Tag Archives: daily dose of now
I think my mom has emailed me more this week than she has in all the years the Internet, she, and I have existed on this planet together.
The US Embassy sent out an email yesterday that opened with:
“The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time.”
I forwarded that on to my family.
And while my morbid nature is curious what the “Get the fuck out now!” email will read like (I imagine its tone will resemble the Tony-voice from The Shining: REDRUM! REDRUM!), I’ve been in South Korea long enough to have witnessed other instances of saber rattling, and this one appears to be more of the same. None of my coworkers are behaving like this is anything out of the ordinary. There are no tanks in the streets and the USMC hasn’t evacuated service-member families from the base here in town.
I told my mom that we bought a couch and the thing Jin and I are most worried about right now is where to put it: against the wall nearest the window or the one with the 60s space-age wallpaper. My aunt, being an interior decorator, after hearing the couch was beige, said to put it against the 60s space-age wallpaper and then get some throw pillows that’ll match the colors in the wallpaper. Being open to the advice of sages, this is what we will do.
And that’s one way to react to all this saber rattling, and how we are choosing to.
Of course there’s a “but”, because I can’t discount all my fears. I know what a “black swan” is and lived in Jersey City and worked in NYC on 9/11. Horrible shit happens when you least expect it. A stable system built atop dynamic forces can collapse into complete chaos. And that’s where this gets tricky. How long do I want to spend thinking about worst-case scenarios? Give me an hour and I could spin you several dozen. Do I prepare for each one, only one, or none? How paranoid do I want to let myself be about this?
Most of the expats in town aren’t worried and are quick to dismiss fears that this is anything different. To suggest taking steps to prepare is met with hostility of a veiled sort, and it’ll be funny if my last thoughts in the .00000005 seconds before a North Korean nuke’s detonation and my vaporization is “I told you so” – at least it’ll be funny to my forcibly disassociated atoms in a cosmically ironic way. But I’m a big fan of brief focused bouts of productive paranoia.
If you’re constantly worried about something, it’s often best to set aside a proscribed time to obsess about it. Think of what steps you can take to prepare, do them, and then once they’re done and the time limit’s over, stop thinking about it.
So that’s what we’ve done. We’ve done all the minor things we can like register with the embassy, put together an emergency bag, and talked about meeting places. Both Jin and I are children of the 1980s and the late Cold War. The prospect of Nuclear Annihilation is something we remember from being kids. The city where we live now is an early target in any sort of open conflict. The city where Jin’s parents live is similar. In that situation all the bottled water in our emergency bag means doodley-squat. In any one of the baker’s dozen of alternative clusterfucks that might result, who knows, maybe those extra water bottles will come in handy.
But what we both really expect is that the bottled water, the folded-up map to the Marine base, the emergency bag, will all gather dust in the gap between the wall and our washing machine, and whether we can find blue, green, and orangish throw pillows here in town is what we’re really worried about.
I started grad school and am much busier this year than I have been in a while. The blog is likely to be the least of my priorities.
Here’s the book list for last month:
Alchemy and Alchemists – C.J.S. Thompson
Interesting and esoteric the best chapters are full of anecdotes from the lives of various alchemists.
Trafalgar – Angelica Gorodischer
Reads a bit like sitting in a cafe with your grandmother’s youngest brother, the great uncle that traveled everywhere and never seems to stop smoking, drinking coffee, or holding your interest with the accounts of his adventures.
Fremder – Russell Hoban
This book is a beautiful sloppy mess of Science Fiction. It’s one of those books I can crack open at random and just get hit by the prose all over again all. Dig:
“Maybe for some people the business of knowing who and what and when and where they are is simple; not for me. The past and the present flicker together in my mind and it isn’t easy to sort through the different strands of story to find one that is only mine.”
“A373 and Badr al-Budur are two of the quiet places in my head. I like sometimes to think of Pearl speaking in my mother’s voice under the red Isis moon and I like to think of the robot sweepers humming through the silence of the spaceport under the noctolux lamps of Badru.”
The Company – K.J. Parker
Ugh. A hard slog. There are parts of Parker’s fiction I really like, and parts I hate. Everyone ends up having a secret and whichever secret winds up being important to the plot hardly matters (or I could care less). In between the whole story is shown in a matter-of-fact fashion where everything, past, future, interior, exterior has the same emotional weight and the whole novel loses its intensity. Maybe if it were 100 pages shorter, it would actually read like a novel.
Cogan’s Trade – George V. Higgins
An obliquely plotted crime novel with well-observed details and crackling dialogue. The ability for so many people to say so little while saying so much is amazing. Especially interesting of your family is like mine and enjoys playing six degrees of Whitey Bulger.
Ammonite – Nicola Griffith.
Loved it. The book’s a “classic” SF adventure story mixed with interesting world building of the LeGuin sort. A fun read.
The Queen, The Cambion, and Seven Others – Richard Bowes
A great collection of modern fantasy stories and warped fairy tales with Arthur and his Knights, Merlin and Queen Victoria, animal helpers, and the Kingdom Under the Hill – all are here and familiar, but subverted in interesting and refreshing ways. Definitely recommended.
The Enemy Within: A Short History of Witch-Hunting – John Demos
A decent overview of “witch-hunting” from Roman times up to the 1980s with a focus on Europe and America and lots of details on the Colonial era “witch-hunts”. Demos uses the term “witch-hunt” in a particular way, so brings up the various Red Scares in US history and the day care scandals of the 1980s. An enjoyable read if you’re into that sort of thing.
Here’s some stuff:
Jin, my wife, got interviewed for her translation work on the Witcher game over at this gaming site. Of course it’s only in Korean, but Jin had a fun time working on the project and doing the interview. Did you know if you image search Witcher 2 in the USA it gives you all the monsters you can fight, but if you image search it on the Korean web it’s mostly pictures of the women you get to sleep with? True fact. Or at least maybe it is.
Two weeks back I inherited a load of books from Gord Sellar. I think it was a ton or so. I had to hide the boxes behind a tree in order to get a cab to stop for me because I made the mistake of having the boxes delivered to my school. But I schlepped them home and put them on my shelves and now I have a near complete run of the Korean spec-fic magazine Fantastique (pictured above) among a bunch of other stuff. Fantastique deserves a blog post all its own. The magazine was kind of legendary for its high production values, and it’s weird flipping through the magazine – oddly nostalgic but also a bit perplexing. How could anyone expect to keep such an enterprise afloat? Anyways, that’s a post that needs to be written.
One of these days…
We reach the place after wandering. It’s her favorite place she tells me. It wears its history like thrift-store treasures: a trellis railing from its years as a Hof bar, stained and worn coffee lounge couches with mismatched cushions, its roadstall tables and chairs. The stove’s chimney pokes out from a hole above the wooden door — shiny and silver. We sit. We order. “The table’s are big,” she says. “I come here sometimes to work.” The owner talks to someone in a room beside the kitchen. A young woman comes out and leaves. A man comes in. Sullen and alone. He disappears into the back for a bit. Another man comes in, leans over the kitchen counter, peering at the work area. We eat – beansprouts in soup flavored with pink briny shrimp the eyes still on them. The men take seats, one in the room’s corner, the other beside the stove. He spreads his legs, pointing himself right at the heat. We eat, pay, and go. “You have to be in the mood for it,” she says. I tell her I’m always in that mood.
… but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the utter lack of packing going on in our place. It’s not a big move. We’re just switching neighborhoods and going into a bigger place, but I’m getting surprisingly sentimental about this one.
One of the most amazing restaurants I’ve ever eaten in is right around the corner from our current apartment. I get all misty-eyed now whenever I walk by the place. Of course our new place is only a half an hour walk away, so it’s not like we’re moving to the moon or anything – but still, it was right around the corner.
The semester ends this week. I’m pretty happy about that.
Lastly let’s hear it for boiling soups you crack raw eggs into.
I’m back in the USA, visiting family and friends, and trying to pass unscathed through the flu epidemic while travelling. I was in Boston. I’m now in NYC. Thursday I’m visiting Detroit where I’ll be at ConFusion, the sci-fi convention. Then Sunday I’m returning to Boston for four days before flying back to Korea. Jetlag has made me a model citizen awake at 4AM and in bed at 8PM. By the time I’m back in Pohang, I’ll likely have finally got myself on a US schedule, so I can then go through the process all over again. Joys.
A while back my kindle broke and my books didn’t transfer automatically to the replacement one and phone calls to the service center in Ireland were required. Whatever enthusiasm I had for e-books and Amazon pretty much dwindled at that time, and now I generally stick to downloading free stuff off of Project Gutenberg, which is great, because Gutenberg has so much weird random classic stuff on it. Like the other day I was reading Greek and Roman Ghost Stories by Lacy Collison Morley and was on the chapter about necromancy when my 4th graders arrived and began causing a ruckus and … well, let’s just say they’ll get theirs the little ankle-biters.
But I wanted to give a shout out to the Project Gutenberg Project, a great website sifting through the depths at Project Gutenberg. They’re definitely worth checking out.
Here’s a story.
I used to pass this guy every morning on my way to work at this certain streetlight. He’d be on a bike and I’d be walking.
He was an older Korean guy wearing a baseball cap and aviator sunglasses, always casually dressed but super neat like if it were raining he’d be riding the bike one handed holding an umbrella with the other, and the open umbrella would be perfectly parallel to the road, not held sloped or slanted like you or I or any other slob would.
Anyway, he always said “Good Morning” to me, so that’s the name I gave him. He was like my alarm clock. If I didn’t see him on my way to work, I knew I’d be late.
But in the past few months there’s been all this construction near work and I’ve had to detour past the place where we usually met, so I hardly see him. I still do but it’s rare and no matter when I do, he always breezes by me on his bike saying “Good Morning.” This even happened once on a Saturday afternoon.
So I told Jin about the guy and she thought it was amusing. But then earlier this week we were coming out of the supermarket and there the guy was in his track suit and wearing a cravat (and baseball cap). It was nighttime, he said “Good Morning”, and we stopped and chatted with him. Turns out the guy’s a retired master ship’s surgeon from the Korean Navy who works as a school crossing guard, which is where he’s always going in the morning. He also thought I was from Uzbekistan. Jin was more than a little amused by that, and after we left she said, “You know that guy’s now going to take you out drinking.”
That might be interesting.