Keeping in mind that my walk with Brian two weekends ago was around 28K steps, all told, tonight's walk, which passed the 20K-step mark, wasn't that much shorter, yet resulted in no toe pain and no blisters. I have a theory as to why.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Keeping in mind that my walk with Brian two weekends ago was around 28K steps, all told, tonight's walk, which passed the 20K-step mark, wasn't that much shorter, yet resulted in no toe pain and no blisters. I have a theory as to why.
Monday, March 27, 2017
My boss at the Golden Goose is getting antsy about the travel dates for my peninsular walk. I had originally suggested May 8th to the 28th to him, and he hadn't said much except for a vague grunt about those dates' acceptability. Now, several weeks later, the boss has a clearer picture of what lies ahead, publishing-wise, and he wants me back in the office well before the end of May, so the 28th is no longer viable. We renegotiated my walk dates today, and I now have a longer window during which to walk, but the dates have been shifted: April 24 to May 22. This gives me nearly a month to do my walk, which ensures I'll be done with days to spare. Lately, as I stare at the relevant maps, I've been thinking that 23 days won't be enough: 25 days will be closer to what I'll need. Some of those stretches along the Nakdong River, at the very end, look long, indeed, between certification stations. I might be able to straddle such distances in a single day, but at the cost of walking several hours more than anticipated. If at all possible, I don't want to walk more than seven hours per day.
The major problem with starting much earlier is that this cuts down on training time, but I suppose I'll just have to make do. I'm behind on my training, anyway, so I'm already making compromises with the schedule I had laid out.
If we learned anything from the 2016 election, it's never trust the polls. Polls are saturated with bias that soaks deep into the data-gathering methodology, which is how a site like Nate Silver's could end up so spectacularly wrong about Trumpenhill. But does this hard-won wisdom apply beyond the American situation to places like France? The French can be frustratingly nonlinear and far more exceptionalist than Americans can be, which may itself be a reason not to trust current polling in France. According to many French surveys, Marine Le Pen is en tête de queue for the first round of the French presidential election in April, but those same polls are saying she'll be losing big in the second-round elections in May (by May 7, election day, I'll be a few days into my walk, but I'll try to stay current via cell phone). I really have to wonder how valid the second-round prediction is, especially in the wake of failed predictions about both Brexit and Trump.*
We'll see soon enough. The first round is barely a month away. As the monkey said when it laid its tail across the train tracks: "Won't be long now."
*If you reply that there's also reason to question the validity of the first-round prediction, well, I'd agree. After all, anything goes.
Saw the above image on Gab, with a link to here.
The image was paired with a John Muir quote:
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
I suggest you open another tab in your browser, queue up a Byron Talbott cooking video on YouTube, then stare at the above image while listening to Talbott cook.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
When I bought my Rockports way back in, oh, 2011 or so, they set me back nearly $80. They fit perfectly on the first try and never needed to be broken in. I wore them faithfully for years, and recently, I wrote about getting them repaired.
And now they're gone.
Perhaps this is my fault, but I think the fucker who actually threw my shoes out is more at fault than I am. I had originally brought my New Balance walking shoes to work in a plastic shopping bag in order to take them out to the shoe guy up the street during lunch. While I was with the shoe guy, he insisted on making me wear my New Balances to show me how different they would feel once the insoles had been removed. I had no choice but to take off my Rockports and stuff them into the plastic shopping bag.
I wore my New Balances the rest of the day, and because I had been planning to walk that night, I left my old, battered Rockports—still in the shopping bag—next to my desk, thinking I would take them back home the following day. The next day came... no Rockports. Because I know my memory often plays tricks on me, I sat and thought hard about whether I had perhaps taken my shoes home with me the night before, but that was impossible: I had gone for a walk without the extra encumbrance of those shoes. The only possible explanation for my shoes' disappearance was that the old guy who cleans our office at night had seen the bag next to my desk, assumed it was garbage, and thrown the shoes out.
So I wrote a note in Korean and left it where the cleaning guy would see it. The note basically said, "The shoes you threw away were NOT garbage. If possible, PLEASE get the shoes back to me." I went home and checked around my place to see whether my shoes had somehow ended up in my apartment... nope. Nada. I hadn't hallucinated.
The following morning, I got an apologetic note in return, which somewhat disingenuously said that my shoes had been placed "in the garbage" (which wasn't true), so the guy had thrown the shoes out. The reply note went on to say that the cleaning guy had tried to look for my shoes, but they had already been taken away. The note finished with a promise never to make that mistake again. I bitterly noted that the custodian had misspelled "sorry" ("재송합니다"). A man who can't properly spell "sorry" probably shouldn't be expected to tell garbage from not-garbage. Perhaps this was all my fault, after all.
I'm upset to lose such a nice pair of shoes. Those old Rockports were the right width for my feet, whereas my new Rockports need some stretching. It feels as though nearly a hundred bucks went down the drain, but then again, those shoes were—apologies for the pun—on their last legs. I'm just glad that the guy hadn't thrown away my new pair of Rockports.
Anyway, lesson learned: if I leave an important bag on the floor in my office, I'd better tag it as NOT GARBAGE, or it'll get chucked out by our clueless custodian.
As far as items I can find in Korea go, I have only two things left on my shopping list. Yesterday and today, I got my first-aid kit, a surprisingly cheap tent footprint, a multitool (which I convinced myself I needed to buy, but might not actually need on the trail*), new cell batteries (sold somewhat under the counter), and a portable cell-battery charger that can charge a phone three times before the charger itself needs to be recharged.
The only two items left for me to buy are that damn hanging scale (the scale store was closed today, and I was too late to go there yesterday) and those reflector strips, which proved amazingly hard to find in both the Jongno and Euljiro districts.
One good point about today's shopping trip was that I got discounts. The tent footprint was tagged at W35,000; I got it for a cool W17,000, which is more than reasonable for an item that often retails in the States for anywhere between $30 and $60. The multitool was listed at W45,000, but the seller gave it to me for W40,000. I'm glad I got those discounts because the dude at Jeonja Land gave me no discounts at all for the cell batteries and portable charger.
I may pop out to Jongno early tomorrow morning to visit the scale store before going to work. Whoever runs that store is a lazy bastard: every time I've tried to go there, the store has been closed, either because it was after 4PM or because it was Sunday.
*One guy I spoke with in 2008 told me that, from his outdoors experience, a multitool was more useful to him than a knife was. I had brought a combat knife and a pocketknife along with me in 2008; the combat knife proved utterly useless, but the pocketknife came in handy on multiple occasions. A multitool is like a pocketknife, but its main function is as pliers.
If you're a regular viewer of the Styxhexenhammer666 channel, as I seem to have become, you'll have noticed that Styx (whose real name is apparently Tarl) is generally a well-spoken individual, but he's not perfect: among his verbal quirks are (1) a tendency to mispronounce certain words or expressions, and (2) a tendency to overuse—or at least to reuse—certain pet phrases, some of which are rather idiosyncratic. So why not make a drinking game out of these verbal tics, right?
You'll need three degrees of alcohol: beer, some midrange drink, and very high-end booze (i.e., super-strong and super-expensive). Let's call these, from weakest to strongest, First Degree, Second Degree, and Third Degree.
Next, you and your group will need to watch one of Styx's most recent videos so that none of you knows what's going to come out of Styx's mouth. If you go back through Styx's video archive, you might already know the content well enough to know what's going to be said.
Take a drink of First Degree whenever you hear any of the following:
"something like that"
"something along those lines"
"things of that nature"
"how in the hell"
"why in the hell"
"fuck" or "fucking"
"neo-con" or "neo-cons"
"shill," "shills," or "shilling"
any rhetorical question beginning with "What" or "Why" or "Do you (really) think"
any mention of Rand Paul (sometimes mentioned simply as "Rand")
any mention of "John McLame"
Take a drink of Second Degree whenever you hear any of the following:
"overarcing" (when Styx means "overarching")
"the gig is up" (when Styx means "the jig is up")
"Angela Merkel" pronounced incorrectly with a soft "g"
"figger," "figgering," or "figgered" instead of "figure" (dialect)
misusing the word "denigrate" (which means "criticize, belittle, disparage," not "damage" or "undermine," as Styx often uses the word)
Take a drink of Third Degree whenever you hear any of the following:
"a shit-fuck" (do not drink First Degree because of the "fuck" in "shit-fuck")
any moment when Styx says "Mmm" after drinking something on camera
When you finish one video, queue up another and keep playing until one of you vomits and/or faints. This person is the first loser. The winner of the game is the last one not to puke or faint.
(This is all in good fun, Styx. We all have verbal quirks.)
I'm not the biggest fan of Byron Talbott and his frou-frou recipes that often seem like the opposite of comfort food, but this looks undeniably good:
I was surprised that the lasagna noodles could withstand the baking and still remain crispy, despite all the sauce and cheese.
(Try not to snicker at the porn music.)
Saturday, March 25, 2017
The live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast" is out in Korea, but I have no particular desire to see it. I've heard it's going to crush the American box office, yet somehow, I'm just not interested. I never saw the cartoon version, either, and I can't say that my life has felt incomplete as a result. If I recall correctly, there was once a TV-movie version of the story in which George C. Scott played the Beast, with fangs and a piggy nose. I did see that version, but I no longer remember much of it, except for a moment in which the lady rejects a blue rose offered by the Beast, justifying her objection with the bizarre (for me at the time, before I understood how women can use words to flay and wound) claim that "blue is an ugly color." (For those of us who have forgotten the 70s-era production: YouTube to the rescue.)
Sorry, Emma Watson, but you'll have to soldier on without my patronage. I don't hate you or the story; I'm simply not interested.
Friday, March 24, 2017
With thanks again to my on-base benefactor Abel Magwitch, I've got two boxes of MREs coming, along with a "map pen" for measuring distances on a map. I've also got one final round of things to buy here in Korea, and those things are:
1. a "footprint" for my bivy sack (I might make one if I can't find a cheap one to buy)
2. a standard first-aid kit, which the local Costco sells (last I checked, anyway)
3. a portable cell-phone charger and 2 cell batteries
4. a hanging scale for luggage
5. a set of reflector strips for safety
I'll stroll through the Jongno/Euljiro districts to see about that footprint. Camp stores in Korea might or might not sell footprints separately, but everything here is far more expensive than in the States. I've seen some sites offering tutorials on DIY footprints, so I might just go that route, or I might simply buy some 6-mil plastic sheeting and cut it to size.
The first-aid kit should be easy to obtain: that's a Costco purchase, unless the kits have rotated out of stock for the season. I don't think they'll have disappeared, though: I've seen trekking poles on the warehouse shelves month after month, regardless of the season, and I think the shelf-logic will extend to other camping/outdoors-related items.
The cell batteries and portable charger will be a Yongsan Jeonja Land purchase. There are apparently service centers, close to where I live, that sell the phone batteries, but I suspect Jeonja Land will be cheaper overall, especially if I buy two batteries plus the charger from the same seller. When you buy several items, negotiating the price downward is a bit easier.
I'm taking a gamble with the hanging scale, as I'm assuming that that scale store—the one that was closed when I learned about it last time—actually has what I'm looking for. I may end up walking away with an analog version of the scale.
Then there are the reflector strips. Where to buy those...? Probably the Jongno/Euljiro area again, but also any of the big stores that have a sports/outdoors section in them: E-Mart, Home Plus, etc. I won't need the strips for walking at night, although nighttime walks are possible if things go terribly awry. No, the reflector strips are more to protect myself whenever I'm inside a tunnel, as I know will happen at several points throughout the walk: some of these tunnels will be bike-only, which isn't so bad, but other tunnels will have cars going through them, and I'm not sure whether those tunnels will also have pedestrian walkways. Here's hoping they do. Or, hey: if a place is selling those nifty reflector triangles, I might slap one or more on my backpack and wear another one on my front, hanging it from a cord like a rapper with his obnoxious bling. Please don't mow me down.
I'll be engaging in this final paroxysm of shopping tomorrow, i.e., Saturday. If I do get the hanging scale, I'll be using it to weigh my fully prepped backpack, at which point I'll have a better idea as to what can stay on the walk and what must go. I'm shooting for a total pack weight of 35 pounds (15.9 kg), not including water, which can be up to another 7 or so pounds (my CamelBak ripoff holds 3.5 liters). Even with the near-gallon of water, the encumbrance is going to be much lighter than the 60 pounds (27.2 kg) I'd carried on my big walk—a reflection of hard lessons learned on the road in 2008.
Hilarious news from the skating world: ex-Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi tweeted encouragement to fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, ending her tweet with "break a leg," a poor choice of words given the 1994 attack on Kerrigan, in which assailant Shane Stant struck Kerrigan's knee with a police baton. The Twitterverse apparently erupted at Yamaguchi's gaffe, but Yamaguchi hasn't yet deleted her tweet, probably because she and Kerrigan are friends, and Kerrigan is sensible enough to know what Yamaguchi meant.
Think you're having a bad day? Well, toughen up, buttercup. I guarantee that your day wasn't as bad as this poor bastard's.
Pic found here. I've put this up as much for my own benefit as for yours. Very, very little in life is as bad as having a bull's horn shoved up your πρωκτος.
The big news coming out of South Korea is that the Chinese company Shanghai Salvage has raised the remains of the Sewol, the ferry that infamously sank in 2014, killing around 300 people, most of whom were young students. Nine people are still listed as missing from that horrible incident; there may be some hope that their remains will be found in the ship, but I'm not optimistic. The disaster occurred in April, so it's been almost three years, which is plenty of time for a body to disintegrate, especially underwater, with abundant sea life. If remains are found, though, I suppose such a finding might provide a sense of closure, however painful, for families who have waited all this time to learn the fates of their loved ones.
Personally, I'm curious as to why Korea hired out to China to get this salvage done. Does Korea not have its own equipment? Would it have been too expensive for Korea to do its own salvage? This older article talks about the hiring of Shanghai Salvage while skirting the reasons why a Chinese firm was hired in the first place. Interestingly, the article says the salvage company will "give top priority to the complete recovery of the remains of the nine missing passengers." I wish the salvage crew good luck with that.
UPDATE: a possible answer to my question can be found in this article, which notes that who would conduct the salvage was determined through a bidding process that included Korean salvage companies. Judgment criteria included the salvage tech on offer and the salvage company's asking price. Conclusion: this is nothing for me to fret about.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Dessert: granola with blueberries and milk. This tasted about as ordinary as it sounds, but I reserve special praise for whatever powdered milk it is that Mountain House uses: it didn't taste like typical powdered milk at all. There was no processed aspect that got in the way of the impression that this was simply granola, blueberries, and natural milk.
Behold: chicken and noodles. It sure looks as if there's a hell of a lot of chicken, doesn't it? The chicken began life as freeze-dried meat, each chunk light as a feather, so when the hot water hit the package contents, all the chicken pieces floated to the top, obscuring the pasta. After ten minutes' waiting, the chicken-and-noodles dish was ready to go, and it tasted as good as I'd thought it would. A gravy had formed, and the chicken had reconstituted itself to the point where each chunk, when bitten into, felt like natural meat. The pasta was a bit softer than al dente after the ten-minute soak, but still hearty and good. The contours of the bag dovetailed well with my spoon, allowing me to scrape out all the little stray orts of meat and noodle and sauce. Sadly, the whole thing was gone in a few minutes, but the meal left me satiated.
I have hiking food to spare, so I thought I'd test out some Mountain House freeze-dried today. The prep is easy: a pint of hot water into the chicken and noodles, then stir and seal; a half-cup of cold water into the blueberry granola, then stir and seal. Wait about ten minutes in both cases (depending on the bag, wait time can vary from 8 to 12 minutes; 10 is a good average).
If Mountain House ever asked me to be a paid shill for their food, I'd say yes in a heartbeat, for such is my belief in its quality. I like these meals a hell of a lot more than I like MREs, even though MREs are more filling (1200-1500 calories for a single MRE; about 650 calories for a 2.5-serving pack of Mountain House dinner). My only reproach is that the stated serving sizes are a joke; each 2.5-serving bag holds barely a single serving of food for a growing Kevin. It's enough to quell the hunger pangs, but not enough to put me into digestive slumber.
Each bag of food weighs a bit more or a bit less than 5 ounces (142 g), respectively—easy to carry in a backpack. Water shouldn't be an issue, although there will be many moments when the trail will either go up a mountain or pull away from whatever river it's following.
Am looking forward to lunch. As the package says, I'll be savoring the adventure.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
With sincere thanks to Abel Magwitch, my benefactor-on-base, for collecting my ordered items, here is the first round of hiking/camping gear that I got from Amazon and REI. Click on the pic to enlarge; right-click and "view image in new tab" to see at full size.
Let's walk through the items you're looking at. Ignore the Costco bag in the back.
Starting from the left:
Dark-grey convertible hiking pants (you can zipper off the legs to make shorts, and the pants' material doesn't darken when wet—one reason why I've long loved this particular brand of hiking pants) sit atop a bucket of scrumptious Mountain House freeze-dried meals. I'll be taking only a few of those meals with me; as you recall, I'll be eating actual, substantive, rib-sticking meals only every other day, and I'll be taking along a combination of MREs, Soylent, Survival Tabs, and Mountain House freeze-dried meals.
Moving rightward and inward:
The large, white box is full of Soylent, and those powder packs are heavy. Each pack weighs nearly a pound (15 ounces, or 425 grams). I don't see myself taking more than one of those bags along with me. Taking two would be insane, especially since MREs are going to be both heavy and bulky. In terms of prandial enjoyment, I rank Survival Tabs lowest (they taste like congealed powdered milk because they're mostly milk solids; I tried some already). Next up the flavor totem pole is Soylent, followed by MREs, which at least have the virtue of being recognizable food. At the top are the Mountain House meals, which are lightweight and, when mealtime comes around, super-easy to prepare. Survival Tabs—I'll take four tablets to replace a single meal—will be what I eat on non-meal days so that I don't simply starve. I'll be taking seven or eight Mountain House meals plus two or three MREs, plus a bag of Soylent and two bags of Survival Tabs. I definitely won't starve.
Next up, we've got my foam roll in the back: that'll be my camp mattress, insulating me from the cold ground, which is what spongy stuff is good for. In front of the foam roll, you see the long, cylindrical Grayl purification system, which I'm eager to try out over at the Yangjae creek in a few days. The large orange cartridges are the filtration system itself: one for the Grayl cup, one as a spare, which I probably won't need to take along with me since a single filter is supposed to last for several hundred French-pressings.* To the right of the orange Grayl filters, you see my super-simple Coleman mess kit, 75% of which I won't even really need: I bought the kit mainly for the covered mini-pot, which holds nearly a pint of water—water that I'll be boiling for my Mountain House meals. That tiny little thing tucked into the corner behind the mess kit is my backpack's rain shroud—nice and compact. My pack is fairly rain resistant, but the shroud offers more protection for when I'm camping and it's raining all night, or for those times when it's just non-stop rain all day long.
The red-and-black bundle is a compression harness holding my el-cheapo sleeping bag. I might not even need a sleeping bag if the weather in May is going to be largely warm and pleasant. The much-smaller gray bundle in front of the sleeping bag is, incredibly, my bivy bag, i.e., my shelter. Pretty tiny, ain't it. It weighs a bit under two pounds (863 grams, to be precise—almost exactly 1.9 pounds), and I can't wait to unfurl it and test it out in the park next door to my building (assuming the crotchety ajeossis who might or might not be supervising the park say it's OK to set up camp for a few minutes). The grayish packet between the sleeping bag and the shelter contains my Survival Tabs. Lastly, the bright-blue box is a box of alcohol wipes, which I'll probably repack into a Ziploc bag for the trail.
Now I need to tally up which of my ordered items have arrived and which haven't. I also need to go out and buy (1) a first-aid kit (which Costco sells), (2) a hanging scale (which I'm hoping that scale shop in Jongno will sell), and (3) cell-phone batteries plus a portable charger (which I'll buy in Yongsan's Jeonja Land, the huge electronic-products complex).
At this point, the heaviest thing in my backpack is looking to be the food. I'm going to have to figure out how I'll be packing that.
And that's all for now. More walk-related thoughts to come.
*There's also the matter of actually, physically obtaining water. I'll be walking close to rivers pretty much the whole time I'm out on the trail, except perhaps for the Saejae section. That said, there's no reason to assume that I'll be able simply to walk up to the riverbank and dip my Grayl into the flowing water. The bank may be much higher than the water; it may be lined with treacherously uneven rocks; there could be other problems that make accessing the water a less-than-straightforward task. I'm thinking the simplest solution to this problem would be something like a gallon jug with the top cut off so that the jug is almost a scoop, with a long cord tied to the jug's handle so that the jug can be thrown or lowered into hard-to-reach water. Dip the jug in, pull a few liters of water out, then run it through the Grayl. It does occur to me that the Saejae part of the trail will require a bit more planning than the other parts, since it's the part most likely to run up and over the Baekdu Daegan range, taking me away from water sources like rivers. There might be creeks or rills along the way uphill, but it's better to trust in Murphy's Law and assume there won't be any convenient succor from Mother Nature.
Here's an inspiring story about a retired US Army veteran, Ernesto Rodriguez. He's walking a symbolic 2200 miles across the mainland US for the sake of suicidal veterans, who kill themselves at the depressing rate of 22 per day. Rodriguez walks 16-20 miles per day with a 60-pound pack on his back and an American flag. He asks for nothing more than a meal and lodging for the night, and he wants no money. Any contributions go straight to the cause of suicidal vets. I wish him a good journey, and I hope he raises awareness of his chosen cause, which is a good one.
NB: other vets have been doing similar walks. See here.
*"MACUSA" stands for "Magical Congress of the United States of America," the US's version of the British Ministry of Magic.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Weirdly, my left foot hurts just as much but is showing no blistering or purpling. I'm able to walk without limping too overtly, but I don't think I'll be doing my creek walk tonight. Will more likely switch to building-staircase work.
I've had blisters like this before, and I've found the best thing to do is simply to walk on through them. There's a lot of nonsense literature out there about moleskin and so on, but I find that Mother Nature is enough of a self-correcting system that you can just keep on walking whether the blisters pop or not. If they pop, just don't mess with them.
Had you asked me yesterday afternoon whether I'd be able to stand 20-some days in a row of hiking that might produce such blisters, I'd have been tempted to say, "Hell, no." Today, after a day's rest, I can answer in the tentatively affirmative. I might be limping slowly by the end of each day, and a projected six-hour walk might stretch into ten hours (of walking plus taking breaks), but as long as I can rest for most of a day between walks, I think I'll do just fine, and my feet might even toughen up as we go along.
Brian had floated the idea of wearing walking sandals yesterday; it's a thought, especially for my pinky toes, but I'd be concerned about all the grit getting under my feet while on a dirt path (a few stretches, yesterday, were dirt paths); pebbles and grit can produce a much more distracting pain than blisters can.
One project for this week: get my shoes stretched—both my New Balances and my Rockports.
UPDATE, 9PM: I'm walking more or less normally, despite the nasty fellow in the above picture. You can indeed get used to the pain, which dovetails with what I remember from my 900-kilometer walk in 2008.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Some estimated stats:
Walk time: approx. 4.75 hours
Walk distance: approx. 14.25 miles/23 km
Total steps: approx. 28,500
• blisters on the balls of both feet
• blister on right pinky toe
• achy feet in general
• achy lower back
• raw, sensitive crotch
1. This was a good shakedown cruise during which I learned some of the ins and outs of my CamelBak-knockoff water bladder (a prettier term is hydration system).
2. I absolutely need a new battery for my cell phone: my current ancient battery is in the midst of a cascade failure. I was supposed to go out and buy batteries and a portable charger today, but I collapsed and went to sleep instead.
3. My awesome New Balance walking shoes are perfect for two-hour walks, but they get tight in the toes as my feet swell during longer-than-two-hour walks.
4. We didn't make seven hours today, which had been my goal, but nearly five hours turned out to be quite enough.
5. If my lower back is responding this way to a light encumbrance, I need to be cautious about how I handle heavier encumbrance (35 lbs., 16 kg).
6. For long walks, I definitely need to get back to wearing my Spandex biker shorts to avoid the constant chafing of the inner thighs and nethers.
I began sincerely to wonder whether I'd even have the pain tolerance to withstand 20-some days in a row of this sort of walking. It's funny, too, because today's walk was largely on level ground: hills that stymied me on a bike were barely perceptible as hills when on foot. I suspect I'm going to have to reorient my training program to account for the need to toughen up my feet, and I may have to take my shoes to a shoe guy to get them stretched. Shoe stretching is apparently common and easy to do; there are, in fact, plenty of in-home methods for doing it, but I'd rather get a pro to reshape my footwear.
Brian and I met this morning at National Assembly Station way out in Yeouido, the same station where I get off to do my KMA gigs. My travel companion was as athletic as I expected him to be; I was the slowpoke during our walk, but he politely restrained himself from walking at what I'd guess is close to a natural pace of 4.5 or 5 miles per hour (I mosey along at a human-standard 3 mph, unlike most Koreans, who walk at Brian's speed).
We began at 7AM by walking toward the National Assembly building; the guards there let us through so we could walk across the property and out the back in order to swing by one of those bike-path "certification centers." Sure enough, we found it:
The term "center" seems a bit pretentious for a one-square-meter patch of ground that contains little more than a seedy, phone-booth-like structure. Still, it made for an interesting landmark, after which we continued east along the Han. Brian's vigorous-yet-restrained pace kept him slightly ahead and me slightly out of breath, but it was a good workout. While my phone had power—which came and went the entire hike—I pinged our location a few times to provide some idea of our pace.
Ultimately, as we approached the Jamshil area and my apartment, we decided to change plans and head to my place for a fried-rice lunch (Brian ended up kindly giving me his lunch as well: a Paris Baguette chicken sandwich). I had thought we might eat lunch, then head out and check out the Yangjae-cheon, i.e., my creekside route, but we both ended up too achy and unmotivated to continue. For a flat walk, the experience seemed unwontedly harsh on my feet, which is an indication of which body parts actually require more serious training.
Brian turned out to be a great font of information and an excellent conversationalist, so while we had some moments of silence along the path, there was also plenty of banter. I learned a few things about the local flora and fauna; we both had a chance to look with distaste upon a garbage-strewn grassy area being cleaned by a woefully understaffed team of men, but we also passed by plenty of clean, well-groomed areas. I learned some things about Brian's wife and son; his family leads an interesting life. Here's pic of Brian:
All in all, this was a fun—if exhausting—day. It was good to meet someone that I had known for years only through blogging, and I do believe we'll be meeting up again.
We're going from here back to my place for lunch, then we'll do a bit of my creek walk and call it a day.
Check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22Yz5cgx7 or http://ge0.me/s22Yz5cgx7 Don't have offline maps? Download here: http://maps.me/get
If all has gone well, this post will appear at 6:30AM on Sunday, March 19. I will have gotten up around 5:15AM and skedaddled at 6:00AM, a bit before the time this post ought to be appearing. I'll be meeting teacher and blogger Brian Dean, whom I've "known" for years through blogs and comments, but have never met in the flesh. We're doing a 7-hour walk starting in Yeouido, near one of those TARDIS-like "certification" centers for bikers who are marking their progress along Korea's major bike trails.
Brian, having lived an athletic life, is in far better shape than I am, so I suspect this walk will be easy for him. I've done enough five-hour walks to know what I feel like at the end of those treks; I'm usually tired, parched, and a little achy. Brian and I will be walking east along the Han, essentially following the same path I took during my bike trip last week (my ass-bones still ache slightly, but I'm mostly recovered), going out for about 3.5 hours, eating a simple lunch, then doubling back for a 3.5-hour return walk. This promises to be a great opportunity to meet face-to-face and talk for a few hours.
I doubt we'll get as far out as I did when biking, especially since we'll be starting much farther to the west of where I began my bike ride. It would have been nice to walk all the way out to the Paldang Dam, the first major landmark on my upcoming walk, but I guess that's a feat for another day. (I may rent a bike again and try for the damn dam.)
There may be photos today. Or not. We'll see. I may also ping-and-blog our location periodically, but I won't be doing a pedometer's step count because my phone will be off for most of the walk, given my battery-power issues. (That reminds me... once I'm back from the walk around 2 or 3PM, I need to go get phone batteries and a portable charger.)
Righto... have a good Sunday. More soon.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Here's a link to a PDF of a survey by IFOP-Fiducial that shows the current French mindset and does much to explain why Marine Le Pen is currently so popular.
Of special note: page 8, which shows what the French think about whether the security situation in France has improved or deteriorated: 71% say it has deteriorated; 19% say it has improved; 10% think nothing has changed. Page 10 shows that the French have an overwhelmingly positive view of their own law-enforcement officers; page 13 shows that most French people think Marine Le Pen is, by far, the one most capable of the best security-related solutions or measures.
A summary/interpretation of the data begins on page 18 for those who read French.
My buddy Mike suggested I follow a comedian on Gab AI named Bob Kostic (he goes by @causticbob). Kostic churns out tons of short jokes, some of which I've heard before (i.e., they're not original to him), some of which are repeats, some of which are duds. But plenty of Kostic's jokes are funny. Here's one (edited—the man sorely needs a proofreader):
My wife had a go at me asking how come, if a man has sex with a lot of women, he's a legend, yet if a woman has sex with a lot of men, she's a slut.
I told her if a lock gets opened by a lot of keys, it's a shit lock, but if a key opens a lot of locks, it's a master key.
That sounds more like a joke that's been around than a newly minted original, but no matter the provenance, it gave me a chuckle.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Thursday, March 16, 2017
*Then again, there's "Prince of Egypt." But that's Dreamworks.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Late last week, I went into a fugue state while standing in front of my open fridge. Nothing happened for a while until several things suddenly collided in my mind, and I realized that I had most of the ingredients for fried rice in my fridge. All I needed were eggs and shiitake mushrooms (called pyogo in Korean).
I began building the fried rice last night, but despite how simple a concept fried rice is, it requires a hell of a lot of chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. I didn't finish prep last night, and I was dead tired, so when I woke up early this morning, I continued prep and began cooking, but had to stop cooking once 11AM rolled around, as it was time to get ready for work: my 2PM gig at KMA. Once I got back from KMA, I continued cooking, and now you may behold the fruits (or the meat, starch, and vegetables) of my labor.
Ingredients, in no particular order:
green chili peppers (gochu)
red and yellow bell peppers
This should probably be named "Ironic Fried Rice" because everything except the rice got pan-fried. I have no rice cooker, so I make rice the old-fashioned way: 4 parts water, 3 parts rice in a thick-bottomed pot; bring to a boil, then immediately take to a simmer and leave for twenty minutes. Some nurungji (crispy, burned bottom layer of rice) is possible with this method, but there was almost none in this case. I simply tossed the rice into that giant metal bowl with all the other ingredients, then mixed the hell out of everything. Perfection.
After suffering KMA cancellations twice already this year, I was overjoyed when KMA called and offered me a three-day-long gig totaling twenty hours. I'll be teaching a presentation class—something I've already done many times before, so even though this won't be my own material, it'll be familiar to me. I do four hours on Wednesday, then eight hours each on Thursday and Friday. My boss at the Golden Goose okayed this weeks ago, so we're cool on that front. The end result will be an extra 1.35 million won in the bank for yours truly, which helps to make up for the W780,000 being ripped away from me by the damn tax man. I've got another 1.4 million won coming to me... but I'm not sure I can talk about that too openly here. (Not that the income is illegal or anything, but its provenance may prove a bit awkward if announced. I might have to write a "frank post" about this particular turn of events.)
The Hidden Meaning of "Dr. Strange"!
I wish I could say this contained religiously astute commentary, but a single reference to a common trope in Hinduism isn't going to cut it. That said, I liked the commentary's focus on time as a theme... although the movie itself kind of clobbers you over the head with temporal imagery. Let's just cut through the bullshit and declare Strange a Timelord.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
*I'm still turning that scene over in my head because something doesn't quite add up. Michelle Williams's Randi ends up tearfully apologizing to Affleck's Lee for the horrible things she said after the children had died, but the movie shows none of this, none of her bitterness and anger toward Lee, so we have no proper context for her guilty feelings. For me as the viewer, it seems that Randi has nothing to apologize for: Lee, through his fatal negligence, is the clear cause of their children's deaths. If anyone had needed to apologize, it should have been Lee. Instead, he's shown providing awkward comfort and even forgiveness in the face of his wife's misery. I'm not saying Randi's misery doesn't make sense; what I'm trying to say is that the cosmic scales of justice are clearly tipped in her favor, and Lee is the one who ought to be on his knees and blubbering, begging Randi for her forgiveness. It's almost as if the movie were making a conscious effort not to give us those emotional peaks found in most other films. Oh, there's screaming and punching and plenty of bile, but never at the most dramatically crucial junctures, and I find that interesting.
So it seems the upcoming snap election in May will be to decide a new president—period—and not a president pro tempore to serve out the remaining few months of Park Geun-hye's term. This means I was misled by my own bad sources, and Korea won't be facing two elections this year: there will be only the upcoming election in May. My understanding, from the above-linked Wikipedia article, is that the current acting president, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will serve out the remainder of Park's term, so the new president will assume his duties next February, per the tradition established with the advent of South Korean democracy.
Korea has proven to be admirable in terms of peaceful demonstrations that have led to a peaceful transfer of power occurring somewhat outside the normal procedures. The United States' tantrum-throwing, campus-trashing left could definitely take several lessons from how a people ought to conduct itself when faced with unsatisfactory political conditions. As momentous as this shift in power has been, I find it nearly miraculous that things haven't been worse in South Korea. While it's unfortunate that the current shift will be away from a hardline stance toward North Korea, one can hope that the next presidential administration will bring with it less historical baggage, less spiritual weirdness, and far less corruption. 2016 and 2017 have proven to be years in which the people's trust in their own electoral systems was badly shaken. May South Korea's next leader prove to be much more trustworthy. It's too much to ask any modern politician to restore honor to politics—we passed that point of no return long ago—so in my case, I'll simply settle for someone less corrupt.
Monday, March 13, 2017
*The exact number rescued is unknown, but 75 is considered a good estimate.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
So what did I learn during my bike ride yesterday?
I learned that the Paldang Dam, one of the first major landmarks on the trail, is within biking distance if we assume a pain-free biking trip. It would have been nice to make it all the way out to the dam to see what sort of camping facilities might be around it, but I learned enough to know that, once one gets past the densest part of Hanam City, there are plenty of places along the riverside where a tired traveler can plop down, set up a tent, and rest his weary legs. That's important because, depending on the time of day, I might have to do just that: plop down wherever I am and simply set up camp.
Despite my earlier griping about how hilly the trail was, the inclines won't be bad when I'm on foot. I suspect that the first third or half of the trail won't be too much trouble; it's when I reach the Baekdu Daegan mountain range that things will get dicey. By then, though, I'll have eaten my way through about half of my food supplies, so my pack ought to be slightly lighter.
A quick aside about food: I've decided to order everything—all the foods I covered in Walk Thoughts #1. I'll be using a combination of foods—maybe two MREs, seven or eight Mountain House food packs, a bag of Soylent, and several packs' worth of Survival tabs. Most crucial will be water, of course, but I'll be moving alongside rivers for most of the walk—with a Grayl purification system, no less—so this ought not to be a problem. Upshot: I ought to be able to eat something every day of the walk, even if it's just a handful of Survival Tabs.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
I've seen dedicated bikers on YouTube who easily cover 140 km (87 miles) in a day. My hat is off to them. I haven't biked in about ten years, and today, I think I biked more in one session than I've ever biked before. Despite all that, my distance apparently wasn't all that impressive: according to Google Maps's distance-measuring ruler, I barely biked 30 miles, total, in about 4 hours. I took a lot of breaks, hence the slow pace—but the breaks weren't because I was winded: they were to alleviate the screaming pain in my ass that came from that long-forgotten demon: saddle sores. In fact, there's a lot about biking that I had forgotten, including Murphy's Law of Cycling: the wind will always be against you.
My damn phone ran out of battery power right as I reached my U-turn point, thirty minutes short of Paldang Dam, so I wasn't able to blog my position. Then, hilariously, when I was two-thirds of the way back to my place, my battery power miraculously measured 19%, so I could take a selfie... but I still couldn't blog my position. That's another thing I'll need to take care of: getting a couple new phone batteries plus a portable charger. My current battery is the one that came with the phone back in 2013, so it's old and needs constant charging.
I unwisely wore a coat today; it was probably in the 50s (10-13º C), so I was sweating and dripping snot out of my nose as I groaned along. I hadn't brought anything with me in terms of toiletries—no saline solution for dusty, irritating contacts; no tissue for a runny nose; no bottles of water to sip from—nothing—so I felt kind of guilty when I brought the bike back to the rental place, knowing that those handlebars were now coated in loads of my DNA and bodily flora thanks to my constant face-wiping. You're welcome, guys.
The bike rental is a story in itself. I had seen an expat site that listed a bunch of bike-rental spots, but none seemed close to where I lived, and the website itself seemed a bit old and out of date. So I walked up the street to the bike guy I had spoken with a few weeks ago and asked him where I might rent a bike. He pointed me back down the street to a bike shop that I had passed many times when walking home from Jamshil, but to which I had paid little heed up to now. "Tell them I sent you, and they'll give you a discount" my bike dude said. I thanked him and left, then walked up the street to the other bike shop, whose name turned out to be GoGo. Rental for an hour was something like 6,000 won; 3 hours was around W15,000, and a 24-hour rental was W30,000. I knew I'd be needing the bike for more than three hours, so I steeled myself to pay the full thirty thousand.
A little over four hours later, I brought the bike back, my hair all windblown and frozen in place thanks to dried sweat. The guy who took my bike back—the same guy who greeted me when I came in to rent a bike—did indeed give me a W5,000 discount since I hadn't gone anywhere near twenty-four hours. When I thanked him and left the shop, he ran out after me and told me I could rent for several days at a much steeper discount. In return, I asked him if it would be all right for me to come back and talk about what to expect on those bike paths, given my upcoming cross-country walk. He said that would be fine.
So my saddle sores are killing me right now; the crotch-bones are screaming, and I'm dead tired. Biking at my current weight is more of a chore than a pleasure; gravity's downward vector is, like the wind, always against me. Even a slight rise is enough to kill all forward momentum and force me to pump desperately just to move ahead at a crawl. Depending on what stretch I was on, my estimated speed varied from a measly 6-9 miles per hour to perhaps 15 miles per hour on an easy downhill. I found myself grumbling at the ground's unevenness, given that the path was always close to the river: ideally, a river-bank path ought to be as flat as the river water itself. But no.
I have a selfie that I'll slap up soon, but I'm too tired even to think about tonight's exercises—which in theory ought to include jump rope as cardio. I think I may have done enough cardio for one day. I'm beat. Still, it's embarrassing that this was only 30 miles; it felt like 60.
Friday, March 10, 2017
I was wrong yet again.
From the English Chosun Ilbo:
The Constitutional Court in a unanimous decision announced Friday morning upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, who was immediately stripped of office.
Park, the country's first democratically elected leader to be forced out of office, must presently leave Cheong Wa Dae, where she has been holed up since the National Assembly voted to impeach her in December.
In a ruling read out live on TV as both supporters and opponents massed around the court, the court said the president "seriously impaired the spirit of... democracy and the rule of law."
Acting chief justice Lee Jung-mi said Park's actions "betrayed the public's trust in the president and constitute unforgivable violations of the Constitution."
The court accepted that Park conspired with her longtime crony Choi Soon-sil to extort vast sums of money from conglomerates and allowed Choi to meddle in government business.
Worse, she promised to cooperate sincerely in the investigation but not only failed to live up to her words but "concealed completely Choi's meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticized those who raised the suspicions."
The court dismissed one ground in the National Assembly's impeachment bill, saying Park's unexplained seven-hour absence during the 2014 ferry tragedy that killed over 300 people, "cannot be seen as violating her duty to protect people's life" as the scope of a president's duties in the matter is "too abstract" to determine.
The ruling finally brings down the curtain on a standoff that has plunged the country into chaos since the scandal broke in October last year. Koreans must now go to the polls within 60 days to elect a new president while Park faces criminal prosecution like any ordinary citizen.
Wow. So Park gambled and lost, and now she's losing the one thing she wanted to keep: the Blue House. Dishonored, disgraced, she doesn't leave office so much as get kicked out of office. There's no way to spin this positively...although I'm sure that Park and her flunkies will try in the years to come.
Incredible. As of this morning's vote, Park Geun-hye is no longer president of South Korea. I think this means there'll be a snap election to install a president pro tempore (the current prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is at the wheel for the moment) who will then serve until next January or February. In the meantime, there will also be the regular election for the president whose term will begin in February of 2018.
The throng of protestors who have been taking to the streets for months must be ecstatic. Tons of semen must be flying higher than Seoul Tower, then raining down on the populace, spattering babies and grandmothers and homeless people alike with joy.
Savor this moment, Korea.
UPDATE: this is currently front-page news in France and the US. (Amusingly, the French article's headline says it's Park Chung-hee, not Park Geun-hye, who has been ousted. Click now and have a chuckle before that gets corrected!)
ADDENDUM: an election must now occur within 60 days. Very likely, a leftist candidate with a friendlier stance toward North Korea will be elected, but since this person will merely be pro tem, the country will still have a chance to do the right thing when the big election (for the 2018-23 term) comes to pass.
ADDENDUM 2: I've got people insisting that the upcoming election will be for a president serving out both the remainder of Park's term and an entire new term. Maybe this is true; maybe it isn't. I want sources, people. Evidence.
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Well, that ended quickly.
This will be the last time I post a diet photo of what I'm eating. Pace the Tapp Brothers and their seemingly nifty suggestion to post food photos as a way to keep oneself honest while dieting, this is becoming highly annoying, and I'm not doing it in a timely manner. It's not that I've failed to post pics of what I'm eating or that I'm being dishonest about calorie counts: it's just a royal pain in the ass to have to keep uploading these damn images, so I'm dragging my feet. I did derive one benefit from this activity, though: I'm now consciously counting calories, and this activity has become habitual in a short amount of time. It will continue. So while I'll no longer be displaying photos of every single damn thing I stuff into my gullet, I will be counting away off-camera, figuring out how I can eat without starving or getting bored or becoming depressed, the way I got depressed while on Atkins.
So enjoy this last, loving look at budae-jjigae boiling away in my office.
I asked my boss why people are voting on whether to impeach President Park if she's already being impeached. The boss replied that this is the judicial branch weighing in on impeachment's constitutionality. He noted that President Noh Mu Hyeon went through the same thing, and the courts ended up nixing the impeachment. The same might happen for Park, especially given the general lack of direct evidence against her. She might be guilty of some degree of negligence, but out-and-out malfeasance or corruption is looking difficult to prove. A lot of smoke and mirrors, it seems.
My intuition is that Park has won her gamble: she will remain in the Blue House and serve out her presidential term, which ends early next year, I believe. She might suffer certain legal after-effects once she's out of office, but if the masses are craving justice, whatever that means, they're not going to get the thing they want.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
On Twitter, blogger Lee Farrand once wrote that all mammals, no matter their body mass, take an average of 20 seconds to urinate. If that's true, then I don't know what my problem is.
UPDATE: I thought the flat bottom of the plot would be enough to indicate zero, but nooooo. So the graph has been fixed. The flat bottom now represents a minuscule trickle, with zero output coming at the very end. Happy now, Spock?
Charles celebrates twenty years of marriage to his lovely wife Hyunjin. In his touching post, yours truly even gets a brief mention, for which I'm surprised and honored.
In a previous entry, Charles reviews some books he's been reading, quite a few of which are loaded with obfuscatory academe-speak, to which I can only say: I waaaarrrrrrrrnnnnnned yooooouuuuuuuuu! Welcome to postmodern Western academe, buddy. The less accessible your ideas are, the more respect you get from people in that circle jerk.
I bought "Dr. Strange" the moment it became available on iTunes (where you can actually physically own a movie instead of merely owning a license to watch a movie), and I now realize that the movie does indeed answer one of the questions posed in my review:
Librarian Wong notes that sorcerers must never interfere with the flow of natural law, which is what makes playing with the timestream so hazardous. During the wizard-battle sequences, reality is bent and twisted and fractalized in all sorts of different ways, but we mere mortals seem not to notice when our cities get turned into toroidal landscapes, and our streets become Escher-like constructions with the world's most bizarrely impossible traffic patterns. (This is very much like how magic operates in the world of Harry Potter: Muggles, i.e., non-magical folks, are blissfully unaware of the powers at work around them.) So my question is this: how is all this reality-bending not a violation of natural law?
The answer is that the city-torquing sequence in question takes place almost entirely in the Mirror Dimension, which is layered over our normal reality but doesn't directly affect it. Think of the Mirror Dimension as a universe-sized arena in which to perform magic safely. The zealots, led by Kaecilius, gain more power in the Mirror Dimension because they're drawing power from the Dark Dimension (however that works), but the effects of that battle don't leave the Mirror Dimension until the Ancient One is stabbed and flung through a portal back into our world, where she falls and is mortally injured.
So! One question answered.
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
I've been walking again for a little while, but last night saw me do a full-blown, 14-staircase, 21,000-step creekside walk, followed by a short battery of indoor exercises, the list of which you can see here.* If you checked that link last night, you may have seen a slightly longer list of exercises that included forward and reverse lunges. I've now taken those off the list because (1) I could tell I wasn't doing them right, and (2) there was instant knee pain the moment I tried the reverse lunges. I've got squats on the list, so the squats—which cause me no pain—will have to do double duty in terms of building leg (etc.) strength.
I finally engaged in planking last night as well. Managed 30 seconds. I'm pretty sure I was doing the standard forward plank incorrectly, given that I had some pain and strain in my lower back. Form is everything: if you're not doing an exercise correctly, it's hard to derive any benefits from it. Tonight, I'll rewatch some planking videos to make sure I've got the form down. I did, however, do much better with the side planks, which were—bizarrely—easier to do. Maybe it was the duration: I mistakenly did 30 seconds of front planks followed by my mandated 10 seconds of side planks. As you see on my chart, I'm building up to a full 60 seconds of planks, all sides, by the end of eight weeks.
Crunches were fine; I'm starting slow at only 3 crunches this week: forward, reverse, left side, and right side. By the end of eight weeks, I want to be up to 20 reps each. (Back in high school PE class, during the wrestling unit, Coach Taylor started us off with three types of crunch** at 30 crunches each—90 total!) The real embarrassment last night, though, was pushups: I didn't manage a single legitimate pushup in the standard position. I did manage to do a few on my knees, so I may rework my schedule, pulling my goal down from 20 legitimate pushups to only 10—with a promise to continue working on pushups after the walk is done.
There will be plenty of time, after the walk, to expand on the above exercise regimen, but for the moment, I've got to start somewhere, and I've chosen exercises that I think are relevant to the upcoming walk: exercises dealing with core strength, leg strength, upper-body strength, and a bit of arm strength just to round things out. I like how I've spaced out my cardio: MWF for creekside walking, TR for building-staircase walking, and SS for jump-roping. Among the cardio exercises, jump-roping is filling me with the most trepidation because I've been so uncoordinated up to now, but I'm aiming to get through five minutes of interval roping (30 sec on, 10 sec rest; repeat) by the end of Week One. Oh, yeah: for those of you reading my exercise chart, know that the listed goals refer to where I should be by the end of the given week, not to where I should be starting at the beginning of the week.
*For some reason, Google's sharing link isn't read-only: you can actually alter my spreadsheet data, it would seem. For some odd reason, I can't put up a read-only sharing link from my office, so I'll trust you to be on your best behavior while I wait to change this once I'm back at my apartment. Hmmm.
UPDATE: can't change this from home, either. What's up, Google?
UPDATE 2: all is well. When I signed out of my own account and tried altering the file, I got a "view only" flag. So we're good.
**Those three types of crunch were all forward crunches: (1) feet flat on the ground, (2) knees raised and calves parallel to the ground, and (3) legs fully extended and 90 degrees to the ground, feet pointed at the ceiling. Surprisingly, I got through those. But that was when I was, if you can imagine it, thinner.
2009's "District 9" (hereinafter "D9") is directed by Neill Blomkamp ("flower field") and stars the indefatigable Sharlto Copley, who has gone on to prove his action and acting chops in movies like "Elysium" and "Hardcore Henry." It is the story of an alien mother ship that finds itself stranded for twenty years over Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens—about two million of them—are herded into an area that rapidly becomes a shanty/ghetto, and alien-human interaction is often tense and violent, with plenty of room for misunderstanding, double-dealing, perversion, betrayal, and murder. A human organization called the MNU (the appropriately soulless "Multinational United"—a name that means nothing*), the second-largest arms manufacturer on the planet, goes out in force into District 9 to serve eviction notices to the aliens (called by the speciesist epithet "prawns" for their crustacean looks and scavenging ways), who are to be moved to a different camp away from Johannesburg to defuse tensions with the locals. Leading the force is Wikus van de Merwe (Copley), who does his cheerful best to go from house to house, serving notices, flagging illegal activity, and burning alien eggs. At one point, Wikus finds a cylinder filled with a liquid that sprays all over him; this turns out to be a mutagen that begins to transform Wikus into an alien—but one who is now capable of using the aliens' DNA-activated weaponry. This makes Wikus both a wanted and a hunted commodity, even as he is shunned by fellow humans. Wikus befriends an alien with the human name of Christopher Johnson and gets involved in Christopher's attempts to get the mother ship off-planet. The film's exposition covers the background history of the aliens' arrival and misery, but the plot focuses on Wikus's physical transformation and his changing sympathies as the mutagen works more deeply into his chromosomal structure. I saw elements of "Enemy Mine" in this movie as a human learns to befriend aliens that are generally looked down upon or seen as adversaries; I also saw strong echoes of David Cronenberg's "The Fly" (with Jeff Goldblum), a film that also showcases fingernail loss, tooth loss, and assorted shots of skin-ripping body horror as the transformation worsens our protag's appearance. This being a film about a sequestered Other set in South Africa, the ambient apartheid metaphor is going to be inevitable; it's always somewhere, floating in the background. The film also pulls no punches in showing the world the bad side of Johannesburg; this is no tourist brochure the way the Lord of the Rings films were a proud advert for New Zealand (Peter Jackson co-produced D9, for what it's worth). After watching D9, I had absolutely no motivation ever to visit South Africa. The film is also Brian De Palma levels of bloody: once Wikus quickly "melds" with an alien rifle and, later, a full-sized mecha, evil humans start exploding like gorged mosquitoes being slapped. The special effects of D9 struck me as uneven in quality, and the aliens seemed far too human for the story to be too much of a departure from, say, a Star Trek episode (one alien even bangs its fist against a wall in anger—a very human gesture). I also had to wonder why the hell Wikus wasn't immediately quarantined** the moment he accidentally sprayed himself with the alien mutagen—and why other people he came in contact with (the man was coughing black fluid at points) weren't also quarantined. That was a huge plot hole for me. But flaws aside, D9 was eminently watchable—a rib-sticking blend of action flick and body-horror morality play... although I'd have trouble telling you what the film's central message was.
*For about two weeks, back when I was desperate for cash years and years ago, I worked as a telemarketer for a company with the equally faceless name of Dealer Broker Trust. May those fucking bloodsuckers rot in hell.
**D9 isn't unique among sci-fi films in showing poor infection-control procedures. You may recall I had a similar complaint about the truly fecal "Prometheus." And God help us, there's yet another goddamn sequel on the way.