Sunday, August 30, 2009

Don't buy the Horizon juice box at the Waikele Starbucks

So I'm sitting in the Starbucks next to the Borders book store across the street from Waikele Premium Outlet across town, because I'd promised to take "C" shopping there but I didn't want to do any actual shopping. I'm getting some studying done, plus some work.

Some kid — a bit older than a toddler but not much more disciplined — gets away from his maternal parenting unit and grabs the Horizon organic drink in the foreground of the above picture. It may or may not be a juice box, but it looks like a juice box, which is probably why junior decided to grab it. Then, of course, he runs all the way to the other side of the store with it, going past me, which is why I looked up from my diligent study efforts.

Maternal parenting unit doesn't wish to pay for said organic beverage because it probably costs double or triple whatever it would cost at Target, if Target actually sold such a thing.

So MPU tells him "No!" and instructs junior to put it back, which he doesn't, so she grabs it out of his hand and places it back in the refrigerator case herself, next to the fresh sandwiches and fruit.

But not until he sneezed directly on it at least twice, once before she noticed he'd grabbed it, and once after she told him to put it back. Then MPU walks out of the coffee house, child in tow.

So, again, do not buy the Horizon juice box at the Waikele Starbucks. It's been contaminated. I, after seeing junior eject a fine mist of probably virus-saturated snot all over the ORDER HERE line, would have called in a hazmat crew. But that's me.

Coming soon: my post in favor of mandatory parenting licensing.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Delivery Notification: Delivery has failed

Earlier today I sent someone a link to a three-year-old post that was "inspired" by another blogger. Many of you who have been active participants or lurkers on the Korea-related English-language blogs may remember a once prolific blogger named Plunge. Though he had his share of spars with those with whom he disagreed, he was a well-liked blogger. Both The Marmot and Plunge himself agree that he was instrumental in making The Marmot's Hole the celebrated go-to blog that it is today. 

We were all shocked when he revealed (post no longer up) that he was experiencing very severe and likely fatal health problems. I certainly was

Since June 2006 he has stopped posting, but his blog is still up. No one I know has heard from him, and his mac.com contact address yields the message in the title above. As anyone with a Mac knows, mac.com addresses are part of a paid-for subscription to a service, and if I'm getting a bounceback like that, it means no one has paid to renew it. That does not bode well, and with other harrowing things that have happened around me since 2006 or later, I am geared up for the worst.  

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Power to the (White) people!

This is something funny that's been going around the Internet. Apparently Microsoft had run an ad about empowering company workers with the tools they need, and in the US version they had an Asian guy, a Black guy, and a White woman, but in the Polish version of the same ad, the Black guy was photoshopped out and "replaced" with a White guy.


Just how many Microsoft marketing execs does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 

I'm tempted to say that this is one of those things that, had it happened in Korea, the K-blog commentariat would be all over to say how it's a sign of how racist Korean society is and how it discriminates against Blacks. And yeah, that maybe true. 

But really, no matter where, this is all kinds of stupid for a major global entity like Microsoft. Or, had they done it, Apple, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Applebee's, WalMart, Costco, BP, etc., etc. They should know better. (In all seriousness, I want to point out that the last thing I see MS founder Bill Gates as, it's being a racist. After amassing a country-sized fortune from some questionable business practices in the past, he is taking his money and trying to improve the lives of everyday Africans, something only a handful of people with appropriate means or influence — like Bill Clinton — have really sought to do.)

Sure, they might have thought that, "Well, there aren't many Black people in Poland, so the original ad would have less relevance to local consumers." Fine, but then why keep the Asian dude? And for that matter, why keep the Black guy's hands? Why not just get all-new "models" that would look like a cross-section of the type of people one would expect to find in Poland? 

And while we're at it, if you're going to have the Black/White guy use a Macintosh, keep the freakin' Apple logo in the picture. After all, Macs do use Microsoft products. I've got the "empowering" MS Office running right now, and soon I'll set up Windows XP on the BootCamp side of this new MacBook Pro I got the other day (long story, will tell later, but it's one reason for the relatively light posting as of late).

Anyway, MS has apologized, but if their troubles persist, I suggest MS call LG pronto. LG has the skills and experience needed to turn that White dude back into a black guy pretty quick.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

victorious secret

Just what the hell is a red mango? Mangoes are green, yellow, or orange, and only sometimes partly red. Like the way apples can be orange if you have just the right mixture of yellow and red specks, as in a Georges Seurat painting.

Indeed, there must be something else behind the name and the logo, and I think I know what it is: the elusive Red Mango founder Kim Kibom is a perv. And I'm talking Chosun Ilbo photographer pervy

You see, "mango" is a pun on a Japanese slang term for the vajayjay (that link is actually a Parkaykay, but you get the idea), which is manko (まんこ). Oh, geez, now I feel quite pervy myself, just for explaining that. And I didn't even use the word vagina.

I actually was made aware of this several years ago, in a Red Mango shop in Myŏngdong, when a Japanese friend in Seoul told me that "mango" sounded like manko and that such knowledge of Japanese slang by the owner would explain the red oval logo. 

[above: The interior of a Red Mango shop in the US. I tried to find pictures of the logo in front of a Korean Red Mango shop, but no one who bothered to take and then upload pictures of themselves at Red Mango dared to have the lascivious logo anywhere within frame. Knowing or not, they are aware of its hidden meaning, and their subconscious shame drives them away from it.]

I was reminded again — and prompted to write this post — when university friend "M" (also Japanese) noted the exact same thing yesterday. Mind you, neither of these girls are themselves wild women (both, in fact, are fairly devout Catholics), but they both made the same connection.

And that's what I'm guessing was going on in Kim Kibom's head back in 2002. Like lots of South Koreans, he may have learned Japanese or been exposed to just enough Japanese pop culture (read: pornographic videos or comic books) to know that term, or he might even have lived in Japan for a while. And unlike most Korean consumers of Japanese porn, he happened to have a girlfriend, whom he liked to take places like yogurt shops and ice cream stores, and thus his idea for a fruit-filled yogurt creamery was born. 

Wishing to have a catchy name that might sort of make sense but would provide an inside joke that would give him a pleasing giggle whenever he thought of it, he came up with "red mango" and that ovalvular* logo, not knowing that his little house of yogurts would become a worldwide phenomenon and millions would see the name and the logo. Sort of like how IBM got its name from its founder's toddler proudly proclaiming to have successfully gone poo-poo during potty training.


[above: Too squeamish to have the Red Mango logo in your picture, but not too embarrassed to do this?]

Apparently other Korean yogurt entrepreneurs are no better. Pinkberry founders Shelly Hwang and Young Lee named their shop after a slang term for the clitoris (see #7 here), as well as a few other things (um, just look at #7; it's the most kid-friendly of all of them). 

And it's not just yogurt dispensaries: Victoria's Secret has got into the act with Victoria's Pink Secret. Trust me, if you're wearing Victoria's Secret, nothing pink will stay secret for long. 

In conclusion, this post has no point whatsoever except to provide plausible cover since "M" noticed I had been poring over a site that had a bunch of Japanese slang terms for vagina. 

* Yes, I just made up that word. 

[above: I would describe this woman's mango as more yellowish than red.]

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Sugihara video

Last November, on the death of author Yukiko Sugihara, I wrote about her husband, Chiune Sugihara [杉原千畝], a man known to many inside and outside Japan as "Japan's Schindler." 

Recently I ran across this video detailing the story of how Mr Sugihara — at considerable professional risk and no small measure of personal risk to himself and his family — saved thousands of Jews in Soviet-occupied Lithuania by issuing them exit visas in defiance of his own government. 



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"The Epic of Korea"

Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling, one of my all-time favorite blogs just for the sheer depth and insight with which he pursues issues of interest and import, has brought to my attention a book called "The Epic of Korea," which provides a sympathetic (but very un-PC, and a bit condescending) look at Korea in the days before there was a Korean War. 

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To prevent spread of HIV, MOE to allow only circumcised males be given teaching jobs

Well, no. Not really. I just made that up. But the CDC in the United States is weighing whether to recommend routine circumcision for all babies born in the US in a bid to reduce the eventual rate of HIV infection, a controversial decision to be sure:
The topic is a delicate one that has already generated controversy, even though a formal draft of the proposed recommendations, due out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the end of the year, has yet to be released.

Experts are also considering whether the surgery should be offered to adult heterosexual men whose sexual practices put them at high risk of infection. But they acknowledge that a circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact: the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk here, men who have sex with men.

Recently, studies showed that in African countries hit hard by AIDS, men who were circumcised reduced their infection risk by half. But the clinical trials in Africa focused on heterosexual men who are at risk of getting H.I.V. from infected female partners.
The opposite side of the debate is that this is a painful and cruel practice. Undoubtedly, I probably cried like a banshee when I underwent the process at the age of zero. Of course, I don't remember any of it and I'm just fine, except that I do have a lingering animosity toward my parents for some reason.

In South Korea, I believe, circumcision became routine, following the practices of the United States. There may also be a religious angle, what with the strong influence of Protestants and Catholics in South Korea. I'm not entirely sure, though, because when I go to the mogyoktang, I tend not to check out other people's junk.

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Save your money, kiddies!

I have frequently talked up the virtues of saving your pennies (tens of thousands of pennies each month) to buy property in Korea (I know where you can find still very affordable but decent housing that will likely go up in value over the next ten years, perhaps many times over), but this guy also did something pretty good: He took his ESL-teaching earnings and opened up a restaurant — in Wisconsin. 

Good on you, Ryan. If I'm ever in Chippewa Valley Eau Claire (and with loads of relatives in next-door Minnesota and in the LaCrosse area, I just might be), I'll drop in to Secret Garden and sample some of your fare. 


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

South Korea launches a rocket from its own soil

And in the process, it may have become only the tenth country to do so. It's not yet clear whether or not the launch was a success, but we'll know in about twelve hours.

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CDC report warns that as many as 90,000 in US could die from swine flu

So says a report from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, according to the Los Angeles Times. They are warning that two million could be hospitalized and 300,000 might "clog up" ICUs:
Overall, 20% to 40% of the population could develop symptoms of the strain commonly known as swine flu, and 30,000 to 90,000 could die, according to the report. During a normal flu season, the virus kills about 35,000 Americans.

The difference this year is that pandemic H1N1 is killing middle-aged adults and adolescents, whereas seasonal flu kills primarily the elderly.

The numbers confirm those previously released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, but he emphasized the great unpredictability of flu outbreaks and cautioned that this winter's could be much milder.
One report author emphasized that this is a possibility, not a prediction. In the meantime, kiddies, wash your hands (I don't see a lot of hand-washing in Hawaii). 

The report on the H1N1 epidemic can be found here

UPDATE:
PBS's "Newshour" has a good overview of this threat, including an interview with Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Well, it's important for people to know that disease hasn't gone away. We continue to see transmission this summer, and we're currently at higher levels of influenza disease than would be expected for this time of year.
We do think that over the next several weeks, as school kids return to classes, we'll see increases. And we know that we won't have a vaccine before school kids are back in school. They're already back in school.

So we have a number of weeks to months where we'll be needing to use other interventions. But we are working carefully on vaccine development, testing, and planning to implement a vaccination program. At this point, we're expecting to be launching a voluntary vaccination program in the middle of October.

And so it's very important before then for people to remember those important steps they can take: washing their hands, staying home when they're sick, staying informed about what's going on.

The vaccination program, though, we are working hard to be ready for. We're expecting doses to be online and available by mid-October and that additional doses will be coming out every week. And we're working closely with the public health system, as well as private providers, to find ways to reach people who are recommended to receive vaccines.
Expect school closures and other drastic measures. I hope that in Korea the tide has been held back enough that the vaccine will be available before the disease hits full force. Equivalent numbers for South Korea (with one-sixth the population of the US) would be 300,000 hospitalized, 50,000 in ICUs, and up to 15,000 deaths.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Saying "aloha" to statehood

This has been a three-day weekend here in Hawaii, but like with all three-day weekends in Hawaii, you can't really go that far (hint: It's an island). Anyway, school is starting soon, and I'd just arrived from nearly three months in California, Nevada, and Seoul, so there was no point in going anywhere new.

Things have been happening on campus, I've been setting up all the stuff I'd stored in my car and my office, and there have been good movies every night in the lobby of this dorm, all with a Hawaiian theme of some kind. One night there was Fifty First Dates, with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, which takes you around to all sorts of neat little places on Oahu that show a bit of the island's character from a local standpoint.

Though I missed it last night, they showed Picture Bride, a fictional account of a very real type of person who helped "settle" Hawaii: the women who came to these islands to marry the Japanese men who were imported to work the sugar cane plantations (and to join them in their labor). Thursday night had Hawaii, the 1966 cinematic version of James Michener's 1959 novel.

The occasion of the three-day weekend was the golden anniversary of Hawaii statehood on Friday. The fiftieth anniversary of Hawaii becoming the fiftieth state. In a parallel universe, this would be a reason to celebrate, but controversy has long since engulfed this date that remains a state holiday. Celebrations were expected to be muted.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, locals (we are told) were generally quite excited. Despite this being a majority Asian territory, everyone was to be recognized as full US citizens. Indeed, this type of sentiment still carries over some, with the elevation of one of its native sons, Barack Hussein Obama, to the highest office in the land being another sign of Hawaii's full-fledged Americanness.

But in the intervening half century, greater recognition of the troubles faced by Native Hawaiians, the unfairness of how they were dealt with historically and the enduring legacy of that treatment. Native Hawaiians are among the poorest in this island state, living in some of the worst urban environments and still largely excluded from the more elite areas.

Indeed, the very Punahou School that Barack Obama's grandparents struggled to get him into were set up so that White residents wouldn't have to have their kids attend school with the non-haole hoi polloi.

Hawaii as a nation-state is not some distant historical entity. It ended with overthrow by Americans in the 1890s, around the same time that Korea was losing its own sovereignty, and for much the same reason. Hawaii was a strategic point for projecting power to a larger area, for restocking ships, and for producing food.

The entrance of Westerners — not just Americans but also the British and others — came with no small amount of cost to the local Hawaiians, who not only lost their lands but also their lives in many cases. This is something to which we newcomers to Hawaii's institutions (especially universities) are strongly exposed: the narrative of members of a disappearing culture suffering at the hands of a (usually) unintentionally oppressive majority of squatters is quickly learned by anyone who is paying attention. Indeed, on my first Statehood Day in 2006, we were subjected to a seminar in which a local Hawaiian activist explained why Hawaii should secede from the United States. Or rather, the annexation should be recognized as null and void (thus no secession required).

To me, coming from Seoul, there was this inescapable sense that Hawaii may be to the United States what Korea might have been to Japan (especially if liberation had not occurred), and perhaps what Okinawa has become to Japan.

In 2009, many Hawaii residents (people are careful not to mindlessly call anyone in Hawaii "Hawaiian" the way one living in California would automatically be called a "Californian") have a different, far more sympathetic view toward the plight of Native Hawaiians and their lost culture. In that vein, movies like the aforementioned Hawaii provide insight into the folly, hubris, and greed with which Americans approached this archipelago of paradise.

Max Von Sydow's Reverend Abner Hale comes to Maui with idealistic fervor, determined to save the souls of the island natives and befriending Queen Malama (played by Jocelyn LaGarde, a Tahitian who had never acted and spoke no English, yet managed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe Award win for the same category). While providing some positive influence, it is clear he has come to see himself as superior to those he is supposedly shepherding, and his rigid adherence to a literal interpretation of the Bible is criticized even by his wife Jerusha, played by Julie Andrews. She sees the humanity in the ways of the islanders (including the incestuous but loving marriage of Queen Malama to her husband Kelolo) and recognizes that cultural accommodation is at least a two-way street.

Despite his arrogance (and maybe because of it), Reverend Hale fights to protect the islanders from land-hungry schemers and horny sailors who keep bringing disease (including a measles epidemic) to the islanders. After losing almost everything he has, he realizes where he was wrong and attempts to make amends. In this sense, Reverend Hale is something of an allegory for many of the haoles whose families have been in Hawaii for several generations.

Bearing this in mind, it's hardly a surprise that the Honolulu Advertiser has stories on the percentage of Hawaii residents who consider Hawaii statehood to be good or not. Indeed, only two out of three clearly state it has been positive. In fact, 13% (a figure that is larger than the Native Hawaiian population) see it as a negative.

That's a striking statistic, these one of seven locals who feel they'd be better off not living in a state. Is this the economic downturn? Would they feel better off not being Americans (presumably territorial status is more humiliating than statehood)? Do they prefer a nation-within-a-nation status where by the Hawaiian Islands are recognized as a nation coterminous with the State of Hawaii?

It does get one to wondering: Was annexation and statehood necessary at all? Or rather, in these modern times, would a Hawaiian nation in free association with the United States be in a worse situation (or better) than a freak state on the fringe of a global power?

Maybe I'm not the one to answer. For now, I see myself as an ephemeral resident. I still maintain a California driver's license and am registered to vote in Orange County, though I do have an official Hawaii resident identification card and I operate a vehicle here. A semi-resident, I guess, but without the stake in Hawaii's future. Not yet, anyway. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 23, 2009

LAT on Kim Daejung's funeral

The Los Angeles Times has an article by Seoul correspondent John Glionna on the funeral of Kim Daejung. Despite the headline, it actually doesn't deal much with the funeral itself until the latter portion, instead highlighting South Korea's conservative President Lee Myungbak meeting with a delegation from North Korea:
As tens of thousands gathered here today to mourn the death of ex-President Kim Dae-jung, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his bid to reconcile with North Korea, Seoul's conservative government took a page from Kim's diplomatic playbook — meeting face-to-face with its communist counterparts.

In a rare half-hour sit down — his first since taking office last year — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak discussed growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula with a high-level delegation from Pyongyang on hand to pay respects to the late Kim, who died Tuesday at age 85 after a long bout with pneumonia.

Shortly before the state ceremony at the National Assembly on a humid afternoon, the North Korean delegation appeared at the Blue House with an undisclosed verbal message from leader Kim Jong-il, said Blue House spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.

Posing for photos with North Korean envoy Kim Ki-nam, a close aide to Kim Jong-il, Lee said "there is nothing that cannot be solved if South and North sort out their problems through communication and sincerity," according to the spokesman.
Through sincerity? The North Korean envoy might be right, but we won't know until they actually try that, will we?

Anyway, while I do enjoy the interesting focus that LAT's new replacement for Barbara Demick has been bringing us, I also think he sometimes brings a bit of a facile analysis to the complex topics he discusses. Even in this article, he perpetuates the popular misconception that President Kim Daejung won the Nobel Peace Prize primarily for meeting with Kim Jong-il, when he won it as much "for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general," and might have won it just on that even without the 2000 summit with KJI.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Face of the Day

As a nod to KoreaBeat, I will experiment with a "face of the day" feature. The look on this woman's face tells it all:
A South Korean woman wipes tears as she holds a flower for the late former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung during a memorial service at Seoul Plaza in Seoul,. South Korea lost its most fervent champion of peace and democracy with the death of Kim, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to foster reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
[Photo from AP via the Orange County Register]

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Waikiki wave


I wish I could recall how and why this picture ended up the way it did, just so I could repeat the process. I think it has something to do with the iPhone processing different parts of a photo at slightly different times, representing moving cars as if they are zooming, cartoon-like, across the screen.

Anyway, when I get home I'll try to finish my piece on today's fiftieth anniversary of Hawaii statehood.

In the meantime, if only the state economy would follow a curve like that of the ocean here.

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requiem for a dreamer

Last month, when I had noted here and here former President Kim Daejung's potentially serious health problems, not only the K-blogs but the English-language media itself seemed to be ignoring the story. With former President Roh Moohyun having killed himself just two months earlier, maybe the death of a second head of state within such a short period of time was too much to think about.

But at eighty-four years of age (he was born in 1924), his health problems caught up with him. He died several days ago, his demise an unwelcome surprise when I arrived back at my place in Honolulu after a long flight from California.

I don't want to say that President Kim is a controversial figure, but I can at least state that he is a notable figure who accomplished much but whose faults, it must be acknowledged, have tainted his image. I think a lot of people will judge him based on his worst perceived traits instead of looking at the man as a whole. Recognizing my own shortcomings and realizing coldly that even those I most admire are flawed and imperfect, I choose the latter path.

Some will say "DJ" bought himself a Nobel Peace Prize with $500 million in bribe money to North Korea to get a prize-winning summit with Kim Jong-il. Some will say he perpetuated the regional politics that plagued South Korea for decades. Some will say he was just as corrupt as his predecessors (and successors). Some will say he was a political opportunist. Some will say he was anti-American, spitting at those who saved his life.

[above: A bruised and beaten Kim Daejung is interviewed after an abduction and attempted assassination by government operatives in 1973. Agents from KCIA, South Korea's notorious spy agency, kidnapped Kim from his Tokyo hotel room from which he was leading an exile movement. Five days later, he was dumped at the gate of his Seoul home and placed under house arrest, which is where he spoke with reporters.]

Yes, he was imperfect, and he may be some or all of those things. But he was also a person who believed in pushing South Korea forward toward democracy. No opportunist on this matter, he is a person who risked his own life to bring democracy to the ROK. Yes he was imprisoned and set to be executed by the despotic regimes he opposed. That right there earns him immense respect in my book.

[above: Running for president in 1987. Kim Daejung and Kim Youngsam, both opposition politicians who each thought they had the best chance of defeating President Chun Doohwan's hand-chosen successor, former General Roh Tae-woo, split the opposition vote and ensured Roh's victory. Kim Youngsam later joined a ruling coalition with Roh, which made him the favored ruling candidate for president in 1992, defeating Kim Daejung. It was the Kim Youngsam administration's bungling of the emerging economic crisis of 1997 that propelled Kim Daejung into the Blue House that year.]

In 1997 he finally won the presidency he had long coveted — in direct elections he had helped make possible — at about the worst possible moment in modern Korean history. And he was willing to scrap some of his notions of political economy in favor of the tough choices (and untested choices based on faith) that were necessary to bring Korea out of the chaos of the Asian economic meltdown.

A Roman Catholic, he seemed to truly believe in reconciliation, breaking bread with and forgiving those — among them former president Chun Doo-hwan and former prime minister Kim Jong-pil — who sought to have him killed years earlier (it was American presidents who intervened to save him).

[above: Kim Daejung and his wife stand next to out-going President Kim Youngsam at Kim Daejung's inauguration on February 25, 1998.]

When he became president, he decided that it was time to shift gears vis-à-vis North Korea. Some four decades of mutual hostility had not made North Korea less threatening, more democratic, or any friendlier, and he thought it was time to try killing with kindness. Reach out to the North, try to integrate them, get political and social change to come from economic integration. And so was born the "Sunshine Policy."

Critics of the Sunshine Policy complain that after ten years, Kim Jong-il's regime is still standing. They complain that Roh Moohyun kowtowed so much to Pyongyang that Seoul's back was broken. And while I've been a harsh critic of Roh Moohyun, it is not Kim Daejung's fault that RMH was all carrot and no stick; I don't think, had he been allowed a second term, that KDJ would have been the same toward North Korea as his successor was.

Meanwhile, Kim Daejung deserves credit for allowing in more North Korean refugees than all his predecessors combined, a feat which included his future-oriented decision to establish Hanawon, a facility designed to process and integrate the newly arrived North Korean refugees. Funny how his critics twist all this around.

[above: When Kim Daejung (right) met with Kim Jong-il (left), the prospect of inter-Korean reconciliation had him so excited and elated that the septuagenarian lifted the North Korean leader half a meter off the ground.]

It's no surprise that they also couch his winning of the Nobel Prize as if he won it solely for his unprecedented 2000 summit with Kim Jong-il (about which Halmoni — whose clergymen father and brothers were killed by the communists — said upon witnessing that embrace on the tarmac that he should be arrested when he returns to Seoul), when the Nobel Prize committee specifically stated that his democracy activism was the major factor:
for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular
Like Corazon Aquino in the Philippines (who may also have deserved a Nobel Prize), he was a major factor in the sweeping in of democratic reforms in East Asia during the 1980s. Lest one think that the "democracy and human rights" part was tacked on to provide cover for the summit being the real reason, let's not forget that just nine years earlier would-be Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi had won the Nobel Peace Prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights."

Indeed, his Nobel was a lifetime achievement award. And that's how I choose to recognize him. He was flawed; he was a politician, and an ambitious one at that. It almost seemed that running for president was a hobby of his and the only way to get him to stop would be to elect him already.

I regret that I never got the chance to meet him (if I had persisted, I might have succeeded). But I know that the South Korea I live in is a better place because of him, and for that I thank him.

金大中, requiescat in pace.

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North American pollution killing Europeans

So says a recent UCI study in the Orange County Register:
For the most part, cutting ozone output had the biggest effect on death rates inside each of the regions studied — North America, East Asia, South Asia, and Europe. Overall, more than 30,000 lives a year could be saved worldwide if each of the four regions cut their ozone output by 20 percent, the study found.

The one exception was North America. As much as 76 percent of the deaths avoided by cutting ozone production would occur outside North America. Europe could benefit the most because of higher population levels and higher death rates, and because more smog flows to Europe from the North American continent than in the opposite direction.

For example, death rates from cardiopulmonary disease alone — only a portion of overall pollution-related deaths — would drop by an estimated 900 per year in North America, but by 1,100 in Europe.
It might make you wonder if cutting pollution in East Asia would have the same effect. As the article itself notes (and anyone living in California, Oregon, or Washington would know if they paid attention) pollution from China — particularly the "yellow dust" which plagues Korea and Japan every spring — already reaches the West Coast of the US. 

Though South Korea has made major headway in reducing pollution (LP-gas taxis, CNG buses, virtual elimination of coal-burning heating systems replaced by a natural gas network, etc.), it produces significant amounts, as one would expect in a heavily industrial country of fifty million. Ditto with Japan. These may be a drop in the bucket compared to the Factory to the World™ (China), but every little fix helps. 

Here in Hawaii we do pollute, but it all blows out to sea, where there's nobody else for thousands of miles in any direction. Hence, the clean air we have here.

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Orange County's mickey-mouse court system

I just like this story for its goofiness. It's about a shooting victim who was put in jail to ensure he would show up to court to testify against the guy on trial for shooting him, and not just put in any jail but the same housing unit as the shooter! 

Prosecutors found this out and had them separated — to adjacent housing units where the victim and the shooter were still able to communicate. This had the potential to turn very tragic very quickly, but in the end the victim said the shooter had apologized to him, saying the shooting was an accident.

In response, the prosecutor started treating the guy who had been shot in the neck as a hostile witness in their case against the shooter:
So Froeberg took the unusual step on Aug. 12 of ordering Khalil held in custody as a material witness, to make sure he would be available for the Hampton trial.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals made an identical ruling at a separate review – as required by law after the “witness” had been in custody for 72 hours – on Friday.

But by then, Khalil had been incarcerated for several days in the Orange County Central Men’s Jail, apparently in the same housing unit as Hampton, the man who was on trial for attempting to kill him.

And that surprised Hasan, who said she and her investigator made several phone calls to the Sheriff’s Department beforehand, advising jailers that Khalil was a witness in an ongoing criminal case against Hampton.

Hasan said that when her office learned over the weekend that Khalil was being held with Hampton, they made another emergency phone call to the jail and Khalil was transferred to another facility.

John McDonald, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, reported on Wednesday that prosecutors did request that Hampton and Khalil be kept apart after Khalil was taken into custody.

The inmates, McDonald said, were then classified as “total separation” by sheriff’s personnel, meaning that they were to separated from all others.

They were then housed in separate tanks, but in an adjacent housing unit, McDonald said, separated from any physical contact.

But, he added, “the inmates could hear each other and were communicating via reflective glass. When the DA made us aware of this, we immediately housed them in separate facilities.”

When Khalil was finally called to testify this week against Hampton, he was in a Theo Lacy branch jail uniform.

He testified that while he was in custody, Hampton had engaged him several times in conversation, and had actually apologized for shooting him.

Khalil was also by then more sympathetic to Hampton’s position than he had been in previous discussions with law enforcement about the shooting, according to Hasan.

He testified, according to defense attorney Roger Sheaks, that the shooting was probably an accident caused when he tired to accelerate out of a parking lot after a misunderstanding. Sheaks is contending that the shooting was an accident.

Because of Khalil’s change in tone, Hasan then treated Khalil — her victim — as a hostile witness.
And Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to cut the prison budget.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

a geography lesson

This "map" of Oahu and the visible Hawaiian islands east of here is one of the improvements to the vista point where I snapped the picture in the previous post.

Just prior to me taking this photo, a Japanese ojisan (아저씨) ferrying around Japanese visitors in a tour bus was using the representation of Oahu to show several younger women the attack route used by Japanese bombers in the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

That is what prompted me to fish the iPhone out of the car. It also made me wish I had the video-capable iPhone 3Gs.

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If you're going to do it, do it now.

Because the "Cash for Clunkers" program ends on Monday at 8 p.m., due to them running out of the $3 billion allotted for the program. Originally they had thought $1 billion might last until November. 

As I ventured to the university parking lot to start my now ten-year-old Honda Passport (made in Indiana at an Isuzu factory, incidentally) and found that the battery wasn't starting, I had briefly considered getting $4500 for bringing it in to buy, say, a Scion tC or a Honda Accord. 

And then I realized I had no money.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

What is it with kyopo men in positions of authority in Orange County?

Fresh on the heels of the arrest of music teacher Daniel Hansol Oh last February for molesting at least three very minor girls in Orange County, comes news that a church group leader in Cypress (western Orange County) from Fullerton (northern Orange County) has been arrested for giving a fifteen-year-old girl marijuana and having sex with her in the church parking lot.

Twenty-one-year-old Timothy Han supposedly did all this in June 2008 at Miracle Land Baptist Church, a Korean-American-oriented church in western OC. He is being charged with two felony sex charges and one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which brings with it a maximum of three years and eight months in state prison.

Cypress Chief of Police Gerard Rudiger is quoted as saying, "I've been reading at KoreaBeat how English teachers have been harassed by the authorities in Korea over every little thing, so I thought it was time for some payback."

No, not really; I'm making that last part up. But I thought that was a better way to end this post than to give examples of some of the naughty things I may or may not have done in church parking lots, though it was always with people no less legal than I was, and it never involved drugs of any kind.

[above: "하나님, we pray that it was only that one girl that Brother Timothy tried to lure down the path of iniquity* and turpitude**. Oh, and if it pleases you, strike him with ice cream headaches every day he's in prison, and maybe a big, sweaty cell mate named Bobby Ray."]

* evangelical speak for fornicating with underage girls
** evangelical speak for smoking pot
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back on Oahu

I arrived late last night and am now headed out toward Sandy Beach and
Makapuu Point in order to recharge the Honda's battery after 2.5
months of no activity (should have disconnected the battery), at the
recommendation of the Geico-contracted roadside service guy.

I have an Egg McMuffin, a coffee, and a haupia pie from McD's, staring
at the ocean that in the morning sun is even deeper blue than usual.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Los Angeles Times goes to Angeles City

John Glionna, lately the Seoul correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, headed down to Angeles City, the former US military camp town where the local prostitution industry has adjusted to the loss of the Clark Air Base cash cow by becoming a haven for older men on sex tours who want English speakers:
The U.S. base closed in 1992, and the often-randy airmen have gone with it. But the girls, the sex, the round-the-clock raunchiness remain. Only the customers have changed.

A thriving sex tourism trade attracts foreign customers by the thousands in search of something they cannot find back home: girls young enough to be their granddaughters selling sex for the price of a burger and fries.

Once populated by men in their early 20s who started each day with 100 push-ups, the place is now home to older men who need help pushing themselves out of bed in the morning.

Most are bused up from Manila, an hour away, on golf and sex package deals. This is no quasi-innocent boys' night out. Rather, it's a single-minded realm of weary-looking loners on a resolute hunt that smacks of feeding an addiction.

Many are ex-military men reliving former glories, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper wannabes, some gathering at the local American Legion post before embarking into the night.
As one might expect if one reads Korean news at all, there is a slight Korean angle to this story, even if it is a bit buried:
All along Fields Avenue, the come-on banners with their Web addresses advertise good pay (up to $10 a day) for hostess jobs. But applicants must speak Korean, Japanese or Chinese.
That's right, the Korean ajŏshi has also become something of an icon of the same sex tourism that was so heavily derided when it was Japanese salarymen visiting Korea. Along, of course, with Japanese and Chinese men, even if there are also a lot of White men from North America and Europe alongside them. 

From his descriptions of the customers he sees, it seems Mr Glionna wishes to convey just how pathetic these men are. The header itself says the US military men "have been replaced by lonely old men," another would-be customer is "a saggy-faced Australian," and there is this first paragraph:
At a club called Koko Yoko, balding men with bulging bellies sit at an outdoor bar, sipping beers and leering at the young girls who pass on the model's runway gone wrong called Fields Avenue.
Okay, okay. We get it. Men who buy sex are pathetic... and probably fat, ugly, wrinkly, and smelly. And bald. Because no one likes bald men. 

Over-thirty Kushibo is a decent-looking chap with a full head of hair (and descendant of other people with a full head of hair; my septuagenarian father's hair is so thick, people think he's wearing a wig), and a slim build thanks to a devotion to reasonably healthy eating and regular exercise. 

But what if I were someone with less-than-appealing looks, some old(er) guy who's genetically cursed with the bad luck of having one's hair grown on the wrong parts of the body, at least by modern-day standards of attraction? Males with a shiny head and a hirsute back still have a libido, and wouldn't it be torture to deny them some lovin'? 

I mean, I'm not so sure that prostitution is the answer, but I'd rather not mock them for being horny. Well, they are being horny and seeking to pay for sex, an act that inherently objectifies women. And maybe some of the customers there are freaks, but if that's the angle, then play that out. I guess it's the gratuitous denigration of these poor chaps' appearance that kind of bothers me. Like the less-than-pretty are less human. That kinda sh¡t has got to go.

And that leads me to another thing, the whole concept of prostitution's moral place in general. I'm like at least a few people in that I don't think prostitution can be legislated and enforced out of existence, and I might be like an even smaller group in that I am apprehensive about the consequences of drying up the sexual outlet for the most desperate (i.e., those who are least appealing, not those with the freakiest or most perverse proclivities). 

But on the other hand there is deep concern about the exploitation of those who work in the sex industry. No one should ever be there involuntarily, but at the same time — and this is where feminist relatives of mine might decide to hit me in the back of the head with a large book — we should acknowledge that some (many?) are willing participants in a business that they can move in and out of as they wish. In Korea and Japan, where utilitarian views on sex are common, it's easy to see a model of sex-for-money where the young women are not particularly coerced. 

Sure, the work may be the equivalent of a dead-end job that they will regret later on, but I think we do more to protect them (and future would-be sellers of sex) if prostitution is legalized and carefully regulated. Requiring practices that promote safe sex (and in Korea, condom usage, as I understand it, is de rigueur), ensure the participants' safety, and prevent the exploitation of newcomers, etc., etc., would be a better way to go to protect the people involved. 

That makes me an idealist or a cynic. Or both. 

John Glionna's own report gets into the prospect of exploitation (or not) and why the women come to Angeles City:
A young dancer in tight red hip-hugger pants and matching sports bra acknowledges that Fields Avenue may not be pretty, but the money is good. She rolls her eyes at two overweight men who pass by looking like large reptiles dressed in children's clothing.

Sure, the sex is disgusting, she says. But at least it's over quickly.
Sex with old people is disgusting? I guess she's not a fan of To Die For. Nor, for that matter, is Mr Glionna, who had better keep eating his oatmeal and taking his zinc supplements, because Karma is looking for him. 

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city planning fail

Just in case it's not clear, that sign reads "For Your Safety Please Use Sidewalk." 

Honolulu is not exactly the most pedestrian-friendly city in America, and I thought this was a cute example.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

The nicest sunsets...

... are usually on airplanes, I've found. In fact, the most amazing
sunset I ever saw was an LAX-SEL flight on Korean Air while flying
over Japan. A snow-capped Mt Fuji was poking put above a blanket of
clouds in front of a brilliant orange sky. Wish I'd had a camera with
me.

Anyhoo, I'm out and about for the next few days, so expect a lot of
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Laura Ling and Euna Lee say thanks on CurrentTV video


I'll cut them some slack for not talking about the things they should be talking about (after all, they just got home). But whatever book deal they make and whatever public appearances they make to talk about this, they should be ready to answer some tough questions and, in my opinion, show some serious contrition and penitence for the consequences of their actions vis-à-vis the people whose very lives they put in danger. 

Watching this video, it's easy to imagine what kind of dynamic is driving book deals reportedly being sought by Laura Ling and her sister who — do I need to remind anyone of this? — was not captured and did not spend nearly five months at the Pyongyang Palazzo: If one is seeking to capitalize on the accidental spotlight in order to gain more celebrity and riches, one would not want to be saddled with a halting speaker who is not a native Anglophone. 

For Lisa Ling, the reasons for ditching Euna are even greater: She is not Euna. Other than being captured at the same time doing the same stuff and being in the same imprisoned condition as Laura Ling, what has Euna done to deserve being paired up in any book deal? Lisa, on the other hand, can guarantee Oprah. 

Sigh. My level of disgust at these two and their colleague Mitch Koss has not abated at all, but it used to be spread out equally. It is now quite a bit less for Euna Lee and quite a bit more for Laura Ling (with spillover to her sister). 

(Hat tip to Joshua of One Free Korea and whomever it was that gave him the link)

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Ursine sprawl

Fly over Southern California and you might be forgiven for forgetting that there are things in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, and Orange Counties other than cement, asphalt, and irrigated flora. Indeed, most Californians not living on the periphery of their urban scape may forget that wildlife abounds. 

[above: If your ball goes into the trees at Orange County's Coto de Caza golf club, just use another one.]

This includes coyotes, raccoons, opossums, field mice, skunks, and even mountain lions. Yes, people in Orange County have been attacked and killed — in recent years, I'm not talking back in the ranchero days — by mountain lions. 

And up in the mountains that hem in the L.A. Basin, there are bears. Wild bears. The San Bernardino Mountains reach well over 10,000 feet (3000 meters) in some places, and they include an awful lot of forests. 

City folk like to go over there and picnic and, unfortunately, act like idiots. So says the Los Angeles Times:
When a bear decides it's a fine idea to hop onto a picnic table surrounded by people, something clearly has gone wrong. But officials say it's not the bear that is to blame.

In fact, the bear that forced the closure of a picnic area next to San Bernardino National Forest's busiest trailhead on July 7 had simply adapted to a quick and easy food source: hot dogs and other human fare left out — sometimes intentionally — by picnickers and area residents.

"People were leaving a lot of food unattended; they weren't properly throwing it away in the bear-proof cans. There was even reported cases where people were intentionally feeding the bear," said John Miller, deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service. "What we have is ... a human behavior problem."

Once bears learn to associate human scent with easy food sources, they are more likely to venture into picnic areas, according to Jeff Villepique, associate wildlife biologist at the California Department of Fish and Game.

Picnickers have reportedly enforced the behavior by tossing food at the bear and getting up close to take photos.

"The bear has pretty much lost its fear of humans," Villepique said.
From personal experience, I think part of the problem may be the very different types of access there are in the ubiquitous national forests compared to the rarefied national parks. On visits to Yosemite, Sequoia, Zion, Yellowstone, etc., it was drilled into our heads that this was bear country, and we had to do this, that, and the other to prevent wild animals from entering our camp (which they sometimes did anyway, including mama bears with their cubs, which can be very dangerous to humans). 

In my jaunts into San Bernardino National Forest, however, we would rarely see any such message. Maybe the authorities thought it was obvious, but not feeding animals "people food" (which is not fit even for people sometimes), keeping food out of sight in your car, or even that the smell of toothpaste can attract a bear, are not naturally intuitive, common-sense things.
 
[above: Early settlers to California took down all the bear warning signs and turned them into independence-minded flags.]

In fact, back in 1986 when five-year-old Laura Small was mauled nearly to death by a mountain lion, her parents had no idea — there were few if any posted advisories — that a girl walking by herself near the camp would be in such serious danger. After the attack, that same area was closed to all children under 18, even those with an adult. 

I just hope some hapless kid on a family picnic doesn't get end up getting attacked by a bear because his/her family — or someone else's family before them — was acting like an idiot.


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No uglier than any other

Wangkon has a piece on the troubles faced by Ssangyong Motors, including the notion that Twin Dragons' cars are fugly. But I take issue with his last two examples, especially the Musso (which is supposed to mean "water buffalo," as in tough as a ...). 

I don't think the Musso (or even the Rexton) are any uglier than American, Japanese, or European vehicles of a similar type. In fact, my 1999 Honda Passport which I drive in Hawaii is probably no better looking (the spiders certainly like it). And they certainly were popular in Korea until just a few years ago. 

I had wanted to buy one of these back when our company was getting a new vehicle, but I wasn't the one ultimately in control of the money or the decision-making, so we got a practical but fun Kia Carnival (Kia Sedona) minivan that ran on LPG (LP gas, propane) instead of Diesel. Actually, for me, too, that was a dealbreaker. 

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The Suyu side is painless

The new photograph used in the header of the Marmot's Hole (above) seems vaguely reminiscent of scenes from M*A*S*H (below). 

Yeah, I'll probably get kicked out of some club or other for saying so, but M*A*S*H reruns were always one of my favorite shows as a kid, if for no other reason than seeing how Korean stuff played out (plus it was a funny and, as time went on, thought-provoking show). 

It really did get better in its portrayal of the ROK over time, if for no reason other than the fact that the producers actually began to realize that Korea was its own place and not just an allegory for Vietnam. In early seasons they actually referred to Korea as being in Southeast Asia. 

Anyway, I think the opening of M*A*S*H (which never changed during its eleven seasons, except for the cast names) is not as good as scenes from actual episodes for places in the hills behind Malibu as stand-ins for the hills around Uijongbu. The picture below looks much more like it could be Tobongsan or some such. 

Of course, once you get up close to the flora you can see the difference. Korean forests are lush with trees (though much less so back then, due to excessive logging, fuel demands by a besieged public, and then war) whereas low-lying mountains and hills in California are thick with brush, with far fewer trees. From a distance, though, they might look the same.

[above: In what universe are Tokyo and Burbank the same direction from the DMZ, but the opposite direction of San Francisco from the DMZ?]

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miley Cyrus does her part for the pornification of America

[above: Is she just being Miley? Well, at least this time her questionable judgement didn't involve a racial slur.]

What parent who allows their child to watch the Teen Choice Awards on Fox TV wouldn't want their kid to see a sixteen-year-old pop idol clad in short shorts straddling a pole during a risqué performance

Again, to quote Marge Simpson:
You know, Fox turned into a hardcore sex channel 
so gradually, I didn't even notice. Yeesh!

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On the homefront with Euna

UPDATE:
The Los Angeles Times has reports on the same letter below. I'm beginning to formulate an opinion that the foolish decisions that led to Laura Ling and Euna Lee's arrest — including the mind-bogglingly stupogant idea to illegally enter North Korea — were more the work of Ling and Mitch Koss and less (if at all) of Euna Lee. 

ORIGINAL POST:
While Laura Ling is out making book deals, Euna Lee is at home making scrambled eggs. This link goes to a heartfelt letter she posted to one of the sites that was supporting her. 

And then there was this:
As soon as I got home, after I gave a long hug to my family, I wanted to thank the people who helped me. I wanted to let people know how grateful I was and am. I found myself surfing the Internet and reading different blogs and news articles about us. Then I realized that I felt separated again from my husband and daughter, just as I was for 141 days in North Korea.

I decided then not to go through all the emails and articles just yet. I have not checked the Facebook pages about Laura and I or the web site, LauraAndEuna.com. Because I know that once I started to read them I would get caught up in all the love and support everybody gave me and I will neglect my family.
Yeah, you might want to give my blog a pass. Really, it's not that I'm not happy you're back from North Korea, it's just that I wish you hadn't gone in the first place. 

When I get a little more time, maybe I'll write an open letter of contrition and penance for Euna to peruse. I have a feeling that she, but maybe not her comrade, would actually take it seriously.


[above: North Korean refugees hiding in China who were interviewed by Laura Ling et al on videotape brought by these reporters into North Korea also have families.]


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Euna Lee, call me.

Well, it looks like the Ling sisters are out trying to make a book deal of their own:
According to a publisher who has seen the proposal and asked to remain anonymous, Ms. Ling, together with her sister, Lisa Ling, a special correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” is offering a book that will examine the meaning of sisterhood and journalistic ideals. The issue of Laura Ling’s captivity will be discussed, but in a larger context.
Aigo! Now I'm sensitive to the idea that the media has been infantalizing Laura Ling and her fellow inmate at the Pyongyang Palazzo, Euna Lee, so I'm a bit loath to use the appropriate term for the these two. But even if it had been two male journalists who had been the ones in the middle of this publicity storm and trying to play it for all the coin and celebrity they could squeeze out of it, I would call those men media whores too. 

Though I have been against a book deal from day one, I think it is grossly unfair for Euna Lee to be cut out of the picture (Mitch Koss cut tail and ran, avoiding capture, so he doesn't really deserve a book deal). Laura Ling and her co-conspirator sister have taken a situation of near criminal negligence and are turning it into maximum profit by cutting out a person who is just as deserving to earn money off it (which I find ethically questionable). 

What does Lisa Ling have to do with this case? Can Laura Ling not write a book on her own? Is Lisa Ling's fame expected to enhance the book's sales? Its quality? 

So Euna Lee, call me. I'm a Korea specialist and a published writer, so let's write a book where you probe the dire consequences of your own foolish acts (and those of Laura Ling and Mitch Koss) and then go from there to talk about the whole issue of North Korean refugees and the regime. Let's write the book that should be written, donate most or all of the profits to organizations that aid North Korean refugees or those who help resettle them, and upstage the Ling-Ling Pander Exhibit. 

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Ice Cream! Ice Cream! And garlic! Frozen Fish!

Maria Jo Fisher of the Frumpy Middle-Aged Mom blog (over at the Orange County Register) believes that ice cream trucks are "the spawn of the devil":
When I adopted my kids, a friend with six children warned me: Never, ever let them buy ice cream from a truck. Otherwise, they’ll torment you every day all summer, whenever they hear that tinny speaker.

I know, you’re saying to yourself, “That Frumpy Mom is one grouchy lady, she won’t even let her kids get ice cream, a time honored tradition.”

But since I truly believe that these trucks were sent by Satan to drive people mad, I followed her advice. I don’t want their evil dominion to spread.

I wasn’t surprised to hear about ice cream truck vendors being arrested for selling drugs out of their trucks. If you will drive around a peaceful neighborhood, blasting loudspeakers and disturbing the peace, you will stop at nothing. Drugs, robberies, murder. Hey, it could happen.
Um, okay. But for true evil, go to Korea and be forced to listen to a loudspeaker-equipped Porter truck with a tape loop or a microphone whose owner is selling garlic, vegetables, dried fish, frozen fish, pets, seasonal fruit, or God knows what else. It still sticks in my head this one guy that every week came by with a disturbing chant: "개~ 팝니다. 개 팔유!" 

Since I and others were actually working from my home-cum-office during the day, I put my foot down with the more egregious violators (an index measured by arrival frequency, speaker volume, and length of time parked near my house) and politely — ever so politely — informed them that using loudspeakers to sell things in residential neighborhoods was in fact illegal and I would not tolerate it. If they wished to do this anywhere within eyesight or earshot of my home, I would videotape them and promptly send it to the ward and district administrative buildings (i.e., 구청 and 동사무소). 

After that, they never bothered me again. In fact, even long after we'd moved from there, they still learned to just pass right on by our street. They probably have foreboding legends passed down from generation to generation as to why that street is taboo. 

My neighborhood should put up a statue in my honor.

For true eeriness, however, the guy who roamed the halls of the apartment building I'd briefly lived in back in the 1990s wins hands down. Apparently he was yelling "Setak! Setakso!" (Laundry! Laundry Service!), but he did so in a way like he was chanting and his actual pronunciation of those words sounded nothing like what he was trying to say (yes, even Korea-born native Korean speakers I'd asked had difficulty figuring out at first what he was saying). The result was that I was convinced, prior to finally asking someone, that this man was in a cult of some kind and he was asking for alms. 

Wait. I take all this back. The guys peddling malathion are the worst. 

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