Thursday, February 21, 2019

Glenn Reynolds on Never Trumpers

Glenn Reynolds recently offered up a mini-rant-ish analysis of the Never Trumper mindset. I largely agree with what he says: most Never Trumpers can't accept Trump for superficial reasons tied to outdated notions of decorum. Like the leftists who hate Trump, they fixate on his words and not his deeds. Refusing to move into the modern arena, they can't seem to understand that, when one side dispenses with civility, you can't stand around being noble so as not to "sink down to their level." Maybe that's the rationale of the wimpy kid who gets his ass kicked by a bully: "Well, at least I was the better man." That's the attitude of the weak and the feckless. But for those actually concerned about the direction the country has taken, the time has come to stand up, get pugnacious, and sock the bully in the fucking jaw.

Here's Reynolds's take, in part (edited for style):

...although NeverTrumpers talk a lot about morality and principles, their actual beef seems to be a combination of aesthetic dislike of Trump’s messaging style, and resentment that he’s not hiring them and never will hire them. I suppose a lot of people confuse their own social standing and economic prospects with morality, but color me unpersuaded.

Perhaps in 2016, you could imagine that Trump would be such an awful president that you had a moral duty to oppose him. But in 2019, it’s obvious that that’s not the case. In fact, he’s pretty darn successful. Instead of gay concentration camps, he’s trying to end discrimination against gays worldwide. Instead of being a warmonger, he’s now ending wars — and getting grief about it from NeverTrumpers. The Russia-collusion thing was always twaddle, but nobody is even pretending otherwise anymore. And Trump’s background and personal life certainly don’t stand out as compared to many other occupants of the Oval Office whom the establishment deemed entirely acceptable.

So, again, what exactly is the moral foundation of your very, very moral, Solzhenitsyn-like stance?

What, indeed?



another hilarious vid on cultural appropriation

This We the Internet video points out an irony I've meditated on for a long time: the extremes on the left and the right seem, weirdly, to be in agreement that cultural balkanization is the way to go. Think about it: white supremacists would rather that black college students be housed in separate accommodations on campus. Black college students, turned off by perceived white privilege and racism, demand their own safe spaces on campus in which to live and learn as people who are separate but equal. Neither side seems particularly interested in diversity, which was the buzz word to end all buzz words only a few years ago.






the stifling of on-campus free speech

The enstupidation of my country continues apace, and the cancer is arguably at its worst in our universities. Originally crucibles of free thought, aggressive inquiry, and the avid exchange of ideas, American universities have morphed into cesspools of toxic, lock-step, ideological groupthink where everything is PC doctrine, identity politics, and—as the following 2017 We the Internet videos contend—weaponized victimization. There's no quicker way to cultivate a massive crop of pussies than to teach everyone to be aggrieved.

Part 1:


Part 2:

Part 3 (somewhat more hopeful than the previous two vids):

5 Outrageous Cases of Campus Censorship:

To paraphrase Alita: fuck your grievances.



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

brief but humorous French-language encounter

I was shopping at the SSG Food Market close to my office this evening. When I got to the cheese section to buy some Parmigiano Reggiano, a staffer saw me grab the cheese, and she asked in Korean whether I liked hard cheeses in general. I told her I was making a dish that required Parmigiano, so I wouldn't need any other cheeses. I then asked her where I could find butter that was less expensive than the W22,000 brick of butter sitting on a lower rack, and she guided me around the dairy stand to where the cheap butters were. "Do you prefer salted or unsalted?" she asked. I told her it didn't matter, so she picked up a small brick labeled "Le beurre demi-sel," i.e., half-salted butter, and translated as "slightly salted butter" on the package. I thanked her, but I noticed her reaction when I spoke the words "beurre demi-sel" aloud in French. So I asked her in French whether she spoke French.

"Oui," she said.

And she did not elaborate.

At that moment, I thought better of torturing her by peppering her with questions in French. When someone responds with a simple "Oui" and says nothing more, she's probably hoping not be to quizzed on her French ability. People with actual ability usually rattle on about how they lived in France or in some other French-speaking country, and/or they talk about their education, which may have involved learning French. A curt "Oui" comes off, to me at least, like an "And please ask me nothing further." So I let the matter drop.

I could be wrong about this woman, of course; she might be native-level fluent in French, and perhaps she didn't want to torture me by displaying her overwhelmingly superior mastery of the language. But I doubt that very much.



my TypingTest.com results

I thought I typed at a rate of about 60-80 words per minute—reliably steady, but not especially fast. After a conversation with a fast-typing coworker, I decided to look up an online typing test to gauge my actual speed. I found TypingTest.com right away; the test is simply an on-screen version of typing tests that I'd taken with actual paper and an actual typewriter, years and years ago. Turns out I'm faster than I thought:


My coworker was also intrigued, so she took the test as well. She raw score was 93, and she made only one error, so her adjusted score was 92. While I'm miffed that her error rate was so much lower than mine, I console myself by noting that, while I did make errors while typing, I also corrected them on the fly, so my final manuscript was, I think, pretty darn near perfect.

Pro level. Off-the-scale pro level. Sometimes, I amaze even myself.



hee

Bill Keezer strikes again with a link to another meme:


Some border states are apparently suing to counteract President Trump's declaration of a state of emergency. Ostensibly, this is because the states are suddenly concerned about the US government's trampling of their sovereignty. Interesting, given that the influx of illegal immigrants is itself a gross violation of both state and national sovereignty. Maybe these states should consider building walls to keep the US military out of their borders if they're that upset about unwelcome people streaming in without permission.

Gotta love pretzel logic.



"Jonathan Pie" on cultural appropriation

Jonathan Pie is, from what I gather, the nom de plume of a BBC-based comedian named Tom Walker who engages in lampoon/rant comedy. Pie/Walker has roasted Donald Trump's tweets before, but he also takes time to castigate the idiocy of the left, as you'll see in the following video, which is part of a show in which he takes on certain leftist sacred cows—issues the left likes to virtue-signal about as a way of demonstrating its "woke"ness. In this video, the issue at hand is good ol' cultural appropriation.


Full disclosure: I've written about Jonathan Pie before, but that was before I was aware he was actually Tom Walker. I was perceptive enough to realize, at the time, that he was in character, but I didn't realize that "Jonathan Pie" was the actor's nom de plume.





more Béchamel-free mac and cheese

As you know, I'm always on the lookout for mac-and-cheese recipes that don't go the conventional route by using a roux-turned-Béchamel.* I've already shown you a custard-ish alternative (that I have yet to try myself) and the Iron Chef Mike Symon method that uses double cream (which, on its own, is an incredible substance). Below, I'm embedding a video that shows you a suspiciously Alfredo-like method for making what the lady is calling an "adult" mac and cheese:


Because I've made Alfredo, and my own faux-Fredo twist on Alfredo, so many times, I feel as if I've already made this style of mac and cheese before, even though I actually haven't. In the video, Molly notes that her sauce is very close to a cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper), which is markedly different from an Alfredo. Still, her method doesn't look alien to me at all, despite all the black pepper.



*In case you haven't been paying attention this entire time: a roux (pronounced "roo") is normally a combination of equal volumes of fat (oil or butter) and flour. A Béchamel is the white sauce that results from cooking your roux until it loses its raw-flour smell, then slowly adding milk until the pasty roux smooths out into a creamy sauce. A Béchamel is one of the five "mother sauces" in French cooking. The term "mother" means that the basic sauce gives birth to hundreds of variants as you continue to add elements to it.



We the Internet

We the Internet! How did I miss these guys?

From 2016:


Just a few days ago:






Tuesday, February 19, 2019

memes (h/t Bill Keezer)




Ouch.



when merely telling the truth is enough to kick the hornets' nest

I doubt leftie journalists like it when their cherished slogan, Speak truth to power, gets thrown back in their faces, especially since they're the actual power. Now, along comes CBS News correspondent Lara Logan who, in a recent interview, simply spoke a truth that non-journalists have known since forever:

CBS News Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan critiqued the international “liberal” media while holding up outlets like Breitbart as the opposite side of the coin.

Logan spoke to retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland about a variety of topics on Friday for his Mike Drop podcast (h/t Breitbart), and the conversation eventually turned towards her agreement with Ritland that “the media everywhere is mostly liberal, not just the U.S.” As Logan lamented that voter registration among journalists shows that the media is out of balance, she came with a metaphor to explain how she believes the press is tinged by the sameness of opinion.
“Visually, anyone who’s ever been to Israel and been to the Wailing Wall has seen that the women have this tiny little spot in front of the wall to pray, and the rest of the wall is for the men. To me, that’s a great representation of the American media, is that in this tiny little corner where the women pray you’ve got Breitbart and Fox News and a few others, and from there on, you have CBS, ABC, NBC, Huffington Post, Politico, whatever, right? All of them.

And that’s a problem for me, because even if it was reversed, if it was vastly mostly on the right, that would also be a problem for me. My experience has been that the more opinions you have, the more ways that you look at everything in life.”
Logan continued by saying President Donald Trump‘s press coverage is a case in point of how the media produces a “distortion” by boiling things down so that “there’s no grey. It’s all one way.”

“If it doesn’t match real life,” Logan said, “something’s wrong.”

The conversation went on with Logan citing recent comments from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, saying the media has “abandoned our pretense or at least the effort to be objective.”

As she argued that media sources on the left and right regularly push their preferred narratives and “do terrible things,” Logan determined that the weight of the liberal media overwhelms “the other side” unless people actively seek outlets like Breitbart.

The discussion continued with Logan trashing news reports based on single, anonymous government sources, calling it an abandonment of journalistic standards.

“That’s not journalism, that’s horseshit,” Logan said. “Responsibility for fake news begins with us. We bear some responsibility for that, and we’re not taking ownership of that and addressing it. We just want to blame it all on somebody else.”

Towards the end of the interview, Logan seemed to acknowledge that some will see her remarks as controversial, saying “this interview is professional suicide for me.”

I don't think Logan goes far enough, frankly. She hedges when she says, "We bear some responsibility for [fake news]." [emphasis added] I'd say that she and her ilk bear most of the responsibility. Sure, there's fake news emanating from the right, but not at nearly the same rate and volume. In any event, we live in an era in which Logan's admission comes off as revolutionary, even though it is, in reality, trivially true.

Instapundit quotes 2006-era Bill Clinton as to why the media are so leftist:

…[Bill Clinton] said Democrats of his generation tend to be naive about new media realities. There is an expectation among Democrats that establishment old media organizations are de facto allies — and will rebut political accusations and serve as referees on new-media excesses.

“We’re all that way, and I think a part of it is we grew up in the ’60s and the press led us against the war and the press led us on civil rights and the press led us on Watergate,” Clinton said. “Those of us of a certain age grew up with this almost unrealistic set of expectations.”

People in the alt-media world contend that the legacy media are dying, but in my view, they're not dying fast enough, and they still have too much of the US public hypnotized into thinking their word is gospel. Sad, as a certain spelling-challenged tweeter likes to expostulate.

ADDENDUM: Why Does the MSM Keep Falling for Obvious Hoaxes? Because The Narrative matters more than truth, that's why.



Owen Benjamin on dialogue

Comedian Owen Benjamin makes an interesting dichotomy, one that puts liberals and conservatives on one side, and the left on the other. Hear him out—especially if, like me, you're likely to conflate liberals with leftists. Now I'm left to wonder whether others actually subscribe to Benjamin's dichotomy.


NB: I've now watched a few of Owen Benjamin's videos, and I'm not entirely comfortable with him. He says he's playing the role of the un-PC troll just to get a rise out of PC ninnies, but there are times when I think his act isn't really an act. In one comedy special, where he did standup in Canada, much of his routine was devoted to sodomy, almost to the point where I thought he was obsessed with the topic. In other video clips of him, I've watched him casually toss about homophobic phrases like "fuckin' faggot" that make me wonder whether this really is an act. So I'm trying to give Benjamin the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not that comfortable with his notion of comedy, especially if it's merely rooted in the urge to troll people. I understand the desire to bait and provoke the congenitally oversensitive, but for me at least, there's got to be more than that fueling one's approach to humor.



Japanese food redux

Our five Brits engage in a head-to-head Japanese-food battle. The three non-chefs do the cooking while the two professional chefs do the judging. Note the part where Barry declares he's going to try to do something a Michelin-level Japanese chef would do. He gets called an idiot for his trouble, but I give Barry credit for having the cojones to try this.


Next up: a head-to-head, chef-versus-chef Japanese-food battle.



Monday, February 18, 2019

PJW on PewDiePie and much more

A most excellent January 29 rant from Paul Joseph Watson covering PewDiePie, fake news, and the karmic de-platforming of liberal journalists (good riddance).






"Alita: Battle Angel": review


[NB: no real spoilers.]

2019's "Alita: Battle Angel" is directed by Robert Rodriguez ("El Mariachi," "Desperado," "Sin City," etc.) and produced by James Cameron, who also had a hand with the script. It's based on a 1990s-era manga by Yukito Kishiro titled Gunnm (yep—that's the spelling; you figure out how to pronounce that). An animé based on the manga came out years ago, but this is the first attempt at a "live action" rendering of the story.*

"Alita" takes place in the year 2563. A great war called The Fall occurred centuries earlier, and the planet has effectively divided itself into a unified-but-decaying polyglot megalopolis called Iron City, on the ground where the poor and powerless live, and an enormous floating city for the rich and privileged called Zalem (think: "Elysium"). Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a cybernetics and robotics expert, routinely visits the massive and ever-growing junk pile beneath Zalem in search of robot parts. During one such scavenger hunt, he finds the intact head and partial torso of a special cyborg—a young woman whose cranium contains a living human brain. He takes the cyborg back to his grungy lab, where he normally performs free repairs for many of Iron City's numerous cyborgs, and attaches the woman to a fully realized body. The young woman wakes up, and Dr. Ido names her Alita (Rosa Salazar), after his own daughter, who had been murdered by a cyborg years before.

The movie explores Alita's dawning awareness of who and what she is: a relic from a long-ago past who turns out to be the ultimate, made-for-combat cyborg. Alita has no memory of her past at first, and just as the inhumanly huge eyes on her face would indicate, she approaches most situations with wide-eyed innocence and naivety, but she catches on quickly and begins to understand the nature of the dystopian world in which she finds herself. She's a strange admixture of centuries-old nanotech and a teenaged woman's brain, and this complicates her kind-of father/daughter relationship with Ido.

Alita is a cyborg, but she's also still very much a girl, and she falls for the charms of Hugo (Keean Johnson), a young man who does scut work for Dr. Ido, but who also works for the malevolent Vector (Mahershala Ali), a fixer who has connections to powerful people in Zalem. Hugo teaches Alita about a street game called Motorball, which is played while wearing supercharged rollerblades. The street version of the game is rough-and-tumble, and Alita takes to it like a natural. Later on, she has a chance to enter a professional-level Motorball tournament; by this point in the film, she has unlocked her innate martial-arts prowess and proven more than capable of taking care of herself in any number of dangerous situations.

As other critics have noted, the film doesn't dwell on the philosophical aspects of the story. Some issues, like What does it mean for a cyborg to fall in love with a human and vice versa?, are touched upon, but never explored. Certain social issues are brought to the fore, but they're the typical ones found in dystopian sci-fi/cyberpunk stories: systemic oppression, panopticon-style loss of privacy, etc. The movie is primarily all about the action and the visuals, and on that level, "Alita" more than delivers.

I had fun watching the film, which will appeal primarily to people familiar with Japanese animé and manga. I'm not into those things, but even I, as a non-expert, could tell that a great effort had been made to pay tribute to those genres. Reviewer Chris Stuckmann called "Alita" the first movie to successfully render animé/manga on film, and I agree with him. It's an impressive movie that allows its visuals to do much of the storytelling. The action sequences are unapologetically animé in style, and the sweeping panoramas of Iron City and Zalem stand as great achievements in world-building. I wouldn't be surprised if "Alita" ended up nominated for an Oscar or two for its technical achievements. The special effects, done by Weta Workshop (ILM's New Zealand-based competitor, and the effects house that put together the Lord of the Rings films), are top-notch.

The story elements will inevitably remind the veteran moviegoer of any number of other films. "Blade Runner" comes immediately to mind, and so do "Robocop" and "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence." Alita herself is somewhat similar to Robocop in that she has a human brain inside a robotic body. Unlike Robocop, though, she's not limited to eating baby food: she can eat oranges and chocolate, among other foods, and her robotic body is somehow able to metabolize anything she consumes, although we never see her go to the bathroom. The movie's divide between the haves and the have-nots will remind people strongly of "Elysium." The fight scenes will call to mind "The Matrix" and its many knockoffs. There are also echoes of "The Terminator" and even of the Borg queen from "Star Trek: First Contact," whose head and body can apparently spend time apart—something we see a lot of in this film.

Let me stop there and concentrate on the fight scenes for a moment. One common complaint among critics is that CGI sucks all the meaning, tension, and suspense out of fight scenes. Characters in those scenes look fake—like plastic or some other light, floaty material. In the Star Wars prequels, for example, it's obvious when old Count Dooku is being digitally faked. Same goes for Spider-Man in the Sam Raimi reboot films. I would argue, though, that that's not an issue in "Alita," partially because of the nature of the story being told. Pretty much everyone who fights anyone in this movie is a robot, so you'd expect a robot to move inhumanly fast, and with inhuman precision. When we find out that Alita was programmed to fight using a cyborg martial art called Panzerkunst (literally "tank art" or "armor art," the art of fighting while armored), her deadly proficiency makes sense.

This leads us to the Mary Sue issue. Is Alita like Rey in "The Last Jedi"—a flawless female character who can do no wrong? I'm happy to report that that's not the case. Despite the fact that Rey is ostensibly human, I had an easier time relating to Alita and her troubles than I did to Rey. Hugo even says, at one point, that Alita is the most human person he's ever met. The story takes pains to explain the how and the why of Alita, so her powers and her proficiency at combat all make sense. Alita also makes choices that end up hurting some of the people she loves, and because she cares so much for them, this care is itself a sort of weakness. If anything, I found myself mentally comparing Alita not to Rey, but to Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman—another example of a strong female character done right. Wonder Woman, like Alita, approaches the world with wide-eyed innocence, but also with a deep sense of her own principles, and with a set of skills and powers that give her an underlying self-assurance.

Rosa Salazar, the actress behind the CGI'ed face of Alita, gives a warm, graceful, and even powerful performance. Alita's moon-eyed face may be initially off-putting to people, but once the viewer locates her in her proper context—i.e., she's a cyborg, not a human—Alita's features (which are probably a relic of the animé/manga aesthetic) simply become part of the story. Christoph Waltz does a fine job as Dr. Ido; he brings a fatherly concern to the proceedings as he wrestles with the twin ideas that he has somehow brought his own daughter back from the dead, and that this being before him is not his daughter, but is her own person, with her own choices to make and her own life to live. Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly (as Chiren, the ex-wife of Ido, and a doctor in her own right) play only limited roles in the story, but they make an impression whenever they're on screen. Some actors were unrecognizable to me, like Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in "Watchmen") as Grewishka, a hulking cyborg, and Jeff Fahey as McTeague, a cowboy-like bounty hunter with robotic dogs. Michelle Rodriguez also gets a cameo as one of Alita's long-ago mentors, but here too, I didn't recognize the actress, given all the CGI.

Not yet mentioned in this review is the shady, nebulous character known as Nova (an uncredited Edward Norton), the puppet master who controls everything in both Zalem and Iron City. Nova's control is so invasive that he can manifest himself through some of the humans and cyborgs who work for him, including through Vector. Nova is an eerie presence throughout the film, even though we almost never see him up close and personal. Assuming "Alita" gives birth to a sequel, I expect we'll see more of him then.

While Nova might be the ultimate focus of Alita's fury, it's curious to note that "Alita: Battle Angel" lacks a crucial element found in almost all action movies: the ticking-clock scenario. I didn't realize this until the movie was over, and I was walking out of the theater, but once I began to chew over what I had just seen, I realized that none of the bad guys were doing the usual bad-guy thing, e.g., threatening to eradicate all life on Earth, threatening to kill Dr. Ido if Alita failed to perform some mission within 24 hours, etc. There was none of that. The only other action movie I can think of that lacks a ticking-clock scenario is "Enter the Dragon." In that film, Mr. Han is an evil man doing evil things, but we're never given a reason for why it's necessary to defeat him now. Same goes for Nova: he's the man pulling all the levers, but no reason is given to take him down now, which could be why the movie ends the way it does.

The running time for "Alita" is 122 minutes. While some critics complained about pacing problems with the story, I found the movie quite engaging overall, with very few draggy sections. There were, however, some cringe-inducingly corny moments, and one character's death near the end of the film was unintentionally hilarious. Because the movie is so casual about the omnipresence of cyborgs, I would have liked to see cyborg culture explored a bit more deeply. One human character is turned into a cyborg as a way to save his life, and the more I thought about the manner in which the character had been "saved," the more morbid I found the situation. That should have been explored in greater depth: why didn't the character wake up, look at his new cyborg body, and respond with visceral self-loathing? There's a very morbid, gruesome, Frankensteinian dimension to this cyborg-filled universe that bears further examination, but that would require a movie intent on actually probing these deeper issues.

The story left me with many technical questions about how exactly Alita can even exist, and while it's tempting to list those questions here, I'll simply wrap this review up by saying that, all in all, I very much enjoyed "Alita: Battle Angel," and I look forward to the inevitable sequel which, if I'm not mistaken, will deal with the second half of the original manga's storyline. "Alita" isn't deep, and probably isn't meant to be, but it's visually stunning and crammed with enough action to keep even the most jaded viewers entertained.



*The term "live action" now awkwardly encapsulates movies that are CGI-heavy, but that feature a great deal of mo-cap (motion capture) visual effects, i.e., actual human actors on a sound stage, whose actions are overlaid with computer-generated characters. Think of Jon Favreau's "The Jungle Book," which has one normal human actor and many CGI animal characters, but which is called "the live-action version" of the story to distinguish it from the animated cartoon from 1967. The upcoming remake of "The Lion King" is being called a live-action remake despite its being almost entirely CGI. At a guess, this is because the CGI is photo-realistic enough to qualify as "live" in almost every respect.



taxi-fare hike

Taxi fares have just jumped a nut-kicking 27% in Seoul—from a base fare of W3000 to a new base of W3800. Taxi drivers' meters haven't yet been reprogrammed, so when you take a taxi right now, you're confronted with a laminated, foldable chart that shows the rate increase. There's a copy of the chart in back for the passengers, and a copy in front for the driver to consult as well. For people paying via T-Money or credit card, what happens is that the driver consults the fare chart to see how much to add to the fare on the meter. His card reader has an "add fare" feature, and he adds the appropriate amount to your fare. With the new fare now punched in, you—the passenger—use your T-Money or credit card the way you normally do.

The fare hike comes at a bad time, from the passenger's point of view: only recently, there were all the rumblings about bringing a new Kakao ride-share app into the marketplace as a cheaper and possibly friendlier alternative to regular taxis. Cabbies went ballistic because they're not keen on competition, so the ride-share app was abandoned, just like Uber before it. Now, with the hike in taxi fare, people will be even less motivated to take cabs.

Something's got to give, though. The average age of a Seoul cabbie is a bit over 60; these drivers are a dying breed, which is obvious from their high average age. They're not being replaced by younger drivers, which means that the taxi service as a whole is going to die out unless something takes its place. In a market environment, I trust that nature abhors a vacuum, and services like Uber and the Kakao ride-share app might simply be waiting in the wings, looking for the best time to strike. All those old cabbies aren't dead yet, though, so it'll be a while before we truly start to see viable alternatives to taxis. Who knows? By that point, driverless cars might be a thing.

NB: I've asked one or two cabbies whether they're going to have their meters adjusted so that we don't have to keep manually consulting these charts. They've said yes.



Sunday, February 17, 2019

the Jussie Smollett hoax

Styx on the Jussie Smollett hoax:


In case you've been under a rock: Jussie Smollett is a gay African-American actor who recently claimed he had been assaulted by Trump supporters shouting MAGA slogans and wearing red MAGA caps. Quite a few people pronounced themselves skeptical because the story sounded too on-the-nose (not to mention it sounded like any number of other proven hoaxes related to racism), and Smollett himself kept changing his story. As investigations continued, the story began to look more and more as if Jussie Smollett himself may have orchestrated the attack on his person, using extras from "Empire," the TV show he had been working on.

We've been down this road many times before, but the media never learn.

From Instapundit:


Also:






I wish I had been this smart at 20

English isn't even this kid's native language, but 20-year-old Daniel Di Martino has written an article for USA Today in which he talks about how socialism has destroyed his home country of Venezuela. Di Martino offers a warning to Americans who are carelessly thinking of tumbling off the same cliff. Not that our native crop of socialists will heed this warning: it's something of a sad running joke that people who defect from leftist-run countries end up being ignored by the PC/leftie crowds in the countries to which they emigrate.

Di Martino is impressively articulate for a young man his age, especially given that he's not a native speaker of English (true: his words may have undergone some editing and proofreading, but he's a college student who can't afford to hire professional word-groomers for every single thing he writes, i.e., he probably is as fluent as he sounds). I wish people would heed his warning, but I'm not hopeful. An excerpt:

The first time I couldn’t buy food at the grocery store, I was 15 years old. It was 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela, and I had spent more than an hour in line waiting. When I got to the register I noticed I’d forgotten my ID that day. Without the ID, the government rationing system would let the supermarket sell my family the full quota of food we needed. It was four days until the government allowed me to buy more.

This was fairly normal for me. All my life I lived under socialism in Venezuela until I left and came to the U.S. as a student in 2016. Since the regime in charge imposed price controls and nationalized the most important private industries, production plummeted. No wonder I had to wait hours in lines to buy simple products such as toothpaste or flour.

And the shortages went far beyond the supermarket.

[...]

The excuses for these shortages were hollow: In reality, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world to use for electricity, and three times more fresh water resources per person than the United States. The real reason my family went without water and electricity was the socialist economy instituted by the dictators Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

The welfare programs, many minimum wage hikes, and nationalizations implemented by their regimes resulted in a colossal government deficit that the central bank covered by simply printing more money — leading to rampant inflation. Now, prices double every few weeks and the standard of living continues to plummet.

I watched what was once one of the richest countries in Latin America gradually fall apart under the weight of big government.

[...]

Even though so many of us Venezuelans fled to America to escape from the destructive consequences of socialism, liberal politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., have praised the same kind of policies that produced famine, mass exodus and soaring inflation in Venezuela.

Even worse, in recent weeks, Democratic Representatives Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, and Tulsi Gabbard have mischaracterized the current protests against Maduro and condemned President Trump’s widely-supported moves to help end Maduro’s dictatorship.

Additionally, many congressional Democrats support “Medicare-for-all” and the "Green New Deal,” proposals that would nationalize the health insurance industry, guarantee everyone who wants it a job and massively raise taxes, increasing government intervention in the economy like few countries except Cuba and Venezuela have seen before. Proponents think that they can give all Americans quality health care, housing, and everything for free and that somehow politicians can do a better job at running a business than the business owners themselves.

These proposals would skyrocket the budget deficit and national debt, which just reached a record $22 trillion. If that is not enough, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, endorsed paying for the proposal by asking the Federal Reserve to print money. This is exactly what produced Venezuela’s nightmare.

Still, the liberal economist Paul Krugman recently argued in a column that “whenever you see someone invoking Venezuela as a reason not to consider progressive policy ideas, you know right away that the person in question is uninformed, dishonest, or both.”

I can assure Mr. Krugman that I’m neither uninformed nor dishonest. Of course, it’s true that neither "Medicare-for-all" nor a wealth tax alone would turn the United States into Venezuela overnight. No single radical proposal would do that. However, if all or most of these measures are implemented, they could have the same catastrophic consequences for the American people that they had for Venezuela.

Be sure to read the rest. When I was 20, I was studying in Europe, skating by on an easy class schedule, hiking local Swiss mountain trails, and feeling little to none of the burdens of responsibility that a kid like Di Martino must be feeling. I wasn't particularly engaged with the world except, perhaps, in some distantly touristy sense: living in Europe was fun. Any depth I gained from the experience of being abroad came much later, and my interest in politics wasn't kindled until the misguided 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US. At 20, I was shallow and callow. The author of this article puts me to shame, and I'm filled with respect for him.



Saturday, February 16, 2019

Majang Meat Market

Today, I had the chance to go on one of my more educational missions: a reconnoiter of the Majang Meat Market, where legend has it that you can find pretty much any cut of red meat you might want—at Korean prices, of course. (Beef in Korea is hellaciously expensive; pork much less so, but even pork isn't exactly cheap here.)

I was specifically on the lookout for brisket. The term brisket, in the American context, is actually rather vague. In theory, the brisket cut is simply a cut of beef from the cow's breast area. The cow is constantly working the muscles in that part of its body, so the brisket is a naturally tough cut of meat, unlike the tenderloin, which is a muscle group along the lower spine that the cow never uses. The problem arises, though, when you consider how big the cut of beef is. A brisket cut can be small—around two pounds (0.9 kg)—but it can also be huge—around 25 pounds (11.3 kg). Where on earth does such a cut begin and end on a cow?

If that's not confusing enough, when you expand the question internationally and interculturally to the Korean context, you discover that there are, apparently, several Korean terms that translate as "brisket" and refer to cuts that are, maybe, somewhere in the breast-ish region of the cow. We'll talk more about this in a bit.

The Majang Meat Market is about 800 meters south of Yongdu ("Dragon Head") Station. There are one or two other subway stations not far from that neighborhood, but that's the station from which I decided to walk. I started out rather late in the day, and based on several bad experiences in the Jongno/Euljiro region, I knew that, after 5 p.m., a lot of shops would already be closing, despite it being the weekend, when many people would be out shopping. Would this be the case for the meat market as well? I was about to find out.

As you get close to the meat market, signs appear that direct you to it:



Above, the Korean term "축산물" (chuksan-mul) means "livestock."

A closer shot of one of the signs:


Things weren't looking good when I entered the neighborhood. Many establishments were already closed and shuttered, and it wasn't even 6 p.m. yet. Korea is a place of cutthroat capitalism, but it's also prey to some very anti-capitalistic impulses. Why any shop would want to close early on the weekend was utterly beyond me. Was it because the shopkeepers wanted to have a life? Ha! This is Korea! No one seriously ponders the "I want to have a life!" question: people just work. Because that's their lot in life.

Anyway, I stubbornly kept walking forward until I saw signs of life. And sure enough, quite a few meat markets were still open and doing business. It began to feel like a meat-filled version of Gwangjang Market in the Jongno district. Looking left:


Looking right:


Click on the following image to see the text on the sign; this is Samsung Livestock:


And now, we zoom in on one Korean word that translates as "brisket"—chadol (as in chadolbagi/차돌박이, marbled meat or beef brisket):


You'll have noted, above, that what's being called "brisket" is super-marbled with fat, unlike the American version of brisket, which is generally a tough, solid chunk of meat that often has a mighty fat cap on top that is usually shaved off before the brisket goes into the smoker for a 14-hour smoke. US brisket, in cross-section, looks like a tough tenderloin.

Below is a random shot of some beautifully marbled meat:


The Samsung Livestock store didn't have anything approaching the brisket I was looking for, but the next store over, called Jeongseon Livestock Distribution, did. (I'm tempted to translate Jeongseon as "TruLine," but the Chinese characters doubtless mean something different.) This place was being managed by what appeared to be a husband-and-wife team. I got the feeling the two were married based on how they took turns talking, supplying me with complementary bits of information and finishing each other's sentences. We had to talk over what exactly I meant by "brisket" first—partly through the use of photos I called up on my cell phone—and we all came to the conclusion that we weren't talking about chadol, nor were we talking about another term translated as brisket: buchae. Instead, we were talking about yangji (양지) or yangjimeori (양지머리), which is the term that, it turns out, refers directly to what Americans recognize as brisket.

I was a bit disappointed, though, when I saw what the ajeossi brought out:


That's brisket, all right, but it's the puniest one I've ever seen. Despite the label saying the weight was over 6 kg (maybe that signifies the original weight of the slab from which this piece had been cut...?), the meat in that package weighed in at barely 1.25 kg. Still: I had found my brisket, so I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Cost for 1.25 kg: W60,000. Ouch. That's W4,800 per 100 g. If you do the conversion to dollars per pound, that's a whopping $19 per pound. Slap yo' mama. This 2014 article, titled "Brisket Ain't Cheap," complains that Texas brisket, at the time, was going for $2.79 to $3.05 per pound. The horror!

I decided, on impulse, to buy some brisket right then and there. Since I was also shopping for a coworker, I bought him a 1.25-kg slab along with my own slab, so I went back to my place with 2.5 kilos of brisket. Since I'm ultimately going to make brisket sandwiches along with Greek gyros next month, I don't actually need much more than what I bought. That said, since I plan to do some scientific experiments with the brisket I have (I'll talk about that in a sec), I might need to go back and buy more next month.

Here's a shot of Jeongseon Livestock Distribution:


Finally, here's a shot of a different shop's beef chart. Note that this one is showing buchae-sal as the word for "brisket":


You'd think there'd be more precision, in both Korea and the States, when it comes to referring to cuts of meat. Muscle groups are muscle groups, after all, and there's only a finite number of them. It doesn't help that Korean beef-cut charts can't get their story straight. From Korean Wikipedia, here's the supposed location of the yangji cut of beef:


Note the location is somewhat behind the cow's front leg. Now here's some other online source's notion (stolen from Wikipedia?) of where the cut of beef is:


See how this chart locates the yangji as level with the front leg?

Brisket really shouldn't be such a mystery. What I may do, in the near future, is visit some local US-style BBQ joints and simply ask them where they get their brisket from. Not that I have the facilities to cook a full-size brisket, but after having done this educational tour of the Majang Meat Market, I'm curious to know more. Questions lead to more questions.

Anyway, it was a productive Saturday, which is unusual, given what I slob I am on weekends.

One last note: US sources can't get their story straight, either.

US Wikipedia's image for brisket is the same as Korean Wikipedia's (probably because Korean Wikipedia ripped off the image from US Wikipedia):


Another section of Wikipedia offers this image—apparently the British way of looking at brisket:


Wikipedia notes that the word brisket varies internationally in its definition. No shit. And here in Korea, with several words all being translated as "brisket," it becomes very difficult to communicate to the butcher exactly what one wants. Thank goodness for cell-phone photos, right? Images will save us all in the end.

On a personal note, I found it surreal to be talking about cuts of meat in Korean. There was a moment, when I was talking with the Samsung Livestock people, where I actually had to correct the ajumma when she went off on a tangent and tried to equate what I wanted with beef tenderloin (anshim or anshim-sal in Korean). Despite being far more fluent in French, I'm not actually sure I have the necessary vocabulary to carry on such a discussion in French. I guess that's the difference between living only a few months in France versus nearly fourteen years in South Korea.

Oh, right—about the aforementioned scientific experiments: I have only 1.25 kg of meat to work with, so I'm going to experiment with two methods for prepping the brisket: low-and-slow in the oven, and low-and-steady in the crock pot. I'm going to brine the beef that's going into the oven, and I suspect that that's going to lead to a much better result. Bake times for brisket seem to be roughly one hour per pound of beef, but I'm going to go for somewhat longer than that. If I end up ruining both halves, I'll buy more and apply what I've learned from my experiments. I do have high hopes, though, for the brining.

Here, by the way, is a video of a 20-some-pound brisket being prepped in a way-too-small smoker. The guy's apparently a champion barbecuer, so I guess he knows what he's doing.

PS: I just discovered that, along with the terms chadol and yangji, the term chadol-yangji also exists, and given some of the pictures I've seen online, it may refer to the full-size brisket that I, as an American, immediately think of when you say "brisket." Chadol-yangji! And this is what makes language learning both fun and frustrating. I'm gonna go find a baseball bat and hit myself in the nuts for a couple hours.



pronouns


I'm a linguistic conservative, but I don't think this is a fight we conservatives can win. Language is constantly changing, and if we grant that gender, being a social construct, is infinitely malleable, then there is a such thing as a "gender spectrum," and there is a such thing as "gender fluidity." Chromosomally speaking, sex—not gender—is objectively binary, but we're talking about gendered pronouns, here. As ridiculous as it may sound, future generations may indeed have to start reckoning with many, many new additions to the language. I may find these additions silly, stupid, and unnecessary, but I'm not the ultimate arbiter of how my native language ought to evolve. Score one for the descriptivists in this case: it's less about ought and more about is.



a thought about my poor fondue

Why didn't my fondue emulsify the way it should have? I have a theory. Fondue prep occurred very early in the week; I cubed up the Gruyère and Emmenthaler, tossed the cubes in cornstarch, then bagged everything up in Ziploc bags on Monday night. Is it possible that, by incorporating the cornstarch so early, I allowed it to denature a bit as it sat in the fridge, soaking up moisture from the cheese and becoming unnecessarily hydrated? I wonder. Maybe next time, I'll add cornstarch only right before I take everything to the office.



Ave, Mike!

My buddy Mike has updated his blog, Naked Villainy, by writing two posts.

1. "The Black Dog" deals with depression and anxiety. It also offers thoughts on Donald Trump as president, so brace yourselves (or get ready to cheer).

2. "My Poor Commonwealth" deals with the massive PR disaster that is, currently, our home state of Virginia, which has been in the news, lately, for all the wrong reasons. Maybe our new slogan ought to be Virginia Is for Racists. Have a Cotton-pickin' Good Time!



two good links from the recent past

Many thanks to Bill Keezer for sending over the links to these late-January articles.

Here's Don Surber, taking on the worthlessness of the press:

Trump Exposed How Worthless the Press Is

"The pattern is now drearily familiar. First, a poorly attributed story will break — say, 'Source: Donald Trump Killed Leon Trotsky Back in 1940.' Next, thousands of blue-check journalists, with hundreds of millions of followers between them, will send it around Twitter before they have read beyond the headline. In response to this, the cable networks will start chattering, with the excuse that, 'true or not, this is going to be a big story today,' while the major newspapers will run stories that confirm the existence of the original claim but not its veracity — and, if Representative Schiff is awake, they will note that 'Democrats say this must be investigated.' These signal-boosting measures will be quickly followed by 'Perspective' pieces that assume the original story is true and, worse, seek to draw 'broader lessons' from it. In the New York Times this might be 'The Long History of Queens Residents’ Assassinating Socialist Intellectuals;' in the Washington Post, 'Toxic Capitalism: How America’s Red Hatred Explains Our Politics Today;' in The New Yorker, 'I’ve Been to Mexico and Was Killed by a Pickaxe to the Head;' in Cosmopolitan, 'The Specifics Don’t Matter, Men Are Guilty of Genocide.'"

Here's "the Diplomad" on Europe's nutty intellectuals, thirty of whom signed an open letter by "philosopher" Bernard Henry-Lévy, decrying the coming destruction of Europe by the Trump-style populist movement, which might arrive in a wave come May:

It's Official: Europe's "Intellectuals" are Bonkers

In my view, the Levy letter sums up everything wrong with the bulk of European (and American) "intellectuals." It positively drips with contempt and condescension for those European hillbillies and rednecks who voted for Brexit and have taken to the streets in Paris and elsewhere to protest what decades of progressive rule have done to them and their countries. It derides the sense of nationalism and bemoans-oh does it!--the "xenophobia" sweeping Europe and undermining the concept of Europe. Well, that is, undermining the concept of Europe put forth by the elites and the well-paid EU bureaucrats.

The letter is unmoored from the reality lived by average people. Nowhere does it mention the hollowing out or abandonment of traditional industries in the name of globalism and Gaia worship. It ignores the vast swathe of European people left behind and ignored by the new economy and the new politics of a borderless world. It decries the rise of antisemitism without ever mentioning from whence it largely comes, to wit, massive Muslim immigration, and leftist hostility towards Israel which quickly morphs into antisemitism. The letter, amazingly, completely ignores Islamic terror in Europe and around the world: no mention of the massacres in Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels, etc. None. The word "Islam" appears nowhere, so, naturally, nowhere is there a hint as to why "xenophobia" might be on the rise.



Friday, February 15, 2019

tomorrow's mission

I'll be on the hunt for beef brisket tomorrow. This is exciting: I'll be visiting the Majang Meat Market for the first time ever. Soon, we find out whether the legends are true, to wit: that you can find any cut of meat there. If I do find brisket, expect photos.



today's luncheon/dinner

It was a weird combination of foods, but I brought in cheese fondue and Middle Eastern chicken today to satisfy two coworkers' disparate food wishes. Here are some shots of the meals. One coworker took a bunch of chicken home for him and his fiancée; another coworker just told me the chicken was "fuckin' good." I'm beginning to love it when the compliments of my food include reflexive swearing. It's an indicator that I'm doing something right.

A wide shot of the chicken. Three toppings on the left (feta, pistachio, tomato), then chicken broth, then the chicken itself, then two types of pasta: Israeli "rainbow" couscous and Italian stelline (little stars). This was my first time working with Israeli couscous; it's much more glutinous than regular couscous—very clumpy and not so easy to fluff with forks. The stelline, by contrast, was very manageable and well-behaved.


A closeup shot of the principal elements: chicken and pasta:


Even closer in on the chicken:


Israeli "pearl" couscous, "rainbow" variety because it's multicolored:


Pistachio topping, all mortar-and-pestled:


Crumbled feta:


I think Koreans call these bang-ul tomatoes. A bang-ul is a drop or droplet:


Stelline, which look like the pasta you serve to kids in their soup to entertain them:


Fondue. This wasn't a very good batch, as you can see from the separation. A good fondue is thoroughly emulsified and smooth-looking. This one had either too much wine or too little cornstarch, but it still tasted fine:


The cut-up baguettes that we sacrificed to the fondue gods:


And lastly, a gross picture of the remains of the cheese, looking nice and snotty:


I served the meals in three shifts. The first shift was my R&D coworkers plus my ex-boss, and they didn't want fondue, which was actually a bit of a relief, especially since I had forgotten to buy the baguettes. So this shift concentrated on the Middle Eastern chicken. When the native-speaker teachers came in 90 minutes later, I had managed to buy the requisite baguettes, and this second shift concentrated on eating the fondue. Three of us plowed our way through two whole baguettes and a caquelon-ful of cheese. A few other staffers who had said they'd be coming never showed up (not surprising: they're kind of scatterbrained), so I actually have another whole load of fondue that I can cook on Monday if anyone wants more fondue. The third shift occurred when coworkers from the second shift said they were ready to try the Middle Eastern chicken. I happily obliged them. Not much chicken is left after that second wave; I'll be taking the leftovers home with me.

I was too tired to cook last night, so I did everything this morning, waking up a few hours earlier than usual in order to fry up the chickpeas, squash, raisins, figs, herbs, and chicken. I had cut up everything except the chicken the night before, which made my morning a bit easier. Cutting up the chicken in the morning wasn't a difficult task, and neither was cooking it in my special oil. Working with chicken breast is always a bit dangerous because the meat dries out if you overcook it even a little bit, but if you undercook it, you end up with unsafe pink meat in the middle of each chunk. I normally use my intuition when it comes to doneness, but I also cheat and use my meat shears to snip open one or two thicker chunks to get a general read on the meat's overall doneness. Thus far, that method hasn't resulted in anyone's getting food poisoning, so I suppose I'll stick to what works.

As usual, today was an unproductive day in terms of office work: whenever I dole out the food, I normally pay attention to service, eating, and cleanup. This really is a bit like running my own tiny catering business. Whenever compliments come in, this usually means I'm building a reserve of trust, such that my coworkers will look forward to whatever I do next instead of dreading yet another fouled-up meal. I'm batting a thousand thus far. Next month: gyros and BBQ brisket sandwiches. That ought to be fun and tasty.



remember the Stark words

Good meal today. Stay tuned:

Pictures are coming.



take the US geography quiz

US geography! Do you know your 50 states?

I scored 100%, with 4:53 remaining on the clock (you start at 7:00).


Take the quiz.

I was led to this quiz by the following video, which features an absolutely awful, so-sad-it's-funny performance by the quirky young lady who goes by "Shoe On Head" (more properly, Shoe0nHead—with a zero in the "on" part):




food update

I went to the Jamshil Home Plus... and there was no couscous. The closest things the store had, pasta-wise, were these cute packs of "mini-stars" (stelline), so I bought two packs in order to try some test cooking. They're not, uh, stellar, as it turns out, and they look nothing like couscous, but they'll serve as the backup pasta once the Israeli couscous runs out.

I'm too tired to do all the cooking tonight, so I'm doing a bit of prep, then calling it a day. I'll wake up early in the morning and do everything else. Night.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

the couscous problem

I have a big bottle of Israeli "pearl" couscous at my place, and I might be using it for tomorrow's lunch of Middle Eastern chicken. There's only enough to serve six, though, and we might have as many as nine people coming tomorrow—in two lunch shifts.

The fondue, which we're also having tomorrow, is already prepped. I need to run out and buy another box or two of couscous for tomorrow, and I've discovered online that the local Home Plus probably stocks couscous. That's good because the local SSG Food Market and PK Peacock Market, both of which feature foreign products, have no couscous. Most disappointing. The closest Home Plus is in Jamshil—not far away at all. Will cross my fingers and hope the online information turns out to be true.

Otherwise, tonight will be devoted to prepping the chicken dish either partially or completely. If I do succeed in finding and buying regular couscous, that'll take only five minutes to prep, and preparation only involves dumping in hot water and butter, then letting the pasta absorb the liquid for five minutes. (Israeli couscous, on the other hand, requires a simmer of 8 to 12 minutes.) I've already smashed a bunch of pistachios for a sprinkle, and I've crumbled my block of feta, which is an all-important topping. Aside from prepping the chicken, I also need to boil my figs and halve my cherry tomatoes. At this point, I've made this dish often enough to be very familiar with it, so I'm thinking that total prep time shouldn't be too long. If I cook everything tonight and fridge it, I'll have to think about how to reheat it all once I'm at the office. If I prep tonight and cook tomorrow morning, though, I can simply serve people directly from my plastic containers. I'll decide tonight. Wish me luck.



sadly, it had to be done

I just cleaned up my blog's sidebar, removing ads for my books, which are no longer valid (the ads, I mean—not the books), and links to people like Elisson (who passed away from ALS) and Mike (whose blog gets updated only extremely rarely and very randomly these days), as well as the link to my CafePress shop, which isn't currently making me any money. Sad. But it had to be done. It's the year of the Golden Pig, after all: we must clear away the dust and make way for incoming prosperity!



from comfort food to haute cuisine

Here's a video showing a pretty decent pulled-pork sandwich. My only disagreement* is with the use of mayonnaise: I tried that once and thought it ruined the experience. Anyway, here's Sam the Cooking Guy:


And here are our five nutty Brits doing a tour around town of various Japanese (or at least Japanese-themed) restaurants as they gather ideas for an upcoming head-to-head battle in their studio kitchen:




*The more astute among you will be wondering why I'm not complaining about the onions he piled atop the sandwich. Strangely enough, I'm actually a fan of onion rings and fried onions, as long as one cooks the living fuck out of the onion. This is also probably why I tolerate onions in Korean stews: they've been cooked to the point that they've lost their souls. This does not, however, explain why I'm OK with things like pico de gallo or the onion-filled dipping sauce that comes with one's galmaegi-sal.



two from Jon Miller

I like Jon Miller, but he's a loudmouth showman on his way to becoming the next Alex Jones if he's not careful. This video is all the more surprising because of that: Miller brings on a contrarian guest and has—horrors!—a civil discussion with him: no shouting-down, no frequent interruptions—just a polite exchange of ideas. It was positively refreshing to see this. Granted, before the guest comes on, we're treated to the usual theatrics from Miller, but the discussion with the guest is worth the wait.


And in this video, Miller says what we've all been thinking: there's no substance to the Russia-related witch hunt against Trump:


Styx has been saying the same thing for a while. His latest:






housekeeping note

I'm at a good place, schedule-wise, with my book project, so the old-school Kevin will now resume his regular blogging: looks like politivids and movie reviews are back on the menu, boys. Enjoy the torture. And Happy Valentine's Day.



China's not happy with Venezuela

I've found a new channel to subscribe to:


And let me anticipate a criticism: yes, I too had to wonder where the "freak-out" was. The video offers a lot of interesting information, but it never substantiates the claim that China is somehow freaking out about what's happening in Venezuela. There's a strong implication, in the video, that China might end up financially stressed by Venezuela's collapse, but that's as far as the video goes. That said, the video is interesting in its own right; it simply needs a better, more accurate title.



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

the Seoul-Yangpyeong walk in pictures: Day 2

[Day 1 is here. Warning! Lots and lots of pictures for Day 2.]

Life in Hanam City, circa 6 a.m.:


Obligatory glowering selfie:


That bridge again, glowing green (before it turned blue):


The path stretches out ahead, into the morning dark:


My phone's camera really doesn't know how to handle lighting. First, everything is dark and gloomy; then suddenly, everything becomes bright as hell. What gives? Behold:


The sky lightens further:


Moving toward Paldang Bridge:


An interesting sight along the way:


The sign points me toward Yangpyeong, so I'm on course:


There's a story here, somewhere:


A wider shot of the abandoned items:


Paldang Bridge, which I had to cross under before I could take the switchback path up to the bridge itself in order to cross it:


Almost past the bridge (underside):


Looking up, I saw the ramp I would eventually be walking on in order to cross the bridge and the Han River:


Another shot of that ramp:


Hanam's bike-education area (which looked all overgrown to me):


About to turn right and double back, walking up the ramp to the bridge:


Turning, turning...


Going up the ramp, now:


The bridge is almost a kilometer long:


As you can see for yourself:


Luckily, there's a walking lane:


In 2017, I got lost on my way to this bridge. It took my lame ass two whole hours to figure out how to cross the damn river. I was angry by the time I did.

This time, there were no problems. Here's a view from the bridge:


On the other side of the Han now:


Angel's wings, but no angel (you're supposed to pose between the wings):


The path is always changing character:


Another shwim-teo for me to photograph:


The road goes ever on and on...


There are weird little bits of civilization along this part of the path—random buildings that seem to be accessible only by bike. But that can't be right; there must be a car/truck access road somewhere. Anyway, everything was closed. It was Sunday. And cold.


A troop of runners passed me by:


First glimpse of a major landmark: Paldang Dam:


Up closer now:


From here, one can't access the dam itself. Instead, one encounters the first of eight or nine tunnels. Back in 2017, on Day 2 of my trans-Korea hike, I found relief inside these tunnels because the bright morning sun was burning my forearms. Thanks to one of Charles's comments, I eventually found a bike shop that sold the biker's sleevelets called toshi in Korean. No more sunburn problem after that.

Tunnel-liciousness:


Each tunnel had its own unique lighting:


Out of the tunnel, looking left, and seeing a traditional residence:


This part of the path felt as if it were all business:


A humble vista:


I always love the creepy trees:


A home in the distance:


The Korean on the circular sign is actually a hangeulized rendering of the French "bonjour." Hangeul is horrible for transcribing French sounds; with a Korean spelling, the graceful "Bonjour" sounds like "bohng-joo-reu."


The dowdy family that greets you with its awkward "Bonjour":


I often chose to walk on the bike path instead of the pedestrian path, usually in the lane with the opposing traffic. Very few bikers came from that direction, so I wasn't worried about getting smooshed: I'd have plenty of time to avoid any oncoming traffic.


An impressively roof-tiled shwim-teo:


Charles's wife Hyunjin apparently does work on the side:


Curving around, now:


A sign for the Neungnae Station certification center. In 2017, this is where I stamped my first travel stamp into my Moleskine. One for the record books.


The cert center itself:


Below—one of the derelict trains still standing on a fragment of railway. This one got converted into a restaurant or something, but it appeared to be closed and quite dead. A few disappointed tourists poked about the train in a dispirited way; nothing happening here.


Rabbits and a cat:


A transparent panel looking down into nothing interesting:


This thing calls itself a shwim-teo. I'm not so sure:


Sure enough: "Dasan Shwim-teo."


Much ground yet to cover:


This gives new meaning to "duty-bound":


En avant vers le futur:


The trail, acting quirky:


Wooden bridge:


Approaching an old, converted rail bridge:


The sign below says, "North Han River Rail Bridge," even though I've turned south and am following the South Han River (Namhan-gang).


About to cross a threshold:



Welcome to Yangpyeong-gun (a gun is like a "county"):


The lead-up to the rail bridge:


Here we go...


Again, these glass fixtures aren't all that scary:


Look at all that rust:


On final approach to Yangsu Station:


A closer look at the station, where I took another restroom break:


And back to the trail:


Life is a highway...


Shinweon Station:


I'm always amused by the Korean obsession with abstract sculpture:


I saw these cutesy residences and decided to take a picture of them. Make them out of adobe, though, and they could pass for boxy little pueblos.


The path is getting harder to walk: my feet hurt at this point, and I've already sat down for a couple of breaks. But I have still a long, long way to go:


I'm approaching the rest stop where, in 2017, I sat and talked to a family and to a policeman-in-training who was biking to Busan from Seoul during a four-day furlough:


That was in the spring, though. The place was closed on this day:


A sign for the rest stop:


I can never take the name of this train station seriously, so here I am below, yukking it up. Guksu is Korean for "noodles." Guksu Station sounds tasty and somewhat frivolous.


Yet another of many straightaways:


I wondered whether this was a single-family domicile:


Ice, ice, baby:


These ice-related pics were taken inside one of the later tunnels. Most of the tunnels had been well made; there was no leakage in them. Some unluckier tunnels, though, were seeping moisture, possibly because of poorly sealed pipes, possibly because of groundwater seeping through imperfect concrete.


A wider shot of the mini-glacier:


Another one, but with stalactites:


And we're out in the world again:


Ah, bridges. Bridges are my life, as you see below. I actually stopped at this locale to use the restroom. Signs indicated that the plumbing had been shut down for the winter months, but this hadn't stopped guys from shitting into the now-unflushable toilets in the men's room. Disgusting. All the toilet bowls in the cubicles were brimming with shit. Luckily, I just needed a stand-up urinal, which I used before I got the fuck out of there.


I once again couldn't resist taking a pic of Satan's own creek:


A somewhat junky area, and a reminder that I was back in "civilization"...


You can barely see it, but there's a dog in this pic. It barked exactly once, in an old and grumpy manner. Then it let me pass. I'm guessing it had given up on life.


These chickens were more vocal than the dog:


It may not look like it, but we're in Yangpyeong City at this point. I have several miles to go, but I'm most of the way done with my 35-kilometer trek:


See what I mean?


I vaguely remembered this part of the path from two years before:


And this bridge:


Another shot:


Bleh. Traffic.


Crossing the bridge meant being by the river again:


A long, placid stretch:


Way up ahead is the old gentleman with the wounded dog that I had blogged about previously. When I caught up with him and talked with him, I was momentarily tempted to ask whether I could take a picture of him and the dog, but the civilized part of my brain shut that impulse down quickly and kept me from making an ass of myself:


An architecturally interesting house on a hill. I had to walk up some stone steps to be level enough with the house to take the following picture:


Something you never see near the big cities: a house with a proper yard:


The path wends onward:


Sometimes, you have to cross that bridge when you come to it:


A church on a hill. After passing the old man and the wounded dog, I wondered whether it might be advisable to go to the church, see whether any signs displayed contact phone numbers, then call somebody, anybody, to come drive over and help the man and the dog somehow. In the end, I decided to leave both sentient beings to whatever fate the gods of the path decided was apropos.


We're moving more explicitly into downtown, now; the path here joined a street:


And there, once again, was the goddamn art museum near which, supposedly, was the certification center that I never found in 2017. I circled that fucking building three times, chasing after the little pip-image on my cell phone, which insisted the certification center was right there. Am I that much of a navigational idiot? Idiot or not, I simply couldn't find the damn cert center.


I was steamed when I realized that my "direct" path to the motel took me past the art museum. I had thought that, by not plotting a course to the cert center this time, I would bypass it entirely and head straight to my lodging. As it turned out, the motel was 1.1 km from the art museum. Fuck. My feet were killing me.

Heading back toward the river for the final part of the walk:


Swinging back out to the river brought me face to face with this commemorative stone:


And the bowling balls favored by Russian bodybuilders:


The stone up close. I'm going to guess it's related to the start of the Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950 and is known as "six-two-five" (yugio) here:


The final stretch stretches before me:


These stairs looked familiar: last time, I had taken a cab from a far-flung part of town to the River House motel. After staying there two nights, I left the motel and realized I was right next to the river and could pick up the bike path from right there. It was the memory of that fact that prompted me to re-plot my course, this time, to avoid the cert center and art museum and just go straight to the motel: I surmised that, instead of heading into downtown, I'd follow the river the entire time instead. Of course, we see how that turned out: I did end up downtown this time, and I didn't really save myself that much time or that many steps.

The stairs going up to the street where my motel would be:


The last bit of sidewalk before the end of Day 2's long, achy trek:


Et voilà: the River House motel:


A closeup shot of the signage:


A view of the Namhan (South Han) River from inside the motel's garage:


I went looking for food after checking in, and I found Hoya Chicken. As a Hoya myself, I was duty-bound to eat this bird:


Before the big reveal:


Tah-dah! I got the chicken poppers (dak-gangjeong). The restaurant cheats and fills your mini-bucket about a third full of fried ddeok (rice cakes) so as to skimp on the chicken. I ended up liking the ddeok better than the cheap-ass cuts of chicken meat, anyway. I've never been so disappointed by a fellow Hoya.


Travel beard and hat head:


No blisters on the left foot:


No blisters on the right foot:


Nighttime view of the river:


And finally, a view of the river the following morning:


On Monday morning, the walk to Yangpyeong Station was under 800 meters, and I'd had a good night's rest, so my feet didn't scream that loudly when I limped out to catch a subway back to Seoul. While this wasn't my usual 120-kilometer walkfest, it was a worthwhile way to spend a weekend. Who knows—I might do this again, especially as the weather begins warming up. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this little photo essay. If you're bored with life and don't know what to do with yourself, get a decent pair of walking shoes and go try walking a few thousand steps. Push that up to a few tens of thousands of steps, and note how the world is never the same even if you end up walking the same route day after day.