Friday, June 22, 2018

pardon me while I turn green with envy

Kit Harington and Rose Leslie, both stars in the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," fell in love while working together and are getting married... well, tomorrow, actually: June 23rd. The Daily Mail has a splendiferous article, replete with stunning photos, about the wedding and the sumptuous Scottish castle in which the blessed event will be held: Wardhill Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The castle actually belongs to the Leslie family: Rose grew up there. The place looks amazing, and the photo essay offers the reader an eye-opening tour, primarily of the rooms in the main hold and not of the surrounding grounds (which are seen in aerial photos). Click on over and have yourself a look at how the other half lives. And congratulations to the loving and lovable couple: I hope they enjoy many years of marital bliss together and have eight children—one for every season of "Game of Thrones."


Charles Krauthammer, conservative commentator, has died at the age of 68. Like Jordan Peterson, who has featured on this blog several times over the past year, Krauthammer had a psych background. He was known for his many books and articles and round-table discussions (with, for example, the DC-famous "Inside Washington") and panel talks on Fox News. Recently, Krauthammer had been both supportive and critical of Donald Trump and his policies, criticizing Trump for his handling of the Charlottesville incident (during which one woman died after being struck by a car) but praising Trump's efforts to build a border wall.

Krauthammer was famously confined to a wheelchair following a swimming accident in which he hit his head at just the wrong angle and severed his spinal cord. In the end, though, it was cancer—initially abdominal cancer that eventually metastasized—that did Krauthammer in. He leaves behind a wife and son. While I didn't follow his writing closely and almost never watched him on TV, Charles Krauthammer was always somewhere on the periphery of my consciousness, and it was partly because of him and his writing that I have any political awareness at all. RIP, Mr. Krauthammer.

ADDENDUM: Koko, the sign-language-using gorilla, is also dead. She was 46.

moqueca: a success?

I'm pretty ashamed of the moqueca I ended up making (hence the lack of photos), but I took it to the office, anyway, and fed almost twenty people... all of whom raved about it. By my lights, the monster-sized stew was poorly seasoned, watery, and too salty-tasting despite not having much salt in it. I had just enough seafood to give everyone a single large serving; the Korean staffers whom we'd invited over for the luncheon came back for seconds, and they were happy just to have the stew's broth to pour over their rice. I was, to be frank, surprised at how well everything worked out. Even the boss, who has had enough of my cooking to be picky about it, said this was a better batch than last time. Most surprising of all was that there were no complaints about tough seafood. I had par-cooked the various critters (scallops, cod, and jumbo shrimp) separately, with the purpose of throwing them all into the soup to finish off with a 2- or 3-minute quick boil. I guess that worked out well, even though I was pretty sure the shrimp ended up a bit tougher than it should have. That said, there was nary a complaint.

These luncheons normally aren't so stressful, but today, I was nearly in panic mode. First, the "SIS" staffers are fairly numerous, so if the lunch had failed, it would have failed big. That would have affected my reputation. Second, the relationship between our department (R&D) and the SIS department has been occasionally rocky because of the sometimes-prickly interaction between the bosses of these departments. It doesn't help that the head of SIS is also the Number Two person in our entire organization. A luncheon failure could have become a diplomatic nightmare. Third, I just wasn't confident in the quality of today's stew, so I was stressed because that's the headspace that my pride put me in: I knew I was serving below-par food. Lucky for me, this was a forgiving audience.

Whew. The day went surprisingly well, but I can't shake the queasy feeling that I somehow got away with something. This was a victory, but an unearned one.

Anyway, I can't think straight. Will just melt into my chair, now.

dat Melania, she say she DON' CARE

Yet another reason to squawk and flap over a Trump's deeds:

The full text of the coat says, "I REALLY DON'T CARE. DO U?" The timing of the coat, which Melania wore into the hot climate of Texas, seems to coincide with all the furor over the separation of illegal-immigrant families. Is this an example of Melania helping The Donald troll the public in a gesture worthy of Marie Antoinette? The liberals in my office seem to think so: they perceive this as a demonstration of lofty indifference to the plight of immigrant children, consistent with the now-outdated view that Republican = rich and out of touch. (Have you noted the political affiliation of the 1% lately? Pretty much all Democrats: Soros, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates, et al. They far outnumber the Murdochs and Kochs.)

Paul Joseph Watson on the whole family-separation flap:

Styx's take:

Seen on Gab—hilarious and sad and morbid all at once:

NB: Trump just signed an executive order prohibiting the separation of families at the US border. This defangs leftist-Democrat bellyaching about how inhuman/subhuman/demonic the policy is (keeping in mind that the policy actually dates back a couple administrations and was not original to Trump, who merely chose to enforce preexisting policy—something his predecessors weren't inclined to do). Of course, the left won't be satisfied with this move. Give an inch, and they'll take a mile. Nothing less than Trump's ouster, followed by his replacement with the proper Democrat, will satisfy. Whether Trump's signing of the EO was a smart maneuver is yet to be determined. I see it as potentially a judo-ish move, but in terms of optics from the right side of the aisle, it looks and feels a lot like caving in.

Something to keep in mind:

1. The family-separation policy predates Trump.
2. Previous presidents have sequestered children and other family members in cage-like camps. Photos from Obama's administration have been flooding the internet of late.
3. It's hypocritical to be outraged about the separation of families, an event that occurs all the time whenever, for example, a male criminal who happens to be a father gets arrested and jailed for some crime. Families are forcibly separated on a routine basis. Where's the outrage about all the other instances?
4. One crucial purpose of the family-separation policy was specifically to help illegal-immigrant children by keeping them from the clutches of kidnappers whose goal is to throw children into sex-trafficking rings. This fact seems to have been buried under the rugby-pileup of the current acrimonious debate.
5. Instead of blaming current policy, how about focusing on the recklessness with which Mexican parents are endangering their children by putting them in such a situation to begin with? Are these parents blameless?

With thanks to Bill Keezer, I saw this from Patriot Post:

To be fair, "selective outrage" is an accusation that cuts both ways. You don't have to dig deep to find the same phenomenon on the right, albeit about different issues.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

...and another mother-son relationship comes to a violent end

A man in Indonesia was recently crushed to death by his dead mother. Pallbearers had been carrying the mother's coffin to a traditional platform called a lakkian, but as the men mounted the ladder, the ladder collapsed, and the coffin tumbled, injuring several men and killing the woman's forty-year-old son when the coffin crushed his head.

When I first saw the headline to this article, my first thought was, How in the hell could THAT have happened? What Rube-Goldberg-meets-Stephen-King sequence of events could possibly have led to the kind of tragedy in which a dead mother inadvertently winds up killing her son? In the annals of parent-child relationships, this is going to go down in history as one of the strangest, saddest endings ever.

black is white, up is down

Who believes what these days? The Republican brand used to be associated with pro-free-trade policies and corporatism. The left, meanwhile, used to believe in strict controls for immigration, as this post reminds us (be sure to click on the video to see all those Democrats—ones who are still in the news today—proclaim, one after another, that illegals are a problem).

UPDATE: John Pepple relates a modest proposal for dealing with the illegal-immigrant problem: house them in college dorms, where in principle the immigrants will be welcomed by people—liberal students and professors—clamoring for "justice." Put the illegals in the dorms and let the students sleep in tent cities. This seems only condign.

is this guy for real?

This has to be a comedy sketch and not a loudly autistic Irishman who's unintentionally funny. Right? Anyway, meet Sir Stevo Timothy. I wanna hear him say, "Dey're maahgickly delicious!" He's like a leprechaun with Tourette's.

I admit I had to look up "Westlife" to understand the final joke.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

rotten in under 24 hours

I came home thinking I'd be able to fire up the stove and heat up the soup I had made the night before: this was primarily a potato-based soup made with leftover carrots and onions, all pureed along with heavy cream, and enhanced with some leftover chicken bouillon. But I made the mistake of leaving the soup in its pot, with the lid on, on the assumption—justified in the past!—that all the boiling would have sterilized the soup. Ha ha—wrong! When I got back to my place tonight, I immediately smelled that something was off, and when I took the lid off my pot, I saw, hilariously, that the soup had begun to bubble and puff like dough in mid-proof. The odor carried hints of kimchi, and when I dipped in a spoon and lifted it out to see how deep the damage went, I saw right away that the entire soup was rotting. Although I had wasted a whole brique of heavy cream in this endeavor, I was so amused by the rot that I chuckled even as I was dumping the befouled soup down the sink drain.

As I hinted above, I've left soups out before, even in warm weather, without ever having had a problem like this. I've certainly never had anything rot on me in under 24 hours! Normally, when you're making soup, all that boiling is enough to sterilize both the inside and the outside of the pot, not to mention sterilizing the pot's contents. So this is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. You, Dear Reader, will be tempted to roll your eyes and shake a finger at me for not having containerized and refrigerated the soup, but that's because you've probably never thoroughly sterilized your soup before. All I can think is that, in this case, I somehow failed to sterilize everything, and whatever bacteria had survived became fruitful and multiplied.

Ah, well. Sad but, at the same time, funny.

clench, then unclench

I saw something that I need to experiment with: a claim that, if you overcook seafood—specifically mollusks like calamari—it'll clench up and become tough and rubbery... but if you keep cooking it for another twenty or so minutes, it'll relax and become the proper texture again. I find that hard to believe, but I'm going to do an experiment to find out how true this is. The claim might be plausible: I've described, on this blog, how slow-cooked pork and beef go through a clenching-and-unclenching cycle, which takes hours. I'm cooking a huge seafood stew for this coming Friday, so this question is particularly relevant to me. The last time I did moqueca for three, some of the scallops ended up becoming too tough, although the stew as a whole still tasted fantastic.

that's a new one on me

Is the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment a lie?

Revolutionary, if so, and there seems to be evidence that the people who played the role of prison guards had been coached to be abusive, i.e., the idea of spontaneous abusiveness now comes into question.


profound words

I find myself frequently overcome and amazed by the ability of people to befriend each other, to love their intimate partners and parents and children, and to do what they must do to keep the machinery of the world running. I knew a man, injured and disabled by a car accident, who was employed by a local utility. For years after the crash he worked side by side with another man, who for his part suffered with a degenerative neurological disease. They cooperated while repairing the lines, each making up for the other’s inadequacy. This sort of everyday heroism is the rule, I believe, rather than the exception. Most individuals are dealing with one or more serious health problems while going productively and uncomplainingly about their business. If anyone is fortunate enough to be in a rare period of grace and health, personally, then he or she typically has at least one close family member in crisis. Yet people prevail and continue to do difficult and effortful tasks to hold themselves and their families and society together. To me this is miraculous—so much so that a dumbfounded gratitude is the only appropriate response. There are so many ways that things can fall apart, or fail to work altogether, and it is always wounded people who are holding it together. They deserve some genuine and heartfelt admiration for that. It’s an ongoing miracle of fortitude and perseverance.

—Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, "Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping"

It's not so much a "God helps those who help themselves" kind of chapter as it is a "God has already helped those who help themselves" chapter, which is more consistent with the traditional Christian notion of grace, a thing that is unearned and unearnable. And while Peterson is a big fan of Carl Jung, who is evoked pretty much every other page (I exaggerate, but Jung is evoked frequently), the above passage has more than a whiff of the optimism of Mencius, who also saw people as generally showing their innate goodness, especially in times of stress or crisis (see Mencius' "child at the edge of the well" example). The character Mark Watney, in the novel The Martian, makes a similar, Mencius-like observation as he observes how Earth has pulled together in a massive effort to get him home. When they want to be, when they put their minds and hearts to it, people can be very good. To be sure, Peterson, consistent with the biblical tone of his book, acknowledges the "fallen" nature of humanity, but this isn't to say that humanity contains no innate capacity for good.

Ave, Joe!

Joe McPherson (whom I finally met five years ago) has written a heartfelt tribute to Anthony Bourdain. This is a June 9 blog post that I only just saw. Here's an excerpt:

I myself had lived a year in Germany before college. I had regretted returning after just a year. Once one lives overseas, it’s hard to move back to the suburban life you knew. The people around you don’t understand what you’ve seen or experienced. They don’t know how large the world is and how small their worlds are. It’s like getting a taste of the most amazing succulent, spice-filled exotic dish and then returning to a life of unsalted mashed potatoes–surrounded by others who think unsalted mashed potatoes are just fine and dandy.

Watching Bourdain passionately break into a durian, munch on crispy frog skins in Chiang Mai, and kick around an inflated [pig's] bladder in Spain while the rest of the porcine fellow was being divided and cooked—it woke me back up. I had to get out of my mashed potatoes existence. I had to do THAT.

I was thinking of returning to Europe, but Korea had been calling at me. I had studied Korean history in college, and I was really into Korean culture. But I was still not sure about moving my ass to Asia. It was that push from Bourdain’s show and his book Kitchen Confidential that made me say, “Fuck it. Let’s go.”

As the guy says in John Scalzi's Old Man's War: "Sometimes, you just gotta hit the road."

UPDATE: Joe's June 16 followup post is here.

Chris Pratt makes a speech

Positioning himself as the anti-De Niro, Chris Pratt recently received an MTV Generation Award (I have no idea what such an award represents; this is the first I've heard of it), the acceptance of which gave him the opportunity to offer a nine-item list composed of pearls of Prattish wisdom, including "You have a soul: be careful with it," "God is real," and "Learn to pray." I won't touch Pratt's theology (which is what conservative sites are all aflutter about; it's important to note, too, that immediately after speaking about God, Pratt expounded on how to minimize odor when taking a shit at a party), but I thought some of the other items on his list made for good life advice, such as "Don't be a turd" and "Doesn't matter what it is—earn it."

It's a shame Pratt divorced the lovely and hilarious Anna Faris; I thought they'd made a good Hollywood power couple. But Hollywood marriages are rarely built to last; here's hoping Pratt ends up with someone with whom he can have a lasting, fulfilling relationship. Meanwhile, we can be thankful that Pratt didn't use his platform to shout "Fuck Trump!" the way the classless Robert De Niro did. Here's a gent speaking his mind on De Niro.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

the hilariously fucked-up thinking in my hilariously fucked-up country

First, watch Ben Shapiro talk about the concept of intersectionality:

Next, read this Hollywood In Toto article about the media's hypocrisy regarding a "Death Wish"-style movie starring Jennifer Garner, then put two and two together. An excerpt:

The reaction to the first “Death Wish” trailer was fast, furious, and oh, so ugly.

The Bruce Willis remake of Charles Bronson’s 1974 classic got pummeled by film scribes and reporters alike after its first teaser dropped.

In no uncertain terms, they blasted the trailer as:

Tone deaf
An NRA commercial gussied up as a feature film

Yet the very same elements are on full display in the new trailer for Jennifer Garner’s “Peppermint,” in theaters Sept. 7.

And there’s barely any outrage from the usual suspects.

It's amazing to watch this sick, hypocritical dynamic at work. But for what it's worth, I liked the preview trailer (at the link above) and want to see "Peppermint." I'm always up for a good revenge drama, and honestly, I don't give a shit if it's a woman or a man in the lead role. I thoroughly enjoyed movies with female leads like "Aliens," "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Revenge," and "Kill Bill," both volumes. Give me a good story and decent characters, and I'm easily entertained, even though it may not seem that way from my more curmudgeonly reviews.

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:

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, 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


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


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


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.