Friday, January 17, 2020

the pros review "Dolittle"

Jeremy Jahns doesn't hold back:

And here's Chris Stuckmann's unvarnished opinion:

Ouch, baby. Very ouch.

keto burgers: qu'est-ce que c'est?

I left my keto burger buns in a Ziploc bag overnight, knowing that this would have the effect of softening the bread's impossibly hard crust. Sometime after midnight last night (so I guess, technically, very early this morning), I took the buns out and slathered them with mayo (bottom half of each bun) and homemade fromage à l'ail et aux fines herbes (top half of each bun). I layered pickles on the bottom halves of the buns, then microwaved two frozen, pre-cooked burger patties and two strips of thick-cut bacon until crispy. The result is below:

Visually, the assembled burgers didn't look that bad. Taste-wise, they weren't that bad, either, although I knew I was in violation of the "don't eat late at night" rule of thumb (there's apparently some disagreement as to whether eating just before sleeping is actually bad for you). The problem was the consistency of the bread, which proved to be way, way too heavy for hamburger buns. Conclusion: this bread recipe is fine for making dense loaves that you can slice thinly, the way Joe Duff does in his recipe video, but it's no good at all as a replacement for light, fluffy hamburger buns. Getting through those burgers last night was an actual chore, even for a big, high-stomach-capacity guy like me.

So the upshot is that I actually kind of like the fathead-dough recipe, but I now know that it was never meant for anything remotely like thick-breaded sandwiches. I could, in theory, use the bread to make crostinis and things like that (in fact, I'm already visualizing a lox-and-cream-cheese scenario), but as for hamburgers... never again. I need to find a light and fluffy keto-dough recipe, and I think I've already seen several that actually use yeast and involve proofing, which leads to a puffier texture. The problem is that this will mean buying yet more esoteric ingredients like chia seeds and so on. I already have psyllium-husk powder, which some of the recipes use. I could also continue to use this recipe, but I'd have to shape the bread into something substantially thinner. Another possibility is that I can experiment with the current recipe in an attempt to find a lighter, fluffier version of it, but I don't know how a recipe that's so cheese-heavy can be made less dense. Most likely, I'll switch recipes and go with a yeast-y alternative. More on this as it happens.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

when you see a problem, it becomes your problem

For whatever stupid reason,* the people managing our branch here in the Classia Building have decided that staffers don't need a staff room, so it's been locked up: we can never go in there again. The microwave inside that room, essential to those of us who reheat our food for lunch, has been carted off, and the staff room's fridge is next. The staff room will be converted into a storage room, which it sort-of was already. Our team spent some time today bitching about the loss of access to the microwave and the fridge. I knew there was little we could do about the fridge situation, but I resolved to buy a modest-sized microwave just for us.

I had several errands to do today: wire my monthly $3100 to my US bank account, get my bank app's electronic certificate renewed, and turn in my health-check paperwork—it finally arrived earlier this week—to our human-resources office. HR acted as if they had no idea I'd needed to get a health check, which makes me wonder why the fuck I did it. Was the health check a waste of time, effort, and money? Too late—it's done now. I told the HR staffer to please not open my records because I consider them to be private information. Whether she'll abide by my wishes is up to the gods.

Anyway, I digress. When I finished my errands, I swung by the No Brand store and bought the only type of microwave they had on sale. It cost W69,000, which is about typical for a microwave of that size (17-liter capacity, if you must know). I lugged the heavy box three hundred meters to my office, and voilà: we now have our own microwave, bitches!

*One of our more cynical coworkers put forth the theory that a random teacher from some poorly outfitted branch must have seen our staff room and complained that we had one. Our management's response was in the spirit of fairness: if other people can't have a staff room, then we can't, either. This sounds like the sort of stupidity that would happen in a Korean office: instead of carving out staff-room space for other branches, let's eliminate the staff room here! Not because that's the fair thing to do, but because that's the easy thing to do. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop: now that I've bought this microwave, I expect our main-office staffers to knock on our office door and say, "Hey, guys! Sorry about the loss of the staff room, but we bought you a new microwave!"—thereby invalidating my gesture. That would be classic Korean office politics. Half of my life on this nutty peninsula is spent being thwarted in some way or other. Going directly from Point A to Point B—going from having no microwave to enjoying a nice, new one without being bothered by the Powers That Be—is nearly impossible. Solutions that would seem to make the most logical sense often turn out to be the worst way to approach the problem. Anyway, I'll keep you posted. Let's see whether my prediction about the main office comes true.

still life by #3 Ajumma

#3 Ajumma's husband, my mother's cousin (third of four brothers, hence "#3 Ajeossi"), died of liver cancer on January 17 of last year, which also happens to be the date of my father's birthday. (Dad is 78 this year, but we haven't spoken in nearly a decade.) Anyway, Ajumma continues to produce beautiful paintings, and below is her latest:

A still life is called une nature morte in French (dead nature) and a jeongmul-hwa (정물화, tranquil-object-art) in Korean. Considering we're in the dead of winter, Ajumma's lovely painting strikes me as a dream of spring.

UPDATE: Ajumma just texted me another image:

When I saw this as a small thumbnail, I initially thought it was a photograph. Wow.

CORRECTION: #3 Ajeossi apparently passed on this day, i.e., on the 16th. Last year, I got the message about his passing on the 17th. My mistake.

are you a US leftist who sympathizes with Iran?

First, dear leftist, I'll observe that it's not a surprise to see you once again standing against your own country. I'll further note that you're a hypocrite for not leaving the country if you hate it so much. Seriously: depart. Fie! Begone! Why be a parasite sucking the blood of a creature you detest? Find fulfillment elsewhere! Frankly, we don't need your kind. Next, I'll direct you to this heartfelt post by Dr. John Pepple, in which he explains Iran's history when it comes to dealing with leftists. Long story short: Iran's government would love to kill you, just as they killed thousands of leftists in the not-so-distant past. To the theocrats currently in charge, you're a decadent Westerner with a disgusting love of butt sex and scantily clad women. So ask yourself: why on earth would you support this regime or even sympathize with it? Because you somehow think Donald Trump is worse? If you're so retarded that you don't realize Trump would never in a million years have you thrown off the top of a building, then there's really no reason for you to remain in country. Fuck off.


I quietly left Gab, the free-speech competitor for Twitter, this past December. I also left Parler, so I'm now free of all social-media attachments. Gab was an unpleasant experience, what with all the rightie bigotry on display. Parler was just boring.

Today, I sent in a request to delete my Photobucket account, which has been non-functional for months. I have a ton of images hosted on that site, but I'm paying $70 a year to see "image not available" tags on my blog for every embedded image hosted on that site. Photobucket's account-deletion procedure requires the user to send an emailed request instead of going through a multi-step auto-deletion process. I don't know when I'll be hearing back from the Photobucket team, but it'd better be fucking soon.

One hitch is that my login for the Photobucket account is "beeeghominid," which was linked to a different email address from the one I normally use. I don't know whether that email address still exists, and even if I did, I'm not sure I'd know how to log back into it.

Ah—I just got a neutral-sounding bot reply from Photobucket:

Hi Bighominid,

This is an auto-response from Robert, the Photobucket robot, letting you know that we've received your message. You've reached us outside of our normal business hours. Our support team is here to assist you Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm MST (UTC -7). Due to the high volume of tickets we've received, our response time is longer than usual. We thank you for your patience at this time.

Once the support team begins to process your ticket, it will be processed based on the original time the ticket was received.

Additionally, you can find more help articles and information on our FAQ page:

Thank you for your patience as we try to answer questions as soon as possible!

(The Photobucket robot)

"Hi Bighominid." No vocative comma. The robot's an illiterate asshole.

fathead dough: another stab at keto bread

Wednesday night (well, technically, Thursday morning), I attempted to make hamburger buns using Joe Duff's "fathead dough" recipe. A fathead dough gets its name from the slew of fatty ingredients that are used to make it: mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, and in my case, a bit of extra butter. Eggs are 11% fat, and this dough contains a single egg as well—not the cluster of eggs that I used in my previous attempt at keto bread.

So you can see, above, how the bread turned out. As before, this probably doesn't count as true bread by the standards of a purist, but it's a damn sight better than the last loaf I made. With only a single egg in this recipe, there is no egginess issue to speak of. The crumb of this bread even looks slightly closer to that of actual bread than did the last loaf.

But how is the bread? How does it smell and taste and feel? Here are some scattered reactions. First, this bread isn't going to fool anyone into thinking he or she is eating normal bread. With my previous loaf, the "crust" was essentially overcooked eggs, not so different from what happens in a frying pan when you leave your scrambled eggs unstirred for too long. This loaf's crust is also something of a sham because the crust is probably the result of all that cheese undergoing an extended Maillard reaction thanks to the long baking time (which I cut short for fear of burning the buns). You can see, in the above photo, how thick the crust is; it's also quite hard, which is how you'd expect cheese in a frying pan to behave if you cooked it for long enough. Taste-wise, the bread is... edible. It's not bad, but it's also nothing to write home about. I get a hint of a bitter aftertaste after more than one bite; at a guess, this is from the baking powder in the recipe. There's surprisingly little almond taste, despite all the almond flour (a combination of bleached almond flour and almond meal), and the bread's interior is generally bland. In terms of texture, the bread was moist and bouncy when it came out of the oven, but I think it got a bit drier as it cooled. When I cut some experimental slices off each bun, I discovered the bread tasted pretty good with butter, and also with a homemade fromage aux fines herbes that I whipped up with my leftover cream cheese. The previous loaf needed a few days to age into something tolerably tasty; this bread proved palatable from the get-go, but as I wrote above, no one will ever be fooled into thinking this is normal bread. The buns are also quite heavy, which is a bit disconcerting. Maybe next time, instead of making four large buns out of my dough, I'll make eight smaller, thinner buns, adjusting the baking time and temperature accordingly.

All in all, I'd make this bread again. The dough, after mixing, is moist but very firm, so it can be molded into different shapes: loaves, buns, etc. I only wish I could slather on some jam along with the butter. There has to be some sort of sugar-free jam out there, yes?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

7-question quizlet on religion

Bored during my lunch hour, I created this 7-question mini-quiz about religion. It's focused mainly on concepts and terminology, and it's meant to be much higher-level than religion quizzes that softball you with questions like "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is one of the (5/7/10/12) Commandments. Have fun with my quiz; take guesses. I've always wanted to design my own test of general knowledge about religion(s); this may be a tentative step in that direction, but for the moment, it's just a way for me to entertain myself.

NB: the quiz has been acting wonkily. I tested it out several times yesterday, scoring 7/7 every time (well, I did write the thing), then deliberately messing up to see how the quiz would behave when I gave it wrong answers. Everything seemed fine... but then today, I scored 7/7 with the answers, but the quiz was telling me I was scoring only 6/7. I thought I was hallucinating this at first, or that I had genuinely made certain mistakes, but no: when I went through the quiz again very slowly, ticking all the correct boxes, I got another 6/7. The problem seems to be the question about the Eightfold Path: you can correctly click all eight elements of the path, and the program will still mark you wrong for some reason. So that happened once or twice as I was working my way cautiously through the quiz, then something even weirder happened: when I clicked all the right answers to the Eightfold Path question, the program marked me wrong (you can see your right and wrong answers at the bottom of the screen)... but gave me a final score of 7/7. Go figure.

So something's obviously not stable. Maybe the free version of this quiz-maker is just buggy, and you have to pay the subscription fee to obtain a higher-quality version of the program. I'm mulling over whether I want to pay such a fee. It's kind of expensive. Maybe I should take certain unsympathetic Democrats' advice and learn to code. Isn't that what the Dems told the coal miners they'd need to do once their jobs had been eliminated by Hillary? Learn to code? Well, in my case, learning to code might not be a bad idea: I'd be able to create quizzes and all sorts of other puzzles without having to pay a subscription fee.

Dem troubles

Cory Booker drops out of the running:

Bernie Sanders's campaign may be in trouble, thanks to Project Veritas:

Instapundit posts on how Bernie Bros tend to be violent, murderous types:

As I noted earlier, James O’Keefe released a series of videos today that feature a Bernie Sanders campaign worker named Kyle Jurek. They are in the usual undercover format used by Project Veritas. Jurek says many shocking things. He promises that Milwaukee will “burn” if Sanders doesn’t get the Democratic nomination, and vows to attack police officers. He endorses the Soviet Gulag in particular, and Communist re-education camps in general. He talks about “revolution” and suggests that anyone who opposes the Bernie Sanders revolution will be shot. He comes out against free speech. Jurek advocates sentencing billionaires to hard labor “breaking rocks” and approves of Antifa. His language is vulgar and threats of violence are interspersed through his conversation.

Democrats are already in damage control mode on Twitter. You can see the Project Veritas videos as well as some of the Democrats’ responses on O’Keefe’s Twitter feed. Democrats describe Jurek as a volunteer, which he isn’t. He is a paid staffer in Iowa (or was until today). He was described as a “top-tier organizer” by Sanders’ senior campaign officials in Iowa, who have now closed down their social media accounts.

Meanwhile, there is one thing we can say for sure. To paraphrase John Lennon, Kyle Jurek may be a violent Communist dreamer, but he’s not the only one. James Hodgkinson, another Bernie Bro, has already done some of the worst things that Jurek threatens. The liberal press has tried to bury the fact that Hodgkinson, a Sanders volunteer and hard-core labor unionist, shot up a group of Republican Congressmen, and would have succeeded in murdering the House Majority Whip, but for the miracles of modern medicine.


the movie I'd really like to talk about

My iTunes pre-order of "Parasite" came through on Tuesday, so I watched the film very late at night, staying up past 3:30 a.m. to see it through to the end. I'd much rather be talking about that movie than about "Rise of Skywalker," but I'll write the "Skywalker" review first, watch "Parasite" a second time so I can properly process and digest it, then write an in-depth review of director Bong Joon-ho's globally acclaimed movie. With all the praise Bong has received, the man must be buried under an ever-growing pile of hookers and blow.

More later.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

in which I throw a distraction your way

My review of the latest Star Wars movie is going to take a while to write. In the meantime, assuming you've either seen the movie or are okay with spoilers, I'll distract you by asking you to watch this interesting YouTube commentary about "The Rise of Skywalker," which goes over the film's myriad story problems (and offers some side critiques of JJ Abrams's other movies as well including, significantly, his "Star Trek Into Darkness"):

I always feel a bit down after watching such videos because my own review will inevitably cover much the same material, and probably in a more superficial fashion. I'll try my best to give you my unique personal angle, though, so fear not.

don't tread on us

Seen on Instapundit:

Monday, January 13, 2020

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker": review

This is my movie review. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My movie review is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my movie review is useless. Without my movie review, I am useless. I must review my movie thoroughly. I must review my movie better than my enemy, who is trying to out-review me. I must review my movie before he reviews it.


Stay thou tunèd.

"but (as) for me" redux

I don't think I've convinced stubborn ol' Dr. Hodges that I'm not wrong. Here's another way to think about the issue:

1. The locution "as for me" is equivalent to "regarding the matter that is moi."
2. The locution "for me" is equivalent to "from my perspective."

I've been arguing that the two locutions are functionally interchangeable, but this doesn't mean they're semantically interchangeable. As we see, the locutions actually mean distinctly different things. In the first case, "as for me" shines the spotlight directly and conspicuously upon oneself in a self-consciously deliberate way. By contrast, "for me" is self-referential, but in a more casually offhand way: "This is just my opinion."

So the difference, then, is not merely a matter of style: it's a matter of intended meaning. This is why Patrick Henry's "but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" feels so noble and stentorian (and yes, somewhat pretentious). It's also why I feel comfortable writing, "...but for me, as a crotchety 50-something, I had trouble understanding..."

I often have to deal with well-intended people who try to "correct" me when I'm not actually wrong. And for what it's worth, I haven't even broken out the "common usage" argument yet. Let's do that now. When I Google the respective phrases, I get these results:

"but as for me": 40,800,000 results
"but for me": 149,000,000 results

True, some of the "but for me"s will actually mean something like "except for me" or "were it not for me." But I think that's a solid enough search result to make the claim that "but for me" is widely used as I've used it, whatever the prescriptivist might say.

"but for me" vs. "but as for me"

Dr. Jeff Hodges thinks I erred in writing the following in my review of "Dolittle":

It might be that little kids will enjoy the film, but for me, as a crotchety 50-something, I had trouble understanding how the filmmakers could assemble this much amazing acting and voice talent, then shoehorn the cast into a plodding, predictable narrative utterly lacking in imagination and deep sentiment.
By Jeff's lights, the phrase "but for me" ought to read, "but as for me." In my reply to Jeff's comment, I acknowledged that "but as for me" is a perfectly legitimate turn of phrase, but I also said that I didn't see how what I'd written was wrong. By my lights, "but for me" is merely shorthand for "but from my perspective." I openly mused as to whether "but for me" and "but as for me" might even be interchangeable because I was having trouble thinking of cases in which one phrase couldn't be switched out for the other.

Then something occurred to me:
I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
—Patrick Henry, 1775, misusing a semicolon (they tended to do this in the 1700s)
Maybe it's a function of the fame and venerability of the above quotation, but excising the "as" from Henry's iconic utterance would, in my opinion, diminish it.

But why do I think this?

That's what I want to explore here. In my reply to Jeff, I said the following:
It's an interesting question, though, because I'm now wondering whether "but for me" and "but as for me" are interchangeable in all contexts or only in some, and what rule, if any, might determine that. Both phrases introduce an independent clause thanks to the coordinating conjunction "but," with the "for me"/"as for me" being grammatically irrelevant because it doesn't determine the grammatical nature of what follows the "but."

I'll have to ponder this point. Am I effectively arguing that the "as" is never necessary? I instinctively don't want to go that far because, as I wrote at the beginning of this reply, I think "but as for me" is perfectly legitimate, yet I can't think of a case in which the two phrases would lead to two distinctly different semantic outcomes.

This is all a roundabout way of saying "I don't know." I don't know what grammatical imperative there might be to add the "as" unless we're dealing with a petrified expression,* and at the same time, I'm not convinced that the phrase is a petrified expression, which I'd why I'm comfortable with what I wrote.
We can get more venerable than Patrick Henry. How about the Bible?

Psalm 73:1-3:
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
But lookee here, at the same psalm, verses 27-28:
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
This seems to be a clear-cut example of interchangeability. In the latter quote from the psalm, "But for me" really ought to have a comma after it, but the main point is that the phrase means what I earlier said it meant: "but from my perspective." This makes "But for me" the functional equivalent of the "But as for me" from Psalm 73:1-3.

There is some possible ambiguity inherent in the phrase "but for me." This ambiguity comes from the "but for" part of the locution. In some contexts, "but for" can mean something like "except for" or "had it not been for." (See more here. Scroll down to "idioms for but.")
        But for Kevin's "nay" vote, everyone approved the new pube-shaving law.
        I'd have lost my scrote, but for your deft intervention.

As I noted in my reply to Jeff, though, the "but for me" phrase in my review can't be taken to mean anything other than "but from my perspective" unless one is wilfully misreading what I wrote. My meaning is pretty obvious.

None of this gets us any closer to finding or constructing a rule to determine the usage of "but for me" versus "but as for me." I can, however, note that in the above discussion of ambiguity, what follows the sentence-ending "but for"** (second sentence, above) is a noun phrase. What follows "but for me"/"but as for me," by contrast, is an independent clause, which suggests that we're looking at a standard comma-conjunction situation in which a sentence element separates two independent clauses. It's for this reason that I tentatively submit that the "for me" and the "as for me" are grammatically irrelevant: they don't help to determine the grammatical nature of what follows: only the "but" does that, or so it seems to me.

Anyway, the Bible quotes cited above are enough to satisfy me regarding the question of whether I was incorrect in my phrasing. Jeff, as a Christian, knows that if he were to challenge the phrasing of holy scripture, he would burn in hell for all eternity, so I'm sure he'll grant that the Bible quote*** from Psalm 73:28 is correctly phrased and, by extension, that my own locution is also correct.****

As for whether there's some rule to determine when to use "but for me" versus "but as for me," well... the search goes on.

Look at the following sentences and decide for yourself whether "but for" or "but as for" is more apropos:

1. For most people, G-strings were a luxury, but for Ken, they were a matter of life and death.
2. I don't give a flying fuck what others may do, but for me, gimme my goddamn freedom or cram a live grenade up my ass.
3. Most of the kids hated the leprous goat, but for Mary, the horrifying animal was the only reason to visit the petting zoo.

*A petrified expression is a group of words whose word order cannot be changed, largely for reasons of tradition and historical force. The classic joke that makes fun of the contention that you can't end a sentence with a preposition uses a petrified expression—"put up with"—to make its point: "That is something up with which I will not put!" sounds ridiculous. The word order in the phrase "put up with" cannot be altered. This is a petrified expression, and because it's petrified, it's legitimate to end a sentence containing that phrase with the phrase's preposition... which further means that you can end a sentence with a preposition.

**The phrase "but for" reminds me of the movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut," in which a French kid tells the South Park kids that he'll need various types of equipment, plus a buttfer. When one of the kids falls into the trap and asks, "What's a buttfer?", the French kid replies, "A butt is for pooping."

***The quotes are from ESV, i.e., the English Standard Version of the Bible, published in 2001. Learn more about ESV here.

****I'll be burning in hell right alongside Jeff, given my remark about the need for a comma after "But for me" in Psalm 73:28. That need for a comma does highlight yet another grammatical quirk: the reason there needs to be a comma there is that the phrase, as a whole, is operating as an introductory phrase (again, see Commas, Part 1) before the independent clause that follows it. This complicates my thesis that the "but" is functioning as part of a comma-conjunction element to separate two independent clauses. I think that other persnickety grammarians might parse the situation differently as a result.

"Dolittle": two-paragraph review

2020's "Dolittle" is directed by Stephen Gaghan (who?) and stars Robert Downey, Jr. as the wild-haired, eccentric Doctor John Dolittle. An opening voiceover narration by a macaw (Emma Thompson) explains that Dolittle had the ability to talk to animals in their own respective tongues, and he fell in love with an intrepid explorer named Lily (Kasia Smutniak, barely in the movie). When Lily died during one of her solo adventures, Dolittle became despondent and closed down his medical/veterinary practice, shuttering himself in his grandiose estate—a property granted him by Victoria, queen of England (Jessie Buckley). Years later, the Queen is dying of an unknown cause, and she specifically requests that Dolittle come and treat her. Dolittle is persuaded by both the animals living on his property and a boy named Stubbins (Harry Collett), an animal lover who has accidentally shot a squirrel named Kevin (Craig Robinson). Dolittle discovers the queen has been poisoned, and the antidote can only be found on a remote, fantastical island. Swallowing his distaste for adventure, Dolittle, Stubbins, and a host of animals set out on a journey to find the island, acquire the potent fruit of a mysterious tree, and save the Queen.

"Dolittle" is, unfortunately, one of those films whose preview trailer is far better than the movie itself. I so, so wanted to like this movie, given my love of Saint Francis-style tales of animal-human communion and my general fondness for talking-animal characters, but in the end, I found it un-funny and painfully tedious. It might be that little kids will enjoy the film, but for me, as a crotchety 50-something, I had trouble understanding how the filmmakers could assemble this much amazing acting and voice talent, then shoehorn the cast into a plodding, predictable narrative utterly lacking in imagination and deep sentiment. Maybe this project is cursed: Eddie Murphy's 1998 version of the story did modestly well at the box office but was torn apart by rabid critics. This newest version of the tale attempts to go back to the original stories, which included fanciful beasts like the pushmi-pullyu (a double-headed goat/gazelle thing with two opposite-facing fronts and no rear), but the movie does a poor job of integrating Victorian-era sensibilities with modern humor (most of the animals speak in modern American English). Downey himself doesn't seem to be fully committed to the project: while he's received praise for his English accent in the Sherlock films, his accent here is a mushed-together attempt at Scottish and English, and his efforts at zany slapstick humor appear half-hearted at best—a far cry from his work in "Chaplin." The scriptwriting is also fairly sloppy: when Stubbins enters Dolittle's property via a secret entrance, we never learn how the queen's young messenger, Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), gets onto the property without triggering any traps. We also never learn how it is that the animals understand each other: Dolittle speaks to each animal in its own language, so unless the animals are all also gifted with Dolittle's linguistic talent, their ability to inter-communicate doesn't make much sense. Scenes are played more for comedy than for sentiment, but the comedy tends to be so hackneyed and so telegraphed that every joke and gag is both predictable and flat. "Doolittle" immediately supplanted "The Rise of Skywalker" as the number-one film in the South Korean market, and I can't understand why. Maybe Robert Downey is that much of a draw for foreign audiences. (Downey's young buddy Tom Holland voices a faithful hound in the story; perhaps Holland is a draw, too.) Maybe Koreans approach Western comedy differently from Western audiences. For me, the only truly funny moments involved a tiger named Barry (Ralph Fiennes), who alternates between wanting to kill and eat Dolittle and wanting to continue his psychotherapy with the man. Antonio Banderas is an impressive presence in the role of pirate king Rassoulim, the father of Lily. Had the script been smarter, it would have explored Rassoulim's relationship with Doolittle more deeply—given that they both had Lily in common—but I was barely ten minutes into the story when I realized this wasn't going to be a smart movie. What a waste of prime talent. I blame the writers and the director.

ADDENDUM: my English friend Neil—who also saw the movie this weekend with his son—points out the possibility that Downey may have been going for a Welsh accent. I've confused Scottish and Welsh before, and I freely admit I don't have the best ear for these accents compared to someone who's actually from the British Isles (Neil also attended university in Wales). Welsh, to me, sounds like a somewhat bent or warped form of Scottish, but how Welsh sounds depends in part on who's doing the talking. Christian Bale, for example, sounds rather different from fellow Welshman Rhys Ifans. To me, Bale sounds slightly more English while Ifans sounds slightly more Scottish. Anyway, Neil deftly supports his contention with a link to a BBC article: "Is Robert Downey Jr.'s Dr. Dolittle Character Welsh?"

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Saturday, January 11, 2020

another one bites the dust

Marianne Williamson shutters her loopy campaign for president:

I give ol' Uncle Marianne props for outlasting Kamala Harris. And while a little Schadenfreude is justified as each candidate finally bids the public adieu, it's important to remember that, as the field narrows, the concentration of voters intensifies, and pretty soon, half the country will be behind the eventual Dem nominee, even if Dem voters don't like the person.

vindication! validation!

Andong discovers a method I've been using for years:

Yes: to make your gyro meat (or döner meat, in Andong's case), first grind it into a paste, mold it to the desired loaf-like shape, freeze it, then slice it into thin strips (unevenly is okay, as Andong also notes in the above vid), then finally pan-fry it. The main difference between my approach and Andong's is that he takes the unnecessary step of baking his meat first, then keeping the fatty juices on the side as a way to moisten the thinly sliced strips later on, when he's frying them. I skip the baking part, and my meat, when I pan-fry it, comes out just fine—nice and moist and juicy, with a good variation in texture.

But it's reassuring to see that a talented cook like Andong has largely validated a process I've been using for years, now, when I make my gyro meat.

change in plans

I'm up late making a gigantic pot of keto-friendly budae-jjigae (no noodles, no rice cakes, and going easy on the gochujang), so I won't be able to wake up early enough to see an early-morning showing of either "Dolittle" or "Star Wars." Will put this off until Sunday. Saturday will be a day of rest, and maybe some distance walking, e.g., out to Jamshil Bridge and back for 20-some thousand steps.

Also: I can't remember which commenter advised me to download the My Fitness Pal app, but I've been using it for the past 72 hours, and it's working great. Like my pedometer, the app motivates me to keep track of my activity—food consumption, in this case—down to every individual packet of Splenda that goes into my tea, and it forces me to be brutally honest with myself about what, and how much, I'm eating. The app didn't like the fact that Friday was a fasting day; it warned me that, as a man, I need a minimum of 1200-1500 calories per day to stay healthy. The app is so fussy, in fact, that it refuses to display a 5-week projection if you're below your caloric minimum for the day. (The 5-week projection takes the form of a message that cheerfully says, "If you ate like this every day, you would weigh X kilos in 5 weeks.") This could be problematic given that I'm now fasting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Anyway, on Friday morning, I saw that I had lost my first official kilo while on keto. A single kilo is nothing, of course, and may only be water weight. We'll see, over the coming weeks, whether there's any real progress. Expect more details as time goes by.

another reason not to trust Korean medical care

A young guy named Gregory Allen, aged 31 and working at Yongsan Garrison, is suddenly slated for open-heart surgery at Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital at the end of 2019. He dies on the operating table just after New Year's. When the parents try to recover the body, the hospital demands a $21,000 payment. Read about the case at ROK Drop. From the article: "The official cause of death was pulmonary embolism, his parents said."

It's pretty shitty that the Korean hospital is demanding what is essentially the price of a car to hand over the son's body. But what caught my attention was the fact that open-heart surgery is a fairly routine procedure these days—around 90% survival rate, with the rate increasing as patients get older. Of course, in Korea, when you're a foreigner, you can't expect much quality care, so it doesn't surprise me to find out that Korean doctors fucked up what ought to have been a straightforward procedure on a foreigner.

This is the future I can look forward to if I decide to stay in Korea. At some point, as I get older, I'm going to be hospitalized, either for disease or for injury. Will I want to go under the knife in Korea or in the States? As I've repeatedly said on this blog, there's no question about it: I simply don't trust Korean health care, and I'd much rather get treated in the States, expenses be damned. Here in Korea, the docs either fuck up or they give up. They're fine for prescribing meds and other simple tasks, but when it comes to surgery on foreigners, I think they freak out, and all their training deserts them.

When my friend Kent Davy was being treated for his cancer, Kent told me the docs had put him on some kind of cutting-edge therapy. I had my doubts, especially as I quietly marked Kent's progress over the subsequent weeks and saw no real improvement. I suspect that what really happened was that the docs had given up on Kent. Had Kent been able to go somewhere like MD Anderson in Texas, he'd have been given a wide array of aggressive, robust treatment options. In Korea, the docs tend to be closed-mouthed about how they plan to proceed, and they give patients the impression that options are limited, and that X is the best—and only—course of action. The Korean mindset has been conditioned by decades of multiple-choice testing: according to this point of view, life's solutions always come down to one correct thing. I suspect that my #3 Ajeossi, when he died of liver cancer almost a year ago, probably had substandard treatment from his docs—and he wasn't even a foreigner. The concepts "Korean" and "competence" don't go together in my mind whenever I think of medical care. It's a good thing that Koreans tend to be healthier than Americans on average: when they finally need healthcare, they're going to be let down, so it's good that that letdown happens close to the end of their life, when it won't matter as much. And it's even worse for non-Koreans.

One of the hazards of living in a foreign country: you're at the mercy of the health-care system. Roll your dice and take your chances... or move back to your home country.

Friday, January 10, 2020

tomorrow will be a double feature

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" came out in South Korea this past Wednesday, January 8, and God help me, I'll be seeing it tomorrow (Saturday). Another movie, "Dolittle," has also been released here in Korea; it won't be released in the States until January 17, so I might as well take advantage of the relatively early peninsular release to get the drop on all my American peeps. "Dolittle" is the story of Dr. Dolittle, this time around starring Robert Downey, Jr. and not Eddie Murphy. Murphy's version was apparently a box-office turd; the preview for the new version looks charming enough for me to want to go see it. I'm all about talking animals, and I've long esteemed Saint Francis of Assisi—the guy who self-flagellated but also communed intensely with nature and all its creatures—as my favorite Catholic saint. Readers of this blog will remember that many of my "100 Below" stories feature talking animals (see here and here and here, for example), so yeah, I'm taken with the concept.

Amusingly, Wikipedia has this to say:

In South Korea, where the film was theatrically featured about one week before its US release, it scored No. 1 upon its debut, which prompted Downey Jr. to publish a video message thanking the South Korean audience.
According to, "Dolittle" is indeed at No. 1, with 38.66% of ticket sales. "The Rise of Skywalker," by contrast, is already at No. 3, with a mere 14.16% of ticket sales. Obviously, Koreans got wind of the negative buzz in the West.

Ukrainian jet downed in "crossfire" in Iran?

Visit this Instapundit link to understand why CNN is basically a haven for lying fuckheads. You think "fake news" doesn't exist, that it's a rightie paranoid fantasy? Visit CNN, where fake news is a daily reality.

These are the “experts” Trump is supposed to have deferred to. Disgraceful, and a pretty good explanation of why our foreign policy has been a dumpster fire for the last three decades.

Well, I'm glad Glenn Reynolds is willing to admit that the era of Dubya was also a dumpster fire. The 2003 Iraq War was utterly unnecessary.

found during my lunchtime walk

An angry note?

The first line of the note is easy enough to translate: "You're really bad." But the second line doesn't make much sense to me. I think it says "My whole day is you," which sounds more romantic than angry. Anyone got a better translation, or at least an explanation? I assume this was written by a girl. Is she saying that the bad person in question essentially ruins her entire day? If so, then why not just say that instead of phrasing the matter in a way that can be interpreted in several different ways?

EPILOGUE: I asked our supervisor, a Korean-American, about the above note, and he immediately said it was meant in a flirtatious way, so my tentative guess that the bottom line was meant romantically appears to be correct. This means that, when you're reading the top line of the message—"You're really bad!"—you need to read it in a flirtatiously teasing tone. It's stuff like this that proves to me I still haven't penetrated all that deeply into Korean culture, even after fourteen years here. I'd never have figured the note out on my own. Or, at the very least, it would have taken me a very long time to get at the true meaning.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Styx on the current US/Iran flap

And it is nothing more than a flap; it certainly isn't World War III:

"Dune" (2020) cast list, from Wikipedia

It's an impressive lineup for the cast of Denis Villeneuve's upcoming remake of "Dune." Part One of the saga comes out this year; I assume Part Two will be out in 2021. Wikipedia provides the following cast list:

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, the scion of House Atreides
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Paul's Bene Gesserit mother and concubine to Duke Leto
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, a nobleman newly bestowed with the stewardship of the dangerous planet Arrakis, source of the spice
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, weapons master of House Atreides and Paul's mentor
Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, sworn enemy to Leto and former steward of Arrakis
Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban, the brutish nephew of Baron Harkonnen
Zendaya as Chani, Fremen daughter of Imperial Planetologist Liet-Kynes and Paul's love interest
David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries, a twisted Mentat loyal to the Baron
Stephen McKinley Henderson, unknown role
Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam, a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother and the Emperor's Truthsayer
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, swordmaster of House Atreides
Javier Bardem as Stilgar, leader of the Fremen tribe at Sietch Tabr
Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh, a Suk doctor in the employ of the Atreides family
I think Timothée Chalamet is a talented actor, so I'm sure he'll make a fine Paul Atreides. Rebecca Ferguson, on whom I've had something of a crush since "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation," is a great choice for Lady Jessica. I'm not so sure about Oscar Isaac and John Brolin, although I suppose Brolin can convincingly pull off the role of a crusty old warrior. Oscar Issac is a fine actor, but he lacks the chiseled gravitas that Jürgen Prochnow brought to the 1984 movie. Stellan Skarsgård is inspired casting for the gruesomely fat Baron Harkonnen; Skarsgård himself is soft but not fat, so it'll be interesting to see how he's made up. I hope Dave Bautista has more than a bit part as "Beast" Rabban; Paul Smith didn't have much to do in the 1984 role except gorge himself on food and get his head chopped off. Zendaya, as the new Chani, is a great replacement for Sean Young. David Dastmalchian ("The Dark Knight," "Ant-Man") has some of the creep factor that Brad Dourif had brought to the role of Piter De Vries, although I think Dane DeHaan would have been a better, and even creepier, choice. Charlotte Rampling strikes me as far too pleasant-looking to play the part of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, a severe and formidable Bene Gesserit "witch" who was the teacher of Paul Atreides's mother Jessica. I think I'd rather see either Glenn Close or Alice Krige (the weirdly luscious Borg queen from "Star Trek: First Contact") in that important role. Jason Momoa will no doubt do solid work as Duncan Idaho, another of Paul Atreides's mentors, although it'll hurt to see him relegated to a minor role given his recent gonzo successes. Javier Bardem is a good choice to play Stilgar; he'll bring an ethereal weirdness to his performance as one of the Fremen leaders. I have no clue who Chang Chen is, but he gets to play the Judas role of Dr. Yueh, who betrays the Atreides family to the Harkonnens.

The most exciting thing about the upcoming "Dune" is that it's being helmed by Canadian genius Denis Villeneuve, whom I implicitly trust. As I've written before, Villeneuve is the perfect choice to put "Dune" on the silver screen; he has a sense of the epic, and his movies ("Sicario," "Arrival," "Blade Runner 2049") normally traffic in big ideas while moving at a stately, deliberate pace—just what Frank Herbert's 1965 novel deserves. I'm expecting big things from Villeneuve, and I'm anticipating groaning at the end of Part One, knowing I'll have to wait the better part of a year for Part Two to appear. I can only hope that, at some point in the future, Villeneuve will consent to have a four-hour supercut of the movie made.

So that's the cast for the upcoming "Dune." Your thoughts?


Seen on Instapundit:

Tim Pool on Hollywood idiots

I wish the celebs who kept threatening to leave the country actually left. Dumb cunts.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

masculine discourse and male oneupsmanship

Deborah Tannen's 1990 book on male-female discourse, You Just Don't Understand, notes that men tend to engage in report-talk (the lecturing style I'm using now, in which I have the floor), whereas women are more inclined toward rapport-talk, i.e., discourse whose primary purpose isn't the transmission of information so much as it's about building relationships.

This clip from 1992's "White Men Can't Jump" seems almost as if it were lifted straight from Dr. Tannen's brain.

In essence, Rosie Perez's "Honey, I'm thirsty" was never meant to be taken literally: as she contends, what she really wants is the bonding experience that comes from knowing her beau is sympathizing with her "dry-mouthedness." Perez's Gloria goes on to say that men always make the mistake of thinking that the expression of a problem means the man needs to solve the problem. Tannen explains this male tendency in terms of male hierarchical thinking: by solving a problem for a woman (but this could also apply to helping men), the man puts himself "one up" in relation to the woman: she now owes him for his good deed. Gloria's statement that she was thirsty was, from her point of view, not a statement of fact but a gesture to initiate bonding. Rapport-talk, not report-talk.

Before I delve into the topic I intend to discuss, though, we should note that YouTube hosts a hilarious video that takes the female perspective to its humorously absurd conclusion: "It's Not About the Nail," in which a girlfriend angrily accuses her boyfriend of missing the point when she's talking about her "problem":

What I wanted to concentrate on in this post, though, was Tannen's notion of male hierarchical thinking and how it plays out in discourse. I don't actually question Tannen's position; if anything, I see it confirmed every day. When I talk with people, it's very rare for me to take the "dominant" role in an exchange. Normally, I'm content to let my interlocutor have the floor. Once in a while, though, I'll inject certain remarks, but because my interlocutor sees me in the "submissive" role (sorry if this terminology sounds too BDSM for your taste), he will tend to "one-up" my remarks as a way of reinforcing the perceived hierarchy. It's often amazing to me how many of my interlocutors fail to notice this dynamic.

Here are some specific examples of the verbal oneupsmanship I'm talking about (in bold):

A: That's not going to bode well for Iran.
B: Not only that, but it's going to have ramifications for the rest of the Middle East.
[one-upping by dismissing, or at least eroding/undermining, the significance of my statement]

A: So it's a broken system.
B: Yeah, but the point is that there's no solution to the problem.
[one-upping by dismissing the centrality of my point]

Other examples:

...but what we're really talking about is...
...true, but the crux of the problem is...
...and that's not the only problem.

Granted: you could counterargue that there could be perfectly logical reasons for people to talk this way—reasons that have nothing to do with egocentric, hierarchically motivated oneupsmanship. Maybe someone really is missing the central point, for example; maybe someone really is just scratching the surface and not following the implication of what one is saying. These scenarios are indeed possible.

But honest reflection demands that we examine the personality of the male speaker to see whether he's in the habit of engaging in this style of discourse. If he is, if he's a constant contrarian who is often or always trying to show off that he's smarter, deeper, or otherwise sharper, than what you're seeing is Tannen's oneupsmanship.

I'm guilty of this style of speech myself, so I'm not trying to one-up my male readers, here, by making it seem as if this phenomenon is something I merely perceive and not something I also engage in. That said, I do tend to observe this behavior happening around me quite a lot, and I think my often-quiet style frequently encourages male bluster in the form of pompous lecturing—rattling on and on.

This post was inspired by an encounter I had last night with a strange Korean man whom I've seen before in our neighborhood. The man is in his late sixties or early seventies, and he speaks excellent English. He's extremely well educated, and as I learned last night, he's also published two books on the history of Genghis Khan—books he's trying to get translated into English. His central thesis is stereotypically nationalist: the etymology of the title "Genghis Khan"—he claims—actually goes back to old Korean words, and the title originally meant "King of Korea." Mentally, I had to sigh. I've heard this sort of jingoistic bullshit before, which is always in the spirit of "Koreans invented motorized flight centuries before the Wright Brothers did." It bespeaks a sort of insecurity and oversensitivity regarding Korea's place in the world, and I wish Koreans would get over it. It doesn't burn me that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, or that Marie Curie got two Nobel Prizes, or that Japanese cheesecake tastes better than American cheesecake (your mileage may vary). Anyway, the man roped me into a "discussion" I didn't want to have, and I only managed to break away when another American approached us and succeeded in diffusing, if you will, the old man's attention. The man had no sense of when to shut the fuck up; it was an acute case of Report-talk Syndrome. I admit I have an ego, but I can't stand the discursive dick-waving that is so often a symptom of being male and having an ego. While the old man ran on and on, I thought of the old Zen story of the philosophy prof who couldn't help showing off his knowledge in front of the Zen master. The master quietly listened, then he began pouring tea into the philosopher's cup. When the tea began to overflow, the philosopher yelped, "Stop! No more will go in!"—to which the master replied, "You are like this cup: full of ideas and full of yourself. How can you learn anything new?" It's a cautionary tale, and not just for men: many women are prone to lecturing, too. Specifically, though, it's a cautionary tale for me, a warning that I too need to check my own tendency to go on at length when I'm caught up in an inspiring topic.

And now, I'll stop going on at length.

CMOS on the singular "they"

I'm old-school and therefore not happy with the use of the singular "they" in cases of indefiniteness:

Does everyone have their dildo? Good.
If someone needs a dildo, they should ask Sister Harriet.
My stance is that the word "they" is conceptually and grammatically plural. I don't think this way merely for doctrinaire reasons; I think that, on a practical level, it just makes life easier to recognize that "they" is plural.

Here's what CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style) has to say:

Q. Now that Merriam-Webster has legitimized the singular “they,” where does CMOS stand on the subject?

A. First, please note that there are two uses for the singular “they,” generic and specific. In 2019 Merriam-Webster added a specific sense of singular “they” to refer to a person who does not identify with a gender-specific (or binary) pronoun (“A Note on the Nonbinary ‘They’: It’s Now in the Dictionary,” Merriam-Webster, September 19, 2019). This use of “they” was recognized in the 17th edition of CMOS, published in 2017 (see paragraph 5.48). So Chicago and Merriam-Webster are in sync on that.

Singular “they” is also used as a generic pronoun referring to a person of unspecified gender, an established usage that nonetheless has long been considered informal. As of the 17th edition, CMOS recognizes that such usage is gaining acceptance in formal writing but still advises avoiding it if possible—for example, by rewriting to use the plural (see CMOS 5.255). Generic singular “they” has been around for a long time, however, and most editors here at Chicago have no problem with such constructions as everyone should bring their favorite book to the event—where “their” refers back to the indefinite (and usually singular) pronoun “everyone.” And many of us have come to accept less firmly established usages such as each programmer worked in their preferred language. Like it or not, “they” has been displacing “he or she” and similar attempts to write around the English language’s lack of a dedicated gender-neutral singular pronoun for some time now. Stay tuned for further developments.

I think the above position is reasonable. It recognizes that the language is constantly changing, but it also recommends treating "they" as what it is: plural.

Tim Pool on Ricky Gervais

Tim Pool is on fire:

The above video shows Tim Pool at his most liberal, I think: he's doing what liberals do best, i.e., tearing down the power structures of the over-privileged. I appreciate Pool's passion, and I'd even say that I can respect this brand of leftism. Conservatives, of late, have been the bashers of the elite, so it's good to see Pool in sync with them while remaining true to himself. Goes to show that it is indeed possible to build bridges between the left and the right.

But now we return to our regularly scheduled retarded backlash against Ricky Gervais, no different from the massive stupidity that dogged Dave Chappelle:

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Donald Sensing for the win

It's been years since I had anything to do with Reverend Donald Sensing and his conservative blogging. He used to manage a Zen-sounding blog called One Hand Clapping, which had little to nothing to do with Zen, but I guess that blog morphed into its current form: Sense of Events. Instapundit recently linked to one of Sensing's posts, and it's a good one, pointing out the current hypocrisy of the left in a later paragraph:

Oh, when Trump blew up Soleimani, the Left was unanimous that it was an act of war that was going to start World War 3! Oh, how we long for the good old days when Obama launched 2,800 strikes on Iraq, Syria without congressional approval. And how fondly we remember "Obama's Breathtaking Expansion of a President's Power To Make War." Good times, eh? Good times!

I have to deal with knee-jerk lefties in my office who consistently overreact to anything and everything that Donald Trump does and says. I also have friends outside of work—close friends—who never cease to bring Trump up in conversation. I am never the one who mentions Trump first, and I'm perfectly happy to go through an entire day without mentioning him at all. If you're wondering why I bother with the politiblogging I do, it's not because I'm Trump-obsessed: it's mainly because of my daily walk through the garden of my alt-media sources on YouTube: Styx, Tim Pool, Larry Elder, etc. They mention Trump, usually in an intelligent way, usually in response to the latest anti-Trump idiocy, and I happily pass those insights along to you. But in terms of face-to-face conversation, I have zero motivation to talk about Trump with people who aren't open to civil discussion or to logical persuasion. And to be fair, it's doubtful that these people will ever be able to say anything that would convince me to abandon my current point of view. I'm honest enough to admit that, although I'd say this is mainly because facts and logic—like reality—are on my side.

But anyway, if you're dealing with wild-eyed lefties at the office who are trying to make Trump out to be some sort of warmonger, despite three years of evidence that he's anything but, Donald Sensing's above-quoted bit is a good place to start your trenchant rebuttals.

meme via Bill

Bill Keezer sends us a link to a hilarious meme:

lunch with the prof

Just had lunch with Professor Park, whom I had met on the trail during my recent big walk (see here and scroll down to the happy biker giving a thumbs-up sign). We met at a local Mr. Pizza restaurant; I told Prof. Park that I'm now on the keto diet, so I asked whether there was a salad bar. He said yes. When I got there, I saw the salad bar was 80% carby items: mostly pasta, croutons, potato salad, sweetened jello, and all sorts of sugary dressings that I'd normally love to slather on my salads, but which I must avoid for as long as I'm on this diet.* I ended up creating a monstrosity of a salad that was composed of lettuce leaves, sliced black olives, little sausage balls (probably also used on the pizzeria's sausage pizza), diced spam, and jalapeño peppers... all topped with a meager splash of balsamic dressing, the only dressing there that looked remotely keto.

This was a getting-to-know-you type of conversation; I'm not sure whether the good professor came away impressed or just bored. We had a couple moments of awkward silence between us, but for the most part, we talked shop regarding our common area of interest, i.e., Korea's extensive and well-thought-out network of bike paths. Professor Park thinks walking is boring, so he prefers the whoosh of biking. I countered that walking lets you see all the details that you negligently blow by when you're biking. He told me a bit about his family; he has three daughters, one of whom currently lives with him, and who was a French major at a prestigious women's university; one of whom lives in New Zealand; and one of whom lives and works for Lufthansa in Germany, where she gets by using English, not German. Professor Park and I managed to spend almost an hour in pleasant conversation; at the end, we exchanged phone numbers (we had been in contact by email) and Kakao Talk IDs, so there's a chance we'll meet up again. But we made no specific plans to do so.

I had wondered whether this might turn into a networking opportunity: at some point, once I've paid off my debt and run through my current contract, I'll probably get back into university teaching, and Professor Park teaches at the Seoul branch of a large Korean university. But today's sit-down didn't have a networking vibe to it. At one point, the professor half-jokingly mused aloud about setting me up on a date with a former work colleague of his. I told him "no, thanks." As for actual, useful networking... who knows? At the very least, I got a free lunch, even if it had been a bit lame.

*I've decided I'll stick to keto until I've zeroed out my debt, so that'll be for several months—possibly until the summer.

Monday, January 06, 2020

"Dune (The Alternative Edition)": quick review

I don't know why, but I have a real soft spot for David Lynch's clunky, embarrassing abortion of a movie, "Dune," from 1984. Lynch's "Dune" is awful on so many levels—a real cringe-fest. Lynch himself claims the studio had too much control over the final product, but I can see problems that are less the result of studio interference than of Lynch's own poor direction: he's culpable, too. There are times when I think that Lynch didn't really have his heart in the project: the special effects were shoddy, and the corniness factor was dialed way past 11. How could a serious auteur like Lynch possibly crank out such cheese, especially in the wake of 1983's "Return of the Jedi," which marked the end of the Star Wars saga for that era?

But whatever the film's many flaws, there were and are parts of it that I enjoy and appreciate. The set design remains impressive, and some of the casting choices are positively inspired: José Ferrer, Patrick Stewart, Richard Jordan, Jürgen Prochnow, Brad Dourif, Paul Smith, Max von Sydow, the awesome Siân Phillips, the equally awesome Kenneth McMillan, the gorgeous Francesca Annis—and Sting? Amazing, I tell you! Give that cast better direction, a worthier script, and improved special effects, and a revamped "Dune" would bring the house down. I've heard that young, delicate-looking Timothée Chalamet is going to play Paul Atreides in this year's version of "Dune" by director Denis Villeneuve; for me, Kyle MacLachlan will always own that role, but I remain hopeful: Villeneuve has proved himself to be a talented director, having made "Sicario," "Arrival," and "Blade Runner 2049."

While we wait for Villeneuve's much-anticipated remake to arrive much later this year, though, we can watch Lynch's "Dune," re-edited by a fan to create "The Alternative Edition." I don't know where else this might be available outside of YouTube, which is where I watched it. This "fan edit" includes voiceover narration that makes the story easier to understand, and this version of the film also includes discarded footage not seen in the theatrical release—all of which also makes the story more comprehensible and fleshed-out.

I had a ball reliving all the badness of Lynch's movie, but I also appreciated the fan editor's efforts at making the story more digestible. It's a shame, really, that Lynch's original theatrical release proved so confusing: the 1965 novel Dune, by Frank Herbert, was very clearly written. Maybe Lynch's problem was his inability to provide a faithful rendering of the novel; his compulsion to "art" things up got in the way, and because, as I suspect, his heart wasn't in the process, he arted things up sloppily and shoddily, resulting in this cinematic turd that nevertheless contains a few almost-redemptive qualities (three cheers for the awesome costume design!). Then again, as Alejandro Jodorowsky said, when you adapt a work for the screen, you have little choice but to violate it in the act of translation from one medium to another. To use Jodorowsky' indelicate metaphor, it's the rape of a bride: once you commit to her, you cannot merely stand back and honor her chastely from a distance—you have to get in there: you must dominate and consummate. A distasteful image, to be sure, but one that makes a clear point. Maybe Lynch's flaccid adaptation was his fumbling attempt at violating the bride that is Frank Herbert's novel.

In watching this fan edit of "Dune," I once again mentally reviewed the would-haves and could-haves and should-haves—the many different ways in which the film could have been improved. The special effects would definitely need some major upgrades, and the hilariously Shatnerian overacting by some of the otherwise-talented principals would also need to be drastically reined in. The Guild navigators, and their method of folding space to cross great distances, would need to be completely rethought and re-depicted for a modern audience that has seen such heady movies as "Interstellar." Peter Jackson and his Weta Workshop would need to be brought in to re-shoot the large battle sequences, and God knows what else would have to be changed if we truly wanted to salvage Lynch's film.

But it's too late; the deed is done, and Lynch's "Dune" is what it is. Just like when you try to save a patient who is dying from thirty different maladies, all you can do is give up, let the patient expire, and turn toward the future. I'm fervently hoping that Denis Villeneuve will give us a splendid, fantastic vision of Frank Herbert's epic science-fiction story. I understand that this year's movie is only Part One of a two-part saga, with the second part coming out in 2021. But for those who, like me, might need a "Dune" fix while they wait, there's this fan edit, "The Alternative Edition," available on YouTube until someone gets the movie banned for copyright infringement. Watch it while you can.

quiz the girl!

In the following video—in which Styx mispronounces "verbose" as "verbiose" and uses the word "contravene" when he means "contradict"—our intrepid occultist and political commentator suggests that someone ought to directly quiz Greta Thunberg on her knowledge of climate science. Short of that, it's probably safe to think of Thunberg as someone who merely parrots talking points from a certain bloc of scientists.

Ricky Gervais targets the self-righteous

I guess I missed a big TV moment. Ricky Gervais had been chosen—God knows why—to host the somehow-still-prestigious Golden Globes Awards this year, and he took the opportunity to flay his out-of-touch, sanctimonious, Hollywood-elite audience about their unjustified preachiness and ugly hypocrisy:

“I mean, the companies that you work for, Apple, Amazon, Disney…if ISIS started a streaming service, you would call your agents, wouldn't you?” he said. "So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to give a political speech. You’re in no place to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and fuck off.”

I have to wonder how many stars who won awards actually followed that advice. I also see, in the comments section to the above-linked article, that a lot of conservatives are crowing "Preach it, brother!" about Gervais's attack. Those righties would be wise to remember that Ricky Gervais is no friend of the right, either; if anything, I'd say his default position is leftist. But Gervais is one of the sane leftists who has gotten sick of how the far left has hijacked discourse and sanity in the name of a cancel-culture agenda that sees anything and everything as the enemy—a black-and-white, dogmatic attitude that isn't far different from that of fundamentalist Christianity, which views the island of the righteous as surrounded by a sea of unrighteous enemies. If only these lefties could see that irony.

gi-il (忌日, 기일), 10th anniversary

It's been ten years since Mom passed away. I turned 40 the year Mom was diagnosed with the brain cancer that would kill her nine months later; I turned 50 last August, and despite the passage of ten years, there are still moments when Mom's death seems to have happened only yesterday. Looking back at old photos of Mom, both healthy and sick, can trigger the tears. Otherwise, enough time has passed that I'm mostly back to living my life.

I still haven't taught myself the proper way to conduct a jaesa ceremony for Mom. Maybe I haven't been all that motivated because, after all, for whom am I doing the ceremony? It's something of a cliché to note that such events are more for the living than for the dead, and if the survivors have moved on and are living their lives, then do they actually need elaborate ceremonies to mark the passage of time?

Or maybe these blog entries, which I've published once a year, every January 6 since Mom's death, are something of a ritual moment. I don't know.

I've been trying for months to coordinate with my brothers regarding the scattering of Mom's ashes. Her cremains have been sitting in a heavy-plastic bag inside an even heavier stone urn for a decade. I'm of several minds about this, mainly because, on the one hand, I'm a religious-studies student who does possess some lingering sense of ritual and sacrality. Mom's ashes have symbolic significance. On the other hand, as a pragmatist, I don't think of these remains as Mom, per se: I can't hug Mom's ashes; I can't kiss them; I can't talk to them and expect a response. When looked at that way, I don't have any real attachment to Mom's remains, and I've told my brothers that, if they're not interested in doing anything with Mom's ashes this year, then that's fine by me. I certainly don't plan on pressuring my brothers to do anything about the ashes; if they prefer to hold on to them for the time being, I'll respect that wish. If they don't care one way or the other, then I'll respect that attitude, too.

So far, only my brother Sean has promised to email me a response to my cremains-related questions. David hasn't said anything. Maybe this issue isn't important to him. I don't know because he's not communicating.

My company, in a rare show of organized thinking, has mapped out our vacation schedule for this year, and we've got a week-long string of vacation days coming to us in a few months: seven days off spanning the end of April and the beginning of May—until May 5, in fact, which is one day past Mom's birthday. I've announced to David and Sean that I'll be coming to the States then, hopefully to decide on a place to scatter Mom's ashes, and then to actually scatter them. But again, I'm not trying to pressure my brothers: if they still don't want to do anything about Mom's ashes, despite my presence, then so be it. The last thing we need, in our family, is some stupid tug of war over a pile of dust.

Ten years is a long time. I've achieved things, since Mom's death, that would have made her proud had she been alive. I'm still not married, and at this point, I despair of marriage ever happening, but I'm doing much better financially, and I've got two trans-Korea walks under my belt. Surely that counts for something. But none of that obscures the fact that I still miss Mom. I know that life must go on because that's the nature of existence; time flows relentlessly forward. But every early January, my thoughts turn back to a small, frail, dying Korean woman who once brought me into this world, who cared for me and nurtured me in her own imperfect way, and whom I cared for in turn during her final nine months on this earth.

Mom died a mid-winter death, and that's changed the meaning of this season for me. But these days, it's less about the sadness and more about the contemplation. It's not quite right to say that life moves in cycles, as if nature were constantly repeating itself exactly as it had been before. It's more correct to think of life moving like waves lapping the shore—successive beats that bear certain similarities, yet are distinctly different from each other. Mom had her time on the shore, and now she's receded. I'm having my time now, but one day, I too will recede, and that's right and good.

Goodbye, Mom—ten years gone. I love you.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

"Ford v. Ferrari": review

2019's "Ford v. Ferrari" is directed by James Mangold and stars Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Caitriona Balfe, and Noah Jupe. The movie tells the story of the Ford Motor Company's attempt to build a racecar that could beat Ferrari at the "24 Hours of Le Mans" race—a competition that Ferrari was dominating. To some extent, the story explores the friendship of two drivers—Carroll Shelby (Damon), a former (and rare American) winner of the Le Mans competition; and Ken Miles (Bale), a volatile but talented British racer and mechanic living and working in the States. The story is also partly told through the eyes of Miles's son Peter (Jupe), who respects Shelby and idolizes his father. One of the overriding themes of "Ford v. Ferrari" is the constant tug of war between talented, creative people and the corporate powers that wish to exploit them. Depending on your political alignment, the movie could be seen as a liberal, anti-capitalist screed that vilifies corporations and their dehumanizing ways, or as a conservative manifesto about the triumph of the individual will in the face of blindly oppressive systems. One way or another, the movie weaves a complex moral tapestry that makes us wonder to what extent we really ought to be rooting for Ford. Josh Lucas, as Ford henchman Leo Beebe (pronounce it "Bibi"), personifies everything that is wrong with corporations—how they reach into people's lives and fuck everything up. Henry Ford II, as portrayed by Tracy Letts, has invested his honor and his ego in the development of a car that will restore Ford's prestige after Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) brutally insults all of Ford's executive board.

If you've seen racing movies before (Ron Howard's "Rush" comes to mind), you probably have some idea as to how this story is going to unfold, even if you haven't looked up the history of the 1960s-era Le Mans races on Wikipedia. When we meet Carroll Shelby, he's already retired from racing because of a bum ticker: a heart valve that is this close to failing on him, and for which he must stay on a strict regimen of meds. Ken Miles, for his part, is a World War I vet with the heart of a test pilot, always looking to drive the next road rocket. Shelby gets the tap on the shoulder from Ford to develop and test a new racecar; Shelby, in turn, taps Miles on the shoulder. Ford, meanwhile, can't stop itself from meddling in the development of the new car and the handling of its temperamental driver, so it's all Shelby can do to vouch for Miles and insist that he be the man at the wheel, and not some milquetoast who will only lose the race for Ford when the going gets tough.

"Ford v. Ferrari" works, not because the tale is particularly original (it may be based on a true story, but it follows a pattern familiar to anyone who has seen such movies), but because the characters are well written and excellently acted. Matt Damon plays a true friend to Ken Miles, and Damon's Shelby understands Miles's mindset because he's a former racer himself—and a revered champion at that. Christian Bale, looking as undernourished as he did during "The Fighter," radiates enough skeletal intensity to make the viewer think that it's Batman himself behind the wheel of the Ford GT40. Noah Jupe does a fine job in the role of Ken Miles's smart, plucky son; Peter's love of racing and admiration for his dad shine through. Caitriona Balfe, as Ken's intrepid wife Mollie, channels the wives of test drivers and test pilots everywhere, through all the ages: women who hold the family together while their husbands go and cheat death one more time. A few of the casting choices for this movie struck me as strange bordering on inspired: Josh Lucas, who normally plays aw-shucks good guys thanks to his blue-eyed good looks, makes for an interesting choice to play the movie's main villain, Ford's Senior Executive Vice President Leo Beebe, who never misses an opportunity to throw a monkey wrench in the works instead of letting the talented people prove themselves. Lucas gets points for being so convincingly hateful that I actually began to dislike the actor as I was watching the movie. Another interesting casting choice was tall, muscular Jon Bernthal, lately famous for playing the Punisher on TV—a perpetually blood-spattered war vet bent on getting revenge for the deaths of his family members. Bernthal plays—I shit you not—a young Lee Iacocca in this story. Bernthal looks nothing like the nerdy, cube-headed Iacocca (who himself looks like a refugee from a Pixar film), but he somehow sells the part, proving to be more imaginative and positive than his corporate-drone peers.

I can't help comparing this movie to other racing films like Tom Cruise's "Days of Thunder" and Chris Hemsworth's "Rush," and in my opinion, this movie has the best racing cinematography I've ever seen. The rapidfire editing is superb; the dangerous camera angles, many of which are close to the rushing ground, provide a level of excitement and tension surpassing that found in the other two aforementioned films. All praise and honor to James Mangold, who has helmed some truly excellent films, such as "Cop Land," "Walk the Line," and the amazing "Logan." The writing also keeps the film balanced between wordless racing and dialogue that makes us care for the characters.

Italians probably won't like "Ford v. Ferrari." They certainly won't be happy to see a cultural icon like Enzo Ferrari debased by a scrappy British-American team that isn't above cheating in small ways to psych the Italian team out. Italian viewers will doubtless also take issue with some of the movie's claims as to how the crucial 1966 Le Mans played out. But perhaps politics is inevitable in a film like this: just as Zack Snyder's "300" was adored by Greeks and hated by Iranians, "Ford v. Ferrari" will have its share of lovers and haters.

As someone who went into this film knowing almost nothing of the history of the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari, I found the story both entertaining and educational. It's an awful time to employ a pun, but "Ford v. Ferrari" is a thrilling ride, and while its thoughtful, quiet ending won't exactly leave you cheering, you'll have had a chance to experience, from the inside, just what it is that makes people fall in love with, and find catharsis in, auto racing.

Luca Rossi: one to watch

Here's a young Aussie who's got his head on straight: Luca Rossi!

Young Luca might be aiming at an audience of his peers, but some of us old farts are willing to give him a listen. Note that all he's doing is giving a fair shake to the side of the discussion that is routinely repressed and suppressed by the mainstream media and its leftist allies. He's not actually cheerleading for one side—he's striving for balance. This distinction will, of course, be lost on many lefties, who have themselves lost the ability to see difference and nuance. This is, currently, what my own project on this blog is. I have repeatedly noted that I don't consider myself an out-and-out conservative, but by the metrics of today's wild-eyed left, I might as well be Hitler. Tim Pool notes with amusement and horror that many lefties see him as an alt-right troll, which shows how deep the insanity goes. All I'm trying to do is point out the major lies, hypocrisies, and other inconsistencies constantly emanating from the left these days. If all I get in response is the tu quoque fallacy of "Well, the right lies, too," then my intended audience still doesn't get my point. They need to hit a mental reset button and try again.

just how stupid is Maxine Waters?

This stupid:

The prank call in question:

Meanwhile, John McCrarey is dealing with his own bit of liberal stupidity in the form of an ex-wife who is determined to flaunt her ignorance for the masses.