs deep enough to cause a fight among the Avengers, but along with this are a few other subplots that complicate the story. One subplot deals with Captain America's old friend Bucky Barnes, who was brainwashed and converted into the Winter Soldier. Barnes has been trying to fight through the brainwashing to recover as much of his old self as he can, but he can still be triggered and commanded to do evil things if a person possesses the book containing the Russian code words that, when spoken in sequence, will activate him. The guy with the code book is Colonel Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl of "Inglourious Basterds" and "Rush" fame), the movie's main villain. Zemo is an angry Sokovian who lost his family during the Ultron adventure; a bit like the Joker in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," Zemo wants to cause the Avengers to tear themselves apart from the inside. Part of his strategy involves framing Bucky Barnes for the death of King T'Chaka, ruler of the (fictional!) African country of Wakanda. T'Chaka is killed by a bomb while making a pro-peace speech before United Nations members in Vienna. His son, Prince T'Challa, is there at the bombing and swears vengeance on his father's murderer, which means T'Challa—who we find out later is the Black Panther—will be going after Barnes.

Things come to a head when it's discovered that Zemo is making for Siberia, possibly to unleash a hibernating platoon of other Winter Soldiers, all of whom received the same enhancing serum that Barnes had been given. One faction of the Avengers wants to go in pursuit of Barnes; another faction, led by Stark/Iron Man, is determined to bring the first group of Avengers in. A huge fight erupts at the airport at Leipzig-Halle (you doubtless saw parts of this fight in one or more of the movie's preview trailers). Not all of the Siberia-bound "renegade" Avengers make it to Russia, and not all of the pro-Accords Avengers come out of the fight unscathed: in particular, James Rhodes (War Machine, played by the always-excellent Don Cheadle) ends up crippled after The Vision accidentally blasts his mechanical suit's power source, causing Rhodes to plummet like a stone to the ground.

The focus narrows as the story moves to Siberia. It turns out that Zemo never had any intention of unleashing the rest of the Winter Soldiers on the world: instead, he kills them all while they're in their hibernacula. When Tony Stark appears along with Captain America and Bucky Barnes, Zemo plays the video footage of Stark's parents' deaths: Stark's parents had been brutally murdered by none other than Barnes, years ago, and to add insult to injury, Steve Rogers—Captain America—had known this but had kept this information from Stark. Furious, Stark attacks Barnes and Cap, and a much more personal, much more intense three-way fight occurs inside the Siberian compound. In the end, Cap manages to defeat Stark, but when Stark roars that Cap's vibranium shield had been made by the elder Stark, and that Cap doesn't deserve to have it, Cap drops the shield and leaves the scene without it.

T'Challa/Black Panther, meanwhile, has shadowed Cap in his own jet, and he finds Zemo outside the compound in Siberia. Having learned the truth—that Barnes was not responsible for his father's bombing death—T'Challa realizes that his mad quest for revenge has taken him too far into darkness. He comes to this realization right as Zemo tries to kill himself: T'Challa stops Zemo and takes him back to custody.

The other renegade Avengers had been rounded up and placed in detention. Cap goes off to rescue them, but he writes Tony Stark an apologetic letter in which he tries to explain why he had withheld the information about Stark's parents' deaths. The letter ends on a conciliatory note. Stark is now back at the Avengers compound instead of at his own home, and we, the viewers, are left with no idea as to what's going to happen next. The movie ends on an ambiguous note: Bucky Barnes elects to be re-frozen in a Wakandan facility until some way can be found to de-program his brainwashing, and we have no idea whether the Avengers will ever be able to function as a team again, given their still-existing ideological divide.

The Review

CACW delivers the goods on several levels. There's plenty of action—one would almost say too much of it, especially during that drawn-out, over-the-top airport fight—and like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," this movie deals with overtly political themes in a generally deft, show-don't-tell manner. The acting by all the principals is well done; Paul Bettany as The Vision gets to experience some romantic awkwardness in his exchanges with Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch, played with an endearing Slavic accent by Elizabeth Olsen). There are moments of humor, especially whenever Ant-Man (the reliably hilarious Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (a young and earnest Tom Holland) are on scene. At one point during the airport battle, Spider-Man says what we've all been thinking as he watches Cap throw his vibranium shield around: "That thing does not obey the laws of physics." Damn right it doesn't, and I'm glad a character finally noticed.**

The action sequences were all lively and energetic; the chases were intense (especially the foot/car chase inside the tunnel, in which we see Bucky Barnes running as fast as most people are driving), and the fight choreography was imaginative, if not exactly surprising. (In my "Deadpool" review, I described Marvel-style hand-to-hand fighting as "gymno-combat," and I stand by that: it's a messy amalgam of martial-arts techniques and corny "Gymkata" moves that looks pretty while being utterly unrealistic. Unfortunately, there's also a certain sameness to all the fights once you start to see familiar moves repeated over and over.) As I noted earlier, the airport fight goes on a bit too long, mainly because the scene is so overstuffed with characters.

CACW also comes with this own complement of quirks, delights, and Easter eggs. One Easter egg is Peter Parker's computer: for a moment, you can see what appears to be a Deadpool background or screen-saver dominating the monitor. I think the Falcon (Sam Wilson, played by Anthony Mackie), in a moment of disgust, asks Spider-Man during the airport fight whether Spidey's webs are bodily emissions: "That comin' from you?"—one of the best lines in the film, as far as I'm concerned. Also, thankfully, Spider-Man doesn't have to rehash his origin story in this film the way poor Bruce Wayne has to relive his parents' murder in every damn movie involving Batman. And as for delights, well... we need look no further than the brilliant casting of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May (you know you're tempted to call her "Aunt Tomei"): at 51, Tomei is still amazingly hot, a fact that Tony Stark jokingly notes when he's having his private chat with Peter Parker in Parker's apartment. (Stark calls Aunt May "unusually attractive." The movie makes clear that Stark and his normal squeeze, Pepper Potts, are on a break. Possible plot line for a subsequent movie...?) Some online folks have been up in arms at the thought of a sexually arousing Aunt May, but other fans have been quick to point out that previous Aunt Mays have been so old as to be more like Great Aunt Mays than mere Aunt Mays. Tomei is a plausible age to be Peter's aunt.

The Captain America movies seem to have taken it upon themselves to be the more serious-minded issues movies in the MCU. "Winter Soldier" made American conservatives cry tears of joy in the way it questioned the surveillance state as well as governmental power, intrusiveness, and corruption. CACW's ideological conflict also breaks along liberal/conservative lines: one faction of the Avengers, the pro-Accords faction led by Tony Stark, is obviously transnational progressivist; the other faction, led by Captain America, believes in minimal governmental intrusion and rejects nanny-statism. In this scenario, Cap's people are the rogues and criminals.

The notion of placing superheroes under some sort of governmental authority goes back decades in the comics. My own encounter with the notion came in the mid-1980s, when I read Frank Miller's now-classic The Dark Knight Returns. The essential conflict between Batman and Superman, in that graphic novel, was much like the conflict between the Avengers' two factions in CACW: Superman has willingly become an agent and tool of the US government; he is an instrument who carries out policy rooted in US national interest. Batman, meanwhile, submits to no authority, which makes him the wild-card rogue in this scenario.*** Frank Miller's graphic novel hints that Superman's new role as a government pawn has taken a very dark turn: Oliver Reed—the Green Arrow—wants a piece of Superman because (and this is never explicitly stated, but it is very strongly implied) Superman ripped off one of Reed's arms to prevent him from ever using a bow again.****

So I give CACW credit for dealing with relevant political themes. I also liked the movie's continued exploration of the often-fraught relationship between and among the Avengers' members. Other themes, like friendship, anger, and forgiveness, came into play in a way that helped to humanize the characters (yes—even The Vision). These were all points that made CACW more than just a kid's movie.

But I also had some complaints. Perhaps because the authority theme is such a long-standing one in comic books, I had something of a "been there, done that" feeling while watching CACW's conflicts unfold. If anything, my mind traveled back to 2004's "The Incredibles," which also dealt with the destructiveness of superheroes, and the public's eventual rejection of that destructiveness: the citizens had obviously reached a point where they felt added danger was preferable to being "helped" by beings that can casually destroy skyscrapers and pound mountains flat.

And even though CACW put forth a conflict of ideologies, this conflict wasn't explored very deeply. Basically, the sequence was this: (1) the nations of the world decide they must bring the Avengers under transnational authority; (2) the team splits into recognizably progressive and conservative camps; (3) there's one big fight at a German airport in which nothing gets resolved; (4) there's a more personal fight that has nothing to do with this ideological conflict; (5) by the end of the movie, nothing has been settled. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing; as I've written before, my tolerance for ambiguity has increased as I've gotten older, and I don't mind that there might be loose ends. The next Avengers movie, though, is going to have to deal with this deep divide. If it doesn't—if it just pushes the storyline toward the Infinity War while pretending none of this ever happened—I'm going to be severely disappointed.

There were other problems as well. First, the musical score, which was a letdown. Composer Henry Jackman had done a bang-up job scoring "X-Men: First Class," but his music for CACW struck me as muddled and unmemorable—just some background clanging and banging with nothing distinctive going on, no themes to latch on to. Second, the subplot about another group of Winter Soldiers seemed full of promise... but then, Zemo went and killed all the soldiers in their sleep, turning that into a big dead end. Third: Zemo himself was a rather strange villain. As I wrote above, he reminded me of the Joker from Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," sowing chaos and causing friend to turn on friend. My coworker, who saw CACW over the weekend, also observed that Zemo's plotting seemed implausible because there were too many variables Zemo couldn't control. Fourth: there were some storytelling problems, possibly related to directorial choices. One such problem was Wanda Maximoff's accident in Nigeria at the beginning of the movie: she telekinetically lifts Crossbones (Brock Rumlow, played by the ever-intense Frank Grillo, who's rapidly becoming one of my new favorite character actors) into the air, but Crossbones's suicide vest explodes while he's floating next to a building, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians. Couldn't Wanda have lifted him just a wee bit higher? She had all that open sky available to her. No? Another storytelling problem relates to the deaths of the Starks, who for some reason die on camera: some of those camera angles depicting the murders struck me as utterly implausible.

And while we're on the subject of the Winter Soldier, I should note that the on-and-off nature of his programming is reminiscent of something similar in two movies I'd recently seen: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II," and "Machete Kills" (to be reviewed soon). Both of these movies also feature people who either have been programmed to go bad at the wrong moment, or have gone loco and developed split personalities because of some horrific trauma. CACW, then, was the third time I'd seen that trope, so perhaps through no fault of its own, Bucky's psychological problems felt a bit repetitive to me.

One critic of CACW noted that Captain America's romantic subplot was "icky." I understood this to mean "icky" in an almost "Empire Strikes Back," Luke-kissing-his-sister sense. To wit: Cap finally shares a kiss with ex-SHIELD Agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp; you'll recall that Carter was the agent pretending to be the next-door neighbor in "Winter Soldier"), but Carter turns out to be the niece of Peggy Carter, Cap's first love. The Cap-Sharon kiss happens not long after Peggy's death from old age, and I can see why it might seem strange for Cap to troll for Peggy's young, nubile relative right after Peggy herself has passed.

Black Panther was another problem. There were times when T'Challa seemed more shoehorned into the plot than an integral part of the story; this was most apparent during the Siberia segment: T'Challa follows Cap to the compound holding the hibernating Winter Soldiers, then he just disappears for a long stretch while Cap, Bucky, and Steve Rogers all fight. The African prince reappears after the fight is done, but only for that quiet discussion between him and Zemo, outside in the snow, before Zemo decides to try and kill himself.

Overall, I found CACW to be watchable, and even intense, but it had major flaws in terms of how it dealt with the conflicts it had laid out and how it told its story. There was deftly staged action and a good measure of humor, but some of the movie's problems were simply too big to ignore. In a recent tweet, I gave the film a 6 out of 10—just this side of positive. I'd be okay with watching it again, but if I don't rewatch it, I can live with myself.

UPDATE: I completely forgot to mention that, during the airport fight scene, I called "Empire Strikes Back" a few minutes before it actually happened. As Spider-Man and the grossly enlarged Ant-Man closed in for their mutual smackdown, I predicted that (1) Peter Parker was going to crack an "Empire" joke, and (2) he was going to attack Ant-Man using the "snowspeeder's tow cable" strategy, wrapping webbing around Ant-Man's legs to make him tumble. Not to say that this particular prediction required any astuteness on my part: if anything, I suppose that I and the film's screenwriters are of roughly the same generation, so we're all inevitably prone to making Star Wars references.

*William Hurt himself claims the role isn't a reprise: it's more like a reboot. Fair enough, but he is playing the same Thaddeus Ross who had, several films ago, dedicated himself to pursuing the Hulk.

**You could argue, in one-upsman fashion, that there's plenty that defies the laws of physics in these superhero movies, and I'd agree.

***This is what made "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" so bizarre for me: at the end of that movie, it's Batman who hints at the establishment of the Justice League. Really? Batman? Batman the loner?

****In Miller's story, Reed functions just fine as a one-armed Green Arrow. There's also the fact that Reed could probably have gotten himself a robotic arm from Bruce Wayne or someone else. Ripping off Reed's arm thus comes across as a gratuitously cruel act, enough to make the reader wonder just how far over Superman has crossed to the dark side.


Monday, May 02, 2016

steak to distract you

Posts are coming. In the meantime, enjoy this pic of steak cooked by my Aussie friend Rory.


Sunday, May 01, 2016

just about had it with Haddon

You'll recall my recent misadventure in trying to reach Haddon Supermarket: I got there well before the advertised closing time of 9PM, only to discover the damn place had closed at 7PM. This morning, at 11:25AM, I called Haddon again to confirm its hours of operation, and the guy at the other end (surprise—someone answered this time!) said the place was always closing (he actually used the adverb hangsang, i.e., "always") at 7PM. I thanked the man, puttered about my place for a few hours, then left for Haddon around 5PM.

The walk uphill from Oksu Station was as sweaty as I'd thought it would be, but because I've begun exercising again, the hill wasn't really all that bad. I was about five or six minutes out of the station before I even reached the beginning of the upward incline, and I was on the incline for about ten minutes. By the time I'd reached the hilltop, I was puffing a bit, but none the worse for wear. When I reached the descending staircase to Haddon's B1 level, fifteen or sixteen minutes had gone by.

But the staircase was once again dark. I recalled reading, on one of the websites about Haddon, that this was the rear entrance, so, optimistically, I headed around the side of the building to find Haddon's front entrance. I found it.

It was 5:55PM when I got to the closed-off front entrance, which was guarded by one of the most horrifying Christmas decorations I've ever seen. I had more than an hour to go before closing time, but there was no getting around the brute fact that Haddon was once again fucking closed. You'll note that the store's marquee says the place is supposed to be open until 9PM, so if I put two and two together, I conclude that Haddon, like Hannam Market, is dying. Why else would you tell customers you're closing at 7PM, then already be closed before 6PM? Lack of business, that's why. I assume the store manager's rationale was that, with no big-nosed aliens visiting, it would save money just to close up early. The risk of this strategy, of course, is that potential customers like me will just get pissed off and not want to come back.

Can't say I was completely surprised by this betrayal of trust. Korea is not a place where you take people at their literal word. Korean thinking is that you adapt to the situation. If the situation changes, then you change along with the situation. This isn't entirely irrational; something like this attitude is what they teach you in the Zen dharma hall or in the martial-arts training hall: you have to be fluid in your response to reality because reality itself is fluid.

But culturally speaking, it's a weird way of conducting oneself, from the Westerner's point of view: how do you build trust if you're constantly saying one thing but doing another? Western businesspeople in Korea have the same difficulty: Korean and Western parties sign a contract, shake hands, walk away happy... then a few months later, the Korean side apologetically says that it can't fulfill certain stipulations in the contract because the situation has changed. The idea that a promise is a promise is lost on this mindset.

The intercultural subtext of this situation aside, I grumbled my way back to Oksu Station, got on the subway, then grumbled all the way back to my place. Twice bitten, thrice shy. What a way to begin the merry month of May, eh? Happy fuckin' May Day, the day we're supposed to celebrate labor. I hope Haddon's laborers are enjoying their early closing. Fuckers.

ADDENDUM: inevitably, someone's going to comment that the early closing may have been because it was May Day and not because Haddon is dying. To that person I reply: what explains (1) the fact that someone was at the store to answer the phone, and (2) that person's conviction-filled response (hangsang!) that the store would be open—this very day—until 7PM? Others will inevitably comment that the original European May Day has ancient pagan roots that have little to do with socialism, communism, and labor movements in general. True enough, but in modern times, May Day is, more often than not, for and about laborers. (Or workers, if you're the hair-splitting type, although says laborer can legitimately be synonymous with worker.)


cabbage salad

Not a slaw, exactly, but a close cousin.

Red cabbage, apple-cider vinegar, xylose sugar (for those of us trying to behave ourselves), and crushed-chili flakes.


what is "street steak"?

I answered this question—"What is 'street steak?'"—over at one of ZenKimchi's Instagram posts. Scroll down to the "Nuclear Steak" photo.

"Street steak" is steak that knows what's what. Street steak never loses its head when all around it are losing theirs. Street steak carries a concealed .45 but doesn't need it because it learned how to fight from Jason Statham. Street steak always wins. Street steak never compromises. Yeah. STREET steak, muthafucka.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

don't trust websites: they lie

Per a comment by perennial contrarian/one-upsman John from Daejeon, I tried to hit Haddon Supermarket last night in my quest for foreign food. In one of his comments, John had linked to two Haddon-related websites, here and here. Both sites provided similar descriptions of the market, as well as contact information. The TexaSeoul blog (second link) had specific directions and listed the business hours as 8:30AM to 9PM.

On Tuesday the 26th, while I was at work, I had tried calling Haddon once to confirm their hours of operation, but there'd been no answer, which I thought didn't bode well. On the day I'd called, I had thought about just trundling out there; the lack of an answer to my call made me decide to table the trip until later, as the market was likely closed. Yesterday, though, I said "Fuck it" and elected to make the trip out to Haddon anyway. At the very least, I could reconnoiter the route. So I left the office around 7:30PM and headed north to Oksu-dong, the district where Haddon is located.

The directions on the TexaSeoul blog say this:

Itaewon Station. Line 6. Exit 4. Walk straight to the first bus stop. Take bus 110B for 8 stops to Okjeong Middle School. Turn right when you exit bus and walk ~30 seconds. The building is on the left. You will see a sign for Haddon House – that is the back entrance. Walk around the right of the building to the main entrance. The store is downstairs.

The subway-and-bus part of the directions were fine; no problem. The "walk 30 seconds" part was bullshit, as it's closer to a minute, but I'll forgive the writer's lack of a sense of time: Koreans themselves are often optimistic when they tell you how long it takes to walk somewhere; a 25-minute walk will often be described as taking "maybe ten minutes." I also didn't see any big sign for Haddon; I had to look inside one of the building's several entrances, and I saw a sign for Haddon set way back from the front door, hanging over a downward-leading staircase to the B1-level market.

In looking at the route via Google Maps on my cell phone, I saw that Haddon actually sat very close to Oksu Station (it's in Oksu-dong, after all), which made me wonder why the writer of the directions would want to make everyone take such a roundabout way to the store. John from Daejeon's comment noted that the walk from Oksu Station would involve some "fortitude," as he put it, and I soon found out why: after I'd found Haddon and begun to walk toward Oksu Station, I quickly discovered that the Oksu Station-Haddon Supermarket walking route goes up (or down, depending on your direction of travel) a steep hill that would be like a miniature Namsan hike for me, in my current shape. I realized the blog writer had been trying to save us all some pain and agony, as it's all uphill from Oksu Station.

The store, when I got there, was closed tighter than a virgin's thighs. An old man sitting in a concierge-like space close to the descending staircase seemed like a Person Who Knew Things, so I lumbered up to him, interrupting his TV-watching, and asked him what time Haddon normally closed. "Seven," he replied. "What about on weekends?" I asked. "Seven," he said again, with a smile. I thanked the old man, bowed, and left.

So now I know. I know that Haddon sits on a steep hill if you approach it from Oksu Station, and I know that its hours of operation go until 7PM every day. This may explain why no one had answered my phone call before: I had tried to call around 6:45PM this past Tuesday; the staff would have been prepping the store for closure at that hour.

While the trip to Haddon felt as though I'd wasted my time, I now had some information that I hadn't had before. It could be that the "9PM" listed on the TexaSeoul blog had been correct at one point, and that Haddon had reduced its hours because of a lack of business. Whatever the case, it's almost never a good idea to trust what's written online: verify for yourself. I knew that particular life-hack already, of course: it's why I'd tried to call the store in the first place.

Armed with my hard-won knowledge, I'll be attempting Haddon again this weekend. In Korea, where nothing proceeds in a linear way, it often takes two tries to get things right.


Friday, April 29, 2016

separated at birth?

Jeff Bezos, head honcho at, and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), main villain in "Ant Man." It's not just that they're bald, powerful white dudes: they really do look like brothers.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

22K steps

The late showing of "Captain America: Civil War" let out around 1:15AM, and I resolved to walk back to my apartment. I had somehow gotten it into my head that the walk from Jamshil to Daecheong Station would take me under an hour, i.e., that it would be less than a three-mile trek. Ha ha—wrong! The walk ended up taking me about 90 minutes, so I racked up about 9,000 steps before I finally toppled—like a gross, sweaty sequoia—into bed.

Today, I did my usual walks with my coworker, racking up another several thousand steps over the course of the work day. Then after work, I went down to the creekside trail and racked up enough steppage to put me at a grand total of 22,000 steps for the day. Almost all of this is on flat ground, so it's nothing like the workout I used to get by summiting Namsan several nights a week. I need to start walking up and down the stairs that line the path so I can work my heart and lungs.


so behind, and getting behinder

I have so many movie reviews to write that it's not even funny. Stay tuned for a double-whammy review of "Philomena" and "Spotlight," both of which focus on the naughtiness of the Catholic Church. Expect a triple-whammy review of a trio of dumbass action flicks: "The Expendables 3," "Machete," and "Machete Kills." Finally, as I just watched it in the theaters, expect a review of "Captain America: Civil War."

Much writing to do, there is.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016


This looks to be the same Vader statuette that I saw in Toys R Us last Christmas. If it is, then that little guy is running for a cool half-million won, and as tempted as I am, I haven't fallen so far into the dark side as to have lost all financial perspective. Must restrain myself for now.

Maybe one day, though, when I'm filthy rich...



My boss went looking at the same Hannam Market that I had gone to, and voilà. Canada Dry found.


lunch 2

Shabu beef with chimichurri on romaine.


lunch 1

Chicken moghalai (or mughlai) sitting on romaine lettuce.


rendezvous with Cap?

I might be going out to see a very late showing of "Captain America: Civil War," which just came out today in Korea. I have a feeling that I'm approaching my tolerance threshold for Marvel films, no matter how good they might be. "X-Men: Apocalypse" is also coming out this year; I'm dangerously close to overdosing on Marvel and suffering an emetic reaction. But that won't stop me from seeing the movie tonight.

Expect a review later.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

today's run-on sentence

Brought to you by the blockquoting Ed Driscoll, writing at Instapundit:

But hey, if Robin Wilson wants to behave as though the only people in America who are repulsed by the idea of a career academic making a salary writing about Martha Stewart and Twilight conventions trying to bully a campus reporter due to some delusional notions of social justice ends justifying means are conservatives, who am I to get in her way?

Yikes. That needs some serious surgery. Although to be honest, if I wanted to teach students about run-ons, I'd more likely turn to the KCNA,* which loves spewing diatribes filled with hilariously hyperbolic run-ons.

*KCNA and KCNA-related sites are blocked within South Korea. I need a proxy to visit them.


Monday, April 25, 2016


I counted up the number of photos I had taken while on my 21K-step Saturday walk, and the total is close to 150. Most likely, I'll either (1) break this up into batches of roughly 50 each and post the batches over several days or (2) just choose the 20 or so best pics, as I did when I put up the photo essay of my Daemosan hike, and post the whole thing at once. I'm probably going to choose Option 2 because it's less boring than Option 1. Not everyone enjoys slogging through other people's slide shows, especially when there are 150 images to get through.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

today's linner: "Kobb" salad

Here's a pic of your standard Cobb salad. What I made for "linner" today (it was between lunch and dinner, and I don't like calling that "dunch," which sounds retarded) substituted chicken with shrimp and used a homemade dressing that was a purée of avocado, heavy cream, yogurt, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and many dollops of chimichurri. Along with the shrimp were quail eggs, bacon, avocado, red cabbage, and corn, all on a bed of baby greens. I can't rightly call this a "Cobb salad," so I hereby dub this a "Kobb salad," in the spirt of "krab" and "mouce au chocolat." Behold:


that path

Wow. I walked long and long yesterday, eventually racking up over 21,000 steps over the course of nearly four hours. I think I reached what was technically the end of the path I'd been on, but it didn't exactly feel like closure. The name of the watercourse I'd been following seemed to change from the Yangjae-cheon to the Yeoeui-cheon (여의천); it was dark by the time I reached what was likely the end of the trail: a road that cut across my path near the foot of the local mountain, Cheonggye-san.

I took a ton of pictures along the way, so I'll be slapping those up in a hypertrophic photo essay over the course of the coming week—maybe as a single blog post, maybe as a series of posts, with each post devoted to a "phase" of the walk.

One thing my hike brought home to me was the humbling fact of just how built-up Seoul is: construction was everywhere along the route I'd taken; evidence of herculean human effort abounded. There was some beauty; there was some ugliness; you'll see a good bit of both when you see the pics I took.

Most humorous fact about last night: I've now discovered the walking route to the closest Costco—the one that I normally take a cab to. My brother suggested that I take a backpack with me if I want to shop there from now on. That's actually not a bad idea, although (1) it means that going Costco will henceforth be An Event as opposed to just an errand, and (2) because it'll be An Event, I basically have to devote my day to it. Of course, the walk would only be to Costco: with perishables in my backpack, sitting flush against my warm back, there's no way I'd risk spoiling seafood by returning to my place on foot.

Pictures and narrative soon. Stay tuned.


McPherson's BBQ Pub... no more?

My buddy Tom sent me a DM (direct message) via Twitter: "Did Joe McPherson get screwed out of his business?" This turned out to be an astute question, as I sent Joe a Kakao message to inquire further and discovered that, yes, that is essentially what happened. "It's been all over Facebook this week," Joe wrote me. I'm not on Facebook, so I missed this entire tempest, and since I don't know the extent to which Joe has explained the situation on Facebook, I don't know how much I'm permitted to say here. Suffice it to say that Joe and his Korean partner had a fundamental disagreement that led to Joe's departure.

Happily, Joe says he's had partnership offers from more prominent (and more trustworthy) people, so he expects to begin again, probably at a different location. In the meantime, this is extremely sad news for those of us who have been to Joe's place (I've already been there twice). As I texted to Joe, I'm not particularly interested in going back if Joe himself isn't going to be there. I also hypothesized that the resto wouldn't survive long without him, and Joe grimly agreed. Those of us who are loyal to Joe and his brand of 'Bama-style low-and-slow barbecue will just have to sit tight for now and wait for Joe's resurrection, which I hope will happen well before the end of this calendar year. Fingers crossed.


Saturday, April 23, 2016


It's late in the day, but I'll be walking as far along the Yangjae-cheon walking/biking path as I can to see how far the damn trail goes. I've already looked at a map, and I have a sinking feeling, based on what I saw, that the trail ends far short of the mountains I see in the distance whenever I head east. (Going west eventually leads to the Han River... I'll be exploring that part of the trail soon, too, and maybe walking a stretch along the Han.)

Tomorrow's mission: shopping! I need to buy halloumi so I can cook up some Indian chicken with curds; I also need to re-stock my beef supplies, grab some more fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, and olive oil to keep making that positively addictive chimichurri, and if I have time, I also need to find a decent shoe store where I can buy a new pair of walking shoes. My current pair, which has been with me since before my 600-mile trek in 2008, is about ready to give up the ghost after having accompanied me for thousands of miles. I hate to see them go, but I fear the time has come to put them out to pasture.

If I have any time after that, I need to think about buying some DVDs and Blu-rays so I can finish setting up my TV and watching some damn movies. My brother is suggesting that I forgo the DVDs and Blu-rays—which he contends are dead media—in favor of getting a Roku or a Chromecast device, which would allow me to stream movies from my laptop to my TV. I'm leaning more toward a Roku myself, but we'll see. It'd be nice to re-watch "Game of Thrones" on a big screen instead of on my dinky (but well-meaning) laptop.

More news later. I'll be walking until way after dark, so my step count for today ought to be... interesting, to say the least.