Friday, November 16, 2018

the Trump Effect strikes again

"Creepy porn lawyer" Michael Avenatti, who pointed the finger at Donald Trump because of Trump's alleged dalliances with porn star Stormy Daniels, has himself been detained by police because of accusations of domestic violence:

Avenatti is denying everything, of course.


The man is too dim to understand his karmic connection to Brett Kavanaugh.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

a joke forwarded by Bill Keezer

Here you go (with a hat tip to Wild Bill):

A woman in a hot-air balloon realizes she is lost. She lowers her altitude and spots a man fishing from a boat below. She shouts to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consults his portable GPS and replies, "You're in a hot-air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

She rolls her eyes and says, "You must be a Republican!"

"I am," replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answers the balloonist, "everything you tell me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you're not much help to me."

The man smiles and responds, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replies the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the man, "You don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep, and now you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault."

Pitch Meeting: "Coraline"

I reviewed "Coraline" here.

j'y comprends rien

Commenter Neil Barker (who used to have his own blog... does he still?), who now lives in Canada, left some comments at this post, which prompted me to slap up a YouTube video that I recently attempted to watch and understand.

If you want a good dose of the québecois accent, listen to this "youtubeuse" named Diane. While I consider myself fluent in French French, I found listening to Diane a humbling lesson in how much I still don't know. A native speaker of French, fresh out of France, can probably understand Diane. I, by contrast, am forced to admit I understood less than 20% of what she said in this video. If you speak French, and you think you speak it well, listen to the video and good luck figuring out what Diane is saying. But if you can decipher her accent, please give me some clue as to what the hell she's talking about.*

Neil, if you're still blogging, please leave your blog's URL in a comment, and I'll gladly add your blog to my blogroll.

Further comment on the above video: Diane's delivery rubs me the wrong way in just about every sense. Her obnoxious mugging may be funny for the Québecois, but for me, it harks back to an older, simpler age in American TV and movies when people thought that sort of thing was funny. Humor is deeply cultural, of course; it's hard to translate across borders. But even in granting that, I don't think I can stomach too much Diane.

ADDENDUM: here's an example of French that I understand completely:

*I could list off the things I did understand, but it wouldn't be a long list. I learned more from the written blurb beneath the video than I did from the vid itself. Diane says something about Muslims and veils at one point; she also uses plenty of slang with which I'm utterly unfamiliar. Anyway, watch this space; I might actually give you a list of the few things I understood.

UPDATE: in the first few seconds, Diane says it's been a while since her previous video. If I understood her correctly, her YouTube account got shut down because people were like, "Blah blah blah—you can't say this; you can't say that!" But she's not afraid to speak her mind. [What she says next is incomprehensible to me except for her shouted, "JE T'AIME! JE T'AIME!" (I love you! I love you!)] She then says she had talked about her nephew Jonathan last time, who is in daycare (une garderie privée) that [garbled, but with naughty words like "ass" and "buttocks"]. She mentions something about how the daycare is sponsored (garderie subventionnée). Next comes something about Muslims and veils... is the daycare run by Muslims? I have no clue. Jonathan was apparently crying on the phone, but I didn't get what he was crying about. It sounded as if someone "wasn't there." Unattended kids at the Muslim-run daycare? I haven't the slightest. And the rest of the video is gobbledygook to me, except maybe for one or two words like "matin," pronounced with a heavy québecois accent (it sounds like "mah-teng," almost the way a Korean would hangeulize the French matin).

Wednesday lunch

This week is Get Rid of Leftovers Week. Yesterday (Wednesday), I brought in a ton of leftover spaghetti sauce that I had kept in the freezer since our August birthday-celebration/goodbye-to-a-coworker party. I had to buy extra pasta, but the effort proved worth it: by the time I left the office close to 10 p.m., the sauce was gone. I served spaghetti at lunch for me and for two coworkers; at dinner, I served the two native-speaker teachers sharing space in our office, and I invited the IT team, which works next door, to come in and raid the spaghetti as well. The sauce was destroyed in short order, and I bagged up the leftover pasta, giving two-thirds of it to the IT team's boss and keeping a Ziploc bag for myself to use for lunch today (Thursday).

I took the following shot after realizing I hadn't taken any other shots of the food. I was just about to dig in to this plateful when the light bulb went on inside my head, so I stopped in medias res and clicked this pic of spaghetti and so-so garlic-and-herb bread:

The reason the bread was so-so was the butter, which was some of the crappiest Korean butter I've ever used. I'm normally not a butter snob, and I generally like most forms of Korean butter, but whatever brand this was was particularly shitty. I need to verify the brand so as to avoid purchasing it in future. Or I just need to buy foreign butter from now on. They sell a Beurre d'Isigny at Costco, along with my go-to butter, Costco's Kirkland house brand...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

just how fucked are our universities?

Brittany Pettibone interviews Lindsay Shepherd on the issue of "social justice" in universities:

Here's a Tom Woods podcast featuring psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of a book I'm reading right now titled The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt also talks about "social justice" in universities, among other topics:

"Fed Up With Oppressive Capitalism, Bernie Sanders Retires To Socialist Paradise Venezuela"

Here. The Babylon Bee is a right-leaning version of The Onion, with a stress on politics.

LAKE CHAMPLAIN, VT—After years of suffering oppression at the hands of the capitalist system in America, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced Wednesday that he would be quitting politics and retiring to the socialist paradise of Venezuela.

Senator Sanders held a press conference at his summer vacation home on Lake Champlain to announce the move.

“I simply have had enough of being exploited by billionaires and evil corporations,” the democratic socialist who owns three homes said. “I will be retiring from my Senate seat and its problematic $200,000 annual salary and going to live in the idyllic land of Venezuela.”

Charlie Martin on Trump and forest fires

A goodly chunk of California is currently burning, and Trump tweets that the cause of this is poor forest management. Predictably, people go nuts when Trump says this. Charlie Martin offers his own thoughts on the matter.

[edited for style] Fires are part of the natural order, sparked by lightning if nothing else. Forests evolved in a world where Mjolnir started a fire every so often out of pure cussedness, burning out underbrush and deadwood. Some pine trees, in fact, need a fire to distribute their seeds—the cones won't open until heated. But small fires open up the forest floor, clear out the deadwood, and make room, at least out here in the Rockies, for aspen stands that grow up, die out after a couple of decades, and are replaced with new pines and spruce and fir.

For the last century or so, we've been diligently listening to Smokey and stopping forest fires, and now we have a whole forest full of piled-up brush, dry grass, deadfall, and dead standing trees. Kindling. When a fire does start, it burns hot and it burns long, so that even live trees burn in a devastating fire that is almost impossible to control.

There is a solution: instead of uncontrolled fires that become too dangerous—as we've just seen demonstrated—small, controlled burns kept to a manageable size allow the piled-up underbrush to be burned out without destroying whole towns. But those controlled burns make smoke, and smoke is pollution, and besides, the burned areas are all ugly and stuff.

Before some fool city folk pop up to say "but some of these fires are not forest fires—they're grass fires neener-neener," I'll just point out that it's another verse of the same song. Heavily overgrown scrub brush and grass will burn like a sonofabitch.

"Est-ce que vous avez un pochon?"

While I was in France, I shopped at the local Super U mega-grocery store for some gifts to take back to Korea. My cart now loaded with goodies, I got in line for the cashier. The line moved slowly, but when it was finally my turn, I asked the cashier whether she had a plastic bag for me to put my items in. I phrased my question thus:

"Est-ce que vous avez un pochon?"

As I explained to Dominique and family later that evening, the cashier looked at me as if I had sprouted a second head ("Elle m'a regardé comme si j'avais poussé une deuxième tête!"). Immediately understanding that pochon was the wrong word, I tried to clarify by asking for either "un sachet" or "un sac en plastique."

After the cashier shook herself free of her surprise, she asked me, "Est-ce que vous êtes belge?" Are you Belgian? "On dit ça en Belgique." People say that in Belgium.

"No," I told her lamely, "but people said 'pochon' back in the 1980s." She didn't seem very impressed. I began to wonder whether I had simply made the word up in my head, then convinced myself that it was a legitimate French word.

When I relayed all this to Dominique, he laughed and said, "Pochon, c'est une expression nantaise," i.e., the word pochon is a regionalism used in the Nantes area. So I was reassured that I hadn't hallucinated the word, nor had I learned it and used it incorrectly. I simply hadn't realized the expression wasn't used all over France.

I noted to Dom that, in French-speaking Switzerland (la suisse romande), they say un cornet when asking for a bag. Later on, I realized that the cashier had never given me a bag because France had banned all plastic shopping bags in 2016. In France these days, everything is éco and bio, i.e., green. Think: America's current attempt to ban plastic straws.

Anyway, I came away having learned something new about an old word. In fact, I got corrected a lot this time around, mainly by Dominique. I really need to work on my French, which has gotten rusty (rouillé) from lack of use.

once more unto the marais, dear friends

My French brother Dominique's daughter Héloïse just sent me a very kind email in which she included several photos from our trip into the Poitevin marshes a few days before my departure from France. Here's a very representative photo with Héloïse's mom Véronique, Hélo's brother Tim, and our intrepid guide through the marshes, who got us through the maze of canals without once getting us lost.

faux-Fredo lunch (and dinner)

We've had to say a sad goodbye to the Lotte mini "Super" mart in the building where we work: only two or so weeks beforehand, not long after I'd gotten back from France, I learned from a cashier that the store's final day of operations was to be November 10, i.e., this past Saturday. It feels weird not to be able to schlep on down to buy meals and snacks on a whim, but being the pragmatist that I am, I didn't dwell on our loss; instead, I began frequenting a grocery store just up the street, two or three buildings over. For such a cramped store, the new place (new to me, I mean) has a surprising variety of items, including—bizarrely—Gorgonzola cheese. To put this in perspective: most Korean groceries sell fairly standard crap (like the Korean version of processed American cheese), and specialty cheeses are, at best, a rarity.

So when I saw the Gorgonzola, I went a little nuts, deciding on the spot to buy some extra ingredients and make my "faux-Fredo," my version of fettuccine Alfredo, which uses Gorgonzola in place of Parmigiano Reggiano. I like this a lot better than the standard Alfredo; it's much more fragrant and savory. The new store also sells thick-cut bacon, so I bought some of that as well. It didn't have any powdered garlic or powdered onion, so I brought those from my apartment, along with a mix of dried herbs (parsley, oregano, basil).

Below, you can see some of the major steps in the dish's assembly, plus the final product. My two coworkers had this meal for lunch; both guys claimed to love the pasta, but they also bellyached about how they couldn't eat too much for reasons of diet and/or sodium intake. That didn't exactly inspire me to cook anything more for them, but I've already committed to doing spaghetti (I'm getting rid of some leftover sauce) and beef Stroganoff (to get rid of a mess of sour cream and yogurt) later this week. Not to worry: if my coworkers prove unable to help me finish off my leftover ingredients, I can feed my food to the native-speaker English teachers who share space in our office. They had my second batch of faux-Fredo Tuesday evening, and they unreservedly loved it–no silly talk of diets and sodium.

Enjoy the pics.

Thick-cut bacon, cut into strips and sizzling away:

Oyster mushrooms, to be fried in the rendered fat from the bacon:

The office became redolent with the smell of bacon when I began cooking. My coworkers, already worried about their own health, voiced concerns about the other teams on our floor smelling the cooking. I shrugged; frankly, I didn't give a crap. The other teams have food parties all the time, and they never invite us R&D staffers. So fuck 'em.

The Gorg (which was mighty stinky when unwrapped):

Below: fettuccine, which of course stuck to itself when I boiled the first batch of pasta. My mistake was to use a relatively small pot in which to do the boil; for pasta not to stick together, you ideally need a very large pot to give the individual noodles a chance to swim free. For my second batch, done in the evening, I used a larger pot and I stood over the boil, stirring constantly and conscientiously to prevent any clumping and noodle-fusion. This method worked; the second batch of fettuccine came out perfectly.


That second batch:

Once you're sure that the noodles are boiling and not sticking to each other, it's possible to relent a bit and just let the pasta boil, which is what you're seeing above.

Below: the final product—

Tasted pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. This wasn't the "full" version of my dish: in the full version, there's also pan-fried chicken breast and seared shrimp and cooked-down baby spinach (a bit like this). But this quickie version was delicious all the same.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The legendary Stan Lee has died at the age of 95. You can read the many tweeted tributes to him here. The man created countless comic-book characters and appeared in countless movie cameos. It's sad to know he's gone. And the world is a bit dimmer today. RIP, Mr. Lee.

ADDENDUM: Charlie of Emergency Awesome on YouTube shares a heartfelt tribute:

health care redux

Remember this post? Well, we're not done yet, Precious. Eternal contrarian John Stossel offers a brief report on single-payer health care:

Stossel's been around for years. Man, does he look old these days. And that makes me feel old. Do they offer insurance to people who feel old? Is it a single-payer plan? Heh.

Monday, November 12, 2018

self-help for the self-helping

A video from Prager U. about how to bounce back from adversity:

There's nothing wildly off-base here, and in all likelihood, you've heard some form of this wisdom before. Now go be happy!

PJW re: fake news, doing its thing

Absolutely shameless. My inner totalitarian is screaming that all these jokers deserve a bullet in the head for the damage they're doing to the country, but my cool inner Englishman is, for now, restraining my inner totalitarian.

"Crazy Rich Asians": review

I'm half-Korean. My mother was Korean—born in Seoul and coming to the US in the 1960s. She gradually became part of a thriving community of Korean-Americans (a.k.a. "Komericans") in northern Virginia (NoVA). Over the final two decades of Mom's life, she served twice as president of the NoVA-based Korean-American Women's Society (KAWS), despite being terrified of public speaking; there were times when I would help her out by emceeing her society's Christmas parties in an awkward mixture of English and Korean. The other Komerican ladies in that community came in all shapes and sizes, characters and temperaments. Among those ladies were many—far too many—who struck me as rich and over-privileged. I'm talking about the wives of high-ranking military officers and diplomats—the sort of people with incomes that placed them in a lofty tax bracket. These wives had done little to nothing to gain their social status; they had, for the most part, ridden onto the scene upon the coattails of their husbands, but they still conducted themselves with the haughty arrogance of people who felt their station in life was some sort of birthright. I could never understand what my mother saw in such a crowd; our family was "middle middle class," as they say; we were far from poor, but we also didn't live in a McMansion or anything bigger.

For years, and even to this day, I've had trouble relating to that rich crowd, and if I'm honest with myself, I think I'm actively prejudiced against them. Whenever I hear stories of young, twenty-something L.A. gyopos living it up on their parents' money—skating through school and having everything handed to them in life (even their sharp intellects come as a genetic gift, utterly unearned)—I snarl in disgust. These rich idiots follow a life-pattern laid out for them by their parents and their parents' culture. They aren't self-aware enough to see how little say they have in their own lives, how inauthentic their existences are.

So how on earth am I supposed to relate to a romantic comedy like "Crazy Rich Asians," directed by Jon Chu and starring the talented Constance Wu and Henry Golding? This movie is about a demographic that I actively despise, although the movie's protagonist is Rachel Chu, a young, self-made economics professor from a relatively modest background (Wu). How can I relate to palatial, labyrinthine mansions and vast, manicured properties worth over $200 million, and high-society global movers and shakers who are basically born into (and trapped by) their dynasties and destinies?

And yet... the movie did kind of grow on me as I became more involved with the story. This was helped along by hilarious performances—the funniest coming from two actors with Korean backgrounds: singer Awkwafina (watch her SNL monologue here; she's actually of Chinese/Korean stock) and comic thesp Ken Jeong (actually, it's Doctor Ken Jeong, if you please: he has an MD in internal medicine, but he no longer practices).

The story begins in the 1990s. Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) has come to England with her family to stay at a hotel. The stiff English hotel staff see the Asian family and attempt to shoo the Youngs away by claiming the hotel is booked. It turns out that Eleanor Young is the wife of Singaporean tycoon Philip Young, who has just bought that very hotel, thus making Mrs. Young "the lady of the house."

Flash-forward to 2018, and Rachel Chu is the youngest new faculty member at NYU, an economics professor with an interest in the psychological side of game theory (this will prove important later as Rachel navigates the treacherous waters of Chinese-Singaporean family politics). Rachel has been dating the handsome, British-accented Nick Young (Golding) for over a year, and Nick suddenly wants to take Rachel to Singapore to meet his family; he's also to be the best man at his best friend Colin's wedding. Rachel, hesitant at first, says yes, but when she peppers Nick with questions about his family, he becomes suspiciously reticent.

The flight to Singapore proves to be the first in a series of shocks for Rachel: she and Nick fly in a super-luxurious first-class cabin, and Rachel deduces that Nick comes from money. Arriving at the airport, Nick and Rachel are met by Nick's bestie Colin (Chris Pang) and his fiancée Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno), who greet Nick and Rachel warmly, then take them out to an enviable dinner of seafood and satay in a popular street-food district. Rachel eventually meets up with her quirky college friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina) and Peik Lin's equally quirky family, including Peik Lin's father Goh Wye Mun (Jeong), who is a bit of an asshole, but in a way that lacks malice. When Peik Lin and family find out that Rachel is essentially dating Singaporean royalty, they flip out, and Peik Lin insists on accompanying Rachel to one of the Youngs' parties. Peik Lin also warns Rachel that they will be entering a high-society shark tank where Rachel will not be welcomed by everyone.

The time comes for Rachel to meet Nick's mother, none other than the intimidating, dignified, and haughty Eleanor Young, whom we met in the film's opening scene at the hotel. Eleanor takes an immediate dislike to Rachel, and for the rest of the movie, it's game on (see? I told you game theory would be relevant) between two women of strong will. This is a romantic comedy, so there are hijinks and shenanigans along the way, but the movie also dips its toes into some serious issues, both cultural and intercultural. We meet Nick's cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan), a famous fashion designer who is also known for her heart of gold, but whose insecure husband (Pierre Png), a man of lower economic standing, has been cheating on her. We meet some of Nick's other friends and relations, including Amanda (Jing Lusi), Nick's ex-girlfriend, who isn't against slipping a verbal dagger between the ribs as a way of sowing chaos between Nick and Rachel, whom some of the Singaporean elite view as a gold-digger.

Because "Asians" is a rom-com, it does, of course, follow the standard beats of boy-has-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-regains-girl—but it does so without the focus being primarily on the male half of the couple. The ending is about as boilerplate as you can imagine, making it utterly predictable. Romantic comedies tend to be so formulaic, in fact, that judging them often requires looking at factors other than story structure, e.g., the quality of the acting and the nature of the humor, which can vary from dark to Disney. All in all, I came away with some grudgingly positive feelings for a movie that focuses on the lives of a demographic that I passionately hate. The script manages to slip in a joke about K-pop girls being too skinny, underfed, and fake-looking; I appreciated that. Constance Wu does a fine job as our protagonist, and Michelle Yeoh is positively daunting as the imposing matriarch who nevertheless feels genuine love for her son. "Crazy Rich Asians" provides us with plenty of major and minor conflicts, but no character in the film is truly evil; at worst, some people are simply assholes, and the script is smart enough—in some if not all cases—to give us reasons for why they are the way they are. Watch "Crazy Rich Asians" with my blessing; you'll find it entertaining if not particularly deep—an Eastern version of a Tyler Perry dramedy.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

movie-review slew

I have a large backlog of movies queued up on both iTunes and Amazon Prime Video, so you can expect reviews soon for the following movies:

1. "Crazy Rich Asians"
2. "Blindspotting"
3. "Christopher Robin"
4. "The Hitman's Bodyguard"
5. "Leave No Trace"
6. "Sorry to Bother You"
7. "John Adams" (HBO series)
8. "Dallas Buyers Club"
9. "The Hunted"
10. "One Wild Moment" (French film: "Un moment d'égarement," i.e., a moment's distraction)
11. "The Greatest Showman" (recommended by my brother David)
12. "The Magnificent Seven" (2016)
13. "The Commitments" (which I should've reviewed long, long ago)

Plus: I didn't see it this weekend, but I might sneak out one morning this week and watch "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Prepare Winterfell. Reviews are coming.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Irish theater!

I watch almost all of the Crash Course series on YouTube, and this particular episode of Crash Course Theater, hosted by Mike Rugnetta—the same guy who hosted Crash Course Mythology (I slapped up a video about Ragnarok a while back, you'll recall)—was especially interesting because it dealt with the "Irish Renaissance" in theater.

lobster rolls

Saw and bought these at Costco: lobster rolls!

Alas, they turned out not to be as good as they looked. They were mostly lettuce, and while there was definitely lobster in those sandwiches, I got the impression there was some fake crab in there, too. I improved the sandwiches by sprinkling on some Old Bay seasoning, but in the end, there just wasn't enough lobster in those rolls. The bread, too, was bland as bland can be. What a disappointment for such an expensive purchase. Never again.

art exhibition

My #3 Ajumma's painting (just one!) was featured as part of an exhibition being held at the Gallery Violet in Insa-dong, the artsy/touristy part of Jongno. This gallery is to be found on the north end of Insa-dong Street, not far from Anguk Station.

When I entered the gallery, I saw that #3 Ajumma was holding court. I never asked her whether she was the one running the exhibition, nor did I ask whether the gallery belonged to her (she owns the Garak-dong apartment building of which she and her husband are the landlady and landlord, respectively, so I know she has money), but she definitely seemed to be in charge at that moment. I'll text her later and find out.

Ajumma greeted me in English and gave me a hug, American-style. Several older folks were there; I found out that at least one of them was a friend of Ajumma's: a kindly older gentleman who told me about what a difficult time he'd had learning English under frightening circumstances: one of his teachers used to beat the students with a stick.

I went around the small gallery, looking at the twenty-some pictures. Some of them were impressionistic in nature; others were more along the lines of realistic portraits, and at least one painting, titled "Mandala," was unabashedly abstract. Below are my photos of the pictures; I didn't have the wit to take a photo of Ajumma; I should have. This was her day, after all. She had left Ajeossi at home, I gather; with his liver cancer, he may be too sick and too weak to travel much.

As I was getting ready to leave, three more people came into the gallery: Ajumma's little sister, the sister's daughter, and the daughter's young son, who looked to be about seven or eight years old. The older gentleman, having spoken with me, apparently knew this branch of Ajumma's family, and he told the newcomers that I spoke French. He said this because he was aware that the boy's mother had learned French, so in his own teasing way, he wanted to hear the young woman speak French with me. She proved too shy for the task, though—looking at the floor, giggling, and saying she knew "only a little" French.

Anyway, enjoy the pics. On my way out, I stole a brochure about the exhibition, and it's also got pictures of the art on display, so I may scan the brochure and slap that up as well so you can see the images in an arguably better light.

And this is Ajumma's painting, which you've seen before:

"Incredibles 2": review

The essential question for me, in watching "Incredibles 2" (yes, they dropped the "The"), was whether the new movie was worth a fourteen-year wait. "The Incredibles" came out in 2004, and it quickly became my all-time favorite Pixar movie: I loved the themes, the characters, the visuals, and above all, the elegant story structure, which must be the envy of screenwriters everywhere. How on earth can you top a movie like that?

The answer is that you can't, and I can't say that "Incredibles 2" was worth a fourteen-year wait. This isn't to say that I thought the new film was bad; it wasn't. It was perfectly watchable and had plenty of funny and entertaining moments. But if it sounds as if I'm damning with faint praise, well... I don't think I can help myself.

"Incredibles 2" is once again directed by Brad Bird, who also voices the eccentric superhero-costume designer Edna Mode. It stars Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, Holly Hunter as Helen Parr/Elastigirl, Sarah Vowell as Violet Parr, Huck Milner as Dash Parr (taking over for Spencer Fox), Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best/Frozone, Bob Odenkirk as Winston Deavor, Katherine Keener as Evelyn Deavor, and Jonathan Banks as government prole Rick Dicker (taking over for the late Bud Luckey).

The movie begins pretty much where the previous one left off: with the Parr family fighting The Underminer (John Ratzenberger), who manages to get away. The fight with the Underminer causes enormous property damage, which once again sours the public to the idea of superheroes in its midst. But the fight also catches the eye of tycoon Winston Deavor, who thinks he's found a way to make superheroes legal—and palatable—again. The Parrs, desperate for financial stability after having lost their home (and Bob's insurance job) in the first movie, decide to listen to Deavor's proposal: a publicity campaign that focuses on Elastigirl, primarily because she causes less property damage than her husband does. Saying yes to the deal, the Parr family finds itself residing in a spacious, ultramodern house. Helen suits up and heads out, with great misgivings about leaving her family behind, while Bob stays home and tries his hand at some intensive parenting. Needless to say, Bob isn't very good at his new job; Dash gets stressed about math homework, Vi gets stressed about boys (specifically, Tony Rydinger from the first film), and baby Jack-Jack suddenly manifests a whole host of superpowers of which his parents had been, up to this point, unaware. Bob grows increasingly ragged over the course of the middle of the film.

Helen, meanwhile, saves a runaway train and encounters a new, mysterious villain named Screenslaver who uses TV screens to hypnotize people, who then do his bidding. Finding and defeating Screenslaver becomes Helen's top priority (the reveal of who Screenslaver is is meant to be a surprise, so I won't reveal anything here), and this needs to be done before a huge, Deavor-sponsored event in which a hundred world leaders are to come together and sign a writ making superheroes legal again the world over.

To use an Elastigirl pun, "Incredibles 2" doesn't stretch very far in terms of developing the characters of the Parr family. Jack-Jack begins the slow process of learning to master his powers, but by the end of the movie, he's essentially who he was at the end of the previous film. Violet shows that she's discovered some interesting new things that she can do with her forcefields, and Frozone has the chance to show off some moves not seen in the 2004 movie. Aside from that, though, Dash, Helen, and Bob don't do anything we haven't seen before, and many of the intra-family issues covered in the first film still linger as echoes in the sequel. The public's ambivalence about superheroes (called "supers" in this universe) is a carryover from 2004, so that's not new, either, and neither is Screenslaver's motivation, which is to turn the public utterly against superheroes.

One thing I did find interesting was the film's treatment of the character of Winston Deavor. Winston, with his permanently etched, cheesy "Better Call Saul" smile, comes off as smarmy and a bit creepy from the get-go, but when the villain's identity is revealed, it turns out that Winston is a good guy, after all. There's a moment during which Evelyn—who is Winston's sister—and Helen discuss Evelyn's brother; Evelyn hints that her brother is little more than an obsessive capitalist: "If I discovered the origin of the universe, my brother would find a way to market it as a foot-massager!"

Screenslaver also derides the consumer-capitalist nature of the public, accusing people of being lazy sheep who want superheroes so they can hide behind them and experience their adventures through media like television: people don't talk, but they watch talk shows; they don't play games, but they watch game shows, etc. Brad Bird, in writing this new movie, seems to be intent on erasing whatever rightie ideas he might have introduced back in 2004.

My major complaint is that this movie is so damn talky. Gone is the smooth, aerodynamic, show-don't-tell spirit of the first film; instead, we get tons of expository dialogue. While I'm happy that characters like Frozone get more to do, it would have been better for Bird to concentrate more on action and on visual storytelling. Not to say that the action sequences in the film are boring: they're actually quite good, with my favorite sequence being Helen's awesome rescue of the runaway train while riding a motorcycle that can break apart to accommodate her ability to stretch. As for the film's politics: I didn't find the feminist preachiness about grrrl power to be all that intrusive; as I've written before, I have no trouble with female protagonists, and I can't think of a single reason why Elastigirl shouldn't have the right to be front and center, doing her hero thing. And while the film has a laughable anti-capitalist message, this is undercut by the irony of Pixar's making such a hugely expensive animated film—a film that has earned almost 1.3 billion dollars at the global box office. As government agent Rick Dicker said in the first film: "Money, money, money, money, money."

But "Incredibles 2" feels less like something groundbreaking and more like a movie that's playing it safe. We get a deeper dive into the Parr family dynamic, but the problem with having the new story pick up right where the previous one left off is that we don't get to explore the more interesting issues that might result from the passage of time. The movie could have been set fifteen or twenty years after the 2004 film; Craig T. Nelson, who sounds distinctly older and slower now (he's 74! good God!), would have made more sense as a voice actor had there been such a time jump. If Brad Bird decides to make a "threequel," I hope it'll take place many, many years later.

Was "Incredibles 2" worth a fourteen-year wait? Not really. But taken on its own terms, it's a decent film that moves along at a healthy clip. It's got good visuals and a plot that's complex enough not to insult the intelligence of the adults in the audience. The one major plot twist is something you might see coming if you're perceptive enough, but overall, this movie goes down easy, even if it's nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

Friday, November 09, 2018

smooth out your brain

If these images don't wow you, you're un-wowable:

Browning .50-caliber machine-gun round (50 BMG) versus an "Atlas Stone":

The guy builds up to the 50 BMG.

whooda thunkit? Paul Rodriguez... Trump supporter

From Yahoo! News:

Paul Rodriguez, a comedian from The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, shared a dirty secret as a Hollywood-er: He’s a “closet Republican” and a supporter of President Trump.

“I agree with a lot of the things he’s done,” the Mexican-born comic told TMZ earlier this week. Though he said the words Trump uses “offends a lot of us.”

As for which of Trump’s policies resonates with him most, he said, “America should protect its borders, you know? I know a lot of Mexican-Americans are going to disagree with me. It’s not that I don’t care about the people who obviously want to immigrate to this country, but you can’t let everybody in. I’m an immigrant myself. My parents came in the right way. They stood in line for days.”

He continued: “That’s very rare to find a Mexican-American who’s a Republican. At least people can look at me and know that it’s not that I don’t love this country. I’m an immigrant. I love this country.”

Rodriguez said he was expecting backlash over his comments.

“It’s a terrible thing for me to say this,” he admitted. “I will pay the price for it, but as long as we’re able to speak our minds, I think I should have the right to be wrong in your opinion.”

And while he also said that “any entertainer shouldn’t get into politics because half of the audience is going to hate you,” he broke his own rule — and his most Instagram was subsequently filled with hate comments about Trump.

Action, reaction. When it's that automatic, you can bet that no thinking was involved.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Glenn Reynolds on where we go from here

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has an article in USA Today that discusses the coming gridlock inherent in a split Congress (the Democrats dominate the House of Representatives while the Republicans dominate the Senate, setting the stage for a constant legislative tug of war). Two crucial paragraphs:

For Trump, at least, there are some upsides to a Democratic-controlled House. If, as expected, the leadership consists of people like Nancy Pelosi, Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters, Trump will have a useful array of foils. He’ll have to balance his desire to use them as convenient enemies in the run-up to 2020 and his need to work with them to produce some sort of legislative achievement.

Likewise, the Democrats will have to decide whether to weaponize the House via investigations and subpoenas or to work with the president. Rendell strongly encouraged the latter, but the party’s Trump-hating base will strongly favor the former. On the other hand, the Trump-hating base failed to produce the promised Blue Wave.

What's it like to be Donald Trump? I think it's a lot like trying to set up a nice, quiet picnic in an area beset by ants and mosquitoes. With so many annoyances requiring so much swatting, it's almost impossible to have a picnic at all.

Don Surber on the election (h/t Bill Keezer)

From here:

I don't know how much Mike Braun, Ron DeSantis, Brian Kemp, or Rick Scott paid Obama to campaign for their opponents, but whatever the amount was, they got their money's worth.

Obama elected more Republicans than any other Democrat president. His streak continues in his post-presidential years.

The testimonials for having Obama campaign for your opponent write themselves.

Braun was down in the polls by an average of 1.3 points for the Senate in Indiana. Obama campaigned for his opponent. Voila! Braun won -- by 9.7 points.

DeSantis was down in the polls by an average of 3.6 points for governor of Florida. Obama campaigned for his opponent. Voila! DeSantis won by 0.7 points.

Scott was down in the polls by an average of 2.4 points for the Senate in Florida. Obama campaigned for his opponent. Voila! Scott won by 0.2 points.

Only Kemp was ahead in the polls. But Obama offset the Oprah Effect because she is a goddess who saves Democrats. Heck, she even got Obama elected.

Obama went 0-for-4 in major campaigns.
Ouch. Of course, everyone's spinning the stats their way. A leftie coworker of mine told me that this is the first time in a long time that the composition of part of Congress flipped despite the people's overall great satisfaction with the economy. Liberal spin: this is bad news for Trump because there are factors other than the economy that voters are considering when voting. Take that for what it's worth.

comparing 3 breads

Of possible interest to Charles, who likes baking:

everyone's talking about it

Rockstar Games came out with "Red Dead Redemption 2" recently—an immersive, 3-D cowboy adventure that has garnered high praise for its complex storyline, free-to-explore world, immersive ambiance, and realistic graphics. Gameplay videos are all over YouTube, so if you're interested in what the game looks and sounds like, go to YouTube and type "Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay" into the search window.

Two of the YouTubers that I watch have made their own "Red Dead" videos.

Here's Skallagrim going over the main character's inhumanly fast reloading time:

And here's Andrew Rea, a.k.a. Babish, channeling Almazan and making bear stew, which apparently figures somewhere in the game:

Styx's election postmortem

Worth a watch:

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

your post-election entertainment

Andy Samberg throws it on the ground:

NB: corrected from Adam Samberg. Whoops.

midterm election pre-mortem

NB: this is a scheduled post, originally written early Monday morning a bit after 1 a.m. We in Seoul won't know the midterm-election results until it's late Wednesday morning on the peninsula. I've scheduled this post to appear while I'm asleep, at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

Most likely result: the Republicans easily keep the Senate, but they slightly lose the House. Nancy Pelosi once again becomes Speaker of the House, presiding over a very narrow Democrat advantage. This is by no means a "blue wave"; it is, at best, a blue trickle. Here are some random thoughts on this probable state of affairs:

1. Pelosi isn't exactly beloved of many Democrats these days, so we can expect some internecine strife among the old-guard and new-wave Democrats. As an aging white, liberal woman on the order of Hillary Clinton, Pelosi is prone to hilarious gaffes and wild-eyed claims ("we have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it" re: Obamacare, for example), and she'll make a magnificent target for Republican scorn.

2. Donald Trump will now be able to blame Democrat obstructionism for his future inability to implement policy changes. This will make his reelection in 2020 all that much easier, as most of the country will be in a Democrat-hating mood.

3. Democrat control of the House won't give the Democrats the two things they want most: (1) the ability to block another Supreme Court nominee, and (2) the ability to kick Trump out of the Oval Office via impeachment. This is because the Republicans will still have firm control of the Senate for at least another four years. As we just saw with Brett Kavanaugh, it's the Senate Judiciary Committee that has final say on whether a SCOTUS nominee passes muster. The House has nothing to do with this. And as for impeachment: while the House is the entity that can bring articles of impeachment against whomever it accuses, it's the Senate that executes the actual impeachment process. With the Senate stacked so heavily with Republicans, any attempt at impeachment will die right on the vine.

Any Democrat initiative that requires the approval of both the House and the Senate, e.g., getting a bill through Congress, is going to be nixed by a GOP-heavy Senate. Aside from that, having the Democrats do their obstructionist thing in the House might actually introduce a nice, healthy dynamic tension to the legislative proceedings. Styx contends that, at this point, Trump "doesn't give a fuck" whether the House tilts leftward. I can see why: The Donald is pretty much guaranteed reelection in 2020, unless it turns out he's the leader of a child-prostitution/dogfighting ring or something.

This post serves as both a tentative prediction about the election results and as a form of speculation on the near future. We'll see, in a matter of hours after this post appears, whether I have any egg on my face for what I've written above.

PS: if the Republicans somehow hold both houses of Congress (which I find unlikely), this will be revolutionary. Historically, Congress tends to switch to the party opposite the president's during the midterm elections. A reversal of that trend—a total shutout of the Democrats—could well mean that Donald Trump is indeed playing 4-D chess. If that happens, the Dems might be able to take solace in whatever gubernatorial gains they make.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

2 views of socialized health care

One American's relatively positive experience in Europe:

Right-leaning Steve Crowder goes to Canada to experience the Canadian system up close and personal (and he even speaks a stumbling French that's American-accented to the point of sounding almost Québecois!*):

Finally, here's Prager U. weighing in on Crowder's side:

My own experience in Korea (along with the testimonies of some fellow expat bloggers here) and the experience of witnessing my mother's and father's quality of care in America leave me with mixed feelings when it comes to health care. My own tentative conclusion is that no system, be it more free-market or more socialist, can guarantee your quality of care.

Maybe it's true that wait times in the States are orders of magnitude smaller, but there are still horror stories, in the thousands, about people contracting MRSA and other nosocomial infections, or the occasional news article about the poor bastard who gets the wrong foot amputated. In my father's case, I remember when he was in the hospital in 1997 after getting into a car accident (the other guy, a drunk driver, was at fault). Dad had a hematoma the size of a large orange on one bicep. A male nurse came in to take Dad's blood pressure; he was starting to put the cuff on Dad's bruised arm before I barked, "Watch it!"—causing the nurse to go "Whoa!" and rip the cuff off once he saw what he was about to do to Dad. This was a classic case of not reading the chart before treating the patient (not to mention not actually looking at the patient), and it's one reason why so many family members grumble about the constant need for patient advocacy in US hospitals: without a guardian angel hovering about, you might end up with a BP cuff on a severely bruised arm. In Mom's case, she was in the hospital quite a lot, and for long periods, during her decline from brain cancer. There were instances where nurses came in to perform tests or do other procedures that had been done barely an hour before by a different nurse. This redundancy problem extended even to the giving of meds; my brother Sean was infuriated, once, when a nurse came in to dose Mom after she had already been dosed. Again, no one was reading the charts carefully. That, or the charts weren't being updated correctly. Dad would shake his head when he saw the insurance-related printouts provided by the hospital: people had gotten Mom's age wrong; they'd gotten her condition wrong; they'd listed her meds incorrectly. Dad had to correct all that information as he encountered it. Sloppiness is endemic to US hospital care, it seems.

But switch the focus to South Korea, with its more socialized health care, and the picture isn't much better. Granted, I've never had a reason to complain about wait times; I always see the doc at my local clinic within thirty minutes of walking into the place, even if there's a long line in front of me. (This is both good and bad, obviously: it means the doc is efficient, but it also means he's not looking at any one patient in any real depth.) But I've talked before about my blogging acquaintance Jeff, who used to blog at the now-defunct Jeff in Busan. Jeff chronicled his horrific experience in a Korean hospital after he'd had a serious motorcycle accident. The worst incident was when a cheap-quality metal strut placed inside his leg snapped, causing part of his shattered femur to poke into his quadriceps, forcing it to bulge frighteningly outward. Jeff also observed that, because he was a large American guy (about my size), the hospital staff had trouble finding gurneys and other equipment to fit his dimensions. Korean hospitals aren't really set up with foreigners in mind. I've written about my own experience with my previous doctor at the local clinic, back when I had an infected finger: the doc drained the pus by basically ripping at the skin over the infected area, with no concern for pain management (an issue that my friend Young brought up on his blog, back when he too was in the hospital after a motorcycle accident; Korean medical staffers are stingy with painkillers and aren't all that concerned about your comfort or your privacy).

Korean hospitals and clinics are also often grimy and generally substandard; they don't seem all that concerned about infection-control protocols (a fact that made the news during the MERS outbreak in 2015). Back when I was living near Daegu, the local hospital that I'd visited for my required health check was positively filthy. One coworker, who'd had a blood sample taken there, said the nurse clumsily splashed some of his blood onto the paperwork on her desk. To be fair, American doctors seem just as unconcerned: my mother's primary oncologist at Fairfax Hospital would never glove up, gown up, or mask up when visiting Mom under a MRSA protocol, as if he were magically impervious to infection. (Doctors are among the biggest vectors for disease inside a hospital, and they rarely follow infection-control protocols as rigorously as nurses do.) This sort of carelessness mixed with arrogance was infuriating to me. That being said, my experience of Korean dental clinics has been excellent. I don't go nearly often enough, but when my friend Sperwer, a few years back, recommended a particular dentist in the Banpo area, that dentist provided great care and worked in a very clean, bright, legitimate-looking facility stocked with modern equipment.

So whether you're in Korea or the States, whether you're talking about a market-based paradigm or one that's more centralized/socialist, you really can't tell what sort of care you're going to receive. That's disconcerting from the patient's point of view, the realization of how little control one has over one's own care. Is it possible to make a general argument about the overall level of suck in one system versus another? I don't know. Maybe. In the above Crowder video, and in the above Prager U. video, people try to do just that. But individual testimonies vary so greatly that, for a prole like me, it's hard to say, one way or the other, which paradigm comes out on top. I instinctively side with the more market-based approach and feel a bit safer vouching for the quality of care that comes out of that approach, but there's no denying how expensive it can be, especially without insurance. The one thing I know for sure is that, from the patient's standpoint, there are downsides to both systems that can affect your quality of life, either by leaving you sicker or by draining your bank account.

Go ahead and leave your thoughts in the comments, especially if you strongly believe that one system is objectively better than the other. All I have, aside from anecdotes and my own experience, is a general intuition that you're fucked no matter where you turn, so the best strategy is to stay healthy for as long as possible.

*I don't know much about Crowder, so I just looked him up on Wikipedia. Turns out he's Canadian-American, so if his French sounds Québecois, it's because it probably is Québecois!

memes, with thanks to Bill Keezer

Got these in the mail from Bill Keezer:

Even churches lock their doors. And I doubt anyone currently screaming for open borders (which includes many libertarians) will seriously take up an Open-door Challenge.

The violent side keeps calling the other side violent.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Dolph Lundgren(!!) gives a TEDx Talk

Yerp—I did a double-take, too. And it's actually quite an inspirational talk.

on walking and running

There's a very interesting article, written from a military perspective, on the dynamics of walking and running both unencumbered and encumbered. The article confirms my intuition that the human average for walking is about 5 kph, or 3 miles per hour (the article says 3.1), and that the average human step rate is 100 steps per minute. That's me all the way: I am the average. Here in Korea, though, I'd submit that almost every walker on the bike paths walks faster than I do; the Korean average is probably closer to 6 kph at 115-120 steps per minute... until the women hit an uphill grade, that is: that's when I chug past them because they're all cardio and no strength. The article's stats for a marching soldier, though, are intimidating:

The average soldier should be able to walk at a speed of 6.5kph (approx. 4 mph) for 20km carrying 32kg (LBE, pack & rifle) with a heart rate below his lactate threshold. The special operations soldier should be able to complete the same task at a speed of 7kph.

Damn. Last year, I'd say that I walked at an average rate of 4 kph with a 15-kilo pack on my back, about 30 km per day. By the end of such a day, I was ready to eat a meal, then go to sleep and allow myself to recover overnight, giving my feet a chance to decompress after eight or nine hours' walking. The military standard quoted above is for a soldier who is likely marching to a battle zone, i.e., at the end of his march, his day is only just beginning.

KMA: out with a whimper

Just got the usual text message from KMA saying that there would be no work for me this month because not enough students had registered for my scheduled class. As happened last year, most of my classes this year have been cancelled because of low registration rates. This is why I'm saying goodbye to KMA—a thing I can now afford to do, given that I just received a massive raise that the Golden Goose gave to me only grudgingly. KMA has me scheduled for one more class in early December; at a guess, that class will be cancelled, too, and that'll be that for me and KMA.

I'm sorry to leave a company that pays so well and generally acts so professionally, but if KMA doesn't have any work lined up for me, then I'm better off turning my attention elsewhere. As I've said in the past, if KMA were to offer me a full-time teaching position at their current rate of pay, I'd leave the Golden Goose in a heartbeat, and with no regrets whatsoever. But KMA seems to be going through hard times; business, at least from my perspective, hasn't been all that lucrative lately. Ah, well.


I love the caption:

(from here)

couldn't look away

I found this series of clips of people fainting on TV utterly fascinating in a clinical way. You can learn a lot about the nature of fainting (especially fainting while standing, but also fainting while seated) by watching this compilation. I started to analyze what all these people had in common, e.g., the way many of them would do a weird foot-shuffle as if to control the direction of the impending face-plant. I also considered how each person was different: some would remain stoic even as they were keeling over; others would grow increasingly incoherent or repetitive if they began to faint while talking; still others could be heard moaning even after hitting the floor. Gripping stuff.

daylight savings

France made the switch about a week earlier, but the US, on November 4, "fell back" an hour for Daylight Savings. I've heard rumblings that, for Europe, this will be the final time that such a switch is ever made, but that there's still some debate as to whether the continent ought to continue in "spring forward" mode or in "fall back" mode. As far as I know, the US will continue to bumble onward with back-and-forth flipping between savings and standard time; the rest of the world, meanwhile, is waking up to the fact that that is no longer a necessary convention.* South Korea wisely refuses to engage in this silly practice, thus saving us residents the need to hear and read constant reminders and public announcements about how we have to switch our clocks this way or that way.

So France has gone from being 7 hours behind Seoul to being 8 hours behind, and the US east coast has gone from being 13 hours behind Seoul to being 14 hours behind. Trivia: in French, a "time zone" is un fuseau horaire, the word fuseau referring to something leaf-shaped or spindle-shaped (see here for the type of spindle I'm thinking of; spindles actually come in a wide variety of shapes), i.e., something tapered at both ends and bulging in the middle, which is roughly the shape of a time zone seen on a globe-shaped map of the world: tapered at the poles and bulging at the equator. A "time difference" in French is a décalage horaire, where décalage refers to a staggering, a shift, or an interval.

*Wikipedia notes that Arizona doesn't follow the standard convention—neither do many US territories: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. Wikipedia also notes that the notion of "daylight savings" may have started with something Benjamin Franklin had proposed, probably in jest. In 1916, it was Germany that first made a serious move toward a standardized change. The US followed two years later, but didn't establish a truly standardized, federal system until the mid-to-late 1960s. Silly Germans. Silly Yanks.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

the grind gets grindier

Now that our R&D department has moved over to another wing of my company, our efforts are going to be refocused on what this wing wants: new workbooks, new textbooks, etc. Our job will be to churn those out over the coming months and, presumably, years. For the moment, though, because we're in a period of transition, things are going to be weird for me in particular for the next few months. My coworkers have already been working on materials for our new boss for the past several months, but I've been working on a project related to the eight grammar/vocab textbooks I've co-written over the past two-or-so years. I've just been given a new, huge project: a grammar/writing textbook on the same ambitious scale as that of the grammar/vocab books; I'm to crank out the new set of books on a chapter-by-chapter basis, and the first chapters are due around mid-December... which also happens to be the same time that the other project is due.

The only way I'm going to be able to handle this is by working six-day weeks for the next little while. I think I'll be able to take a breather right around Christmas, but with two big projects going simultaneously, I'm going to have little to no free time otherwise. I've been told that the new grammar/writing book series is supposed to become our flagship textbook, so no pressure, really. Time for me to earn my keep.

#3 Ajumma strikes again

A day or so after I'd gotten back from France, #3 Ajumma texted me a photo of another of her lovely watercolor paintings:

She also texted info indicating that some of her paintings will be featured as part of an art exhibition taking place in a Jongno-area gallery from Wednesday, November 7 to Tuesday, November 13. (If you're interested in seeing the exhibition, I can forward you the information that Ajumma forwarded to me.) I'll be heading out there soon to see her work.

It's interesting to ponder the commonalities between the Eastern and Western halves of my family. My great aunt Gertrude was an accomplished singer and theater actress back in the day; her brother, my great uncle Trav, was a regionally known painter. My #3 Ajumma is artistically talented, along with being a singer in her church's choir; her eldest son (now a dad) is a professional singer who often performs at the regional and national level while also giving private lessons. My brothers are both musically talented—David with the violin, Sean with the voila and cello—although David has dropped music in favor of video production which, I think, still requires a musical sensibility to do well. Sean is a professional cellist and self-taught pianist, performing all over the world and giving his own private cello lessons in the northern Virginia area. As for me, well... I do a bit of drawing and, occasionally, some brush calligraphy; I've also still got the acting bug (I did French-language theater in college), but the thing I do most often is write, and language is the business I'm in.

The creative Force runs strong in my family, I think.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

the Englishman's temperament, explained in 11 seconds

Always underreact.

some vids

Paul Joseph Watson comments on the possible elimination of Apu from "The Simpsons" for being a racist stereotype (if Apu is eliminated, the voice actor Hank Azaria will still remain with the cast; Azaria also voices Moe, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson, Cletus Spuckler, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera, Lou, Snake Jailbird, Kirk Van Houten, the Sea Captain, Superintendent Chalmers, Disco Stu, Duffman, and the Wiseguy):

Styx offers his final predictions for the November midterm elections:

"Pitch Meeting" takes on the new "Halloween" (spoilers!):

And for my money, the most entertaining-yet-screamingly-frustrating thing I've seen over the past 24 hours:

I laughed and laughed... and then I thought to myself, "Okay, this has to be a woman at the wheel." The comments beneath the video seem to agree with me.

Friday, November 02, 2018

punctuation note

I've seen the following error crop up rather a lot in recent days—sometimes among certain online news articles and essays, and sometimes in the prose of certain bloggers I know. See if you can spot the error in this sample sentence:

I lived in Panama from 1985-2010.

Catch it? Some people skip right over the problem without even seeing it because they're trained to read punctuation a certain way, such that the punctuation has a certain "sound" inside their heads. If you're still having trouble seeing the gaffe: the problem is the hyphen (between years, page numbers, etc., it should technically be an en dash, but I don't know the keystroke shortcut for en dashes on my Mac*). Note that the interval is written as

from 1985-2010

—with the "from" written out in prose and the "to" replaced by a hyphen that mentally registers as the word "to." This is why the error is hard to catch: your mental "voice" reads the hyphen as a word, so you gloss over the problem. The way to correct this is to write out "to" in letters and not to use the hyphen:

from 1985 to 2010

So for those of you who keep doing the prose/hyphen thing: stop it. Right fucking NOW.

There's a good article on the proper use of hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes here, with focus on the latter two marks. The en dash means "through" and is used to indicate numerical intervals, as in "Dec. 23–March 5" or "pp. 369–525." Hyphens can be inserted between numbers when not indicating an interval, e.g., when writing a phone number: 703-991-3286.

*Discovered. The keyboard shortcut is option-minus. As you see above, I used the shortcut to create en dashes. Yay, me.

la religieuse: mystery solved?

We ate fondue today (I ate it twice because I served it twice), and several times, I was asked why the toasted bottom layer of cheese was called la religieuse ("the nun"). (To be clear: people asked because I had mentioned the term, not because they already knew the term.) I had no damn clue, so I typed the question, in French, into Google. Here's a page that takes a stab at answering the question, although the page contends there's no single, universally accepted answer. Rather, there are several hypotheses. The short article, plus my translation:

L’origine du mot la « religieuse » demeure très mystérieux. Il faut savoir que ce mot, avec ce sens là, est uniquement utilisé en Suisse romande et en Savoie. En France, une « religieuse » fait référence à une pâtisserie.

On peut lire dans le « Dictionnaire suisse romand » que la religieuse est non seulement la « partie légèrement brûlée de la fondue dans le fond du caquelon » mais se réfère aussi aux « bords grillés et croustillants de la meule de fromage à raclette exposée au feu ». Toujours dans le « Dictionnaire suisse romand », on apprend qu’il s’agit d’une création relativement récente et d’origine inconnue. Corinna Bille en parle dans « Théoda » paru en 1944.

Son origine étant inconnue, il ne nous reste donc plus que des hypothèses… Voici celle donnée par Dominik Flammer dans son ouvrage « Fromages suisses » : « Cette expression viendrait du fait que les moines, quand ils s’étaient régalés de fromage, ne laissaient que la croûte aux croyants. Lesquels se délectaient pourtant de ce morceau qui est encore aujourd’hui pour les gourmets un vrai délice. »

D’après Jacques Montandon, l’expression « religieuses » serait due au fait que des religieuses, au début du XXe siècle, quand elles visitaient des familles, leur demandaient de mettre de côté ce qui n’était pas utilisé en cuisine, dont les croûtes du fromage. Elles auraient utilisé ces dernières pour leur gratin. Leur gratin étant très bon, on a commencé à manger ce qui autrefois ne servait qu’à « l’assiette de la religieuse ».

Et pour finir, voici une troisième explication trouvée dans le « Lexique français-suisse romand » de Robert Ferréol : « Il y a une centaine d’années, les soeurs habitant le château de Valère à Sion n’avaient pas grand-chose pour subsister l’hiver venu. Mais c’était des gourmandes, et lorsqu’elles mangeaient du fromage à midi, elles cachaient les couennes dans leur habit, pour qu’une fois retirée dans l’intimité de leurs cellules, [elles puissent] les griller en douce à la bougie et les déguster tranquillement. »

The origin of the word la religieuse (the nun) remains very mysterious. It should be known that, with that meaning [i.e., referring to burnt fondue cheese], the term is used only in French-speaking Switzerland and the Savoy region. In France, a religieuse refers to a pastry.

We can read in the Swiss-romand Dictionary [the dictionary of expressions from French-speaking Switzerland] that la religieuse is not only "the lightly burned part of the fondue inside the pot," but also refers to the "grilled, crusty edges of the raclette-cheese mold that were exposed to the fire." Also in the Swiss-romand Dictionary, we learn the term is a relatively recent creation of unknown origin. Corinna Bille speaks of it in Théoda, published in 1944.

With the term's origin being unknown, all that remains to us are hypotheses... Here is one given by Dominik Flammer in his work Swiss Cheeses: "This expression comes from the fact that the monks, when they feasted on cheese, left only the rinds for the believers, who nonetheless relished this part that, even today, is still considered a true delight by gourmets."

According to Jacques Montadon, the expression religieuses is due to the fact that nuns, at the beginning of the 20th century, when they visited families, asked them to put aside whatever wasn't used in the cooking, including cheese rinds. They would have used these rinds for their gratin which, being delicious, got people to begin eating what was once used only as "a nun's plate."

And to conclude, here is a third explanation found in the French/Swiss-romand Lexicon of Robert Ferréol: "About a hundred years ago, the sisters living in the Chateau Valère in Sion (capital of the canton of Valais in Switzerland) had little on which to subsist during the winter. But these ladies were greedy, and when they ate cheese at noon, they would hide the rinds in their habits such that, once they had retired to their cells, they could grill their cheese in secret with a candle and quietly partake of it."

lunch = fondue

We're doing fondue at the office today; I already served it at lunch, and I'll be serving it again to a different group of folks at dinner. It's a four-cheese fondue, not because I wanted it to be, but because there wasn't enough Gruyère and Emmenthaler at the local eMart for me to be able to feed everyone. I ended up getting a surprisingly fragrant Gouda and a cheese (whose name I forget) that advertised itself as "nutty," thus making the Gouda and the nutty cheese my Emmenthaler and Gruyère analogues, respectively (Gruyère, my favorite cheese, is often described as "nutty"; it's a marvelous cheese for baking). I ended up having more than enough cheese to feed four people at lunch; I'll be feeding four again for dinner. Pics coming.

Oh, yeah: my verrines of pâté arrived today! And the glass bottles were all intact! My lunchtime crowd didn't want to try any of the mystery meats, but I'll be foisting the pâté on my dinnertime crowd. If I can, I'll capture the looks on their faces when I tell them they're eating rat, frog, liver, and congealed blood.

PS: no pics, alas: we dug in too quickly, and the fondue was too good for us to pause and take photos. I did, however, end up feeding the various pâtés to the dinner crowd; even after finding out what they had eaten, they were okay with the pâtés. Go figure.

Elisson on angels

Elisson, with his worsening ALS, writes on angels here.

My own recent thoughts on angels are here and here.

They do exist... just not in the form you think.

a different kind of Chinese food

Although the menu in a Korean-style Chinese restaurant will normally include almost as many items as can be found on an American-Chinese menu, when people think of Korean-style Chinese food, they think of only a handful of items, ordered over and over ad nauseam: black-bean noodles (jjajang-myeon), sweet-and-sour pork (tangsuyuk), spicy seafood soup (jjam-bbong), fried rice (bokkeum-bap), and thick-skinned potstickers (mandu).

On Thursday night, I met my buddy Charles to hand him some small gifts I had bought in France for him and his wife to enjoy. Since we were in the restaurant-rich Nakseongdae neighborhood close to Seoul National University, we decided to walk down a popular street and pick a restaurant on the fly. The place we ended up at, Mara Hweogweo (pronounce that "hwaw-gwaw"), was a type of Chinese restaurant, apparently staffed by ethnic Koreans of Chinese nationality (ex-nationality?). Charles waxed rhapsodic about the ma (same Chinese character as in Ang-ma, the devil), a sort of peppercorn that imparts a special flavor—and an impressive kick—to whatever dish it's applied to. The dishes in this restaurant would feature the ma rather prominently; I let Charles do all the deciding since none of this was familiar to me. (NB: Charles will soon appear in the comments to explain these dishes in greater depth and detail. I asked him to do so because I knew I was going to forget all the names and terms he was throwing at me.)

We got a dish that, on the surface, had the trappings of a shabu-shabu: there was a divided bowl into which had been placed two types of broth—hot and mild. Off to the side were fresh vegetables, and as with shabu-shabu, the expectation was that we'd be adding the veggies into the boiling broth au fur et à mesure as we ate. There was a spicy, peanut-based dipping sauce with bits of raw garlic in it; there were frozen-solid rice cakes and little mandu waiting to be dumped into the soup; there were a few types of pasta and pasta-like ingredients that mystified me; and of course, there was the meat: paper-thin shavings of beef and lamb, for Charles had ordered—and I had agreed to this—a sort of combo meal. On the side, we got a dish that wasn't exactly pork tangsuyuk, but that tasted good and served as a way to punctuate the spicy meal with a bit of sweetness and crunch.

Charles loves the ma peppercorn enough to chew on it all day long; in the end, I didn't share his level of enthusiasm, but I did come to respect the flavor that the ma imparted to our dish. This is a bit like my appreciation for ginger: use it sparingly in a recipe, and it's just fine, but please don't ask me to gnaw on a whole, raw root. I can take only so much.

Overall, this was a novel experience for me, and I'm now curious to go back to that restaurant, or to one like it, to continue exploring the menu with its panoply of ma-infused offerings. This was also a welcome departure from the usual Korean-style Chinese fare. Ordering the same five things all the time can get pretty boring (even though I tend to do something like that when ordering pizza).

Apologies in advance for the blurry photos.

The sign outside:

The veggies:

Two little sides, one of which we both neglected during the meal:

The yin-yang bowl with mild (left) and spicy (right) broths:

Meat and carbs:

Peanut sauce, before I mixed it:

The crunchy sweet-and-sour pork (with glutinous rice flour in the batter):



I'll definitely be back this way. There's more on the menu to explore.