Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pepple on ISIS and feminists

Western Feminists tend to be strangely silent about the poor treatment of women in many Muslim-dominant countries. I suppose it's easy to beat a cowardly retreat behind the PC maxim that "one should never judge other cultures"—a maxim that seems to apply only to Westerners. John Pepple writes a blog post riffing off the recent news that women in the Middle East who are fighting ISIS have just invited western feminists to join their fight. Pepple doubts that any Western feminists will answer this invitation:

Feminists won’t, of course. They haven’t even wanted to have a protest march against ISIS. They haven’t even wanted to have a march in solidarity with the young victims in Rotherham and other towns in England.

Meanwhile, this article quotes an Iranian feminist who claims that "Western feminists make things worse for her cause at home." An excerpt:

Speaking Wednesday at a "Power Women Breakfast" sponsored by entertainment site The Wrap, Alinejad said, "I keep hearing in the West especially, Western feminists who go to my country — the female politicians — we don’t want to break the country’s law," which they use as an excuse to adopt the dress code forced on women by the country's Islamic regime.

Alinejad explained that the women of Iran "don’t want to be slaves," and "told by men or the law of the Islamic Republic of Iran what to wear."

She insists that—as many Westerners suggest—this isn't a "cultural issue" because "before the revolution, we had the right to choose what we wanted to wear in Iran. Compulsion was never part of Iranian culture."

The recap post also says that Alinejad told the audience it was a "mistake" that "some Western feminists resisted legitimate criticism of the regime out of a desire not to appear in line with the policies of President Donald Trump."

Many Western leftists try to celebrate the hijab in an effort to embrace diversity. One Australian city got a lot of backlash for exhorting its non-Muslim female residents to wear a hijab for three hours to raise "awareness and insight." Dolce & Gabbana launched a line of high-fashion hijabs a couple of years ago. Retail giant Macy's has its own "hijab brand."

This rush to earn diversity brownie points is highly offensive to many Muslim women. Even The Huffington Post acknowledges that the hijab is not a symbol of freedom (as Coca Cola's most recent Super Bowl ad suggested) but "a symbol of the fact that women in Islam are second-class citizens, and that this status is encoded in both sacred text and tradition, enforced by culture and law."

I don't expect feminists to find real courage anytime soon. For the moment, feminist "courage" comes in the form of pussy hats and hashtag warfare. (Camille Paglia excluded.)



PJW on the latest EU craziness

If you haven't heard about the EU's recent attempt to ban memes (in the modern, internet-image sense and not so much the older, Richard Dawkins sense), here's your big chance. See, this is why something like Brexit was bound to happen.


If the EU law passes, many of us bloggers could come under fire for creating images and animations that crib off other people's work, even if that work falls under fair-use guidelines. Make no mistake: if the EU passes this law, which is supposed to affect only parties within the EU, it will inevitably expand to affect people the world over. Given the international scope of many corporations, the global nature of Hollywood and its affiliates, and the inherent interconnection of the internet, whatever monster this law creates will grow to eat the globe.



Monday, June 18, 2018

Ave, Heather Mac Donald!

Two bloggers I respect have, independently, cited this Heather Mac Donald article, of which I provide an excerpt below. Mac Donald (sic: there's a space between the "Mac" and the "Donald" when she writes her name) came into the national public consciousness when she began writing about the Black Lives Matter movement, using logic and statistics, as opposed to stylistic flair and emotionalism, to make the point that the BLM movement is based on a false premise, to wit: that cops are most likely to shoot (and kill) black people. The stats don't actually bear this out: cops are, in fact, more likely to shoot (and kill) white and Latino people. Mac Donald's point was that BLM would do better to focus on the true statistical problem, which is black-on-black violence, which occurs at a much higher frequency than violence perpetrated by the police.

The article to which I linked above features Mac Donald's speculation as to how leftists reconcile the desire for an open-borders immigration policy with the idea, also propounded by leftists, that the US is a hellhole. Here's the excerpt that both of the above-mentioned bloggers cited, plus a little extra:

But why should social-justice warriors want to subject these potential asylees to the horrors of America? In coming to the U.S., if you believe the dominant feminist narrative, the female aliens would simply be exchanging their local violent patriarchy for a new one. Indeed, it should be a mystery to these committed progressives why any Third World resident would seek to enter the United States. Not only is rape culture pervasive in the U.S., but the very lifeblood of America is the destruction of “black bodies,” in the words of media star Ta-[Nehisi] Coates. Surely, a Third World person of color would be better off staying in his home country, where he is free from genocidal whiteness and the murderous legacy of Western civilization and Enlightenment values.

But the same left-wing establishment that in the morning rails against American oppression of an ever-expanding number of victim groups in the afternoon denounces the U.S. for not giving unlimited access to foreign members of those same victim groups. In their open-borders afternoon mode, progressives paint the U.S. as the only source of hope and opportunity for low-skilled, low-social-capital Third Worlders; a place obligated by its immigration history to take in all comers, forever. In their America-as-the-font-of-all-evil-against-females-and-persons-of-color morning mode, progressives paint the U.S. as the place where hope and opportunity die under a tsunami of misogyny and racism.

Which reality do progressives actually believe? They likely hold both mutually exclusive concepts in their heads simultaneously, unaware of the contradiction, toggling smoothly between one and the other according to context. But both claims cannot be true.

I encourage you to read the rest. It's a fairly short article.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

one amazing kid

By age 12, Flynn McGarry had figured out his life's calling—something that I, at nearly 50, still haven't figured out. Color me very impressed.


The writeup beneath the video says:

Flynn McGarry is the chef of Gem, a restaurant in Manhattan's Lower East Side. His $155 tasting menu is served in the style of a dinner party, hopefully making you feel like you're not at a restaurant at all. The young chef has been working full time in professional kitchens since he was 12.

See more from Gem: https://www.gem-nyc.com/



Ye Grande Daye of Shoppinge

I've got some monster-sized party prep ahead of me this week for the upcoming office luncheon on Friday the 22nd. Today, I'll be hitting Itaewon, the Jongno/Euljiro neighborhood, and finally Costco.

Itaewon: tomato paste, coconut milk*
Jongno/Eujiro: metal utensils, plates, bowls
Costco: folding tables, folding chairs, jumbo shrimp, diver scallops, tilapia

Later in the week, I'll need to buy the rest of the ingredients for the moqueca, including onions, red bell peppers, and cilantro. I've never made stew for twenty before, so this is going to be very interesting. Most likely, I'll save the final step—adding the seafood—for when I'm just about to head out the door on Friday.

Lots to plan, lots to do.



*Many Korean stores have an abundance of coconut oil, but not very many have coconut milk, hence the grudging trip to Itaewon.



Saturday, June 16, 2018

one of my best KMA days ever

Today's KMA session turned out to be awesome. There were only two students, which might affect how much I get paid, but the three of us had a great time. Both of my students were married adults—a man and a woman. Until recently, the man worked for some agency related to nuclear power and the engineering of nuclear power plants; now, he's in another company's R&D department. The lady, meanwhile, worked for an agency involved with the currently tabled Kaesong industrial complex in North Korea. She said she's hoping for reunification, a subject we all discussed further during lunch. The guy had traveled around the world, and he spoke English quite well; the lady was shy about her English ability, and while her speech was slower and more hesitant, she actually spoke fairly competently.

The seven-hour class went by quickly, and both students thought the intensive course I had designed (to improve online-research skills) was quite interesting. By the end of the course, we all had big smiles on our faces. I suspect the course's charm lies in the fact that it's very task-oriented and student-centered, per my pedagogical mantra. While students generally like my persuasive-writing course, the ones who take my online-research course usually enjoy that more: it's less like a regular class and more like fun.

We ended up going a bit overtime, which has never happened before; I guess we were all having too much of a good time. While I normally have great students at KMA, this pair of learners was especially good to have in class: they worked hard, they participated actively, and they both said at the end that they had learned a lot. What more can one ask for? I didn't peek at my evals this time because I'm pretty sure I got a 100%. All in all, a very good day.



deep penetration

I hope you'll enjoy this How Ridiculous video as much as I did. I've been watching these goofy Aussie blokes for a while, now; their shtick is that they climb a local tower from which they toss various objects onto the sandy ground below. The drop from the tower's pinnacle is about 45 meters, which means that most objects pick up a good deal of momentum and crash rather dramatically upon impact. The boys have done stuff like toss bowling balls onto axe blades; they've also set up a beat-up old car in the impact zone and tossed objects like darts at it. In the video below, the boys have gotten hold of a gigantic lawn dart that's heavier than three crowbars, with the object being to launch the dart into various targets to see how deeply it penetrates them. Targets include cardboard boxes, fluffy pillows, reams of photocopier paper, rubber gym mats (the interlocking, puzzle-shaped kind), and even a few large rolls of bubble wrap. I found these tests strangely satisfying—probably because I was imagining people I hate getting speared through the gut, or the face, with that huge fucker.






Lazarus! Come forth!

Another fish that's unwilling to give up its anima:






nobody home

I'm at KMA. Got here early, around 8:15, and as you see in the photo, there's nobody here at the 10th floor. So I'm down in the lobby coffee shop, writing this blog entry. Someone will be here before 9, I'm sure.

Also of note: I'm not in my usual KMA-day button-down shirt, tie, and slacks. I've got the slacks on, but today, I'm going for the "untucked button-down shirt" look. It's a risk, but I checked with my buddy Tom about what he wears to a KMA session, and he apparently has been eschewing ties since forever. Does he do the untucked thing? Don't know. Don't care. So there we are.

Not sure how I'll be feeling by the end of today's class, but right now, things are very calm and laid back, just the way I like it.






Friday, June 15, 2018

dear academics: here's how not to be a dick

I get regular emails from Academia.edu, a site devoted to the announcement and sharing of academic papers. If I recall correctly, I clicked a bunch of preference boxes when I first signed up for this service, so the papers that come my way tend to be relevant to me and my field (religious studies, but more specifically, religious diversity, interreligious dialogue, Asian religion, etc.). Once in a while, a random paper will slip in, like this one:

Some Scattered Tips for Not Being a Jerk at Conferences
The good professor gets it right in his first paragraph: academics can be real dicks.
The summer is nearly upon us, and that means conferences. I’m not the most avid conference-goer, though I generally enjoy them when I actually make it. We academics can be a difficult lot, with fragile egos and precious little affirmation to go around. For that reason, conferences can be brutal, disenchanting experiences, particularly for those in doctoral programs or early in their career.
I think I've only ever been to one single academic conference, which was in 1999: a symposium on religion and postmodernism, which introduced me to the intimidating term ontotheology. Some of the panelists, in a rather small-minded way, peppered the keynote speaker, Jacques Derrida, with lengthy, over-complicated questions about his particular perspective. One especially plump and giggly professor reminded me of the business prof from "Back to School" who told Rodney Dangerfield, "I have only one question... in twenty-seven parts." This prof's question for Derrida was so long and rambling that people started laughing around the two- or three-minute mark. I had trouble even following what the question was. Derrida sat quietly, then somehow managed to concoct an answer that may or may not have been a response to elements of the porcine giggler's query.

Oh, wait: I did go to a Buddhism conference in Anyang once. It was about the lives of the bhikshuni (Pali bhikkhuni—nuns), and my hero Robert Buswell was the keynote speaker. That conference, too, featured some unpleasantness; I recall one grim nun whose response to a male professor's paper included such criticisms as "factual inaccuracies" and "leaps in logic" (the nun spoke in Korean, but I was getting this in English through an earpiece, and it felt brutal). Yeah, academics give each other shit and have to put up with a lot of shit. I imagine there's a positive side to all this, but as someone without a Ph.D., I have trouble seeing it.

Anyway, don't be jerks, guys. And gals. I know that's a tall order, given all the delicate, approval- and validation-seeking egos, but do at least try to be nice.



KMA tomorrow

As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised to learn I'd be doing a KMA session this Saturday, June 16, but I guess the company managed to scrounge up enough students to justify a class (KMA cancels if fewer than three students sign up). I haven't asked the office how many students I've got tomorrow, but I imagine it's three or four. I'll be teaching my online-research course; previous classes have found the concepts and techniques useful, so here's hoping that the new batch of students will be similarly satisfied.

That's not the end of my Saturday, however: I've got to hit Costco to grab the seafood I'll be needing for our June 22 office luncheon of Brazilian moqueca. I'll be snapping up scallops, jumbo shrimp, and tilapia, which I think of as the poor man's cod. On Sunday, I have to shop for some upgrades to the current in-office setup: we need sturdy, non-disposable plates and bowls, metal utensils, and a designated place to put everything, like a small bookshelf. Costco sells cheap metal forks, but I didn't see any spoons, knives, or chopsticks. Those may be hiding somewhere; I might have missed them. If there's nothing at Costco, I'll hunt supplies down on Sunday, which is when I plan to stroll through the Jongno/Euljiro district.

Busy days ahead.



Happy Birthday, Mike!


I normally have a silly spiel that I repost for my buddy Mike's birthday, but I know he's going through a rough patch right now, so I'll keep the shenanigans to a minimum.

Since I'm likely heading out to the US this coming August, I'll have a chance to see Mike and his family in person in a couple months. Meanwhile, I wish my friend a most happy 49th.



your dose of Jordan Peterson

It's hard to find a really good takedown of postmodernist thinking, and the following video featuring Jordan Peterson doesn't quite fit the bill, either. Ideally, what I'd like to see is someone go over PoMo's core tenets and (cough) deconstruct them to show how self-undermining—and ultimately valueless—they are. For the moment, though, we have to make do with Jordan Peterson's more consequentialist approach that attacks PoMo by talking about its pernicious effects on society. This isn't a bad approach to take, but it's not ideal. I've read two of Camille Paglia's books and have sniffed around her pages for a decent takedown of PoMo, but she hasn't really said anything substantial, either. Perhaps, one day, it'll be up to me to stare beadily into a camera lens and do the thing I've been wanting better minds to do.


In fairness, here's a link to a video titled "Jordan Peterson doesn't understand postmodernism." The video is methodical and civil, and not a bad criticism of Peterson's thinking... but I find nothing in the video to be disarming enough for me to do a 180 and accept PoMo as my lord and savior. I also have to note that the narrator is obviously reading from a script and not speaking freely, which makes his presentation sound a bit stilted and forced. One final criticism: the narrator flat-out claims that nutty Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek is a Marxist tout court. However, one reader of a young Žižek's master's thesis ended up accusing Žižek of being "non-Marxist." The man is all over the place in his thinking: he endorsed Donald Trump in 2016 but also called Trump "horrible," even as he claimed Hillary Clinton to be the worse alternative. Don't expect linearity—or easy categorization, for that matter—from Slavoj Žižek. Anyway, my point is that I take the above-linked critique video with more than a grain of salt.

My buddy Dr. Steve has a great summary of PoMo for those who need a refresher.



Thursday, June 14, 2018

depressing

A 28-year-old mom of three was shot in front of her children by an 18-year-old carjacker, who ran away when the mother's car wouldn't start, but who was later caught. The children ranged in age from three to eight, and the mother, named Porsha Owens, apparently turned to her eldest after being shot and said, "I'm sorry. I think I'm about to die."

Crap like this happens all the damn time, so I don't know why this particular incident is hitting me so hard. It's the end of the work day; I'll be leaving the office soon and taking a long walk, during which I'll be keeping the Owens family in my thoughts.

And why on Earth is this article in Yahoo! News's "Entertainment" section? Pretty morbid.



a TED talk on walkable cities

Jeff Speck works in city planning and is a big advocate of walkability in cities. Speck gives a fascinating TED talk describing several proposals for making cities more walkable. This topic is obviously of great interest to a peripatetic guy like me.


The video is very educational in connecting architecture with human psychology. I'd like to see someone advocate for making the paths between cities more walkable. During my 2008 walk, I often found myself walking along highways and freeways with dangerously narrow shoulders, or with no shoulders at all. South Korea, by contrast, is much more walker-friendly, as I discovered last year. There were a few small bridges with no pedestrian paths across them, but these were largely the exception, not the rule. There's no reason that the US couldn't follow Korea's example and make the entire country completely walkable (and cyclable), from whatever starting point to whatever end point. Korea's not alone in this regard: Switzerland, with its Wanderwege veined throughout the country, is also eminently walkable.

Enjoy the talk.



the trash panda's adventure

In case you missed it, the news for the past few days has been flooded with images and commentary about a raccoon scaling the UBS Building in Minnesota. Well, the 82nd Airborne is now being lauded for "best tweet" on the subject of the raccoon, which made it to the roof of the building by about 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

It's been a week of motivational mysteries. Why on Earth would a successful (and seemingly happy) author and TV host like Anthony Bourdain kill himself? Why would a raccoon decide to climb all the way up a 20-something-story building? Only the Shadow knows.



when the girls flee the scene

Quite possibly the only movie trailer you'll ever need to see, ever again:


It doesn't hurt that I have a crush on Olivia Munn.

ADDENDUM: Oh, and in case Olivia's making you feel naughty—






Wednesday, June 13, 2018

one of my faves

I think I've slapped this video up here before, but it's worth slapping up again. This is Jamie Oliver at his best, demonstrating some cooking skills to a group of inner-city kids in England. No flash, no polish, just good ol' cooking—with the understanding that these are life skills that may prove useful later on. I much prefer a video like this to Oliver's usual, over-polished material. I also think he's a natural teacher.






flip-flopping attitudes

Here.

We've seen this with both the left's and the right's attitude toward Russia. Anyone remember when Hillary Clinton had her plastic "reset" button with the misspelled Russian on it? That was an era of warm-fuzzy feelings toward Russia, all emanating from the left. In that same period, Barack Obama, during his debate with Mitt Romney, scoffed at Romney's claim that Russia represented a looming threat to America's interests. "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back," Obama mocked. So what on Earth happened to cause both sides to flip-flop so radically? Trump happened, is what. Rejecting the hawkish approach toward Russia, Trump advocated constructive, peaceful overtures that threw both the left and the right into chaos. As the 2016 election campaign ground on, Democrats went from declaring absolute trust in the electoral process (back when they were sure Hillary Clinton would win) to raving that the entire process had been compromised by Russia (after HRC lost), and that Trump had somehow colluded with the Russians. The right, meanwhile, did its awkward best to choke down Trump's new, pacifistic line, and now the roles are reversed. This is why Styx, in his videos, has been calling the "corporate" left the true warmongers in this ongoing discussion. Hillary has openly expressed a willingness to retaliate militarily against Russia should it be proven that Russia has conducted cyber-warfare against the US. She has also, along with John McCain, declared a willingness to bomb Iran for perceived aggressions. The tables have turned, indeed, and one wonders whether labels like "liberal" and "conservative." "left" and "right," have any meaning anymore.*

No one knows quite what to think these days, but if nothing else, the very presence of Donald Trump is causing many to out their inner hypocrites, as the above link shows.



*As I've noted before, in quoting those wiser than me, the paradigm seems to have shifted away from left versus right to nationalism/populism versus globalism/corporatism. This new dichotomy retains some of the flavor of the old, but it's not the same thing by any means. For instance, the idea of transnational progressivism has been around since the time when the left/right distinction was both operative and meaningful. We see it at work in the European Union, which is governed by a transnational body located in Brussels. That whole phenomenon is leftist to the core, and it dovetails with globalist interests while opposing nationalist ones. But at the same time, Trump's nationalism violates certain long-held conservative principles, like the advocacy of free trade. According to the old way of looking at things, a conservative Republican should be pro-free trade. Trump, by contrast, is anti-free trade and protectionist in a way that old-school Democrats would have loved. His attitude makes sense in the new paradigm; it makes no sense in the old. Like Democrat-voting union workers, Trump is fighting for the rights of American workers to produce products and not be sidelined by cheap labor from Africa, China, and India. So, yes: we live in realigning times, and realigning times, like it or not, require new labels.



Ave, Joshua!

Joshua Stanton is understandably skeptical about what has or hasn't been achieved at the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. Read his fisking here. Excerpts:

Historically, vague agreements are the agreements Pyongyang loves. [On] the one hand, it will put an implausibly narrow interpretation on its own concessions: “What you do mean this includes uranium?,” or, “You said missile tests, not satellite tests!” On the other hand, it will interpret our own concessions broadly.

[...]

We have given legitimacy to the man responsible for “crimes against humanity, arising from ‘policies established at the highest level of State,’” including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” And for a regime that values myths, symbols, and legitimacy more than a million lives, that will cost the people of both Koreas — and eventually, us — incalculably.

[...]

To North Korea, this will certainly mean an end to U.S.-South Korean exercises. You’ll see (update: sooner than expected, as it turned out). The next one is Ulchi Freedom Guardian, and it’s usually held in August. By then, South Korea’s left-wing government, empowered by the electoral gift that Trump has just given it, will be joining Pyongyang in demanding the cancelation of the exercise. As I’ve said before, Pyongyang will not demand our withdrawal until Moon Jae-in’s control of the press and suppression of his domestic critics has advanced to the point when no domestic backlash can stop it. I suspect that when the results are in from South Korea’s local elections today, we’ll have taken a giant leap toward that.

[...]

Just bear in mind: to Pyongyang, film parodies of Kim Jong-un, White House meetings with North Korean defectors, and think tank conferences on human rights in North Korea are all incompatible with its idea of “security of the Korean Peninsula.” It sees words that are U.S. policy prerogatives, moral imperatives, and protected speech under the First Amendment as a threat to its security.

[...]

Overall, what’s not in the agreement is much more significant than what is.
Is Trump still playing his vaunted 4-D chess, or has he been had, like so many feckless presidents before him? My current assumption is that North Korea has been using the same playbook for decades and will continue to do so, mainly because it's worked so well up to now. Like Charlie Brown running toward Lucy's football, we in the West fall for this nonsense every single time. There's a chorus, however, slowly gaining momentum, that declares, "This time, it's different." There have been enough differences between Trump's approach and that of previous administrations for me to pause and at least consider the possibility that this new chorus might be right. But my native caution and skepticism lead me to think that Joshua's dour assessment is probably closer to reality.

As I've been saying with regard to all things Trump: we'll see.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Trump-Kim summit: brief thoughts

My impression, based on articles like this one, is that the Trump-Kim summit was mainly about meeting face to face, getting a few handshake and random-stroll photos, and not much else. An agreement was signed, but it sounds as if the agreement is a preliminary promise, not an action-item-filled list of things that will happen between now and a very specific time.

Kim Jong-un has pledged to disarm his nuclear arsenal and Donald Trump has given security guarantees in a joint statement at the end of a historic summit in Singapore.

The commitments were vaguely worded and did not represent an advance on similar agreements – which have proved hard to enforce – between the two countries over past decades, but the statement said there would be further meetings between senior officials from both countries to continue the momentum of the summit.

[...]

The joint statement, signed by the leaders after five hours of talks, laid out a basic bargain. “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” it read.

Previous statements, in 1994 and 2005, contained similar promises but those agreements broke down over differences of interpretation and spats over verification.

Moreover, there is a gulf between the two sides idea over what denuclearization will mean. Washington is pushing for complete North Korean disarmament as quickly as possible, while Pyongyang wants an open-ended process of negotiation in which it is treated as an equal.

Beatrice Fihn, the head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said in a tweet: “We support diplomacy and peaceful solutions. But there is no agreement on nuclear disarmament and this all looked more like a big welcome party to the nuclear-armed club.”

Kim undertook to cooperate with the US in the recovery of remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean war, a longstanding US request which has so far produced only limited assistance.

Trump said the signed document was historic and comprehensive and Kim said the pair had agreed to “leave the past behind”. Posing for photographs afterwards, Trump said he had learned that Kim was a “very talented man” who loved his country.

Before the signing, Trump said the Singapore discussions had gone “better than anybody could have imagined”.

That last part sounds like a lot of spin to me. But on the bright side, this appears to be a good first step: nobody went out of his or her way to piss anybody off, so there's that. At the very least, the door is now open for more face-to-face meetings. A coworker of mine heard somewhere that Trump has invited Kim to visit the White House. That's the sort of gesture that's guaranteed to be spun negatively as dictator-coddling, but let's see where all this leads. If a deal results that eventually ends up injecting a measure of capitalism into the country (aside from the homegrown, grass-roots capitalism currently supplementing the disaster that is North Korea's centrally planned economy), that might be a good thing. For the moment, I remain skeptical that anything substantive has been accomplished, but I'm open to being shown how wrong I am.

The Guardian: What We Know So Far.

Off to the side, we've got Dennis Rodman weepily praising the two countries' seeming rapprochement and noting that Obama had given him the cold shoulder ("Obama didn't even give me the time of day"), whereas Trump had acknowledged Rodman's diplomatic efforts (if "diplomatic" is the correct adjective here) and even thanked the ex-basketballer.

Is this the moment when detractors go after Trump for saying it was "an honor" to meet Kim, in the same way that detractors went after Obama for seemingly bowing before the king of Saudi Arabia? All this has happened before...

the Trump-Kim summit redux






seen on Gab

Ah, cynicism.






yerp: it's really happening

Drink it in:






"the wages of sin is death": Christ, that grammar

If, like me, you've been frustrated by the centuries-old locution "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), here's an explanation for the bizarre construction.

I gather, from the above-linked blog post, that wages is here being treated the way we moderns treat the word media, which is technically plural if you go back to the Latin (the singular of media is medium), but which we often use as if it were singular ("The media is once again aghast at Trump's latest utterance."). While that explanation doesn't sit well with me, I suppose I must bow to the force of tradition in this one specific case. As for media, well, on this blog, we treat it as grammatically plural—not just because we like going old-school, but also because people do still use the word medium as a singular form of media. You can't have it both ways, I say: if you're using the word medium to denote something grammatically and conceptually singular, then you can't also use media as if it were singular.

Same goes for datum/data, by the way. The word data is a Latin plural, and so long as people use datum in the singular, data will always be plural to me.

The data are clear, but don't ignore this anomalous datum.

Meanwhile, a pro-ACA liberal experiences the wages of Obamacare.



Monday, June 11, 2018

Anthony Bourdain and the Clinton Body Count

A conspiracy meme sprang up almost as soon as the news of Anthony Bourdain's death began to circulate. According to this meme, Bourdain has become another name on the ever-lengthening list of what is known as the Clinton Body Count. The theory is that Bill and Hillary Clinton have been quietly offing people who have stood against their agenda. A more recent example of this is Seth Rich, who was shot twice in the back and killed in Washington, DC, in 2016. Rich had worked with the Democratic National Committee, and there had been some suspicion that he might have been one of the leakers of information to Wikileaks, back in the tumultuous period of the presidential campaign. Assuming the veracity of the Clinton Body Count theory, Rich's death—which looked like an attempted robbery, although nothing had been stolen—was the result of his having leaked damaging information to Wikileaks.

This brings us to Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain had publicly tweeted his disgust at Bill Clinton's recent non-apology regarding the Monica Lewinsky affair that had plagued his presidency in the 1990s. A few days before Bourdain's death, he had also supposedly tweeted this: "I have information that will lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton." People online have been referring to this pair of tweets as "haunting" in light of Bourdain's death, which occurred not long after these tweets had been made.


My instinct, upon learning of this latest conspiracy theory, has been to reject it out of hand. While a mean part of me would like to believe the Clintons are the types to murder their enemies, I just can't take this idea seriously, especially in the light of day. The body-count list is indeed quite impressive, but while it looks like evidence for a circumstantial case against the power couple, it stretches plausibility, the way all conspiracy theories do. Note, too, that if you visit Bourdain's Twitter feed, the most recent tweet on it is dated June 3; the above graphic shows a date of June 5. (Bourdain died in France on June 8.) It's conceivable that Bourdain tweeted something, then deleted it, but it's more likely that the above tweet is actually fake.

Let's let poor Tony rest in peace.

UPDATE: the Bourdain tweet shown above is definitely fake. Here's the guy, Owen Benjamin, confessing to having slapped that tweet up as a joke. Benjamin has a good quote, though, regarding his dad, who used to threaten to commit suicide all the time: "When you forgive things that you know are wrong, it doesn't end the cycle." I wonder how this might apply to the Trump-Kim summit. Will forgiving the Kim regime's many depredations somehow end the cycle of death and oppression in North Korea? Probably not.



it's the 11th

The Trump-Kim summit in Singapore happens tomorrow, on the 12th.

What if Kim Jong-un cancels on Trump today?

We've got nine hours before midnight.



Venezuela's road to perdition

A must-read here.

TITLE: Venezuela’s Long Road to Ruin
SUBHEAD: Few countries have provided such a perfect example of socialist policies in practice.

Word from Caracas is that locals have taken to scouring city streets for plastic garbage bags full of rubbish and, when they find them, emptying the contents so that they can resell the bags.

This sounds absurd, but it is believable in a country where extreme poverty has spread like the plague. Human capital is fleeing. Oil production is plummeting, and the state-owned oil company is in default. The garbage bag, imported with dollars, is a thing of value.

If anything was more predictable than the mess created by Hugo Chávez’s Marxist Bolivarian Revolution, it is the pathetic effort by socialists to deny responsibility. The Socialist Party of Great Britain tweeted recently that Venezuela’s problem is that socialism has yet to be tried. It blamed the crisis on “a profit-driven capitalist economy under leftist state-control.” Even more preposterous is the claim by some academics that economic liberalism in the 1980s spawned the socialism that has destroyed the country.

Learning from history is impossible if the narrative is wrong. So let’s clear the record: By the time Chávez was elected, Venezuela already had 40 years of socialism under its belt and precious little, if any, experience with free markets.
Read the rest. It's a short article. Oh, and this comment caught my eye.

Central. Planning. Doesn't. Work.



"24 dirty memes for your soul"

I saw the link to these 24 memes on Gab. My favorites are #5 (education), #10 (downhill bounce), #13 (cactus), #19 (anaconda), and #24 (wolf). Of those five, #10 and #19 take the cake—#10 because you have to use your imagination, and #19 because it's just plain funny.

#9 is kinda hard to look away from, I must admit.

Heh. I said "hard."



a country full of Harry Potters

We've got elections happening on June 13. I'm getting tired of the campaigning.





belated dinner pics

The following food pics should have been taken this past Saturday, while Charles, Tom, and I were together and having dinner, but I don't think any of us thought to take photos because we were all too hungry to think about anything other than eating. Anyway, here's a series of images with a bit of commentary. No clicking necessary; the images have all been resized to fit the blog's main column. Enjoy.

First up: Charles's flatbread, which came out perfectly. Charles did most of the prep at his place, but he rolled out and cooked the bread at my place, deftly wielding a rolling pin and a stainless-steel frying pan to create perfect stovetop rounds of flatbread that pleasantly bubbled and puffed out the way they were supposed to, then settled back into a standard flatbreadish shape as they cooled. Charles had made enough for four people, but we were only three, and I ended up eating the rest of the flatbread the following day. One interesting ingredient in Charles's flatbread was yogurt, which added a certain smoothness to the dough, but none of the sourness I had been expecting.


Below: a shot of my Middle Eastern chicken, sitting on a bed of couscous, but with no toppings (I added those later, as you'll see):


A somewhat blurry shot (sorry) of the now-topped chicken:


Next: another frustratingly blurry shot, this time of the galbi (Korean-style beef short ribs). I had bought 2 kg of L.A. galbi from Costco; I marinated the beef all night, then cooked out the marinade as a glaze after adding a ton of brown sugar to it. I pan-fried the short ribs, then painted the glaze onto them when they came out of the pan. The result was glistening and beautiful. Too bad the shot doesn't capture that; my phone can be frustrating when it comes to taking photos; a shot might look good on the phone's screen, but when the image is magnified, it can turn out to be bad. I need to take some classes in photography, I think. Anyway, behold:


Next up is a photo of some "short-cut" hummus that I made as a way to get rid of the extra chickpeas I had. The shortcut, in this case, involves using Korean sesame oil instead of tahini (oily sesame paste): the texture doesn't change much, and the taste remains exactly the same because the sesame retains all that sesame flavor. (Don't tell the hummus purists about my workaround.) Because chickpeas are now sold in many Korean stores, I no longer have to venture out to Itaewon to buy them. Tahini is a different matter, but using sesame oil obviates the need to buy the paste, which is very convenient for me.

We didn't eat any hummus on Saturday; I made this batch Sunday evening and will be taking it into the office tomorrow, to offer to the troops.


Below: salvaged burger buns and pan-fried hot-dog buns. The burger buns, which I had bought for the burger fest the previous weekend, had begun to develop teeny, tiny spots of mold on them. I scraped off the mold and toasted the buns on the stainless-steel pan to kill any other microorganisms that might be hanging around. I then buttered three buns with regular butter; the rest of the bread was "buttered" with the spiced-oil mixture that I had used to make my Middle Eastern chicken. If toasting the buns hadn't been enough to get rid of all the microscopic critters, what happened next probably took care of the rest: I then pan-fried all the bread.

Monday morning, I'm taking a mess of food to the office as a way of getting rid of it all quickly. I'm packing up the leftover Middle Eastern Chicken, plus thirteen strips of galbi. I've also got a whole package of Citterio salami, and I didn't have any more flatbread to use with the hummus, which is why I pan-fried all that bread: the rolls with regular butter can be used for salami sandwiches, and the rolls with the Middle Eastern spices can be used with the hummus. That's my hope, anyway; some weirdo might try pairing the Middle Eastern bread with some salami, which is going to be gross and awkward, I think.


Here's a glimpse of the leftover Middle Eastern chicken, packed up and ready to be transported over to the office, where I hope it will disappear down several gullets:


Again, apologies for the blurry photos. I need to check my pics more carefully the moment I take them so as to present only quality images to you, Dear Reader. That said, I hope you enjoyed the parade of victuals.



Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ben Shapiro on suicide

The (poorly punctuated) title of this YouTube video is somewhat misleading: Anthony Bourdain's recent suicide might be a jumping-off point or a catalyst for the discussion at hand, but Ben Shapiro's talk is more focused on suicide in general, and specifically on suicide as an "epidemic" in the United States at the moment. Shapiro's perspective comes off as a tough-love approach that I can relate to; I've written enough on suicide for long-time readers to have an idea where I stand on the matter, so I won't repeat myself here. But do give Shapiro a listen, and feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.


Shapiro's insight that we Americans are in the midst of a crisis of meaning and purpose seems plausible to me. Shapiro notes that "suicidality" is correlated with the richness of a country (he denies the flip side—to wit, that there is a correlation between poverty and suicide), and it makes sense that materialistic people who enjoy a lack of material needs might find life meaningless. While Shapiro talks tangentially about the lessening role of religion in society, he focuses more on the idea that people need purpose in order to live meaningful lives. This is, I think, a basic psychological truth. One of the reasons why certain old people get depressed and kill themselves is that they no longer feel useful; they are no longer seen as having anything meaningful to contribute: they no longer have a purpose. Psychologist Ernest Becker, riffing off the thought of Otto Rank, contended that human beings become suicidal when they cease to be the heroes of their own internal narratives, and crucial to being a hero is living for a purpose greater than oneself.

I hope you're not feeling suicidal as you read this. I hope no one close to you is feeling suicidal. But keep in mind that one path away from suicide is the path of heroism: you, or a loved one, need to feel you have purpose. You need to feel useful, to feel as if you're of value to others. The fact is that you are of value: there are people who either depend on you or who would feel utterly bereaved if they discovered you were no longer around. Recover your sense of your own heroism, and if you feel that that sense is missing, then go do something heroic. If you can't find a purpose for yourself, then by God, make a purpose for yourself. Don't let the demons win. They have no reason to win because, after all, they're only in your head.



Saturday, June 09, 2018

a good time was had by all

No photos, alas, of tonight's dinner, but trust me: it was pretty damn good. Charles came over with flatbread dough, which he rolled out and cooked off on my stove. The bread was both perfect in and of itself and a good match for my Middle Eastern chicken. The galbi (primarily for Tom, who refuses to eat veggies) was also good; we all ate a few strips of it. Funny how time passes quickly when you're among friends: in the blink of an eye, it was 10PM and time for my guests to head home. I've got a bit of leftover bread (Charles didn't want to take anything home) as well as leftover chicken and galbi. I'll need to cook the short ribs up and take them into the office on Monday; gotta get rid of this food somehow.



hilarious dawg

We could all use a bit of cheering up after the awful news about Anthony Bourdain, so here's a short clip of one of the funniest dogs I've seen in a while. I had thought that huskies were super vocal, but then I saw this wolfdog, whose plaintive "Noooooooo!" rivals the anguished howl that Luke Skywalker gives upon learning that Darth Vader is his dad.






KMA gig and dudes coming over

I've gotten so used to having my KMA gigs canceled that it was a surprise to receive a text message from KMA, on Friday afternoon, saying that my June 16 gig was indeed on. Well, good: that'll be nearly W500,000 for July (unless KMA pays early, which is does do quite often); I could use the money.

In other news: I've got a few guests coming over today (Saturday). I'm prepping the main meal (Middle Eastern chicken and Korean galbi); my buddy Charles is making flatbread, which he plans to finish up at my place (I've fielded requests for flour, a rolling pin, and a stainless-steel frying pan). Right now, I've got dried chickpeas burbling away in a slow cooker, plus galbi marinating nicely in the fridge. I'll prep the chicken the rest of the way come morning, and I'll cook the short ribs up in the early afternoon. Night, all. Sleep tight.



Friday, June 08, 2018

ululate!

Chef-turned-author Anthony Bourdain has died of an apparent suicide by hanging. His body was found in a hotel in France.

He was 61.

I saw several episodes of Bourdain's TV show "No Reservations" and none of his current "Parts Unknown" (done in conjunction with CNN, where he had been en résidence for five years); I had read the chapter on an adventure in Korea in one of his several books. (I think that chapter paralleled a TV segment on the same topic.) Bourdain was a no-nonsense writer who didn't hold back his opinion, whether he was slamming Food Network chefs like Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee, or talking about the various countries and cultures he had encountered as a globetrotting gourmand.

My buddy Tom just texted me the news of Bourdain's death a few minutes ago, and I'm still processing the shock. Despite his acerbic wit and a tendency to make enemies, Bourdain had also been gifted with a sense of humor that was often a vehicle for his perceptivity; he had a way with people. And despite being over 60, he was always willing to learn and explore, not to settle down and settle in, and certainly not to settle for an ordinary life.

It's going to take me some time to wrap my head around this particular death. Bourdain and I didn't see eye-to-eye on all topics, but I admired him and respected his point of view.

RIP, Mr. Bourdain. So sad to see you go.

ADDENDUM: my buddy Dr. Steve offers his own Bourdainish thoughts here.



moving up in the world

Yesterday at work, a Korean staffer approached my desk and told me that a real-estate agent working in my apartment building (our lobby level has several competing real-estate offices) would like to take me on a tour of a renovated apartment on the 14th floor, eight floors above where I live. This invitation to a tour came about because I had told the boss, months ago, that I've never been completely happy with my current digs. The apartment I'm in right now is a parade of horrors, big and small: peeling and ripped wallpaper, gummed-up ventilator fans in the kitchenette, a nonsensical kitchenette sink made of a stain-absorbing plastic(!), a disgusting bathroom rife with impossible-to-remove hard-water stains and actual holes in the walls, dilapidated furniture, bad internet (until recently), and random "sticker hooks" all over every vertical surface, left there by the previous tenant.

When I got to the real-estate office at 11 this morning, the agent greeted me with a certain perfunctory brusqueness that I found off-putting. She warmed up eventually, though, answering some of my questions about the 14th-floor apartment as we did our little inspection tour. As it turns out, the apartment itself has about the same amount of floor space as does my current place; it lacks a bed and a fridge, but I think my boss can arrange for those to be brought in (I can probably just take along the bed I'm currently using: the boss had gotten that bed expressly for me when I arrived in 2015). The new place's kitchenette has a gas range with pop-up safety buttons embedded in each burner; Charles tells me these are now standard on modern gas ranges. And glory of glories, the new place's bathroom looks like a space that's fit for human use! That, more than anything else, is what sold me on the apartment. The new bathroom is shiny and tiled; its facilities are sparkling, probably thanks to the newness of the residence's renovation. The sink/shower valve in the bathroom looks like a rational swivel or dial, not the weird push/pull tab that I have now.

The one big drawback to the new place is that I'll be losing my current beautiful, easterly view, which overlooks a park, faces some mountains, and lets in the sunrise every morning. My current view also shows me the Lotte World Tower, over in Jamshil, making it easy to see nighttime fireworks displays. The new place has windows facing north, and much of that view is blocked by other apartment buildings. While that's disappointing, I normally live with my blinds down most of the time, anyway, so I suppose it would be no big loss to lose my current vista. That's what I'm telling myself, at least.

When I move—because I've already said yes to the real-estate agent—I'm probably going to have to get rid of (or simply stow) some current possessions. I still have the bed that I'd used while living in Ilsan all those ages ago; if I keep it, it'll serve as a guest bed, but I seriously doubt I'll be hosting overnight visits at my place. Ever. If that's the case, then there's no need to keep the bed around. Off with his bed! Because the new place comes with a bunch of closet space, I might also ditch my biggest, ugliest bookshelf/cabinet thingie in favor of smaller, more modular shelving. And at some point, I need to toss my current computer desk and buy a better, more modern one. That'll take some searching around.

It's exciting to know that I'll be moving into better digs soon. The move is likely to happen in July, and since July is close enough to my F-4 visa's renewal date, I may as well get the F-4 renewal done as soon as I've finished moving (in Korea, you're fined over W100,000 if you fail to inform Immigration—or your local district office—of an address change within 14 days).

Good to see some upward progress in my life, even if it all comes courtesy of my company.



Thursday, June 07, 2018

film analysis of the educational kind

I found this side-by-side comparison of two Jurassic Park movies to be quite enlightening:


My only quibble with the video's premise is that I don't think the 1993 movie counts as great; it's merely very good. The commentator in the video makes the point that one of the flaws of "Jurassic World" is the way in which the human protags become mere bystanders to a dino slugfest. He says this as if this doesn't apply to the 1993 movie, but it does, and this is one of the 1993 movie's great weaknesses: in Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant is actually quite the proactive badass: he takes down several velociraptors by out-thinking them. Grant's agency is erased in the Spielberg version of the story, his heroism sacrificed at the altar of CGI critters. Aside from that problem, though, I enjoyed the video.



the first Koreans

ROK Drop notes that dinosaur footprints were just found in Ulsan:






Wednesday, June 06, 2018

PJW on la rivoluzione italiana

I've been cautiously skeptical about the possibility of a Europe-wide cascade of Brexits, but Italy now seems one significant step closer to a massive—if it happens—Italexit. Here's Paul Joseph Watson with his thoughts on the matter:


A few commentators have been crowing about the coming European wave for a while, now. The wave is powered by a reborn sense of nationalism coupled with a retrenched view of immigration, plus a good measure of euroskepticism. Keep in mind that these euroskeptics aren't anti-Europe in the sense that they want to somehow destroy the continent: they're simply anti-EU and anti-eurozone—two sentiments that I absolutely share with them. Talk about "masses yearning to breathe free": these skeptics look at the current situation and feel humiliated that their home countries don't enjoy absolute sovereignty because a cabal of unelected bureaucrat-legislators in Brussels, wielding the might of an EU Constitution that is as thick as a dictionary (and not a simple pamphlet like the US Constitution), can pass laws that emanate from Belgium and must be obeyed by all EU members. Italy seems on the verge of breaking away from this stifling, stultifying dynamic, and if the above-mentioned commentators are right, a slew of countries will soon gird their loins and follow suit. Styx, for one, has noted that France is edging ever closer to a Frexit: Emmanuel Macron won the presidency this time around, but his opponent Marine Le Pen made an impressive showing, pushing her party, the National Front, ever upward in the polls, in what appears to be an ongoing trend. It's not unimaginable that she might one day accede to the presidency... and if that happens, watch for a Frexit not long after she's installed in the Elysée Palace.

But let's aim for a little nuance. Watson says a few things, in the above video, that I both agree and disagree with. He talks about the Italian swing away from "monopoly capitalism," which is now increasingly seen as harmful to society; I can agree with that. Huge companies, by their ponderous, bureaucratic nature, lose their robustness and become factories for mediocrity. However, PJW's quoting of Minister for Families Lorenzo Fontana strikes me as off: Fontana apparently contends that things like abortion and gay marriage are part of "a globalist plot to erase our people." That's going too far, and it sounds both petty and paranoid. The solution to Italy's birth rate—boosting welfare for mothers and building more free child-care facilities—also smacks of an unappealing statism. All in all, Italy's near future looks to be something of a kaleidoscopic mess of policies that, when viewed through an American lens, look like a confused mishmash of right-think and left-think.

We'll see how it goes in Italy, I guess. Anything could happen. If there is, in fact, an Italexit within the next three years, then it could very well be that a massive cascade will follow. Après moi, le Déluge—though not in the originally intended sense.



footses redux

Take another look at my serxy, serxy feet. I wore my sandals for four days (you'll recall that I've been dealing with swelling); this past Monday night, I did a 20,000-plus-step walk to see whether distance walking was possible in the sandals. My feet were fine for most of that walk, but they were hurting by the very end. The following morning, I was in some pain and had to walk at a limp. Turns out the walk had given me a blister. All day Tuesday, I still wore my sandals, but my did my best to stay off my feet, and last night, I went to bed very early to give my body a few extra hours to knit itself together through the healing power of sleep. Here's how things looked yesterday afternoon; I took these pics in our company rec room:




The blackened toenails, which I acquired during my walk to Incheon and back about a month ago, are probably a lost cause; I expect to lose both of them. The blister I've labeled as "The Great Red Spot" was very, very sensitive all day yesterday. At some points, the sensitivity felt bone-deep, so I spent much of the afternoon and evening limping as if I were thirty years older. This morning, however, the Red Spot has darkened and shrunk: it no longer hurts, and it's no longer puffy. I can walk normally today, so I've put my shoes back on, and both of my feet feel fine in them. I now know that my sandals are comfortable for short stretches, but they were probably never meant for distance walking. I also know that my foot's swelling has gone down (this may be evident in the above pics, actually), at least for now. Part of my solution to the swelling problem was to cut way back on food, especially sugar. The strategy seems to have worked. I'm contemplating walking home from work tonight; it's something I normally do at the end of the work day, but I'm not sure I'm ready to tempt fate quite yet. So: one more day of rest, one more day of going to bed early, and I think both the blister and the foot swelling will have been licked by the time I wake up tomorrow.



Tuesday, June 05, 2018

ScreenRant's "Pitch Meeting" sketches

Comic actor Ryan George has been doing some hilarious skits for the ScreenRant channel on YouTube. ScreenRant is one of many fun movie- and TV-commentary channels that show "Top 10" lists on a variety of topics (e.g., Top Ten Violent Disembowelments, Top Ten Moments When the Hero Doesn't Get the Girl, etc.) and host discussion panels that break down and analyze movie and TV plots. Ryan George's particular contribution to ScreenRant's content is a series of amusing shorts called "Pitch Meeting," in which George plays the dual roles of (1) a screenwriter pitching lame ideas and (2) a creepily tolerant studio exec who listens to them. As the camera cuts back and forth in the rapidfire dialogue that ensues, we come to understand that "Pitch Meeting" is all about flaying movies for their logical and story-structural flaws. The series also contains a running joke: the repetition of the lines "super easy—barely an inconvenience" and "[X] is tight." While the flaying of movies has become something of a cyberspace pastime on YouTube (cf. Cinema Sins, Mr. Plinkett, Honest Trailers, etc.), Ryan George's approach feels fresh, at least for the moment.

Here are a few examples:








"Teen Dies After Penis Ripped Off by Shark"

I freely admit I'm terrified of sharks, despite all the assurances that shark attacks are rare, even when considered on a global scale. The problem is that shark attacks, when they happen, are often horrific, and there's something primal about floating in murky water and being assaulted by a torpedo with fangs. News reports like this don't do anything to reassure me, either. I like the beach for the ladies in bikinis, the opportunity to contemplate the immensity of all that water held down by gravity, and the chance to do some peaceful strolling among the lapping waves. That's about it for me; while I can swim, and have done so at many beaches, I'm too paranoid, these days, to think about straying too far into the water. And, when you factor in the notion that most shark attacks actually occur in shallow water, you've got yet another reason to be chary. From the above-linked article:

SHARK HORROR: Swimmer DIES after shark rips off his penis despite horrified sunbathers’ frantic battle to save his life on Brazilian beach

SUBHEAD: Jose Ernestor da Silva was attacked yesterday afternoon while bathing in waters off the Piedade beach near Recife, on Brazil’s north-east coast

A SWIMMER has died after a shark ripped off his penis and part of his leg as he swam in the sea in Brazil.

Jose Ernestor da Silva was attacked yesterday afternoon while bathing in waters off the Piedade beach near Recife, on Brazil’s north-east coast.

The shark struck just as lifeguards stationed on the beach had told the 18-year-old to come closer to the shore, according to reports.

A shocking video taken by a passer-by shows the moment other holidaymakers pulled Jose from the sea before emergency crews arrived.

In the footage, locals try to stem the blood by tying garments around the wound, while others can be heard telling the clearly stunned teenager to “breathe”.

An ambulance rushed Jose to hospital, where he tragically died despite doctors' efforts to save him.

Miguel Arcanjo, the director of Recife’s Restauracao Hospital, said: “He arrived unconscious, with an extremely extensive, very serious wound.

“After the surgery, which ended around 9.30pm, he was admitted to the ICU.

“He lost a lot of blood, which was replaced, but he had a hypovolemic shock and did not resist.”

Despite undergoing emergency surgery, his penis and femur were “amputated” by the bite of what is believed to be a tiger shark, according to medics.

Rodrigo Matias, from Recife’s fire department, said Mr Ferreira was swimming with his brother and friends in deep waters near the shore, in an area marked by signs warning of shark attacks.

Seeing that the group was drifting further out, lifeguards called for them to return to shallower waters.

He said: “At the exact moment in which the lifeguards asked for them to come closer to the beach, he was bitten.”

Ambulance medic Wagner Monteiro earlier said Mr Ferreira had a heart attack after arriving at the local Aeronautica Hospital, and another as he was being transported to the Restauracao Hospital in the centre of Recife.

He said: “The shark bite amputated his femur and his penis. He lost a lot of blood and is in a critical condition.”

The young man died a few hours later.

Jose’s mother Elisangela dos Anjos, 42, told Brazil’s JC Online website that he had gone to the beach without her knowing, and she only knew about after his his brother Ezequiel, who was with him, called her from the beach following the attack.

Speaking from the hospital, she said: “He would go in secret, because he knew that I thought it was dangerous. I wasn’t worried because I thought he was somewhere around the house.

“When I heard about it I went crazy, all the neighbours heard me screaming.”

Yeesh.



cut the balls!

This video is a special gift for all lovers of wacky philosopher Slavoj Žižek:


If you hit the "YouTube" button on the video (hover your cursor over the video to make the button appear), you can go to actor Klemen Slakonja's YouTube page, click "Show More," and scroll down to see the lyrics to the song, which Slakonja performs in Žižek's impenetrable accent. I've seen several interviews with Žižek, who is constantly, almost autistically agitated and forever wiping at his nose. Slakonja gets the tone, rhythm, and mannerisms down pat; the only thing he lacks is Žižek's ample adipose tissue.



"Solo: A Star Wars Story": review

[NB: spoilers!]

Let's get this out of the way: "Solo: A Star Wars Story" isn't a horrible movie. There were parts of it that I thoroughly enjoyed, but there were other parts of the story that didn't add up, or that failed to connect with me on an emotional level. The million-dollar question is: is it worth seeing a second time? To that, I'm afraid the answer is a clear no. "Solo" isn't horrible, but it also isn't particularly inspiring, and part of the reason for that is, as many other critics are saying, it adds nothing of substance to the story of Han Solo.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the "mysteries" that "Solo" solves for us:

1. We find out how Solo got his surname.
2. We find out how Solo got his gun.
3. We find out how Solo got the Millennium Falcon.
4. We find out why C-3PO complained about the Falcon's onboard computer's weird dialect.
5. We discover, kind of, the origin of the "twelve parsecs" claim.
6. We find out how Solo met Chewbacca.
7. We find out how Solo met Lando Calrissian.
8. We find out whether Solo is the type to shoot first.

The movie is directed by Ron Howard, who took over after the dismissal of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, two directors who normally work in comedy, and who approached the script of "Solo" with an emphasis on hilarious improv, which angered the scriptwriters—a power team composed of Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan Kasdan. "Solo" stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton (pronounce it "Tandy"), Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany.

We begin on the planet Corellia, where Han (Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi'ra (Clarke) eke out an existence by thieving and working for the local crime boss, Lady Proxima. Solo steals some refined coaxium, also known as "hyperfuel" for starships, which is volatile but highly valuable. After escaping the clutches of Lady Proxima, Solo and Qi'ra try to get off-planet, but Qi'ra is caught while Solo escapes. He promises to come back for his lady love, but to do so, he thinks he needs to become a pilot. In a bid both to fulfill this dream and to escape the gangsters pursuing him, Solo impulsively joins the Imperial military. It's not obvious how much pilot training he gets; we see him in the infantry, but we find out soon enough that he has sharp piloting skills. Solo is imprisoned at one point, and while in prison, he meets Chewbacca (Suotamo). Solo and Chewie quit the battlefield with a gang led by Beckett (Harrelson) and his wife Val (Newton), getting involved in an operation to hijack a trainload of coaxium. This operation goes south—and Beckett loses his wife—when a band of Cloud Riders shows up and attempts to steal the same coaxium. Neither side obtains the volatile substance, which gets loose and explodes powerfully enough to destroy a mountain.

Beckett had been trying to steal the coaxium for his boss, Dryden Vos (Bettany, with claw scars on his face), who is most displeased with Beckett's apparent lack of progress. Han, Beckett, and the remaining crew propose a dangerous alternate plan to steal unrefined coaxium, which is even more unstable than its refined form, from the spice mines of Kessel, a slave world that sits near a cluster of black holes called the Maw. At Vos's massive, tower-shaped yacht, Han meets Qi'ra, who left Corellia years earlier and fell in with Vos and the crime syndicate that Vos belongs to: Crimson Dawn. Qi'ra now wears a brand on her wrist that symbolizes her commitment to Vos. Vos commands that Qi'ra accompany Beckett and Company on their Kessel mission. The mission itself proves successful after the crew approaches Lando Calrissian (Glover) about a ship, which turns out to be the Millennium Falcon. While on Kessel, Lando's droid, L3 (Waller-Bridge), starts a droid rebellion as a distraction (but also because L3 sincerely believes in droid rights); during the firefight, the droid is irreparably damaged and Lando is shot (the Falcon doesn't belong to Han yet, which is why Lando is on the mission with Han et al.), but the crew manages to get the coaxium to the planet Savareen, with the goal of quickly refining the hyperfuel and presenting it to Vos.

The movie's final act is a quick and unintentionally funny series of plot twists and double-crosses. Earlier on, Beckett had advised Han never to trust anyone: "Assume everyone will betray you, and you will never be disappointed." This philosophy suffuses the final reel, and we find out that Qi'ra, who has been trained to be a cold-blooded assassin since her initiation into Crimson Dawn, doesn't actually work for Vos: she works for Darth Maul (Ray Park, looking older and thicker), who has a brief cameo as an angry hologram. Qi'ra kills Vos; Solo shoots Beckett (who had been planning to shoot Han), and Han and Chewie give the now-refined coaxium to Enfys Nest, the Mad Max-ish leader of the Cloud Riders, who has been organizing a rebellion against the Empire. Solo doesn't end up with the girl, but he does have a new buddy in Chewbacca, and as the film ends, Han plays a crucial game of sabacc against Lando and wins the Falcon. With that, he and Chewie fly off into the galactic ecliptic to meet up with a "big-time gangster" on Tatooine who is organizing a crew.

One of the movie's best points is the Han-Chewie dynamic. I enjoyed Han's first encounter with Chewbacca, which occurs in prison: Chewbacca is known to his human captors as "The Beast," and the guards regularly feed the angry Wookie all manner of humanoid prey, the bones of which lie scattered in the cell. It turns out that Han can speak some Wookie (something never revealed in the original trilogy), and he convinces Chewbacca to help him escape from their cell. Chewbacca is, in fact, quite an important character in this film, and for my money, he's probably my favorite part of "Solo."

The other main characters are a mixed bag. Alden Ehrenreich, as Han Solo, gets some of Harrison Ford's mannerisms right, but he lacks both the physique and the sonorous voice to make the role work. Donald Glover, by contrast, does an excellent incarnation/impression of Billy Dee Williams's Lando, but the character isn't in the movie for very long. Lando's droid L3 (full name: L3-37—get it?) is a bit of a puzzle; she seems to be under the impression that her owner/master Lando has the hots for her, but she's decided that a relationship could never work. Lando, for his part, becomes extremely distraught when L3 is shot, leading us viewers to believe the droid might not have been speculating idly. It's a weird and somewhat creepy dynamic, but given how there may have been a potentially gay undercurrent in the relationship between Chirrut and Baze in "Rogue One," why not hint at the possibility of a human-droid romance? It's Star Wars, now omnisexual for 2018, so anything goes. Emilia Clarke's Qi'ra is a character who reveals her true powers and skills (and maybe her motives) very late in the film; I was left wanting to know more about her, and if there's a sequel, I have to wonder how Qi'ra might evolve. Woody Harrelson plays a subdued version of himself (as he has in several recent movies, like "The Edge of Seventeen" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri") in the role of Beckett. Paul Bettany, recently seen as the ill-fated Vision in "Avengers: Infinity War," is smooth and malicious as Dryden Vos, but like Lando, Vos doesn't enjoy much screen time.

So no one in the cast was atrocious. If I have no desire to re-watch the movie, it's not because of the acting: it's because the story—in style, tone, and content—had the cobbled-together feel of a movie that has undergone script rewrites and major changes at the helm. Going from the comedic team of Lord and Miller to Ron Howard was a seismic shift, indeed. Howard is a capable director; when he's on fire, he's one of the best, as his "Apollo 13" demonstrates. Unlike Lord and Miller, however, Howard isn't as interested in suffusing the story with comedy. He's more of a skilled-but-straightforward storyteller who inherited an already-messed-up situation. You can see and feel the problems: there are times when "Solo" wants to be a chase movie; there are other times when it wants to be a heist flick, and other times when it wants to be more like a spy film in which major characters reveal themselves to have been double agents all along. Some of the comedy has been left in (L3 is the designated comic relief), but leaving the humor intact in certain places only adds to the general feeling of tonal unevenness. Certain emotional beats make no sense, e.g., when Beckett loses his wife, then never mentions her again. Certain characters (like the insectoid Lady Proxima, who gets maybe a minute on camera) are trotted out for a moment, then we cut away from them, and they're swept under the rug as the story grinds forward. There are logical problems as well, such as when Dryden Vos acquiesces to the new plan to rob the unrefined coaxium because the crew has no direct, traceable connections to him. After giving Han and Beckett the go-ahead with this plan, Vos suddenly insists that Qi'ra, who is his closest lieutenant, accompany Han and the gang—thereby nullifying the crew's untraceability to the crime lord.

Let's talk about the Maw for a bit. The Maw is actually quite familiar to fans of the Star Wars spinoff novels, which were stories set in what George Lucas called an "expanded universe" (or EU). Kevin Anderson, in his 1994 Jedi Academy series, came up with the idea of the Maw, and it appears that, twenty-four years later, no one saw any way to improve upon or embellish Anderson's original concept. The Maw is a cluster of black holes, and in the Jedi Academy novels, the planet Kessel sits alongside, not inside, the Maw. The various gravity wells warp space enough to make navigation in that sector extremely dangerous. Smugglers taking spice from Kessel's spice mines try to find the shortest route out of the area to their destinations, but it's Han Solo who—with the help of the now-disembodied-and-uploaded L3 acting as navicomputer for the Falcon—manages to find the shortest possible route out of the area. Whereas no one before Han has ever found a route shorter than twenty parsecs, Han finds a route that is around twelve. The Maw was Kevin Anderson's way of repairing the apparent gaffe in the original "Star Wars": there's that moment in the Mos Eisley cantina where Han brags that the Millennium Falcon is "the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs." We normie viewers generally assumed Han was referring to time; nerdier viewers in 1977 probably heard Han's line and immediately thought, "But a parsec is a unit of distance!" Thanks to Kevin Anderson, the problem has been solved, and that particular plot hole is now closed. Unfortunately, "Solo" doesn't actually depict the Maw as a cluster of black holes: we only ever see a single black hole (it's referred to as a "gravity well," which is a sloppy use of language because any celestial object of significant mass possesses a gravity well) and the tentacled horror that lives near it.

And despite the praise I've given Ron Howard for his directorial talents, I have to say that there were times when he seemed to be doing a JJ Abrams impression. In the movie's more Abrams-y moments, we see characters running frantically through ship corridors in an attempt to reach a gun turret or inject a drop of coaxium into the Falcon's fuel lines.

Where does this leave us? We're left with a jumble of a film. The acting is fine, but (1) the plot holes are as wide as a bantha's asshole, (2) the tone and story structure are all over the place, and (3) the movie doesn't give us a story that adds much to the character of Han Solo. I offer special praise to Chewbacca and Lando for the life they bring to the film, but I feel some frustration that Qi'ra wasn't more developed (I think the idea is to develop her character over several films; she transitions so quickly from mere girlfriend to deadly assassin that we're left with a million questions). It's no wonder that "Solo" is currently tanking at the US box office, and before I conclude this review, I should mention the elephant in the room: Alden Ehrenreich seems like a fine fellow, and this is not really his fault, but he's no Harrison Ford. That fact, more than anything else, is what's killing this movie.



Peter Bence by way of Justin Yoshida

My friend Justin Yoshida, who always finds the best links, just embedded the following video in a blog post of his. This video comes from the channel of Peter Bence, who apparently does peppy piano covers of certain songs. Below is his cover of Toto's 1982 "Africa," a song that definitely takes me back a few decades. Justin's comment: "Making piano tuners cringe since 1828!" Watch what Bence does to the piano, and you'll get that comment. Piano abuse aside, I like Bence's cover of "Africa," and I whistled exuberantly along with it. Bence cleverly inserts a non-Toto interlude that can nevertheless be harmonized with parts of the song; he then returns to the song itself. All in all, it's a fun and all-too-brief ride.






Monday, June 04, 2018

footses

The New Balance sandals that I ended up buying in Itaewon on Saturday (you'll recall that I'm brand-loyal to New Balance) have proven to be quite comfortable, although I'm still learning how to put them on and take them off fluidly. The toes on my right foot (except for the pinky toe, which gets covered by a soft sandal strap) have all breathed a sigh of relief, now that they can stretch and expand to their hearts' content. I'm going to try some distance walking tonight—probably my fourteen-staircase creek walk—just to give these sandals a good test run. I haven't yet had a problem with grit and pebbles getting underfoot, but I suspect that that might happen tonight along the creekside bike path. We'll see. I'm also fasting through Wednesday, and on Thursday morning, I'll try putting my regular shoes back on to see whether the swelling has gone down. That ought to be interesting.

Walking has been an ability I've taken for granted, but the relationship between walking and footwear is something that's always on my mind. For distance walkers, footwear is absolutely crucial; the gear must match the feet. Even a slight irritation can be a bad thing because it worsens mightily over several tens of thousands of steps, resulting in blisters or chafing or other problems. Multiply that number by 23 (the number of days my Seoul-Busan walk took*), and you're looking at bloody feet if you're not careful.

Expect an update later this week.



*The walk took 26 calendar days, but I rested for three of those days, so it actually took me 23 active days to walk from Seoul to Busan.



Sunday, June 03, 2018

random Lambo

Below is the second Lamborghini that I've encountered in the space of five days:


This Lambo was parked in the garage at the COEX Mall. JW had parked in a nearby section, and after seeing "Solo," we three were going to pile into his car to drive back to my place. Along the way, we passed by the above car. (Full disclosure: I like the Lambo's looks, but I've never been a fan of its uncomfortable-looking interior.) It's always a bit sad to these these beasts on the crowded streets of Seoul: Lamborghinis are meant to sprint across long stretches of open road, not putt-putt along in stop-and-go traffic in a huge city. What a waste.

("Solo" review coming soon.)



burger time

JW and his boy came back with me to my place after our viewing of "Solo: A Star Wars Story." I served hamburgers and hot dogs. Here's a hamburger:


The boy was a bit picky, but he enjoyed his burger. Couldn't finish his hot dog, but his dad helped him out there. I gave JW my leftovers to serve to his wife and daughter, who were having a girls' day out the way we were having a guys' day out. A good time was had by all.