Thursday, June 30, 2005

spam i am

$2.49 per can. Bestill my heart. Just when I thought I had irrevocably left behind spam gift packages and spam displays by crossing the Pacific, Koreatown brings the homeland closer. And did you people know spam comes in so many flavors?! Take me now or lose me forever!

Note how carefully she is looking for the right can of spam. This begs the question, is there a wrong can?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

i heart taebo

For the past week I've thrown myself enthusiastically, if not a bit naively, into the dark underbelly of mainstream LA life which involves a lot of spandex and intimacy with a floor that reeks like a men's locker room. These are the sacrifices that have to be made if I am to be reshaped into a sleeker, faster, and harder version of myself by none other than fitness guru Billy Blanks himself, the creator of Taebo and some recent Bootcamp training video he's been shamelessly promoting on cable TV. Billy Blanks, for those of you who have been living under a stone these past years, is a fitness god. Not only is his body cut from a block of marble, but all the instructors who teach here are built like machines with muscle definition that puts Michelangelo's David to shame. Is it not human of me then to be all aflutter when Billy compliments me on my high kick? I was so overwhelmed by the sea of scantily clad bodies that at one point, I found myself unconsciously taking count of how many women in the room had breast implants. This is I repeat, LA. It was approximately 40%. The scientific test of this was that if they ain't moving from the gravitational forces of a jumping roundhouse kick then they sure ain't real.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Kekekeke. Breaking news! Koreans are making headlines again. Park Myung-hwan, a pitcher for the Doosan Bears, rattled the sports industry the world over when his personal cooling unit cabbage leaf fell out of his cap during a game. It's pretty endearing that while American baseball players get caught for corking bats and doing steroids, the worst Koreans can do is stuff some frozen vegetable on their heads. And cabbage, so innocuous. Maybe he would have gotten ejected if it were more badass, like chilli pepper or seaweed. I love how the committee ruled that cabbage leaves will only be permitted now with a doctor's note in advance. Despite these shenanigans, he still won the game 4 - 2. (Picture lifted from somewhere else.)

Friday, June 24, 2005

breakfast at gehry's

The Gehry building in downtown LA (a.k.a. Disney Concert Hall) was at long last sandblasted at the behest of nearby residents who had the nerve to complain of searing temperatures and temporary blindness from its reflective surfaces. The myopic bastards. Now the surfaces of the building have a brushed aluminum texture like that of a well-driven Delorean and has lost the razzle dazzle of polished steel. There's nary a mirrored surface in sight. While it is still beautiful, it's hard not to feel a sense of loss over the senseless degradation of something so artistically bold and, well... shiny.

The insufferable philistines live here.

And would rather wake up in the mornings to this.

Than to a shinier this. On a more inspirational note, Frank Gehry is working on building his ‘dream house’ in nearby Venice beach. While it appears to still be in it's planning stages, I can’t wait to see what this could possibly look like. I think I may have to be its first stalker. If houses can be stalked that is. (And yes, I'm still jetlagged if anyone's wondering...)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

jetlag is for lovers

The first impulse when people travel is to overcome jetlag as soon as they arrive. Such an uninspired idea is probably the work of the same people who use hand sanitizers and blood pressure monitors. To hell with all that. Having jetlag is like being given new eyes. How often can you enjoy the quiet solitude of dawn without feeling drugged by sleep. Everything is so fresh, so crisp and unfamiliar. This feeling should be embraced and treasured. We should close our curtains against the harsh afternoon light to sleep in the day and to rise again long before the sun.

The beach beckons.

Bridging time.

Candy houses.

Tracks of Southern Californian wildlife.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing each to each.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

a grace lee thang

To all the peeps in the LA area. Get out your red carpet shoes and your darkest shades. If you have the werewithal to haul your sunkissed asses over to the LA Film Festival, tonight is featuring Grace Lee's most recent documentary titled, what else but "The Grace Lee Project". If I hadn't been sleeping for the past 24 hours recovering from jetlag, I would have posted this sooner, coz the last showing is tonight at 9:30! If you don't have tickets like me, sucks to be you. Grace Lee is going to be a big, big directer! Her next film features Sandra Oh! She just makes me want to toss exclamations around like they're going out of style! I starred in her first film (cough-student-project) which should tell you enough about her astronomical and intergalactic trajectory to make you want to follow her career very closely. See more about her work here.

Variety Review By DENNIS HARVEY
Delightful docu "The Grace Lee Project" chronicles the eponymous helmer's quest to discover why so many Asian-American women share her name -- and whether they really embody the boringly "nice" racial stereotype she herself has always loathed. Trivial-sounding hook manages to float a funny but complex meditation on identity, ethnicity and cultural expectations that should be as accessible to teens as adults. Programmers for general as well as Asian-focused fests should take a look; ditto broadcasters and educators.

Without revealing much of her own history, Lee makes it clear she's always been annoyed/intimidated by the existence of so many other G.L.'s. (Prenom is particularly popular in Chinese and Korean-American communities for its associations with both Christianity and all-time WASP goddess Grace Kelly.)

Interviewing various strangers who once knew a Grace Lee, she finds their recollections all too often fit a pattern: The generic Grace is gentle, sweet, a study freak, quiet, liked by all -- and then forgotten by all. In short, a walking cliche of model minority politeness and passivity. Helmer has always felt the pressure to be like these "Super-Asian perfect people." Setting up a Web site to access other G.L.'s, she's deluged by name-alikes worldwide, but particularly in California (there are 314 in Los Angeles alone). Those she tracks down include several of the dreaded all-around good girls, leaving her thrilled to discover one who nearly burned down her high school. (This reformed bad girl, however, declines to be interviewed.)

But other exceptions to the stereotype soon turn up. There's a Los Angeles car dealer with her own TV commercial and a TV news reporter in Hawaii, both likeable extroverts. A 14-year-old Silicon Valley girl is a multi-talented overachiever, but also a baby Goth who hand-crafts voodoo dolls of people who irk her.

Most impressive of all is an 88-year-old Detroit woman who dared an interracial marriage decades ago, becoming a major (and still-active) activist figure in the local African-American community despite her own different ethnicity.

Very cleverly packaged docu utilizes animation, wry graphics and other unexpected diversions to keep things hopping.

Monday, June 20, 2005

the implicating photo

Yes, it's all true. As I'm never to shy away from yet another opportunity to publicly embarrass myself, here's the picture of me chugging the beer. Guiness is for wimps. Ko-rea! Ko-rea!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

don't leave me this way

My last post from Seoul. And as all good things must come to an end, so must there be a rocking good party to mark this end. I was honored last night to have a farewell party thrown on my behalf, surrounded by good friends on a warm summer's night. Hose and Hijoo hosted this genteel affair where wine was consumed by the gallons, impromptu dances were performed to flutes and drums, and a good time had by all until the police came to break things up. Thank you to all my peeps for taking care of me while I was out here and for making this time so special. I really hate to go. Not just because of the balmy nights and good company but because now only a long lonely road stretches before me and the rest of this blog will be full of my bitching and moaning. You might as well stop reading from here on. But to prolong the great memories, here are some more pictures of my last hurrah.

Hijoo putting out and laying it down.

A bird's eye view of the debauchery.

One for the road. The infamous pojangmacha.

If memory serves me right, I fell off the stool right before I took this picture and cracked this woman up.

To sleep perchance to dream. Goodbye random drunk people. Goodbye subways. Goodbye crooked alleyways. Goodbye funny taxi drivers, endless construction, smokey bars, crowded streets, and cute boys with Bruce Lee hair. Goodbye sleepless city.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

an i.v. stat!

Koreans may eat their dogs, but they love their trees.

infinity and beyond

It's hard to believe but I've really gotten attached to the public transportation system. I spend more time there than in my own bed. Will there be a time when I forget that strange tweedledee when we pull into the stop? Will I be nostalgic for that pungent mix of garlic, sweat and soju? If I was ever to be pinched on the ass it would have happened the other night on a crowded ride home, but it didn't, so that will be a frontier I have yet to cross. Just another reason to come back.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

mountain air

Photos taken from Yangsuri area in Kyonggi Province. It is known for its rice and progressive intellectuals. Coincidence?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

man eat dog

Dinner anyone? Okay. The last thing I want to do is make Korean people look like a bunch of savages. But the fact is that I'm Korean and as savage as they get, at least in terms of my gastronomic interests. Well, until now. I'm proud to say that I draw the line somewhere and that somewhere is right here. I hope these puppies were destined for some quick death rather than suffer at the hands of whatever monster put them here. I walked past the dogs around one in the afternoon and they were still like this at four, on a brutally hot day. And before you get all PETA on my ass and shit, I tried to find someone who knew anything about this mini-Gitmo but no one seemed to know how they got here. Now I'm thinking I should have let them run free.

Monday, June 13, 2005

flush once for yes

Every now and again I get the bejeezus scared out of me by the loudspeaker system that is invisibly integrated into the apartment that I'm staying in. Like today, I was sipping a cup of coffee, catching up on my emails, when blasting from the walls was a disembodied female voice making announcements out of nowhere. I had to peel myself off the ceiling. Later as I was sitting on the loo minding my own business the phone began ringing right behind my ear from a speaker in the wall. Someone set me up the bomb. Do I pick up? Speaking on the toilet must be one of the most uncivil acts made possible by modern technology. Are we now at a place where such indiscretions are socially permissable? Or am I just being overly squeamish about friends dropping bombs in the bathroom while I'm on the line. I'm losing any sense of what is right and good in this world anymore. Someone help me out here.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

change sucks

Now I accept that certain things in life will change. Someday I'll get my Ph.D. My friends will have babies. My golf game will drop below 90. The polar ice caps will melt. The Yankees will never make it to another world series. All these things are within the realm of possibility. But what I cannot accept is when a perfectly good restaurant is ruined like this one by short-sighted developers who believe that removing the railroad tracks will improve business. This is an unspeakable tragedy. I can never go here again. Let's have a moment of silence.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

more old men you say?

Ask and you shall receive.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

project dissertation

Stop the presses! I don't think I need to write my dissertation any more. Or if I do I think it should simply consist of a link here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

venus fly trap

There was a time many moons ago when I had this great idea, among the hundreds that may hit me over the course of a single day, that I would attempt to subsist solely on a diet provided by these respected establishments, the pojangmacha, that you see pictured here that are literally on every street corner of Seoul. My own personal Supersize Me if you will. At the time it was a very good idea, only because I was pretty much eating there every day anyway. They offer the three basic food groups: fish cake, spicy rice dumplings, blood sausage, and the occasional deep fried item. And so cheap. So I began this quest, eating a serving of blood sausage everyday, with some liver and other steamed organs thrown in for their added nutritional benefits. Delicately wiping my mouth after such a meal with a wad of toilet paper hung suspended from a rod inside the tent. Listening to the plastic tarp rustle in the warm evening breeze. But then I saw myself transform. Not radically. Not into some carnivorous beast, because I was already that, but just into a terribly hollow and disenchanted person. The sausages began to lose their flavor. The once juicy organ meats tasted dry and spongey in my mouth. And I started to wonder, how did they wash those plates in there? Do they reuse those sticks that the fishcakes are speared on? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? By the end of a month I think I put on ten unhealthy pounds of undigested food that may still be hibernating in my intestinal track. These are the moments that colon cleansing was invented for. So why am I sharing this with you? Mostly because I didn't go outside today and I'm really hungry and thought I might pop in on one for a bite to eat. But foremost, as a warning from a person who knows. Don't be tempted by the seductive call of cheap thrills. Go to a place with running water. Where the woman behind the counter doesn't look like her hopes have evaporated with the day old soup broth.

Monday, June 06, 2005

crackerjack and buttered squid

I spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at the ballpark driven to a sublime delirium under the scorching sun and beating chundersticks of LG fans. And I believe that Korean people have discovered the path to a sports nirvana. There's no better way to while the day away than at a game with a fellow Sox fan. But add to that the pleasures of meat on a stick (thanks Alex, the meat stick was lovely and so big!), buttered squid, and portable draft beer and you have the ultimate sporting experience. Halleluiah and amen. Will the genius of Korean engineering never end? We are so going to take over the world. And you know it was a good night when at least one person vows never to drink again. Or when you end the evening singing karaoke directly above a tranny bar. Of course I may be skimming over some minor details, like that we dropped over $300 eating greek food, or that I bawled my eyes out listening to a karaoke rendition of a Queen song, or that I got one of the most grotesque sets of blisters you have ever seen from walking in a new pair of shoes.

A small price to pay for an afternoon well spent.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

one step forward two steps back

Overcast skies today. It took me over two hours to get to the National Assembly library. Bus then subway then walking. In the rain. What a forlorn place with its empty avenues paved in grey granite. At the library you can't go into the stacks and instead they send you books down air chutes built into the ceiling and down the walls. Reminds me somehow of Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland. The quiet swoosh of invisible machinery at work. All of it makes me feel very disconnected with the world outside.