Monday, September 16, 2019


Our immediate boss is away in Louisiana, which of course means that, according to Murphy's Law, any seismic shift in our office will occur during his absence. And sure enough, two people from Human Resources came by today to tell us that the R&D department would be acquiring two new staffers. One is someone we've worked with and already know; the other is someone who has done nothing but teach, and who knows nothing about R&D work. Our current office space is also rather cramped; adding two people here is possible, but it's going to feel crowded. So the HR guy mentioned that we might all be moved, as a team, back to the Mido building, where my career at the Golden Goose began. My ex-boss is currently there, languishing: he got "put out to pasture," so to speak, over a year ago, and he's nearing retirement age. While it'd be pleasant for me to be back in proximity with him, I know it wouldn't be for long, as he's on his way out. The Mido office also contains one or two unsavory characters with whom I'd rather not associate, so that could be an issue, too.

Anyway, there may be some room to negotiate how the addition of team members will work, but that we're getting new members isn't negotiable at all. Nothing's going to be done until our immediate boss is back in Korea; we also need to inform our big boss, who is the head of a whole branch of our company. One coworker noted to me that I'll likely be on my long walk when the new team members arrive. At this point, I don't know whether that means we'll still be here in the Classia building or back over at Mido. I view the immediate future with morbid curiosity. In Korea, nothing is ever stable for long, and in this company in particular, the higher-ups seem to love juggling staff around. With the recent use of R&D as a dumping-ground for an obstreperous employee a month ago, the precedent has been set to use us whenever there's a staff-shuffling issue. I had been worried that that would happen, and sure enough, my fears have come true.

Lovely; fuckin' lovely, as the Irish joke goes.

Majang Meat Market: success and failure

I went to the Majang Meat Market on Sunday and got a huge slab of brisket:

The thing I didn't get was kidneys. I talked to the ajeossi at the Jeongseon Livestock Distribution, the butcher shop I've visited twice before. He said the place to get kidneys was right across from his market, but—and he gestured over yonder to emphasize his point—as we could all see, the shops across the way were all closed. "Come back tomorrow after twelve," he said. I asked how long the shop would be open. "Until about six or seven," he said. What about Saturday? "Closed," he said. Were there any other shops, currently open, that would have kidneys? "Nope," he said. I made a face and told him I worked from about noon to nine, so coming here during the work week would be difficult. He had no reply to that. Eventually, I joked that I'd just have to make the time. The ajeossi laughed.

So I'll be going back to Majang on Monday, arriving a bit after noon to try and find some dang beef kidneys. I've arrived at work as late as 1:30 p.m. on several occasions; I always put in my eight hours of work, and my boss is usually lenient about my schedule. In fact, my boss is in Louisiana with his family right now, so he won't even know how late I am to the office tomorrow. I'll try to buy some kidneys, then taxi straight to the office and slap the kidneys into our office's communal freezer. Maybe the ladies who use the break room will peek into the freezer, see bloody body parts in there, and wonder whether some staffer is Jeffrey Dahmer.

Don't freak out about the price shown on the price tag in the above photo: I was given a 15% discount. My blubbery good looks have helped me out again.

Commas, Part 1

The time has finally come to talk commas. I did a piece on semicolons five years ago; you can see that one here. Today's focus will be on commas, and it's partly because of a running joke between me and John McCrarey, who is a fine writer, but who has almost no idea where and when to use commas.

Commas are actually a complex subject because their placement isn't governed by a single rule of punctuation, but I don't think they're that hard to master. That being said, this comma spiel is going to be in several parts, moving from major points to rather minor ones.

Part 1: introductory expressions and separating independent clauses
Part 2: separating clauses in complex sentences (independent + dependent clauses)
Part 3: marking items on a list (featuring the dreaded Oxford comma)
Part 4: vocative commas (I've covered these before; see previous link)
Part 5: parenthetical expressions
Part 6: coordinate adjectives
Part 7: "which" and non-restrictive clauses
Part 8: quotations
Part 9: miscellaneous uses (this probably won't be much of a post)

First and foremost: the thing that makes me want to pull my hair out is when people heedlessly claim that "a comma is used to mark pauses." This is a highly frustrating claim. In a sense, it's not completely wrong, for commas can indeed be used to mark pauses. My problem with such a guideline (and that's all it is—a rule of thumb and not anything close to a definition) is that it's misleading. If this is the only thing you know about commas, you're going to end up putting them where they don't belong, and you'll stupidly leave them out when you actually need them.

I should step back and make a cultural note, too: comma usage is fading in all English-speaking societies, especially as the corner-cutting that comes with online writing makes us all less and less literate, but the Brits are ahead of the Yanks when it comes to comma-murder. I don't know why, but the Brits seem to have a fairly visceral hatred of commas, and much of what I'm going to lay out in this series of posts will seem quite foreign to modern speakers of the Queen's English, despite the fact that the rules I'll be referring to arguably had their origins in England long before they migrated to the New World. Examples of British comma-hatred abound. Look at some recent ugly specimens from The Guardian online:

• In total[,] some 100 jobs are earmarked to be cut from the 725-strong editorial workforce and 150 from commercial departments, support functions such as finance and human resources[,] and other parts of the business.

• “Our plan of action has one goal: to secure the journalistic integrity and financial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity,” they wrote, before adding they hoped the cuts would all be voluntary[,] and that compulsory redundancies would only be considered only “if necessary”.
Take a look at any random British publication online, and you'll see this hatred for commas pretty much everywhere. Will it be up to us barbaric Yanks to defend the dying comma? I doubt it; we're busy murdering it, too, albeit more slowly.

Commas, Part 1: introductory expressions and separating independent clauses

An introductory expression can be a single word or a phrase. It comes at the head of a sentence and sets the mood or frames the situation. This is also one of the places where comma-murder is most visible because people on both sides of the pond are increasingly dropping their commas here. So keep in mind that, while I generally advocate using a comma after an introductory expression, modern usage is working against me, and in all likelihood, either most modern readers won't notice when you've dropped the comma, or they will notice but just won't care. Some examples of introductory expressions (with commas, of course):

• Five years ago, I had a record-breaking bowel movement.
• Unfortunately, my wife wasn't able to video it in time.
• To add insult to injury, my two-year-old immediately ran in and flushed the toilet.
• Inside, I was seething.
• Nevertheless, I smiled at my daughter.

See how that works? For the "commas mark a pause" crowd, you'll see quite clearly that the marking-a-pause role is fulfilled in all of the above cases. If, however, your introductory expression is a coordinating conjunction, I think you're free to leave the comma off. Keeping the comma in feels archaic, even to me. Look at the following:

• But I admit I sometimes wanted to flush my daughter down the toilet.
• So I'd sneak over to the local Catholic church to confess my murderous thoughts.

To be clear: I'm saying that the above sentences are correct without commas. Mentally insert commas after "But" and "So," and you'll note how archaic those sentences suddenly feel.

Now, let's switch gears and talk about using commas to separate independent clauses.

If you don't know what a clause is, then you'll never master the art of comma placement. A clause is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate. Every complete sentence has at least one clause in it, and a clause can be as short as two words: Jesus farted.

Jesus = subject
farted = verb (predicate)

An independent clause is a complete thought. It can stand on its own, and that's why we call it independent. The sentence Jesus farted is an independent clause. A dependent clause, by contrast, cannot stand alone. It is not a complete thought; it needs something more to complete it. To make a dependent clause, introduce your idea with a subordinating conjunction (before, after, because, until, although, if, once, etc.). Note that, once you slap on that subordinating conjunction—which creates a subordinate, i.e., dependent, clause—you'll need an independent clause to complete your thought. Behold a series of incomplete thoughts:

Before Jesus farted,...
After Jesus farted,...
Because Jesus farted,...
Until Jesus farted,...
Although Jesus farted,...
If Jesus farted,...
Once Jesus farted,...

That's what a dependent (or subordinate) clause looks like: it's incomplete. It depends on something else to make it a complete thought. So let's complete the above incomplete thoughts by adding independent clauses:

Before Jesus farted, the cosmos was in disarray.
After Jesus farted, the temple was dead silent.
Because Jesus farted, Man is no longer condemned to eternal hellfire.
Until Jesus farted, no one had any idea what to do.
Although Jesus farted, Satan refused to depart from the girl.
If Jesus farted, my cancer would disappear.
Once Jesus farted, the race began.

The above are all complex sentences, which are a mix of independent and dependent clauses; we'll talk about this type of sentence later. For now, though, let's concentrate on compound sentences, which are made of two independent clauses. Let's begin by looking at two independent clauses written as two separate sentences:

Jesus farted. The dog exploded.

We could join these sentences with a semicolon to make one type of compound sentence:

Jesus farted; the dog exploded.

Or we could join these sentences with a comma-conjunction, in which the conjunction is a coordinating conjunction like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so: the so-called FANBOYS. Coordinating conjunctions, along with a comma, are used to link two independent clauses together. The comma comes first, then the conjunction. To wit:

Jesus farted, and the dog exploded.

We could use other coordinating conjunctions, thereby altering the meaning of the compound sentence by changing how the independent clauses relate to each other:

The dog exploded, for Jesus had farted.
Jesus did not fart, nor did the dog explode.
Jesus farted, but the dog exploded.
Jesus farted, or the dog exploded.
Jesus farted, yet the dog exploded.
Jesus farted, so the dog exploded.

So: if you're dealing with a compound sentence, which has two independent clauses, you can link them with either a semicolon (as shown above) or a comma-conjunction. I hope, by now, that you know what these terms mean:

1. clause
2. independent clause
3. dependent clause (also called a...?)
4. coordinating conjunction (which links two what?)
5. subordinating conjunction (which introduces a what?)
6. compound sentence
7. complex sentence

Before we conclude Part 1, let's talk a bit about two instances in which commas aren't necessary. First, we have "or" expressions: Chicken or beef? Superman or Captain Marvel? Muhammad or Lao-tzu? Your place or mine? Trump or Hillary?

Earlier, I wrote:

An introductory expression can be a single word or a phrase.

I did not use a comma:

An introductory expression can be a single word, or a phrase.

That second, erroneous case will happen because some dumbass is thinking, "Duuuuhhhh... a comma marks a pause, and since I would read that line with a pause in it, I guess I'll stick a comma right there. Duuuuhhhh..."

Read my lips, said the vagina: Don't fucking do that. Disjunctive locutions (this usually refers to two contrasting things linked by but or or) don't take commas unless the disjunction is occurring in a compound sentence:

You can have a Fleshlight, or you can have a hand grenade up the bum.

Second, compound predicates don't take commas, either. A compound predicate is a verbal expression depicting two distinct actions separated by a coordinating conjunction—usually and or but. Examples of compound predicates, correctly and incorrectly done:

WRONG: Socrates coughed up blood, and died.
RIGHT: Socrates coughed up blood and died.

WRONG: Harry glimpsed Hermione naked, and thought about her all day.
RIGHT: Harry glimpsed Hermione naked and thought about her all day.

One exception to the compound-predicate rule is if your compound predicate contains more than two verbs:

Socrates coughed up blood, glimpsed Hermione naked, and died.

In the above sentence, the three verbs basically form items in a list (or they can be thought of as a tricolon), hence the need for commas.

We will have plenty more opportunities to talk about when not to use commas as this series continues. Pay as much attention to those sections as to the main explanations. The unnecessary addition of commas is just as bad as the unnecessary omission of commas.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Styx with a postmortem on the 3rd Dem debate

throw dem knives!

I've watched a few Adam Celadin knife-throwing videos before, and I've even blogged about the man (see here). He's a five-time world-champion knife-thrower, as well as a cancer survivor. He's also friends with German nutcase Joerg Sprave of The Slingshot Channel, and in this particular episode of The Slingshot Channel, Celadin makes an appearance as a guest, showing off what are purportedly the world's best throwing knives. After the two build a large, wooden target together, Celadin demonstrates a sort of "no spin" technique (as Sprave points out, there's actually about a one-quarter rotation) that is useful for short-distance, close-quarters, self-defense throwing.* Sprave proves to be a quick study. The man is lucky to have friends and acquaintances who can teach him weapons techniques; another of Sprave's associates, Stefan Roth, is a smith who makes katanas in the traditional way, and who is also trained in Japanese swordsmanship. In one Slingshot Channel video, Roth shows Sprave (at the very end) how to cut a tatami mat properly.**

*I think that Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) uses the no-spin technique to kill a Klingon at close range in "Star Trek Into Darkness."

**Sprave has had Roth on his show a couple times, and in each case, Sprave speaks in English while Roth speaks exclusively in German. Many commenters express amazement at how Roth understands Sprave's English perfectly and replies in a way that shows his comprehension. I'm once again reminded of the linguistic universe of the Star Wars films, in which every alien speaks its own language, but everyone seems to understand everyone else (e.g., Han and Chewie, Han and Greedo, Lando and Chewie, etc.).


September 10 was my goddaughter Rachael's 22nd birthday.

September 12 was my friend Dr. Steve's 50th birthday.

September 14 was/is my little brother David's 43rd birthday.

Happy Birthday, all!

more memes via Instapundit


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Jon Miller on the Dem gun-grabbers

Well, at least Beto O'Rourke is honest. The left has tried to be coy about its basic agenda, which is the forcible removal of your ability to defend yourself. Read Dr. Vallicella's argument on the right to bear arms for a good logical case for self-defense with a gun. In the recent Democrat debate, Beto O'Rourke came out and said, "Hell, yes!" to actually taking away people's AR-15s (and, by implication, other weapons). While the audience at the debate cheered this, anyone with brain cells must know that this is going to become ammunition (pardon the pun) for Republicans in 2020. Jon Miller's video, shown below, takes pains to show how Beto O'Rourke himself has flip-flopped on the issue—all in the space of a single year. Incredible. No wonder that he's losing so badly in the polls.

ADDENDUM: and here's Colion Noir on the same issue. Noir isn't normally this angry and ranty, but this is must-watch video, and he points out the same O'Rourkean hypocrisy:

Ave, John Mac!

John McCrarey offers some post-trip thoughts on Vietnam.

primitive fun

Who knew that throwing large objects down at remote-control trucks could be so fun?

Friday, September 13, 2019

5 via Bill

These were all pretty good. (h/t Bill Keezer)

Happy Chuseok!

I'm off on a hike to Bundang and back. Check my walk blog for details.

Happy Chuseok to all and sundry!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ajumma's paintings

Here are the three paintings I chose to take from Ajumma's place last night. Two of them are landscape-style, so click on those images to enlarge them, then right-click and hit "open image in new tab" to see them at their truly awesome, 1500-pixel width. The third image is portrait-style (vertical), so there's no need to click on that one; I've displayed it here at the usual 600-pixel width. This first one caught my eye for its use of color:

The second one struck me because of how authentically it captured a rustic, possibly rural Korean scene, making me feel as if I were really there:

This last one reminded me strongly of Europe—specifically, of a Howard Behrens painting. Behrens has done plenty of European scenes; his command of light and shadow is impressive (see here, for example). Ajumma's painting managed to evoke something very similar for me.

failure at Gwangjang Market (with consolation prize)

I went to Gwangjang Market today to find Gillette deodorant—something I haven't done in a few years because my buddy Tom, who normally hits the Philippines every summer and winter, offers to buy me a half-year supply of Gillette Clear Gel deodorant for cheap every time he's in the PI. This summer, though, Tom said he couldn't find any of what I wanted, so he came back empty-handed. Whether this is just some sort of resentment-fueled, passive-aggressive action on his part, I'll never know. Upshot: I recalled that Gwangjang Market had sellers with piles of foreign goods, including overpriced deodorant (W7000 at the market, which is almost twice the price of the same deodorant back in the States), so I cabbed out there today, in the sporadic rain.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that the sellers were either all gone or shunted somewhere else. Everything's been taken over by food stalls and makeshift sit-down eateries, which have expanded all the way to the edges of the market (at many of the market's gateways, the food sellers used to be just inside, with the foreign-product sellers planted right at the entrance/exit area). It could be that the foreign-product merchants are still around, but I walked all over the crowded marketplace and didn't see a single one.

So I went home and ordered my deodorant via Amazon, happy to find out that Amazon does ship deodorant to Korea. I made this a rush order, which increases the per-stick price to somewhere north of Gwangjang Market's old prices, but a man's armpits will brook no delays. (Actually, I don't need deodorant that quickly: I've got a whole stick of deodorant sitting inside my toiletry bag, so I'm set for the upcoming hike. That said, I want to have a full supply of Gillette on hand upon my return. And my apologies to those of you who are currently boycotting Gillette for its recent politically correct nonsense.)

But the trip to the market wasn't a complete bust: I bought a bag of dried figs.

They're not very good; they taste and feel a bit like paper, so eating one of these figs is like eating an origami Pikachu. Very bland. Very bleh.

get ready to change channels

I said I wouldn't do this, but I'm doing it, anyway: for those of you still not in the know, I've started a walk blog dedicated to my upcoming Incheon-to-Busan through-hike of the Four Rivers Path. Tomorrow and Friday, I'll be doing a rather tough pair of 36-km walks, both of which will go to nearby Bundang and back, so I can test out my new backpack—fully loaded—and find out what my pain levels will be when I'm doing some hard walking. So for tomorrow and Saturday, I won't be blogging here: look for updates at Kevin's Walk 3. Just FYI.

(I'll still blog another entry or two here tonight, I'm sure.)

fun and educational

This comedy sketch by Ryan George, the Pitch Meeting guy, is funny and surprisingly educational, roping in plenty of questions from the philosophy of art—the meaning of representation, what art actually expresses, and even the question of filthy lucre:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

pisses me off

I recently ordered powdered milk from GMarket, but when the package arrived today, I saw it was tiny cartons of regular whole milk. I want to knock the head off the gorilla who fulfilled the order. Today, despite being a Wednesday, was supposed to feel like a happy Friday given that the Chuseok four-day weekend is upon us. But instead, I've got several things pissing me off right at the moment, and I'm supposed to visit my #3 Ajumma in a few minutes to hand over some galbi and talk a bit. Gonna have to pull out the ol' toothpicks to prop up the corners of my mouth and make a nice, fake smile for her.

EPILOGUE: the visit with Ajumma was brief—probably not more than 40 minutes. "I missed you!" was followed by, "Did you lose weight?", which was followed by, "You need to stop drinking sodas! Look at your belly!" Then, paradoxically, after all the fat-shaming: "And when are you going to get a girlfriend?" No better reality check than an ajumma. I found out that another of my aunts recently died on September 2. Very sad. I didn't know her that well, but she was always a kindly person. Ajumma said she couldn't attend the burial, which was somewhere out in Gangweon Province.

She then showed me a whole array of paintings she's done (many of which I've already blogged here); the larger ones are going to be shown at an exhibition that's also supposed to be some kind of contest, and she might have the chance to win a fancy calendar. (She didn't seem too impressed with the notion of a calendar as a prize.) For a few minutes, there was some confusion about whether her son, one of my cousins, would be coming over; she called and texted him several times, and when he finally picked up, he said he wouldn't be coming by because he was too busy (he's a professional singer who also teaches private classes and is involved in many local productions—a bit like my brother Sean with his cello).

Ajumma allowed me to select three of her smaller pictures to take with me; when I mentioned that I could go to Insa-dong and get the images framed, she jumped up, dug around her things, and produced three frames that might or might not actually fit the dimensions of her pictures. We tried measuring the pictures against the frames, and they kind-of matched up, but I have my doubts. At the very least, I'm going to have to buy window mats that match her pictures better. Ajumma was pretty unsentimental about the frames, which still contained large group photos in them. "That's Ajeossi's stuff," she said, referring to her husband and the framed photos. "I'm getting rid of all that." I remember that, when Mom died, we who remained weren't too sentimental about things like Mom's piles and piles of clothing, much of it dating back to the 1970s. They were just things, after all; they weren't Mom.

The other big news was that Ajumma had succeeded in selling her building; she's been the landlady of a small apartment building in Garak-dong since forever, and I guess she's had enough, especially with her husband having passed away in January. (They'd been landlord and landlady together... almost as if they'd led as two kings.) In the 90s, I lived for a few months on the building's top floor. It had a decent view, I guess, if you like being surrounded by much larger apartment buildings, but it also reeked of gas fumes at night and had no insulation from the cold. A brown rabbit used to live on the roof; its cage was alongside some rooftop planters serving as modest gardens. I heard, later on, that the rabbit had died. I'm guessing it froze one night. Anyway, Ajumma's moving out in mid-November. I told her a bit about where I currently live, and she perked up and asked me whether she could move there or somewhere in my neighborhood. I told her I'd get her the real-estate offices' contact information; our first floor has several such offices, so I promised her I'd photograph their storefronts, which have phone numbers and emails plastered tackily all over them. She's expecting a text-with-photos from me.

Life, if nothing else, is change. Get too fixated on things and circumstances, and you belatedly realize that life has moved right out from under you, as if God were yanking the carpet from beneath your feet in slow motion. Another of my aunts is dead, and #3 Ajumma is moving to some new-but-undetermined place. I guess we'll see how it all turns out although, as the graphic novel Watchmen warns, the story never really ends.

18 years ago today

why the US can never win

If we intervene somewhere, we're called imperialist, interventionist, etc. If we fail to intervene somewhere, we're derided for not having helped when we had the power to do so. We can never win. I just saw this tweet, embedded over at ROK Drop:

I'm happy to pledge my support, publicly on this blog, to the demonstrators in Hong Kong who see Beijing's current machinations as a violation of the agreement put in place after Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. But aside from that, what more can I do? Go to Hong Kong and crack some mainland-Chinese skulls? Uh-huh. Granted, I can sign online petitions and contribute online to certain causes, but what's that really going to do? Not much.

And what more can the US do? China will view this whole mess as an internal affair, whatever its international dimensions and repercussions. For the US to intervene in some meaningfully physical way, we'd have to violate Chinese sovereignty. That in itself becomes a sticky question because—let's be honest—we violate other countries' sovereignty all the time, in ways both obvious and subtle, and other countries do the same to us and to others. This is one reason why all the shrill, self-righteous paranoia about Russian election-meddling over the past three years rings hollow: even if Russia were somehow deeply influential, we (i.e., the CIA) quietly work to undermine Russian politics, too. We have no moral right to complain. Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.

So our foreign policy regarding Hong Kong could go the possibly pragmatic route by trying in earnest to intervene in Chinese affairs. After all, as the above tweet shows, it's the people of Hong Kong who are openly calling for US intervention. We've been given carte blanche by the people to step in and do something, and it's an open secret that we meddle in other countries' affairs, anyway (hence my use of "pragmatic": this action would stem from a realistic appraisal of the situation and of our own moral standing). That, or US foreign policy could take the seeming high road and affirm that this is an internal matter for China to resolve. Such a move opens the US to calls of hypocrisy, based on the US's aforementioned involvement in overseas regime change. President Trump, who has alternately cozied up to Xi Jinping and engaged in a trade war (one that includes sanctions) with him, could break either way, or he might find some strange, squiggly middle path between these alternatives. Whatever the case, I don't see a way forward that looks good for the US. We lose again.

Here are some tweeted responses to the above-quoted tweet by Gordon Chang:

"As we have been calling for, @realDonaldTrump must speak with moral clarity in support of the Hong Kong people."
—Todd Griffith

"First they took Taiwan, then Hong Kong and the South China Sea[,] extending to the waters of Vietnam[. Show] more support for the people of Hong Kong[,] @POTUS—be the difference as you were with Jerusalem[.]"
—Charles Jenkins

[Editor's note: I'm not sure what is meant by "took Taiwan." Did Taiwan recently fall to Beijing or something? Or is this a protest of the "one China" policy?]

"No UK flags......why would that be?"
—Kevin Walsh

"That’s a sad question[.]😢 Then I’ll ask[,] 'Where is the UK when we're suffering from China government's persecution?', 'What did the UK do when China obviously violates the commitment of the Sino-British joint declaration?' We have waited for the UK for 22 YEARS. Really disappointed[.]💔"
—A Yu, in response to Kevin Walsh

"Sadly, the world does not run on right and wrong. It runs on commerce. Hong Kong protestors should not overplay their hand."
—Mark White

"Great thanks to USA in advance for taking the world leadership responsibility.
SOS to USA by [Hong Kongers] and the entire world!"

—Sarah Zhou

I feel a pang when I read the words of people thanking the USA for help that's probably never going to come. What's worse is that the lack of help will probably be for good, rational reasons.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

the hunt for kidneys: redux

I'm getting different stories from different butcher-shop proprietors as to why they don't have kidneys on sale. Last night, the third butcher I visited said he'd have kidneys sometime in October, and toward the end of this month, I could order them. I told him that wouldn't work for me, but just to make him feel all right about not having made a sale, I said I'd likely be back—a weasel-worded way of helping him save face.

Tonight, I visited the butcher in our building's basement. I have to wonder what sort of business he does since the grocery store that's also in the basement sells pretty much the same meats he does. Anyway, I stopped by his counter and asked about kidneys. He gave me a longish explanation about how butcher shops could sell kidneys up until four or five years ago, then some law was passed, and now most shops can't sell organ meats anymore.

Is this true? I have no idea. It's a different story from what yesterday's butcher said: yesterday's butcher was claiming that kidneys were actually on the way (and I have no idea how true that is, either). Tonight's butcher ended by saying I should visit the Majang Meat Market, where I could find all sorts of organ meats. This dovetails with my own suspicions, and I'm already planning to pay Majang another visit. Sometimes in Seoul, to get what you want, you have to travel far and wide.

Here's hoping I find beef kidneys, but I'll settle for pig or sheep.

jinggeom dari (징검다리)

A jinggeom-dari is a stepping-stone bridge that goes, say, across a creek. That's a new Korean word to add to my small-but-slowly-growing Korean lexicon. I misheard it as "jin-geom-dari" when JW's son taught it to me, so I jokingly asked whether the word meant "true-sword bridge," and the boy laughed. He taught me the word as we were walking along the Yangjae Creek, which has plenty of human-carved jinggeom-dari to allow people to cross the stream at certain points. Each "stone" of one of these bridges is, in reality, a massive, rectangular boulder. See below—the following pic is actually from the Yangjae Creek:

Naver Dictionary teaches me that the term jinggeom-dari hyu-il (징검다리 휴일) refers to holidays or off-days that are scattered in dotted-line fashion across the calendar, where work days alternate with holidays. So now, I've learned something else.

"Brexit Saboteurs"

A National Review Online article titled "Brexit Saboteurs" by NRO regular Kyle Smith has this to say about the British horror of a hard Brexit:

The European Union is the new Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Any hopes that the British government might actually go ahead and achieve Brexit, after more voters supported it than have ever voted for anything in the entire history of this formerly great country, were pretty well dashed this week when Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a spectacular series of defeats in the House of Commons, capped by the utterly humiliating departure of his own brother Jo, a Remainer, who quit both his brother’s government and his seat in the Commons rather than be an ally for the Brexit Johnson has repeatedly promised would occur, “do or die,” on October 31. Jo Johnson said he was putting “the national interest” ahead of party and family.

After many in his own party deserted him, and, more to the point, deserted the country, by joining the pro-EU coalition in Parliament, a bill set to become law on Monday will require Johnson to go on bended knee to the EU to seek a second extension. After that outcome is secured, a general election looms.

In proving that it is terrified of a no-deal Brexit, Parliament has effectively stripped the United Kingdom of all its negotiating leverage and made it probable that nothing like a clean break with the EU will occur. What Britain will wind up with will evidently either be continued EU membership or some sort of sham Brexit like the one that was repeatedly rejected when Theresa May tried to sell it to the Commons.

How about this idea? “A simple referendum will solve Brexit,” Tony Blair writes in an op-ed in the Evening Standard. Hang on, I thought there already was one. But no, you see, that referendum delivered the wrong result. Britain checked out of the EU in 2016, but it can never be allowed to leave.
Europeans' commitment to transnational progressivism—the idea that individual countries' sovereign governments should fall under the umbrella of an even greater, continent-spanning governmental power—runs deep, and this includes Europeans in the UK. Look at the UK country by country to see how true this is: Scotland is a prime example of a nation that can no longer even imagine what it's like to be independent. This is no longer the Scotland of independence advocates like Sean Connery; Scotland had a 2014 referendum in which it voted to stick with the UK instead of breaking away, but when Brexit happened in 2016, Scotland became horrified at the notion of remaining with the UK if that meant being separated from the EU. Talk of a second referendum began. I've lamented the loss of Scotland's testicular fortitude several times on this blog; it really is a pathetic sight, at least when seen from a distance. It's a bit like watching the Greeks desperately cling to the eurozone when what they really need to do is have a Grexit, go back to the drachma, solve their own problems (mainly by paying down their massive, crippling debt to Germany), and only then think about dealing with the rest of Europe as a truly self-empowered nation that has recovered its dignity. A single Scot might still be a brave, fear-no-death bloke, but the Scots collectively have become meek little sheep. Of the UK countries, England is the bloc that voted most strongly for Brexit. Perhaps, in the end, it's only England (and maybe Wales?) that will leave the EU, and any notion of a UK will evaporate in the wake of that sea change.

My own intuition is that a hard Brexit will be hell on the UK's economy for the first decade or so, but in the long term, this will all prove to have been worth the trouble, especially if Brexit leads to a cascade on the Continent: a Frexit, an Italexit, etc., and a return to 1980s-era, pre-eurozone Europe. Will this mean the reappearance of tariffs and trade borders, perhaps the partial dissolution of the Schengen Area? Yes, but the upside is the resuscitation of national sovereignty and cultural pride, and the prospect of better trading arrangements than the ones currently in place. Pie in the sky, to think this way? Maybe. But my bias is toward national sovereignty, not transnational progressivism. In the meantime, Parliament needs to find where its balls went and do the right damn thing.

Monday, September 09, 2019

to the tune of "Love Shack"

Cats encourage me in my search for kidneys. I've already tried three places close to where I work. Am going to have to widen my search.

The MEOW pie has got steak and some kidneys
We can eat together...
콩팥, baby...

mission: steak-and-kidney pie

An English friend is coming for a visit on September 21, the weekend after Chuseok, and I've proposed making steak-and-kidney pie, which I love. Of course, I say "I love" as if I were some sort of expert, but in truth, I've had the pie only once, and it was a marvelous experience. I've since learned that the traditional version involves cubed chunks of muscle and organ meat; the version I ate featured thinly sliced beef and kidney. I'm a lazy bastard when I eat, so I naturally prefer thinly sliced meat, and that's likely how I'm going to prepare the pie once I find the ingredients. I'm not worried about finding beef; chuck is usually recommended and easily available in regular Korean groceries, but I might actually go for brisket because, once cooked to tenderness, brisket becomes the One Meat to Rule Them All. Finding kidney might be a problem; luckily, I see that the English are open-minded on the question of which animal's kidneys should go into the pie: a cook has his choice of cow, pig, or lamb. That makes it more likely that I'll find some sort of kidney somewhere.

The various recipes for pie crust for steak-and-kidney pie are all in the same ballpark as the crust I've used for chicken pot pie, so that's not an issue. Neither is creating a brown sauce for the meat; I know several methods for arriving at something palatable. The important thing I've learned is that the kidneys need to be prepped and soaked in water for two hours, or they need to be lightly boiled for several minutes to get rid of a bitter taste that can arise when raw kidneys are suddenly cooked. The water for soaking/boiling needs to have some salt and vinegar in it (some chefs go the opposite way and recommend soaking in milk). Kidneys also have an outer membrane that must be removed, as well as a fatty core that needs to be excised. They're apparently very high in cholesterol, but if you're a disciple of Gary Taubes, then this may not be as big of a problem for you.

Beef kidneys are highly lobed organs. Pig kidneys look, well, more human. Lamb kidneys are more sharply curled inward than pig kidneys. Whichever kidneys I end up with, I can guarantee that surgery is going to be fun. Wish me luck on my hunt for kidneys.

Sanders = Thanos?

I'm not normally a reader of the Washington Examiner, but I followed a link from Instapundit to an Examiner article that half-jokingly equates Bernie Sanders to Marvel villain Thanos, the antagonist in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." The article's author, Caleb Franz, argues that Bernie Sanders revealed his thanatotic self when he affirmed that population control would be an important plank in his program to rescue the environment from human-caused harm.

While the article was a hoot to read (although, in the end, it didn't make a very convincing Sanders-Thanos connection), what really struck me was the article's contention that the final two Avengers movies can be read as a conservative text, with Thanos as the "ultimate... central planner." I hadn't thought of that. Read on:

Thanos was the ultimate example of a central planner, and his storyline illustrates the inevitability of authoritarians with good intentions. Throughout Infinity War, he wasn’t acting evil for evil’s sake[;] he had a clear reason to believe what he believed, and his convictions drove everything he did. Then, after the Avengers showed Thanos how his plans would fail, instead of accepting that he was wrong, he [doubled] down and [sought] to eliminate all life rather than half.

This escalation, illustrated through Thanos, is how many central planners start from ideas of peace, balance, and tranquility but end up with bloodshed and authoritarianism.

Now, Sanders is not Thanos, and he likely wouldn’t take steps as extreme as Thanos does to achieve population control. But much like Thanos, Sanders doesn’t understand that[,] once his plans inevitably fail, he will be forced into a situation to either abandon his mission or double down into a much darker place.

Neither Sanders nor Thanos [is] the first to suggest population is running out of control. Paul Ehrlich popularized the idea back in the 1970s with the release of his book The Population Bomb. He claimed millions would starve to death due to overpopulation within a decade.

Before Paul Ehrlich, there was Thomas Malthus, who wrote a book in 1798 titled An Essay on the Principle of Population. He suggested that population would lead to humanity’s doom almost 200 years before Ehrlich.

Yet regardless of whether the claim came from Malthus, Ehrlich, Sanders, or Thanos, they all were wrong. Despite the incredible rise in population over the past 200 years, we have more abundance of food, not less. People have a higher standard of living, not a lower one. Basically, what’s happened is the opposite of everything they predicted.

This is because the world has been adopting a freer market to solve global problems. If we expect to solve the many problems we still face around the world, we must reject central planners such as Bernie Sanders and Thanos, and reject population control, too.

I agree with the need to reject central planning, but the dig against Malthus doesn't really refute Malthus's contention that populations grow to the limit of their food supply; what Caleb Franz is saying is that we've learned how to increase our food supply along the way. In other words, we've merely postponed the Malthusian question, not answered it. Now to be clear, I certainly don't advocate arbitrarily limiting our food supply in a morbid attempt to prove Malthus's point; I'm simply saying that Malthus probably doesn't belong on this short list of people who've been definitively proven wrong.* Paul Ehrlich's notion of a "population bomb," on the other hand, has certainly been refuted many times over by this point. And just wait until humans move off-planet in earnest.

So, no: Sanders isn't Thanos, although the thought is amusing. But reading the final two Avengers movies as conservative texts... that's a rare thing, given how Marvel movies—with the notable exception of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"—generally lean left.

*This site lays out Malthus's theory in some detail, and based on what the site says, I'm wrong. Malthus explicitly did predict, as part of his theory, that populations would increase exponentially while food supply would increase only arithmetically, thus resulting in eventual mass starvation unless population increases were curbed. Since Malthus's theory made specific predictions, Caleb Franz is right to say that Malthus ended up being proven wrong, in the long run. Malthus apparently also failed to justify his exponential/geometric framing of the problem by providing any hard observational data for his math. So: my bad.

Canada's 3 branches of government

Here's an educational video by JJ McCullough (mentioned here regarding the scam that is recycling) on Canada's three branches of government, which vaguely parallel the US system, but which have some significant differences, e.g., Canada's Senate is unelected: senators are all appointees! How very democratic, right?

If you're a Canadian, chances are that you lean not a little to the left, so watching JJ McCullough—a moderate conservative—talk a bit of trash about your country's government is probably a lot like being a US conservative watching an American liberal talk trash about the US government.* Get how it feels now?

*Or maybe that's a bad simile. American liberals generally love government. But—and this is true for conservatives, too—they love it more when their own people are in power.

a grand adventure along the PCT

Here's a documentary by two dudes who walked 2653 miles from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border along the PCT, i.e., the Pacific Crest Trail. While I wish the narrator's intonation hadn't been so flat and dead, I recalibrated my ears to listen to the content of his story and not the style in which it was told. The amazing images didn't hurt, either. If you don't have 40 minutes to spare, watch the video at 1.5X speed, as I did.

These guys maintained a hiking speed of 16-18 miles per day through mountainous terrain, basically walking from dawn to dusk every day. That's pretty damn impressive.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Ave, Herr Gilleland!

Michael Gilleland quotes my favorite feminist, from something she'd written in 1994 that is still painfully relevant today.

Andrew Yang in his own words

A decent, 8-minute sound bite of Andrew Yang giving a short speech in New Hampshire's Democratic Party National Convention:

Yang wisely de-emphasizes all the stupid conspiracy theories that purport to explain how and why Donald Trump ended up in the White House. His thesis—he calls himself a "numbers guy," so he says he's going where the numbers lead him—is that automation has been "taking a buzzsaw to the economy," eliminating jobs, especially in the swing states that Trump won in 2016. Whether you agree with Yang's thesis is a question I leave up to you, but I'll give him credit for not automatically making Trump the Russia-loving, racist bogeyman that other candidates are talking about. Yang is, at least, clear-eyed on that matter, and he doesn't sound as if he's taken the bait that so many other candidates have taken. (My opinion may change if/when I listen to more of what he's said about Trump in public.)

Statistically speaking, Yang doesn't really stand a chance, and his recent crying jag won't have helped his numbers. The Democrats, who think of themselves as the multicolored, big-tent party of diversity, have three old, white, corporatist schlubs—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren—as their front-runners right now. The party of racial diversity could be fronting Yang, or Tulsi Gabbard, or maybe even Kamala Harris (whom I find batshit insane), but they've instead chosen to move forward with "electability" as their top criterion. And somewhere deep in the leftist's brain, in some hidden, reptilian portion, "electable" somehow still means "old and white." What a sad (yet rich) irony for a party that spends so much time and energy scorning and demonizing old whiteness.

Anyway, the upshot is that Yang, polling at only 3%, can be safely dismissed this time around. He, like Gabbard and maybe Pete Buttigieg, might have a chance in 2024. I expect to see all those folks again in the next cycle, when the Democrats will—I hope—have finally realized that nominating crazy, spineless, and/or senile-demented people isn't the way to win an election.

walk: accomplished

I met up with JW and his son for a walk tonight. It turned out to be just under 18,000 steps, which is a modest walk if your threshold for a "decent" walk is 20K steps or more. We met in the Daechi neighborhood, near my place of work since I was at the office, toiling away; we then struck out for the Yangjae Creek, moved on to the Tan Creek, then walked out to the Han River before doing a U-turn and heading back to my place along a somewhat different path.

This will be the last time I get to see the Kang family until about November, as I'll be on the path for most of October. JW's son is getting taller; I hadn't seen him in over a year. JW's daughter, whom I didn't see tonight, is probably sprouting, too. She reminds me a lot of Justin Yoshida's adorable daughter.

JW is marveling at how the Han River path and the creeks attached to it are providing him with new, heretofore-unseen vistas. I'm gently prodding him to think about doing an end-to-end walk across South Korea one of these years, but he's a busy guy who's climbed fairly high in the POSCO ranks; he's responsible for a lot of people, which means finding the time to take a month-long vacation is almost impossible. So it was good to have even a brief opportunity to tromp some asphalt with him and the boy.

Weekend walk: accomplished. I need to do at least one more practice walk, maybe on Tuesday, before I do the huge walk during the Chuseok holiday.

it's not letting up

The weather is fine right now: cloudy but no significant wind, and no rain. But the forecast for tomorrow and the next few days is looking bad: rain, thunderstorms, rain, and more rain. Here's what the current radar is showing:

And here's the five-day forecast, very much subject to change:

The typhoon-ish system you see close to Tokyo/Yokohama is a pretty classic storm situation for Korea: typhoons that hit Korea tend mostly to come from the southeast, raking over Japan first, an action that diminishes the force of the storm so that, by the time it hits the Korean peninsula, the system isn't nearly so fearsome. The typhoon that just hit Korea, Ling Ling, snuck up between China and Korea before blasting South Korea with rain and high winds, as well as poking Pyeongyang in the eye. "I hope Pyeongyang got flattened," remarked JW over the phone last night. A man can dream.

You can also see, on the above radar map, another finger-like system sitting over Okinawa. It looks pretty bad, like "Karate Kid: Part Two" bad. I wonder whether that system might float our way. Could be exciting if so.

the Onion: funny for once

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Right Brothers review Chappelle's "Sticks and Stones"

Actually, it's only one of the two brothers doing the reviewing:

Jeremy Jahns (whom I talked about here) gets a mention.

walk: canceled

I was supposed to meet up with my buddy JW for an 8 p.m. walk tonight, but when I sent him the text to make sure we'd be meeting close to my office, JW texted back, "Oh, shit. I forgot." He sounded tired and/or drunk when he called me to apologize for forgetting; I told him we could reschedule for tomorrow evening, an hour earlier. I had thought I would be going for a walk with JW and his son in the blustering wind and pouring rain tonight, but by 8 p.m., there was no bluster, and the rain was little more than a light drizzle. Alas. Tomorrow evening, there's a 20% chance of rain, but the forecast is mostly for cloudy weather, heat, and some humidity. Lovely. Can't wait for the end of September.

Meanwhile, I have Chuseok break to look forward to: this coming week, we're in the office only until Wednesday: we have Thursday and Friday off, with Friday as the official day of Han-ga-wi,* i.e., Chuseok, the traditional, family-oriented harvest celebration that some Westerners equate to American Thanksgiving. I'm going to walk out to Yangpyeong and back over the four-day weekend—120 km with my backpack so I can get in at least one full-scale practice hike before I embark on the real thing. I also need to get a good read on the pain levels for my feet because I need to know whether this is going to be merely an achy journey or pure torture. Assuming my backpack is light enough, I'm hoping for an achy journey.

The actual walk will begin two weeks after that.

*Sorry for the hyphenation, but without the hyphens, people who don't know Korean might mispronounce the word as "hang-ah-wee." This is one of several problems with romanization: the phonetic ambiguity caused by contiguous letters.

pretty awe-inspiring

Just watch.

a very cool idea

Plop this thing into some of those bottle-clogged Asian rivers (referenced here). Cleanup will take decades, but it'll be worth it. Or, hey—build a fleet of 'em!

Ling Ling bring the big dingaling

Typhoon Ling Ling (Lingling, Ling-ling, whatever) is currently brushing up against the Korean peninsula. Based on the snapshot of the map below, I get the impression that Pyeongyang, to the north, is getting it worse than South Korea is. Then again, as you can see at the bottom of the map, there are some questing tendrils, with lots of red in them, working their way northward into South Korea. I don't know how all that is is going to pan out, but we're battening down the hatches here. Seoul, a bit like the DC-Metro area in the winter, is often a place of disappointment after weathermen announce that something big is going to happen. I suspect things aren't going to be that bad. But we'll see.

Friday, September 06, 2019

preview trailers, but I'm not that excited

"Terminator: Dark Fate":

I would like to know that Ah-nold and Linda Hamilton are the top-billed stars in this flick, but I don't think that's the case (I could be wrong): they're just passing the torch. There's a quick moment of dialogue that hints at a whole, complex relationship: it's when Sarah Connor tells Arnold's Terminator that, when this is all over, she's going to kill him, and he stoically replies, "I understand."* I so, so want the depths of the relationship implied in that brief-but-tantalizing exchange to be explored, but I know they won't be, and that disappoints me.

"Between Two Ferns: The Movie":

No one asked for this, no one needs this, and it looks like another lame attempt to stretch out a joke that's funny for ten minutes into a joke that goes on for 90 minutes. I predict this is going to be a massive fucking turd, like so many SNL adaptations that have tried the same thing. I like Zach Galifianakis as a comic actor, pianist, and stand-up pro, but not so much as a human being, and I don't think he has the chops to carry this movie.

*True, this exchange might exist only in the trailer thanks to clever editing. Whatever the truth may be, the exchange still hints at a deep and convoluted relationship between Sarah Connor and the Terminator.

did I inspire someone?

Today, I went for my Friday pizza. Unfortunately, lunch also came with regular soda, and I gave in to temptation and drank it. As a result, I had to reset my count-up timer on my walk blog. It currently reads that I have been free of sweet drinks (i.e., soda, juice, etc.) for -2 days. Why? Because I'm probably going to down some more soda over the weekend before I go back on my moratorium on Monday. Well... I did go four days without any sugary drinks, so maybe that's something. Anyway, on Monday, we begin again.

Back to pizza talk. I went to the local pizza joint, which used to be called "Mr. Slice" and used to be run by a Korean dude who spoke very little English, and who had learned how to make New York-style pizza... except that he always sold his pepperoni pizza sprinkled with pineapple. I didn't think it was horrible, but I did feel as if some unspoken taboo had been violated. That guy sold his business a few months ago, and now another Korean dude owns it. Twice, now, I've visited the new, renovated pizza joint—re-christened "The Pizza Shop" in the same font as "Mr. Slice"—and each time, the guy behind the counter has been there with a Korean friend. Turns out the two friends had met in the States; they studied at the same college, but one majored in business while the other majored in bio. The friend was actually born in the States, so he's a gyopo through and through. The restaurant owner is a Korean citizen, but I guess he was a gyopo while he lived in the States. (The term gyopo is vague in its meaning. I'm technically a gyopo myself, simply by having Korean heritage.)

So I realized I could speak in natural English with both of these guys, and I haven't uttered a word of Korean since that realization. When I went into the shop today to get my slices, I complimented the dude on his potato-bacon pizza from the previous week, telling him that, if he added scrambled egg to the top, he'd have the perfect breakfast pizza. Both the owner and his friend lit up when I said that, and the owner told me that he had been thinking about introducing breakfast pizzas to the menu. So we talked a bit about the difference between Italian and Amurrican breffus sausage (fennel seeds versus sage, basically), and I left the place with the impression that breakfast pizzas will be heading our way soon. Did I inspire anything? Probably not, if the guy is telling the truth about already pondering the breakfast-pizza question. But maybe I gave that idea some gentle impetus. So there's that.

absolutely commonsense hiking advice

I don't know why it never occurred to me to look up "distance walking" on YouTube before now, but I just did that, and right away, I found this dude, who gives some of the best, most down-to-earth, commonsense hiking advice he could give:

If you've watched the video, and you're now sitting back and going, "Huh. There was nothing earth-shattering in there," well, yeah—that's kinda the point! I'd like to think that my own distance-walking experience has taught me most or all of the five points the guy covers in his video, but (1) I know I still have a lot to learn, and (2) those five points are pretty basic to all distance walking/hiking, so they require constant mindfulness, even from veterans.

When I used to walk up Namsan, I often blogged that "the mountain doesn't bullshit you." The mountain doesn't judge you, either; it's just there, and its trails beckon. You either make it up the mountain, or you don't. You're either in shape to do the hike, or you're not. This is true for any trail of any significant distance as well. Go in with the wrong mindset and poor preparation, and you're only going to have yourself to blame when problems start to arise.

Meantime, hats off to this guy. He knows what he's talking about.

North Korean defector and son starve to death in South Korea

The question, of course, is How the hell is this possible? South Korea has its faults, but it's a land of plenty where its own citizens are starting to fatten up like us Americans. How on earth can a North Korean come to South Korea and starve? Sure, I can supply my own reasons: North Koreans often feel rejected by South Koreans; North Koreans have few survival/coping skills when plunged into South Korean culture, even after receiving intake-interview-style training to help them deal with their new lifestyle. One ROK Drop commenter to the post linked below notes that North Korea will use this death as propaganda about how awful life in the South must be. Read more here.

The woman came to Seoul alone and gave birth to a son while in South Korea. How sad for the son to have been so ill-served by his mother, who should have done everything in her power to take care of him, giving him up to the state if necessary. Then again, I've heard stories of suicidal South Korean parents who light up a brick of charcoal inside their apartments and kill their children along with killing themselves. Koreans would call such an act sad; Westerners would call it ghastly. After all, Westerners are far more likely to view suicide (and the murder of children) as selfish and cowardly; Koreans often take a different view, seeing suicide (and possibly murder, too) as a sort-of noble way out of a seemingly impossible situation. This represents a major clash in values.

In that spirit, then, I find such a situation impossible to understand. Let me flail around blindly for a moment in an attempt to make sense of this from my admittedly limited perspective. I've talked before about the "tarantula reflex" (see here): Koreans in general tend to freeze up when they find themselves in situations they haven't been specifically programmed to deal with. They don't possess the easy and inherent flexibility that Westerners have when it comes to adapting to one's surroundings. I've seen this problem up close in my own classes: students who can't answer a question will simply shut down and stare into space, basically waiting for the moment when the teacher's attention will pass to another student. This could be what happened to the North Korean woman in question: she (and possibly her son as well) may simply have shut down in the face of South Korean culture, which is radically different from life in the North.

Then again, the BBC article to which ROK Drop links seems to speculate that Han Sung-ok, the woman at the heart of this story, may have been painfully shy, almost to the point of mental illness. She was also going through a difficult family situation: her Chinese husband came to South Korea for a while with their first child (born outside of Korea, apparently); he found work at a shipyard but ended up leaving Han, abandoning her with her second son, the one found dead with her. This second son had had severe learning disabilities and had likely been a financial burden, however much Han might have loved him.

The BBC article claims that the South Korean community in which Han lived, now that it has belatedly become aware of her plight, is in turmoil. Other defectors have expressed outrage at South Korean indifference—both the indifference of fellow citizens and the indifference of a government-sponsored safety net that ought to have noticed the problem and done something about it. I turn a sour eye to the notion of competently run government programs, but surely more could have been done for Han at the local level, and Han could have done more for herself and her son. No one is talking about suicide; this seems to have been a simple case of preventable starvation. Which makes a sad situation all the sadder.

Tim Pool on the unintended effects of "cancel culture"

Cancel culture is the new term of art to describe, in a collective way, the stifling behavior of elements on the left that, instead of engaging in debate, strive to deplatform, censor, repress, suppress, or otherwise oppress people on the right with whom they disagree. Righties, living in left-dominated culture (academe, the media, etc.), are afraid to express their beliefs for fear of losing their jobs, being doxxed, or having their lives ruined in various ways by wild-eyed, frothing partisans who project their violence and menace onto the right. The unintended effect of driving righties underground, though, has been the creation of a huge and growing bloc of secret Trumpistas: entire swathes of the US voting population are, even if they don't openly admit it, planning to vote for Trump in 2020, and all for varied reasons ranging from wokeness-fatigue to general disappointment with the left's current insanity to "chaos voting," i.e., the desire to vote for Trump simply to throw a monkey wrench in the Democrat works.

Tim Pool's latest video covers this effect—a blowback against cancel culture that is only going to continue to build momentum as the 2020 elections rumble ever closer.*

It's interesting to note that Democrat candidate Marianne Williamson, dismissed as a crazy fruit-loop by people on both the left and the right, has recently (and very belatedly, in my opinion) voiced disappointment at the left's capacity for falsehood: she has apparently been hit with a slew of published lies about her beliefs, her possible use of crystals (which she denies), and her motivations. Lefties of late have been the last ones to wake up to reality (not so long ago, the left billed itself as "the reality-based community"), so I suppose it's no surprise to see Williamson only now realizing she's been playing for the wrong team. But will this realization be enough to prompt Williamson to take drastic action, e.g., leaving the Democrats and striking out on her own, #WalkAway-style? Williamson's shock is almost cute in its naiveté: imagine the hell that black voters go through when they out themselves as Republican/conservative or as people now leaving the Democrat party. The racial slurs that rain down on these good folks are proof of leftist hypocrisy, for this is the same pious left that preaches you should never use "the N-word" or other epithets that wound people and create walls between them.

*At this point, I think it's safe to say that Trump is going to win the 2020 presidential election, so that aspect of the race doesn't interest me. I'm actually much more interested in what happens to Congress in 2020—both the Senate and the House of Representatives. I'm dying to see "the Squad" voted out, for example, and for the GOP to retake the House, but with new blood in place of the Never Trumper dinosaurs who have obstructed the building of the US-Mexico border wall. In the US House of Representatives, congressmen serve a term that's only two years long, so their seats are in perpetual jeopardy unless they come from non-volatile voting regions. My great hope is that the districts that voted the Squad in will have a great change of heart and repent of their previous idiocy. Meanwhile, I hope the Senate retains its current composition.

And this is where I say something that's sure to catch flak from my leftie readers: the problem with electing "intersectional" people is that those people are incapable of looking beyond their supposed intersectionality. We see this problem everywhere, but especially in academe. This is why so many African-American college students major in African-American studies; it's why so many young women major in feminist or women's studies: no one can see past their own demographic, and this is ironic because it used to be the left that trumpeted our common humanity. That banner has now been taken up by the right, and it'll remain there as long as postmodernist thinking has a death-grip on the left. It's the PoMo wing, after all, that dismisses the notion of a common humanity because of its insistence that every human phenomenon be looked at through a radically contextualized lens.

Intersectionality, as a mindset, is a direct offshoot of this PoMo strain of thinking. For this reason, if you criticize Barack Obama, you must be attacking his blackness, so you're a racist. If you criticize Hillary Clinton, you must be attacking her womanhood, so you're a sexist/misogynist. If you criticize Ilhan Omar—well, she's black, a woman, an immigrant, and a Muslim, so you must be a racist, sexist, xenophobic religious bigot. Note that Omar's rhetoric since she's been in office has had little to do with her mostly white constituents: of her remarks that make the news, most have been about her—her blackness, her womanhood, her immigrant status, her religion. The same goes for the rest of the Squad: not a single one of them can see past her own intersectionality to embrace a common humanity. It's identity politics or nothing with these people. Or—ha ha—maybe we shouldn't use the generic term "people," a toxic word that insidiously papers over our particularities. In point of fact, I'd agree that it's probably best not to refer to the Squad—and to intersectionally-minded creatures like them—as "people" at all. That's fine by me.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

"They Shall Not Grow Old": review

Directed by Peter Jackson and dedicated to Jackson's grandfather, a British soldier who fought in World War I, "They Shall Not Grow Old" is a one-of-a-kind documentary from 2018 that skirts the line between true documentaries and something more embellished. What makes this film unique is that, while it uses century-old archival footage from the British War Museum, modern techniques have been applied to the film to colorize it, smooth out the jittery movement of the images, and provide an ambient soundtrack that evokes the actual conditions of war in that era: actors were hired to do voiceovers for some of the soldiers who speak on film; sound effects like explosions, guns firing, and even agonized screams have all been added in to provide an extra layer to the experience. Such a move both abstracts the documentary from normal documentary realism and brings the film closer to what the actual experience of World War I would have been like through the eyes of the typical British grunt.

Jackson is on record stating that he wanted to approach this project purely from the soldier's perspective, so the film isn't framed in the usual way, i.e., with specific dates, specific place names, and specific soldiers' names and ranks. This is, then, a bit of social history, an approach often favored by leftists who feel that too much historiography focuses on presidents, generals, wars, and sweeping political movements, with too little attention paid to the everyday lives of the common people. I found the film—and its carefully crafted narrative, which stitches together the recorded testimonies of actual soldiers from the war (these are not actors, and we never once see these soldiers on screen)—utterly enthralling, whatever ideology the social-historical approach might represent. These are the voices of men grown old, but who remember the Great War with an immediacy and a specificity that are at times charming, at times horrifying.* If this film serves to fill in the holes left by historians fixated on the generals, then I'm glad Jackson put this documentary together. I suppose there may be some controversy as to how true-to-life the documentary is, given the colorization, the sound effects, and the other forms of artifice, but speaking purely for myself, I found the experience of this film to be very dimensional, not boringly clinical the way most documentaries can be.

The film is frank in its portrayal of blood and guts. The horror of war is in evidence in almost every frame, and we follow a series of images and testimonies that come together to produce a story, a tale of young men who had no idea what they were getting into, and who had to deal with execrable conditions while fighting in the front-line trenches. Lice, latrines with no privacy, the reek of bloated and gassy corpses, the sudden and random loss of friends to snipers' bullets, the surprising civility and even friendliness of German soldiers taken as prisoners of war—these facets of World War I are all part of the experience of "They Shall Not Grow Old." This is the sort of film that, one hopes, ends up being featured in museums all over the world that are devoted to preserving the memory of World War I, the war that humanity foolishly thought would be the last great war in history.

*Verb tenses may be misleading, here, as you might have the impression that these veterans are still alive. Sadly, there are no longer any surviving veterans of World War I; the recordings of these men's testimonies happened years ago, when they were all old but still alive. Those recordings were archived and stored for years before Jackson's Weta Workshop production team got hold of them and cleaned up the audio. The amount of cleaning-up that was done to make this documentary, for both the audio and the video footage, is staggering to think about.

Catalina Lauf, the anti-AOC

I noticed this young lady a few months ago, but I somehow failed to mention her on the blog. Catalina Lauf—with her Latin first name and Teutonic surname hinting at a very interesting mixed origin (her mother is Guatemalan)—refers to herself as "the anti-AOC." That's smart marketing in this wacky age. She is running for a seat in the US House of Representatives, representing the 14th Congressional District of Illinois. If AOC doesn't get unseated in the next elections, we can only hope that Lauf—pro-borders, pro-Reagan, and pro-law enforcement—ends up in Congress seated not far from Ocasio-Cortez. This article claims Lauf is smart and good-looking; from what I see, she's a damn sight better-looking than AOC, which means nothing to me in terms of personal merit, but which means everything among women (and men) who value looks over brains and character. Let Lauf sit there in the House, radiating her superior looks and charm, while the feckless AOC fumes impotently off to the side.

She's a young Latina. She's from Illinois. She's running for Congress. And she's the polar opposite of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

She's conservative. She's smart. She's gorgeous. She supports law enforcement. She actually loves America. Her idol is Ronald Reagan. And she's not afraid to ruffle feathers.

Her name is Catalina Lauf, and she’s [26 years old.] Her goal is to steal a Democratic-held seat outside Chicago.

Ms. Lauf announced her bid for the GOP primary in the 14th Congressional District of Illinois, a GOP-leaning district covering a swath of western suburbs of Chicago.

Let the games begin!

Meet Catalina Lauf:

And just as a reminder, here's AOC and her horse-molars:

Tim Pool on the media/citizenry disconnect

Using the Rotten Tomatoes ratings disparity for Dave Chappelle's "Sticks and Stones" comedy hour as his jumping-off point, Tim Pool discusses the huge disconnect between the leftie media and normal, average US citizens:

Pepple on Sweden

Is Sweden Europe's sacrificial lamb, to be laid out as a bloody example of what happens when you heedlessly allow an influx of Muslims who refuse to assimilate into your culture? In John Pepple's grim blog post, Dr. Pepple quotes a Frenchwoman who immigrated to Sweden, but who is now leaving the country for Budapest because the crime has gotten so bad, and because PC politicians, who fear being branded as racists, refuse to recognize that there's any problem with current immigration policy and law enforcement. Here's an excerpt of something the woman wrote—one long, run-on, cri de coeur sentence:

I can no longer live under this immense mental stress, insecurity, murder, shooting, executions, explosions, rapes and gang rapes, robberies, home burglaries, beatings, car fires, school fires, serious criminals who, after a relatively short prison stay, may again be released to move freely among us, an increasingly dismantled welfare system, lack of health care staff, teachers, elderly housing, lack of elderly care, an increasing number of poor pensioners, municipalities in principle bankrupt or in bankruptcy, all these no-go zones called something else, lack of police resources where it may take 1.5-2 hours for them to arrive at the scene of ongoing crimes if they arrive at all, the lying politicians regardless of political color and the accomplished so-called PC media, the demonization of people who think differently, the shrinking freedom of expression, the increasingly diminishing democracy, and last, but not least, the ongoing and widespread Islamization of the country.

Go read the rest, keeping in mind that most French people lean left.

A similar picture is being painted of countries like France, which is dealing with its own immigration/assimilation problem. France has a built-in cultural immune system called laïcité or, roughly, secularism. This is why French law has made no bones about disallowing the wearing of religious items like Muslim veils (hijab, etc.). But in the area surrounding Paris, which is filled with tenements and housing projects, there are the same no-go zones as in Sweden, with plenty of robbery, rape, car fires, and so on. In Paris itself, tent cities—with their attendant filth and violence—can be found as well. But once you leave Paris, you'd be forgiven for thinking France is still France. In the area where my buddy Dominique lives, in the small town of Le Vanneau-Irleau, life goes on much as it has for decades, utterly untouched by what's happening in France's big cities.

In the United States, there's a similar state of affairs, albeit with somewhat different demographics. Still, the heart of the US problem has much in common with Europe's problem: a lack of political will when it comes to things like immigration and the true causes of poverty, and a lack of will when it comes to law enforcement. Any teacher knows that losing control of the classroom means the students will rule and nothing of significance will be learned. This is basic human psychology: people need structure if they are to live in harmony and to flourish. Without structure, life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

This is the paradox of freedom: true freedom is, far from being unstructured, veined throughout with structure. The creative freedom and amazing technique you can see in a great painter or martial artist is the result of focus, discipline, and a deep, cultivated understanding of things and the principles that govern them. It's strange, but it's strictures that allow humans to flourish. We are at our best with limits and parameters, as long as we are circumscribed but not strangled. And a society is no different from an individual in this regard: a society without strictures—an organic system of rules and laws and unspoken social contracts—becomes flabby and moribund. Look at New York City before and after Rudy Giuliani's two terms: Giuliani enforced the law, and his policies resulted in a few years of glorious prosperity between long periods of poverty and crime. Sweden is experiencing this problem now; so is France, at least in its big cities. The US has its own similar urban problems. As the folk song goes, When will they ever learn?