Lowering the tone

Since the tone has gotten so damn high-falutin’ around here of late, what with talk of the WTO and such, I figured it must be time to drag it down into the gutter again. If you’re one of the 3 people left on the planet who hasn’t yet seen this Korean Flash game (warning – graphic depictions of poo falling from what would appear to be some sort of celestial lady’s bum. Think of the children, for the love of god!), here it is.
This isn’t just random wackiness, believe it or not. The ‘dong-jeem’ (which is what those yellow letters say when you catch one of the falling Kenny-From-South-Park’s that appear periodically) is a big schoolboy fave here.

  • Step 1 : Clasp the hands together.
  • Step 2 : Point the index fingers forward.
  • Step 3 : Ram said fingers up the bunghole of the nearest unsuspecting victim.
  • Step 4 : Laugh riot!
  • Years ago when I was teaching some elementary school kids in Pusan (an experience best forgotten), one of the kids tried the old dong-jeem on my unsuspecting waeguk bottom. Needless to say, he was a little taken aback at my reaction. The scars healed up nicely, though.
    (Joke. I don’t beat small children senseless, although I have been known to swallow them whole when they cross my bridge without permission.)
    Critical Anal Intrusion Update : Boong-ga Boong-ga, the bum molesting game that made the ‘net rounds a while ago, is memetically rising again, thanks to the Register et al. Once again, reassuring to know I’m on the cutting edge of Wacky Korean sh-t. Have a fun! Enjoy!

    I don't hate Korea

    As more people are hitting this place thanks to the link and kind words by everyone’s favorite enraged guy, I was thinking that perhaps I should clarify what is no doubt an overwhelming impression that I hate Korea. I don’t. Well, sometimes I do, goddamnit, but it’s more complicated than that.
    Without getting into icky details of my long and convoluted personal history (which may titillate or bore, but are certainly none of your freakin’ business), let’s just say there have been a fairly significant number of female people who have uttered the fateful words : “Bosco, I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” After they wiped the vomit from their shoes, we would generally get along fairly well, in most cases.
    What’s my point? Do I even have one? Fear not – I do, and it’s this: I think that it’s profitable to make the same sort of annoying distinction between ‘hate’ and ‘in hate’. What I mean is that there are times that I hate Korea, but there have been times when I hated pretty much anywhere I’ve lived. I do hate the chaos, the filth, the racism and casual cruelty, but there are scores of Korean people I just love to bits. So I would say that I do sometimes hate Korea, and some individual people here, but that I’m not ‘in hate’ with the place. The inversion of meaning also implies that it’s better to just hate than be in hate, for your s(e)oul, if nothing else.
    Waeguk-in who come to live here use the other foreigners around them as ‘complaining posts’. Western-style bars are chockablock with waeguk-in sitting around and commiserating about the last school-director that ripped them off, or the last kid that mimed monkey motions at them. I had enough of that circle-jerking years ago, so was born Waeguk is Not a Soup. Ta-da!

    China and the WTO

    The recent entry of China to the WTO presents some daunting challenges for Korea. Sandwiched as it is between Japan (the 2nd largest world economy) and China (the 5th largest), it has managed to build itself from a rural, war-ravaged backwater to the 12th biggest economic force in the world, which is no small achievement for such a small nation. With China’s entry to the WTO, though, the landscape has changed. At the moment, Korean goods, particularly electronics, are of much higher quality than Chinese goods, and the economy is in most ways further along the path of development. China’s rapid industrialization is striking fear into the hearts of Korean government and business leaders, though. China has much cheaper labour, very stable markets, almost no labour unrest (thanks to repression, but hey, all’s fair in the market economy, da?), and has now joined the Gang.
    Unless Korea gets its act together, and understands that working smarter, not harder, is the only way to keep their competitive edge over China, dark days are ahead. A recent study found that the average productivity of Korean workers is around 36% that of American workers, and 50% of Japanese workers. How, then, has the country made such incredible economic gains in the past few decades? Fourteen and sixteen-hour work days, I guess. Work 16 hours at a 40% productivity rate, and it’s like working 8 hours at an 80% productivity rate….
    It’s interesting that Korea now finds itself in a similar position, in some respects, to the one Japan was in 30 years ago…at the stage where it needs to break free of the industrial nightmare and move to the production of higher value-added products and services, while its neighbour to the east is rapidly industrializing. Hopefully Korea will manage it with the aplomb, relatively speaking, that Japan displayed.
    It’s an interesting and possibly germane side note that Kim Dae Jung, who some refer to as the ‘Nelson Mandela of Korea‘, now in the fourth year of his presidency, asked Alvin Toffler at a conference shortly before the last Korean election, if, provided that his bid for the presidency was successful, Alvin and his wife would advise him on matters Future-Shocky. Alvin agreed, and one of the key findings of the report that he handed over to President Kim was that unless Korea moved to a more service-based economy, and one less agricultural and primary-industry-focused, the band would be playing Down The Toilet We Go.
    (I know that’s not a real song. Sometimes I just dream things, OK?)


    Technical note : Reblogger seems to have nuked all comments made so far, *again*, so it’s probably not worth leaving your two cents at the moment. Send me mail if you feel a burning need to tell me I’m an idiot.

    The Museum of Contemporary Art

    The Museum of Contemporary Art at Seoul Grand Park is a pleasant place, surrounded as it is by trees and mountains, afflicted with only mildly brutalist architecture. SK said, as we wandered around, ‘This would be a good place to work.’ I agreed. The whole park, though built on an agressively non-human scale,gives me some hope that Korea may eventually, in some far-flung futuristic century, be less of a nasty place than it is at the moment, that there is some spark remaining of appreciation for contemplative beauty and harmony.
    When we got home, she hopped on the Net, and ‘lo and behold there was a job on offer there. Six days a week, 20,000 won per day. That’s US$15.71 a day. You can imagine our enthusiasm. She made more that per hour in Sydney. Score another one for Korean society.

    A new record!

    A new record! On the sub-1-kilometre (that’s under a half mile for any Amuricans that happen by) walk from my apartment beehive to the subway station this foggy, smoky morning there were :

  • 7 puddles of fresh vomit (all amusingly identical in colour – the reddish orange aspect created by shreds of kimchi)
  • 4 automobile-sized piles of reeking garbage (one lent a special frisson by the fist-sized wads of diarrhea-soaked toilet paper strewn around it)
  • 13 men horking and spitting up oysters, accompanied of course by the innumerable usual already-deposited mucoidal constellations on the pavements
  • 4 guys doing ‘farmer blows’ (mind you, a little overlap with the horkers above) and spraying snot onto the ground.
    All in all, a refreshing early morning stroll. I live in hell.

  • Blog overlap

    Blog overlap :
    I had a dream last night where This Mystery Guy™ held up a slab of meat that looked pretty much like a rump-roast in my face. It was quite a lovely cut of meat, but it was shot through with these deep purple threads (“…Smoooo—oke on the water, fire in the sky…”), which weren’t really alarming at all, but weren’t completely nice. Sez he to me : “This is your liver. It’s not well,” or something along those lines.
    Well, in the dream, I examined this hunk of meat closely, and realized that it was indeed a rump roast rather than some f–king hippy-dream-representation of my ‘inner health’, and kicked his ass. My Liver is a big, misshapen bubbly fat-encrusted abomination that keeps functioning through sheer power of will, not a rump-roast with polite little black threads of icky-ness running through it.
    I reckon that dream was actually about the fact that I can’t buy a decent freakin’ steak in this country.

    Korean young people are infantilized

    Korean young people are infantilized throughout most of their lives. My younger students, in their first and second years of university, behave like 14 year-olds might in Canada. It is endearing, certainly, but a little sad too. The Moment of Truth arrives, for the young men, when they go off to do compulsory military service : 26 months, or 28, or 30 depending on whether they are inducted into the Army, Navy or Air Force. Their lot is, according to friends of mine, random beating and dehumanizing abuse at the hands of their ‘seniors’ – for a new inductee, basically everyone. For young women, it arrives a few years later, when they are expected to marry, and bear a child as soon as is possible, preferably between the ages of 25 and 29, and devote the rest of their lives to their children. Woe to the young mother who is not able to bear at least one male child. Young women have a brief flare of opportunity to express themselves, post high-school, during university. Once they have born a male child, they are referred to in public as ‘Male-Child-Name”s Mother. Around their 30th birthday, if they have a career, they find that any opportunities that previously seemed to have existed are suddenly gone, and if they are just working a job for wages, they are generally made to feel that their welcome has worn out.
    There’s a very tight schedule for men and women both, and deviating from it by more than a year or two is actively frowned upon.
    This is changing, rapidly, and a number of Korean editorialists lately have noted that, not unlike the situation 33 years or so ago in the West, there is no longer any common ground for young people and the older generation to find. The rift is a different one, though, as all but the most radical of young Koreans still bow respectfully to their elders, and still of necessity use the built-into-the-language forms of address, that, true to Confucianism, show respect to elders. Older people, comfortable that these outward signs are enough, continue in their assumption that the norms that lend structure to their understanding of how society should work, not realizing how far the Korean youth of today have strayed from any real respect for the moral bankruptcy that traditional Confucian culture has degenerated into.
    The War that is coming in Korea will not be between the North and the South. It’ll be between the young and the old.
    But then again, I may just drunk and rambling. I have a tendency to do that.

    Another hellish morning at Club Bugok

    Another hellish morning at Club Korea. A dense layer of smoke shrouds everything this morning, scraping your throat with every breath, reeking of burning plastic. Coal smoke, quite possibly. I imagine this is what London must have been like in the middle days of the Industrial Revolution, when the air and water was foul, life was cheap, and no-one gave a rat’s ass about anyone else, particularly if they were perceived to be lower on the pecking order.
    I’m grumpy today.
    Had a new and potentially useful idea (in understanding this place) late last night on the way to the subway stop. It seems unlikely, despite the repeated avowals of pissed-off waeguk here, that Koreans, Korean men in particular, are all stupid. Look what they’ve managed to do in 50 years…(but don’t look too closely). But the Korean imperative : work work work may have something to do with the fact that if anything needs doing here it gets done badly, at the last moment, or not at all. Everyone’s too f–king tired! Sixteen and eighteen-hour days, 6 days a week, has drained the ability of the vast majority of people here to think ahead, think clearly, think at all. Thinking of people as stumbling in a blind, sleep-deprived haze makes many things about the disorder and seeming lack of will to address that disorder much clearer.
    Just a thought.

    SBS television

    SBS television, one of the big three networks, has it’s new slogan, revolving around at the start of the news in that unintentionally-retro-environment-mapped-metallic-3D-letters-from-the-80’s-kinda-way : “Humanism through Digital”.
    This annoys the crap out of me. Even ignoring for a moment that digital is an adjective, for chrissakes, what the hell is that supposed to mean? How is it possible, I keep wondering, for companies that employ thousands upon thousands of employees, that are ostensibly sophisticated and modern, that presumably can employ people to check the surprisingly large amount of English in use, how it is possible for them to allow such egregiously (my Wonderchicken Word of the Week™) mangled Konglish to escape into the wild?
    I know the answer of course. Old Korean men. f–k, how I hate them with a white-hot eye-popping passion. Take their blithe conviction that the world revolves around them, sprinkle with the assumption that the sun shines out of their asses, and slather the whole lot in Confucian Gravy, and it’s a Nasty Casserole.
    As an aside, it’s always annoying to me when I find myself living a cliche. Today’s cliche : the young rebel looks in the mirror one day to find that he’s become part of the machine he despised. He’s now The Man that the new young rebels loathe.

    Never heard of this

    Never heard of this one before, and it may be apocryphal : in China, one of the many interesting culinary treats about which I’ve never before heard (we all know about the monkey brains and birds’ nest soup, of course) is Bat Poop Soup.
    I’m sure that the actual Chinese name for it is less amusingly euphonious, but there you go. The really interesting part for me is that the bat poop itself is not the thing that is considered to be the Good Bit. The Good Bit is the fact that apparently a certain species of bat is known to eat an enormous number of mosquitos, and the resultant excreta of said bat species contains a large quantity of…mosquito eyeballs!
    Typing this out, I’m realizing how stupid it sounds, but the student of mine who told me about it swears on his momma’s longlost hymen that it’s true.
    Well, not really, but ya know what I mean.

    Dog Meat Again

    The first in what will doubtless be a long series of editorials in The Korea Herald recently about boshintang. Boshintang is, of course, dog soup. During the Olympics in ’88, which was the last time most people were aware of Korea’s existence, there was the predictable flap about the cooking and eating of cute little doggies, and a larger one when a little digging revealed that the favored way for killing them doggies before boiling them up was to beat them to death, slowly, as this tenderizes the flesh and supposedly increases the libido-enhancing effect. The practice was officially outlawed, the restaurants hidden in back alleys, and Korea was officially no longer a dog-eatin’ haven. Crap, of course. Even a cursory glance around any neighbourhood, including mine, will reveal boshintang restaurants all over the damn place. And the smell, is, well, a bit icky.
    I’ve got no problem with people eating dogs, if they want to. sh-t, I’ve done it.
    The point of the editorial, mentioning that the World Cup committee has actually made some sort of official complaint about the practice (for unknown f–king reason they feel they have a right to comment on it), was that no one should be able to tell Koreans what they should and should not eat, and further, that it’s one or two particular breeds that are raised specifically for Good Eatin’. People around the world kill and consume some oddball stuff, and if you look too closely at our treatment in North America or Europe or elsewhere of ‘meat animals’, the picture is none to pleasant. The article did go on to say, though, that the pathetic belief that beating a dog to death is a good way to render it ready for the pot has got to stop, as has the childlike magical thinking that somehow dogmeat is going to make your little weiner stiffer.
    Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

    As I stood on the subway platform

    As I stood on the subway platform this morning, waiting for the train, surrounded by swirling clouds of smoke and brownish particulate fog and the snort-hork-spit of dozens of Korean men casting throat-oysters onto the concrete, for some unknown reason they decided to play music, for the first time since I’ve been using that station.
    Their choice of tunes : “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, loud, trebly.
    The feeling was stunningly close to an acid flashback. For a few seconds, I was reeling, and the faces staring at me (as they always do, living as I do in a place where there are no other foreigners) seemed malevolent, and the yellow-brown sunlight filtering through the clouds of smog flickered.
    I’m afraid I’ve walked through the portal into bizarro-world. That would suck. Unless the beer’s good. Then I can live with it.

    All of the subway cars

    All of the subway cars have stickers up on the wall near the doors, often several layers of them. Some have these old peeling, faded ones, with incredibly crap typesetting and primitive line drawings, with as few words as possible, indicating, for example that one should not bring gas cans aboard, as the fumes might bother people, or if you see a bomb (and amusing, two-sticks of dyamite, curly wire and alarm clock affair) that you should Definitely Not Touch It.
    These are the ones from 10 or 12 years ago.
    The new ones have a hip, Gen-X looking guy doing a punk-rock-yell-face, as photoshopped-into-darts cell-phones zero in on his spiky ‘do. These ones are telling you to turn down your cellphone ringer.
    A decade is a long long time here.