Oh yeah, and dear Sweet God I love Ftrain. How did it take me so long to find him? Leave this place, hie thee hence, I implore you.
‘Course when you eventually come back here, you’re probably going to be deeply disappointed.
I’m knee-deep in geekdom, grinning like a rocket-powered lemur, fiddling with code. Sure and it’s a heap of fun, laddie. So rather than write something new, I thought I’d cheat and whack up this explanation from my Metafilter profile of where the StavrosTheWonderChicken thing came from…
In the winter of 1992 (I think), Rick and I had just finished the Mumbles Walk. This is the pub crawl along a seaside stretch of watering holes in Wales, near Swansea, that apparently used to be a regular night out for Dylan Thomas. I’d like to say we were appropriately reverant, but we were just shambolically pissed, basically.
At some point, we stumbled by a phone booth that looked out over the mud flats and dejected-looking rowboats that had been stranded by the outgoing tide, and decided it was a simply great time to give our buddy Derek, back in Vancouver, a collect call. When the operator asked for a name to give for the call (this was back in the last century, before this stuff was automated), the name “Stavros The Wonder Chicken” just bubbled to the top of my brain, with no precedent whatsoever. The operator balked, but we begged, and when we overheard her telling James, his roommate, that she had a collect call from “Stavros the Wonder Chicken”, we laughed like the drunken poets we were.
A few minutes after his roommate James accepted the call, we found out that Derek had returned to his hometown because he’d found out that day that his father had died.
We went back to drinking.
If you have broadband, and Realplayer, and an hour to spare, watch this speech delivered by Dean Kamen, of Segway and iBot fame. It’ll inspire you. It did me.
(A quick note about my lack of Korea-centric updates of late : I’m back to work next week, back into the fray, after a couple of months of gazing inward. Getting out into the thick of things again will certainly spark some new Hanguk-y observations and rants. And once the new domain is set up (soon, soon) and I transfer over, it’ll be a whole new WonderChicken. I’ll rock yer socks off. Or die trying. This I swear.)
Never fear, the WonderChicken’s here. comments.
It’s like potato chips : once you start, it’s hard to stop.
Item the First : Lying is harder when the medium has a memory.
How about this one, kids?
Cached version at archive.org. Interesting that the live version is no longer available. [via ntk.net] (Followup : a call for his resignation is here.)
Item the Second : Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of clue!
Dvorak has a go at the Cluetrainers, and a very caustic go it is, indeed. “This means nothing …. Get over yourselves.” Found it via this Metatalk thread, which is hopefully going to be interesting. Regardless, I suspect this is going to be all over the place over the next couple of days…it will be interesting to see what Messrs Locke, Weinberger, Searls have to say in their defense. It’s always good to see a little pushback against accepted wisdom, but Mr Dvorak is certainly cranky about something…
So I sez to da guy… comments.
Bush Seeks To Restrict Probes Of Sept. 11
Time for another distraction, deflect some attention, get the fist-in-the-air brigade worked up again…Anyone want to give me odds on how soon the bombs starting falling somewhere new? He promised they weren’t going to invade North Korea.
I try to steer my way clear of politics. I try to, and for the last dozen years or so, I’ve claimed to be ‘apolitical’. Just wanted out of it. I remember now why I deliberately chose to be so. It’s exhausting, when you start to dig, start to work up that red-orange glow of indignation, start to think carefully about the manipulative pap that we’re fed by our leaders (elected or otherwise) and their lapdogs. Indignation turns to fury, and you slowly begin to turn into one of those people that sit at Metafilter, obsessively hitting Refresh on any political thread, keen to tear down anyone who disagrees with them, while their marriage falls apart and the pizza box in the corner sprouts new life forms not previously found in any taxonomy or textbook. Not to name any names, of course.
Disclaimer : My relationships are just fine, thank you, and I rarely get to have pizza these days.
Not only is it exhausting to be in a state of near-perpetual anger, but it’s unhealthy, and it annoys other people. There are old friends of mine that I no longer speak to, in part because of their one-note perpetual politicizing of Every Damn Thing. All The Time. It’s grating, and unnecessary, and reduces your life to a constant protest, usually against things over which you have no influence whatsoever. I’d rather have my life be a celebration, a paean.
This excerpt from the Tao Te Ching (recently quoted by Richard at Notes From A Life In Progress) is perhaps appropriate here :
But there comes a point, when it feels necessary to speak out, even if no one hears your voice. At least your conscience will be clear, and if someone does hear you, and agrees, perhaps you’ve done some good. Some days, lately, I feel like I am somehow failing myself if I don’t point out the latest falsehood, the latest manipulative rewrite of the facts, the most recent evil perpetrated on the world by the Evil Empire. Other days, I just feel like pointing to Ethel. I’m funny like that, and I make no excuses.
Everyone loves to quote this one, too, but that’s not gonna stop me : “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Back to the Bombing The Innocent Sweepstakes : well-timed little gems like this would seem to make their intentions pretty clear, to me at least…
Edit : This is good. Laugh, cry, rinse, repeat.
The Disinfo dossier on Canadian John Ralston Saul is a pleasant find, for me. Saul’s Voltaire’s Bastards, The Unconscious Civilization and Reflections of a Siamese Twin: Canada at the End of the Twentieth Century all had profound influence on the way I thought about …stuff… in my 20s, and are intricately woven into the way I think about the world today (rants like the one below notwithstanding). [via wood s lot] “Recently Saul has been feeling the heat of the Canadian political landscape: he is the husband of the current Governor General of Canada. Saul has been intensely criticized for his newest book On Equilibrium (New York: The Free Press, 2002), in which Saul contends that the West must assume some responsibility for the motivations behind the 9/11 attacks.”
Saul’s thoughts on globalization and democracy from a talk he gave in Australia in 1999 are very much worth reading (and listening to), as well.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to talk about the visit of a certain lying, half-wit sack of dung to Korea recently, as my temper might get the best of me, and I might accidentally let slip pejoratives like ‘lying‘ and ‘half-wit‘ and ‘sack of dung‘.
But I was just listening to Radio Canada International, and even they are toeing the line of bullsh-t that the American propaganda machine is spewing out. I just heard “President Bonobo (bit of static there, I think that’s what they said) will ask Jiang Ze Min to speak to Kim Jong Il about returning to the negotiating table.” What egregious, infuriating nonsense. The Americans were the ones who walked away, they are the ones playing games of brinkmanship and provoking the North Koreans, they are the ones who are most responsible for the ‘proliferation of weapons of mass destruction’.
The last time I talked about this, I linked to these two articles from the local English-language media, both of which made it quite clear that the North, weeks ago, were indicating their willingness to sit down and talk. But acknowledging that fact would get in the way of Pretzelboy’s scripted bluster about the ‘axis of evil’, now, wouldn’t it? History is being rewritten at the very moment it happens, these days.
f–k. I know he’s just reading a script – I know. I shouldn’t get upset about it. But what do they think – that no one’s watching? Are they so certain that they can just go about their merry way and no one will catch them in the lies? Has this game degenerated to such an extent that there’s no longer anything any of us can actually do, other than piss and moan, while these bastards flush us all down the toilet?
Update : This is classic. Laughing, crying, it’s all the same sometimes. Watch this (Warning : Realvideo file), and tell me this Resident knows what he’s doing. He says, to the Japanese Diet – “My trip to Asia begins here in Japan for an important reason. It begins here because for a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times. From that alliance has come an era of peace in the Pacific.”
Ah, all around me in my virtual neighbourhood people are conversing in the hushed whispers of high seriousness, and I’ve been talking about poop. The Wonderchicken : Going Off On Tangents Since 1965™.
So, how about we talk death a bit? (Gotcha!) And by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’. As well as discussion of disappearing up one’s own butt (and a nastier death would be hard to imagine, unless it might be disappearing up someone else‘s butt), there has been some talk of death lately in my virtual neighbourhood, from Mike and Shelley and Jonathon and Kalilily (who lives one block over) and others, and the talk has been stirring up some sediment at the bottom of my brain, down deep where those weird-ass flat fish live. The grey rubbery ones with both eyes on the same side of their heads. You don’t want to mess with those bastards — they have sharp teeth.
But I have years of experience in wrangling the f–kers, so I’m going to poke a stick down there and see what comes up. Not a response, but a riff. This may well be more than you care to know about me, and if so, just skip it.
I remember, unclearly, the first two of the many deaths that have molded what’s left of my small family. One night when I was about 4 years old, I think, and sleeping the sleep of the just and the play-exhausted, I heard a commotion downstairs. It was, by my reckoning, the middle of the night, but that could easily have been anytime from 9 pm to 5 am. I had been awakened from a dream in which my father had carried me down to the landing that was about a third of the way from the top, and told me that I would need to take care of my mother. I remember it as a pleasant dream, and, if a little distressing, not as much frightening as it was confusing. The noise downstairs escalated quickly from whispers and murmuring voices to sobs and wails. I snuck down to the landing on which I’d been sitting moments before in my dream and peeked through the railings. There was a policeman, and my mother’s sister and her husband, my uncle. There’d been an accident. Drinking was involved. Fallen asleep at the wheel. He didn’t make it. I don’t recall anything after that, for quite a long time.
I remember much more clearly, two or three years later, the next accident. My mother had remarried. She’d accepted the proposal of one of my father’s coworkers at the TH&B Railroad. If I struggle, I can remember the new bicycle sitting on the porch on the morning of my birthday that year, and how I overheard much later that it had been a deciding factor in her decision. My new step-father had moved the family out west, in a bid to shake off the oppressive presence of his own family, most of whom he disliked, for his own reasons. We’d ended up in a small northern town in British Columbia, and although the streets saw race-related violence between native indians, Pakistani immigrants, and Euros, and the first winter brought 6 or 7 metres of snow — more than I’d ever dreamt of, let alone seen — and the water smelled rotten-egg funny, it was a clean and beautiful place. My new dad had bought a riverboat, which we kept at a marina on the river, and took out onto the lake on weekends, to fish and just wander around looking at things. I have happy sunburnt memories of cruising along on glass-flat dark water, trailing a hand alongside, just smelling the air, watching the wall of spruce and pine trees wind by.
We all wore lifejackets, conscientiously. We took as much care as people did back in the early ’70s, which wasn’t nearly enough. One late summer afternoon, when we were returning from a day on the water, we were moving our gear along the floating dock, back to the truck. My stepfather was ashore, I was nearing the water’s edge, my mother a few metres behind me, and my brother, who was a couple of years younger than I, was just getting out of the boat, carrying a fishing pole. He’d taken off his lifejacket, and nobody’d noticed. God knows why.
I heard a splash, and turned to see the circle of disturbed water sliding downstream in the strong current. My mother let out a bellow, ran, and dived in. My father raced past me, and I followed, pelting up the dock to where my mother had dived into the river. We pulled her out. The current was too strong.
The next thing I remember is a couple of teenage girls comforting me as I leant against the back of the truck, hoarsely screaming ‘someone help my brother!’, and the next thing after that was a numb, silent ride to the hospital.
We spent weeks, months, riding up and down the river, searching for my brother, with various people from the town who took us under their wings. They never did find the body.
Other people in my family have died over the years – all my grandparents, great-aunts and uncles and so on. My stepfather too, a decade ago now, almost.
This is probably the first time I’ve written about those times, that I can recall, although I’ve told the stories many times since they first came rushing back when I was in my early twenties. The deaths in my family, coming for the most part as they did early in my life, may have given me a slightly different perspective on it than some. Although I love life, with a great, chest-thumping passion, I am… matter-of-fact about dying. I understand the grief and loss that people feel, but I simply can’t get terribly worked up over it, anymore. This comes not from being hard-hearted, as some have assumed over the years — old friends will attest that I’m nothing if not self-indulgently sentimental — but from a baked-in awareness, not so much burned into my brain as sewn into my gut, that death is at the end of the road for all of us, each and every one, and what is, is good.
I’ve tried to live as many lives as possible in the time allotted to me, however long that time may be, and I think this awareness of an End is one of the things that has driven me out onto the Road most of my adult life.
To regard the death of those you know and love as a natural thing, to turn the painful experience of their loss into something that enriches and strengthens your own life (because, face it, they ain’t got one anymore) – that’s the mostly truly reverant eulogy and memorial one can make. Which is trite, perhaps, but people seem to forget it, again and again.
Have a yen for some public defecation, coprophagia, bestiality, and a peppy soundtrack? The wonderchicken is happy to comply. Is it the latest from stileproject or one of the other net.cesspools? Nope, it’s a new Korean flash cartoon – cute, but somewhat disturbing. (Warning : don’t go there if you’re easily offended.) I think it’s kind of amusing, in a twisted way, but then I’m evil incarnate, me. Almost as much poop-oriented fun as this good old standby : Chil-la – The Ass Shooter Game (which I originally marvelled at here.)
The mind would boggle if it weren’t taking a year off.
That is odd, isn’t it? comments.
In a monoculture, it’s difficult to blend in when you look different. In Korea, if you look different and have the additional bad luck of not looking like a businessman or an English teacher, the chances are good that youâll be either ostracized or ignored. Koreans are proud of their ethnically homogeneous society, and the outsider is generally tolerated as a necessary evil, or viewed with mixed amusement and pity that they were not born Korean. Suspicion of the foreigner, and sometimes outright racism, for cultural and historical reasons, are deeply ingrained, and even respectable publications are sometimes to blame for perpetuating negative stereotypes, doing things like referring to a Muslim missionary as a âbright-eyed chimp of a man.â In this strictly Confucian society, there is no real tradition of respect for the factory worker, the âheroic proletariatâ. And in the post-9/11 world, sadly, there is a deep suspicion of Muslim people. The convergence of these facts makes for a grim existence for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Korea, many of whom are Islamic.
For the illegal foreign workers of Korea in particular, the situation is often one of desperation and a deep, angry sense of alienation. They come to Korea in hopes that they can make more money, any money, to send back home to their families, and sometimes, if they’re lucky, they can. But the life is a hard one, with 12-18 hour days on a 7 day basis, hazardous and toxic workplaces, substandard housing, dishonest employers, and nonexistent safety regulation, in many cases.
According to the Korean Ministry of Justice, there were 217,690 migrant workers in Korea as of January 2000. Of these, 138,049 were âundocumented workersâ who were brought in as technical trainees, but later overstayed their contract periods.
The Industrial Technical Trainee Program was introduced in 1991, with the ostensible goal of providing visas to foreigners employed by the overseas subsidiaries of Korean companies. Migrant workers began to arrive soon thereafter. The program was created to allow the chaebols, the enormous conglomerates that loom over the Korean economy and colour every deal, like Samsung, Daewoo and LG, to bring in employees from overseas branches to receive training. Very quickly, though, the program became a way for small- and medium-sized businesses to import cheap labour. The program also helped circumvent backlash against perceived opening of the domestic labor market to foreigners, always a touchy subject in Korea. At the time, Pusan, the second biggest city in Korea, was fading in its importance as the âsneaker capital of the worldâ, at least in terms of fabrication, with thousands of jobs being moved to Nike and Reebok production facilities in places where the average wage was even lower, like China or the Philippines. Most Koreans would not take low-paying factory jobs, given a choice, and some source of labour was required.
Small and medium-sized business lobbied the government to allow them access to cheap foreign labour, mostly from China and Southeast Asian countries. In 1993, the Korea Federation of Small Businesses (KFSB) was given the authority to operate a revised ”trainee” program to bring in unskilled migrant workers in order to ease the shortage of manpower in the 3-D industries (dirty, difficult, dangerous).
There are, by the best estimates of the government, more than 220,000 people of the Muslim faith residing in South Korea. An estimated 200,000 of those are foreign, and a significant proportion of those people are working illegally. They come from all over Southeast and Central Asia. They belong to invisible communities which are largely ignored and shunned by mainstream society, making pittances to send home to their families and living in constant fear of deportation. Every morning I walk through a factory district to the University where I teach, and see groups of these folks on their way to work. Their story is one of the myriad untold stories about this country.
Most Koreans are unwilling to take what are called the ‘3-D jobs.’ As a result, factory work often falls to the poorest Koreans, or to legal or illegal migrant workers. Factory owners are happy to employ non-Koreans, both because itâs standard practice to pay those migrants considerably less, and because they have little to no legal rights under Korean law. Human rights activists deplore the ”glaring cases of human rights abuses” against these foreign workers and lobby the government to stop turning a blind eye to their treatment, and although things are changing, itâs a very slow process.
According to the Korea Herald, there have been 809 cases of human rights abuses directed against migrant workers in Korea prosecuted in the past 20 months, including more than 450 cases of the deliberate withholding of wages, instances of withholding compensation for industrial accidents, and incidents of violent attack and sexual abuse. Of these cases, the prosecution has arrested 134 employers, while 675 more have been indicted without detention. (source: Korea Herald, November 12 2001). These few prosecutions come from a pool of 85,000 foreign worker complaints at 1,222 factories in Korea reporting unpaid wages for periods ranging between one month and three years, according to a report by the Joint Committee of Migrant Workers in Korea, as reported by the Asia Times .
The Asia Times goes on to describe a typical story of an illegal worker who has three months of wages unpaid, but says that he would not dare demand payment, for fear that his employer will simply report him to the nearest immigration office, and he will be summarily deported. His monthly wage is 340,000 won (US$269), but he actually receives only 152,000 won (US$120), because the balance is held by his boss as âguarantee moneyâ, should he disappear or be swept up in an immigration raid. The chance that he or any of the other workers in a similar situation will ever see their âguarantee moneyâ is effectively nil. The silence of workers put into this position is not surprising. Should they come to the attention of immigration authorities, they will be immediately deported, without seeing their money. In fact, periodic immigration sweeps of factory areas for illegal immigrants regularly result in deportations.
The outcry that came as a result of the backlash against people of Middle-Eastern descent in America and elsewhere after the events of September 11 2001 was, of course, justified. But while the lives of immigrants to America (or Canada, or Australia, or other âwesternâ countries) can certainly be difficult, and sometimes fraught with discrimination, it may be worth considering the desperate lives that are led by those, who for whatever reason, cannot make their way to more multicultural, tolerant nations, and must take what they can get.
I’m remembering tonight (after the requisite beer and the appropriate musical prodding) the first time I saw the Southern Cross, sitting in the cockpit of Elmo’s Fire, a kinda-stolen 71-foot sailboat, two in the morning off the Pacific coast of Mexico, the great chromed wheel in my hand, whales surfacing alongside with their comical wheezes and puffs, squid boats off on the horizon bearing spidery armatures of brilliant white lights pointed straight down into the water. Tight blue shadows, starlight like the light of day, but simpler and somehow cleaner. I remember how sanctified it felt to be out there on the quiet sea, sails luffing gently, sweating out the alcohol, wondering where the hell my life was going to take me, but certain that I’d remember that moment that my skipper pointed out the constellation to me, just above the horizon, for the rest of my life.
This memory doesn’t belong here, but I don’t know what the hell to do with it.