Friday, August 31, 2007

Hostages Released but at what cost?

If you are stupid enough to believe this, then it didn't cost a thing (in terms of money anyway).

The office of President Roh Moo-hyun Friday indirectly denied news reports
alleging that the South Korean government has paid a hefty ransom to the Taliban
in return for the recent release of South Korean hostages.

"There is no secret agreement with the Taliban other than the already announced
conditions for the hostage release," Roh's spokesman, Cheon Ho-seon, said in his
daily media briefing.

We've all heard this kind of denial from public officials in the past so take it with a grain of salt. I just wonder how long it will be before the lie is uncovered on this one.
At any rate, they have 'promised' to bring home the few troops that South Korea has there and additionally will not send any more missionaries into the country (Which I expect to be enforced about as well as the traffic and parking laws) yadayadayada....WHAT A BUNCH OF WUSSES....tell me I'm wrong! Make me eat my words Prez Roh!!

This is the only time when I could say that I wish the propensity for breaking contracts found in many aspects of this society would manifest itself. Why not? We told the Taliban that we are going to give them everything they want (except money...puhahahahahaha) and get what we want for a while (hostages back) then do to the Taliban exactly what has been done to thousands of foreign hagwon teachers for years....break the contract....and just to show 'em who's the hagwon owner boss:
1. Try to ascertain where the Taliban that kept the captives are by questioning the hostages and then send an additional 2000 combat troops into the areas to hunt down the Taliban (and get our money back) and hold them hostage for a month or so and make them watch D-war, 동방신기 (DongBangShinGi) and 바다 (Bada) for a couple of days, they'll be so confused they won't know what to do.
2. Then, just to be spiteful, have the government sponsor two or three planeloads of proselytizers to go there and administer some humanitarian aid under the protection of another 1000 or so troops.

Why should we do that? We promised that we wouldn't?

1. Because a promise made under duress of this sort is not a promise it is a survival instinct and therefore needs not be kept.
2. The Taliban is not a government entity and to even give them the political time of day is wrong in too many ways to count.
3. Because there comes a point in the history of a country where it is time to at least ask for a kiss before lubing up and bending over for this kind of thing. (first the NORKS, then the Nigerian militants, and now the Taliban, who's next?)
4. Otherwise it's just to bloody embarrassing

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Top 20 reasons to lose 100 lbs. in Korea.

As a bit of a celebratory shot...having reached the 100 lb. mark:
Though I'm still fat by most anyone's definition, some things have gotten better. Not all of them are specifically related to Korea...just to losing large quantities of weight. So, without further adieu: TOP TWENTY REASONS TO LOSE WEIGHT IN KOREA.

20. Summer seems just a little less stifling (a little mind you!)

19. Your mother-in-law actually TELLS you to eat more

18. The thought of joining your colleagues for a climb up the local ‘mountain’ no longer strikes fear into your heart.

17. Your wife’s need to keep the house at a constant 30 C no longer makes you fear winter

16. You get to buy new clothes at the market.

15. You can actually walk down the aisles between the students

14. You actually have a LAP again

13. You can hold both your children on you LAP at the same time

12. You can sit (almost) comfortably in a school desk.

11. You can carry your children Korean style (riding on your back with hands locked under their behind)

10. The scale at the local sauna can actually tell you how much you weigh now.

9. You no longer have to call home for a care package of underwear once a year. You can finally buy a pair of underwear at E-mart

8. You hear the word “DoongDoong” (fat) a LOT less in public places.

7. You can get in your friends car without asking him to pull away from the curb so you can open the door without grounding it to the sidewalk.

6. Shock value. You have lost more than the average female college student weighs. 흑!

5. You now ‘fit’ in your Korean car. Your belly no longer touches the steering wheel and someone can actually sit in the seat behind you.

4. You no longer displace large quantities of water when getting in the public bath. This results in the secondary benefit of not having to endure the looks of the attendant and other patrons when this happens.

3. Kids now pet your arms instead of patting your stomach. Buy a bottle of Veet and you will become pretty much invisible.

2. You don’t set off the ‘over limit’ alarm in a half-full Elevator anymore: thus avoiding perhaps the single most embarrassing moment in your life.

1. Your wife tells you your ‘gochu’ looks bigger (According to Oprah’s Dr. Oz, men gain 1 inch per 35 pounds (15.8KG) -- that means almost 3 more inches!!

If anyone has any more to add, please feel free in the comments.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blogosphere uber alles!!!

I noticed that my post on my Korean bumper car driving experience has been translated in its entirety and posted on a site German site called "Travel Notes" It apparently has articles about travel from various worldwide blogs. My German is both rusty and weak to begin with but it appears that there are articles from all over from this prolific blogger who appears to post 3 to 5 articles or more per day of translated posts mostly dealing with travel. If I'm off on this, or if I have missed something, someone please let me know. Now I know that in Germany, my blog can be called "Ansicht vom Zaun"

Gotta love the internet and this blogosphere we live in...and just in case the blogger from Travel Notes is a regular reader: tausend dank!!

Also worth noting (but admittedly not quite as exciting) is the trackback from the already world- famous GIKorea ROK Drop. Hooah!

And now for a moment with nature

Anybody out there know what kind of spider this is and if it is at all poisonous? It sure does look menacing and it was the biggest spider I have seen around here (about 3.5 inches across). I just happened to have my 'dica' with me and this picture came out pretty good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

D-war: the round-eye view

To hear the Korean media hype D-war, you would think that it was quite a cinematic experience. The thought that media hype equals cinematic quality is an idea that I got over a long time ago, regardless of the national origin of the movie. But I am willing to give any film a viewing, especially when it is not coming out of my own pocket. My wife, her brother and his wife and I decided to go and check out a late night movie last weekend and though I preferred to go and see the Transformer movie, the others had already seen it, so I was trumped and D-war was 'obvious' choice since most of the other theaters were showing that KwangJu Massacre movie which would be WAY beyond my language ability.

The Lowdown -- Warning: possible spoilers (?)

The 'plot' brings an old Korean legend into the present day with a story about a serpent (with its evil army) battling it out with a 'good' dragon. Having missed the last time around in Korea, 500 years ago, they are both seeking the sacrificial maiden with a birthmark on her chest while a reincarnated guru and his student are assigned the task of protecting her by taking her to 'the grand cave' for a sacrifice to the 'good' dragon.

The key to watching this movie is a healthy dose of 'suspension of disbelief.' Perhaps there are some things lost in the translation between the Korean and English, but it just seems like the plot is all over the place and we are asked to just 'accept' too much that doesn't make any sense, like why the dragon, who is capable of instantly flipping a car hundreds of meters into the air or slithering up the side of the Liberty Tower can't seem to chase down what looks like (and likely is) an old Hyundai Excel on a straight stretch of suburban road. The absence of any late model or luxury vehicles in L.A. is also a bit distracting for anyone who has ever been there (or even seen it in another movie). Why this good-looking TV reporter (Behr) wears a ridiculous-looking pendant around his neck everywhere he goes is also a mystery. Obviously, it is all made clear to us in the end...sort of.

I was expecting this cinematic blockbuster and what I got was kick-ass Hollywood-style computer graphics show on top of a bad B-movie with a few washed up television actors topped off with the 'I-am-Korean-and-everybody-told-me-I-couldn't-do-it-but-i-did' self-aggrandizing, nationalistic cherry at the end of the movie.

The acting by both the Korean and American actors was poor; probably owing to poor script writing more than the abilities of the actors. Leading man, Jason Behr the may be used to cheesy scripts from his television drama days but he couldn't get a handle on this Limburger. Robert Forster, who has been around since the beginning of time and has even been nominated for an Oscar lent a pivotal roll as the storyteller and reincarnated protector and was probably the most convincing roll in the movie. Sarah, the sacrificial maiden for whom all the chaos is wrought, is played with amazing lifelessness by relative (and probably henceforth) unknown Amanda Brooks. This movie is full of mostly television actors, like Elizabeth Pena , that you will probably recognize from the fringes of various dramas and sitcoms. I couldn't find much information on the Korean actors that helped to set up the thin plot at the beginning of the movie, but the performances were no better than the American actors. Again, I blame most of this on the poorly written script and one would suspect that a director who is as stubborn as he claims probably did not allow much freedom to the American actors to make appropriate changes. It is also worth noting that the director was a comedian in his former incarnation here in Korea. This might also help to explain some of the ridiculous dialogue.

Another distracting aspect of the film is the battle sequences. The evil army was well portrayed with graphics but the 'American' forces did not resemble closely enough what we would expect for the situation, again likely due to the limited budget and the need to keep the number of extras to a minimum. However, as Hollywood has shown us in movies like Troy and Alexander, much can be done with graphics to show larger forces than are economically feasible. The small number of forces brought out to fight against the mammoth serpent attacking downtown L.A. or the evil cannon-toting dinosaur army just didn't seem realistic considering the reality of U.S. forces available in the area (see map below). I suppose the director couldn't afford to scramble any air power from Edwards, Pendleton, or Palms or troops from any of the hundreds of other bases in the area.

So, who should go and see this movie? --Kids would probably love it as it resembles an episode of Power Rangers on a combination of meth and crack. Computer graphics-philes will love this movie since the most spectacular thing about it is the object of their philia. Others with time and money to kill might find it entertaining just to count the number of Hyundais in LA; be sure to buy lots of popcorn.

Finally, I can understand that the budget of this movie and its directors access to the necessary materials to make this movie a top notch production may have been limited and it makes sense for anyone trying to promote a movie to go full-bore and try and make your movie seem like a masterpiece that's worth the money. Hollywood has mastered the art of present a dud as a diamond. However, other than the graphics and perhaps it's directors stick-to-it-iveness, there is little else to applaud about this movie. The fact that more than 5 million people have seen it may be more due to hyper-nationalistim and a desire to support the gumption of its Korean director who I'm sure will not lose any sleep over what I or any other round-eye thinks about his movie

Kim Jong Il: One of the most important figures in history

Now if that headline doesn't get your attention... I teach a class of gifted and talented middle school students from all over the this area and they were asked to write the 3 most important figures in history (with the caveat that they may only add 1 Korean to the list if they wish; see note below). Granted it's only 15 students (admittedly not enough to be a legitimate polling) but the results might suprise you. Below is the list of responses with the number of repeat votes.

  1. Adolf Hitler - 5
  2. Kim Jung Il - 4
  3. George W. Bush - 3
  4. Thomas Edison - 3
  5. Albert Einstein - 3
  6. Bill Gates - 3
  7. Abraham Lincoln - 3
  8. Christopher Columbus - 2
  9. Ahn JoongGeun (Korean independence activist)
  10. King Sejong - 2

Other mentions (1 each)
Michael Jackson
The Beatles
A.B. Nobel
Lee SunShin (Korean Admiral)
Winston Churchill
Stalin (Spelled "Starlin" )
Steven Hawking
Nikolai Lenin
Issac Newton
Ludwig VonBeethoven
William Shakespeare
Alexander the Great
Mahatma Ghandi
Mao Zedong

Belly Belly Intulesting, No?

Note: I knew that if I did not include the limit of one Korean, I would have had a list of the most important Korean historical figures (it's happened before). I explained as kindly as I could think of that even though Korea is a fine country with some great and interesting historical figures, its influence on WORLD history is very limited. I asked them to keep in mind that we were talking about the greatest figures in ALL of history. This is what they came up with. It is also worth noting that one student asked me during the polling if all the people should be "good" people; I responded that they could choose whomever they thought was the most significant in history and emphasised that there are 'important' figures in history who were VERY bad. D'ya think that influenced them at all :) Ah...young minds!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Signs like this just make no sense

Over at Marmot's Hole, there was a brief mention (and protracted comments) of an article in the Korea Times last week about making Korea's signage 'foreigner-friendly.'
Romanization of Korean words, especially names of places, also differs from organization to organization. Here's a tidbit:

For example, the state-run Korail's Web site says Kyoungsang-do, while the government orthography is Gyeongsang-do. Koreans know the two refer to the same region, but it can be a huge difference to foreigners.

Jung-gu ward office's Web site introduces tourist attractions in the district. If you click ``Myungdong,'' you cannot find information about Myungdong but will find that of ``Myeongdong'' instead.

``It is sad that Korea plans huge projects to attract more visitors but neglects small and detailed things that are really important in providing foreigners with a convenient stay in Korea. Koreans rarely ask foreigners what they want,'' an American who has taught English here for five years said on condition of anonymity.

Sad indeed! Even sadder may be the reason that the foreigner chose to remain anonymous; but that's a different story.

It's not the government that has the problem. They have been at least 'trying' to make the signage consistent on the roads and in the government agencies. It is the individual businesses and peripheral tourist facilities that try to make signs without consulting someone who actually knows a thing or two about English. Then the come up with beauties like the above. It might as well read "Welcome to &#$@#(%"

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is it just ME or is driving in Korea really dangerous?

You'd think that after 6 or so vehicular accidents in my 11 years in Korea that I might think about taking public transportation. But, I'm a little hard-headed that way. Today, it became number 7. Now, I don't claim to be the best driver (like so many of those taxis that you see out there) but I try to obey most of the laws most of the time. I figure that might be my problem. Here's the rundown up until today:

1. 1998 - riding in a tour bus near Mai-san (Horse-ears mountain in Chollanam-do) the driver temporarily forgets that he is driving a bus and takes a corner on a mountain road like he's in a Ferrari in the newly fallen rain and ends up in the culvert on the side of the road. No one hurt, but it took a while to get out of the bus since it was leaning against the side of the mountain.

2. 1999 - Driving a motorcycle about 2 minutes from my house in Busan. The driver in the lane next to me decides to take an illegal U-turn at the crosswalk from the second lane from the middle; I was nearest the double-yellow line. I was broadsided and knocked into very fortunately stopped oncoming traffic and unfortunately into a parked van, head first. Damage: motorcycle pretty much totaled, 5 days in the hospital but no broken bones. The other guy didn't have any insurance and paid the medical but couldn't pay for the motorcyle (750Kaw Vulcan)

3. 2000 - At the request of my soon to be wife, I gave up 2 wheels for a jeep-like Rocsta (Kia/Asia). Driving outside of EonYang, I was trying to make a Pseudo-legal U-turn at a 45 degree angled three-way intersection(legal place for U-turn but I was all the ay up to the stop line) the woman behind me decided I was making the obtusely-angled left turn, but too slowly. She tried to pass me from behind and crossed the double yellow and smacked into my right front wheel. Seemed like everyone was ok but grandma in the passenger seat seemed a little shaken up. Trip to the police station had the men in blue advising her to drop it since it was her fault.

4. 2002 - Rear-ended by a MaryKay Cosmetics sales rep when the traffic in front suddenly stopped, so did I. She must have been working on her makeup or something because she just didn't stop until she crushed the back end of my Longbody Galloper with her Sonata III. No one hurt and insurance paid for a new rearend and a rental car.

5. 2005 - Rear-ended at a stoplight near downtown Daegu. This one hit me pretty hard and crushed both the "battle bumper" and the regular bumper. I didn't feel it right away, but I went to the hospital for about a week on that one. Suffered something called an Internal Disk Disruption which basically translates to "well, we know you are having pain but there is nothing we can really do about it because the surgury is more dangerous and could potentially leave you worse off than you are. So...bear it." I'm still working on proper compensation to this day. Car was repaired at the expense of the other guy's insurance company.

6. 2006 - Rear-ended (YES AGAIN!!) at a crosswalk stoplight on the way back from a trip to the hospital for a doctor's consultation about the 2005 accident. Also, not totally resolved. But I can tell you that having another accident while you are still working on a resolution for another more serious accident is a real pain in the petut.

This bring me to today's fiasco:

7. 2007 - Sideswiped by a bus in front of my school. Imagine sitting at an intersection waiting to go straight into the front gate of your school. There are two rows of cars turning left on a green arrow while you wait for the green to go straight. On the right, cars are turning right. When the light changes, the cars on the left start to hurry up to make it into the intersection and you start to head forward on the green. Then a bus comes hurtling down the RIGHT TURN LANE and proceeds to turn LEFT across your path. The back end of the bus clips the front right side of your car. No injuries but MAN!! was I annoyed. However, the driver was appropriately apologetic which soothed my ire enough to keep from ringing his neck. He gave me all the info I needed and told me to call later about fixing the car. I took photos and got a recording of the guy telling me it was his fault. I guess we'll see what happens next.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oh, Seoul...where art thynst cajones?

I didn't add my two cents on the hostage crisis to this point because I figured there are enough intelligent opinions out there that I agree with in places like Marmot's Hole, Lost Nomad and Scribblings of the Metropolitician (who has my fav by the way). I have to agree with SotM most because he knows, I know and you know that if they give in to the hostages and remove the troops, it will invite further terrorism against South Korean nationals. Of this, I am sure. So, does anyone else but me wonder what happens if Seoul just decides to grow a pair before going to the negotiations and tell the Taliban that the troops will not be coming home before their appointed time at the end of the year; end of that argument.
Just to add a little drama they should get the local South Korean Imam (assuming there is such a person in this relatively muslim-less country)to demand the immediate release of the women aid workers held captive because it is against the will of Allah as outlined in the Que'ran and declare a Fatwah if any harm should come to them. And as the icing on the cake, the South Korean Government (with the Afgan govt. approval) will put forth its offer; Release the hostages immediately, if they are harmed...not only will we not withdraw the troops, we will quadruple the size of the troups, prepare them for combat and send them into your neck of the woods (or desert or mountain bunker or whatever...) to send your collective asses right straight to Allah so that he can sort the whole thing out for you. End of negotiation, now take your brokedown AK-47 toting self back to that cave you came from and give us back our sisters!! BEEEYATCH!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

If anyone cares (weightloss update)

I havn't commented on the progress I have made in a while and just in case any of my readers out there care to know: I just broke the next plane on my chart and I am down to 105K (231 lbs) That means a total loss of 45K (almost 100 lbs!!) If there are any of you out there who have ever lost a significant amount of weight you know that the compliments from others can really go to your head. Multiply that times about 700 students, parents of privates, and the people you see on the street and you will have an idea of the number of comments that I have had in the past few months. I have to keep telling myself that I am still obese (morbidly so) in order not to get too complacent about the next 25 kilos which I think are the most important. Just to keep myself honest and humble, I had a body fat analysis yesterday and found that I am sadly still around 33%BMI. But considering that, though I didn't have the test done when I began, I was likely around 45-50% last November, I will consider that good too. The kilos have been coming off slowly the past couple of months and it is harder to keep them off so the scales are yo-yoing from day to day depending on the amount of intake vs. the amount of movement. Basically, I need to get off my ass and execise. I'm still waiting for my wife to let me buy that recumbent bike (see wishlist) I've been wanting :)

Here are some stats:
Nov. 150K
Now 105K

Nov. 60 in +
Now 40 in

Nov. XXXXL (No neck to speak of)
Now XL (17 1/2)

For any of you out there trying to lose weight, keep it up. Try to avoid eating at night. I personally make it a habit to abstain after 6pm. Avoid alcohol and large quantities of meat (hard to do in Korea :) and try walking or taking a subway from time to time (and avoid the elevators and escalators while you're at it.) And good luck to you.