1. Bush takes responsibility.
2. James Woods interview (no link; Salon makes you pay for this crap).
3. Salon is now hiring. They need a political reporter. You wanna try out? What, no free spots at the BBC?
1. Continued denials from Iraqi scientists about weapons programs. Hmmmm.
2. An item that, were it not on the front page, would barely impinge on American consciousness.
3. Kerry and Dean finally declare they are gay lovers. Yes, you read it here first. "It's the way he grabs my hair when we make love," says a blushing Dean, squeezing Kerry's hand. "That tax debate was just a spat, nothing major," nodded Kerry, who then tugged Dean away from the microphones and appeared to be whispering angrily at him as they walked away.
1. Bribery? In Korea? The hell you say!
2. China: "Despite the fact that we think Bolton is being an insufferable asshole for violating Confucian-derived codes of politeness through overly direct speech, we are cautiously optimistic about nuke talks."
British Superbike champion not killed by Superbike!
In fine anti-American form in this issue, L'Express headlines with "Mensonges, manipulations, erreurs..." (Lies, Manipulation/Chicanery, Mistakes) two lead articles re: failures in American intelligence and whether Iraq actually possesses WMDs. My opinion: yes, it does. Finding them is an urgent matter, but also a matter of time.
A missionary's letter from Palestine.
I'm disappointed: I thought Merde in France would be all over L'Express... but maybe there's just too much vitriol in the French press for one lone American to address, hein?
Via Aaron Krowne's blog: a bit of old news, but worth thinking about as we mull over China: the space race. BTW, Aaron's blog is the first blog I ever saw. He's a friend of my younger brother, Sean.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
I don't know anything about John Bolton, the top US arms control official (whatever that means)-- is he a Dem? A Rep? Whoever he is, he's pissing off the North. I think that's not a bad thing. If the North wants to spew frenzied rhetoric, we should generate more harshness on our side to see who cracks first. Is this badgering? Yes. Should we be too cavalier about it? No. Unlike the war in Iraq, we won't lose just a handful of troops on the peninsula should war break out. But NK doesn't deserve coddling. Keep up the heat, John. Cause some MOVEMENT here.
China is aiming missiles at US forces in Okinawa. They've got the Soviet mentality down pat, haven't they.
Maybe this answers the question of where China will lean if war breaks out in Korea. Are human beings really this stupid...
...and is it any wonder the Japanese conservatives are hollering about total remilitarization?
What prompts this brief meditation is this article about China's new buildup of short-range missiles to be aimed at Taiwan.
Here's an excerpt from the beginning.
China Adds to Missiles Aimed at Taiwan, Pentagon Says (Update1)
July 30 (Bloomberg) -- China is on a path to increase by half over the next few years the number of short-range ballistic missiles arrayed against Taiwan, a Pentagon report says.
China has about 450 CSS-6 and CSS-7 missiles facing Taiwan across the South China Sea. That number is expected to grow by 75 a year "over the next few years,'' the report said. The missiles are mobile and have ranges of 372 miles (600 kilometers) and 186 miles (300 kilometers), respectively.
"As Beijing increases the accuracy and lethality of its conventional ballistic missile arsenal, a growing and significant challenge is posed to U.S. forces in the Western Pacific, as well as to allies and friends, including Taiwan,'' the report said.
Keep in mind that China's huge, and to my mind, it's got expansionist tendencies. It's already gnawed its way through Tibet-- a country that has effectively become Chinese (the Korean abbot of the temple I've attended in Germantown, MD, Master Shin Go Seong, says of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "He should've stayed in Tibet!"), and India, often an irritant to Chinese ambitions, has officially acknowledged Chinese hegemony there and promised to monitor Tibetan dissent in its own borders (hint: Dharamsala). While China and the US are supposedly in agreement about a "one China" policy, the reality is obviously otherwise. If there is only one China, it wouldn't aim missiles at itself, and the US wouldn't be doing its part to help supply Taiwan with defense tech.
What I thought was very interesting about this article was the Israel connection:
Among other disclosures, the Pentagon said China "has procured from Israel a significant number of Harpy anti-radiation systems.'' The Harpy is a kamikaze drone produced by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. that's equipped with anti-radar sensors and a bomb capable of attacking Taiwanese air-defense radar. The drone would dive into a radar station.
The Harpy was used during July 2002 Chinese military drills in the region opposite Taiwan, according to press reports but the Pentagon had not previously confirmed the Israeli sale.
"The Harpy detects, attacks and destroys enemy radar emitters, hitting them with high accuracy,'' IAI says on its web site. "It effectively suppresses hostile surface-to-air missiles and radar sites for long durations, loitering above enemy territory for hours.'' The drone is already in use with several air forces, IAI said.
It's a complex world, and I'm still only just figuring this out. Whether Israel deserved as much money as we were giving it was a question I personally tabled after September 11. While I by no means view Israel as an innocent party in the larger issue of Mideast strife, I agree with friends and pundits who consider Israel to be an island of fairly secular Western-style democracy in the middle of a gaggle of angry Muslim theocracies. This in itself makes Israel worth defending. If certain Muslim countries were to adopt a similar model, I'd include them in that statement as well.
But the sale of defense tech-- whether it's the US to Taiwan, or the USSR to Afghanistan of old, or Israel to China-- is a disturbing issue. I'm not sure what the best answer is to this question, but there's a sick potential irony lying in wait if our own men and women are brought down in combat with the aid of American-made defense tech. How should we view Israel's sale to the Chinese, which works at cross-purposes to our sales to Taiwan? Sorry, but I take a dim view.
In the meantime, we've got this peninsular chess game to worry about. How to squeeze North Korea? Many Koreabloggers are betting on putting pressure on China. How to protect Taiwan, then, as China gets irritated by US pressure?
We are, once again, in the thicket of unintended consequences. The world is far too interconnected for us to gloss over the possibility that actions in one region may directly affect events in another, far off. An arms race, however, was a no-brainer of a pre-war prediction. This article confirms that China is (or has been) on its way. And as we see in the news quite frequently these days, North Korea is ratcheting the game to a new level.
North Korea's simultaneous ally and enemy is time. The longer South Korea plays its role as enabler and the US refuses to act more forcefully, the more nukes the North can manufacture and sell (or stock). At the same time, the longer the North waits, the more its citizens starve and the further its economy collapses. Nothing lasts forever; that includes the peninsular stalemate.
At this point, I think the stalemate is more likely to end in war than in a sudden, dramatic collapse of the NK regime. I am not sure which way China will lean should conflict arise on the peninsula. If it does indeed respect its "mutual defense pact" with the North, we may see June 1950 all over again, but this time, the South will have much, much more to lose. That would be tragic. If, however, China realizes that its business commitments to the US are worth keeping, it may, at the crucial moment, look the other way.
But Asians don't follow simple yes/no behaviors-- a fact that frustrates so many Westerners seeking black-and-white patterns. I doubt that China's future course will follow as neat a path as what I've just described. It will more likely try to find a way to retain vital economic ties while doing its part (quietly) to aid North Korea in its future time of need.
Europe actually figures prominently in this situation. Though I don't have the statistics right at hand, my impression is that European investment in China has been a lot more aggressive than American investment. US policy had allowed itself to become tied to the question of human rights, which often complicates our dealings with China. If China pays heed to its business ties, it may pay greater heed to the European wing, not the American, simply because that's where most of the money's coming from (Koreabloggers & others with stats, please write me, so I can update/correct this post). A further wrinkle is that certain American tech firms are selling China the software it needs to monitor its Internet infrastructure-- in other words, some of our own corporations are, through business dealings, abetting the repression of the Chinese citizenry. This has to stop.
The American political party that claims to be simultaneously pro-Big Business and pro-Old Time Morality needs to look deeply at itself and question this inconsistency. Business for business' sake is far too simplistic an approach to take in world affairs, especially in dealing with as large and complex an entity as China. The free market, however much I believe in its effectiveness, is NOT an automatic guarantor of Western values. At the same time, the party that claims to be pro-modernity, pro-diversity and pro-human rights needs to question whether naive idealism is appropriate as a political platform to carry overseas. In my opinion, business is one of the most effective weapons we have for exporting the trappings of American culture. It is possible, though not always probable (cf. my meandering essay on Western values and physical space), for us to use those business channels to pump in a large measure of American values. This, to my mind, is a better, more subtle approach to the question of human rights in places like China than moralistic flag-waving.
There is a school of thought that views the Middle Eastern question as a distraction: the real issue, in a decade or so, will be the rise of China, a superpower currently running a morbidly fascinating politico-economical experiment. It may well be that how China deals with the NK situation will be an indicator of where it thinks it's headed. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
The Marmot's site contains a photo gallery. In that gallery is a picture of boshin-t'ang, or dog stew. The stew in that photo is almost the same brownish color as what I ate (mine was a bit darker brown). If you know the English and Korean names of the green veggies in there, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (type "Hairy Chasms" in the subject window, or I won't get your message).
Courtesy of Salon. Oesterreich liebt Arrrrrrrrrnoooooolllllllld!
Yet another example of misuse of religion. (via Salon)
How sad. It appears there won't be a terrorism futures market after all. It's been said that futures markets are better predictors than most experts. Why not do this? Just because it's morbid? (via Salon)
UPDATE (thanks to Instapundit): The futures market might still happen, but in the private sector (where many also think major SPACE TRAVEL PROJECTS should happen... and I'm beginning to agree).
The Gray Davis Titanic sinks further. (via Salon)
Notice how Salon.com is most useful for finding Reuters and AP dispatches.
Interesting article-- in Salon, no less-- about the "Democratic Weaselship Council." Love the accompanying graphic. No links-- this is a "Premium" (cough) article.
Merde in France and other sites are on the story about the Allied war cemetery being desecrated in France.
In the JoongAng Ilbo:
In China, new thinking on the war
BEIJING: A Chinese scholar has engaged in some revisionist thinking about the Korean War, saying that contrary to the Chinese government's official position, it was triggered by the North Korean leadership with the active support of the Soviet Union. While that assertion would raise no eyebrows among most scholars since Soviet-era Russian archives were opened after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is surprising coming from a researcher in China.
Any bets on this scholar's insights being derided/covered up/rebutted by Beijing? Come on! It's time to play the "Can He Stay Out of Prison?" Game!
More to the point, the article says:
Mr. Shi's urging that China stay out of any new war in Korea would challenge the legitimacy of Beijing's mutual defense pact with Pyeongyang, which commits China to come to North Korea's assistance in an armed conflict.
The Koreabloggers are arguing for the US to push China harder. I agree: now is the time. They got a new administration (Hu Jintao); there's upwelling pressure from a restive Hong Kong and a steadily freer market; and North Korea's baking nuclear pie. Something's gotta give. Let me jump on the blogger bandwagon and say, China's gotta give.
Amritas on Arabic... with a neat remark about the word "brother" and its Sanskrit incarnation toward the end of the entry.
A shout-out to Robert Koehler, who runs The Marmot's Hole, a blog about Korea. Of particular note: though his bio doesn't explicitly mention it, you can read between the lines and see that Robert's a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
So: fellow Hoya in da hizzooouuuuuse!
I graduated from the School of Languages and Linguistics in 1991 (French major, Theo minor), making me an SLLer. All SLLers can attest that SFS produces nothing but arrogant assholes, and SFSers will attest that LingLangers are frustrated faux-intellectual wannabes who brag about getting through 50% of the SFS courseload.
Petty rivalries notwithstanding (hey, some of my best friends from undergrad days were SFS), I highly recommend the Marmot's blog (along with, of course, Incestuous Amplification) for Robert's insightful (and often pungent) posting about Korean culture and current events.
It's been so long since we last met
Lie down forever, lie down
Or have you any money to bet
Lie down forever, lie down...
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Or so says the Naked Villain, who with his usual Jedi quickness has issued a correction. Far be it from me to propagate untruth. I bend over and gnaw my (quite tasty) genitalia as punishment. The Maximum Leader sends this link as proof of his rightness.
So maybe we'll get to watch Arnold dismember Arianna! Hooray! She is kinda cute for an older lady, but still, I'm afraid she's at the end of her usefulness and she'll be most entertaining when getting soundly pummeled by her own ripped-off arms.
Gracias for the heads-up, Mike. Faster, Arnold! Kill! Kill!
BBC vs. Churchill on Andrew Sullivan.
den Beste's latest-- very interesting. He parses the naysayers. Read how he phrased his URL for the permalink. Heh.
Definitely take a look at Incestuous Amplification's recent entry. Required reading. Kevin's site is helping me sort out my own issues about China, a country I do credit for some movement on North Korea.
Not good. Wake up, people. (via Drudge)
When metaphors attack! (also via Drudge)
Majority of NYC women are single. Wonder why. Could it be the self-absorption? The neuroticism? The fact that many of these "New Yorkers" aren't originally from NYC but want to blend in? The sudden need to explore whether one is bisexual (if you think I'm kidding, head over to the Salon/Nerve personals and peruse the 20-something crowd entries-- 90% NYC, 90% willing to swing both ways)? I mean... don't get me wrong-- bisexuality's fine by me, but ladies: don't hook up with a conventionally hetero boyfriend if you plan to bat for both teams. (via Drudge)
The no-brainer: "In language critical of left-leaning positions, the Democratic Leadership Council urged party leaders to avoid policies that voters may associate with big government and special-interest groups, including labor unions." Have we seen a coherent campaign platform yet? (via Drudge)
Sigh... replace one foreign-born pretender with another. Arnold drops out (maybe a smart move), but Arianna Huffington throws her wig into the ring. Check out Salon.com for this. No, I refuse to link to Salon's main articles because they make you pay to read news that should be available for free. Sorry. Either subscribe to Salon (which I don't really recommend) or sit through a 20-second ad to get the, uh, Premium Day Pass. Question: will Nia Vardalos lose weight and play Huffington in a TV miniseries? Or will Nia refuse to lose... forcing them to retitle the miniseries "Puffington"?
OK, that was a cheap shot. I admit it. But what did you expect from a guy who constantly mentions his own asshole?
It's UN-supported and being run by the French, but it still rocks. (via Salon)
When Vaticans attack! (also via Salon) Sigh... And I think the next Pope will be even more conservative. JP2, who gets darts from all over, has been, in my opinion, a very good Pope, both in terms of what he's done for Catholics and what he's done worldwide. Yes, he's not perfect, and some Catholics actually resent how much he's apologized for previous Church errors and sins, but he's done yeoman's work in a difficult job. If there's a heaven that's anything like Catholics envision it, I hope he goes there and gets a good rest.
The author of the document in question (contra homosexual marriage) is the CDF-- the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican's ultraconservative. From the article:
"The instructions, which call on politicians to oppose extending rights granted to traditional couples, are in a document prepared by the Church's guardian of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
So: The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!
I'm Presbyterian, and my Calvinist genes imbue me with the instinctual knowledge that I, personally, am going to fry in hell-- a fact decided since before the galaxies formed. But because I've got this lovely spare tire around my waist, at least I'll smell really tasty while frying. Who said hell had to be a drag? By the way, I have no idea what my burning in hell has to do with homosexual marriage.
Not exactly WMDs, but still... (via Salon)
Bob Hope died at 100, just like George Burns, if I'm not mistaken. He was part of my childhood. Adios, Bob.
Meantime, I'll be turning 34 on August 31st, at which time I will be having an "I Outlived Jesus!" party (since Jesus died at age 33, according to traditional calculations). Just thought you should know. No, you're not invited. I'll probably celebrate by eating another dog.
Damn, that feels weird. From now until I die, I can say... Yes, I've eaten dog.
LA Times: "Hopes Dim for 3-Way Talks with North Korea." Dammit, are the talks 5-way, 3-way, or 6-way!? It's like I wandered into an argument on the set of a porn video. All I know is... Kim Jong Il should take it in all available inputs.
In Korea, the US Army will be showing off the "Stryker" vehicle. Sounds like Christian heavy metal to me. (Korea Herald)
Also in the Herald: A little taste of the hairiness known as South Korean politics. [editorial]
Frank J at IMAO goes after Canada and its monkey problem.
Nasty story in the Scotsman, but I like the phrase "torso investigation."
JoongAng Ilbo: Making the Army base into a park? Why not? You can't have enough parks in Seoul.
Also in JoongAng Ilbo: Elegy for Korean pay phones.
Sure enough: Merde in France reports that Armstrong is once again accused of doping. This whining is a favorite French hobby.
Same site: keep in mind that France's population is now fully 10% Muslim.
Visit Amritas. No need to link to anything specific. Always fascinating.
I like reading Andrew Sullivan because he's a gay conservative who refuses to adopt the descriptor "Republican." Sullivan's essays can be shrill at times, but he is also a sharp thinker who admits mistakes, apologizes for going over the top, and even revisits predictions from weeks previous (eating crow if need be). Because he's gay, his relationship with "traditional" conservatives is sometimes rocky-- this has made him, I believe, more of a thinking conservative than, say, the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, whom I enjoy, but who is too far right for my modest, saner, nondualist taste. Sullivan also has a knack for spotting trends-- and may even be in the avant-garde, initiating them. For example, his beef against the BBC and his predictions about its possible fall from grace were made months ago; his rants about British citizens having to pay a tax that effectively goes to the BBC, whether the citizens want it to or not, may have helped spark some activism in the UK. Catch his most recent anti-BBC rant here.
Sullivan is also unapologetic about the war effort, and says so in this piece.
My problem here, though, is the same problem I have with Steven Den Beste's justifications for the war: both thinkers may have out-thought the Bush administration, which in my opinion hasn't done nearly as good a job at making its case as the conservative (and some liberal hawk) apologists have. From some of Sullivan's writings, I gather he does have access, through journalistic connections, to a certain degree of inside information. But Den Beste? Not so sure. When you read his bio, you get the impression you're reading a really smart guy who should have inside connections but probably doesn't. His justifications for war make sense, but I have the sneaking suspicion that they're based largely on very educated conjecture and not on any substantive access to real sources inside the Administration. Maybe Den Beste would respond that his conjectures are rather obvious, and people like me are simply too distracted by swirling details to see the deep trends and underlying arguments that are moving events forward.
Den Beste describes himself as "results-oriented" in his thinking. If you read his recent fascinating piece (a lengthy response to an email in which he deals with issues like the Enlightenment, the Reformation, Puritanism, and Islamic fundamentalism), you'll see that, in the case of the Muslim question, his focus is on the issue of Them killing Us. I admire Den Beste's pragmatism, and consider him a bit less triumphalist than Bill Whittle (whose essays I also enjoy). But is the Bush administration "results-oriented" in the same manner as Den Beste? I somehow doubt it. And it makes me wonder how relevant Den Beste's remarks ultimately are. Anyone can provide post hoc justifications; how well they correspond to what's actually been going on inside the Bush camp is another issue entirely. This is most plain to me when Den Beste makes claims about what he views as the Bush adminstration's real motives in Iraq. Not to say I disagree with him: in fact, I agree with a lot of what he's been saying. But can he truly speak with assurance about matters to which the public isn't privy?
Better predictions of complex events arise from having a good grasp of many factors. The more factors you consider, the more accurate your model for prediction will be. There's always the possibility of chaos, of course, and no prediction, viewed in detail, ever truly pans out as formulated. But questions of a prediction's rightness or wrongess are usually relegated to the level of least fine resolution-- the brute "yes/no," for example, of whether we can expect a decrease in terrorism against American interests over the next decade or three. Conservative thinkers like Whittle and Den Beste and Sullivan would argue yes; some would push the argument so far as to say that we're already seeing evidence of a dropoff. Liberals would probably argue no. In my case, my own lingering doubts about unintended consequences make me lean a little more leftward. I think it's far, far too early to speak with assurance about our future security (Den Beste actually agrees that things are tenuous right now). I do, however, strongly agree with the conservatives who say we cannot undertake this effort in Iraq and elsewhere in a half-hearted manner. My agreement stems partly from resignation: war happened, so now we have to move along with the plan.
There is an axiological aspect of this issue that begs consideration. Is it inappropriate-- even cruel-- to wish to impose our values on others? Do we have the right to consider ourselves in the right? Den Beste has this to say:
Let's be clear that the fundamental strategy behind this war isn't totally unprecedented, but its application to the specific situation among the Arabs and Muslims is certainly fraught with uncertainty. It is not at all clear that we'll succeed at this. However, I believe we have no choice but to try, because if we do not then eventually someone will start using nukes and a hell of a lot more people will die.
I am sufficiently convinced of the Enlightenment ideals which inspired the American branch of the movement that I do actually think that we can succeed, and that creation of a liberal democracy in Iraq actually will make the people there more happy and more successful. I do not think that the fact that these ideas will have been imposed on them is a significant problem.
I don't think it's a problem ideologically, since I do not accept the multicultural axiom that cross-cultural pollution is inherently bad. I also don't think it's a practical problem, in the sense that the Arabs will somehow reject these ideas solely because they are foreign.
The evidence to the contrary is too strong. Part of why the extremists hate us is exactly that our ideas have been filtering into their nations and have been embraced by their young people. Their young people want to wear fancy clothes and hang out at the mall and date whoever they want and choose their own husbands and wives. They want to go to night clubs and dance; they want to listen to loud music. This embrace of our culture by their young people is one of the big reasons that the extremists hate us, because we're seducing their young people away.
If the narrow issue is one of our own survival and self-interest, then I don't think any American, liberal or conservative, can argue that the propagation of American values is a bad thing.
But is "embrace of our culture" the same as "embrace of our values"? Could Den Beste et al. be conflating the two?
Whether Western values do in fact take root in societies that have undergone so-called "nation building" is, in my opinion, open to question. Since I'm living in Seoul, I'll use South Korea (and what little I know about Japan) as a case study.
Den Beste and others have highlighted countries like Japan and Germany and South Korea as positive examples of nation building. This argument was, in fact, trotted out as an early rebuttal to liberal worrywarts who, like me (please don't call me politically liberal, though I don't mind being accused of religious liberalism), had grave doubts about the consequences of war and nation building. If Den Beste's judgment is rooted in his estimation of how compliant these countries have become-- i.e., how resistant to war against the US-- then of course he is correct that nation-building has led to results in the US's favor.
Is a country's apparent docility the only yardstick by which to measure a situation, though? I won't argue against the case of Germany. Germany, being a Western country, already shares so many values with America that Den Beste's argument seems to hold. But Japan... or South Korea?
Evidence of Westernization is all around me here in Seoul. The architecture of the tall buildings, the design of the better PC-bahng (Net cafes), the clothing fashion, the pop music-- so much reeks of Western rip-off or borrowing. Korean women (and some men) undergo surgery to widen their eyes. Everyone seems intent on dyeing their hair so that it's anything but the natural black (which, by the way, I favor, ladies! black is beautiful!). Colored contacts, which I began to see in Seoul in the mid-90s, are still alive and kicking. American market penetration is deep in terms of fast food (and the concomitant fast food culture), cinema (American films still dominate the market, though Korean films are rapidly gaining prestige... mainly because the filmmakers have begun adopting American cinematic techniques), and even language. A Chinese classmate of mine complained last year about how modern Korean includes too many English loan words. Too bad! Free exchange of ideas can lead to linguistic cross-pollination and accelerated linguistic evolution. This is only natural. Merken Sie gut, Frankreich!
But do the above examples of Westernization constitute compelling evidence of a sea change in societal values?
I would argue not that no such sea change is visible, but that it's not nearly as deep as some would contend. The evidence of my daily interactions leads me to believe that Koreans remain thoroughly Korean in terms of their deeper values and outlook. The Confucian ethic probably has more to do with social cohesion in both South Korea and Japan than does some recently-internalized Western notion of "rule of law," for example. A lot of this is reinforced by the nature of the Korean and Japanese languages, which both evolved to accommodate notions of social hierarchy. And ask any disgruntled expatriate teacher in Japan or Korea about how Japanese and Korean bosses regard paper contracts! The role of logos in East Asian society is nothing like it is in the West, and that's a values issue.
A lot of this is also reinforced by something only tangentially addressed by Bill Whittle, but not by Den Beste at all (from what little I've read): the question of geographical spaciousness and how it affects values.
Bill Whittle's excellent two-part essay "Trinity" deals with what he considers to be the three most important factors at work in American cultural robustness: capitalism, freedom, and (Yankee) ingenuity. But his essay's introduction is a wonderfully romantic evocation of spaciousness. The big sky, the loud music, the long, open road, the rocket testing-- it's all about space.
Freedom as Americans know it implies more than just the soul's room to breathe. It's the body's room to breathe as well. Witness the problems that arise in packed American movie theaters, or in American traffic jams, or in broken-down subway cars during rush hour, when Americans are forced into situations where they find themselves jammed together and unable to do much other than vocalize. All that loudness, that exuberant individualism, very quickly curdles into its dark side: the churlishness, childishness, and selfishness of people who, thanks to a culturally reinforced sense of entitlement, keep on acting as if they exist in large tracts of personal space.
I see this as problematic, especially in crowded sections of America-- big cities, or the coasts in general, for example. Americans on the whole are not culturally prepared to deal with being confined-- with actual space restrictions. Violence in the big cities is emblematic of this problem, though the problem is by no means restricted to the big cities. The libertarian notion that we should all be free to do as we please contains a caveat that's hard for many Americans to swallow: so long as what we're not harming anyone else.
The calculus of harm is something we as Americans engage in all the time. We have to, as new situations arise. Do I blare the music out of my car stereo in a traffic jam, windows down, saying fuck-you to the world? There's always the risk that someone else will think they have the "right" to undertake physical action to keep me from enjoying my "right" to be an asshole. Same with movie theaters. How much whispering or talking is OK? When does it cross the border from annoying to rude to obnoxious?
I don't propose answers to these questions; I merely highlight them as examples of the problems that arise when a notion of personal freedom is too closely associated with the need for physical space in which to enact/enjoy that freedom. Freedom as Americans envision it includes more than a wide gamut of opportunities or a chance at self-fulfillment or liberty of self-expression; it inevitably includes a notion of physical space. This commodity, of course, isn't infinite.
Moving to what I really want to talk about, then...
Nation building doesn't strike me as having fundamentally changed countries like Japan and South Korea. Or, more accurately: if fundamental changes have occurred, they're not as far-reaching as we think they are. Korean Confucianism, despite its many flaws (I certainly feel for the women in Korean society), is in my opinion a better social system for people who live in crowded conditions than the American paradigm. Conformism and the social orientation that puts group before self, tendencies we Americans view with horror, have their salutary uses. Hierarchalism does as well. Should Korean society evolve so far toward the Western paradigm that Korean youth (quite a few of whom already travel in motorcycle gangs and so forth in imitation of some Western stereotype) end up living the same kind of loud lifestyle that Bill Whittle would praise-- windows open, music blaring, shooting madly down the expressway, middle finger gleefully aimed at the world? I am watching with interest as tiny, jam-packed South Korea's 48,000,000 people deal with Western (specifically American) culture, and with equal interest as America begins to realize that its population of 300,000,000 is... a helluva lotta loud people. The coasts are already getting crowded; some experts view the Eastern Seaboard as a proto-megalopolis.
Perhaps on some collective, atavistic level, the Korean and Japanese societies are so possessed of the Confucian meme that the meme will fight to survive as Western values encroach. I doubt we'll see the dethronement of Confucianistic thinking anytime soon-- not even as women continue to make their gains. I do foresee severe problems, though, as the values change while the population density remains high. By the same token, I foresee severe problems in America, as the values remain the same but the population density inexorably increases. Physical space, which varies in part as a function of population, is a crucial factor in the values question. Are Western (read: American) values good for everybody? Could American values have arisen as they did in a country that was more crowded or had far unfriendlier terrain?
What complicates matters further as we turn our attention to Islam/Iraq is that Muslim culture, despite Den Beste's protestations to the contrary, brooks no secularism. It might have been either VD Hanson or John Derbyshire on the NRO site who used the adjective "creepy" to describe the Muslim obsession with Western products, even as they publicly hold to a theocratic ideology and decry secularist values. I agreed with that adjective "creepy," initially, but I'm not so sure how apropos it is anymore. It occurs to me that many of the countries that have appropriated our products, our pop music, our way of doing cinema, etc., have not really appropriated our core values. The Muslim case is therefore not unique or surprising in that regard.
But since I do agree that there is something highly dysfunctional currently operating in many Muslim cultures, I also agree with Den Beste et al. that we should remain deeply committed to the current project: the simultaneous war on terror and nation building in Iraq. I do not, however, feel our chances for definitive success in Iraq are high. Asian culture probably has an easier time dealing with (or even ignoring) Western secularism because its view of religion isn't the same as the Judeo-Christo-Muslim one. Conceptual and ideological lines are not clearly drawn in Asian philosophy and religion; a Chinese can claim without self-contradiction to be Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian all at once. Mainstream Christians in East Asia have a harder time making such claims, but Christianity in Asia is by no means immune to the ambient syncretism of the region. But as one of my best friends observed, "Islam does not play well with others." This exclusivist tendency, very visible in the "great" monotheisms and quite prominent in both mainstream and fundamentalist Islam, has to be completely changed. Many people are calling for a "Muslim Reformation." Will Muslims listen to this call and agree?
Where Den Beste sees young Muslims grabbing at Western values, I see them grabbing only at the fruits of Western culture-- at products, certain behaviors, certain privileges taken for granted in Western societies, all without any deep appreciation for what underlies Western culture: a profoundly different value system that, in my opinion, must somehow be put in place in the Muslim world for our project to make any lasting difference. Can this be done top-down? I don't know. But even as I root for the project's success, I have to admit I'm not as confident as some people are.
I realize that it's not correct to speak of culture and values as if they are totally discrete phenomena. I guess what I'm trying to say is that East Asia isn't a good analogy for the Muslim experiment, both because the Asians in question have not been fundamentally altered by nation building, and because in a Muslim country like Iraq, the issue of how to inject secularism into a determinedly nonsecularist society is going to require much more thought and effort than our project leaders and optimistic pundits currently believe. While I agree on many levels with the likes of Den Beste, Sullivan, and Whittle, I also have to take their rhetoric with a grain of salt.
[UPDATE, August 15th: If you take a gander at Stephen Hunter's review of Kevin Costner's newest movie, "Open Range," you'll get a wee bit of confirmation of my thesis. Hunter writes: The myth that underlies "Open Range" is the primal American definition of freedom as space. We're a people who like to move about. When we see an empty horizon, we yearn to know what's beyond it.]
Monday, July 28, 2003
And finally, after several weeks, the dreaded "PAY ME" buttons have made their appearance in the left-hand column!
You're scared, aren't you, you little pissant. Think you can run? It's way too late for that, butt-puppy. Yo' ass is MINE.
Forsooth. And prithee wherefore this horrifying need of filthy lucre? thou askest whilst fingering thy hemorrhoids.
Let's just say the blog costs me a lot in terms of time-- a few hours a day. That's time I could be teaching private English lessons and earning 80,000 won an hour (well... I did do that once, having taught the Chairman of Jaeneung Gyoyook, Park Sung Hoon). I also pay usage fees since I'm doing this at a Net cafe, not at home. If you think my prose is flashy and you want to keep me fleshy, feel free either to donate via the PayPal "donation" button, or buy my book, Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms. My ass and I will thank you.
This isn't greed. It's more like... charity. Grad student = poor. Recently graduated grad student in religion = probably poor for life. If you think I'm going to get rich off this, consider: I have several tens of thousands of dollars in undergrad and graduate school debt (despite a very generous scholarship from CUA), and I'm hoping to learn enough Korean to apply to enter a doctoral program at UCLA (Korean Son Buddhism, what else?), where the living ain't cheap and the schooling ain't, either.
So money counts. Money's important. And no, I won't be using your hard-earned pognon to cultivate my melanomas and darken my nevuses in the Bahamas, or to go snorkeling in Fiji to grope porpoises, or to be one smilin' muthafucka' kickin' it in da Caribbean. Quite the opposite: I'll be digging my way, ever so slowly, out of my financial hole, liberating myself from the tight grip of a wet fiduciary sphincter.
Loyal readers are key. Even a single dollar tossed my way is fine by me. I'm not picky. And hey, if you donate over $1000, you become a Gold-level member (didn't want to say "Goldmember"), which guarantees you sexual congress with the Hominid be you animal, vegetable, or mineral. Like they said in "Aliens": Anytime, anywhere. (That's the official Ovine Violator's Motto. The great thing about sheep is that God made them pre-bent-over.)
You'll see an announcement like this every now and again (about money, not sheep hoochie). Don't be startled. Just know that the begging bowl is out, I'm on my knees, clacking on my mok-tak. It has to be this way.
If you like in-your-face scatological humor, check out my book. You can buy it through Amazon.com (though they take 55% of my cover price and charge me a steep yearly fee for the privilege of advertising on their site), or buy it directly from me by using the "buy now" PayPal button (I charge a cheap flat rate for shipping; it's win-win for you: I get more profit, you pay less for the same product than if you went thru Amazon). To use PayPal, you'll need to set up your own PayPal account, but that's not hard. Either way, check out the book's writeup on Amazon.
And nourish the beast.
Feed the Hominid.
Help him live to see another scrotumnal equinox.
The Hominid doesn't look like he's starving, true, but his wallet's bonier than Calista Flockhart after three foodless weeks in Death Valley.
Thanks in advance for your advance. I promise to put it to good use. Scout's honor. In the name of the rose.
And then the Hominid stopped scratching his ass long enough to sniff the breeze and smell a new scent-- a most un-ass-like scent, that led him here. (again, through the magic of Incestuous Amplification)
Definite conservative slant, though, so keep that in mind whether you skew liberal or conservative or diehard nondualist. Still, the Parapundit blog is an interesting read, even if it's not exactly "stepping out of the box" as it claims.
From Incestuous Amplification, a strange plug: "Kevin Kim is right when he says his blog is unfocused. His posts are all over the place, but in between the scatological humor you can find some astute observations about life in Korea, Korean politics, culture, and current events."
I love it. Thanks, man.
Don't really think I've made many astute observations yet (you and your list of bloggers are faster on the uptake), but gimme time. Gimme time.
The IA Kevin continues: "By the way Kevin, if you're reading this, let me know if you wrote this piece for the BBC. Of course I'm sure there are plenty of Kevin Kim's out there, but I'm hoping it's you so you may be able to shed some light on this."
Short answer: no.
I'm not disciplined enough to write journalism. It was enough of an effort to write papers in grad school. I took a journalism class my sophomore year in high school (well before the word processing era, when "cutting and pasting" meant paper, scissors, and whatever glue hadn't been sniffed), and haven't looked back since.
As for the Kevin Kims of the world...
I'm half-Korean; Kim is my mother's surname, given to me as a middle name. My last name's actually German (an Austrian surname, from what I gather), but Koreans (and many Americans) have such trouble with it that, in Seoul, I'm simply "Kevin Kim." I should probably be Kevin Kim in America as well, but I already feel guilty about glossing over my father's lineage while here.
Sorry for no private email, but if you're receiving a ton of mail, it may be easier just to flick over to this blog to see the reply.
Your loyal fan,
Accessorize your epistemology. (with thanks to Instapundit for the link)
Stephen den Beste offers "to provide a high level strategic view of the cause of the war, the reason that the United States became involved in it, the fundamental goals the US has to achieve to win it, and the strategies the US is following, as well as an evaluation of the situation as of July, 2003." I think I linked to this before, but he's polished the document and put it in outline form.
TIME asks Ted Kennedy: Have you seen the summer movie starring another Kennedy family member: Terminator 3?
Kennedy answers: I haven't seen Arnold's latest. He's a brilliant actor, but what makes Republicans think he could do well in politics? Of course, it's hard to argue with Arnold when you're hanging upside down by the ankles.
[NB: Actually, this quote's been around. I think Kennedy's recycling it, or Drudge is a bit slow to have picked this up so late. I got the link from Drudge's site, you see.]
TIME also notes that there's a low priority on finding the female relatives of Saddam. Hmmm. The hand that rocks the cradle... (also via Drudge)
AP via Salon: Armstrong WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations, man. Expect more French grumbling about Lance being pumped full of performance enhancers.
In the Washington Post: trouble for Condi Rice. BTW, "Iraq Flap" sounds like a new French dance.
Korea Herald: Another Clintonian move by Noh Mu Hyon. Remember Clinton's staff reshuffling during his first year in office? He eventually realized his mistake. Will Noh do likewise?
From CNN: Coup attempt in the Philippines!
I'm sure you've been wondering intensely about drunk driving "black spots" in Scotland.
Chosun Ilbo: Noh asks, "Why can't we all just get along?"
Korean students got onto an American military base and set fire to an American flag. Expect slow investigation from Korean police.
In an obvious effort to compete with North Korea, the South Korean government will create its own govt-sponsored website! Omninous line in the article: "The 'newspaper' will carry government agencies' policy statements and news written in traditional journalistic style." (JoongAng Ilbo)
Dong-A Ilbo headline: "Any Necessary Aid To Be Given To N.K. If It Abandons Its Nuclear Ambition." Question: when someone says, "OK, I've abandoned my efforts at X," how can you know that's true if no time has passed? Sigh.
Dong-A also talks about the Philippine coup attempt.
One of my professors at Catholic University, Dr. Charles B. Jones, has a paper in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics on issues in Chinese Pure Land Buddhism.
On the PCUSA site: Oh, how divisive gayosity is!
One rumor going around Catholic U. when I was a grad student there: the Holy Father is lucid only three hours out of the day. This puts him on a par with luminaries like Keith Richards and maybe Willie Nelson. From the Vatican website: a humble document titled "POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION ECCLESIA IN EUROPA OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS MEN AND WOMEN IN THE CONSECRATED LIFE AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL ON JESUS CHRIST ALIVE IN HIS CHURCH THE SOURCE OF HOPE FOR EUROPE."
I thought about writing a long discourse on the problem of using a translator program like Alta Vista's Babel Fish, but then I thought it might be better just to show you what it does to a language like Korean. What follows sounds like some weird prophecy shouted out by an incoherent foreigner (esp. when you read the last line). This was, in fact, a friendly email from my Korean/Hanja teacher. With all the extraneous references to "bedspreads," it sounds more salacious than it is. And what creature, exactly, came home to play with my teacher's nephew?
It came today to the house and with the nephew petty it played and the sleep which is pushed it slept. The life changed and the body did not get better petty. It will be like that and and it slept. And it happens and it eats evening and the petty spirit listens to recently and this mail it sends, well! the example bedspread. Only my talk plentifully? Your bedspread. The truth, the eastern country university saw? The day well will become and the bedspread. And anyway it appears Sunday not to be going to the anger poultry house. India also the hazard thing which wraps the burden which will go does accident, the printed style of writing... The tile it is given the older sister and if, the bedspread. The good season is not easier thought than every Sunday the bedspread which is not. It is like that but India it goes and to come again it wants going certainly. About under us who sprout the possibility of meeting Tuesday be and Joh keyss nine bedspreads, at the time of hour day liaison give.
Strange, eh? There's something eerily poetic about it at times, wouldn't you agree?
But remember to tread carefully: "About under us who sprout the possibility of meeting Tuesday be and Joh keyss nine bedspreads, at the time of hour day liaison give."
I've noticed that all sorts of possibilities sprout when I'm on the toilet. But if the Nine Bedspreads should attack me while I'm shitting, I'll be sure to liaison give.
A better, more human translation of the email excerpt:
I came home today, played a bit with my nephew, then went to sleep. Things are topsy-turvy, so I'm a bit under the weather. I took some medicine. Then I got up, had dinner, and thought to send an email. I've talked a lot about myself, haven't I!? So, did you visit Dongguk University? If you got a job there, that'd be great. Also... it looks like I won't be able to go to Hwagye-sa [Buddhist temple]. I still have to buy some items for my trip to India... have to help my older sis, you know. Going to temple every Sunday is harder than it seems at first blush. All the same, I'll be wanting to go to temple after I'm back from India. Anyway, if we can meet Tuesday, that'll be good. Call if you have time.
Sci-fi writers keep imagining that we'll have universal translators someday. Maybe so, but only if they possess human intelligence, including the absolutely necessary element of social awareness. Words themselves cannot be conceived of purely as discrete, immutable units that retain their meanings in some a priori, context-free manner. To the contrary, language is very context-bound, which is what makes communication both exciting and risky-- not to mention difficult for this first generation of translation programs. Current programs can't read minds; they don't understand intentions, and have no clue what sounds "natural." Strangely, though there are certain grammar rules that can be followed more or less consistently, these programs will violate those rules on a regular basis. What results is stuff like the quoted Babel Fish paragraph.
I will say that Babel Fish is slightly better with European languages, probably because of structural similarities, as well as notional similarities that have been programmed into it, probably unconsciously, by its designers. Languages like Korean, where so many words are constructed from a limited palette of similar-sounding syllables, require a bit more of an "artistic" brain for understanding, as the phonemes and morphemes are even more context-dependent than they are in English. If I say the phoneme "ee" to a Korean, for example, they'll have no idea what I mean unless I put it in a sentence. "Ee" could mean (1) a person's surname (Lee, Yi, Rhee, etc.); (2) lice; (3) the Sino-Korean number "two"; (4) the demonstrative particle meaning "this," as in the phrase "ee saram," meaning "this person," etc. If I say "ee" to an English speaker, what are my choices? They pretty much boil down to the sound "ee" itself, as when you tell a child, "Say EEEEEEEE!" to make them smile-- or open their mouth wider for tooth brushing. Or "ee," by itself, can refer to the letter E.
Notice, too, that "Say EEEEE" is also context-dependent. Am I trying to make a child smile (say, for photographs), or am I trying to persuade her to open her mouth to brush her teeth better?
These hurdles are absurdly simple for a human brain to overcome. But for a translation program with no pragmatic awareness, they are the source of amusing errors.
Go to Amritas for a neat linguistic discussion on "Yellow Claw." In the meantime, you might want to think about how this Babel Fish translation butchered the name of a Buddhist temple, Hwagye-sa (Flower + Mountain Stream + Temple, if I'm not mistaken), to give us "Anger Poultry House." I have to admit, I was rolling when I saw that.
One Korean word for anger is indeed "hwa." Vietnamese Thien (Viet. "Zen") monk Thich Nhat Hanh's book Anger is called Hwa in Korea. Popular seller, too. There is also a Sino-Korean character "gye," meaning poultry-- as in the Korean word "gye-ran," egg. The phoneme "sa" means dozens of different things in Korean, including "temple," "house," "person" (jeon-sa = warrior), etc. The problem is that, in Korean (and in Chinese, too), many Chinese-derived words are pronounced the same, meaning there are tons of homophones, but they are written as completely different Chinese characters. When you read Korean text (Korean is an alphabet, not a syllabary like Japanese, or a collection of characters like Chinese), you'll often see a Korean word followed by a parenthetical containing Chinese characters, to clue the reader as to the actual word being used. Which goes to show that, sometimes, even contextual clues aren't enough to help a reader understand what's being said.
And you wonder why it's taking me so damn long to learn Korean.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
A good friend of mine, Seth Nazzaro, has made some terrific cosmetic changes to this blog, which started off as a simple Blogger template. You'll have noticed that he's added a blogroll, which includes subject headings. Many thanks are in order to Seth. I asked him to preserve the "aesthetic minimalism" of the site, which is why it's still B&W and not something flashier.
If you go over to the Naked Villainy site, you'll see it's improved as well-- but since Mike actually knows how to code in HTML, he didn't need to outsource. Grrrrr. Mike's got a Mrs. Villain and two squirming little Villainesses, so I don't know where he finds the time to learn this stuff.
I'm currently in the PC-bahng, listening to a two-CD collection called "gregorian chillout" [sic]. Very calming. Almost helps me ignore the mosquitoes hanging off my calves, their abdomens swelling to golfball size as they suck me dry.
Incestuous Amplification strikes again, as Kevin (the IA Kevin, not yours truly; I'm too old and slow on the uptake) links to an interesting Forbes.com article about how Korean society's rapid leap into cyberspace is changing it-- for good and bad. It's amazing how much I find out about Korea by reading the English-language sources. Once my Korean gets good enough, I hope to start scoping the Korean-language sources. meanwhile, enjoy the Forbes link-- and read Kevin's commentary.
Check out the Incestuous Amplification blog for an article about US troop redeployment. I agree with Kevin, and not just because we have the same first name. Many South Koreans are going to complain. In my view, they shouldn't. South Koreans, on the whole, have been shouting anti-American slogans and loudly wishing for our troops to go elsewhere. Rumsfeld's plan is a first step in that direction. Maybe, at some point, we'll be off the peninsula entirely. These complainers should be happy we're moving.
1. South Korea should become ENTIRELY responsible for its own defense within 10 years. If North Korea truly is "one people," this shouldn't present a problem for South Korea. The immediate corollary is that the American military should leave the peninsula in that time.
2. South Korea, in the meantime, should be present at EVERY multilateral security meeting. Immediate corollary: NO such meeting should EVER disclude South Korea. If talks are bilateral, then they should be inter-Korean, NOT US-NK.
3. South Korea must develop a REALISTIC idea of how dangerous North Korea is. You cannot deal properly with your opponent if you either (1) underestimate him, or (2) appease him.
4. The United States must stop the dysfunctional pattern of acceding to NK demands, offering concessions, and receiving NOTHING in return from NK. "Peace at any price" is precisely how Hitler became powerful. Some argue that NK is not expansionist. Bullshit. NK is intent on expanding its ability to make and sell WMDs to any who will buy them. NK must be pushed. It must be allowed to become shrill. We (US & SK) need to begin testing the actual limits, even if this proves dangerous. I am not in favor of cavalier action, but I am also not in favor of appeasement.
And on the sixth day, God created Man's Best Friend, and Man was so delighted that he ate him straightaway.
I've decided that the best way to relate the interesting and unique experience of dog-eating is through an imaginary interview format. Imagine the questioner is Ted Koppel. He's sitting across from me now; we're using the set from the first "Matrix" movie, where Neo sits across from Morpheus and takes the red pill. Ted is wearing his usual slacks, but he's got the black leather Morpheus trenchcoat on, and the cool pince-nez sunglasses. I'm half-Korean and much more handsome than multiculti Keanu Reeves, because I carry my blubber well. As the interview begins, I'm slouched in my high-backed fauteuil, languidly digging out a large booger from my right nostril.
Koppel: Dog-eating, Kevin. What the hell were you thinking?
Kevin: I've been wanting to eat dog since I arrived last year. I simply didn't have the nerve until I returned to Korea this past June after a short trip to the States. While I was back in America, I went with my brothers to the Busch Gardens amusement park in Williamsburg, Virginia, and spent a weekday morning and afternoon conquering an old childhood fear: roller coasters. I'd hated roller coasters since elementary school, but this time around, I rode the four biggies: Apollo's Chariot, the Big Bad Wolf, Alpengeist, and the Loch Ness Monster. By the time I finished, I realized that screaming loudly and constantly was (for me) the key to braving a roller coaster, and-- poof. No more fear. I think I could ride a coaster again, and maybe even enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed the digital pictures that were taken of us as we whipped around certain high-gee turns. Most pics of me showed my enormous, fleshy face flapping fatly in the breeze. Amusing, but not quite amusing enough for me to purchase a copy of the pic for myself.
You might be asking yourself what the Alpengeist and Apollo's Chariot have to do with dog-eating. The answer is that, while I've been morbidly curious about dog-eating, I've also somewhat dreaded it. So tonight, I decided to tackle THAT fear, as well. Two fears down in one year. Not bad, eh?
I think what everyone wants to know is... would you eat dog again?
I'd ride a roller coaster again, but I doubt I'd eat boshin-t'ang again. It's not so much the taste of the dog meat-- I was actually OK with that. Rather, it was the taste of the stew's broth, which is spiced in a way that I found increasingly nauseating. To repeat: the meat actually tasted fine, and I'd probably eat that again. But boshin-t'ang is a stew; I may have to have my dog meat cooked a different way next time. The restaurant's menu, tacked to the wall like a huge Ross Perot chart, showed other dog preparations, none of which were stews.
[NB: "Boshin-t'ang" is a euphemism that translates roughly as "health stew," where "t'ang" means "stew"; all Koreans know the euphemism actually means "dog stew," though. The term for "dog meat is "kae gogi," where "kae" means "dog" and "gogi" means meat.]
All right. Shifting gears for a sec-- do you think my balls are too big? Be honest. My wife has been complaining lately about huge red welts on her buttocks from all the slamming. Frankly, I don't see that there's a problem.
Ted, I didn't come here to look at your scrotum, so please roll it back up and put it away. The cameras are still going. From what I can glimpse, though, you should probably lose a testicle-- or both-- to make life easier for your wife. Those bad boys're huge. Kudos.
[Ted puts his tackle away.]
What kinds of restaurants serve dog?
This was my first time in a boshin-t'ang-jip (a dog stew resto), so I don't know enough to generalize. I've heard some places specialize only in dog meat. This place's menu, however, also included standard dishes like samgye-t'ang (a kind of chicken stew, where the chicken is stuffed with ginger and rice) and samgyop-sal (a bacon-like cut of pork, often cooked and eaten with fresh vegetables and spicy pastes, wrapped taco-style in lettuce leaves).
How much does boshin-t'ang cost?
At this restaurant, which is about 50 meters from where I live, a single bowl cost me 7000 won, or about-- what-- 5 or 6 dollars at current rates. I don't know if that's average.
What's the ambience like? Are people secretive about their dog-eating?
From the outside, the place looked a bit like a hole in the wall, but it wasn't tucked in an alley or anything so sly. When I entered the resto, there were three men sitting at a Western-style table, and one lady serving as cook/waitress. Everyone was talking and laughing and watching the TV mounted high on the wall. Bright lights, clean interior. So no, this didn't feel secretive. The word BOSHIN-T'ANG is displayed prominently on the outside-- it's how I found the place, to tell you the truth. The men were kind of loud, but they were also done with their stew and half-drunk. As it turned out, one of the three could speak some English. Sort of. We got along better talking in Korean. I've heard that dog is a dish preferred by older Koreans. These guys looked to be late-40s, early-50s. Is that "older"?
In other words, the ambience felt pretty typical for a Korean restaurant. You had your choice of where to sit: Western-style tables, with chairs-- or Korean-style low tables, with butt cushions (and you remove your shoes before stepping into that area). Tables had gas ranges on them, which is typical at many Korean restos. There were covered plastic containers holding metal spoons and chopsticks. I received a metal cup and a .5-liter plastic bottle of ice-cold water. Also got a plastic-wrapped washcloth for handwashing. I noticed the place had an upstairs, but no one was up there.
So by Korean restaurant standards, I'd call the ambience at the boshin-t'ang-jip normal.
[NB: "Jip" is the Korean word for "house." Think: House of Beef, etc.]
Any thoughts on Brigitte Bardot and her campaign against Korean dog-eating?
Bardot is old and probably doesn't wash or shave her crotch. The infections from the fleas and crab lice inhabiting her pubic hair have adversely affected her mind and biased her against Koreans. Her whole spiel is the same as that of other ignorant bastards who say things like, "All Koreans are damn dirty dog-eaters!" My best Korean buddy has never tasted dog. My mother hasn't, either. Dog is out of fashion with the younger crowd, from what I hear. Most Koreans don't eat dog. Some do. Should I say something as unjust as "All French people love America," just because only a few of them do? Wouldn't the French be offended by such an odious generalization?
To be frank, I don't find Bardot worth dwelling on. If she wants to rave about something she can't change, let her rave. Here's an idea: she should eat her own legs in protest. Then her crotch can drag on the ground and provide her some relief from the fleas and lice.
Give us a chronology of the night's event.
I actually brought pen & pad to log this and take whatever notes I could. I arrived at the resto around 8:20. Ordered boshin-t'ang at 8:22. The stew came out of the kitchen at exactly 8:30. It took me exactly 30 minutes to eat my fill.
What was the serving format?
You mean, like, did it come out on a tray? Was it stew only, or were there side dishes?
Yeah, things like that.
My table was bare except for the silverware, gas range (which I didn't have to use), water cup & bottle, and my notepad. The lady brought out a tray of goodies that was more or less typical for Korean stews. She plopped down a little metal bowl of rice, an elliptical plate that had kimchi and ggakddugi (cubed turnip pickled kimchi-style), another small plate that had some sort of sauce made of sesame oil and ground red pepper, a plate of raw onions with red pepper paste, and the brown earthenware bowl of dog stew itself-- still boiling as she placed it in front of me.
So now we come to the good stuff. What was it like to eat dog meat?
Probably nothing like having sex with your wife, Ted.
[Both men share an insincere laugh, followed by an awkward silence. Ted decides to break the silence by ripping out a loud, ball-rattling fart. He laughs, more sincerely this time, at his own prowess.]
No, seriously. Give us the gory details, Kevin.
I'd been warned about the smell. When the stew arrived, I leaned over and sniffed it, and at least initially, the smell didn't bother me. The soup was a brownish color, and I didn't see any meat at first, just broth and vegetables-- mainly green onions and some other green vegetable that looked like spindly spinach, whose English and Korean name I've forgotten. You should know that, aside from the infamous doenjang-jjigae (a Korean soup whose base is a brown bean paste; many Westerners are turned off by its odor), most Korean stews are red, thanks to the gochu (red chili pepper) that is the principal spice. So boshin-t'ang was already somewhat special, based on this initial impression. When I took that first sniff, I could smell the dog meat, even though I couldn't see it.
The odor is hard to describe. I can't think of anything Western that smells like it. It's not an otherworldly smell by any means, but trust me-- you've never smelled a stew that smelled like this. It's a heavy odor. Not subtle. Not freakishly heavy-- not on the order of, say, Roquefort cheese. But heavy. It's there.
I dug around the bowl with my spoon, and immediately discovered a ton of meat. You probably want to know what cooked dog meat looks like in a stew. Well, I'll tell you. Dog meat behaves like any other meat if you stew it long enough: it gets chewier-- or softer, and even flakier.
I was expecting to find a skinless paw or something inside my bowl. Instead, I saw that much of the meat had been cut into fatty slices, the fat and meat layers alternating. Contrary to the remarks I'd read from other dog meat-eaters, I saw NO hairs jutting through the fatty layer. This was reassuring, because I sincerely doubt I'd have eaten as much stew as I did had I seen hairs.
The fatty slices of dog meat were colored a bit like dark meat on chicken-- but no, there will be no "tastes like chicken" revelation in this interview. Dog tastes... well, like dog. Strangely, I found that dog tasted exactly as I imagined it would. The taste is hard to describe. Dog meat has a taste to match its pungency. As you chew it, that odor-taste moves up into your nostrils. It's not chicken (or any other bird I've tried), nor is it like beef or pork-- or even horse. Dog is strong-smelling, like lamb, but again, dog tastes and smells nothing like lamb. I wish I could mentally transmit the gustatory and olfactory experience to you.
Because so much of the meat was fatty, it was quite soft when I chewed it. I tried eating the meat several ways-- straight from the bowl, with the stew veggies; wrapped in kimchi; paired with ggakddugi; smeared in the strange sesame oil/pepper sauce. As it turned out, the last combination was the tastiest for me; the sauce really seemed to go with the meat. I was surprised that dog meat didn't combine so well with kimchi (pickled cabbage; somewhat resistant, even crunchy, when you bite into it). Other foods-- pork, beef, even chicken-- go very well with it.
Out of curiosity, I asked the lady what parts of the dog I was eating. She said the meat came principally from two areas: the upper hind legs, and the muscular area below/behind the dog's rib cage that might best correspond to the flank or sirloin areas on a beef cow. From speaking with my Korean friend, I knew that dogs bred for eating tended to be of the ddong-kae variety (this literally means "shit dog," but usually refers to mongrels). Koreans do NOT simply chop up any old dog and gobble it.
There was one rather disconcerting piece of meat in my bowl, though, and I didn't eat it. It looked like it might have been a leg joint, but I don't really know. I let it drop back into the fragrant brown stew.
I ended up not finishing the entire stew, mainly because of the strange broth. Something just wasn't right about that odor, that taste. It didn't agree with me. But I had myself firmly under control; no nausea, no stomach rumbles. I knew I'd want a soda immediately afterward, and I knew I'd be able to drink it without fear of sudden regurgitation.
So I finished all the meat except for the mystery chunk, polished off the side dishes, talked for a bit with the three half-drunk 40- or 50-somethings, and lumbered out of the boshin-t'ang-jip. I got a Coke within five minutes, but discovered that this just made me belch dog fumes for the next half hour. Then I came to the nearest PC-bahng (Korean Net cafe), whipped out a review of "Terminator 3," and sat down with you, Ted.
Quite an adventure you had there, Kevin. We encourage our audience to write in with questions for Kevin about dog meat, or for me about my balls. Write us at email@example.com, and put "Hairy Chasms" in the subject line to get through the spam filter.
For more information on boshin-t'ang, try these sites. Type "boshintang" into Google, and you'll get a few articles.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Actually, I'm just stalling. You see, I did go out and eat dog stew this evening (I'm still digesting the experience), and am going to write about it. But I want to string you along with some filler, and since I happened to go out and see "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" with my buddy Jang-woong and his wife Bo-hyun earlier in the afternoon, I thought I'd meditate on that first.
T3 just came out here in Seoul-- it opened yesterday (Friday). It wasn't as awful as the previews made it look. (Perhaps the worst aspect of the preview was that stupid CGI "glimmer" they tried to put in Kristanna Loken's eye. It was in the preview, but absent from the theatrical release. Good. Test audiences must not have liked it.)
Time travel movies create a huge problem for themselves: when can the story stop? Once you establish that time travel is possible (via time machine or whatever conveyance), you're stuck in a loop. Terminator failed to kill your mom? No problem: send another. Still doesn't work? No problem: send another. Repeat as necessary (note that the "Terminator" series never considers the possibility of sending cyborgs further back in time).
Let me backtrack: when I say "create a huge problem," I mean dramatically speaking. The studio bosses don't give a crap: a loop means more sequels. More sequels mean more money. There's no problem for the bosses. But for those of us J-types on tenterhooks, biting our nails, suffering sexual impotence, and wondering when, oh when, we'll have a definitive conclusion to this cyber-apocalyptic saga, time travel movies like the "Terminator" series are problematic.
Meantime, let's chant it: Arnold is back! And the "I'll be back" line appears twice in the film, albeit in somewhat mutated form.
The female terminator (or "terminatrix," as Nick Stahl's John Connor calls her) is quite a badass with quite a bad ass. We don't get to see much of that lass' ass, alas, though we do get to watch her tits inflate early in the movie (it's to distract a policeman who's pulled her over, and to give all the Korean men in the theater a glimpse of something their girlfriends can never provide: truly fluffy meat-pillows).
The terminatrix's design presents a problem for me, though: she's an odd combination of Robert Patrick's T-1000 from T2 and a souped-up version of endoskeletal Arnold, but with built-in weaponry and heightened perceptive ability. The T-1000 made a certain weird sense: it could be liquid or solid, and it formed only simple, solid objects. The T-X, however, seems to be vulnerable in ways the T-1000 was not: its weapons, though they melt when the terminatrix changes form, can be damaged. The T-X can lose parts of itself (at one point she rips her torso away, animal-like, from her lower body to continue pursuit), and these parts, once separated, don't simply melt back into the rest of the body. Hmmmm. Best not to think too hard about this.
Nick Stahl and Clare Danes play well off each other as John Connor and Kate Brewster, though the script makes it clear that any heat will be reserved for later. Perhaps the worst actor of the bunch was David Andrews, who played Robert Brewster, Kate's father-- and a pivotal figure in the inevitable "rise of the machines." The casting director could have found someone a little more impressive than Bland, Generic, Bargain Basement White Guy (a category we'll add to Hollywood's racist litany of Generic Asian for All Occasions, Saintly-or-Satanic Black Dude, and Frenetic, Possibly High Latino). Kristanna Loken does a fine job as a ruthless assassin droid who confirms her kills by sampling the DNA of her victims through her tongue.
Arnold proves up to the herculean task of acting like a cyborg for the third time in almost twenty years. There's no "chill out... dickwad"-style line in this movie, but our Terminator does learn the expression "Talk to the hand!" from a gay stripper early on in the story-- right before forcing the stripper to disrobe sooner than planned. And just as "Attack of the Clones" had a running joke about Jedi losing their lightsabers, T3 has fun with Arnold's constantly disappearing sunglasses. The first pair he tries on, a set of Elton John-style star-shaped doozies, are a riot... and they get terminated, because as we all know, this is no girly-man Terminator. Arnold's Great Acting Moment does come, though, when the T-X infects him with a virus that contravenes his protect-the-humans directive. Arnold's touching portrayal of a machine's internal conflict escalates into a cathartic orgy of vehicle-bashing that would have left the audience weeping had Kevin Kline been in the role instead of Schwarzenegger.
T3's story mixes humor with pseudo-deep meditations about fate, and is surprisingly complex, emotionally. It's no surprise that, since 1999's "The Matrix" borrowed much of its back story from T1 and T2, there are obvious similarities between the plot and dialogue of T3 and "The Matrix Reloaded." But unlike "Matrix," there's no descent into Derridean differance or Foucaultian meditations on power. T3 struck me as thoroughly un-postmodern, and I mean that as a compliment.
T3 is, however, at times too much of a throwback to 80s-era filmic excess, and I was very conscious, sitting with a Korean audience, that I was watching an American flick. An early chase sequence put the terminatrix at the wheel of an enormous crane truck, with Arnold hanging off the crane, getting dragged through building after building. I don't know how much of this scene was CGI, but I suspect the buildings in question actually were demolished. Stuff like that reminds you how much money our studios have to play with. Here in Seoul, if you want to see a movie with a lot of destruction, you'd do well to watch a sci-fi anime like "Wonderful Days." In Korea, films don't have huge smash-up budgets.
There's the inevitable issue of female empowerment. Arnold, representing the old chauvinist school, gets his ass kicked by the new (maybe not so new) feminist school. There's no denying the T-X is stronger, quicker, and smarter than Arnold's cyborg (and, in her final primal-screaming moments, almost as emotional as the T-1000-- I loved that CGI sequence in T2), but I think we have to be careful about feminist tropes. Keep in mind that the T-X is the bad guy (so to speak). All that grrrl-y empowerment is misguided, and in the service of eeeeevil. Chalk up one for the chauvinists.
The director this time around is Jonathan Mostow, helming in place of ueber-ego James Cameron. I'm convinced Cameron could have made a better and more compelling film, but Mostow brings some nice touches of his own to the series. One thing to note is that Mostow-- unlike Cameron, who has an affinity for murky, blue-lit soundstages (cf. "Aliens," "Abyss," certain spots in "Titanic," and T2)-- is able to make broad daylight look depressing. This is important because the vaunted Judgment Day (the moment the Skynet AI becomes self-aware and launches its attack on humanity) begins in mid-to-late afternoon.
Mostow's humorous touches are all over the film as well, especially in some of the Terminator-versus-Terminator fight choreography. Watching machines abuse each other on such an operatic scale makes me wonder if this is what it's like to attend a monster truck rally. The special effects of T3 lack the pizzazz of its predecessors, though it was fun to watch Arnold put his own head back on after it had been stomped off.
It occurs to me all of a sudden that Arnold doesn't get to wield anything quite as impressive as the helicopter minigun that got him through much of T2. Shit. That's not good.
Sci-fi movies are full of corny moments and images, of course, and some of the "iconic" imagery of Arnold Doing His Thing in T3 was ridiculous. I offer, as Exhibit A, the scene with Arnold in the cemetery, blasting away at police while holding a shielded coffin that hides John Connor. Interesting subversion of death and life metaphors (cough). Exhibit B: the awkward, bulky, tank-treaded hunter-killer prototypes that chase John and Kate through a defense installation, which reminded me strongly of the ungainly ED-209 in Paul Verhoeven's excellent (if loopily Grand Guignol) "Robocop."
T3 offers some material that will be fodder for the inevitable T4-- a movie whose arrival is as assured as the coming-into-sentience of Skynet. I don't think I'm giving anything important away when I say that T3 ends with a rather beautiful shot, from a satellite's-eye view, of massive, all-out nuclear war. The movie ends on a note that's simultaneously depressing and timorously hopeful, and the story was just good enough to make me think that, yeah, I might want to see T4.
OK, I know you want to read about what it's like to eat dog. That's the next post. I promise.
On my buddy Mike's blog, he asks the question: "Would the world be a safer place had the 9/11 attacks not happened?" I think it's an open question. The "do you feel safer since we began our campaign in Iraq?" polls have been skewing mostly negative, so the perception, at least, seems to be that the world isn't all that safer. I don't know. Depends on whom you're talking with.
Check out Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.
Andrew Sullivan continues his assault on the BBC. And people are listening, I think. Sullivan has been pretty good at predicting things, and I agree the BBC looks ready to either fall or undergo some major revamping.
Salon goes after the Mormons. I think I might agree with Salon in this case.
Also found on Salon: short kids have hope to grow a bit taller through the magic of hormone shots.
In the Post: Bush sends troops to Liberia.
In other news, North Korea makes an earth-shattering declaration.
Stephen den Beste talks about why the current situation in Iraq (etc.) is more analogous to the Cold War than to World War II.
Herr den Beste also addresses an issue I'm sympathetic to: moving the US away from its shameful dependence on foreign oil. Steve disagrees with my school of thought. Check it out.
Merde in France continues to pick apart the anti-American political cartoons appearing daily in French publications.
As of THIS MOMENT (10PM, Seoul time), the Drudge Report is featuring pictures of Gray Davis. Every time I see this guy, I keep wishing Phil Hartman were still alive. This would be such rich fodder for Hartman's vast talents and sometimes-cruel wit.
The Washington Post by way of Drudge: Japan quake. Me, I didn't even feel it. I blame my large ass for absorbing the shock, though.
NYT: Gee, ya think? (Drudge)
Arabs aren't happy that the Hussein Boyz were put on display. They call it barbaric. Uncivilized. Cruel. Shocking. Sort of like the adjectives applied to 9/11. (Drudge)
By the way, I think many Arab countries need gun control laws like we've got here in Korea. You don't see thousands of Koreans firing into the air in celebration when things go their way. That, to me, is a mark of civilization. (Drudge)
I reported to you, a while back, that Clint Eastwood went on a rampage and killed several people with his car. Well, it looks like he's at it again. (Drudge)
I'm not sure I dig the Amritas blog's obsession with comics and anime. I'm much more into the linguistics. But if you're into comics and such, check the blog out.
Meanwhile, at the Onion: a nasty discovery.
Hit AtomFilms and watch the Little Ninja Series, or the winners of Star Wars fan films... or whatever suits your fancy.
In the Scotsman: "Now There's an Unusual Habit for an Abbot."
Noh Mu Hyon and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark have a pleasant chit-chat. (Chosun Ilbo)
The controversy of US troop redeployment on the peninsula: JoongAng Daily's perspective.
An amusing essay by a Korean re: sexism in language. (Dong-A Ilbo)
[NB: Korean newspaper links expire quickly.]
Harry rounded the bend in a corridor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and found himself nearing the infamous girls' toilet that housed the entrance to the dreaded Chamber of Secrets-- which had since been emptied of horrors and converted into an enormous strip joint, The Witch's Tit, featuring a Fridays-only wizard band, Steel Brassiere.
"Oh, God... Oh, yes... Harder... Harder... Ohhhhh, Jeeeeesussssss..."
It was an unearthly moaning, and Harry knew at once that this was the voice of Moaning Myrtle, the ghostly girl who haunted the toilet cubicle in which she'd been killed decades ago. Harry sped up, passed the toilet, and decided to head to the Gryffindor common room.
But the moaning seemed to be following him. Harry slowed down, confused. Was Myrtle stalking him?
"Oooooh, I like it when you do that... oh, no... don't stop... please..."
Harry couldn't stand it. "Myrtle? Myrtle, is that you?"
Students were passing Harry, and Myrtle wouldn't stop moaning.
"It's better if I sit like this and rock... Oooooooooooohhhhh... God, that's so goooooood..."
Harry blushed. Students were staring at him and snickering. Why?
Was Myrtle's voice coming from--
"Myrtle!" Harry stage-whispered. "Are you by any chance... inside me?"
"Oh, hi, Harry," Myrtle gasped, before plunging into another series of low moans. "Why didn't you tell me you were so good?"
Harry whirled around, hoping to catch a glimpse of Myrtle, but she was nowhere to be seen.
"Myrtle, I don't understand. Where are you?"
"I'm up your arse, Harry. I hope you don't mind."
Harry blanched. He was mortified. Moaning Myrtle was up his arse?
Harry broke into a run, fervently hoping no one had heard what Myrtle had said. "For God's sakes, why, Myrtle? What the hell are you doing in there?" Harry ran to a deserted corridor and stopped, panting.
"You should keep running, Harry. I really like that. It... well, it stimulates me," Myrtle cooed.
"Right, that's enough, Myrtle! I want to know what you're doing up my bum!"
"Oh, that." Myrtle giggled. "Harry, did you know that your meat-heavy diet has produced some delightfully enormous colon polyps? I'm having sex with them. Would you mind walking again? They move around, you see..."
Harry was furious. His hand clawed for his wand, but he realized in time that he'd never dare cast a spell at his own fundament. The memory of Alastor Moody's warning about wizards losing buttocks was too fresh in his mind.
But another idea came to him. A non-magical solution. Harry remembered that, in his fourth year, Myrtle had said she was occasionally flushed into the lake by unknowing students. If a toilet flush could propel her through metal pipes...
"Harry? Harry, what are you do-- Are you attacking me? What's that-- Oh, no! OH, THAT'S SIMPLY HORRIBLE!!"
Right there in the deserted corridor, Harry Potter had dropped his pants and was squeezing with all his might.
"No more than you deserve, Myrtle!" he cried, every ounce of his strength channeled into driving Myrtle out of his system.
And with a horrible, wet, exploding sound, Moaning Myrtle found herself propelled out of Harry's body, along with last evening's dinner, which seemed to have assumed a shape that was somewhere between flobberworm and basilisk. She wailed in despair.
"Ha ha!" shouted Harry in angry triumph, stench rising around him. "Take that, you rogering ectoplasmic deviant!"
But Harry's triumph was short-lived. As he did a half-nude victory jig, he suddenly realized that none other than Professor Snape was standing there, lip curled in grim satisfaction. Harry stopped dead, his manhood shriveling in fright, as Myrtle sank through the floor, unnoticed.
"So, Potter. It appears that even basic hygiene is beneath you. Fifty points from Gryffindor, and your name, face, and misdeed are to be posted in every House common room for the next five days. In the meantime, you are in detention, effective immediately. No, you may not put your pants back on. You will clean this mess up with the materials you have on hand."
Harry's lower lip trembled. "You mean... I have to clean up my own crap with my... my clothes?"
Snape smiled his most hateful smile. "I stand corrected, Potter. You may use only your tongue. Carry on." Snape bent over, picked up Harry's pants and underpants, turned on his heel and left.