Nonsense, horsefeathers, and idle musings from a decade in South Korea (2002-2012).

30 April, 2007

A Tale of Two Elections

By Aaron
30 April, 2007

At my last count, the US Congress had just two members who were openly either non-Christian or non-Jewish: Pete Stark (D-Cal), an atheist, and Keith Ellison (D-Minn), a Muslim - or "heathens," to use the parlance of the electorate. Thus far, neither Stark nor Ellison has shown his bifurcated tail in public or called for the sacrifice of virgins on the floor of the House chambers, but the fears of millions of god-fearing Americans nonetheless remain, causing many a sleepless night.

Good thing, then, that the bulk of American voters are not in France right now, where the presidential election pits a lukewarm Christian with an uppity wife against a Socialist woman who has four children with her, um, domestic partner. Two candidates, in other words, who would be too liberal for even a Montessori school in the US are vying to run the world's sixth largest economy. And for all their depravity, neither candidate seems likely to land the Grey Poupon in the shitter, as it were.

No doubt the private details of Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal will merely buttress the American view of the French, whose politics we've long distrusted (coup d'etat) and whose sex lives have always been more interesting (menage-a-trois) than ours. Theirs is a land where people work only four days a week - giving them an extra day to wallow in their joie de vivre and glare dismissively down their Gallic noses at everyone else - and whose army couldn't stop an eight year-old armed only with a water balloon.

"The balloon, oui, but the water we cannot stop."

So the success of Royal should come as no surprise to anyone with a healthy French stereotype. Exhibiting the "rebellious modernity of Simone de Beauvoir" - to quote Isabelle de Courtivron - she has four children out of wedlock and has refused throughout her campaign to exploit her feminine good looks - traits of women with only the most hyphenated of surnames in the United States. Most American analysts expect that, if elected, Royal will demand unbridled mass fornication on the Champs Elysees and press the Academy to award Gerard Depardieu a retroactive Oscar for My Father, The Hero.

Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, has portrayed himself as the Newt Gingrich de Paris, combining a knack for preaching the family values of Catholic France even while confessing that religion isn't his top priority and knocking about with every woman in the country except his own wife.

Oh yes, the wife. After leaving her previous husband for Sarkozy, Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz has been frequently in the news for her own series of infidelities and eventually left Sarkozy for a well-known French businessman. The couple officially separated in 2005, leaving Nicolas free to tomcat as he pleased until 2006 when he and Cecilia patched things up and resumed their sharing of toothbrushes.

Jump, then, if you will, across the Atlantic for a moment, where many hands have already been wrung with regards to the five spouses, past and present, of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, who, say what you will, have at least made honest women of their wives before divorcing them and who have paid lip service to a fear of God. Giuliani's handlers remain concerned, however, at how the hidebound Republicans in outer South Dakota will react when they finally see the pictures of Rudy in a dress, even as no one mentions to them the fact that his law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, has worked as a lobbyist for Venezuela's Citgo Oil. Morality in America, you'll notice, simply demands that you don't cross-dress, get a divorce or cheat on your wife. Beyond that, you're free to do as you please.

To think that such an uproar was ever raised over an Oval Office blow-job. For some reason, Americans expect their politicians to breathe scripture and crap purity. That Gary Hart could be both an expert on national security and a philanderer - and that the latter doesn't necessarily detract from the former - are gears that just don't mesh in the Land of Liberty, and never you mind that John Kennedy diffused the Cuban Missile Crisis even as he got more tail than a calf-roper at the Snake River Stampede.

Jared Diamond may have said it best in Collapse:

We subconsciously expect people to be homogeneously "good" or "bad," as if there were a single quality of virtue that should shine through every aspect of a person's behavior. If we find people virtuous in one respect, it troubles us to find them not so in another respect. It is difficult for us to acknowledge that people are not consistent, but are instead mosaics of traits formed by different sets of experiences that often do not correlate with each other.
In America, to judge by those in power, we'd rather have representing us men of dubious morality who pretend to believe in God and love their wives than to have anyone who would openly admit to being an atheist in a bad marriage but who might nonetheless make progress on the health care issue. None of which is to say that all atheists are good people, only that we're not getting much of a bargain from our so-called Christian leaders either. So go ahead, lie to us: tell us how your wife gives you moral guidance and how much faith you have in the Almighty, then start praying to that god and begging him to keep the Chosen Land safe from the devilry of the French.

29 April, 2007

To: Iraq. Love: Korea.

By Aaron
29 April, 2007

As unsightly as the Guro district of Seoul may be nowadays, there was a time when, believe it or not, it was worse. Prior to being a refuge for homespun rubes and ill-bred jackasses turning my sidewalks into their personal spittoon, Guro - like the rest of Seoul - was overrun by North Korean soldiers on their charge south during the Korean War. It took the landing of UN forces at Incheon in 1950 - under the command of everyone's favorite megalomaniac, Douglas MacArthur - to turn the tide of the war and eventually push the Northerners back from whence they came. Of course, the fighting didn't stop for nearly three more years and, indeed, North and South Korea remain at war today, as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

The 1953 Armistice may have halted combat operations, but it didn't signal the beginning of democracy on the Korean peninsula. North Korea remains the most repressively closed society in the world and, in the South, a child born near the end of the war would never have experienced a free election until he was about 35 years old. To their credit, though, the people of the South made remarkable economic progress during those 35 years, even as they struggled and in many cases suffered under a variety of dictatorial regimes, especially that of Park Chung-hee. In the tradition of Pinochet in Chile, the Chiangs in Taiwan, and Lee in Singapore, Park held almost total power in Korea and used it to push forward a policy of modernization and economic growth that led to Korea becoming one of the so-called Asian Tigers.

26 April, 2007

Come On Up And See Me Urchins

By Aaron
26 April, 2007

Stand up right now and go look at your calendar. Actually, hold on. Hey, no...come back here and read this first. Before you wander off to wherever you keep your calendar, let me just point out that it's filled with countless stupid holidays, even as it neglects to inform you of all the worthwhile events that you haven't been celebrating.

For instance, the fifth of May is Children's Day over here in Korea. It's on my calendar, and it also happens to be one of the most asinine holidays of the year. Children already monopolize Christmas, get money for doing nothing on the lunar new year, and are the center of attention on their birthdays. Why do they need another day? Children don't do anything and, beyond birthdays, we shouldn't be giving out prizes - let alone days - just for existing. Hell, Administrative Professionals Day - which you no doubt missed this week, so busy were you in celebrating the Faroe Islands' National Flag Day - is by any measure more justifiable. At least secretaries can make an appointment and handle petty cash.

And, like I said, due to horsepuckey like Children's Day we're missing all manner of first-rate fiestas. I'd bet three fingers of my private stock against a two-cent bottle of ginger ale that no one in Korea knows that the fifth of May also happens to be International No Pants Day. Now there's a red-letter day worth the ink, but is it on your calendar? Doubt it.

In Japan, the nation wastes 19 September by honoring its old people, as though old people want to be reminded that they're old. Even worse, even as the Japanese fete their geriatric set, they overlook the fact that 19 September is also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The least they could do is growl and say "y'aar" while pretending to enjoy listening to Grandpa's stories.

Today, 26 April, is World Intellectual Property Day. As such, I'd like to salute the kind folks over at Bit Torrent for all their help and support over the past three years. I say give 'em their own holiday.

06 April, 2007

Catching Flies with Honey

By Aaron
06 April, 2007

...and I know that farting in another person's face is generally considered a social faux-pas - not something you ought to be doing outside the privacy of your own bedroom. I know this, but I also know that there's a time and a place for everything, and by my estimation, an old lady who persists in hitting the back of my legs with her bony elbows is fair game.

I bring this up because yesterday on the subway, I was standing at the end of a row of seats and behind me sat the Old Lady of Paragraph One who, in her geriatric oblivion, kept knocking my backside with her arthritic joints. I tried to ignore her, I really did. I even gave her the benefit of a few dirty looks, just to give her a sporting chance to knock it the hell off. As it happened, though, I'd had a bad case of gas that day but, due to a run of appointments, had been forced to hold it in for most of the afternoon, making mine the wrong rump to bump, as it were.

So I let one go. Silent, as they say, with an aroma to be determined.

Wouldn't you know it, though? At about the moment I let loose, the old bat realized that this was her stop and, groaning, she managed to get up, push a few people out of the way, and make it through the closing doors. In her place sat down a young bobby-soxer of, oh, about twenty-two who, within a second or two, was looking around to see who, for the sake of godalmighty, was responsible for that.

My problem, as you may have surmised, is that I don't aim to please. I'm not Lassie, for chrissakes. In fact - and despite denying it to myself for several years - I'm more along the lines of Dick Cheney. Lassie wouldn't have farted in that woman's face. Dick Cheney absolutely would have, and then, if the woman wrinkled her nose in objection, he would've told her to go fuck herself. But he only would have added as much because his farts aren't as expressive as mine. Mine say all there is to say.