It was the best of wonderchicken, it was the worst of wonderchicken

So my big news this week is that I’ve been asked for permission to allow some of my writing here to be published in a book that is intended to gather ‘the best of writing on the web,’ to be released this summer by a publishing house in New York.
Back in 2001, I started writing this weblog for a few different reasons, and over the years, those reasons haven’t really changed, although I have discovered some new ones that keep me going. My life was going through one of its periodic upheavals, the transplantations I seem to need periodically to help me thrive, when I uproot and fling myself (and this time my wife) and my meager collection of possessions halfway around the planet again, and I thought it would be fun to write about it in a journal that I wouldn’t end up losing in the shuffle, like I have so many others.
My memory is spotty at the best of times, and (I’m not sure if it was Cory Doctorow or someone else who coined the phrase, but to them I offer thanks) I really liked the idea of having an outboard brain, a kind of inverse memory hole that I could dip into to help me recall who I was and what I was thinking in bygone days, when I looked back from some far-future vantage point.
I also love to write, plain and simple, and though I’ve never studied writing in any other way than the tattered-and-wine-spattered-paperback-in-a-hovel romantic way of youth, people kept telling me that I was some kinda kick-ass…. word putting down guy. Me write pretty someday. So I thought that if I wrote in public (although my ‘public’ was pretty thin on the ground for the first while), it might be a way to keep me honest, keep me writing every day, and through sheer practice, that I might become better at it. I think I am a better writer after almost 3 years of this stuff, when I make an effort, so mission accomplished there. Although one of my great failings as a writer and a man is that I don’t often make much of an effort. Ah well.
As many who read my stuff regularly know, I’ve been travelling around the planet for about 15 years now, and writing about it, when the mood struck me. My semi-secret dream has always always been to make a living from doing so — travelling, writing, meeting people and drinking their odd, skull-cracking native beverages, writing about that, and moving on, weaving a bit — but, as has been my habit since I was a kid, I never really did much about the dream, hoping that somehow I’d just be discovered. Bad habit, and one I’ve tried to break many times. Comes down to ‘an external locus of control as a result of childhood bereavement,’ the literature told me, back 20 years ago when I was trying to figure out why I was such a lunatic, but that’s neither here nor there, perhaps.
It seems now that I have been discovered, and in a way that might, if I’m both lucky and determined, help me to realize the dreams I’ve always had about writing — not fame, or much fortune, or even the cocaine and hookers so much, but just a dream of being free to wander and write about that, to read and think and drink and write about that, and to make enough money from it to live, and continue. Or it might not. Either way, I’m thrilled.
Others have ‘discovered’ me too, over the past few years, and helped me and encouraged me, or pointed to me and praised my work (or called me an idiot in a comment thread and roused me to rages as eloquent as I could muster), and I don’t think this book offer would have come about if it hadn’t been for those people. You know who you are, and there are many of you, and I thank you all. You are one of those ‘other reasons’ that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, reasons that I love this and will keep doing it.
So the book will be published in a couple of months, and I hope that everyone will buy at least five copies for themselves, and a few more besides for their grannies and orthodontists and paperboys and so on. It will, I think, be a book well worth the buying and the reading, and should occupy a place of pride on the toilet tank of the best homes in America. I say this not because I’m going to have some stuff in it, but because of the superb work of the terrifyingly talented other writers alongside which my paltry scribblings will stand. The list is impressive, and I will share, when it is finalized. It stands now at 26 writers, I believe.
Have I finally become an A-lister? Hell, I don’t know. Not even sure what that means anymore. Am I starry-eyed, dazzled by the glare of the spotlight from Old Media that has swung my way? Sure as sh-t, I am. Am I overly enthused because I’m actually going to be included in a book that includes the word ‘Best’ in the title? Yeah, probably. But I am aware that many of the people I consider my virtual friends in the weblogging community have several (or many!) books already out there, without sharing author credit with 25 other writers.
Still, this is a big moment for me. I’m having a Sally Field moment, and I am still uncynical enough to hope that it might be one of those Big Moments in my life, like the one almost 3 years ago that started me doing this in the first place.
This is where you come in, friends and neighbours. Although an editorial board (including the publisher himself, an editor from the New York Times, a Yale professor and New Yorker contributing editor, a Time Magazine columnist and a best-selling fiction author) have already read and thumbs-upped a few pieces from each of the authors selected for the book, and a group of three readers will apparently be going through my archives (and those of the others who will be contributing) mining for gold, I’ve been asked to submit a list of 5 or 10 pieces that I consider to be my best. A number of pieces out of the union of the resultant lists will then be selected for inclusion in the book.
I hoiked out some of my faves a while back, and whacked them into a new ‘Uncrappy‘ archive list, which includes some of my personal favorites, but I find that what I think of as my ‘best’ is frequently different from what you folks think. I thought that Typepad bit a couple of days ago was Comedy Gold, for example, but it garnered little more than a collective ‘huh’ from you, the Readers. Go figure.
So, I ask you a favour, friends. If you have a favorite or favorites amongst the bits I’ve written over the past couple of years, then I’d be forever in your debt if you’d consider whacking a link (or just a description, if you can’t be bothered searching) in the comments thread attached to this post. Whether from my ‘Uncrappy’ best-of list, or not, could you tell me what your favorite bits of wonderchickensian blather are?
Then, when you give a copy of the book to your garbageman, you can point to one of my pieces and say with pride (or shame, your call) “I picked that one!”
Many thanks.
Update : Here’s the lineup for the book. In fine company, am I. Hoping I don’t look like a rube by comparison, am I. Stop talking like Yoda, must I.

The Other Friday 5 Part 3 : The Bottle Strikes Back

Yes, friends, I’ve actually done something I said I was going to do, and on time as well. It’s the dawning of a new era, I tell you, and nothing on God’s green earth can stop me now! I’m bristling with barely contained power, the sparks are fair flying off me — his floating eyes, his flashing hair! — and the very earth beneath my feet trembles and groans and heaves in fast thick pants. Dearly beloved, it’s time once again to unleash the chthonic power of this internet, and reveal unto you : The Other Friday Five. These are things I like, and I am showing them to you.

Share and Enjoy.


Went for a wee walkabout with an automotively-blessed buddy on the weekend, and took a few pictures. Here are my favorites from a pretty average bunch. Line on the left, one cross each.


Type, Type Everywhere

Although I’m not really too exercised about it one way or the other, I tend to think more along the lines of Mark than Shelley on this whole TypeKey furor. I must admit TypeKey seems a little like using a hammer to turn a screw to me, but we shall see.
In the meantime, though, I have taken it upon myself offer some more superterrific BumpyCase product enhancements for Six Apart to continue building out their weblogging product line. It is with great pleasure that I submit these modest proposals to leverage the brand, exploit synergies, capture market share and monetarize conversation. TypePad and TypeKey are only the beginning! We have nothing to lose but our privacy!

  • TypeVote – More accurate than Diebold (MS Access backend optional), and totally free from hanging chads! If you’re a voter, get yourself a TypeVote weblog, and really make an Emergent Democracy©™ difference! One blog, one vote!
  • TypeShop – Route all your monetary transactions through your blog! Blog about that sandwich you had for lunch, and ask your grocery store to subscribe to your RSS (Really Simple Shopping) feed, and leave that shopping list at home. Get people to buy diapers for you! The possibilities are limitless!
  • TypeONegative Cluetrain Item #3172: Healthcare providers are conversations! Or goth metal bands, maybe.
  • Still fleshing this one out.

  • TypePod – You’re not an A-lister until you have an iPod, and what better way to build brand synergy and leverage the design-fetishizing metrosexual music pirate demographic?
  • TyppelGanger – Buy out the drunkmenworkhere autogenerated weblogging technology and let the code write you into existence. No need to do it yourself anymore! That’s so 2001!
  • TypeFire – Hit a button, generate a comments-thread flame. Why waste valuable mental CPU cycles trying to come up with another way to say ‘You’re a donkey-raping sh-tweasel’ in yet another post that includes political commentary with which you disagree? TypeFire will reduce your fifteen-minute-nemesis to charcoal at the click of a button, and get those valuable clickthroughs happening too!
  • TypeAzon – Plug your weblog and yourself straight into the bookflogging mainline! Webloggers read books, right? Well, Google is already useless for finding anything other than Amazon-affiliate clicksinks when you’re looking for information on books, and shifting units is what it’s all about, kids, so why not jump into the moneypool?
  • PadThaipe – Damn, that Thai food is yummy.
  • TypeUp – Want to hold a pomo-moblog-emergent-market-journospam-osphere conference and maybe soak the blogrubes for a few simoleons while you’re at it? A TypePad/MeetUp mashup is the ticket for inviting people who are guaranteed to breathlessly validate your wildest techo-utopian blather!
  • TypeZilla – Serving no other purpose than to piss off IP Lawyers Who Don’t Get It yet. Lessig-approved and somehow licensed under Creative Commons, so it’s got that street-cred every hip weblogger so craves.
  • TypePoint – Taking a page from Microsoft, throw together some leftover code and half-baked ideas and call it a Knowledge Management system. Or portal. Or workgroup document storage. Or something. Hell, we don’t quite know what it does, but it stresses the server something fierce, so it must be good, right?
  • TypeSpam – Hey kids! You know those other webloggers got them some dollars, right? The internet’s awash with disposable income! Use TypeSpam to generate targeted-demographic, GeoURL-enabled, realtime book-sales monitoring, results-oriented weblog comment-thread advertisements for your online drugstore! It’s viral, it’s centrally managed, it’s smartly styled, and it’ll get your Googlejuice flowing!

Kombinat is just the beginning, my friends. This is not your father’s blogosphere.
Now put me on the payroll, already.

Blog Korea, Blog!

Although I have long since stopped talking about Korea much here at the ‘bottle, except when something smacks me upside the head, an active and vibrant community of Korean webloggers (mostly expats or ex-expats, writing mostly in English, but including some Korean folks and the occasional surge of multilingualism) has sprung up. I haven’t been following any of them until recently, except for the occasional Friday night beer-fueled drive-by-commenting, but my newfound appreciation of aggregation inside Bloglines has got me out there reading them, finally.
Although there are some talented, insightful writers out there in K-land, and many who certainly know more about Korea than I do, the Korean Kluster is probably the most insular, self-regarding echo chamber I’ve ever seen in weblogging (other than perhaps the warblogger circlejerk that reached its zenith between 911 and the beginning of the Iraq Mistake, with whom some of the KK’s netizens share their political leanings), and if you’re careful you can get dizzy following the logrolling in ever-tightening circles. Don’t step in the blog-jizz! This is one of the reasons I eased myself out of posting about Korea all the time, back a year or two ago — I didn’t want to be perceived as a one-note writer, and the fact that I live in Korea is merely an accident of geography and economics and matters of the heart, not the overriding central fact of my existence. And to be honest, the vast majority of waeguk-in (foreigners) I meet in Korea are damaged, ranting weirdos, with whom I’m happy to have minimal interaction.
Than again, that’s what people say about me, too. In a nice way, of course.
The other reason that I’ve had little to say about the Land of The Morning Traffic is that I’ve found myself a job and a place to live that is extremely pleasant and comfortable, and I’m happier than a pig in sh-t, as they say back in the homeland. I simply can’t get charged up for a good rant, when most of the things I’ve been distressed, annoyed, or astonished by here are not things I actually experience any more, here on my corporate Fantasy Island, and hell, I’ve already complained about them enough anyway.
But as I was doing my thrice weekly workout today, sweating it out on the treadmill, hooked up to the headphones and watching BBC World on the TV conveniently mounted at eye level in front of me, I heard such thuddingly inept analysis of the current impeachment debacle from one of the talking heads on Asia Business Report that I found myself talking back to the monitor. In ungracious tones. Unquietly. Which drew some sidelong glances from the other treadmillers, not surprisingly. See also : damaged, ranting weirdos.
This guy — a kid really (damn kids today, working for merchant banks and appearing on TV!) — has appeared on Rico’s show (whatever happened to that dropdead gorgeous woman they had anchoring the show last year? I miss her) before, but had never been tapped to speak about Korea. It was clear why he hadn’t.
I won’t go into details of how laughably far off-base his ‘analysis’ was, but it inspired me to write up a little primer on the last 20 years or so of Korean politics and why we are where we are today, whether you want it or not. Most of the people who read this site do not do so because they’re in search of anecdotes about life in Korea, I’m sure, but I love this place, and I resent it as much as any Korean does when the reality of what is happening here is totally lost by some dipsh-t on TV who gets his information from USA Today.
Stay tuned for an Impeachment Primer, coming to an empty bottle near you, as soon as I bloody well get around to it.
In the meantime, here’re some links to some of the Korean blogs out there that I’ve noticed of late. I missed the Other Friday Five last week, so this can be my atonement. I’m still accumulating a roster of KK reads, so I have no doubt missed some good ones, but since them fellas tend to ink to each other so incestuously, you shouldn’t have much of a problem blogroll-surfing around to find more. If anyone has any suggestions that I should add to my rounds, feel free to add them in the comments thread.
Share and enjoy.

Trunkless Legs of Stone

You know, I think I just figured out the insidious† plan behind RSS and all that other alphabet soup feedy XMLy stuff!
(I know it’s not insidious. Cut me some slack, already.)
Remember when I took Dave Winer to task for — among other things — being saucy enough to say ‘weblogs are publications,’ thus discounting the possibility that they might be anything else? No? You might remember me saying ‘weblogs are punk’, though. The problem there, of course, is that I never actually said that. Ah well, onward and forward.
Well, I’ve been using Bloglines lately, mostly to stealth-read a metric assload of weblogs at work that I might not otherwise get away with — or have time for — reading. This is all to the good, although it is always mildly enervating and ego-shrivelling to see how many incredibly talented, passionate people there are out there, and look upon one’s own works without trembling. You know, those vast, trunkless legs of stone. Still, a bit of self-abnegation makes you stronger, right? What doesn’t blog me makes me blogger.
Anyway, I realized out of nowhere while reading this post from Yule Heibel that by reading an aggregation of posts from all over the web, I was reading a publication of sorts, a dynamically-created, ever changing one, and I all of a sudden figured out what Dave was on about, maybe, and realized that from that perspective, the ‘publication’ thing made some sense (even if excluding other ways of thinking is still not on). I think I got an inkling of what Shelley was pushing back against recently too, in terms of the implicit impetus, if not requirement, to strip her photos from her feed, even if they were integral to what she was trying to get across.
See, there was a discussion around the old neighbourhood a year or two back about whether the blogosphere (yeah, yeah, I know you hate that word — shut the f–k up about it already, will you?) can be fruitfully described as a space, and if so, how. My contribution was to offer that I felt it very much to be a space — you know, metaphorically speakin’ and all — and the kind of space I felt it to be most like was the sea.
I said :

Sites. Like websites, geddit? (Didn’t telegraph that much, did I?) So, connecting the dots, I’m calling the net the ocean. Big-ass sites like Metafilter or Yahoo are ports, smaller ones are anchorages, bloggers are sailboats, and their web logs are their ship’s logs. We meet, raft up, party down, separate and go on our merry wandering ways. We record where we’ve been. We talk about what those places have meant to us. There are living things swimming around down there, deep in the darkness. There are the IP plankton packets that are the very lifeblood of the sea. A whole ecosystem down there. There are submarines and sailboats, there are ocean liners skirting the Tropic of Cancer, there are freighters plying the trade routes, planes occasionally passing overhead, and the odd dot-com Titanic, lying in pieces on the ocean floor far beneath, slowly decomposing.

And so I realized that reading the weblogs of my friends (and other animals) in an aggregator like Bloglines, convenient as it may be, totally trashed that metaphor for me, even as I understood more clearly that the metaphors others may choose to use to get their heads around it all, even if different, may have some oomph to them too, once I see where they’re coming from.
Not that that was in doubt, but it’s always the experience of the light spontaneously going on that really gets something stuck into your head.
I’ll keep using Bloglines, because it’s useful. But for me, this is a journey, and I’ll probably continue to think of it like this : if we meet on the open sea, or in port, and you throw me a line, or I you, we can raft up, cook a meal, empty a bottle or two, spin a few yarns, and then sail off on our compassless ways again. Column inches? Each to their own, of course, but that just doesn’t do it for me.


If you’ve landed in the ‘bottle looking for some invective-laced wonderchicken perspective on the impeachment of Noh Moo Hyun here in Korea today, well, you’re outta luck, my friends. At least for the moment.
I will opine that the sh-t is quite possibly going to hit the fan, though. Will it be a tipping point, where the resentment and anger at how badly this country is governed by the wrinkly old chaebol rent-boys finally spills out of the confucian cup? I don’t know, and I’ve got beer to drink, but in the meantime you could do a lot worse than going here.

Next question becomes how at such a time of great national distress and instability could the country possibly endure an Assembly election? Shouldn’t the save-the-fatherland conservatives see to it that it is canceled in the interest of “stability” and “economic growth” and “national defense,” just like they said whenever they used tanks to do the same thing? (Remember that the GNP is the direct patrilineal descendent of the Democratic Justice Party (Min jeong dang) of Chun Doo Hwan, several sneaky transformations in the past.)
It all makes you wonder.
More people are going to be in the streets for political protest than at any time since the June Struggle of 1986. Maybe that’s the whole idea. “How do you hold an election with such chaos?”


The decorous glory of Korean democracy. Or, you know, not.

The Other Friday Five #2 : Electric Boogaloo

Yes, I actually remembered something from one week to the next, it’s Friday in Korea, and so it’s time for another pulse-pounding, axle-snapping, gear-grinding installment of the Other Friday Five. So here are some personal websites of which you may or many not be aware, but you should be, by golly, if you’re not. A mixed bag this time, with a little something for everyone. Line on the left, one cross each.

Share and Enjoy.
Bonus link : All this blog-reading I’ve been able to do lately has been entirely thanks to the most excellent Bloglines. I never thought I’d be an aggregator user (and I wish there were some way to tell how many people are reading my feeds), but I am now a convert. Hoopla!
[Postscript : it would make my world that much closer to perfect if everyone would be more free with their content, and include full text of their posts in their feeds, rather than a parsimonious little excerpt. There’s probably some good reason not to, but I don’t know what it is. Pretty please?]