Friday, March 31, 2006

"Survival Korean" course at Kyodae in Kangnam

Plus Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Korean. Classes began last week, but there is still room available.

Tell a friend.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Korea NOT most wired?

An AP story is purporting that Korea is not "the world's 'most-wired' nation," as is often purported.

The evidence, citing a poll conducted by Ipsos Insight, is questionable: Korea came out only at #4 in terms of how many people had used the Internet in the past month, with 68 percent saying yes. Japan came in first at 89 percent, Canada second with 72 percent, and the United States third with 71 percent.

But the "most-wired," as I understand it, refers to high-speed penetration, not what the study measured. Furthermore, there are admitted flaws in the gathering of data, such as Ipsos researchers only surveying people in urban areas in India (15% usage) and China (50% usage), though this may not have affected Korea's standing.

When I have a chance, I'll update this with a ranking of high-speed penetration, along with wireless availability. I believe some small-scale city-states may be higher than Korea in one or both of these areas, but I'm not yet sure.

Ipsos says that South Korea also didn't own the top slot in time spent online:
The survey found that Korean Internet users, on average, were online for 12.7 hours each week, behind those in China (17.9 hours a week) and Japan (13.9). Canadian Web surfers clocked 12.3 hours each week and Americans were fifth at 11.4, followed by Mexicans at 9.2.
Korea came in only at #14 in the World Economic Forum's "networked readiness index," which measures everything from math and science education to the diffusion of various technologies. The US was first, Singapore was second, followed by Denmark and Iceland.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's all in the genes

Mongolian Prime Minister Enkhbold is in Osaka, saying something about Mongolian athletes that gets Koreans ridiculed if they say it about Koreans: the standout success of Mongolian wrestlers in the ancient Japanese sport of sumo is due to a favorable gene pool in their homeland.

Just hours before, Enkhbold's 21-year-old countryman Hakuho was promoted to sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki, one of only a handful of foreigners to hold the honor, following a stellar performance at the sumo tournament that ended on Sunday.

Enkhbold, who was in the western city of Osaka to watch the final bout, said the young grapplers were following the traditions of their homeland, where wrestling is considered one of three "manly sports" along with archery and horseback riding. We'll have to ask The Marmot and The Marmotess what they think.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Straight from the horse's mouth

President Roh Moohyun insisted today that he is not anti-American, adding that good relations with the United States are essential to his country's economy and security. He also said, before a group of local business leaders, that he is not pro-North Korean. Speaking about himself, Bob Dole-like, in the third persion:
Many easily think President Roh Moo-hyun is a pro-North Korean leftist force and has anti-American sentiment, but this is not the case.
"Yeah, right," some of you are no doubt saying.

Let me say this on his behalf: My Moohyun is not a communist. He may be a liar, a pig, an idiot, a communist, but he is not a porn star!

Actually, I believe him about the anti-Americanism. There is a difference between wanting the US out and wanting the USFK to behave (and for the most part, they certainly do) and have a small footprint (which they're working on, at no small cost to the ROK government). This is simply reflecting the will of the general public, who are often (and sometimes wrongly and unfairly) led to believe negative things about US policy and USFK behavior that they would like to see changed. That doesn't make them anti-American necessarily, depending on motive. When I start seeing "Fuck Bush" graffiti on just about every other block, then I'll start to worry.

I'm no fan of President Roh. I think the anti-American impression is unfortunate, but he's largely to blame for it. He came to power on pledges not to kowtow to the United States, but he let such rhetoric get out of hand. At least, as he acknowledged yesterday that there is friction with the United States on some issues, he realizes thre's a problem.

After all, it is the birthplace of graffiti.

Maybe they should have written "please."

[photo of pathway to tower in Il Duomo in Firenze (Florence), taken during my trip to Italy.]

Medicare and the language barrier

The Los Angeles Times is carrying a piece on the difficulty Medicare beneficiaries with limited English skills are having with President Bush's complex Medicare drug plan. Of course, this would affect a few kyopo elderly, and the primary "human focus" of the story is several harabŏji and halmŏni:
More than a month had gone by, and 81-year-old Lee Sun Hua still didn't have his medication.

In January, a pharmacist had refused to give the Koreatown resident his drugs, erroneously telling Lee he needed his new Medicare drug prescription card. He waited for weeks, and even had a volunteer at a Koreatown nonprofit agency call to request it. But it never came.

Bothered by a chronic stomach ailment, Lee called his Medicare drug plan provider, Blue Cross, two weeks ago to inquire again.

"I don't speak English," he said, reading from a tip sheet prepared by the nonprofit, which spelled out the pronunciation of English phrases using Korean syllables. "Korean, please."

"We don't have any Korean speakers here," came the blunt response, as Lee recalled the conversation. "Does anyone over there speak English?"

If native English speakers are having trouble grasping the new Medicare prescription drug plan, many immigrants with little or no English ability are far worse off. As the May 15 deadline for picking a plan approaches, elderly immigrants are swamping clinics, community centers and pharmacies, unable to read the litany of Medicare-related mailings and or even ask questions about their new plans.
I can't exactly say Korea is much better. I remember back in the 1990s when international residents were fighting to receive coverage with Korea's national health care scheme. The pendulum has completely swung the other way, and now foreign residents are required to pay (and believe me, they make you pay).*

Yet while the ROK government is now treating internationals like Korean nationals by making enrollment compulsory, the various bureaus of the health insurance scheme do NOT have people on staff who can help out the tens of thousands of English-, Japanese-, or Chinese-speaking new members who struggle with Korean language.

* Unbeknownst to me, an earlier "employer" had not paid for two years' worth of insurance premiums, about 1 million won. I discovered this—or rather, my bank discovered this—when I was re-working the "mortgage" on my apartment. I could not get the new loan until I got that paid off.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

US State Department issues travel warning due to anti-American protests

Due to "rallies where loud anti-US slogans are chanted or where the Star-Spangled banner is burned" and the head of the left-wing party describing George W. Bush as having "blood on his hands," the US State Department has issued a travel warning.

To Korea? No, to Italy.

The thing is, is that Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi has
stressed the legitimacy of the recent travel warning, which to his mind is motivated by the current turn in the electoral campaign. Speaking in Brussels where he was attending an EU Summit, Berlusconi said that, "If one stood in the US administration's shoes, it would be very hard for one to develop a positive and benign view of what is happening in Italy."

Echoes of 2002 in Korea? Most of the demonstrations here were peaceful, though angry, but there were a few violent acts involving Americans. The core of anti-American demonstrations are the chinbo "progressives," who know that as good fifth-column agitators they can't allow violence to occur against non-Koreans who might then decide to leave, lest they invite a legal/judicial crackdown by even a left-leaning government. It puts the pro-Pyongyang fellow travelers in an awkward position: they want the USFK to leave, but it is very difficult to actually make it dangerous for USFK. Their only hope is to cause a groundswell of popular support—which would include millions of people who don't generally support their aims—that forces Seoul to ask USFK to leave, or to anger or shame USFK enough to leave of their own accord (hitting the right buttons for an "it hurts our pride" justification for withdrawal).

I'm not sure if the leftists in Italy are that organized or that thoughtful about their aims. I'm not even sure if they have as a goal the removal of US forces in Italy. Maybe they just want Italian troops out of Iraq.

But when I was there for a month with my parents a month before the election, the anti-American sentiment was palpable: Italians and Britons alike would just start a rant toward me, my father, and/or my mother as soon as it came out of our mouths—when we were asked—that we were from the United States (though we usually answered California, just to throw off the simple-minded). Certainly, this was not every Italian and Briton (or other European) we met, but it was enough to give us serious pause, and it routinely sparked a heated discussion between my father, a reliable Republican supporter for as long as he could vote up until the Clinton impeachment, and my mother, a religious woman who felt that we shouldn't change horses in midstream.

The anti-Americanism in Italy was visible: "Fuck Bush" grafitto seemed to be on every other store-front shutter. When my father first saw this kind of thing, while passing by on a train, he was disappointed that we didn't have a camera ready. Little did we know that we would encounter this kind of thing several times a day while in the cities. [The picture above is from the doorway below, located right in front of the hotel where we were staying.]

Pulling a Berlusconi

The clip linked below is a fake. Apparently it is part of a trailer for a German comedy lampooning Berlusconi. The defense for this oversight? Who knew the Germans made comedies?!

I have no idea how old this clip is, but its obnoxiousness transcends time and space.

It occurred to me that if an American politician were caught on camera "funning around" in this way, he (or she?) would be pressured to resign. Think back to the case of
Bob Packwood in the 1990s [fun fact: Packwood was the third Darren on "Betwitched"].

Of course, I can't see George W. Bush doing this at all, and Clinton not doing it on camera.

It also reminds me of the case of former Hannara Party assemblyman Choi Yeon-hee [choe yŏnhŭi], the conservative lawmaker who, at a recent dinner for the press, sallied up to a female reporter for one of the main daily newspapers, went up to her from behind and grabbed her breasts. Not sure if he did the Silvio Berlusconi move, though.

Women's groups were naturally furious that this kind of thing would happen by someone who supposedly represents their interests, and the pressure was enough for him to resign from his party, but he is refusing resign his seat.

With friends like these...

News has come from US Defense Department that the Russians were sending Saddam Hussein information, via the Russian ambassador to Iraq, at the beginning of the Iraq War.

The information turned out to be wrong, but one has to wonder just what the hell is going on? Sure, the US and Russia are not allies like the US is with Japan, England, Canada, or even Korea, but at least they were supposed to be cooperating, if not on the same side.

Sometimes I wonder, did the end of the Cold War really mean anything? Sure, communism is pretty much dead, but the US's two primary Cold War adversaries, China and Russia, still aren't democratic and they still stand in the way of much of what the US tries to do.

Canada begins annual slaughter of baby seals

Warning: This post may ruing your lunch. Plunge has complained (rightfully so) about Japan's whaling industry. But the hunting down and killing of whales is not the only destruction of marine mammals that has people around the world in an outrage. In Canada, the annual hunt of baby harp seals is getting underway.

The government of Canada, which insists the "cull" is necessary to control seal numbers, is allowing for up to 325,000 seals to be killed, 5000 more than last year.

The seal population is now almost six million, nearly triple the level of the 1970s. But critics say the numbers have little to do with it. It's the millions of dollars that will be made from the seal pelts that drives this activity.

Local fisherman also say the hunt gives much-needed seasonal work to communities hit hard by dwindling fish stocks in the Atlantic.

This is an interesting argument if you think about it: we've misused one "natural resource" to the point that it has impacted jobs, so let's move on to destroying another.

Paul McCartney and his wife Heather, who visited Canada earlier this month to protest against the cull, made a last-minute video appeal, urging Canada to consider a "win-win" plan that would end the hunt while compensating fishermen for lost revenue.

Campaigners have called on US restaurant chains to boycott Canadian seafood until the hunt stops, and they plan demonstrations around the world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The anonymouse that roared

All public blogs are by definition megalomaniacal*. So naturally many of us who have blogs wish to see how many people are viewing them, who they are, where they are, what they view, etc., using (I've already talked about this here).

Among the various patterns that have popped up is one I find very encouraging: a number of people have been linking to
this post satirizing the Beijing Olympics through, as has been discussed in the blogosphere, is one of several major blogging hosts blocked in its entirety by Beijing. Consequently, given the subject matter of that post, it is my belief that most or all of those "anonymoused" viewers are connecting from the People's Republic of China, by way of Germany.

And if I'm right about that, this just fills me with joy. There is no reason for Beijing to continue to with its oppressive censorship of thought, and frankly it's an embarrassment that so many countries—especially South Korea, Japan, and the United States, and perhaps the EU—turn a blind eye to the PRC's excesses in the name of economic opportunity. The fact that savvy Chinese netizens are using to bypass Big Brother Beijing in order to view things that the Chinese authorities don't want them to know (plus, perhaps, some porn) makes me ecstatic.

Incidentally, there are a few times when someone uses to view posts other than the Five Mascots of the Apocalypse: specifically, when they are looking for "
nude Koreans."

*Except for those that aren't.

Hand-chopping whacky

The Korean Liberator has a link to a Mainichi story about a Japanese man who "almost completely severed his left hand with a machete in front of the National Diet Building on Tuesday, apparently to protest policies toward North Korea."

A police official said the man "appeared to be in a lot of pain and his hand was hanging by a piece of skin."

Holy Crap!

Okay, does this mean we have to start referring to
Japan as a nation of hand-choppers?

No, I don't really mean that. I really don't. Just as I don't think it's fair or productive to keep depicting Korea as a nation of crazies on the basis of two people in the same nutso family (UPDATE: or the several dozen people who have cut off an appendage or committed self-immolation since the early 1990s), I don't think it would be fair or productive to do that with Japan and its crazies. At most what they represent is the excesses of emotional nationalism, not the side of the arguments they are supposedly following. They are the fringe, no more.

But the point of my earlier post still stands: it's counter-productive to characterize these debates on the basis of the extreme-most members of a given society. At least one person in the United States killed himself in protest of Bush's "re"election. But how representative is that of Americans in general or of the anti-Bush faction specifically? It's an easy, facile way of dealing with an issue, this whole idea of finding the nuts and implying they are the norm.

The finger-chopping ajumma and her son, as well as this guy at the Diet in Tokyo, are people in serious need of psychological help.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Putting the "chun" in "chuunikka..."

Today is the vernal equinox (that's the spring equinox for those of you who are products of the Los Angeles school system). In Korean it is ch'unbun [choon-boon, 춘분, 春分].

And it's colder than a penguin's ass right now.

I'm thankful that ch'unbun has finally arrived, not just because it means the weather might actually get warmer at some point (though sometimes it seems as if the government may have cancelled the warm weather altogether because they heard that rich people enjoy it so). I am happy ch'unbun has arrived because now when people say, "Why is it so cold this spring?" it will actually be spring when they say it.

You see, in Korea "spring" and pom [봄] don't exactly mean the same thing. Of course, in both languages, spring/pom is the period between the cold of winter and the searing heat of summer, but when it begins is defined quite differently.

In Korea and other parts of Asia, the traditional solar calendar used for farming was divided into twenty-four seasonal subdivisions [chŏlgi, 절기, 節氣], with each of Korea's much-touted Four Seasons™ having six chŏlgi within them. And yes, a meteorologist could practically set his/her watch by them.

Whoever named the mini-seasons was a hopeful sort, I guess, because sometime in February, what my relatives in Minnesota refer to as The Dead of Winter, is called ipch'un [입춘, 立春] in Korean: literally, the "onset of spring." This comes around February 3 or 4.

Mind you, this is when the temperature is minus-something on the Celsius scale everywhere in Korea, and probably minus-something on the Fahrenheit scale in at least a few places. When people dread going outside because the blustery wind will freeze their flesh to their glasses, even if the frames are plastic. When Mother Nature decides it would be funny for you to have a snotcicle hanging down your nose. In other words, when it's cold enough for Singaporeans and Malaysians to be heading up to Muju and Yongpyong in droves for the skiiing.

Calling this the "onset of spring" is either very optimistic or a twisted joke.

Many Koreans respond to the bitter cold of winter with hopefulness rather than despair. By latching onto ipch'un as the beginning of spring--which many do--it is a declaration of endurance and perseverance.

And there I am to ruin it for them. When March rolls around and people flip their calendars and start peeling off their layers of wool and cotton, only to shuffle into the coffee shop, the office, or the restaurant complaining that it's not fair that spring is just as bad as winter, there I am to tell them, "You idiot, spring doesn't begin until March 21." Then I do my bit about the vernal equinox, showing how this is when the sun is right over the equator, blah, blah, blah.

You can tell I'm popular at parties.

If they're not convinced, I remind them of other words that have ip in them. Like ipku, which is used in the name of many subway stations that are near (not right in front of) major universities (서울대입구역, 숙대입구역, 홍대입구역, 이대입구역, etc.). Okay, so that's an entirely different Chinese character (入 as in 入口), but you'd be surprised how many people don't know that.

If I still haven't convinced them, or if they've informed me of the previously mentioned Chinese character discrepancy, I point out that the other ip seasonal subdivisions are not all that close to the main season for which they are named. In two months, for example, we will have ip'a upon us [입하, 立夏], heralding the onset of summer. (Fun fact: 입하 also refers to the arrival of goods, though those are difference Chinese characters, too: 入荷.)

Ipch'u [입추, 立秋], the so-called onset of autumn, comes around August 7 or 8, when we're still in for weeks of scorching weather that will melt your socks.

And of course, iptong [입동, 立冬], marking the coming of winter, is around November 7 or 8. Okay, this California-raised boy does acknowledge that around that time it is colder here in Seoul than it ever gets in Orange County.

This post really has no point, except to say that for the other descendants of a garlic-eating bear, it's now okay to end your hibernation [동면, 冬眠].

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday morning quarterbacking

While some of the Korea-bashers would have you believe that whining about losses and bad calls and what-not is pretty much a Korean thing, it would seem that some in Japan--the country that won the WBC--are complaining about bad calls and the fact that the umpires were all American.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun described one questionable umpire ruling as a "puzzling judgement," saying it "left a bad aftertaste."

Oh, bitch, bitch, bitch. When are Korean fans and the media going to learn to be better sports when they win?

Over at the recently rechristened Marmot's Hole, there are sixty messages in less than twenty-four hours by people in the Korea-related blogosphere making a big deal about Koreans making a big deal over a ball game. Ironic much?

For the record, I think
the flag-planting was "oba," but the griping about how they lost is sort of normal (and it's certainly NOT the only reaction in Korea).

About the griping, I'm reminded of a different team in Anaheim last October who felt that "
we wuz robbed." People in OC griped about it for months — still gripe about it — because that's what people, including the local press and the venerably vaunted netizens, do when the home team loses in circumstances that seem a little less than a clear-cut and deserved loss.

It's hardly a uniquely Korean trait.

At any rate, I'll be happy if most people do what the people around me did yesterday (and did with the World Cup in 2002): just be happy that they did as well and got as far as they did. Only one person had anything
bad to say about Ichiro, but it came with a mixed message.

But if people are going to be angry, maybe it's better to have it directed primarily at Ichiro (who seems to have brought some of it on himself) than at Japan in general.

My twenty-won worth. Good day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Overheard during the Korea-Japan baseball game

Scene: I'm sitting in front of my computers. Several other people are doing work nearby, including a woman in her late twenties at the computer next to mine.

in Korean] Oh, it's zero to zero.

ME (working hard, not really paying attention)
in English] Really?


Oh, that Ichiro. I just want to crush him!

[not paying attention]

... And then date him.

[surprised] Huh?

But crush him first. [woman leaves the room, heading for the bathroom, though that's not really intrinsic to this story]

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Fu¢kin' A at the Big A

I'm happy that the Korean team is doing so well [UPDATE: was doing so well] in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. And frankly, I think a lot of the griping in the Korea-related blogosphere is sour grapes emanating from a group that, collectively, is loath to give Korean an inch on any matter.

But I have to agree that the impromptu flag-planting in Anaheim Stadium/Angel Stadium/The Big A was a bit over the top. At least, it seemed so from the pictures. Back in the 2002 World Cup, I thought the Apollo Ohno spoof was in good fun, but this looks like Team Korea is freakin' claiming Orange County for the Republic of Korea (yeah, like that wasn't inevitable).

Does this mean I'll need an F-something visa to go back and visit my nephews and nieces?

Korea, not having invaded its neighbors or anyone and not having exercised hegemony over anyone in the last few centuries, may not carry the same baggage as a swaggering Japan or the United States, but I do think that the What-would-we-do-if-Japan/America-did-this? standard should be applied here.

If Team America (not the stiff wooden puppets from the movie but the stiff wooden players from Major League Baseball) had beaten Team Japan in Seoul, would the viewing audience be all that happy to see some of the American players plant the Stars & Stripes on the mound in Chamshil? Maybe, maybe not (it could go either way, after all that would mean they beat Ichiro).

If Team Japan had beaten Team Korea in Anaheim and then planted the Big Red Circle on the mound, the Korean media and the netizens would quite possibly be having one collective aneurysm.

Korea has been the underdog for so long, with few successes and major wins, that this kind of outburst of giddy nationalistic sentiment was almost be expected. But Korea's record of successes—both inside and outside of sports—has been improving for some time now. It's time to behave like good sports, following losses and wins.

That's one small step for a baseball team, one giant leap for Korea-kind.

Getting whipped in the Bible Belt

Okay. You're a high school teacher. A drama teacher. You are putting on a play or musical that is not some wild, off-the-wall thing, but something from America's longstanding literary tradition or pop culture.

You choose Grease.
The next year you choose A Midsummer Night's Dream.
You scrap that for Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

A handful of parents from a certain church complain about tawdry content:Grease depicts teens smoking, drinking, and kissing; A Midsummer Night's Dream makes reference to suicide, rape, and losing one's virginity; and The Crucible is about witch trials (not sure if they complained about that).

You are forced to resign rather than face a possible firing.

Is this America?

A very merry un-birthday to me!

As I have mentioned in the past, my actual birthday comes at a sucky time of year, especially in my family. At one point I just said "screw it!" and for a few years I actually decided to celebrate my birthday exactly six months before/after my actual birthday.

This was supposed to be better for me because my birthday wouldn't be drowned out by my mother's birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary, my grandmother's birthday, later my sister's wedding anniversary and then my brother's wedding anniversary, the beginning of school, Chusok, Constitution Day, California's Admission Day, and Chile's Independence Day. All of which fell within nine days of my birthday.

The one downside was that nobody else went along with this after the first year, particularly my siblings. My revenge is that all five of their collective children (i.e., my five nephews and nieces) have their birthdays within a week of each other, in June.

Anyway, this "half-birthday" would be today. And it is sucking big time, since I have to a major deadline for a publisher client that is due on Monday. Anyway, I did give myself a mulligan on my birthday, and celebrated my one-month-later "un-birthday" on October 18.

But no one got me anything.

[photo borrowed without permission from this rather amusing site.]

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kiss me, I'm Irish today.

Well, another St. Patrick's Day is upon us, a twenty-four-hour period when everybody is honorary Irish. A day when, in the spirit of being Irish, we can slug people over the matter of what they're wearing.

On this day, in Chicago, they apparently use food dye to color the local waters green.

[photo: The Chicago River is green with env... ironmental damage.]

We in Orange County don't do that. The Santa Ana River really has far too little water in it for that to work, and our second body of water, the Pacific Ocean is, well, let's just say that along the coast it's already sort of greenish (occasionally prompting beach closings).

I celebrated St. Paddy's Day by imbibing two free beers at the Seoul Foreign Press Club. Then I beat up a couple snakes. I may go to O'Kim's tomorrow and imbibe some more, although I'm already dangerously close to my annual beer quota.

Anyway, happy St. Patrick's Day, one and all.

And remember: don't drink and drive, 'cuz you might spill your drink.

And in the spirit of the sometimes-heard suggestion that Koreans are the Irish of Asia, here are some apt things in common:
  1. Both are divided land
  2. Both countries have their share of heavy drinkers.
  3. Symmetry in naming the land: Ireland is the land of ire; Korea is the country of han. (It helps if you know that "Korea" is hanguk in Korean, literally the land of the Han people, though Han in the country name [韓] is a different Chinese character from that of the cultural concept of unresolved resentment [恨], or that of the other Han people, the Han Chinese [漢] who aren't very nice toward the Tibetans. It also helps if you know that in English "ire" means anger and wrath.)
  4. Heads of Easter Island proportions.
  5. A tendency to excuse bad behavior by people who were heavily inebriated at the time.
  6. A healthy cartooning industry.
  7. Oppression by a neighbor just a short boat ride away.
  8. Lingering animosity toward neighbor just a short boat ride away.
  9. Heroes whose exploits involved violence toward neighbor just a short boat ride away.
  10. Singing.
  11. More Catholic than their neighbors.
  12. Lots of greenery.
  13. Brad Pitt couldn't do an accurate Korean accent to save his life, either.
  14. Light, creamy skin among many of the women.
  15. A heavy concentration in Chicago and New York City.
  16. Little acceptance of gay people in parades.
  17. Lingering violence to "solve" political issues.
  18. Neither has hosted the winter Olympics.
  19. People from both countries sound funny when they speak English.
  20. Emigrants from both tend to do a hell of a lot better than those who stayed behind.
  21. Even those who stayed behind are starting to do much better.
On Columbus Day, I'll explain why Koreans are also the Italians of Asia, and on Yom Kippur I'll explain why Koreans are the Jews of Asia. Because I know that ethnic stereotypes are the reason people come to this blog.

[photo: With Kushibo's patented bifocal beer goggles, you can see simultaneously what the same girl looks like both while you're sober (girl on right) and after you've had about five of those nasty green concoctions (girl on left). Only $29.95 at participating stores.]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Beware the otaku

Time Magazine has an interesting article about opposition to a new law in Japan against outdated electronics which has Japan's tech fetishists up in arms.

The government is trying to outlaw some of the favorite vintage video games of Japan's otaku, the "legions of nerdy pop-culture obsessives" who congregate in Akihabara, Tokyo's equivalent of Yongsan (or is it the other way around?). As Time reports, they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

On April 1, Japan's Product Safety of Electrical Appliances and Materials Law (PSE), designed to prevent electrical fires, will prohibit the resale of 259 types of electrical goods made before April 2001—including some of the most coveted video-game machines.

Critics say that the law is essentially outlawing the secondary market for everything from VCRs to refrigerators, which will serve to line the pockets of Japan's large electronics manufacturers.

All is not as dark and dim as the otaku netizens proclaim (like that's a surprise). Sellers can submit older products for recertification, and some game platforms—most Nintendo decks, along with later versions of Sony's PlayStation 1 and 2—are spared, but the law's tangle of exceptions and conditions is only adding to the confusion.

Time Magazine quotes Hiroki Kimoto, manager of a shop selling secondhand music gear in Tokyo, whose guitar amplifiers largely fall under the PSE:
We don't know what we're going to do. It's ludicrous. I have never heard anyone having safety problems with these machines, but the whole music culture could be affected.
When these second-hand products end up in Southeast Asian and Chinese shops rather than with Japanese buyers, with their export fully accepted by the Japanese government, we'll know this was a ruse.

[photo: This is the second image that came up when I did a google image search for otaku. This is one of the more, ahem, normal-looking pictures. Take a look at the rest of the images and see what frightening people these otaku are. Please, for the love of God, let them have their second-hand electronics so they'll stay home and not harm the rest of the people in Japan.]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The North Koreans just aren't thinking big enough

U.S. Customs agents in California have said that they had found 250 bogus billion dollar bills while investigating a man charged with currency smuggling.

That's right: a billion dollars. A one followed by nine zeroes.

45-year-old Tekle Zigetta pleaded guilty to three federal counts of trying to bring cash, phony bills, and a fake $100,000 gold certificate into the United States in January.

Further investigation led agents to a West Hollywood apartment where they found the stash of yellowing and wrinkled one billion dollar bills with an issue date of 1934 and bearing a picture of President Grover Cleveland, America's commander-in-chief and World Wrestling Champion from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897. His rotund body was so massive that he could not fit inside one administration: he was both the twenty-second and the twenty-fourth President of the United States.

Authorities say the counterfeit money looked authentic, but there was one flaw: there's no such thing as a one billion dollar bill. The White House reportedly is disappointed about the bogusness of the billion-dollar bills: "Two hundred and fifty of 'em would have paid for all of the Iraq War and half of the Iran one, too," a dejected George W. Bush reportedly said.

One of the Secret Service agents involved in the probe said, "You would think the $1 billion denomination would be a giveaway that these notes are fake, but some people are still taken in."

But really, how many Denny's can break a billion?

[photo: America's rotundest and coruplentest president ever, Grover Cleveland, seen in this file photo from the year 3000, has been absolved of any connection in the counterfeit scandal.]

South Korean journalist kidnapped in Gaza

After about a day in the kidnappers' custody, Mr. Yong has been released unharmed. Two French journalists and a Canadian aid worker were also released. Their captors apologized (and that makes it all better, right?).

A South Korean television reporter appeared unharmed after being seized by Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip, according to a short video shown in Korea today.

The Foreign Ministry says that KBS correspondent Yong Taeyoung was taken hostage at a hotel in the northern beach area of the Gaza Strip where he was staying with his cameraman.

Yong's seizure was reported to South Korean diplomats in Israel by his cameraman, Shin Sangchul, who narrowly escaped the raid by a group of insurgents believed to be linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Shin was initially under the protection of the Palestinian police and was later transferred to South Korean authorities in Israel.

Brief television footage, provided by Reuters news agency, showed Yong and a few other foreign hostages answering questions while holding a microphone with a logo in Arabic. He told the camera:

Although I am being held hostage because of the worsening relations between Israel and Palestine, I hope to see good results from the South Korean government's efforts.
To many Koreans, this is no doubt reminiscent of what happened to Kim Sun-il, a South Korean employee for an American contractor in Iraq, who was proselytizing on his spare time.

South Korean officials have said they are hopeful that the South Korean hostage would be set free unharmed, saying he did not appear to have been targeted, though I half suspect that "not targeting South Korean" sentiment could be wishful thinking.

Yong was one of nine foreign nationals initially taken hostage in the recent unrest in Gaza. Three, including two French journalists, remain capitve while the rest have been released. Yong has been allowed to make several phone calls to the South Korean embassy in Israel to say he is well and faces no immediate threats.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, who visited the Palestinian city of Ramallah in June, telephoned the Palestinian foreign minister from Argentina, where he is on official business, and asked for the Palestinian government's cooperation in working toward the reporter's release.

The violence leading to the seizure occurred in the area early Tuesday after Israeli forces used bulldozers to storm a prison in Jericho less than half an hour after British and U.S. monitors at the facility withdrew.

From Fantasyland to Fantasyland

Princess Aiko of Japan, you've become involuntarily embroiled in a battle to change the imperial succession laws in your country to possibly allow you to take the throne in the event that your next cousin is also female. What are you going to do next?

I'm going to Disneyland!

That's right. The potential heir to Japan's throne, Princess Aiko, has taken a trip to Tokyo Disneyland (which I visited with relatives in October, thank you very much), in a bid to give her the same experiences as other children.

According to the BBC, Imperial Household officials said the princess was able to see what children her age get up to, as she prepares to start kindergarten in April. This normalcy immersion program included a trip to the Tokyo Zoo, where she saw how other normal kids were. I'm guessing that in a few years she might feel more empathy with the caged creatures on display there.

At Disneyland, the princess seemed slightly alarmed by the ordeal, clinging to her mother, Princess Masako, as Disney characters like Mickey Mouse approached to shake hands. Being from Orange County, California, home of the original Disneyland, which I probably have visited literally a hundred times (and where I
worked for a short period), I'd say that's a normal experience for a five-year-old.

Princess Aiko's visit was not a "typical" visit, given that there were some 1,000 plainclothese officers on hand closely watching her. I'm guessing she also didn't have to wait in line very long, nor did they kick her off any ride for "not being as tall as this sign."

"Don't look, don't find."

Okay. You're the US government. Two of the biggest importers of your beef have closed off their markets to all your cattle products when one, then two, then three of your cows are found to be infected with Mad Cow Disease. So what do you do?

In addition to
yelling at the Japanese that they should import American beef anyway, just as Korea is looking for assurances that your beef supply is safe, you should also scale back testing for Mad Cow Disease.

And for good measure, make it really dramatic cuts, like say, from 1000 a day to 110.

Someone in Australia is laughing.

Passport, please.

South Korea has opened immigration checkpoints at the DMZ, the four-kilometer-wide swath of land which has sealed it off from North Korea for more than half a century.

The facilities will ease the journey of some 400 of South Koreans who commute each day to the Kaesong Industrial Zone just inside North Korea.

The Roh government has said the two sides were in the process of becoming a unified community. The new immigration facilities will help speed up the process and give some of the atmosphere of a normal border crossing.

The South's unification minister said growing contacts would show the Koreans could build peace and prosperity on their own.

It's important to note, however, that contact is still carefully controlled by North Korean officials anxious to restrict outside influences. ROK citizens are confined to a fenced-off industrial zone on the outskirts of the city of Kaesong just a few kilometers north of the border. There are about six thousand North Koreans currently employed at South-owned factories, which are attracted by a cheap, Korean-speaking, disciplined (!) labor force.

South Korean workers travel in convoy each day following a military vehicle which is replaced by a North Korean jeep midway through the buffer zone. There are plans to employ more than half a million North Koreans within six years, but officials say success will depend on a diplomatic breakthrough and more support from the United States.

Beward the Ides of March

It's March 15, and right now there are probably a few stressed out guys in Korea who are wondering and plotting how they can fix what they broke yesterday: forgetting White Day.

I won't go into too much detail, because Jodi does so adequately around the twelfth paragraph of
this post (frankly, I don't believe the story of "Mr. Park" that follows; I have heard a version told to me as a joke before, and the carefully laid-out story relies too much on people doing other-than-expected behavior for me to believe things really happened as told there), but Valentine's Day, White Day, and Black Day are pretty much as follows:

On Valentine's Day (February 14) in Korea and (I think) Japan, girls give gifts (typically chocolate, but other romantic things are okay) to the object of their affection.

On White Day (March 14), guys reciprocate and give gifts (again, typically chocolate) to the object of their affection. Considerate gentlemen will also give gifts to their female friends, co-workers, fellow students, etc., which can lead to whacky comedic confusion on the scale of Wilde or Shakespeare. [I remember as a kid that on Valentine's Day, we elementary students were expected to give Valentine's Day cards to all the students—including those of the same gender. But in California, run by the gay mafia even then, it was all a part of the plot to get us to bend gender roles and preference in our tiny, impressionable minds.]

On Black Day (April 14), those who received nothing on either day are supposed to get together and commiserate (and by commiserate, I mean hook up^^) over bowls of jjajangmyŏn, allegedly "Chinese" noodles in a blackish sauce which is yummy over seafood fried rice.

A few people not raised in Korea (or Japan) are blindsided by the White Day tradition, and have hell to pay for because they "forgot" it. Of course, they can get revenge three days later on March 17 when they have every right to give their angry significant other a friendly slug in the arm for not wearing green.
[photo: The road to my heart is through my stomach (and later my intestines), and it is paved with chocolate.]

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Meanwhile, back in Orange County...

Apparently some sort of baseball tournament is being played in the main stadium of my home town. An international tournament of some sort, with the Americans, the Mexicans, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, and many other countries knocking a few balls around for fun, exercise, and profit.

Gee, I wonder
how the Korean team is doing.

It turns out the Korean team did rather well. And of course, Americans in the Korea-related blogosphere are
cheering on the victorious Koreans for a job well done, like good sports, rather than engaging in sour-grapes griping and moaning about what poor sports Koreans usually are.

All this gloating and chest-beating by everyone in Korea over some game is getting pretty annoying.

Geez, you’d think they’d just beaten the Russians at hockey or something.

(Dibs on playing the Kurt Russel’s role when the movie comes out twenty-six years from now!)

[photo: No matter what you've heard, the United States is NOT a country that uses sporting events as a proxy for pent-up geopolitical frustrations. And they certainly don't turn these events into national lore, making movie after movie about them, even a generation later. Nope, not the United States. That's only places like Korea. Or Europe.]

Monday, March 13, 2006

March madness (not about basketball)

I spent all day yesterday sitting in my breakfast nook (maybe I should rename it my "all day nook"), enjoying the view of blue sky and occasional clouds around Namsan and Seoul Tower. When I talked to my dental student friend down in Kwangju, she said that it had been snowing all day down there. Of course, that's 320 kilometers (200 miles, for those of you in Rio Linda) south of here, enough for them to have a different weather pattern.

Well, it looks like the snow has just now made it up to Seoul. I'm staring out from my seventh-floor window, and the snow is really starting to come down. Well, not exactly down: a lot of it is moving sort of horizontally, with a lot of it not hitting the ground at all. Maybe it's the same snow flakes touring the country and, without benefit of the 300-kph KTX express train, it took them all night to get to the capital.

Oh, now the flurries are sort of moving in a circle, some of them even moving upward. I could probably make some money by mounting weather equipment off my veranda window.

It's an odd thing to Seoulites, this mid-March snow. But it is still winter, for another eight days, I think. Most Koreans tend to think of winter as ending when ipch'un (입춘) comes, in late February (not sure, I have to check a calendar). The word means entrance-spring, and I think a lot of people take it as meaning they have entered spring. These are the people who break out the skirts and the short-sleeved shirt and then endlessly bitch, bitch, bitch when the temperatures don't comply with theirsheer will of making it warmer.

[photo: This is Kwangju covered in snow, but not the snow from yesterday, which wasn't as thick as this. Yonhap didn't have pictures of that, so I got this from the Korea Times. Okay, confession time, this is actually New York in the aftermath of the horrific Stay-Puft Incident of 1984.]

To me, "entrance-spring" means that we can begin to see that spring is upon us, but that we're not actually in it. Sort of like all these subway stops named ~대 입구역 (~dae ipku, or "entrance to such-and-such university"). Like 숙대입구역 (Sookmyung) near my neighborhood, 이대입구역 (Ewha) an area I used to frequent when I hung out at a certain Jesuit University, 서울대입구역 (Seoul National University), 홍대입구 (Hongik University), etc., etc. None of these stations are right next to the university, and in fact Sookmyung and Seoul National are a looooong trek away.

So anyway, while I'm not surprised by a mid-March dusting in the center of Seoul, I am fascinated nonetheless. I'm from Orange County, California, after all, where a light white dust will get you arrested. — Oooh, now the sun is out but it's still snowing! — In SoCal cities, snow is something we see every day of winter, but it's way the heck over there, in the mountains that are a couple hour's drive away. (When I was a kid, a few times we had serious brush fires in the mountains that blew in large pieces of ash, which looked a lot like this dusting of snow.)

March 13 is by no means the latest snow I've ever seen in Seoul. I've seen it snow in April at least twice, once as late as April 10. The earliest I've ever seen it snow was the end of October.

But for me the weirdest time to see snow was June 25 — the beginning of summer — in the mountains of Yosemite National Park in California, at about 7000 feet elevation.

Okay. Enough trivia from me. I shall make breakfast now.

It has stopped snowing, but the sky has gone completely overcast, with dark, ominous clouds. I think something's up. Mother Nature can't be trusted.

Friday, March 10, 2006


The Yasukuni Shrine is a shrine at the northern edge of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The American people, in considering how the Japanese feel about history and the war, should know about the Yasukuni Shrine. This shrine is a national shrine. The Japanese built it to make heroes of all Japanese who fought for Japan and died in all their wars including World War II. They are all considered kami, or gods, if they served in their military, fought for Japan and died, no matter how brutal or savage their conduct had been.

Yasukuni Shrine also includes all those who tortured and killed American service men in the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. It includes as Kami (god) all of the soldiers who brutalized and murdered the 300,000 Chinese in the 'Rape of Nanjing' massacre. Also included as Kami, are all of the soldiers who rampaged across China and Asia and participated in killing the 30,000,000 Chinese during the occupation of a great portion of China before and during World War II, in the most brutal of all military occupations.

It includes all those soldiers from the infamous Unit 731 in China who injected Chinese with plague, experimented with deadly germ and biological tests on Chinese, and dissected Chinese alive (Oh, you heroes).

It includes kamikaze pilots who killed American Navy personnel by diving planes into their ship wheter it was a military ship or a hospital ship, and it therefore includes those who killed nurses with kamikaze attacks during World War II. A plaque to the Kamikaze pilots declares "the suicide operators, incomparable in their tragic bravery, struck terror in their foes and engulfed the entire country in tears of gratitude for their outstanding loyalty and selfless service". When I read or think about these Emperor-loyal Kamikaze zealots dying for the Emperor, I alsways remember General George Patton's admonition to his troops; that in War "It's not your mission to die for your country, but to make some other bastard die for his."

Further spitting in our face (figuratively) about World War II, Japanese veterans stand outside this Japanese shrine and hand out brochures stating that "Japan's army in World War II fought in a noble effort to free Asia from white colonialism."

The central hall of the Yasukuni Shrine museum contains such exhibits as teh 40 foot kai-ten human suicide torpedo and the ohka, or cherry blossom plane, a light plane used for kamikaze attacks.

In short, any person who served in the military, no matter how brutal they were, becomes a Kami, or god, upon death in combat.

Well, really you did not have to die in combat for the Emperor, to be enshrined at Yasukuni. The most prominent War Criminal of Japan who was executed, is enshrined there as a hero. Wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, and all the other war criminals who were convicted are enshrined there. We should mention here again, what a terrible job we did in punishing war criminals in Japan, only a pitiful few.

The name of the shrine "Yasukuni" means "peaceful country". The shrine is supposed to celebrate, "the soldiers who, since 1850 sacrificed their lives so Japan could enjoy peace today*."

The shrine is spitting in the face of the United States of America and this from a people who have criticism for our trying to put a historical exhibit concerning the Enola Gay in our Smithsonian Institute. How dare they do this! How dare any 'wild mindless American' support them by distorting history in the proposed Enola Gay exhibit. All this will we are trying, for some 50 years, to be delicate and unerstanding, and in no manner wanting to offend the Japanese in the way we treat the Pacific War, and allowing them to use the Atomic Bomb to place guilt on us and make us the aggressors, and make the Japanese people the victims. This has culminated in elaborate speeches condemning Americans as barbaric, some 50 years after the war.

To the credit of the Japanese people, the best information available indicates that a majority of the Japanese want the truth about the war and the atrocities to be told, and do not suppor this misleading, flawed shrine. IT is a shame that the rabid self-proclaimed patriotic few, are able to be loud and dominant enough to prevail on this distorted historic theme.

Compare the vile insulting nature of the Yasukuni Shrine to our little pitiful attempt at a historic stamp.

In December 1994 the U.S. Postal Service was completing a set of ten commemorative stamps to mark the 50th Anniversary of the end of the war. The series was entitled "World War II - 1945: victory at Last" and the last stamp bore a picture of an atomic mushroom cloud and an inscription "Atomic bombs hasten war's end, August 1945." Totally historic. Totally correct. Well, what do you know! It offended the Japanese and gave them a chance to cry again about the bomb. After they, a few of our idiots, and President Clinton objected to the 'insensitivity' of the stamp and the White House put pressure on the Postal Service to redo the design, the stamp was replaced by one with President Truman announcing the end of the war.

If you read this book and other valid accounts of the Japanese, you know that "insensitive" is a word Japanese should never dare to use to us, or the World.

Many blamed the Postal Service for being spineless, but the real gutless conduct was by President Clinton and the White House staff in not supporting the Postal Service, and saying that the Stamp was a fact we were within our historical right to proclaim. As a matter of fact it was not insensitive, it was fact. Follow their reasoning and we can't even celebrate the end of the war.

As a matter of fact, we cannot properly celebrate the end of the war. We're supposed to (in deference to Japanese feelings) call it V-P Day instead of V-J Day. We don't know who the hell else we were fighting in the Pacific.

*Many citizens of the United States of America and our Allies sacrificed their lives so that Japan could enjoy peace today.

Note from Kushibo:
I think it's obvious that I did not write this. In fact, I found it quite by accident while looking for a copy of Michael Breen's "The Koreans" at the Yongsan Library. It's an entire chapter of a book titled "Clear Conscience: The Atom Bomb vs. the Super Holocaust." It is an opinionated diatribe against Japanese revisionism written by a U.S. Marine Corps General and Medal of Honor winner, and a Senior Judge from the state of Georgia, General Raymond Davis and Judge Dan Winn, respectively. I re-typed it entirely as it appeared, including punctuation errors and the word 'insensitive' in bold face.

I did not seek this book out. It was on display, and I picked it up for the title on Hiroshima. As many of my readers are no doubt aware, I have serious doubts about the historical decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this is why I picked up the book. [See here for a summary of some of the complexities of the debate.]

I was not looking for what I found: an at-times angry look at what Imperial Japan did and what the U.S. and its allies had to do to stop Japan (bear in mind that this book is from not long ago, the late Clinton administration in fact). Much of the anger is directed at Japanese and American historical revisionists. People, in fact, who believe some of the things I believe.

I have read time and time again from defenders of the Japanese right wing that it is only the Chinese and Koreans who care about Yasukuni. My thoughts always were that, especially after visiting Yasukuni Shrine's Yushukan Museum last fall, this would not be the case if the average America knew what was written there. Here my opinions are borne out, ironically by a person who would find some of my own views questionable.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Old girlfriend in old car

I miss this car.
The girl, too. But the car more.

My little niece

My scanner now brings you the most adorable baby in the world:

And I hate to say it, but the one reason I have started thinking that I want to get married and have kids sooner rather than later (although the Korean 빨리빨리 aspect to getting married hasn't gotten to me yet).

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Separated at birth?

Above: South Korean Prime Minister Lee Haechan.
Below: Actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa ("Pearl Harbor," "Rising Sun," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Mortal Kombat," "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding"), with friend.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

When is a holiday not a holiday?

Answer: When the national railway workers are on strike and you're Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Lee Haechan, a close ally of President Roh Moohyun, has been under fire for going golfing on March First Independence Day, the first day of a nationwide walkout by railway workers that has crippled transportation (80% of long-distance trains were canceled), exacerbated commutes (it took some people three hours to get home on Thursday), and pissed off Korea-based bloggers.

People in positions like that of Mr. Lee are expected to be working overtime to oversee the government's response to a disruptive rail strike. The pressure is strong enough that Mr. Lee hinted today that he might resign.

Lee apologized:
I am very sorry for causing concern to the people with my incautious behavior. Regarding my future course of action, I will talk to the president after he returns from a trip to Africa.
According to the article, his remarks were taken to mean he was considering stepping down, but his office refused to discuss any details.

Further dogging Lee were accusations from the opposition and the media that his golf partners included businessmen who allegedly provided illegal political funds during the last presidential election in 2002.

Opposition parties have threatened to seek Lee's ouster unless he steps down.

Prime Minister Lee resigned.

Stress, duress, confess, the press

Mohammad al-Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker" who would have been on the 9/11 flight that ended up crashing into a Pennsylvania field instead of the White House, is reportedly taking back his confession, saying it was coerced under torture.

Some will look at this case and say, see, it's an example of why torture should not be used in a democratic society. Others will say, see, it's an example of why we shouldn't allow normal legal proceedings for suspected terrorists or for the press to report freely on military activities.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Eminent domineering

As a long-time Seoulite, I'm always a bit torn when houses or neighborhoods are razed to make room for new structures. On the one hand, I think it's important to protect truly historic neighborhoods like Kahoé-dong, between Kyŏngbokkung and Ch'angdŏkkung Palaces, but on the other hand there are other places that are in a gray area: older buildings, yes, but nothing special. Just older brick and concrete houses from the 1970s or later.

Until 2002, I lived in a sturdy brick structure that had been built in 1935 [photo above]. It was razed when the owner (who had lived there from the time the house was built until her husband died in around 1995) was sort of coerced by her daughter to sell it. The buyers knocked it down and built a cookie-cutter five-story flat.

I moved into a 25-year-old apartment I bought to use as a residence and office—an apartment that I believe was one of the original buildings to be called apat'ŭ [아파트, a Konglish truncation of apartment possibly derived from アパトー  (apatō) in Japanese]. In contrast with the deep sadness I felt about hearing my 1935 house would be knocked down, I would love to see my apartment complex rebuilt into something more bigger, more modern, and with underground parking.

That is expected to happen, as this part of Yongsan is already undergoing major redevelopment. The neighborhood with the 1935 house is full of other well-built homes from before World War II that I would hate to see go. Such old buildings are still found amongst more modern buildings from more recent decades, whose owners would probably enjoy the windfall of being owners of brand-spanking-new apartments so close to downtown.

Not all owners of older homes are happy to have their places taken away. West of Gate #17 of Yongsan Garrison are several residential towers being constructed on what used to be a thicket of small houses from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The winding alleyways passing rose gardens and gingko trees was where many of these residents had lived their entire lives. But the government kicked them out—apparently without proper compensation—so the developers could build. [January 19, 2009 addendum: I think the neighborhood I described is across the street from the neighborhood where the six fiery deaths occurred in a standoff between squatters and SWAT.]

What got me thinking about all this was
an article in the Los Angeles Times about the City of Los Angeles using "eminent domain" to kick long-established businesses from "Old Hollywood" to make room for a newer and hopefully more vibrant Hollywood:
With a loud thud, new Hollywood collided Thursday with old Hollywood at Tinseltown's most famous intersection: Hollywood and Vine.

Los Angeles officials cleared the way for a luxury hotel developer to seize buildings housing about 30 small businesses through eminent domain so a $400-million project with a W Hotel, condominium and apartment units, and glitzy shops and restaurants can be built on the southeast corner.

The condemnation proceedings, authorized by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, set the stage for one of the most ambitious revitalization efforts in Hollywood.

But the action was loudly protested as heavy-handed and unfriendly by homeowners and merchants who said it was wrong to use public money and power to benefit a private developer.
I understand the City's reasoning behind the $400 million development, but there's so little left of Old Hollywood, and it would be nice to preserve it.

[photo: These people are set to lose their businesses when the corner behind them is redeveloped.]

Besides that is the issue of abuse of eminent domain: it's one thing to use it to build needed infrastructure, but when "the little guy" is losing his or her business so that a bigger business (this one an Orange County-based developer from Irvine) can build something, something doesn't seem right. I would hate that Daewoo, Isu, or some other construction company could force me out of my apartment just because they had the funds.

My not-exactly-enemy's not-exactly-enemy is my new friend!

The Los Angeles Times has an article focusing on President Bush's visit to India (where some were protesting his visit with chants of "Death to Bush!") and the deal-making the White House is engaged in with New Dehli. Some parts of the new deal are controversial:
Under Thursday's deal, India retained the right to deny United Nations inspectors access to a "fast-breeder" reactor suitable for producing weapons-grade fissile material. Since India refused to agree to a cap, there is no limit on the expansion of its nuclear arsenal — a fact that critics say could provoke a regional arms race.
In a nutshell, the idea is that stepping up cooperation with India (where no US president set foot from 1978 to 2000) can help to counter China's growing power:
Despite widespread criticism that the pact sets back global nuclear nonproliferation efforts, Bush administration officials praise the deal for its promise of better ties with a thriving democracy and reduced competition for world oil.

But administration officials also know well that an India that is more prosperous, and well armed, represents a hedge against Chinese military ambitions. With China's intentions unclear, such a counter is an important component of U.S. strategy.

A key factor behind the nuclear cooperation agreement reached this week between the United States and India was a simple trade-off: The White House was willing to risk losing ground in the worldwide campaign to limit the spread of nuclear weapons for a deal with India that could help it counter the rising power of China.
Of course, Pakistan is eyeing US-India relations and seeing what they will get out of it.

Read the rest on your own.