How'd That Happen?

There are some very smart things being said by some very smart bloggers around the neighbourhood, apparently spurred at least in part by one of my occasional, typically-crude brainfarts. This pleases me, even if I’m not too interested at the moment in going meta and joining the conversation. What my bloggerly friends have to say is a pleasure to read, and although I find myself agreeing for the most part with them, I ought to make it clear that I had nothing so erudite in mind when writing the post. Just singing my song, you know?
Anyway, some Deep Thoughts and Worthwhile from the completely unsh-tweasellike Tom, Steve, Jonathon, and AKMA. I love these guys – they make me look like I’m clever, when really I’m just voluble and profane and tediously honest.
[Edit : Add The Happy Tutor to the discussion…]

Ah, shucks

Tim Bishop makes me feel all woogly inside :

I discovered the wonderchicken 6 months or so ago […] He has one of the truly distinctive voices writing on the web today, sort of a cross between Hunter S Thompson when he still had brain cells and Arianna Huffington in her current left phase. Highly recommended for a daily read.

Now, this guy, I like. I dunno who the hell Arianna Huffington is, and I’m too drunk to bother googling her at the moment, but the oldstylee HST reference is high praise indeed, and if you cast your eyes to the left, you’ll see that this is just the sort of thing that I thrive on. Most Blogstars, they won’t admit their neediness and self-absorption, but me? Me, I’ll tell ya the truth.
No, really.


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the
starry dynamo in the machinery of night
I hate poetry.

6:15 PM

6:10 PM. First day back at work, mid-winter-break extra classes. About 4 hours after I finished my previous and only other class of the day. No students have appeared yet.
6:15 PM. I get a coffee and meander downstairs to the English office. “I haven’t got any students,” say I, already expecting something amusing. “How odd!”
6:20 PM. It is discovered that my 6-9 PM class doesn’t begin until Friday, a detail the existence of which no one had actually seen fit to inform me. This is Monday. Another fine and predictable day at Keystone Kops Korea University.

More perspective

North Korea has decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, invoking its legal right to do so.
The move increases international tension and the risk of Japan reconsidering its position on nuclear weapons.
But it is in line with the new approach to global security adopted by the Bush administration.
President George W Bush has either withdrawn from or expressed his opposition to implementing a number of key global arms control agreements.
These include:
•the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty;
•the Biological Weapons Convention;
•the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
•the process of strategic arms reductions with Russia.
The treaty signed with Russia – the Sort Treaty – is a treaty without content and has no operative provisions.
At the same time as withdrawing from these treaties, the Bush administration initially withdrew from the political process with North Korea designed by former President Bill Clinton, and which had rolled back but not entirely removed North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

[via OW]
It’s cliché already to invoke 1984 when talking about these worthless turdfellaters in Washington, but it’s hard not to do so these days.
Watching CNN from a hotel at Narita airport in Japan last week, I was amused by the response to their ‘question of the day’.
‘Which country poses the greatest threat to world peace?’ they asked, and invited phone calls and emails in response. Hours afterwards, the proportion of respondants nominating ‘The United States’ was still running around 70%, they told us, falling over each other in their efforts to tell us again that this result ‘did not necessarily reflect our opinions.’
f–k you, George. Your empire is a-gonna fall.

We're a Happy Family!

I was a little let down, as the taxi pushed through the rain into downtown Vancouver, at how little had changed. This feeling intensified over the next few days : other than a few new buildings scattered here and there, and a new colour scheme on the buses, it seemed to me as if nothing much had changed in Vancouver in the five years since I last set foot in the homeland. In fact, not much that I could see had changed in the 20 years since I first moved there as a thirst-bedeviled freshman.
After living in Korea, where the entire country reinvents itself every five years or so, and the one constant is change and ferment and fresh concrete flowering skyward fast as bamboo, it was a little disconcerting. I had never thought of Canada as…well, stodgy, until now.
But over the next couple of weeks there, I noticed that at least one significant thing had changed, other than the amount of grey hair on friends and family.

“And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your mortality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.”
-Brave New World

I had read that the drug companies were getting more aggressive with their carpet-bomb marketing in North America over the past few years. Read about the scattershot Ritalin-dosing of children, read about the emergence of the Prozac nation, read about the drug companies inventing ‘female sexual dysfunction’ in order to manufacture a market for more of their pills. But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that there wasn’t a single commercial break that I can recall on network TV over those couple of weeks that didn’t have at least one drug advertisement. When did heartburn become ‘acid reflux disease’? How many cold medicines do people actually need? ‘I love my Tylenol PM‘? How putrid is that? f–k you lady, why don’t you try loving your children instead (yelled I at the television screen, much to the long-suffering chagrin of my lady love). There were ads flogging drugs for conditions I haven’t even heard of, ads with happy grinning families running across manicured green parkland with their lassie-like dogs, free of the ravages of anal warts or whatever the hell had been plaguing them before Smithcline-Beecham showed up on the scene.
Now, I’m not one to claim, ever, that drugs in and of themselves are a bad thing. Better living through chemistry, say I. But I’ve always been more inclined to think that the body should be allowed to deal with minor illnesses on its own, and that drugs are better employed in the context of recreation than medication. Indefensible position perhaps, but I don’t really give a sh-t. Unless I’ve got Ex-lax™ to ease the way, of course!
I also have a strong tendency to think that the habit of medicating for every minor complaint is a sign of weakness, and creates and fosters weakness, and weakness is bad. Weakness in mind or body invites the triumph of evil men, evil deeds and thoughts. But that’s a whole other rant, perhaps.
So, anyway, unprepared as I was for the constant deafening barrage of druggy blandishments on the TV, I was substantially less prepared for the fact that half the f–king people I know are apparently now on SSRI’s : you know, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Prozac™ and Zoloft™ and Paxil™ and I don’t know what-all else. When did this happen? When did all these people decide that they couldn’t handle their lives anymore without being constantly medicated? Or when did their drug company whore-doctors convince them of it?

“All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.”
-Brave New World

Now, look, I know (based on extrapolation from what I’ve seen amongst friends and relatives recently) that probably half of the people reading this are on scrips for one of these drugs, too, and I don’t want to antagonize or insult unduly. There are, certainly, some people for whom these ‘miracle drugs’ (given us by the gods) are a means by which they can live a normal life, overcome the ravages of aberrant brain chemistry, fight clinical depression.
But I’ve got to think that there are way too many folks out there who are just too goddamn lazy and irresponsible to take responsibility for their own mental states, just like there are too many people who think of themselves as victims, who blame their parents or their spouse for their problems, who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, who don’t vote and then complain about the government they get (and so richly deserve), who drive an SUV because, hey, if I get into an accident, it’s the other guy who’ll get hurt, who dismiss concerns about environmental degradation with a wave of the hand and a demand for incontrovertible proof…
Sorry, I’m ranting again.
But hell, I’ve taken just about everything there is to take at one time or another, and I didn’t do it to escape, I did it to explore. Hooray for me, right? Well, sure, why the hell not? I reckon that if your life is bad enough that you have to stay perpetually medicated, you need to change your life, change your doctor, get off the SSRIs, and get the hell out of the house. Find some people to drink a beer (yes, I see the irony) with and dance in the rain on a beach somewhere. Find someone new to have sex with, if that’s your thing. Climb a mountain, sail a boat, or if you’re too fat or lazy or poor to do that, find someone who loves doing it, and ask them about it, and watch their eyes as they describe the joy it gives them, and find something that makes you feel that joy too. Something other than chemicals.
You know, unless you really are f–ked up. In which case, pop those puppies like gummy bears, I say.

Cloudy, Strong Chance of Rain

A number of friends and neighbours have expressed some concern about my proximity to the Bouffant Brigades across the DMZ, and asked me for my take on the latest developments here in Korealand™. I am happy to oblige.
First, some background, which tends to be glossed over by the shiny-toothed automata reading the news, and seems to be missed by most of the print media I’ve seen too, unsurprisingly.
In 1994, the Clinton administration established an “Agreed Framework” with the well-fed wackjobs in Pyongyang. One of the drivers of the agreement was the desire on the part of the Americans to prevent North Korea from operating a weapons-grade reactor. The Agreed Framework promised North Korea progress toward “full normalization of political and economic relations.” It also promised shipments of heavy fuel oil, and two light-water reactors by 2003 to replace the weapons-grade facility Pyongyang was to shut down.
Several months ago (November 14 2002), the Bush administration decided to punitively cut off fuel oil supplies in response to Kim Jong Il’s latest hijinks (admitting to a secret nuclear program), just as winter was approaching and famine looming again. This is significant because these fuel supplies were basically the only thing that America actually delivered on to fulfill their part of the 1994 agreement, and given the poverty of the country, the only way that any fuel could be had for electrical generation and so on. Ironic, actually, because it is fairly clear that, at least in part, the reason for the nuclear program in the first place was to generate electricity (and make filthy bombs to sell off and/or kill people with, of course). Construction on the promised lightwater reactors began in August of 2002, 8 years after the agreement, and 4 months before they were meant to begin operation.
Not only had America in fact ignored almost entirely their commitment to the requirements of the Agreed Framework, and eventually by the end of the Clinton administration delivered solely (and then partially) on their commitment to supply heavy fuel oil, but as soon as Bush and his cadre of demonic sh-tweasels took over, North Korea was declared part of the laughable “Axis of Evil.” How’s that for “full normalization of political and economic relations,” huh? It may be worth noting that during the last few years of the last decade, during the time we’re talking about, North Korea was experiencing a famine that killed, by some estimates, more than 10% of its population, or about 2 million people.
In fact, the Americans can’t really even claim with anything like a straight face (although they try, naturally, and get away with it) that the secret uranium-enrichment program revealed by Pyongyang a couple of months ago puts it in “material breach” of the 1994 agreement, anyway : uranium enrichment is one of the things simply not covered in the Agreed Framework.
This is typical of the bullsh-t-spinning that these lying scum engage in (on both sides of the fence, of course. The North Korean mouthpieces do it so badly that it’s more comedy than tragedy, though.) :

Q Is there something the North Koreans can do that would prompt the U.S. to sit down and talk, which seems to be a key for them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, keep in mind, the United States has long supported South Korea’s engagement with North Korea. When you take a look at what’s happened, nations like Japan were engaging — were beginning engagement with North Korea. And as a result of North Korea’s actions, Japan examined what it was doing and has decided to proceed at a different pace. So various nations continue to have various levels of discussion with North Korea.
I want to point out that even while there were many conversations — in North Korea, North Korea was still breaking its word. So I don’t think the issue is whether or not North Korea is being talked to or not talked to. The issue is North Korea breaking its word. They have broken the word of the people they talked to, and they’ve broken their word with the people they don’t talk to. The one constant is that North Korea breaks its word.
So from the American point of view, we very strongly support the efforts to discuss with North Korea, through our friends in South Korea and Japan; we always have. But the United States has made it clear that North Korea knows what it needs to do, and it needs to come back into international compliance, as the IAEA has urged them to do today in the strongest of terms.

The truth, as usual, is approxiately 180 degrees away from what is quoted above, for reasons I’ve discussed here at the ‘bottle many times before. What has been happening is what would seem to be a concerted effort by America, and particularly by the Arbusto Administration, to subvert and obstruct South Korea’s efforts towards productive engagement with the North. Not much wonder that the ‘sunshine policy’ of Kim Dae Jung has seen limited success in areas other than domestic.
The Bush administration’s policy of ‘tailored containment’, so remniscent of Reagan-era cold-war-speak (and not surprisingly given the array of Reaganite criminals and courtiers re-elevated to positions of power), displays a lack of any real understanding and responsiveness to the realities of the situation, and is counterproductive at best and a reckless endangerment of millions of lives at worst.
The wisdom of Kim Dae Jung’s sunshine policy, a strategy which the new president-elect Noh Moo Hyun (usually romanized as ‘Roh Moo Hyun’ for some reason) has pledged to continue, is more sensible given the context I describe above, I think, and is one which is supported by Japan, China and other states in the region. North Korea has always been responsive to chances for improved relations with the outside world, and its current attitude can be seen as defensive, and as with other bluffs and brinkmanship in the past intended primarily to bring America to the bargaining table.
Not to say that Kim Jong Il, the Stalinist Bouffant Butterball, is anything other than pure evil. But he’s not a madman. American media is always quick to demonize their so-called enemies : Saddam Hussein, of course, being only the latest in a long string of ‘madmen’ and ‘new Hitlers’. Kim JI is canny, and continues to respond with the only tools at his disposal – threats – to the posturing, lies, bad-faith negotiation and arrogance of the Americans.
This from the Guardian today echoes my point : “The North Korean nuclear standoff moved a step closer to a peaceful resolution yesterday as Pyongyang set a date for negotiations, amid reports that it was prepared to scrap its weapons programme in return for a security guarantee from the United States.”
There is a lot of talk recently, as well, about the idea of America pulling its 37,000 troops out of Korea. It’s difficult to say where they’d be withdrawn to : maybe they could share bunks with the 40,000 in Japan. The strong anti-American sentiment in South Korea in recent times, which I recently discussed here, has finally percolated through to North America, and of course the yanks are shocked and bemused. How could they hate us so? We’re the good guys, aren’t we?
It’s generally acknowledged that the 37,000 American troops here would make little to no difference were the North to invade again. The third largest standing army in the world – over 1,000,000-strong – is just across the DMZ. South Korea, with about 600,000 soldiers at any given time, a large segment of which is composed of university-age young men doing their two years of compulsory military service, would bear the brunt of any invasion. The reason that those troops are important is the psychological effect. The idea of those American soldiers being a tripwire of sorts is an outdated one : the US could just as effectively defend South Korea against attack from bases in Japan or even Hawaii. But to withdraw the troops, after 54 years, would raise questions about the role America wishes to play in Asia, how committed it is to maintaining stability, and make goverments in Beijing, Tokyo, Taipei and elsewhere very nervous indeed. It might even, given the apparent nuclear ambitions of Pyongyang, force Japan to ‘go nuclear.’ The role of the 37,000 American troops in Korea is mainly symbolic, and both the Koreans and the Americans calling recently for their withdrawal are swayed too much by emotion and too little by the ravages of intelligence to consider what the consequences of a withdrawal might be.
It’s generally accepted that North Korea already has one or possible two nuclear weapons, and they clearly have the technology to deliver them. Seoul is about 55 km south of the DMZ, and I live about 30 km south of downtown Seoul. I recently asked my wife if she knew what to do if she were to see a sudden bright flash in the sky outside our kitchen window, which looks north : drop, stay away from the windows, move to the bathroom at the center of the apartment, and wait for the shockwave and its backlash to pass.


My guess is that we’d probably survive an airburst, if it were to happen. But I don’t really think it’s going to, unless the criminals in Washington decide to turn their gun barrels this way after they raze Iraq (or are denied the opportunity to do so).
Related wonderchicken rantings : here, here, here and elsewhere.
Reading things like “North Korea Withdraws From Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” is not as scary, hopefully, when one is aware of the game being played. That said, one hopes that mom stops them before someone loses an eye.
Also : this. [via provenanceunkown]

The Same, But Different

Anger, denial … etcetera etcetera. What are the four stages one is meant to go through in dealing with tragedy, according to some pop-psych pantload or other? I can’t be bothered to look it up right now. Let’s just say “…inebriation and distraction” to round off the quartet, shall we?
For someone who has experienced, if not more than his fair share, then at least a not insignificant number of deaths in his small family over the years (father, brother, all the grandparents, step-father, and more, all before I was 25, for goodness sakes), the loss of my old friend Rick hit me much harder than I could have expected. In the decade or so since I’ve lost anyone really close, I’d come to think that I’d grown blasé about dying. Apparently I was wrong.
Going back to Canada for the first time in 5 years over the past few weeks, though, wandering around British Columbia, seeing old friends and what’s left of my close family, drinking a bit, listening to and telling old stories : this has been good. I have a lot of old letters and cards to reread, and a lot of memories to dust off and cherish, and I look forward to coming back to writing on this site with renewed enthusiasm and a richer sense of who I am and what I want. I’ve spent far too long running from my past, glorious and madcap as much of it has been, and I’m beginning to realize that I am an imitation of a man without it.
I mildly regret announcing a month or two back, when I put this site on hiatus, that I wanted to refocus it somehow, to use it to do some good in the world. That desire remains unchanged, but I’m aware now that it’s not the site that needs purpose, it’s me. And with that awareness will come, I hope, some decent writing, some worthwhile ranting, and a site that people will want to visit again.
And some more fart jokes, of course.
To friends old and new who only became aware of the ‘bottle during the tragedy in October : I’m returning to the catch-all journal-weblog format that is the normal thing ’round here. This site was not created specifically to honour Rick, it was pre-empted, and although the tributes and laments will remain, here, it is time for me to move on. I hope you’ll understand.