Thursday, January 31, 2008


On the first day of the second grade, our teacher, Mrs. Bates, sat us bewildered kids on the floor in front of her and asked us what we thought were good school rules to follow. Were I then the man I am today, I probably would have suggested not shooting our classmates, but at the time I just sat there, waiting for the others to respond. In all my childhood memories of grade school, I'm a ghost.

After a few predictable answers (raiseyourhandtoaskaquestiondon'tbelatetellthesecretaryifyou'resick) a new kid, Sanjay, an Indian immigrant with a light complexion and hair like my living room carpet, raised his hand.

Mrs. Bates called on him.

"If your father's looking, don't smoke," he said.

Needless to say, we were dumbfounded. Mostly because he said it with so much conviction, as though he practiced his quirky maxim like a holy commandment. Thou shalt not smoke when thy father is looking. He wasn't being naughty, but neither did he make a whole lot of sense. The shared embarrassment* was palpable. Mrs. Bates, possessing the tactful wisdom we lacked, quickly diverted our attention away from Sanjay's puzzling answer.

That was the last I saw of Sanjay. The next day I was moved into another class. Because I'm good at pretending I'm smart, probably.

Twenty-two years later, I haven't forgotten what he said. (Which is a small victory for the Canadian education system, I suppose.) But its meaning eludes me. If your father's looking, don't smoke. He couldn't have meant that he smoked cigarettes; so what did he mean, exactly? Is it an Indian idiom? A Zen koan? I have a million guesses, no answers.

I'll never know. Maybe it's better that way.

Still, I'm dying to find out.

* I'm making up a new word, and you're going to use it: crincocity

Ace on the River

'Goddamn you half-Japanese girls. Do it to my every time'.
- El Scorcho, Weezer

In 2004, my wife and I were married. Living in Seoul at the time, I was unimpressed, hell abhorred, by the quality of weddings put forward at the Temples of Cheese that the Koreans call Wedding Halls. In the proper context, I like lasers and smoke machines as much as the next guy, but under no circumstances did I envisage my wedding looking like a porno version of Tron. Well, not since I was 11 anyway.

After much consultation, the missus and I agreed that we would opt for a traditional Korean wedding (largely my idea). Then we ended up opting for the premium version of the traditional wedding (largely her idea). Anyway, if you want to read about my wedding, you can do that on my long deserted solo blog.

Following the ceremony, the wife, our parents and me partook in an intimate little ritual known as 폐백 (pae-baek). For the uninitiated it's a quaint little ceremony, in which my family accepted the missus into, well, my family. Because we opted not to classify my wife as a chattel, we invited her family too.

The ceremony itself consisted of bowing (as if there was not enough fucking bowing at the wedding proper), the drinking of liquor, some more ducks, I assume some bribes were exchanged and I also had to parade around the room with my wife on my back. As we were both wearing silk, this was obviously meant to reflect the vertebrae shattering experience that is matrimony.

One of the final traditions involved my parents throwing a handful of chestnuts and dates into part of my bride's silk wedding clothes. The theory is that the dates/chestnuts represent boys/girls. The number of dates and chestnuts caught in the silk by the couple is said to reflect how many boys or girls the couple will have. A cute tradition, to be sure, but also one with ominous implications. I mean, as if my parents hadn't impacted enough on my genetic make up, now they were going to gender assign my kids.

And then they threw.

"Four girls!" my sister-in-law immediately clapped in glee. There were blackholesun smiles all round. Our families began to chatter about how good looking these girls would be and how they couldn't wait for us to get to, well, fucking. Unwittingly winding my wife's biological clock tighter than a swiss fertility enthusiast.

Now, my wife is beautiful, and I can swing an iron, so genetically speaking, I was staring down the barrel of four gorgeous little women. Half-girls/half-amazing. Great for the family, but to me it was looking like the worst case scenario.

See, having been raised as a Catholic, I'm a firm believer in comeuppance. It was no surprise to me when those four queens lay silently on that silk. Four girls as retribution for all the girls I'd loved and left before. Four girls for all the kimochi ever logged (both online and off). Four girls for all the wrong shit I had ever done to the fairer sex.

Payback is a mother, fucker.

When I found out the missus was pregnant, my first thought, post-elation of course, was 'how the fuck am I going to create a fortress of solitude to keep the onslaught of little Mordorian cocks from defiling my brood?'. What wont I say or do to these little faggots when they walk into my house, as I shake their ammonia-smelling hands while they smile their little shit-eating panty-grabbing grins and call me "Mr Hughes". I know these little fucks, because I was one.

Papas don't let your babies grow up to be K-girls.

By the time for the 20-week ultrasound came, I had blueprints sketched out in my mind. I was going to buy a shotgun. I would build a moat, full of crocodiles, sharks, lions, tigers and bears. Oh my. I resolved to commence civil suits and institute intervention orders against any man that walked my lawn. I'd have him dead. His family, dead. His house burned to the ground.

And then the ultrasound lady said... 'And there's the penis'.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Coffee Crutch

I'll be honest and admit that I have an addictive personality (which doesn't sound like what it means, but that's the English language for you). I drink more often than I probably should; I smoke like a man condemned; and I love myself a little too much, too often, if you catch my drift. One thing I am not addicted to, however, is coffee. Not the least bit. For one, it doesn't taste that great. Straw man argument: I mean, really, what's tastier, a cup of joe or a cool glass of lemonade? I don't think coffee tastes that bad, but it's not exactly Welch's Grape or kiwi-strawberry Snapple, is it? And if you want to compare it to other hot beverages, I'll see your coffee and raise you a citron tea and a steaming cup of pork broth. (Alternatively, for you canucks, Chalet Sauce.)

Everyone has their own taste, I am aware; but does anyone sip a cup of coffee and think, "Man, this is heaven"? If they do, aren't they fooling themselves? Look, I love beer like I love my dick size, but I rarely proclaim how wonderful it tastes. When I do -- and I've done so probably twice in the past year -- it's because I'm either really goddamned thirsty or the beer is really fucking cold (usually both). No, what I like most about beer is that it tastes pretty good, sometimes even great, and it produces its desired effect: calming my neurotic mind and making your mom look prettier.

(I suppose this argument could be extended to people who pretend to appreciate haute cuisine, but let's tackle one pretense at a time, yes?)

Coffee drinkers, just admit that you drink the stuff to perk yourselves up, that it tastes okay, but that's secondary, really. (And if you drink decaf, I don't know what to tell you. I'm fairly confident you're already ridiculed by your fellow coffeecianados.) Why don't you drop the act and start drinking Red Bull? It's tastier. And, for you frat boys, it goes well with vodka.

I mention this because, for the past month and the foreseeable future, I have to wake up at seven o' clock in the morning. Morning and I aren't exactly on speaking terms ever since I punched Morning in the fallopian tubes as a youth, so as a result I need something to start my ignition every weekday morning.

Enter coffee. Like taking you to a Drew Barrymore-starring rom-com, I'll stomach it, but I won't like it. We can never be friends, coffee. I only stick with you because there are no others. Besides, you make me shit like a mastodon.

It's great that society has evolved in such a way that coffee is drunk in the morning and alcoholic beverages at night, instead of -- unless you're some kind of weirdo -- vice-versa. Don't get me wrong; coffee, like the atom bomb and pornography, serves its purpose, But at the end of the day all it is is a means to an end. Coffee is not art. Lobster (and how I love lobster) is not art. If it ultimately comes out of your colon or your bladder, it's not art.

That's a good rule of thumb, I think.

Next: Fuck Steak, It's a Pain in the Ass to Chew

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Bedlam in Goliath (aka Steady Live-Blogging)

The Mars Volta are like Marmite: you either love them, hate them, or have never heard of them. If you're a part of that last group, give 'em a listen. You'll be a part of either of the first two groups soon.

Like The Wire, Contra 4 (tough love is the best kind), Dostoevsky, and ONE HORIZONTAL RED BAR FOR NEGATIVE, I love The Mars Volta like you love my dick size. I wrote about my lust for Cedric and Omar back in 2006 when I reviewed Amputechture, so there's no need to do so again; if you got the itch, scratch those archives, cupcake. Just know that where we're going we don't need roads.

This isn't a review, I should add. Hell, I may not write a whole lot about the album itself, and I damn sure won't give it a rating. No, what this is is me wasting time, bugging out to The Mars Volta, and wearing a T-shirt. If you also like to wear T-shirts, I cordially invite you on a journey.

The Bedlam in Goliath

I think they've already announced the Academy Awards nominations. But I don't feel inclined to check. My ennui has gotten the best of me. That said, if No Country for Old Men and The Vig (for Eastern Promises) don't take home phallic gold statues on Oscar Night, I'm going to slit my wrists with bacon slices...Aberinkula? That sounds made up. Now is probably a good time to mention that none of the album's tracks are longer than ten minutes. Micro-management? In comparison to their oeuvre, that shit looks shorter than the songs on Madvillain ...Metatron? Sounds like a Transformer. Now is probably a good time to mention that I haven't been able to properly listen to the album because my girlfriend today started taking pills which were discontinued in Europe and sold for cheap to Korea, and now she has broccoli growing out her head. Global village!...Longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think! Held my breath when they gave me the gas! Wanted to see! I saw! I saw! Longer than you think! Longer than you think, Dad! I saw! I saw! Long Jaunt! Longer than you think!...Faint praise: The Mars Volta's music is so frenetic it's liable to cause miscarriages...Pitchfork review: The Mars Volta are like the 2 Girls 1 Cup video: they excrete and vomit their muse, and they know that, somewhere, an impressionable idiot is going to be right there to lap it up. The thing is, though, I can stomach the 2 Girls video. High five for hyperbole!...

Check back tomorrow. If you don't, I'm going to commit Contra.

Back. One mistake I made last night: as great as The Vig is in Eastern Promises, I hear Daniel Day Lewis is the shizziest of shiznets in There Will Be Blood. Apparently he's a shoe-in. If he wins, I won't be mad. Good guy. Had breakfast with him at Denny's a few years ago. He likes dipping his toast in egg yolk (who doesn't?), sometimes in his coffee. By the way, Tommy Lee Jones's role in No Country for Old Men isn't a supporting one? Work time fun?...Ilyena. I'm sorry I don't speak fucking hebrew. Wikipedia informs me that the song is about -- I shit you not -- Helen Mirrin. Does Frusciante play on this? I, um, left the liner notes in my car...The album's cover art is bananas, if you ask me. Amputechture's cover art -- done by the same artist, Jeff Jordan -- was okay, but this piece is creepy in an inexplicable way...Wax Simulacra. Now, just what in pluperfect hell is a simulacra? My guess: a doll sculpted in the likeness of a human being (I'm good at Balderdash).'s answer:

1. a slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance.
2. an effigy, image, or representation

I'm going to give myself a big pat on the back like Barry Horowitz for that one. This song is shorter than the cheap shots of whisky they sell in Hongdae. To compensate, here's one of the many terrific quotes from No Country for Old Men:

Carla Jean Moss: Where'd you get the pistol?
Llewelyn Moss: At the gettin' place.

(Boy, Stephen King, Wikipedia,, IMDB...I think I've written about two original sentences so far)...I'm going to smoke a square, have a drink, and watch episode #55 of The Wire. I promise that, when I return, I A) will be slightly inebriated and B) won't spoil anything...Oh, snap! They killed McNulty AND Bug? Thrown. For. A. Lupe Fiasco (I ghost wrote Juno)...Goliath. A concerto in FU minor. Someone's frying sausages downstairs again. I'm making it my duty right now to make love -- with an NES -- while listening to this song. Psychedelic tantra...News: a human head has been escavated from a metal cloud. Sports: figure skaters and ballerinas have supple legs, grotesque feet. Entertainment: you keep runnin that mouth I'm gonna take you in the back and screw ya...Tourniquet Man. Hooray for trite poetry! Probably should have been left behind like NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER...WAIT, MY DAUGHTER'S A MONGOLOID, NOW GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF EYERAN! Listening to a hesitant, streamlined Mars Volta record is one thing; but they don't even serve curly fries. There are no curly fries in Goliath? No vanilla milkshakes, either? I've been cut down to size. I am humiliated...

Back tomorrow. But before I go: I just noticed this morning that the storm washed away most of the rocks in my HELP sign.

lady fingers they taste just like lady fingers.

For Carl.

Day three. Two corrections: Tommy Lee Jones wasn't nominated for No Country for Old Pedophiles (word to Korea); it was for some flick called In the Valley of Elah. The second is this: Doc Brown gave me the clap. Then I went back in time and gave it right back to him, the white-haired bastard. It's a perpetual thing. Like a dragon swallowing its tail...I don't feel like looking at the Rorschach inkblots today, doctor. So either I lie and say they look like bowties and cat whiskers, or I say they're spread vaginas and cloven skulls. Regardless, the dice are loaded. Heads you win, tails I lose (put that shit in Watchmen)...Cavelettas. I'm sorry, I don't speak fucking Mexican. This "review" is to compensate for the album's songs brevity, by the way. If you find it tedious in any way, next time you see me holler like you know me...You know what the album is like, actually? Eating frozen concentrated orange juice. In black and white. For artistic effect...

OK. Back for the last time in this sorry excuse for a post. This weekend I had a chance to bask in the glory of The Bedlam in Goliath while riding the subway for what felt like a million hours squared (or the eternity of being awake during a jaunt, if you will), and I must say, The Mars Volta have created their best work yet. And seeing as how I'm a massive The Mars Volta homer, that's saying something. It is an awesome listening experience. Best song: "Goliath." Worst song: "Tourniquet Man" (and it's not that bad, really). Best lyric: I have a penis that will rip through the fabric of time. I know how THAT is...I take back every bad thing I said about Contra 4. The game, while initially harder than converting atheist lesbians to Christianity AND heterosexuality, gets easier the more you play it. Most of all, despite its difficulty, Contra 4 is FUN. I made it to the final boss today, and even though that motherfucker gave me a beatdown, I turned off my DS with a smile on my face. Because I know it's only a matter of time before I trek back to the harvest yard to deliver Black Viper the ultimate nut punch, and I'm going to have a blast getting there. Since I bought my DS I've played a lot of great games (New Super Mario Bros., Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Nintendogs...just checking if you're awake with that last one), but no other game has obsessed me as much as Contra 4. And isn't that what video games are all about? They should be to adult males what painting was to Charles Strickland...True story: last night found me once again in Bundang, where, so I'm told, I drank somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 beers and 10 tequilla shots in the space of three hours. Free tequilla is hard to turn down, I guess; there was a young Korean-French sous-chef at the bar who bought me round after round of Jose Cuervo because, as he told me, I look like a nice guy (keen eye, I AM a nice guy). Idealjetsam can attest that I've previously drunk tequilla with a Korean-Russian. Now all I have to do is drink tequilla with a Korean-Ghanian and I can collect on the bet I made with my sister five years ago. Anyway, Bacchus must have given me a mulligan, because I didn't have even a hint of a hangover this morning, even though I had to be carried from the bar before 2 AM (that's a shame I fear I will never live down). The human body truly is a strange vessel...If I wrote a coffee table book about Korean love motels, would you buy it? Aspiring photojournalists are encouraged to shoot me an email. Prerequisite: you have to be female...It baffles me why any man would consciously choose to wear a V-neck sweater. Why, did you break up with crew necks? I have few axioms in life, but two of them are "Always bet on black" and "Never trust a man in a V-neck sweater." If the V-neck sweater is black and your name happens to be Lincoln Burrows, however, I may make an exception...I'm not a hipster. Whatever the hell the definition of a hipster is (I think they're nerds who get mad pussy, but I have no solid evidence), I am not that. Because -- and this day has already dawned -- ich bin auslander und sprechen nicht gut Deutsch, Pitchfork named 8 Diagrams as one of the top 50 albums of 2007. The fuck? Just remember that it's the same site that championed Cam'ron and The Clipse and has something against The Mars Volta. The world's gone to shit...I'm not saying The Mist is a great film (though it's guten like tag, morgen, and nacht), but no other movie ending, except for maybe Casablanca's, exemplifies the "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" dynamic. Tell me I'm wrong. Please, I hear it so infrequently...Lastly, Psychedelic Kimchi is finna blow your mind sometime in the not-so-distant future with our pod cast. We're just waiting for the stars to align. In the meantime, I'm tempted to do my own dang and create a Kast in which I read Gravity's Rainbow in the voice of The Ultimate Warrior. Word to Kaufman.

Rating: 5/5 *_*

(and I damn sure won't give it a rating...)

Promises -- like condoms -- were made to be broken.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Big Little Man

Last Saturday afternoon I was at home, without a hangover. What the fuck, right? Instead of my usual routine of waking up and checking sports scores before chugging a 500-milliliter bottle of Gatorade, popping two extra-strength Tylenols, and returning to bed, I thought I maybe might coulda head over yonder to Yongsan to buy a Nintendo Wii (the extra I is for impatience). Always one to avoid a confrontation, I realized my capricious idea was poorly formed when I told [my mother] of my plan and she responded thusly:

"What are you, eight?"

Typical me, I started something (word to Morrissey). For the life of me I cannot grasp why women despise adult men playing video games. I even showed her an on-line video of Super Mario Galaxy. She watched it like she was watching the Daniel Pearl tape. That's not normal, is it?

At the risk of sounding misogynistic, I have a theory about women. Namely, they hate men having toys. Women, see, are reprimanded early in their development for wearing make-up, and later on wear it as a badge of honor; men are reprimanded for basically the same thing, only in reverse (it's somehow evil to collect cereal boxes and M.U.S.C.L.E figurines at 30?).

Why can't a 40-year-old man play videogames? If he does, he's psychologically stunted? Fuck the world.

I realize that men are strange animals (I got to follow), but what's so perverse about enjoying the pleasures of -- in layman's terms -- an electronic videogame device? It doesn't have a vagina, and it doesn't turn me on sexually. Yet.

Believe me, when I was eight I tried to stick my pre-pubescent cock into my Nintendo Entertainment System. It wasn't very entertaining. Now that I'm older, I still fantasize about it, but I hold my desire at (E)bay.

(Too many sharp corners, see.)

I can die happy with you. I can die happy without a Wii (at least until I tackle the sweetest hangover that is Contra 4). But if I ever cheat on you it won't be with some long-legged, raven-tressed co-ed; it'll be with Super Mario and Link. Three-way.

If that day ever comes, call Jerry Springer. After you shoot Santa Claus.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Live Through This

Aesop -- Rock, not he of the Fables -- once said, "All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day, put the pieces back together my way." I can't think of a better way to put it. Days, you mind; and some of them better than others. Years, decades, those're beyond my ken. But I knew how to handle a day. Handled them better than most, worse than few.

When I was five years old I knocked out my four front teeth trying to pop a wheelie on my bike. I'd like to think bicycle manufacturers have made kid's bikes safer since then, stopped making peddle brakes, but I don't know. Maybe if they did some teeth -- maybe some lives -- were saved, but if it isn't one thing it damn sure's going to be another. Set your watch and warrant on it.

I cried, screamed, then. Years later I would get used to and acquire an appreciation for the taste of blood in my mouth, the same way a child might grimace at the smell of scotch and then covet its aroma, long for its everlasting taste, after he's entered adolescence. You get used to things. You do.

I thought a cigarette ash had blown into my eye. As much as I blinked, it wouldn't disappear. My right eye. It's easy to ignore, I told myself. All I have to do is close it. It'll be gone . I closed it. It wasn't gone. I called a nurse in. She smelled like cigarettes and scotch, like I sometimes used to. She said I was going to be fine. I'm not.

I didn't cry or scream when they took my cancer. I smiled way back when I knew my teeth would grow back. Right here and now, I didn't cry. They took a part of me. Maybe it'll make me better, but it won't make me whole.

My word, that's a long way down. I've heard falling three storeys can kill a man. Will thirty kill me more?

That's that, as they say.

Beat and Meat (Pt. Three)

There's not much for me to say this time around, at least not about the indelible self. I've contracted a bit of a stomach ailment or something, which arrived just in time for the weekend, so I've been sitting around my apartment, brooding and drinking copious amounts of Chilsung Cider to alleviate my disdain for viral malevolence. Like employment in South Korea, these things just happen and, to be honest, a weekend spent in recovery has its own merit. I did, for example, finally take the time to watch No Country for Old Men, and it definitely pressed all the right buttons for this overgrown child.

Speaking of children, I also saw This is England and while I think it was a good film (I don't regret viewing the movie), the notion of a small -annoying- boy taking the lead role didn't assist whatsoever in winning my approval (for that is what really matters). I certainly understand that I am, in all likelihood, exceptionally distant from any implied target audience for the film. Still, just because a film is obnoxiously English, doesn't make it good (despite all that you've been led to believe). Speaking of England,

Music, music, you say, mostly in the UK.

The Good, the Bad & the Queen, the Good, the Bad & the Queen: I was just ranting about a repugnant English film, and now, if it doesn't trouble you, I'll proceed to laud a British album. GB&Q may sound a bit like a Gorillaz disc (if the fictitious members of that fictitious band were to go through rehab, subsequently break apart, and then reunite to record some swanky music for the benefit of starving children in Africa) but that doesn't change the fact that GB&Q makes for some decent listening.

Trading Twilight for Daylight, Great Northern: that a band could have generated a disc that was both catchy and whimsical is not entirely surprising, but to have done it so well is worthy of mention. Great Northern's debut album is an effective collection of wistful, carnivalesque melodies that remind me of material goods which bequeath fab impressions gone awry, and I mean that in a positive way. One of the more agreeable albums of the year.

Untrue, Burial: this is a prime example of a great album that should be electrifying me much more than it has been, and I shall take a wild guess here, and state that the problem lies with me (as opposed to a flaw with the disc itself). A recent review by critic Adam Webb postulates that 'Untrue is a devastatingly accurate depiction of urban UK - plugging the listener into the matrix of some godforsaken south London satellite, with its identikit fast food joints, repellent inhabitants and anonymous decaying sprawl,' which sounds like a plausible account, granting that (as mentioned prior) I lack any verifiable connection to the United Kingdom. As things stand, Untrue is a gritty, inclusive work that keeps me occupied, when I'm occupied with something else; beyond that, I'll just have to trust Webb's evaluation, and distrust my own.

We Are the Night, Chemical Brothers: Tom and Ed, from the British Isles as well, still know how to pound out some beats, and I don't begrudge them the slightest bit for traversing the well-beaten path because that's how you make money, retain fans, build a legacy, sire numerous illegitimate children, and sustain an army of polyphonic vampires. Half of the tracks suck ass, and the other half sucks the semen from your malformed penis.

We Can Create, Maps: look, James Chapman, I don't think that there is any question that you know how to make a memorable album, and your first foray onto the global music scene, We Can Create is, hopefully, a mere taste of what's to come. Like a delectable appetizer, Chapman's work offers a variety of sonic wonders, but it never overwhelms the listener, nor does it compel you to skip tracks, but it does leave you wanting more. This alone should signify the makings of an exquisite album. Perhaps we should write We Can Create off as one of those albums you like, but you'll be damned if you can explain why.

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse: no comment. You know which movie drives me into a feral rage, eager to taste the blood of small Asian children? If you guessed Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then you'd be correct, and I'll do you the favor of ingesting your misbegotten gamine first and foremost. Burton's torrential monstrosity should be required viewing for all Imperial stormtroopers, journalism majors, country club owners, and professional dancers, period. And then they should be forced to endure Modest Mouse.

Year Zero, Nine Inch Nails: if society is to shift, fall, or break apart, then I suspect that Trent Reznor will be there, not at the forefront of activity, but on the sidelines. He'll be doing what he does best; flushing the toilet of our demonized culture, making sure the shit goes down, whither we know not. Whatever tune he'd be humming, we'll keep coming back to hear that not-so-dainty hymn time and again (even if we really just have to drop a load). He has a magic touch, that one, and Year Zero, be it far from perfection, still manages to tickle my eardrums, especially Vessel.

Zeitgeist, Smashing Pumpkins: wasn't I just talking about flushing shit down the toilet? Call it prefacing, friends, and this log is just too big to go down at once.

There may be a few other albums I listened to in 2007, but this will (due, mostly, to fanboy outrage) be my last post regarding the topic.


Adol Christin

Monday, January 14, 2008

My god. My god, Pinbacker.

No, not your god. Mine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Only Super Soldiers Need Apply

Look, here's the deal: I know that you won't believe me, but I'll tell you anyway.

Tonight (that's Friday for those of you beyond the steely clutches of our maniacal peninsula) I took a nap, because this 9-5 grind is killing me, albeit pleasantly, and while slumbering, I missed a telephone call from a friend. This call would have, conceivably, alerted me to the opportunity of enjoying a delightful evening amidst comrades, all greased up with booze and lasciviousness. That's fine, and I missed it. Sleep is a dainty whore like that.

I woke up -no shit- and had little to do, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you, it's just that I had all this energy to expend, like something underground was gonna come up and carry me (you dig it, you foxy fuck), and the gym I normally go to closes rather early. I wanted to do something besides drink, something healthy (or, shall we say, productive), so I ate a white fudge-covered Oreo cookie, smoked two cigarettes, took a shower, and grabbed my Nintendo DS. Don't judge me too harshly, as you've been there, and you know how it goes.

I hadn't played Contra 4 in a week, and I was concerned that my skills had become less than tip top. Cutting right to the heart of the matter, and I don't know if it was due to that glorious, currently digesting Oreo, but I was playing the game of my life. I can't stress this concept enough; and after I had blown through the fifth stage without a single loss of life, I felt like Jack Burton sans the Asian sidekick.*

Stage six? Get the fuck out of here. Stage seven? Well, I had never slapped you around before, but I was able to acquire the upgraded Hunter gun, so the Crawling Crustacean was no big deal. Stage eight? First time, fucked you up. Ah, stage nine? Okay, I'll admit that you ate up my continues, namely all of them. Stage nine is pretty hard, seriously, and for that one reader: come prepared son, and equip yourself with a box of tissues for the deluge that is sure to come.

Yeah, stage nine kicked my balls several times, but you know what (and this is the unbelievable part, so again), you know what? The last life of my last continue, the last possible chance I had to win, I toppled Black Viper.** Toast, as in make me some, in the kitchen, with an apron on (but nothing else, you fat bitch).

Yeah, I know you're unimpressed, and that's okay. I never majored in journalism, and dropped a Personal Essay class like a bad habit, so I'm unable to fool you into thinking that mundane experiences are riveting. But I've finished Contra 4.


Bill Rizer

* Which is a bit odd, considering the locale.

** I should also mention that the only weapon I had was the stock rifle, also known as the P. Shooter.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dishonorable Discharge

David Ames hated riding the subway, but what other option was there? Bus? During afternoon rush hour? Forget about it. The temperature outside was subzero; here, in his mock turtleneck sweater and parka, it was unbearably hot. His face flushed red. A line of sweat accumulated at his hairline. He held a hand strap and rocked hypnotically to the beat of the train's rhythm. It arrived at Jamshil Station, and after the doors had closed plenty of empty seats were free, but no way was he going to take one. He hated sitting while riding the subway, and would do so only if the car were completely empty. Nothing to look at but the faces of the passengers sitting across from him, see. No thank you. Made him nervous. He could look at the advertising placards -- an endangered species after the 2003 Daegu subway fire -- lining the car's walls, sure, but there was always a chance someone would stand in front of him, in which case he had to either stare at that person's crotch or look downward like a defeated schmuck. So he chose to stand. Even if the car was half occupied. Maybe that made him look weird. So be it. For him, it was better than the alternative.

Yeah, he could take a book to read, but from November through March his nose ran like a leaky faucet, so he tried to keep his head inclined as much as possible. Sometimes it made his neck hurt. Sometimes swallowing mucus turned his stomach. That's the price he paid. Besides, who can appreciate a good book while riding the subway?

There he was. Standing. Sweating. Head inclined, eyes focused on a life insurance advertisement. Mucus sliding slowly down his throat. REM played on his iPod. I've got my spine, I've got my Pocari Sweat, his thoughts sang.

Born and raised in a Colorado suburb (go Broncos!), David quickly learned that living in the big city of Seoul wasn't about adapting, it was about coping. Toilet paper instead of napkins in restaurants? No problem. Makes sense. It soon lost its queerness and became practical. Logical. Waking up in the early morning hours to the stereophonic bleating of a vegetable salesman's truck? Beer, lots of it, before bedtime. Sleep right through it. A feeling of isolation living as an expatriate in a foreign environment? Internet message boards. And lots more beer.

No, David Ames was all right. He wasn't exactly happy, but he was content. Satisfied. More than can be said for most of the denizens of this fucked-up planet, he believed.

Visiting Steve was a chore, though. For one thing, the guy lived on the other side of the city -- the subway commute to his neighborhood took close to ninety minutes, not including the transfer. For another, Steve was a complete douchebag. A likeable douchebag, maybe, but a douchebag nonetheless. David still smarted from the last time they went out drinking and Steve had -- playfully to Steve, painfully for David -- given him an unrivaled nipple twist.

But Steve liked to drink. More specifically, Steve liked to drink on weeknights. And he liked Tennyson, Talking Heads, the films of John Cassavetes, and knew all the lyrics to the Dead Milkmen's Big Lizard in my Backyard (surprise, followed by disgust, followed by expletives every time they went to a karaoke joint and "Takin' Retards to the Zoo" wasn't on the song list, which was always). Best of all, Steve, like David, was a fairly handsome guy, which meant there was no shortage of conversations -- and sometimes more than that -- between them and adventurous (slutty?) women whenever they hung out. David didn't particularly want any of that tonight, though. He just wanted to have a few beers in green bottles, maybe a shot or two of Jack Daniels, and call it a night.

He almost missed his stop. He almost lost an arm. The Cars' "Good Times Roll" was playing, and he was so into it that he didn't notice the train had stopped at Hongik University Station. When he did, the door was already closing. Without thinking he made a run for it, like a deer driven by instict to leap before a motorist's highbeams, turning sideways at the last second in an effort to slip past the door's narrowing gap.

Caught. The automatic door pinned him on both sides. Pain flared in his right shoulder and thigh. Caught like an animal he thought madly, an image of a rodent -- a rabbit? -- trapped in a snare flashing for a split second in his mind's eye. He squirmed like an earthworm on methamphetamine to free himself from the door's vise. He shook, he shimmied. Everybody let's twist again like we did last summer. Scraping the shoe of his free leg on the platform for leverage, he found his footing, pressed down hard, and managed to pull himself free.

Save his arm. It should have slipped through more easily than what preceded it, but -- and of this David is certain -- someone inside the subway car was holding onto it. A middle-aged woman with short, frizzy hair. She was smiling, her teeth, top and bottom, nearly double the normal length, the sclera of her eyes a dull yellow.

The train began to move, at first crawling, then building momentum in increments like a sadistic treadmill. David staggered along with it, then jogged, then started running alongside, his favorite right arm helpless in its grip.

Then, fuck everything holy, the rest of the passengers stood, almost in unison, and came to the aid of the crazed woman inside the car. Those who couldn't get a grip on David's arm wrapped their own around the waists of those who could and pulled. Pulled mightily.

Panicking, running at full speed, David saw the end of the platform near. Resigned, he shielded his head with his left arm and fell limp.

He's lucky to be alive. The train's velocity ensured that his arm would dislodge and break. It did. As David describes it, the bones in his arm are like "bits of cereal at the bottom of a box of Corn Flakes, an impossible jigsaw puzzle of chips and shards." But it's still attached to him, and for David, despite the pain ("the painkillers are all right, though," he laughs), that's a true miracle.

The incident's psychological trauma, however, will not go away. He still belives that teeming commuters attempted to kill him. He frequently refers to a yellow-eyed woman with rectangle teeth, who he says haunts him to this day.

The therapuetic, peaceful atmosphere of Manitou Springs will, his parents believe, soothe his nerves and aid recovery. David agrees, though he admits he continues to sedate himself with beer in order to fall asleep.

Because of the vegetable trucks.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

O Captain, My Captain

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Growing up, my mom would tell me it didn't matter who was president.

"This country runs itself," she would say. And, in her defense, that was pretty commonly held belief in the roarin' '80s and '90s. Communism was falling. The economy was growing. America was the last remaining superpower. It seemed like a really hard situation to fuck up, especially when you consider the levels of bureaucracy and advisors surrounding the president.

It seemed like the country ran itself.

So, in going to this morning and trying to figure out what the hell is going on with the presidential race this time around (Answer: They don't know either, and they work 80-hour weeks and get paid good money to know) I stumbled upon this bit of insight from a Clinton adviser:

[quote] “The bottom line is that it is going to be a long campaign,” the adviser said.

“And George Bush gets the credit: He has done more than anyone to get the people of this country involved again in politics. They now realize it is important who the president is.” [/quote]

And the brilliance and self-evidence of that statement knocked me over. That is totally true. That is totally fucking true. George W. Bush has totally disavowed us of the belief that, no matter who is at the helm, America is still, at its core, America. George W. Bush has totally proven that one person can fuck up America. George W. Bush proved my mom wrong: This country doesn't run itself.

So, for waking this country up and bringing it back to political activism, and for the record-high voter turnout we have seen in the first presidential primary caucus and presidential primary, I thank you Mr. President. Totally unwittingly you have brought this country together to say, "We really gotta pay better attention to this shit." Dubs talked a lot, in his initial run for the presidency in 2000, about being a uniter, not a divider. About "compassionate conservatism." And the irony is that he has accomplished that. He has united us. Damn near 75% of this country is totally united in disapproving of Bush as president. And Mike Huckabee, no matter what else you say about him, is a compassionate conservative, and he's doing well.

There's been a lot of talk about legacy as we enter Dubs' last year on the throne. He's trying to bring Palestine and Israel together for talks to get an international relations feather in his cap. He's trying to keep a lid on Iraq so that when the inevitable meltdown comes that mark gets put on the next guy's tally. But maybe this is his legacy.

Bush scared us straight. He held up a mirror and showed us ourselves at our worst: Frightened, overgrown puppies snapping out at whatever came near us and wreaking havoc on the world as we did it. And we know we can't afford to do that anymore. So you get candidates like Obama with a message of hope or McCain with a message of resolve, candidates who want to inspire rather than appeal to our baser natures.

I admit, the eight years of thesis was pretty bad. And I'm looking forward to the next eight years of antithesis. And, hopefully, when we're having this conversation again in eight years, we can have reached some kind of synthesis we can all live with.

That said, I'm still on New Zealand's immigration mailing list for potential job offers. Part of me hopes that more of my countrymen giving a shit about who makes the decisions in this country is good thing.

And the other part of me has actually met some of these selfsame countrymen.

Fast Food

She was sitting at a two-seat table on the second floor, looking out the window at the passersby below, legs crossed seductively, biting a fingernail. I was seated a few tables over. Finishing my chicken sandwich, I took a large gulp of cola to wash it down and continued making furtive glances in her direction. I couldn't help it. It's not that she was spectacularly beautiful, but she possessed an intangible allure. That much was evident from the increased beating of my heart, and, if I am to be completely honest, the growing bulge beneath my boxer briefs.

Her hair was jet black. Straight. Unnaturally so. It looked as though it had been pressed by monolithic irons. Maybe it had. Nevertheless, it maintained a sheen so fine as to put the hair of any shampoo advertisement model's to shame. Her nose was oddly shapen, ostensibly the result of poor rhinoplasty. It curved up queerly at the end of the bridge; the edges of her nostrils looked like parentheses buffering no words; and the flesh looked as soft as clay. The folds of her eyelids were obviously the result of cosmetic surgery, the space between line and lash barely a millimeter apart. Her lips were full -- the top almost as much as the bottom -- and painted a dark pink. Every now and then she would take her fingernail out from between them and wipe it with a napkin to remove the lipstick. Her chest and torso were concealed by an oversized T-shirt, but to me what lied beneath her neck was irrelevant. Despite its flaws, I was captured by that face, enamoured.

I sat there pushing the ice in my glass around with a straw. I had an urge to walk over to her table and make an attempt at conversation, but what was I to say? Hi. I don't normally do this, but...? Would never work, especially not in this country. And while I haven't been one hundred percent faithful, in the ten-plus years I've been married I've never actively pursued an affair; I've always played the passive role, the prey rather than the hunter. Plus my ring finger tends to swell in the summer, and with the restaurant's milquetoast air-conditioning it would have been impossible to slip off. I sat there for another five minutes or so, full of desire, then left for the office.

Later, on my way home, I stopped at a small diner to grab a bite. Returning to my office after lunch, the memory of the girl was immediately pushed from my mind and replaced with facts and figures, but just then, as I sat waiting for my order, it returned with powerful clarity. Her raven hair. Her dark-pink lips. I was consumed by an indescribable lust.

I canceled my order and exited the diner, beads of sweat dripping into my eyes as I tried to collect myself. But I was overcome, past the point of no return. I turned off the main street onto a smaller one littered with neon signs. There are brothels everywhere you look here, if that's indeed what you're looking for. I was. They're as ubiquitous as 7-Elevens and newsstands; but once you take off your shoes, pay for the special service, undress and don a bathrobe, and step into a dimly lit room with no walls between bed and bath, you are in another dimension. One where night and day, summer and winter, cease to exist.

To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. But I had to follow through. There was no turning back, nor would I have done so had an exit door magically appeared. My sensuality knew no bounds. I was possessed by a force stronger than reason or rationality. I was like a man stranded long at sea, eager to drink salt water to quench my undying thirst, however fleetingly, and damn the consequences.

But my nerves got the best of me. An undulating cramp surged through my bowels. Aware that my "masseuse" would arrive shortly, I could nevertheless contain myself. I sat on the toilet, but my gastrointestinal redemption would not come. Resigned to the fact, I stood up. And that is when my girl, the girl walked in.

"Give me a sec!" I shouted as casually as possible given the situation. She, perhaps as embarrassed as I, shut the door. Right then my conscience begged, screamed, for me to leave, bad juju and all that. But I had to be sure. The girl who opened the door was the same girl from the restaurant, I was convinced. I lied on the bed and propped up my head with my arm.

Roughly two minutes later she reentered. And then there was no doubt. She was no longer wearing an oversized T-shirt, and her lips were covered with a shiny gloss, but it was the same girl from the restaurant, no question about it. She bowed slightly and smiled, her hair falling intermittingly over her face like bar code lines. Then she sat down next to me.

She asked me if I minded her smoking. I said no. She took out a gold-plated cigarette case from a small cabinet at the bed's head, opened it, offered me one (I declined, didn't feel like it), took one for herself and lit it. After her first drag she threw her head back and exhaled a plume of smoke, red in the room's light. God, she looked sexy then. Up until that point nerves and embarrassment had me convinced that despite my carnal lust I would never achieve a hard-on, but that one glance set everything right. Full force. As soon as she put out her cigarette I sat up and kissed her. Then we did other things.

Afterwards, I did feel like smoking. For I was sated. My pleasure fulfilled, I wanted only to smoke and sleep. And eat. I was hungry.

"Where are you from?" she asked.

"Canada," I lied.

"Really? My cousin lives in Victoria. I've never been, myself. I'd like to go there, though."

"Where have you been?"

"Nowhere, really. My parents live in Guam, but I'm stuck here. Sad, right?"

"I guess so."

Such small talk continued until, mercifully, a red light above the door buzzed, signalling my time was up.

"I can call the front desk and give us more time, if you really want to stay," she said.

"No, it's okay. It's late and I really should be getting home."

"I see."


"Hey, if you ever come back ask for Silver. That's me."

"Will do."

After I left I stopped by a convenience store for a beer. I drank it on the way home. But my appetite got the better of me and I went back. I bought a wrapped chicken sandwich and a small tin of potato chips. I ate them sitting in a plastic chair in front of the store. Then I went home.

That was four months ago. I'm tempted to go back and see if Silver's still there, but she probably isn't.

Oh well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Stubborn Beauty

"You know you hit me in your sleep last night."

"You probably deserved it," he says jokingly. Then: "Did it hurt?"

"Not really," she replies. "I was more shocked than anything. I tried to wake you up, but you were speaking in some weird language. Sounded like Hebrew."

"Do me a favor. If I do it again, wake me up and don't let me fall back asleep unless you're sure I'm following you. OK?"

The woman bites her lip and nods. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, she leans over and reaches for a pack of cigarettes sitting on a night table, opens it, extracts a thin white-filter cigarette and a green Bic lighter, and lights her smoke prosaically. The man, also sitting cross-legged, only on the floor, quickly gets to his feet and starts toward the bathroom. "Taking a shower," he mumbles.

When he returns a short while later -- stark naked and leaving damp footprints on the apartment's faux-wood linoleum floor -- the woman addresses him.

"It's not the first time you've done that."

"Done what?" he says, putting the cap back on a deodorant stick.

"Hit me. In your sleep."

"Really?" He seems genuinely curious.

"Well, sorta. Remember when I stayed here for a week in August and your air-conditioner was broken? One of those nights I woke up and you had your hands around my throat. And about a month later when we were staying in a love motel you put your hand on the side of my head and started pushing it down. That hurt a little, actually."

"Why didn't you tell me before?" he asks, standing in the middle of the one-room apartment like a nude sentinel, for the time being forgetting his toilet.

She puffs out a cloud of smoke the size of an apple (or a fist, or a hand grenade) and says, "The first time I didn't think it was anything abnormal. The second time I was going to, but you were so rushed for work that I decided to put it off until later, then I forgot."

"Third times the charm," he says, smirking. "Did I really hit you last night? You're not just making it up, are you?"

She looks offended. "Why would I do that?"

"I dunno. The intricacies of the female psyche baffle me. Maybe you're going to use it in the future as leverage when I do something that pisses you off, like 'and you abuse me in your sleep.'"

"Go fuck yourself."

"Hey, sorry. It's just that this is a little weird for me, wouldn't you agree?"

She says nothing.

"Look, I think we can both agree that I've been a very good boyfriend. I've always treated you with the utmost courtesy, and I've never shown any sort of temper."

After a long silence: "Maybe you're hiding something."

Indeed, he is as harmful as a square of toilet paper against an atomic weapon; but her comment switches on his sarcasm mechanism, and that is in perfect working order.

"That's it," he says, letting his chin fall to his chest like a condemned man, "you got me. You finally figured me out. I'm surprised it took you this long. I thought the chopped-up body parts in the freezer were a dead giveaway, but you never noticed. Same with the severed animal heads -- it's mostly rodents -- I keep in my sock drawer. Baby, you've got a great set of tits and legs to die for, but your deduction skills need some work."

For a moment, fire flashes in her eyes. In that split second she looks like a crazed tiger, perhaps a sedated one that has been prodded with a sharp stick, one for which the curtain of anesthesia has been temporarily lifted. Then, as quickly as that blaze was ignited, it is extinguished, and she (the tiger, the lady tiger) reassumes her formerly placid expression.

Feigningly turning her attention to a television reality show (Who Wants to be America's Next Top Dumbass!?), she lets out a sigh and says in a voice which belies her demeanor, "One of these days that smart mouth of yours is going to land you in trouble."

"Don't I know it sister," he responds, with an apologetic look that says fun is fun, but I realize now that it's neither the time nor place for it. Then, with a similar tiger's spark in his eyes, only this one mischievous: "We should probably get you back to the nursing home, ma'am. They're going to wonder where you were last night, and why your mattress has no fresh urine stains."

She smiles faintly at that. At least he thinks so.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Murakami and Me

I was introduced to Haruki Murakami through a one-page profile in Time magazine. The year was 2001. The profile coincided with the English-language publication of his only non-fiction book, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, and, reading it, I was intrigued twofold. First, the author seemed to be unpretentious and a little quirky. Always a plus. Secondly, reading about the Aum Shinriko's sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system was alluring -- possibly in a perverse way, probably because I rode the subway to and from work every day, and the idea of such an event occurring on the Seoul Metro scared and interested me in equal measure. That Saturday, I took the subway to the Kyobo Book Center in Gwanghwamun and picked it up in paperback.

I know that, In Japan, Murakami took some heat for the book. Why, exactly, I'm unsure; but it may have been because he -- unintentionally -- creates too large a presence while covering the individual stories of the victims of that fateful day. Nevertheless, that is what prompted me to seek out his works of fiction. "Here is a gifted storyteller and an ostensibly likeable guy," I told myself -- and in literature those traits, in tandem, are rare even among the most gifted authors. More specifically, Murakami seemed like a guy whom I would get along well with were we to hang out (lawn darts and Casablanca); and for me and literary figures, that's very exclusive company. In fact, only one other author comes to mind.

The next Saturday I went back to Kyobo and copped Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Needless to say, I was hooked. I ran through that badboy like Adrian Peterson does defensive tackles. Then I voraciously read, in order, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (immaculate), Norwegian Wood (ditto), The Elephant Vanishes (great collection of short stories), and...South of the Border, West of the Sun (ouch). But I wasn't mad for that last one. Shower me with greatness and I'll grant you a mulligan. (Unless you're titled Idlewild, that is.) It's when you start making a habit of going through the motions and churning out lifeless works -- word to the Wu-Tang Clan -- that my resentment kicks in.

When I briefly -- if one can call seven months brief -- returned to Canada in late-spring of 2002, I was pleased to discover that Murakami's latest English-language translation, Sputnik Sweetheart, was available in paperback (and if it were available only in hardcover I still would have purchased it: the true sign of a fantastic author). Let's be diplomatic and say that Sputnik Sweetheart and I aren't exactly on speaking terms these days. Then let's say that the book is like receiving fellatio from a piranha, or, more culturally relevant, snorting wasabi. To paraphrase the title of a Roger Ebert book, I hated, hated, hated that novel.

What I appreciated, however, was Murakami's persistence. While far from prolific (word to Idealjetsam), he isn't exactly Harper Lee, either. He kept on chugging, because that's how playas do. I picked up his next English-language publication, After the Quake, a collection of short stories inspired by the 1995 Kobe earthquake, while on a short trip to Fukuoka in autumn 2003, and the healing began. In the summer of 2005, scarce months before I started this hallowed blog, I ordered and received the first edition of Kafka on the Shore from What the Book? And while it's a good read (a good, long read, to boot), the climax and denouement come close to ruining what is, until then, a fantastic, enjoyable story. More recently, in the fall of 2006 I read Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami's second English-language collection of short stories, and while my faith wasn't fully restored, I conceded that the old man still has some A game in him. When I discovered last week that the English translation of his short novel, after Dark*, was for sale, I was borderline apoplexic.

That's how Haruki Murakami and I roll, see. It's been ages since he's written a great novel, but still I come back, looking for that old spark, wanting to again feel that fire. Why? Because, in so many cliched words, he speaks to me. Makes me feel at home. A Haruki Murakami novel can be an old flame and a close friend, because no matter its inadequacies, you still love it, still long for it. (Except for Sputnik Sweetheart, that is.)

I mentioned before that, as far as writers whom I'm confident hanging out with would be a gas go, only another comes to mind. That man is Stephen King. Both he and Murakami have the preternatural gift of immersing their readers in a world that is, however fantastic or unbelievable, completely familiar. They also possess an incredible knack for pop culture references, however obscure; and while I know little about -- for example -- jazz or REO Speedwagon, I can appreciate the passion and inspiration inherent in each one.

The similarities don't stop there, either. Both men are celebrities in their respective countries; both have been labelled insignificant to literature by more than a few of their esteemed peers; both have the unfortunate curse of ending their stories in predictable ways (for Murakami it's a protagonist's vague dissolve into nothingness, for King an explosion); and both have never seen the inside of my refrigerator (their loss; I have cheese muffins).

Mostly, I'm using the analogy to underline each writer's uncanny ability to rise, rise more, fall, then fall spectacularly (word to Sputnik Sweetheart and The Tommyknockers), only to regain their footing, keep on chugging (word to The Little Engine that Could), and show the world that talent doesn't die, it only hibernates for a while.

I write this after reading the first sixty pages of after Dark, a novel with such promise. Murakami's dialogue is in its best form, his characters as likeable and quirky as ever; and anyone who has read Stephen King and Peter Straub's Black House will be familiar with the narrative device the novel employs. (And since King named the hotel in his short story "1408" The Dolphin after the one in Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I'm almost certain the two writers have a mutual admiration for one another.)

It is good to be alive in 2008.


* Don't blame me for the lack of capitalization in the title, blame postmodernism.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Word Processor of the Gods

(Back sooner than I had thought. I'm unpredictable like that. Let's get married.)

A former comic book junkie, I always loved the cover blurbs Marvel used to put on issues such as X-Men, Thor, and the like; such powerfully bold rhetorical questions and announcements as What Price, Power?, Enter: Havoc, and Mjolnir Broken!. Perhaps those blurbs had too big an effect on me, because I regularly find the running thoughts in my head following their influence. For instance, on Friday I was on my way home from work and decided to enter a convenience store to grab a snack. Then it hit me like the spasmodic face of Bill Bixby before he turned into Lou Ferrigno. I saw a tuna sandwich; just your everyday, convenience store, tuna sandwich. But that didn't stop the inward shout of "Enter: Tuna Sandwhich!" from escaping the ether and breaking into my conscious thought. More specifically to the point I'm going to make, last Saturday, after getting half-settled and screwing together a faux mahogany bookcase which proved to be more troublesome than a faux mahogany bookcase has any right to be, my mind vomited forth the declaration "Bookcase Assembled!" followed by the addendum "...But At What Cost?" I didn't say that out loud, of course (there lies a thin line between eccentricity and outright madness, for sure; and I'm close to the other side, but not close enough. Yet), but the body tends to betray the mind, and someone very close to me commented on my maniacal expression. I smoothed it over as a bout of indigestion, and that was that. I hoped.

Then, I got to thinking about the Miami Heat and their subpar-as-fuck season. Never one to shy away from wonky analogies, the 2006 Heat championship run now reminds me of something I saw on the Discovery Channel a few weeks back. Forgive my lack of hard facts and research, but there was this guy, a mid-thirties Scandanavian dude, who decided he was going to run a marathon on the Arctic Circle in only his underwear. Bless his manic heart, he did it, too. But at what cost? The program never said, but it hinted that the flaxen-bearded bloke would likely lose all of his toes. When confronted with that possible result, the Scandanavian still believed it was worth it.

But was it? Certainly, I don't know the guy's name. Hell, I don't even know if he really is A) Scandanavian, or B) flaxen-haired, because I was eating pizza at the time and my dog was whining for it, and that's pretty distracting, I'm sure you'll agree. Has he been in a Nike commercial? If the answer's no, sorry, flaxen-haired Scandinavian, you lost your toes for a moment of glory which no one but you will remember.

So, was the 2006 Heat championship worth it? Pat Riley basically made Van Gundy the Thomas Becket to his King Henry II, overhauled much of the previous year's roster, signed a pair of ne'er-do-wells in Jason Williams and Antoine Walker, and somehow, made it work. And that was the beauty of it, because no one believed it would. In the aftermath of the San Antonio Spurs' four championships, so much has been written about the importance of team chemistry that it's sickening, and the 2006 championship is, sadly (mistakenly) percieved as a fluke.

It wasn't a fluke the same way nothing in sports ever is. It was a conclusion. A conclusion disliked by many because it didn't fit the plot of the story -- and predictions -- that was the 2005-2006 NBA season. To many, it was a horribly ineffective plot twist. Sorry, but sometimes life goes that way. Unscripted.

Where I take umbrage with Riles's bold gamble, though, is that he actually thought that shit would work again after a disappointing season, the cocky old man. Furthermore, I take umbrage with the stupid part of me (the Sports and Women part of my brain) for believing it. To be honest, I'm not unconvinced that he's gone a little crazy. Fuck that, a lot. He made moves which caused a stir, they worked, and then he became all "I could sign fucking Ricky Davis, Smush Parker and Marc Blount and make this shit work. BECAUSE I'M THAT GOOD." I know how it feels, Pat. I've been there.

More foresightful moves could have birthed a dynasty, but Pat wasn't about that. Pat was riding a thoroughbred on its last legs, a chariot losing its wheels. Pat was looking out for Pat, and he achieved what Larry Brown (who?) could only pretend to try to do: play a villian who appears a savior.

Pat Riley, Antichrist?

Although the Heat are the laughing stock of the Eastern Conference, I'm confident Riles isn't too much troubled over the fact. He's got redemption under his belt, and, like love, that's worth a whole lot. Frankly, Pat Riley can...I don't want to say it...

go to Hell.

Superman's dead, Flash is becoming Barry Allen (and notinagoodway), and here we stand, before a precipice. Sink or swim, ride or die, spit or swallow. The future of the Miami Heat rests upon one man:

(Was it worth it? Definitely. And then some. Pat, I'm not mad atcha. Free Dwyane.)

Beat and Meat (Pt. Two)

2008. Wow. You're kicking my ass on as many levels as Donkey Kong heaves barrels. Honestly, what more could a guy wish for in life?

January, would you be so kind as to remain forever more? Getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to teach kids the meaning of superfluous -and, yet, mildly appropriate- vocabulary like vermicious downright tickles my funny bone, and no, 'funny bone' is not a euphemism whatsoever.

Hold on. We're not here to read about my inadequacies; in actuality, we're here to write about my inadequ-

Hey, 2007, I'm not quite finished with you, so open wide (she said). Let's talk a bit more about music (and perhaps a tad regarding Cronenberg's Eastern Promises). I hadn't completed my initial list of music, partially because I was tipsy, but also because there is no sense in creating an excruciatingly elongated post. I've never been found guilty of such atrocity and, dog willing, I never shall.

Minutes to Midnight, Linkin Park: I'm not the biggest fan of Linkin Park, so it came as no surprise that I found this album to be mostly forgettable. Shadow of the Day has a decent melody, and Given Up accomplishes its mission as a single. I'll admit that much.

Neon Bible, Arcade Fire: drawing from the same reservoir that dictated my comment about El-P's latest jaunt, I'll state (for the record) that I can't -and won't- compare this to Funeral. What I will admit is that Neon Bible presents listeners with imagery that is far less, say, idealistic, and I enjoy it immensely. Black Wave/Bad Vibrations alone warrants incalculable praise.

On the Leyline, Ocean Colour Scene: I won't complain about Britpop, just like you, dead reader, won't gripe about self-references (especially not with a clownish outburst unbefitting your vastly superior sense of subtlety), so let's just agree to disagree on the value of this album. Where do I stand? On the Leyline, that's where.

Preparations & Interregnums, Prefuse 73: beating this dead horse once more? That's my style, but I'm feeling extra lazy tonight. Check the Labels, Papa Smurf.

Sawdust, the Killers: jumping to conclusions is what I do best (concerning the Killers), so I'm going to reserve any comments until some distant, obscure point in the future. By 2011, I'll probably be in love with this collection of B-Sides, except for the 'Abbey Road Version' of Sam's Town. I'd rather watch the Departed (for a first time) than be forced to endure a second listen of that catastrophe.

Sky Blue Sky, Wilco: popular opinion dictates that Wilco is, as some folks have claimed, a monumental, illustrious band that consistently creates culturally relevant music to enhance our mundane lives. Granting that, you'd be tempted to think that anything touched by Jeff Tweedy's penis be worth its weight in gold. Yeah, Sky Blue Sky is a good disc, and yeah, Tweedy slapped each and every individual copy of the CD with his dick, but that doesn't change the fact that Wilco isn't nearly as radiant as people fervently proclaim them to be.

Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem: keep the shit coming, Mr. Murphy! Starting off with the undeniable charm of Get Innocuous!, the album careens through a roller coaster of repetitive emotions. The brilliantly recurrent lyrics and themes fail (in this case miserably, much to our morbid delight) to alienate the listener, because Murphy reminds you, ever tactfully, that humans* are tedious, not in their attachments per se, but in their approach to such entrenchments. Fuck it, the album is amazing.

That takes me through the letter S, and I'm sure that you can easily extrapolate what happens next.**

From the onset, I intended to say a few things about Eastern Promises, if only to take a break from music. What a great film we have here. After the 2005 release of a History of Violence, I was eager to engage any subsequent film that paired Mortensen with Cronenberg once again. (On a side note, we can only pray that the two reunite for a third film, perhaps a remake/revision of Scanners. Hell, I'd go see it.)

I went to see it, on a Sunday night in late September, with two friends of mine.*** I distinctly recall that we were amongst the grand total of seven people in the theater; which doesn't reflect negatively upon the quality of the film, but it does limit the number of gasps possible during some of the more violent scenes, of which there are a few, each executed with either brutal efficiency, or efficient brutality (I'm unable to decide). Anyway, despite the lack of outbursts, the film successfully captivated me for an hour and a half with its unflinching depiction of life; of pragmatic men, adaptive women, and broken girls.

Roger Ebert noted that Eastern Promises is 'not a movie of what or how, but of why' and it's hard to disagree, although I'd insert a who alongside the demarcation of why. The characters are dependent upon the plot, initially, but at some juncture I ceased to be concerned with the particulars, which is part of the film's charm and, furthermore, who the characters are, as defined by -and subject to- their actions, is what interested me. Having said that, I shall refrain from any divulgence as to the story itself; you'll just have to rent the DVD and see for yourself.



*All humans? No, just North American Scum.

**If you guessed Taking out my garbage, then you'd be correct.

***They weren't my parents, so cut the shit.

P.S. There are so many things wrong with the two pictures in tonight's post, that it's just gotta be so right.

Happy new year, indeed.

No Rest for the Wicked

This place seems familiar. Have we met?

Sincerest of apologies* for the incommunicado. It's just that moving took a lot out of me, both physically and mentally, and my muse was apparently sent to the wrong address. It's been a little over a week since I settled in the Greenwich Village to Bundang's Long Island (I'll leave it to Idealjetsam to determine whether my analogy is apt), and thus far I'm still getting adjusted to my new/old surroundings and current job, the latter of which involves me sitting at a desk all day, writing. But don't fret; I still have time for you, Constant Retard. That's business, this is pleasure. The Sparkles train -- no local stops -- is going to build locomotion in the coming days and weeks, and pretty soon things will be back to normal. Or a reasonable, hand-drawn facsimile of it, at least.

In an attempt at full disclosure, here's what I've been up to since just before the start of the year of the rat bastard:

I moved last Saturday. I have relatively few earthly possessions, yet moving the little I do own into a third-floor apartment would take its toll on any man, I'm sure. I think I went up and down those fucking stairs over thirty times that day. Once everything was inside my new digs, the real estate agent came over, and I was informed of a rather unfortunate building rule: no pets. So I picked up my little dog, opened the window, and punted her out like Jack Black did Baxter in Anchorman. (Kidding...I think. If anyone sees a white-and-gray Shih Tzu scampering through the back alleys of Donggyo-dong, holla.) That was not, however, the most vexing rule I would learn of that day. Upon returning from Homever later that evening, I was nonplussed to see that No Smoking signs had been tacked up on the windows of each of my new building's floor landings. Good grief. Still, I shall endure. Plus it's Korea; no one takes that shit seriously, right?

December 31st marked my first return since the move to my old stomping grounds, Bundang. Seriously, that place has gone to shit since I left. Bundang, get yourself together, old girl. Anyway, the ladyfriend and I went to Dublin (the best bar in Korea, as far as I'm concerned) to celebrate the new year. Also in attendence was your friend and mine, the talented and dashing KMart. And just so you don't think our whole abstract vibe is all an act, more than a few people told us we're too esoteric ("Fucking weird" was the exact phrase used, but they were a little inebriated and probably couldn't grasp the exact word they were looking for.) Conversation topics included Contra 4, why I'm such a singularly great human being, Stephen Geoffreys, the beauty of Sam's Town, and why K-Heezy refuses to watch The Departed (reason: spite). Things get a little blurry after that. If anyone has seen a handsome version of me walking around Seohyeon Station, incoherently muttering "PJ Soles, PJ Soles...," send me a kite. Our mother is worried about him.

Hanging around the bars of Hongdae, I've yet to find one that's right for me. And by "right for me" I really mean "one with a female bartender willing to have an affair with me." Did I just step over the line there? Fuck it.

Finally, I have to mention one thing. I have what I believe is the Korean version of OnDemand. Basically, it's a cable database of TV shows which allows me to pick and watch any show they have available. Their library, at least as it relates to English-language programs, is severely lacking, but I nevertheless managed to find and watch a couple of decent movies (The Machinist, Coffee and Cigarettes, and...wait for it...The Lost Boys). Plus it's got all the softcore porn a man could ever ask for. Sure, the Internet is great and all, but sometimes I yearn to recapture the nostalgia of my adolescence, you know?

Well, that's it for now, Constant Retard. I have a date with the latest Harumi Murakami novel, After Dark. And a few glasses of whiskey.

I remain,

Tiberious aka Sparkles pka Eoin Forbes

* sometime during the summer of last year I promised to stop apologizing. Don't worry, I haven't broken that promise. I don't really mean it, you see. In fact, I'm GLAD I was away so long. It felt good to be out from under Idealjetsam's tyrannical shadow, if only for a little while.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hell Yeah

My white, suburban wife walks into a dvd store in the inner city. An African-American attendant at the front counter asks if she needs help finding anything.

"No thanks," my wife says. "Just need to pick up Season One of The Wire; we're trying to get my brother-in-law turned on to it. He's a cop."

"Hell yeah," the attendant says. "January 6. Final season. Got my TIVO set already."

"Hell yeah," my wife says.

And that's The Wire, folks. Bringing Americans of disparate socioeconomic backgrounds together to agree on one thing, if only for an hour at a time.

January 6th. One last time, set your Tivos to "I just creamed my shorts this is so good."



Det. James 'Jimmy' McNulty: I got to ask you, if every time Snotboogie would grab the money and run away, why'd you even let him in the game?
Witness: What?
Det. James 'Jimmy' McNulty: If Snotboogie always stole the money, why'd you let him play?
Witness: You got to. This is America, man.