My Winter Vacation Plans: Vampires and Nazis and Soviets, Oh My!

Friday, September 21st, 2018. 5:41 P.M. I’ve just finished my workday and am now free to begin to my 5-day Chuseok weekend. But before I head off to the races, I thought I’d sit down and post a little reading material for you, dear reader. That’s what a nice guy I am. That’s how much I care about the 8 or 9 people who wander onto this blog every day. (Pretends to be humble. Holds for applause.)

Actually, my main reason for posting today is to share my winter travel plans. Yes, after going almost two years without a proper vacation (last year’s big event was basically just a weekend trip to Japan), I’ve officially signed the dotted line on a month-long trek around eastern Europe. Here’s my itinerary.

January 4th – Seoul to Bucharest


On January 4th, I’ll be flying from Seoul to Bucharest, Romania, to see the sights and tour the real Castle Dracula. (Stay tuned for scenes of me performing all my favorite scenes from various film adaptations.) I have a ton of love and respect for the Romanian people, mainly because they executed their former Communist leaders by firing squad on Christmas Day.

Dead Communists make great Christmas gifts.

January 11th – Train to Krakow via Hungary

After wrapping up the Romanian leg of my vacation, I’ll take a train through Hungary, where I’ll probably spend a few days in Budapest (see video above). After that, it’s off to Poland to see Krakow and Warsaw, tour Auschwitz, and visit the Skull Chapel of Czermna.


January 18th – Krakow to Moscow

The grand finale of this eastern European tour will begin on January 18th when I fly from Krakow to Moscow to experience the fabled Russian winter firsthand.


I’ll be in Moscow for three days – already booked my Red Square/Kremlin/St.Basil’s tour – before hopping a train to St.Petersburg and visiting all the Catherine the Great/Alexander Pushkin hot-spots. Fingers crossed that I’ll meet and shake hands with Ivan Drago – assuming he wasn’t exiled to Siberia after his loss to Rocky Balboa.


I’m sure it’ll be hard to leave Mother Russia behind, but on January 25th I’ll be heading back to Seoul to finish out the current school year.

So there it is, comrades. My winter vacation itinerary. From Dracula’s castle to the Land of the Tsars.


Like my Facebook page and subscribe to my YouTube channel and I’ll add you to my postcard/souvenir list. ūüôā

Off to the races now,
J.

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Here’s an Update (Because I’m Bored)

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Introduction 

Funny true story. Every summer the good doctors of Seoul find¬†something new for everyone to panic about and get tested for. One year it was the flu. The following year, it was the bird flu. In 2015 it was MERS.¬†¬†This year it’s tuberculosis (the doctors have apparently been reading Dickens), so today I went to a medical center to make sure I don’t have the consumption – a requirement from my employer, by the way, not something I did voluntarily.

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Look closely at my reflection and you’ll see my awesome H.L. Mencken t-shirt from libertariancountry.com.

Imagine how darkly I laughed when I realized there was an obesity clinic on the same floor as the tuberculosis office. First of all, obese Koreans? Where? That would be like spotting Bigfoot or the Chupacabra. Secondly, it’s funny that the clinic was only on the second floor. You couldn’t have these hypothetical fatties climbing too many stairs if the elevator ever gave out. And finally, the detail that damn near doubled my laughter – every stair in the stairwell had a calorie count that outlined how many calories had been burned by taking that step.

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That’s pretty savage, Korea.¬†It’s like,¬†Yeah, sure, we could staple your stomach no problem. But I mean, have you ever thought about – I don’t know – getting up and moving around a little? Might be cheaper.

Boredom Now in Exchange for Adventure Later

So what’s up, everybody? J here, bored as hell.

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I was supposed to be in India right now, but I decided to sit on my money and plan a more elaborate winter vacation in Russia instead. India is still on my bucket list, of course, but I just can’t pass this up.


In true book-nerd fashion, I’ve been preparing for my Russian trip by going back and reading the classics of Russian literature: Pushkin, Chekhov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak, the whole bunch.


I’ll have more to say about Russia in a few days after I finalize a few details.

If Your Days Can’t be Exciting, At Least Make Them Productive

In the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself busy with a few projects I’ve had on the back burner for a while. As always, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing this summer (almost finished with something I’ve struggled to get right for years) as well as a fair amount of exercise and weight loss. I’ve also organized a lot of my old pictures and started a new YouTube channel where you can see cinematic masterpieces like this one (seriously, watch this – it’s great):


I’m thinking about adding a vlog component to this page too. Out of curiosity: how many of you would actually watch my vlog if I took time to edit it together? Let me know by subscribing to my channel. If I get 20 subscribers, I’ll start vlogging. I think it could be a lot of fun, but I don’t wanna be one of those guys talking into a webcam for like two or three people.

And while I’m on the subject of YouTube, here are a few channels and videos I’ve been watching a lot lately:

(1) Gabe the Dog

Gabe has been an internet legend for years now, but he’s become especially important to me in recent months thanks to my students. Of all the things I’ve introduced them to, Gabe is what they love they most. The formula is simple. People take popular songs, movies, TV shows, and games and translate them into Pomeranian barking (“borking”), yaps, sniffs, and grunts. Do a search for just about any song followed by the word “bork” and you’re bound to find it. It’s a great rabbit hole to fall into.

(2) HaHa Davis

I don’t remember how I discovered HaHa Davis’s videos, but I’m glad I did. Here’s another simple formula. HaHa begins most of his videos by describing a situation and confidently declaring that it’s “finna be a breeze!” And then of course the situation – usually involving jail and a cellmate – goes horribly wrong.

(3) Anthony Adams

I first came across Anthony Adams’s channel when I was watching boxing highlights (as I often do). He’s got a lot of funny material about family, sports, and social situations. Watch enough of his vids and you’ll start to notice some recurring characters, including the “Get on the Line” Coach and the never-seen but obviously hilarious Chuck. Really good stuff. This man needs his own show.

(4) Mista GG

Picture this. NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” with hilarious running commentary. Yeah. You know I’m watching this.

(5) Baby Laugh-a-Lot

This commercial from 1970 is internet-famous for having a creepy doll (and kids) in it, but I seriously can’t stop laughing at the narrator. “Just push the button and she starts to giggle (loses his shit)!” It reminds me of the fake laugh I do to taunt my friends when they say something that isn’t funny. Hard to believe somebody actually thought this was a good way to sell dolls.

The Near and Distant Future

I’m sure my boredom is super obvious in this post, but don’t pity me just yet. I’ll be heading back to work in a couple of weeks, and not long after that I’ll be starting (don’t laugh) jiu jitsu lessons. One of my co-workers has been studying for a while now and thinks I’d get a lot out of it. We’ll see.

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And finally we come to everybody’s favorite question: when are you coming home? Believe it or not, I might actually have an answer this time. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be coming home for a year starting next March or April. I want to devote some real time to my writing, and by then I should have the resources to do it. It’s not set in stone, but for now it’s the plan.

Let me know what plans you’re currently hatching, dear readers. I’d love to hear from you, and I hope everyone’s well.

J.

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On Peace Talks and Snowboarding

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome back to A Day With J (South Korean Edition). A lot’s been happening here on the peninsula lately. For starters, you might have heard that the 65-year standoff between the North and South might finally be coming to an end.

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I asked my sixth grade students how they felt about this development and they all seemed to view it very positively. 100% of them said they want peace with the North, a formal ending of the Korean War, nuclear disarmament, and better lives for the North Korean people. Most of them stop short of wanting total reunification, though. Only 10% want that. Personally, I have no idea how all of this will play out, but for now I feel things are moving in a good direction and I’d love to see an agreement that benefits both sides.

Here’s a list of my other posts about North and South Korea if you’re interested:
Vacationing on the 38th Parallel
Mississippi J and the Temple of Yeoju
China, Day 3: Midnight Trip to Dandong
North Korea: From Hermit Kingdom to Merchant Kingdom?

Oh, and speaking of countries coming together in a spirit of friendliness and peace, I completely forgot to mention my trip to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang earlier this year.

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On February 24th, my friends Jason, Young, and I hopped the KTX to Pyeongchang and went down to see the snowboarding events (Snowboard Big Air).

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As always, I arrived at the train station first, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. As for Jason and Young, they were…well…

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It’s a shame, really. They missed a lot of beautiful snow-covered scenery.

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As you’ll see in the map below, the Olympics village in Pyeongchang was divided up by events. Snowboarding over here, cross country skiing over there, bobsledding right this way…

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When we first arrived, we got some bad information and ended up taking a bus to the wrong event. To make matters worse, my heart was broken when I realized that this building was not an IHOP like I’d originally thought.

IHOP?

The only silver lining was that I spotted some interesting Coca Cola advertising. (I wonder who gets to keep the Pyeongchang 2018 Coca Cola trashcans.)


I also got some pretty good commentary about the situation from Jason.

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Fortunately, it didn’t take us very long to get ourselves turned around and over to the right place.


Except for a few Korean and Japanese spectators, the crowd was mostly made up of foreigners like ourselves.

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If I was giving out spirit awards, I’d give 1st place to Canada – mostly because of the guy who showed up wearing boxer shorts in the freezing cold weather.

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2nd place would go to the US of A – loud and jubilant as usual.

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The J Fleece is one of the oldest and most idiosyncratic articles of clothing in my entire wardrobe. My grandmother made it for me when I was in college. I still wear it every winter.

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3rd place would go to the UK for the two or three Union Jacks we saw waving around (and bonus points for finally standing up for free speech).

From where we were sitting, we had a great view of two large screens that let us know when the snowboarders were coming down the incline. When the right time came, we could then turn and see them fly out over the top of the hill. Here’s a video to illustrate what I mean.

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And here are some videos of the most memorable moments from the American team.

Kyle Mack

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Chris Corning

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Redmond Gerard

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The entire experience was a very worthwhile addition to ye olde bucket list. And except for one little hiccup related to my souvenir shopping…

I’d say my Olympics weekend was a success.

Here’s hoping we’ll soon be saying the same about our talks with the North.

– J.
May 12, 2018

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100 Things I’ve Done in My Lifetime

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I sat down a couple of weeks ago and, instead of writing a bucket list, I wrote a list of interesting things I’ve already seen, done, and accomplished in my lifetime. It got a lot of positive feedback on Facebook so I thought I’d post a longer version here on the blog. Each section is as chronological as it can be and I’ve included links to more info wherever I could. Some of the things on this list are great, some are mundane, and some are simply things that most people don’t get around to. But, they’re all true. “What will your verse be?

Work and Education
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(1) Got suspended from middle school for fighting
(2) Took part in a summer camp for gifted kids
(3) Played Santa Claus at the mall
(4) Delivered pizza for Domino’s and Papa John’s
(5) Co-hosted a successful radio show
(6) Studied German in Bremen, Germany
(7) Attained a masters degree in American Literature
(8) Attained CELTA certification
(9) Taught kindergarten and elementary school students in Korea

Writing

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(10) Wrote columns for two newspapers
(11) Won a writing contest in Arizona
(12) Wrote an award-winning short play
(13) Won a writing contest in Australia
(14) Had two articles published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute

Music

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(15) Saw the Glenn Miller Orchestra
(16) Toured Graceland
(17) Toured Sun Records and saw Jerry Lee Lewis in concert
(18) Saw the The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Wicked
(19) Played guitar, sang, and wrote lyrics as part of a garage band
(20) Saw Marilyn Manson at the height of his controversy
(21) Saw Black Sabbath (all original members)
(22) Saw Nirvana, David Bowie, and Prince in concert
(23) Saw the White Stripes in Southaven, MS
(24) Attended the Chicago Blues Festival

Celebrity Encounters

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(25) Wrote Jim Davis (creator of Garfield) a fan letter and got a signed response
(26) Wrote Stephen King a fan letter and got a signed response
(27) Met a ton of WWF wrestlers
(28) Interviewed Senator Trent Lott
(29) Met Megadeth
(30) Gave Eli Manning shit at Domino’s Pizza
(31) Saw Muhammad Ali in person
(32) Met Richard Dawkins
(33) Met Salman Rushdie

Leisure

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(34) Went inner tubing in San Antonio
(35) Beat Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
(36) Rode a horse
(37) Rode a camel
(38) Took a trip on a riverboat
(39) Ate barbecue at Rendezvous in Memphis
(40) Partied on Beale Street in Memphis
(41) Partied on Bourbon Street in New Orleans
(42) Went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
(43) Watched the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl
(44) Partied on Texas Street in Busan, South Korea.
(45) Bowled a 2-Turkey game
(46) Set a high score on “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”
(47) Went canoeing

Religious/Spiritual

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(48) Was an altar boy
(49) Sponsored a candidate for RCIA
(50) Watched Into Great Silence in one sitting
(51) Partook of a St. Joseph Altar
(52) Ate a Jewish seder meal
(53) Witnessed a Mormon baptism
(54) Visited Buddhist temples in Gyeongju, South Korea
(55) Attended a temple stay

Travel

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(56) Went to Disney World
(57) Went to Opryland
(58) Visited the Alamo
(59) Toured caverns in San Antonio
(60) Toured the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans
(61) Visited Washington, D.C.
(62) Toured the Holocaust Museum
(63) Toured the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga
(64) Toured JFK’s assassination site
(65) Attended the Tennessee Williams Festival in Clarksdale, MS
(66) Went to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago
(67) Went to the Hamburg Art Museum
(68) Stood at the shore of the North Sea
(69) Stood in the ocean in Guam
(70) Ran through the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa
(71) Attended the Bloomsday festivities in Dublin
(72) Climbed Mount Fuji
(73) Went to the Beijing Zoo
(74) Toured the Forbidden City
(75) Walked on the Great Wall of China
(76) Saw the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”
(77) Went to Hershey, PA
(78) Visited the Andy Warhol Museum
(79) Visited Andy Warhol’s grave
(80) Walked Mapo Bridge in Seoul

Interesting or Bizarre Accomplishments

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(81) Got stung by a bee
(82) Performed a stand-up comedy routine
(83) Was a Cub Scout and earned the Bobcat and Wolf badges
(84) Was on a tee-ball team that lost every game
(85) Touched the bottom of the Biloxi Natatorium pool (12 ft.)
(86) Had a mullet
(87) Sumo wrestled (in costume)
(88) Appeared on local news opinion show
(89) Saw Star Wars re-releases in the theater
(90) Karaoked “Sweet Child O’Mine” in a chipmunk voice (got standing ovation)
(91) Became a lifetime member of Graceland Too
(92) Won a “Stella!” shouting contest
(93) Made a cake for a baking contest
(94) Gave my best friend away at her wedding
(95) Snuck an organ out of a monastery
(96) Read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged cover to cover
(97) Told fortunes at the Barnes & Noble release party of the last Harry Potter book
(98) Made a roomful of zombies in a Halloween haunted house laugh
(99) Set up a haunted house
(100) Attended a dinner theater murder mystery (won an award)

What kinds of things would I find on your list, dear readers?

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Loud Park 2017, Pt.1: Tokyo Awaits

Sad Intro Part

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I was too optimistic in 2013. Some of you might remember. After living in South Korea for two years I finally stumbled across one metal show and assumed I had found an entire underground scene that could provide me with weekend after weekend of what I jokingly referred to as “True Korean Black Metal.” It was not to be. Once that gig was over, the bands I saw that night all went quiet on Facebook and I eventually lost touch with everyone I’d swapped contact info with.

Two and a half years passed before I got to see another show: Babymetal live in Japan. (Go ahead and hate if you must. Your edginess falls on deaf ears. Pop-infused thrash metal with lyrical themes related to¬†Japanese horror and paganism is at least interesting, unlike that chugga-chugga “My parents were mean to me so I stretched out my earlobes” bullshit.) But except for that, it was a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time for your humble, metal-starved narrator. (Pause here for effect.) Until the metal gods in their mercy threw me an extremely large bone near the end of 2017.

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The Loud Park Festival in Tokyo. Holy shit, would you look at that line-up: Slayer and¬†Emperor¬†and Alice Cooper and¬†Overkill¬†and¬†Opeth¬†and Brujeria in a single day. It would have been so easy for the Loud Park concert promoters to do something truly evil like scheduling Slayer and Emperor on separate nights, but nope. Everything I wanted to see was happening on Saturday. Needless to say, my concert and flight tickets were purchased within minutes of seeing this announcement¬†on Slayer’s Facebook page. I didn’t even ask my boss for permission to leave the country. I just said, “I’m fucking going¬†to Tokyo this weekend.”

My History with Slayer (The Short Version)

Like most metalheads, I have a decades-long history with Slayer dating back to middle school. Check out the shirt I’m wearing in this pic from my 16th birthday:

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And it wasn’t just me. Notice what my buddy Jeff is wearing in this pic taken a year or so later.

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For a period of time between 8th and 9th grade, my friend Dane sported a Slayer logo pendant as part of his daily wardrobe.

61ehyue029l-_ux522_He wore this while drawing a series of comic strips entitled “Slayer Forever in Hell” in which Slayer would invite horribly out-of-place guest stars like Vanilla Ice, Barney, and the rapper Snow to perform at their concerts. These guest stars were inevitably ripped to pieces by rabid Slayer fans at the end of every strip. Dane also made me extremely jealous by showing off his effortless ability to play “Spirit in Black” and “Postmortem.” (Years later I would discover that neither song is especially difficult, but it was a very big deal to a middle school student.)

Another friend of mine famously used Slayer’s “War Ensemble” as the background music for his answering machine message (remember those?). I doubt the original recording still exists, but I once re-enacted it as part of a camcorder movie.

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And finally, when I first came to Korea in 2011 I was ambushed by an evangelical missionary at Dunkin’ Donuts who started our conversation with, “Jesus Christ gave you the keys to Heaven. What has Satan ever given you?”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Slayer.” Confusion and hilarity ensued.

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And yet, for all my years of listening and spreading the good news, I somehow never managed to catch Slayer on tour before Loud Park.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I stepped off the subway at Saitama Super Arena and was immediately approached by a Japanese guy who took one look at my Slayer hoodie, threw up¬†the horns, and yelled, “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!!” I was home.


On my way over to the arena I became fast friends with some guys from Malaysia and the Philippines, all of whom had flown over for the show. ¬†No joke, if I hadn’t known where I was it would have been almost impossible to tell from the crowd. During the course of the day I met people from Japan, Canada, Argentina, the States, and even Russia.

Once inside I quickly realized that Saitama really had its shit together in terms of crowd control. Instead of crushing everyone together like cattle, they had a barrier running straight down the middle of the hallways. Merchandise and concession stands were on one side. Foot traffic was on the other. If you weren’t buying anything, you could just walk along without having to fight your way through a crowd. Well done.

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The stage setup was a similarly well-oiled machine. At the front of the arena there were two stages sitting side by side (seen in the pic above). Whenever a band was playing on one stage, the next band’s crew was setting things up on the other. Like clockwork, one show would end and another would start five minutes later. No rest for the impatient.

The Shows

Because I’m not one of those toolbags who goes to concerts and stands around with my phone in my hand, I don’t have a lot of pics and/or videos to share. Fortunately, a lot of the toolbags who do that shit have posted their videos on YouTube. Here now are a few choice moments from Loud Park along with my commentary.

L.A. Guns


The first band I saw perform was L.A. Guns. Good showmen, but not my style. They were one of the minor bands from the glory days of 1980s hair metal. You might remember their biggest hit, “The Ballad of Jayne.” (Fun fact: in the mid ’80s, a few members of L.A. Guns and another band called Hollywood Rose got together and formed a new band called….? Guns N’ Roses.)

Brujeria


One of the crown jewels in my high school collection of death metal cassettes was my copy of Brujeria’s Matando Gueros with the uncensored cover (featuring actual photos of a severed head). I had to special order that bad boy from Bebop Record Shop and wait two or three weeks for it to arrive, presumably from Mexico. I played it for the Spanish exchange student my family hosted and sat by like a little ghoul while he translated all the fucked-up lyrics for me. (Turns out “Matando Gueros” means “Killing Whiteys.”) Brujeria kept the circle pits blazing, led two or three anti-Trump chants, and ended their set with a marijuana version of the Macarena. Don’t believe me? Just watch the video above. (Note: this video is not from the Tokyo show, but they did the same thing.)

Winger

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How Winger ended up on the same bill as Slayer and Emperor I’ll never understand. While they were busy sucking, I struck up a conversation with a very loud, very drunk Canadian guy who asked which bands I’d come to see. When I said “mostly Emperor and Slayer” he proudly showed off the Emperor tattoo he’d recently gotten on his bicep and explained how he and his girlfriend had completely changed their Asian travel plans just to come and see this show. He also made an interesting point that seeing Emperor live was actually a pretty rare experience for North Americans, given that they don’t often tour the US and only play a few shows when they do…See how I’m writing about Emperor under Winger’s heading? That should tell you my level of interest in seeing Winger.

Opeth


Opeth is one of those bands that a lot of people are really into, but which for some reason I just can’t find a lot of enthusiasm for. From what I understand their earlier albums are completely brutal, but most of what they record nowadays is melodic and proggy. I don’t dislike them – they put on a good show with some pretty heavy riffs – but I’m not hooked yet. All ears if anyone wants to point me toward the albums I absolutely need to hear from them.

Overkill


Overkill was hands-down the biggest surprise of Loud Park 2017 for me. Growing up I was (obviously) a big fan of thrash metal – The Big 4, Exodus, Dark Angel, Testament, Sepultura, Virus, Kreator…. – and yet I never owned any albums by Overkill. Huge mistake on my part. They tore it up and rivaled Brujeria for the wildest pits. Lately I’ve been making up for lost time, going back and getting their albums. Really great shit. And their lead singer, Bobby Blitz, is fucking hilarious. Glad I got to see them.

Alice Cooper


Loud Park 2017 marked the third time I’ve seen Alice Cooper in concert. The first two times were in my hometown of Biloxi and the neighboring city of Gulfport. (He plays the casinos there quite a bit.) I’ve also seen Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, which grants me membership in a special club for people who’ve seen all the major shock rockers. (Unless you count KISS as shock rock – I haven’t seen them.) Alice always kills it. The man’s a legend.

Emperor


I would have been stoked to see any of the second wave Norwegian black metal bands, but seeing Emperor was the best of all possible worlds. If you follow my Instagram, you know that Emperor was the band I always turned to when my students had their weekly violin lessons in my classroom last year.

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They were also my soundtrack of choice when I toured the Forbidden City in Beijing. Incidentally, the album I listened to that day – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk – turned 20 in 2017, so, to celebrate, they played it in its entirety. An amazing experience.

I’ll have a lot more to say about Emperor in Part Two.

Slayer


Do I even need to tell you that Slayer lived up to their name? They ripped through all the classics (even “Fight Til Death“!) and all the best tracks from the later albums. The wall of death for “Raining Blood” was a thing of beauty. And Tom’s scream at the beginning of “Angel of Death” was quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard him do it live. This is what keeps fans loyal for a lifetime. Fuckin’. Slayer.

Continued in Part 2

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Loud Park 2017, Pt. 2: An Audience with the Emperor

This is Part 2 of a 2-part post. Part 1 can be found here.

There’s an interesting postscript to this most metal of weekends. The next morning I woke up and went to the airport almost five hours early – a habit I’ve developed after literally years of missed flights, long security lines, and various unforeseen flight complications.

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Better to sit around and read for a few hours than arrive at the last minute, all stressed out about making your boarding call. Thus spoke J-rathustra.

This habit of showing up early paid off in a major way when I was flying back to Korea after Loud Park, because almost as soon as I stepped into the airport I spotted a bearded, long-haired guy who I was 95% certain was Emperor’s guitarist Samoth. (There were quite a few bearded, long-haired guys at the concert, so I couldn’t say for sure.) He appeared to be deep in conversation with someone, so I decided not to bother him. But wouldn’t it be epic if I ran into Emperor here? I thought to myself. (I had actually been listening to them on my way to the airport.)

Went and got my boarding pass, and on my way back to the gate I saw that the bearded, long-haired guy (Samoth, it turns out) had been joined by someone who was unmistakably Ihsahn, Emperor’s lead singer and (other) guitarist. He also has a successful solo career.

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Holy shit. I am running into Emperor here. At my age it’s embarrassing to admit to being star-struck – and I can honestly say that there are multitudes of celebrities I would never cross a room to talk to – but this was unbelievably good luck. An American living in Korea meeting a legendary Norwegian black metal band in a Japanese airport. You just can’t make this shit up. Like the loud, drunk Canadian guy had said the day before, simply seeing Emperor in concert was a rare privilege. What were the odds of running into them – of all bands – at the fucking airport? Not L.A. Guns. Not Winger. Emperor. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

Samoth was still involved in his conversation, so I walked over to Ihsahn who was digging around inside a guitar case. When he looked up, I said, “I don’t want to bother you. Just wanted to say that you had a great show last night.”

It’s hard to predict how someone might react after being approached by a total stranger at 7 a.m., but he actually smiled as if he was pleasantly surprised to have been recognized. “Thank you very much,” he said. (Read that in a Norwegian accent if you can.) We shook hands and I told him how I’d flown over from Seoul to see the show. “We really appreciate that. Thank you so much.”

He reminded me of my ex-uncle Darin, the kind of guy who naturally gives off a vibe of authenticity and friendliness. I was tempted to drag the conversation out a little further by telling him what a spiritual experience it was to hear Anthems and “Curse You All Men” live, but I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. (And just a word to the wise if you ever run into one of your heroes in an airport: none of the shit you want to tell them is anywhere near as interesting to them as it is to you. That’s just a fact. I can’t imagine what the loud, drunk Canadian guy would have put them through if he’d run into them.)

I thanked him for his time, nodded to everyone else in the crew, and went on my way after snapping a quick pic as evidence.

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I don’t care if it’s another five years before I get to see another show. My experience at Loud Park is gonna hold me over for a long time.

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Have We Grown Apart? Take the Quiz!

devopsdays-bluesbrothers-aA friend and I were recently talking about the pros and cons of living in South Korea, and one of the biggest cons, we agreed, is the way time sort of passes in a bubble here. As we’re living our lives on this side of the world, largely devoid of adult responsibilities like car and mortgage payments, we’re missing out on a lot of important developments in the lives of our friends and family members back home. Some of my dearest friends have spouses I’ve never met and kids I’ve never seen. Yeah, sure, there’s Facebook, but most people in my age bracket are coming to a point where they don’t really use it very much anymore. [FUN FACT: The reason Facebook often seems so immature is because the people who use it most are people who haven’t outgrown Facebook.] And maybe it’s just an unavoidable side effect of getting older – people grow up and grow apart. It happens.

But, one of my resolutions this year is to reconnect with old friends and try to take more interest in other people’s lives. (Yes, that is as self-absorbed as it sounds.) ¬†So, to that end, here are 10 questions that will help me understand where you are at this point in your life. We’ll talk about other, more important shit eventually, but this will bring me up to speed.

                                  TEN QUESTIONS TO BRING ME UP TO SPEED 

  1. Where do we know each other from? (I’m usually good at this, but I’ve gotta be honest, I get some of my acquaintances mixed up.)
  2. When was the last time we saw each other?
  3. Have you moved since then? (If so, how many times? And where are you living now?)
  4. Where are you currently working? What do you do?
  5. Are you currently or have you ever been married? (If so, what is/was your spouse’s name?)
  6. Do you have kids? (If so, what are their names and how old are they?)
  7. Have you faced any great challenges since the last time we saw each other (serious illness, loss of a loved one, etc.)?
  8. What would you currently consider your greatest challenge? In other words, what are you going through? And is there any way I might be able to help you with it?
  9. What are you into these days (favorite t.v. shows, movies, music, books, hobbies, life philosophies…)? What’s your general vibe?
  10. Any questions for me?

Feel free to message your answers to me on Facebook. (Be sure to like my page while you’re there – *hint hint*) If you don’t use Facebook, you can e-mail them to mrj.uchon@gmail.com

Everyone is free to message me, of course, but please know that I only plan on responding to people that: (1) I actually know and (2) I have an active interest in maintaining a friendship with.

That said, I hope to hear from you soon, dear readers. ūüôā

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