Sunday, February 22, 2009


(He's/They're) to Blame!

Fellow Americans, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that times are hard right now because of our financial situation. The stock market is tanking, unemployment is on the rise and our housing bubble has burst. These economic problems come after many years of (tax cuts that favor the wealthy/wasteful government spending) that (have/has) left our country deep in the red.

Of course, our financial problems have been compounded due to the (misguided foreign policy of the past administration/the threat of Islamofascism), which has placed our troops abroad, putting their lives at risk (in an endless war at was begun under false pretensions/to protect our way of life). Now, our economy faces serious danger brought on by (a lack of financial oversight/the interference of Big Government).

(Because of/Despite) our obvious needs, President Obama has prepared a (sweeping/wasteful) (stimulus/“stimulus”) bill that seeks to solve our economic woes by (getting Americans working again/carelessly throwing money at the problem). This spending plan recalls former President Franklin Roosevelt’s (visionary/unnecessary) New Deal programs of the 1930s, which (gave hope to and took care of Americans in their time of need/delayed our recovery from the Great Depression until World War II began).

Despite (petty partisan/brave) opposition from Republicans who (squandered any credibility they had on fiscal matters while they controlled Congress and the presidency/don’t think our economy can be saved with more pork spending and government bureaucracy), this bill recently passed both houses of Congress along heavily partisan lines.

Many of you may be wondering what this bill means for you. For starters, the bill (calls for new money devoted to jobless benefits, renewable energy projects and other beneficial programs/raises our national debt to $12 trillion). (Also/Unfortunately), it will grant average Americans ($300 billion/an insufficient amount) in tax breaks, about $10 billion of which will go to businesses who invest in (green, renewable sources of energy/junk science). Spending of this amount will (provide work to Americans in modernizing and improving our nation’s infrastructure/put our nation’s future at risk of hyperinflation as we keep printing money of no inherent value).

And now, the most recent news indicates that President Obama’s response to the skyrocketing federal budget deficit is to raise taxes on (those making $250,000 in income per year/the most productive of Americans), thus (cutting our deficit in half in four years/penalizing success and returning to liberal tax-and-spend governing). He also plans to (wind down our disastrous involvement in/complete an irresponsible withdrawal from) Iraq which will (save money on our defense budget and get American troops out of harm’s way/constitute a surrender to America’s enemies in the fight against Islamic extremists).

Now, you may ask, “How did it ever come to this?” Well, some introspection is required: (Democrats/Republicans) did lose their way over the years, abandoning their (progressive/fiscally responsible) roots and acquiescing to foolhardy (tax cuts and military adventurism/spending and government intervention). The best thing for their party is ultimately the best thing for our country, and that is for them to return to their (populist/conservative) roots.

We know that the news that you’re hearing out of Washington can be scary, and you may be wondering what you can do in these times that (short-sighted deregulation/runaway government spending) have led us to. One thing that certainly needs to change is our nation’s overreliance on (the free market to provide for all our needs/borrowing for the purpose of living beyond our means).

In all honesty, American consumers as a whole are partly to blame for this, as they have year after year gone deeper into debt by spending and borrowing more than they could ever pay back and expecting that such a lifestyle supported by (greed/irresponsibility) could go on. Besides making a point to live within your means and pay as you go, you can best make a difference at the voting booth, and by contacting your elected representatives.

Let the irresponsible (Republicans/Democrats) in Washington know that their overreliance on Big (Business/Government) can no longer be accepted and that we can only solve our current troubles by (helping one another and spreading the wealth/putting our faith in the market rather than in government bureaucrats). The (Republicans’/Democrats’) (laissez-faire/tax-and-spend) approach has already been tried under the administrations of (George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan/FDR and Lyndon Johnson) and it didn’t work then, either.

Furthermore, let your congressmen and senators know that you side with (President Obama/the Republican opposition) and you do not believe in the failed approach of (partisan polarization/liberalism) being promoted by (his/their) opponents in (talk radio and the far-right blogosphere/the liberal media).

The (Republicans/Democrats) are ideologically bankrupt, and if we follow them we will be financially ruined. (President Obama/Conservative Republicans) (has/have) put (his/their) faith in (our shared sense of hope/our shared values) and (is/are) sure that theirs is the way out of our financial wilderness.

All you have to do is put your trust in (him/them), just as (he has/they have) put (his/their) trust in the common good of Americans.

God bless us all.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Watchmen: A Prediction

Based on the Watchmen clips that we've seen thus far, I feel safe in making a prediction.

Watch any of the clips on the page I've linked to concerning the character of Nite Owl. Then, go find an image of Nite Owl from the comic. No, wait; I'll do it for you. Notice a difference in, say, girth?

Yes, in Alan Moore's groundbreaking series from the mid-80s, Nite Owl wasn't just a retired superhero who was out of practice: He was a retired superhero who was out of practice and who'd really let himself go.

What we see in the trailers for Watchmen confirms two things: 1)Zack Snyder has an impressive visual style and 2) Hollywood will never make a great movie out of an Alan Moore adaptation.

Snyder's MO was set in his previous movies: the Dawn of the Dead remake from 2004 and, of course, 300 from 2007, which was based on a Frank Miller comic.

Both of his previous flicks didn't disappoint his audience, which obviously thirsts for action, but failed on other counts. Dawn couldn't live up to the social commentary of George Romero's original and 300 took an King Leonidas, one of history's most authentic badasses, and placed him in a movie with bottomless pits and guys who had boney swords for arms (though in fairness, it was based on a Miller comic, who is also a good storyteller but prefers style to emotional depth).

The clips and trailers from Watchmen have been eye-catching, no doubt, but I can't help but keep returning to that one little fact: Nite Owl is supposed to be fat. He's supposed to be past his prime, and to look unprepared for his return to action. Moore trusted his story enough that he didn't require all his characters to look like Adonises even though they'd be inactive for years.

Hollywood, though, can't help itself. Even a character like Dan Dreiberg has to be eye candy. Storytelling is not enough, and will not be the emphasis.

I'll probably go see it whenever it comes to Korea, and I may very well be entertained, but I don't expect it to be even a shade of what the book was.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


To All My Lovely Readers

The great thing about being a small-time writer is that you get to interact with readers personally. The bad thing about being a small-time writer is that you have to interact with readers personally.

The latter is especially true when said readers aren't necessarily good at doing just that.

Now, in January, I wrote a piece about the experience of being a foreigner during the Korean holidays. That particular article appeared in The Korea Herald last week, and drew an almost immediate response: hate mail.

Another foreigner, apparently OD'ing on his sensitivity pills, apparently equates all forms of commentary related to cultural differences as insensitivity or perhaps a feeling of superiority. Also, noting that it's difficult for my wife to pronounce the word "matriarch" is apparently belittling; as if difficulty in pronouncing polysyllabic words in someone else's language could ever be considered a personal swipe.

I know how to react to such messages: glibness. I told him that responses like his make writing worthwhile and that my wife says "Hi!"

My earlier piece about the effect of wearing a wedding appeared this week in The
I got this response regarding it shortly thereafter from an "A. Eidson" shortly thereafter:


As a married baby boomer, aged women, I will speak from experience. People are jealous of your freedom and indepedence of being single. Do not marry until it is time to dig in to age. As my favorite character from the TV sitcom "Married with Children" would say, "I was fine until my hsband and kids runined by life," she would say joking.

I did not get married until I was in my early thirties, and still wish I would have waited just a little while longer. I use to hear why are you not married all the time, and just for fun I could shut down the questions like a train wreck by simply stating, "well, I am gay."

A. Eidson


Forget the "gay" part for a moment. If you read my article, or know anything about me, you know that I am married. The question then becomes, "How does one get that impression while reading it?" or, maybe, "Did she read the headline and nothing else?"

I pondered responding to this, but I don't know how, or whether there'd be any point in doing so, besides to make her feel dumb. What I'm pondering to an even greater degree is this question: "What future do I, or any other writer have, when people today so consistently fail to read, or read well?"

That's a question that's probably going to stay with me for sometime.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Sampras' Shoe

Now that's a first.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The Place(s) to Be

Just don't ask what they serve for desert.

It's only half as good as Ho Bar IV, but still not bad.


Well ... What Can I Say

Korean newspapers publish the most interesting things. From a story this week about a debate in higher education:

"The controversy exposed the serious problem of competition among universities to recruit better-endowed students."

Hmm ... it did seem like recruitment of foreign students was up around here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Forehands, Forehands on the Court: Who Has the Biggest in our Sport?

Igor Andreev, thanks to explosively heavy topspin he generates through his forehand, gave eventual champion Roger Federer his toughest match at the U.S. Open in 2008, pushing the great Swiss to five sets in the fourth round.

This came nearly two years after Federer dispatched James Blake, another player known for launching a ballistic ball off the forehand wing, in the 2006 USO quarters. Blake, however, lost his match with Federer in four sets, one of which was 6-love.

The differing margins by which they lost to the Swiss in their Open matchups had little bearing on their Australian Open encounter this year, however. Blake defeated Andreev in the third round in four relatively routine sets, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, making him six-for-six against the Russian.

Blake, whose forehand is very flat and requires much less backswing than the whippier Russian’s motion, kept his opponent on the defensive throughout most of the match, denying him the time to set up for his forehand, and thus denying him all but a few groundstroke winners.

The result was hardly due to an above-average performance from Blake: He lost in straight sets in the very next round to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga proceeded to bow out in four sets in the following round to Fernando Verdasco, who lost an epic five-setter to Rafael Nadal, who won another titanic match against Federer in the finals.

What does every name mentioned above have in common? They all correspond with a player considered to have a Big Forehand. It is probably the most overused, and definitely the most oversimplified term in men’s tennis today. It was perhaps logical though, that as the game grew more international and the athleticism of its players evolved, the forehand wing – usually the first shot that beginners master – would replace the serve and the volley as the weapon of choice.

But for me, the breaking point came at the 2008 Roland Garros, when Frenchmen Jérémy Chardy defeated David Nalbandian and Dmitry Tursunov before falling against Nicolas Almagro in the round of 16. According to an online write-up I read later, his success was due to the French crowd support and his “big forehand.”

My first reaction was to wonder how having a “big forehand” differentiated Chardy from any of the guys he’d played at the RO (especially Tursunov). It seems to me that tennis writers need a more detailed system of classification.

I hope to start improving the classification system starting now. Having watched the game for about two decades, here are the different types of Big Forehands I’ve observed, the players who’ve employed them, and the specific nature of their effectiveness. Also, I’ll attempt to answer the troubling question: Who has the best of the Big Forehands?

Category 1: The Laser

Notable Users (Past):
Pete Sampras, Richard Krajicek, Tim Henman

Notable Users (Present): James Blake, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Max Mirnyi

Characteristics: This shot is very flat, hit with a very conservative grip and requires very little backswing. It is most commonly employed by net-rushers who, if they can’t hit an outright winner with it, can still set up a good approach shot.

Advantages: Because it requires very little backswing yet penetrates the court like no other groundstroke, it takes reaction time away from opponents, especially those with very extreme Western grips. This is also one of the rare shots that’s even more effective when hit on the run.

Notable users of The Laser, Sampras and Krajicek in particular, tend to keep their opponents on the defensive for most of the match, even other heavy hitters like Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. When The Laser is hitting its targets without fail, the opponent may feel like a spectator.

Disadvantages: Utilizing little to no topspin, this type of shot has the minutest margin for error of any Big Forehand. When it’s on, it’s really on; when it’s off, the player racks up an obscene amount of unforced errors.

Therefore, most players who’ve used it have not relied on it exclusively; players like Tsonga, Henman and especially Sampras mostly rely on their serves and/or volleys. That way, on days when it’s misfiring it’s not the only shot they have available.

Of those mentioned, only Blake makes The Laser his primary weapon; as he lacks a great serve or volley, Blake has not been able to duplicate the success of the other Laser users.

Excellent movement is absolutely necessary to use this shot effectively. Almost none of those who’ve employed The Laser have known much success on clay.

Outlook: As the serve-and-volley players and big servers grow smaller and smaller in number, The Laser has become rarer in practice. Perhaps there is no reversing this trend.

Quote: “‘The running forehand of Pete Sampras’: Those are not just words, my friend.” – Cliff Drysdale, former professional tennis player and current commentator for ESPN

Category 2: Let’s Get Clean

Notable Users (Past): Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Yevgeny Kafelnikov

Notable Users (Present):
Marat Safin, Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian

Characteristics: This shot also uses a fairly traditional grip, but those important factor is something that can’t be taught: These players have the uncanny knack for hitting the center of the racquet for the best combination of power and control.

This is also the classification with the most obvious parallels to the women’s game: Monica Seles, Lindsey Davenport and Elena Dementieva are also Clean Hitters.

Advantages: As these players are the best at finding the sweet spot, Clean Hitters tend to be the most consistent of the Big Forehands. They are the most accurate, consistent, and most consistently potent groundstrokers of them all. Their backswing is also minimal, and their tremendous reflexes and vision make them the best at taking the ball early, on the rise.

All of them have great returns of serve, with Agassi widely considered the best returner of them all. As a bonus, virtually every Clean Hitter boasts a backhand just as solid, if not more so, than his forehand.

Disadvantages: Staying back and rallying with a fit, in-form Clean Hitter is one of the toughest tasks in tennis. However, with the exception of Safin and Kafelnikov, they tend to be more one-dimensional than other players, needing their groundstrokes to carry the heaviest load. Those who beat Clean Hitters on a fast surface usually do so through great serving and attacking the net (like Sampras, McEnroe) or at least incorporating net rushing (like Federer).

Clean hitters also have a tough time outhitting clay court specialists (see category 4) on dirt. Furthermore, perhaps due to their natural talent, many Clean Hitters go through befuddling periods in their career in which they lack fitness, work ethic or the will to win. Examine the (male) names in this section: who among them, besides Connors and Davydenko, hasn’t had his will questioned at one point?

Outlook: Clean hitters have been shut out of the Grand Slam winners circle in recent years, but that may have as much to do with Safin and Nalbandian’s mental and fitness issues as anything. Look for them to continue playing an important role in the game, though it remains to be seen if they can reach the top.

Quote: “There is some abnormality in (Agassi’s) eyes, otherwise he wouldn't have had such a phenomenal return. He sees the ball like no one else and just guides it wherever he wants to.” –Mats Wilander, seven-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1

Category 3: Forward Momentum

Notable Users (Past): Boris Becker, Mark Philippoussis

Notable Users (Present): Fernando Gonzalez, Tomas Berdych, Joachim Johannson

Characteristics: This shot has a big backswing, but little spin. This type of player doesn’t so much hit the ball as assault it, leaving opponents on the back foot scrambling to return.

Advantages: Like The Laser, Forward Momentum is a very penetrating shot that allows its users to hit through the court, and hit through the other player's spin. The difference between the shots is that The Laser requires less backswing, but Forward Momentum generates a mite more spin.

In terms of outright generation of pace, Forward Momentum has no equal: The players listed here all make the short list of the hardest hitters to ever play the game. Berdych and Gonzalez are the considered the biggest of the Big Forehands active today.

Also, while court coverage is a weakness for none of these players (save Philippoussis and Johannson), none are great movers: This suggests that players employing the Forward Momentum approach to the forehand have the least need for speed.

Disadvantages: While employing slightly more margin for error than The Laser, players who employ it are still known for their streakiness. Only Becker, who had a great serve and developed champion's instincts at an early age, wasn't prone to bouts of maddening inconsistency.

Outlook: Becker and Philippoussis were net rushers with serve-based games, while Gonzalez and Berdych play baseline almost exclusively. Since this type of shot has survived the decline of serve-and-volley tennis, there's no indication that it's going away.

Quote: “When (Gonzalez is) on, you won't find a better shotmaker; when he's off, it ain't pretty. Flat forehands that appear springloaded either scream into the corners or into the stands.” –Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated

Category 4: A New Spin on Things

Notable Users (Past):
Sergi Bruguera, Gustavo Kuerten, Albert Costa

Notable Users (Present): Rafael Nadal, Igor Andreev, Fernando Verdasco

Characteristics: The extreme Western grips that these players use allow them to hit the most spin of any other player. In the case of top-ranked Nadal, that works out to a forehand that makes the ball rotate 3,300-5,000 times per minute – 20 percent more than Federer.

This type of player has dominated Roland Garros for more than a decade, but only recently started making headway on faster majors.

Advantages: The Super Topspin forehand arcs well over the net, and drops well inside the baseline for great consistency. These players are able to generate a considerable amount of pace with the shot, but even more than that, an overwhelming amount of spin. The topspin is tiring for opponents to hit against, and tricky for them to time appropriately, leading to more unforced (though the heavy spin would seem to “force” them) errors and short balls.

This was the only shot that could be considered a weapon in Bruguera's arsenal, and yet he used it to win two Roland Garros titles. Other, better athletes like Kuerten and especially Nadal have been able to achieve greater success on other surfaces.

Disadvantages: The massive backswing required for this shot makes it difficult for it to be used effectively on surfaces faster than clay. Only Nadal, the rarest combination of athletic ability, champion's mentality and fitness has demonstrated the ability to win majors on other surfaces with this shot.
Furthermore, generating this much spin isn't just tiring for opponents: Those with Super Topspin forehands must be very, very fit to use it well, and even Nadal suffers from regular bouts of fatigue and injury.

Outlook: It was once thought that this sort of shot would one day go out of style due to the demands it places on the player's body and the fact that it is designed primarily for one surface. However, Nadal, Verdasco and Andreev have actually propelled it to new, almost absurd degrees of spin, so there's no sign that it's going out of style.

Quote: "When you see Nadal, how fast he moves the racket through the air, and the amount of spin and speed he generates -- his forehand is the heaviest shot in tennis.” –Current world No. 4 Andy Murray

Category 5: The Revolution

Notable Users (Past):
Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier

Notable Users (Present): Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic, Dmitry Tursunov

Characteristics: Connors’ clean, flat groundstrokes made the power baseliner approach an option, but Lendl’s semi-Western grip, which could be hit flat or with heavy spin, made it a routine. Twenty years later, John McEnroe called Federer’s forehand “the best shot in tennis.” The chief identifying characteristic of The Revolution is that it is hit in a forward direction, but also uses heavy spin.

Advantages: In the '80s and '90s, Lendl and Courier, neither of them the most athletically gifted players of their generation, used this shot to win majors and reach the game's top ranking.

In the 21st century, Federer, perhaps the most athletically gifted player of all time, made it the centerpiece of the game that made him No. 1 for an unprecedented 237 weeks. While The Revolution may not generate quite as much spin as the Super Topspin forehand, or penetrate the court quite like Forward Momentum, it combines the advantages of both. It is furthermore less prone to error than the latter and is more adaptable to all surfaces than the former.

In the hands of a great athlete like Federer or Djokovic, it may be used to open up the court with angles and spin, plus generates more than enough pace to finish points.

Disadvantages: The Revolution does everything quite well, but may not be enough to surmount a certain obstacle unique to that player. Lendl’s forehand was not suited for the speedy courts of Wimbledon; Courier’s could not compensate for the more complete games that certain players, Sampras especially, had to their advantage; and Federer’s has not yet brought him triumph at Wimbledon.

Outlook: The Revolution is the forehand that started it all, and will outlast them all. All other types of Big Forehands require a very unique talent to use appropriately, but Courier, Lendl and Roddick proved that this one does not. However, that a player like Federer has used The Revolution to overpower this generation indicates that has a long future ahead.

Quote: “With increasing frequency since the days of Ivan Lendl, the big forehand has replaced the first volley as a primary offensive shot. And no one has done more to demonstrate everything you’d ever want in a forehand than Roger Federer.” -Joel Drucker of Tennis magazine

In Conclusion

As a layman, my purpose in writing this was not to be the final word in the classification of Big Forehands, but to begin a more detailed discussion that helps fellow fans understand which type of forehand works best in which situation.

Among all the shots currently in use, Berdych and Gonzalez had the hardest, while Blake and Tsonga generate the most pace with the least amount of effort. In terms of whose forehand is best, however, one really can’t go wrong with Federer or Nadal’s.

Federer’s might seem the better option for imitation as it is less surface specific and has helped him win 13 majors, but it’s hard to argue with a No. 1 ranking.

So, in terms of who has the best forehand in the world, well, that might not have answer.


The Uncharismatic Married Man's Plan

Last week we learned that a male devoid of that personality trait known as charisma must devote a considerable amount of time to a multitude of pursuits designed to draw feminine attention toward his person.

Those endeavors may include:

1) Reading to make his every spoken word, should he have the opportunity to utter it, more meaningful.

2) Exercising to make his appearance, should anyone bother to examine it, more pleasing to the eyes.

3) Working overtime to advance in the workforce, thus granting him the appearance of stability.

4) Traveling abroad to ensure the widest range of persons, especially the feminine variety, may bear witness to his intelligence, good health and reliability.

And finally, 5) talking to women, to refine the utilization of each of these skills so that they are not lost any of his potential wives.

As one can see, it takes tremendous discipline and dedication for such males to compensate for their lack of charisma and achieve their goal, which is to acquire the elusive status of “happily married.” Just because it’s elusive, though, doesn’t mean it’s unreachable.

After pouring so much of his energies into this all-encompassing task, if he actually succeeds in becoming happily married by, say, age 30, he may have multiple decades remaining for which he must recalibrate his goals. Yet, old habits die in the most demanding of manners.

Reading time is likely to diminish when another person enters this male’s life, and much more of it is likely to be spent in trying to gain valuable insight into heretofore alien subjects, such as management of living space, preparation of food products and figuring out how the female you spend your life with thinks. The suddenly married uncharismatic male may occasionally feel pangs of longing upon hearing news of, for example, a stimulus bill designed to combat dire economic woes that’s struggling to make it through some manner of legislative body.

“Is something important happening in the government?” this once-well-informed, once-single and still-reserved male might say aloud. “I used to know about that stuff.”

Time spent exercising is also harder to come by when you have to plan time with someone else. Compounding this matter is the fact that the male suddenly has a wider range of dietary options given that he now shares his quarters with someone more astute as to the functions of the kitchen.

More food will seem, at first, a blessing until the passage of weeks and months reveals greater proportions once absent in his neck, face and central regions. Soon, what time is spent exercising will be used not to improve his appearance, but rather to keep the women in his office from saying things like, “He used to be cute before he got married.”

Working overtime becomes problematic for the married male once there is one, or perhaps more individuals at the male’s home expecting him to arrive by a certain time. Taking his work home with him is not a solution either, as those individuals will be expecting him to pay them no small amount of attention when he gets there.

A general tendency towards working later than others must be replaced by a system of instances carefully targeted to advancing one’s career. It is best for him to master this transition after marriage but before childbirth: If he does not, he runs the risk of having a Harry Chapin-esque song written about him, or at least dedicated to him.

Single males, both of the charismatic and reserved varieties, find traveling abroad a great way of boosting their overall impressiveness. Otherwise lifeless conversations can be injected with worldly suaveness with just five words: “When I was in Venice …”

After his wedding, the thrill of going abroad does not diminish. Marriage, however, brings with bills for rent, insurance, prenatal care (gasp), etc. Any married male who can see the full extent of the bills that come with marriage and still think Hey, let’s go blow $2,000 on airline tickets! deserves either sympathy or the bitterest of envies.

Then, finally, there’s talking to women.

Those men who earnestly seek marriage and eventually acquire it don’t count on the fact that talking to those of the opposing gender, including those they aren’t married to, never really loses its appeal.

One’s pursuits of the previous four goals may eventually net him “happily married” status, but even then there’s an instinctive urge to make others, especially female others, aware that one has read Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, can bench press his body weight and has been to Venice.

These instincts, after three decades or so of practice, may lead this uncharismatic male to happily married status, but still have their place in making friends, networking and in teaching your uncharismatic offspring how to live. The trick is to employ them in this manner, and not one that will cost you your happily married status, plus half your possessions in civil court.

Perhaps learning how to employ them in just such a manner is what the next three decades are for.

Thursday, February 12, 2009



Don't be left out of the stimulating on Washington! Click hereto make sure you get your share of the stimulus!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Cheney Remembers

My favorite part of these excerpts from Cheney's memoirs would have to be this:

"It was heartbreaking. He looked at me with those sad, defeated eyes and rasped, "Mr. Vice President, I let you down." Well, what could I say? I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "No, please, never think that way." But, inside, I was angry with him. I wanted to shout, "Ch****, Harry, what in hell were you doing, poking your big face right into my line of fire?"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Bill O'Reilly's Right to Privacy


Clinton-North Korea

Read here. More later...

Monday, February 09, 2009


Hidden Stimulus Provision

Woo-hoo! More bureaucracy. That'll solve our economic woes.


Eat My Cousin!

It's rather common for you to find signs, almost anywhere in Korea in which the variety of animal on sale there is seemingly encouraging you to eat it (shades of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe). I've seen it in beef restaurants, squid vendors and at the dak bal (chicken feet) eateries; usually the animal gives a thumbs up or points at the extremity you should be eating.

This restaurant, located near my apartment in Chuncheon, is unique in that the animal in question is seemingly encouraging us to eat one of his relatives.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


A Pub(l)ic Service

"Child sex offenders are grabbing pubic attention" (April 2)

"They expect that pubic projects such as renovating major rivers and visible effects of some industrial deregulations will give hope to people and help Lee regain public confidence." (Jan. 22)

"The ruling Grand National Party denounced the DP for ignoring its responsibility as a pubic party and trying to trigger a social unrest for its own political gain." (Jan. 29)

"The Anti-corruption and Civil Right Commission said yesterday it is suggesting the Ministry of Public Administration and Security change the application rule so that foreign nationals can benefit from pubic service more easily." (Feb. 4)

Korean reporters do indeed write the most interesting things. And they write them again, and again and again ...


The Uncharismatic Single Man’s Plan

For practical purposes, one may divide all males into two categories: 1) those who have charisma and 2) those who don’t. They’re easy to spot in pretty much any group, social or professional: Those who don’t have it usually sit silently, appearing to have something to say but never getting to utter it.

Whoever happens to be talking at the time, the uncharismatic male will let him/her finish, because they feel it rude to interrupt, no matter how pointless the speaker’s words are. Also, they know they lack the necessary charisma to do rude things and get away with them.

Their chance to speak rarely comes, because the charismatic male regularly starts talking before the other person finishes. They do this because a) they have enough charisma to get away with doing rude things and b) they’ve been getting away with it for so long that they now assume that what they have to say really is important.

There are advantages in being an uncharismatic male, though, chief of which is that one gets a lot more practice thinking, rather than talking. In his mind he can devise elaborate plans, mainly about how he can get more women to notice him.

The charismatic male never conceives of plans that detailed because he never stops talking long enough to do so. Of course, women are more likely to notice him because he’s always talking, so such plans are less necessary.

Therefore, those who lack charm or personal magnetism must work twice as hard to find a wife (and this usually is their goal, as they’re convinced that they’re of little value by themselves). That’s why they are twice as likely as the unreserved male to have a full schedule. Among the things they’re likely to spend time doing are these:

Reading: This may include fiction, newspapers, self-help books or online reviews of the latest season of The Biggest Loser. The hope is that someday, somehow, the charismatic people of both genders will run out of things to say or (this is an outside chance) actually ask him what he thinks about a subject.

Either of these possibilities present his opportunity to take all the knowledge he has gathered on the subject and synthesize it into a single sentence that is as compelling as it is efficient. Then, just maybe, group members will start asking his opinion regularly, figuring he needs more chances to talk.

Exercising: There is a good reason why males with charisma also tend to be more naturally athletic than those without: Nature loves reserved males more, and motivates them to compensate for their athletic deficiencies by exercising more, and thus living longer (either that, or nature hates uncharismatic males more, and wants them to live longer, more frustrated lives).

Either way, uncharismatic males have to spend more time in gymnasiums sitting or lying in awkward positions, pushing or pulling objects of variable size and weight in certain directions as often as gravity will allow. The hope is that someday, somehow, the women who usually watch the more charismatic male’s antics will look at his more reserved counterpart and say, “I never noticed before, but you’re in pretty good shape.”

A single instance of this goes a long way. It has to: As soon as she’s finished saying it, she’ll go back to watching the charismatic male practice doing handstands.

Working Overtime: A typical charismatic male learns in college that he doesn’t have to work as hard because there’s a less charming, more studious person perfectly willing to supply him with test answers in exchange for nothing save a brief exposure to his puissant personal pull. The charismatic male is also more likely to get hired despite a gap in his résumé because, as his employers say later, “He has that … I don’t know what you call it … that certain something.”

The uncharismatic male must thus, when he finally lands a job, work that much harder to put in solid, workmanlike performances on a daily basis. Hopefully, for every 300 or so workmanlike days at the office, he’ll have at least one in which he puts in a spectacular, career-making performance. Then, he’ll earn the benefits of more money/power/bosses who remember his name, instead of always calling him “Jim.”

Even if he does nothing spectacular in that time, there will at least come that glorious day when he hands in his two weeks notice, and the boss says, “Really? We’re going to miss you here. You did some good work, Jim.”

Traveling Abroad: If he gets too frustrated with being overlooked at home, the uncharismatic male may choose to try another country, where he’ll gain attention just for being who he is.

This will reap dividends, provided the reserved male can ever get used to the attention from locals, many of whom think that a scintillating conversation consists of, “Hello!” “Where are you from?” and “Oh, America economy is not good right now.”

It also helps if charismatic males from his home country don’t also go. If they’re there, monopolizing attention from locals, the reserved male may have to find yet another country.

Talking to Women: If the reserved male can bench press twice his own weight, has won employee of the year multiple times, has seen all the world’s seven wonders and has a quote from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot appropriate for all situations, it’s still going to be daunting to actually talk to women who are potential wives.

That’s why it’s important to talk to as many of them as possible and whenever possible, even the ones that aren’t potential wives. In doing so, he can learn what they respond favorably to, what to do when the conversation lulls, and when a quote from The Idiot can most effectively be deployed. Most of all, he must practice these things in such a way that looks natural; meaning, without looking like he’s practicing talking to women, because, y’know, that’d be weird.

If he keeps practicing, then one day he can meet the woman who appreciates his knowledge, fitness, dedication and worldly wisdom. His search will be over.

As you can see, it takes a lot of skill and know-how for an uncharismatic male to succeed with women. When he finally gets married, where does all that knowledge go?

Next week we’ll find out.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


There's Something About Wall-E

I remember in the days before high school, when my mom or older sisters would buy a Disney movie, or maybe an X-Men or Ninja Turtles video cassette and I would spend days upon days watching and rewatching it. I memorized the situations and the dialogue and could recite them for anyone who would listen.

(There weren't a lot of folks who were willing, but those who were were impressed by my memory, and surely hoped that one day I use it more constructively.)

As the years passed I never lost my love of the movies, and now DVDs probably rank near the top of my leisurely financial expenditures. However, in my determination to see as many of the great movies of the 20th and 21st centuries (there's a lot of catching up to do; I feel guilty for having ever wasting my time watching Flight Plan)I rarely allocate my time to give movies a second viewing.

One exception was Mike Judge's Office Space. It appeared interesting when it was released in the theaters in 1999, but it never reached a cinema near West Tennessee, where I lived. As such, I didn't get to watch it until Spring 2002.

When I finally saw it, I was on Spring Break in my senior year of college. This was a time of transition for me, as a I feared I'd be without a job soon, or almost as bad, would acquire a job I hated. Office Space, with it's tale of disgruntled software engineers seeking retribution against the workplace that has made them miserable (and laid off many of them), spoke to me at the time -- it very clearly revealed to me the kind of job I didn't want to have later.

The biggest reason it appealed to me, though, was it's characters -- the squirrely guy who mumbles a lot, the disgusting pig of a boss, the straight man who always thinks he's on the verge of a breakthrough -- all of them were worth a master's thesis from graduate level film school scholar. After watching it at a friend's house (twice) I decided to buy it for myself. I don't know how many times I watched it that year, but it has since become a kind of fix; I need to watch every year or so to spend time with those characters again, and to make sure my current job doesn't resemble theirs.

(For the record, it doesn't; they were trapped in a boring office doing a job they detested, whereas I'm trapped in a boring office doing a job I can tolerate.)

For lovers of film characters, Office Space was without peer, and that's what made it my favorite. I don't claim it's the best movie ever made (it's story about stealing money from the company lacks a certain narrative zest), but it is my favorite. For a time, I was addicted to it, and until recently, it was the only movie I could remember feeling compelled to watch repeatedly.

This past summer, Wall-E was released. I wanted to go see it in theaters, since I liked nearly all Pixar flicks (Toy Story 2 and The Incredibles were my favorites; only Cars left me cold) and because critics as diverse as Roger Ebert and Slate's Dana Stevens (who rarely agree on anything) both gave it the stamp of approval.

My wife(to-be at that point) had her heart set on Kung-Fu Panda, however; perhaps because a panda doing martial arts appeared cuter than a robot, even one with sad eyes. Therefore, that was the movie we went to see in theaters.

Since they were in the cinema at the same time, it made sense that those two movies would be available on DVD at the same time. So, in mid-December, not long after their release, I bought both Wall-E and Kung-Fu Panda as her Christmas presents. Naturally, we watched the latter first, and when we finally got around to watching Wall-E it was my idea.

When we finally did watch Wall-E, I was captivated. I was taken by the detail that each frame requires, the different sounds and motions used to give Wall-E his personality, plus how his interactions with Eve are distinctly robotic and yet highly reminiscent of how a very reserved male (like me!) would act in that situation.

Wall-E is the first movie I've felt compelled to watch and rewatch since Office Space became a part of my life nearly seven years ago. Like Judge's flick, Wall-E has a real-world message that's critical for us now ... come to think of it, it has a pair of messages: 1) Out of control consumerism endangers our way of life on earth (very timely right now) and 2) Human beings are meant to be productive, not to have all our needs catered to.

Like with Judge's film, the plot is Wall-E's weak point, one that becomes all the more apparent when he and Eve leave earth to join the humans in space. However, both movies succeed in making their points through their characters: the blossoming relationship between Wall-E and Eve shows how companionship is necessary, even if it means sacrificing your "directive." The captain shows how unsatisfying life is without purpose. Then, there are the "defective" robots who rebel, helping Wall-E stop the authoritarian autopilot system from keeping them in space: In doing so, they show us that no one's contribution should be discounted.

One shouldn't let the search for a deeper meaning distract from the movie's obvious pleasure: Wall-E himself. As Ebert pointed out, Kung-Fu Panda's character was cute, but to a fault: "The panda was all but special-ordered to be lovable, but on reflection, I think he was so fat, it wasn’t funny anymore."

Dreamworks took the easy route in their character and reaped less in the end. Pixar, however, took a robot with fewer evidently lovable characteristics and made him a star:

"WALL-E ... looks rusty and hard-working and plucky, and expresses his personality with body language and (mostly) with the binocular-like video cameras that serve as his eyes. The movie draws on a tradition going back to the earliest days of Walt Disney, who reduced human expressions to their broadest components and found ways to translate them to animals, birds, bees, flowers, trains and everything else," Ebert writes.

Though Wall-E isn't a human, Pixar endowed him with the most admirable human qualities: Curiosity, pluck and love. In doing so, they reminded me (and more than a few others)of why we enjoy movies to begin with.

Plus, my impersonation of him has entertained my wife more than Kung-Fu Panda ever will.


Riot in Korean Apartment Complex

My first You Tube video; Hopefully I'll get better at it eventually.

My wife and I live in an apartment complex in Chuncheon, South Korea. The day before our wedding (and the day after my parents arrived from Tennessee to attend) the union workers at the apartment rioted against employment practices, giving Mom and Dad a good look at how union negotiations work here.

At about the 35 seconds, the union brings out a pipe that they promptly put to use. A little past the minute mark the employers begin using smoke (or maybe fire extinguishers) to retaliate. At just before the 3 minute point, I ask my dad what he thinks of life in Korea.

I suppose it's a lot to take in a day.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Koreans and Driving.

Never let it be said that they're not persistent.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Career Switch

Ever read something and wished it were a hoax? Well, after this I certainly have.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


The Mechanics of Gender Differences

Upon hearing that I would become a parent, I began informing friends and familial acquaintances of the fact. At first, their responses expressed their elation and amazement as to the creation of new life, but this soon gave way to their queries.

“Were you planning this?” was among their speculative inquiries. To this, I responded in the negative, pointing out that many of life’s most superlative outcomes, like discovering the law of gravity and chewing gum, took place wholly by accident.

“What did you do?” was a question asked of me by a pair of vicenarian Korean women where I attend church. You may take me as serious in reporting that I was, in fact asked this a pair of times; though I must also report my uncertainty as to their seriousness in inquiring of it.

My response to them was, in both occasions, to inform them that it had been the responsibility of their parents to explain the mechanics of the process. If said parents had not met this mandate, I informed them, I was not about to fulfill it in their stead.

“What do you prefer, boy or girl?” is the query I have been asked most often since we discovered the baby’s presence. I suspect it will be a recurring question, at least until we can tell them what, preferences aside, the gender status is.

The short, simple answer of “Both are fine” has gone a long way in satisfying their thirst for knowledge. That does not mean, however, that both are of equal standing. Let’s explore the advantages of both male and female offspring, at least from the standpoint and experience of male parentage.

The Advantages of Having a Boy: An adult male can understand the instincts and desires of his male progeny more easily than he can female offspring. He can also more readily impart upon a boy the knowledge necessary to fulfill his masculine impulses and help them develop in a positive way.

The Advantages of Having a Girl: Girls lack the masculine impulses that make their male counterparts fascinated with bodily functions and cause them to assume that others will be similarly impressed. Prepubescent females are also far less likely to have the impulse which causes young boys to consider violence directed at small animals a hobby.

Let’s now move on to the drawbacks involved in the rearing of both genders; at least, those disadvantages that especially come into consideration from a male parent’s view.

The Disadvantages of Having a Boy: A male parent can recall the insecurities that a young man face when it is revealed that, among his peers, he is not the most naturally athletic, scholastically gifted, charismatic or pleasing in appearance. If he attends a high school of more than 1,000 people, the odds suggest that he will be none of those things, meaning he’ll have to work harder to establish a niche in life. It will be your responsibility as a father to impart upon him the skills and the work ethic required to do so.

The Disadvantages of Having a Girl: A male parent can recall, all-to-clearly, what his hormone-addled mind was occupying itself with in his teen years, and what similarly encumbered minds will one day be thinking when they look at your young daughter. In case you’ve never been a young male, here’s a hint: It has something to do with mechanics.

Each of these outcomes thus requires a certain response and preparation from fathers-to-be. Being the male parent in each case will require the following:

If it’s a boy you must be the wise and inspirational figure your son will turn to for knowledge. You can teach him how to fulfill his masculine impulses while showing him how to temper his more destructive and less socially acceptable tendencies. Begin reading about young male development and reflecting on what you wish you’d been told when you were growing up.

If it’s a girl you must be able to credibly and realistically threaten the safety of the young men her age. Begin weight training, studying a martial art and then practice standing at a doorway while scowling. If one or more of these options is not available, you might consider gun ownership.

The difficulty with the early part of the pregnancy is that the father cannot be sure as to whether his role will be one of enlightening or terrifying young male minds. The first few times you see the image of your child’s sonogram, its gender won’t be apparent. Even in later visits, the baby may conceal its status through careful positioning. In this case, you can take heart that, if it is a girl, then she knows how to protect herself.

Until its status becomes clear, what can the father do in order to adequately prepare for both possibilities? Do you need to start training yourself to be the enlightened male role model as well as the guardian or your daughter’s purity?

Yes you do, actually. After all, just because you’ll have one of the two types now doesn’t mean you won’t have the other later, so get to work.

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