Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Respectful Trip to the DMZ

Went to the North Korean/South Korean border at Imjingak today, and I started climbing all over statues and making faces and just generally being sassy in front of a bunch of war memorial stuff.

Actually, I guess that was a fairly respectful trip. What choice did I have, though? My hangover was so bad that most of my Power of Now was busy just trying to keep it puke-free since '93. Ah, well. I'll play GameBoy inappropriately in front of some touristy stuff next time.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Flare Bar

The first Flaming Dr. Pepper I had in Korea, I set my hand on fire, and that's the least awful consequence I've ever experienced with that beverage. I wish people just knew not to let me drink them under any circumstances.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Korean Kylie Minogue

A lot of K-Pop (or Kah-Yo) isn't very good, but there are a couple of stand-out tracks, like Lee Hyori's "10 Minutes" (sounds like Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair") or Ivy's "Temptation of Sonata" (Fur Elise meets Final Fantasy). So far, my favorite is D.I.S.C.O., a track from the Republic of Korea's answer to Kylie Minogue, Uhm Jung Hwa:

This version of the video is nice, too, as it has the lyrics in Hangul characters, an approximate Roman alphabet pronunciation, and then the lyrics in English. My favorite line is right there on the video preview image before you even press play. While "mi chin deushi chum chu go" may literally translate to "dance like crazy," the word "mi chin" has a meaning that is closer to "retarded," which explains why Korean children are so fond of calling each other crazy. For them, the word just has a bit more kick.

However, I suppose it's not enough kick to censor D.I.S.C.O., or offer a more family-friendly version of the song for radio play. Also, thanks to the Black Eyed Peas, we empirically know that retard(ed) is not as derogatory a word in South Korea as it is in America, as they did change their song "Let's Get Retarded" into "Let's Get It Started" for both radio play and basketball advertisements.

Anyway, I am definitely going to Evan Records tomorrow.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Dragon Beard Candy

Here's some guys in Insa-Dong with a great sales pitch:

I mean, honestly, how are you not going to buy some traditionally-spun-sugar-candy from these dudes?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Respectful Trip to a Buddhist Temple

AR in the KR

When living overseas, it is important to hang out with as many people from your hometown as possible. It really freaks out other foreigners to see so many people from Arkansas in one place.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Noraebang: FEEL THE EDGE

It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to ride the subway from Ilsan to Seoul, depending on where you want to go. However, the subway does close down in the middle of the night and opens after five in the morning. Therefore, the most effective thing to do is just stay out until the trains start running again.

Mansion, a spacious club near Hapjeong Station, specializes in chandeliers and classy times featuring house music. But was that enough to stay out until 5 a.m.? Not nearly!

We needed to take drastic action to keep the party going until literally six in the morning, so we visited two different noraebangs, or karaoke rooms. I think they put something in the microphones that makes you sound better than you should, but I don't think it was so good that you need to see any video evidence of me singing Elton John.

And here is the pre-dawn sky of Ilsan at close to 7 a.m. Not pictured: The Intense Cold.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Zan Bar, one floor above the Frog & Toad in La Festa, Ilsan, is a really attractive place to have two drinks, especially if you are a fan of blue lighting and music ranging from hard house to yacht rock. Service is likely to be a free drink in a bag (like a Capri Sun) when you leave. Maybe. Sometimes.

Bar Boom, pretty easy to find in the heart of La Festa on the opposite side from Rosenbrau, is a huge attraction for a lot of foreigners and other people who like to be crushed together on a dancefloor. Nonexistent service, but they do play a lot of Top 40 hits. Very technically proficient live DJ playing to a cramped dancefloor, Bar Boom is proof positive that people will face a comparably-abusive atmosphere to go where other people go. Your Mileage May Vary.

ped, immediately below Bar Boom on the second floor of the F building in La Festa, is extremely welcoming and a relatively new club. 5000 won cover, but our service experience after that was an endless supply of tequila. One bartender also wanted me to try something he invented, I think it was Korean cola with Cass beer mixed together. It was...good? The DJ was all over the place, from Daft Punk to "The Rockafeller Skank" to MGMT, plus a bunch of stuff I don't remember because of the tequila. Also he had a megaphone. Smaller crowd but much more room to dance and high energy from all present. Highly recommended, and not just because the Armani-clad manager told me to say that after he gave us his card.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Instant Food Blog

Here are some of the more questionable food items that I have in my apartment, laid out on top of the most questionable piece of furniture I have in my apartment, a pink couch that I found in the parking garage of my building. On the left, we have a bag of Seasoned Dried Fishmeat, which are fried crackers that taste like fish. They are so bad that after eating half a bag, I woke up in the middle of the night with intense stomach pains and what I thought was the beginning of a fever. I was fine by morning, but unless we are all willing to give my immune system the bad-ass credit of stopping Swine Flu dead in its tracks in less than six hours, it's probably better to assume that Seasoned Dried Fishmeat is toxic mulgogi and should not be eaten by anyone.

The bag to the right is, of course, a bag of ramen noodles. In Korea, it's generally true that a restaurant uses a cartoon depiction of whatever animal you're going to eat inside on the sign out front, whether it be a cow for beef, pig for pork, or octopus for wriggling tentacles on a plate. The notable exception to this is restaurants with signs that feature pictures of waterfalls. They serve dog. Which is fine. All I want to know is, do the little foil packets in these bags of ramen contain raccoon flavoring? I feel like no matter what the answer is, I'm going to be disappointed.

All of the boxes on the couch are filled with chocolate and cookie sticks called Pepero Sticks (not Pocky). These were all given to me by my students on Wednesday because they love me.

On an unrelated note, Wednesday in Korea, or 11/11, was also "Pepero Day," a day for exchanging Pepero sticks that was started by Lotte Department Store in the 1990s as a shameless cash grab, and is the second-most insidious thing that Lotte has perpetrated on the Korean people, right behind giving the company a name that nobody here can pronounce.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bird-Watching in Ilsan

When a Korean child is born, they are immediately one year old. And while most Koreans still celebrate their own individual birthdays, legally everyone becomes one year older each January 1st.

Also, the drinking age in Korea is 20.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good Morning President

I walked around Seoul for a little bit this morning, taking pictures of buildings in good tourist fashion. Here's one now!

I like the billboard for the film Good Morning President, which, based on the trailer, is clearly a film about how an entire family gets elected President of Korea, and then the dad wins the lottery, and then the son finds true love with the presidential aide/secretly an investigative reporter trying to expose that there are too many Presidents.

The rest of my pictures from my walk are bland. I mean, even more bland than that one. I got something way better for you. Tiny bananas:

Or as I like to call them, reasonably-sized bananas.

Soju? I hardly know you!

And now, presenting my first photo direct from Seoul:

Annnnnnd it's a picture of some liquid yogurt and soju on my hotel room counter-top (not pictured, the cord-attached electric kettle labeled "cordless electric kettle"). Just to let you know how much I am absolutely KILLING it socially over here. But while this isn't the first time I've tried soju+yogurt drink, I guess it should count for something that I'm doing it in Korea? Maybe?

Anyway, it's been raining here for most of the day, and I'm trying not to get sick before my medical exam on Monday, so I've been handling a 10 hour time-shift and swine flu threats with a real tethered-to-my-room sensibility. Which isn't so bad: after all, the STORY ON network, when faced with broadcasting full-frontal, only pixelates the vaginal area.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Commuting to Work

Here are a list of things I liked about flying Korean Air:
  • Watching Terminator: Salvation, Whatever Works, Back to the Future, and a weird German (?) documentary about Michael Jackson's wax statue collection, all on the back of the chair in front of me.
  • Tricking my body into not getting jet lag by randomly winding my wristwatch and sleeping in strange chunks of time.
  • Flying into a sunrise, which is when I realized we were traveling East and not West. Looks like I underestimated the size of the Pacific Ocean...again.
  • All the stewardesses wore stewardess scarves, and none of them were stewards with Hitler mustaches and strange affected British accents.
  • The endless free booze that helped me appreciate all of the above.
Things I didn't like about flying Korean Air:
  • When the person in the seat in front of me would recline suddenly.
  • Getting past two people to get to the aisle and the bathroom.
  • Being welcomed to Korea by people passing out surgical masks.
And some things that I am deeply indifferent about when flying Korean Air:
  • Duty-free shopping at 37,000 feet

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The VIP Treatment

Depeche Mode played in Dallas last night, and of course I went to see them, because I know three of their songs.

We had really good seats. Fourth Row good. But every time I go somewhere, I forget one thing. Last time I took a trip I forgot my belt. This time I forgot my earplugs, and today everything sounds like it's coming from a tunnel.

The light show was amazing. Tanner said it was the best he had ever seen. I also said that. Nick was terrified of the moving lighting trusses. "There are snakes above the stage! We have to get out of here!" he said, not unlike a man under the influence of several controlled substances.

Older fans of Depeche Mode are holding up really well. I didn't see any younger fans, because they do not and should not have the disposable income to be in seats within 100 rows of where we were. Also, people are putting up their concerts videos online, and while some are good, I can guarantee that I have the only version of "Enjoy the Silence" with Nick audibly being fucked up. Except maybe the guy who was standing in front of me, and the guy standing on the other side of Nick. Also, the guy standing behind me.

After the show, we went to a four-floor club, with the acceptable conceit that each floor represented Hell, Purgatory or Heaven, and the unacceptable conceit that Hell was closed.

Also, we were inexplicably given access to the fourth floor, which was a VIP room. At first, I thought it was some sort of trick where everyone has access but only thinks that they are the only ones with access. However, it did turn out to actually be an exclusive VIP area that they let us into because we smelled like we had just been in the fourth row at a Depeche Mode concert. Everyone else at the club smelled like a barnyard.

I guess because Hell was closed, management had some faux strippers dancing up in Heaven. These girls had a bunch of dollar bills stuffed into their garters, stockings, tops and crotches, but I never saw anyone hand them a dollar, so I don't know if they were earned monies or accessories for a stripper costume. I didn't ask because I felt like no matter what the answer was, I would be disappointed.

After all that we got some food, made a lot of noise in the hotel room and passed out. And that's how I spent my summer vacation.