Archive for January, 2009

First 5 days

Posted in Culture, Personal, Travel on January 31, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I’m in Singapore, getting blissfully fat and spoiled. Hong Kong was a collision of humanity, with throngs of people out celebrating the lunar new year. They say Busan is the city where you get bumped around on the street, but that’s nothing like trying to make your way through the streets of HK during the new year.

We only spent two full days there. We planned to take the tram to the top of Victoria Peak on our first day, but the line to get on was two hours long. Fuck that. So we hoofed it up instead. It felt good to burn off some dead weight and work up a good sweat. Somehow we got off track and wound up lost in the disgustingly wealthy area. We eventually got back on track by following a nearby herd. We knew we’d made it back to civilization when we saw a Starbucks sign. We went inside and found ourselves inside a mall. All that effort climbing a mountain and we end it inside a shopping mall. HK is full of malls. It must have something to do with the wealth here, but good lord I’ve never seen so many shopping malls.

On the second day, we went to Lantau island and visited the big buddha statue. It was also crowded with families. Up a huge flight of stone steps, there was the big fellah shrouded in fog. We made our way back down to the temple nearby. I’ve never seen so much burning incense. There were unbelievably fat sticks, three five or six feet tall and as round as a tree trunk sending smoke that mingled with the myst on the mountain. People bought their own more humble supplies and waved them in the air. Ash flew everywhere and the smell was overbearing.

The next day, we were off to Singapore, but not without its challenges.

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Posted in Culture, Music, Personal, Travel on January 26, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I leave tomorrow for four weeks of traveling around Southeast Asia. I’m going with a couple friends (who are also my bandmates). The plan is to fly into Hong Kong, stay for three nights, then meet up with another friend who lives in Singapore. He was the keyboard player in our band before he left to take a promotion with his company. So we’re probably going to spend the better part of a week jamming, lazing around by the pool, and hopefully play a show or two in town.

After that, we’ll likely spend a couple weeks in Malaysia. I’ve been spearheading the plans for this leg of the adventure. I’m focusing on two areas to use as home bases: Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. Those areas on their own seem to be great places to visit. But they also should make good launching pads for other areas nearby. So if we spend about a week in each spot, we can venture out for day trips or overnights. After that, I’d like to fit in Malaysian Borneo, but that’s an additional flight. We’ll have to see how things go.

While doing research I noticed a cultural thread throughout all the areas we’ll be visiting. Every place has a distinct Chinese quality to it. There’s Hong Kong of course. But also Singapore, which is ethnically 2/3rds Chinese. And in Malaysia, Chinese make up the largest minority. So in a way, I’ll be moving through a lot of Chinese culture without ever setting foot in mainland China. There also appears to be a large Indian minority in all three places. I’ve never been to China, but I’ve been to India. I’m excited to visit little pockets of India and conjure up a taste of those sights and sounds again. What’s really odd to me is that Buddhist/Confucian/Taoist (Chinese) and Hindu (Indian) cultures reside in Malaysia, which is an Islamic country. I’m sure I’ll learn more about how that works while I’m there.

Korea is such a homogenous society and this seems like a very heterogeneous trip. Bring it on. I could use a little diversity for a change.

Sanitized flakes of processed nutriment

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Personal on January 25, 2009 by Elephant Talk

“You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.”
Tom Robbins – Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas

Facebook is a silly little thing. But for an expat living in Korea it’s the singular form of mass social communication. Email, cell phones… these things don’t even come close. Nearly every social thing I do — meet for dinner, play a gig, get people to come to my gigs, attend an event, know someone’s present location, know when they’re coming back, what time band practice is — is managed through Facebook. Some of this social activity even happens on Facebook itself. I play games with friends, comment on their status or photos or videos, chat, on and on. I used to hate the idea of this kind of sillyness. But it works for this place, as I’m sure it does anywhere there’s a smattering of displaced individuals wandering around a foreign world.

But I’m bringing up Facebook for another reason. It also has a few cool applications. I found a Tom Robbins quote generator that just erased 40 minutes of my life in a most entertaining fashion. I don’t read much fiction. Truth is, I’m too impatient. If I want to lose myself in a story, I’d rather complete the journey in two hours through a film than a month through a book. But I do love Tom Robbins. His brain works the same as mine, except of course that his synapses are far more finely tuned to one another than mine are. Whenever I get on a roll when writing, he’s the guy I’m channeling, or at least trying to. When I was in Seoul looking for a novel to take with me on vacation, I picked up Villa Incognito, thinking its Asian elements would work well for the trip. It’s sitting over there on my desk. I can’t wait to open it.

I’ll stop typing now and instead hand it over to Tom. These are just a few random ones I pulled…

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Posted in Sports on January 24, 2009 by Elephant Talk

It’s official, the Arizona Cardinals are the trendy pick to win the Superbowl. Apparently Larry Fitzgerald has achieved godlike status, the best since Jerry Rice, a guy who can win a game all by himself. Larry Fitzgerald Larry Fitzgerald Larry Fitzgerald. Good lord. Sure he’s talented, but he’s not the one who scares me. The guy who scares me is Steve Breaston. I predict this guy will significantly change the course of the game by returning a punt for a touchdown, catching another TD, and racking up close to a hundred yards.

Pittsburgh’s weak on special teams coverage. They’re also vulnerable against the deep ball. But I think Fitzgerald will get the bulk of Troy Polamalu’s attention and Warner will spot Breaston as his second option. This isn’t to say Fitzgerald won’t have a good game, but I think Breaston is the X-factor. The key is hitting Warner before he can make those throws. I think the Steelers will. On the other side of the ball, I’m expecting Willie Parker to have two touchdowns, 100+ yards, and an MVP trophy.

Laces out!

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Personal on January 23, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Hopefully this is the final chapter in this story. I got my stitches out today. But it didn’t go according to plan.

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Posted in Images, Personal on January 21, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Here it is, my face creature and the exit wound. Click through if you dare…

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Lawyer ball

Posted in Film & TV, Sports on January 20, 2009 by Elephant Talk

So it’s Steelers vs Cardinals in the Superbowl. Weird.

I just finished watching the game, again delayed 18 hours and again among the other patiently, voluntarily ignorant at Sunset Lounge. Of course I’m thrilled the Steelers are in, and I think it’s gonna be a stellar game. And I think the Steelers will win.

But that game, I’m sorry, was not fun at all to watch. I don’t want to come off as a sore winner when I should be reveling in victory, but that game was a perfect example of what’s wrong with the NFL. When the refs get too involved, it takes all the joy out of the sport. To my eyes the first half, and really most of the entire game, was a total Steelers domination. The Ravens could barely move the ball. The Steelers were moving the ball. And yet it was close because the only times the Ravens scored were when the refs gave them the opportunity. Their first touchdown came right after a really bad pass interference call. Their second touchdown came right after a proper pass interference call. But regardless if they were good or bad calls, the point is that the calls were not reflective of the way the opposing forces — the Steeler D, the Ravens O — were actually functioning on the field.

I know, I know, it’s lame and pointless to point out bad officiating. It’s not that I’m complaining about bad calls. I’m complaining about how badly the game suffers when the officials interject themselves into the storyline. I’ve never seen a game have its life sucked out of it so badly by having yet another head poking out of a striped jersey standing in front of the camera. Frankly, after seeing them so much in the first quarter, I just got bored. It wasn’t just me. The people in the bar stopped paying attention, they were talking about other things, people were slumping in their chairs. There was no life. A friend of mine said something that summed it all up: “This isn’t football, it’s lawyer-ball.” Even with the Ravens moving in the fourth quarter, down by two points… at that point no one cared anymore.

And then came Troy Polamalu’s interception. That was the game’s big moment. Someone made a big play. All heads turned to the screen. There were no flags getting in the way of the game, the refs had nothing to do with it. The bar came to life.

This isn’t the kind of post I should be posting when I should be celebrating a great victory. But this game wasn’t like the Chargers game. That game was fun, even when Pittsburgh was down 7-0. This game wasn’t fun. It was merely a process of surviving.