Lotte Tower Fireworks

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My 30-Day Song Challenge

Sometime near the end of March I found this 30-day song challenge on Instagram and decided to give it a go. I’ve been posting my answers on Facebook for a month, and now, for the sake of convenience, I’ve collected all of them here. Enjoy. 🙂

30 days
Day 1: A song you like with a color in the title
“Blue Velvet” by Lana del Rey

Notes: As a general rule I don’t really care for pop music (except for some of those 80s pop songs that actually sound more like hard rock power ballads). I don’t know any of the new – or old – dances, and I doubt I would even recognize any singers who are currently in the top 10 if they were sitting next to me on the subway. But Lana del Rey is a different animal. She makes that weird/atmospheric kind of pop music that makes me think of movies from the 1960s and those records you always see at thrift stores. Dig it.

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Day 2: A song you like with a number in the title
“The Big Three Killed My Baby” by the White Stripes

Notes: Oh, White Stripes. You and your long song titles. And your bluesy garage rock. And your raw recording quality. And your undying support of old country music and the Delta Blues. And your rabid minimalism. And your gimmickry that actually worked. And your courage to be truly counter-cultural…Damn it, I love this band.

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Day 3: A song that reminds you of summertime
“Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran

Notes: Yeah, I know, this one seems obvious because it has the word “summertime” in the title, but hear me out. Back when my sister Katie and I were kids, our mom used to dump us off at PACH Hall’s city-sponsored daytime abandonment camp every summer. Dirty Dancing, Stand By Me, and La Bamba were all popular movies back then, so the music of the 50s and 60s was very much a thing. All the kids were singing (and lip-syncing) those tunes. I hear this song and it really is summertime at PACH Hall all over again.

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Day 4: A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget
“Liar” by Henry Rollins

Note: Everyone I have ever completely written off has had one thing in common.

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Day 5: A song that needs to be played loudly
“Mass Hypnosis” by Sepultura

Note: A friend of mine is married to a guy from Argentina. The first time I met him I mentioned the fact that South America has produced a ton of great metal bands. As soon as I said it, he smiled, raised the horns, and said (in Spanish), “Sep-ul-TOO-ra.” Those first 4 albums are some of Brazil’s finest exports.

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Day 6: A song that makes you want to dance
“The Sails of Charon” by Scorpions

Note: Groove for days. Next time I strip for somebody’s birthday, it’ll be to this song.

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Day 7: A song to drive to
“Misirlou” by Dick Dale

Note: Yes, it’s “the Pulp Fiction song,” but it’s also a great tune to blast when you’re doing 30 over the speed limit with the windows down. My buddy Keith can attest, this was the soundtrack to almost all of our high school adventures. And on a related note, my friend Angelo once killed that trumpet solo during a show at the Jaycees Hall. Great times with this one.

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Day 8: A song about drugs or alcohol
“Snowblind” by Black Sabbath

Note: Something I’ve noticed about cocaine. In songs about other drugs, the artists try to speak in clever/coded metaphors (“Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” etc.) But in songs about cocaine (“Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead, “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton, etc.) they just come right out and say it. Know why? ‘Cause cocaine is a hell of a drug.

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Day 9: A song that makes you happy
“In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room”

Note: There’s a special place in my heart for the tiki scene of the 1950s-60s. I like the neo-tiki/hulabilly scene too. An entire subculture devoted to the art of taking it easy? Yes please. I mean, where else are you gonna find a song performed by 4 international parrots?

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Day 10: A song that makes you sad
“Somewhere Out There” from “An American Tail”

Note: True embarrassing-as-hell story. When An American Tail came out, my mom took me and Katie to see it at Surf Side Cinema. (And yes, we stuffed our pockets with candy from Eckerd beforehand.) I was really enjoying it right up until Fievel and his sister decided to look up at the moon and sing “Somewhere Out There.” I cried so hard and unrelentingly at this song that I drove my mom through all 5 stages of parental concern: (1) “Oh, baby, don’t cry. It’s gonna be alright;” (2) “Look! He found his family! See? Look how happy they are! You can quit crying now.” (3) “You STILL crying? Oh, I am not believing this. This is embarrassing.” (4) “Jason Michael, for gawd’s sake, he found his family! QUIT. CRYING!” (5) “What do you think your daddy’s gonna do when I tell him how much you cried over some singing mice?”

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Day 11: A song you never get tired of
“One by One” by Immortal

Note: It’s not the the trvest song Immortal ever recorded, but for my money it’s the perfect combination of black and thrash metal, peaks and valleys. Every time this song comes up in my gym mix, I go into Norwegian beast mode.

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Day 12: A song from your preteen years
“Turtle Power” by Partners in Kryme

Note: I know you remember Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap,” but do you remember the far superior “Turtle Power”? My only complaint about this song is that it says Raphael is the leader. Wrong. The TMNT theme song clearly states that “LEONARDO leads.” Nevertheless, it delivers an important message: “When you stand for what you believe in and find the strength to do what’s right – THAT’s Turtle Power!”

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Day 13: A song you like from the 70s
“Easy Livin'” by Uriah Heep

Note: This was a hard one, mainly because the 70s were loaded with great bands: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Heart, The Allman Brothers Band – all that stuff is 70s music. When I was first getting into rock/metal, one of my dad’s radio friends turned me on to a lesser-known, but equally great band called Uriah Heep and their classic album “Demons and Wizards.” I found a copy in the used stacks at Ace Music, brought it home, and have been jamming to it ever since. This song is proto-thrash. Dig it.

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Day 14: A song you’d love to be played at your wedding
“My Funny Valentine”

Note: If I was getting married and my wife dedicated this song to me at our wedding, I would try extra hard not to cheat on her with her sister and/or lose our life savings in a pyramid scheme. Not because I’m a huge fan of the song itself, but because the lyrics really make a guy like me feel appreciated. This is the song you play when you fall in love with the class clown.

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Day 15: A song you like that’s a cover by another artist
“Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” by Stevie Ray Vaughan

Note: If you like guitar-driven music, you owe it to yourself to watch this. Most Jimi Hendrix songs don’t sound right when they’re covered by other artists, but – dare I say it? – SRV actually played this one better. Legend has it that his guitar smoked five cigarettes and made dinner for him after this performance. Seriously, watch his face during the solo at 1:55. Played it so well, even HE just had to close his eyes and shake his head. Spirit done got him, y’all.

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Day 16: A song that’s a classic favorite
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (performed by Jeff Buckley)

Note: It’s probably the most overplayed song ever written. You hear it in every singing competition. There are literally thousands of cover versions on YouTube. I’ve been to piano bars where the pianists wouldn’t even take $100 to play it. But don’t forget what Amanda Palmer said: “Some songs get covered a lot because they’re just that good.”

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Day 17: A song you’d sing as a duet with someone at karaoke
“A Whole New World” by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle

Note: So you might have heard this crazy rumor that my friend Keith and I spent an entire Drama Fest bus ride to Hattiesburg re-writing this song with more “grown up” lyrics. Well, the rumor is true. That was high school, but I still remember every word. And with the right singing partner, I can show you the world…

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Day 18: A song from the year you were born
“1979” by the Smashing Pumpkins

Note: Is this cheating? 🙂

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Day 19: A song that makes you think about life
“Parabol/Parabola” by Tool

Note: Whether you believe we were created by a divine being or simply won the cosmic evolution lottery, life as we know it IS a miracle. This song is a hymn to that fact. “Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing…Embrace this moment. Remember, we are eternal. All this pain is an illusion.”

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Day 20: A song that has many meanings to you
“Lightning Crashes” by Live

Note: I got your ’90s nostalgia RIGHT. HERE. This song has always sent my mind in a lot of different directions – life, death, angels, friends who’ve passed away, second chances, unseen forces, etc. It’s the feeling Robert Plant gets when he looks to the West. It’s chapter 7 of The Wind in the Willows. Much love to those who know what I’m saying.

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Day 21: A song you like with a person’s name in the title
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton

Note: It’s a little overwhelming how many great songs have people’s names in their titles – “Layla,” “Hey Jack Kerouac,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Jackie’s Strength,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Jeremy,” “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam,” etc. ad infinitum. A lot of great tunes, but I have to go with “Jolene” on this one. It takes me back to watching Hee Haw with my grandparents on Saturday nights, there’s no other song quite like it, and – I’ll just say it – I’m from the South. If I pick one of the other songs, I can’t go home again.

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Day 22: A song that moves you forward
“Curse You All Men” by Emperor

Note: I didn’t have to think about this one for even a second. Whenever I’m feeling down and defeated, this is the soundtrack to my rise from the ashes. It’s an acquired taste for sure – most people won’t make it past the vocals. But if you do, you’ll hear an anthem dedicated to seeing beyond the present moment, reclaiming what’s yours, and torturing your enemies for eternity. “Curse you, all men whose coil is strong / I recognize the sparrow’s heart beneath the theater of misery / Disbelievers shall, by dawn, be forced to forever mourn / Curse you, all men that resent my empire / As I have risen again / At war this time.” By the way, did I mention that I met these guys at the airport in Tokyo?

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Day 23: A song you think everybody should listen to
“Pig Fetus” by The Brass Tacks

Note: Why should everybody listen to this song? Well, mostly because I’m in the band that wrote it, performed it, and edited the video together. Also, because you should all subscribe to my YouTube channel (Gemini Hills). There’s no metaphor to this song, by the way. It’s about my old partner in crime, who really did keep a fetal pig named Babe in a jar. For more info, click here. Enjoy. Oh, and listen with headphones.

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Day 24: A song by a band you wish was still together
“Domination” by Pantera

Note: You HAVE seen this before, right? I mean, what are you doing with your life if you haven’t seen Pantera’s classic live performance of “Domination” in Moscow? I doubt they’d still be playing at this level if they were still together today, but it would be nice if Vinnie and Dime were still alive. They were good guys. Gone way too soon. Watch and learn, kids. A legend is born starting at about 3:05.

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Day 25: A song you like by an artist no longer living
“I’m Afraid of Americans” by David Bowie

Note: It might be different with rap and hip-hop, but when a rock or metal song features a special guest singer it usually sucks. Not so with this song, though. David Bowie and Trent Reznor did it right. By the way, when my gal-pal Wendy and I went around to the back of State Palace Theater to watch David Bowie get into his car (after standing front row for the concert), Trent Reznor was there and we stood right next to him. Not as exciting as getting an IG like from Billy Corgan, but hey, it was still a nice moment.

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Day 26: A song that makes you want to fall in love
“Crazy on You” by Heart

Note: I’m bending the rules a little bit on this one. “Crazy on You” doesn’t necessarily make ME want to fall in love, but it was the perfect song for my favorite movie scene about falling in love. Take two minutes out and watch it. Remember what love felt like at that age? Desperately wanting someone. Trying to reach out to them. All of your interactions are fumbly and awkward. You don’t know how you’ll ever manage to make it work. And then…

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Day 27: A song that breaks your heart
“Rattlesnakes” by Tori Amos

Note: I have a terrible history with Tori Amos’s Strange Little Girls album. First, it was released on September 18, 2001, exactly one week after 9/11. Just hearing it takes me back to a very bad time. On top of that, the songs all have a sad, rainy day, creepy hospital room vibe about them – like that “I Feel Fantastic” video on YouTube (don’t look it up). The only song I really liked was Tori’s cover of Lloyd Cole’s “Rattlesnakes,” but even that has totally depressing lyrics about a young woman who’s been dealt a bad hand. “She says, ‘Oh, it’s so hard to love when Love was your great disappointment.'” Talk about a mood killer.

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Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice you love
“City of New Orleans” by Johnny Cash

Note: It’s the quintessential old country song about trains. A lot of people have sung it, but Johnny’s version has always been my favorite.

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Day 29: A song you remember from your childhood
“Call Me” by Blondie

Note: Here’s another one I didn’t have to think about. “Call Me” was my first favorite song. My parents had it on a 45, and I wore that damn thing down. Still love it.

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Day 30: A song that reminds you of yourself
“Man on the Moon” by R.E.M.

Note: I keep thinking there’s gonna come a day when I wake up and find myself a wise, old, totally mature man who no longer loves pranks, surprises, and fart jokes. And yet every morning I wake up still loving all three. I guess this is just me. “If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve…”

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And there you have it. Hope you found something worth listening to. Thanks for reading.

– J.

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Are You Watching the Vlogs?

Greetings dear readers. A few months back I decided to switch things up a little by putting my random thoughts into weekly vlogs instead of arbitrary blog posts. So far the response has been pretty positive. I’m not setting any records with my view counts or anything, but quite a few old friends have touched base with me after seeing them. I’ve even had a successful postcard project and gift giveaway. The question is: are you watching the vlogs? If not, head on over to my YouTube channel and subscribe.

Here’s my latest vid about my trip to Castle Dracula in Transylvania. Enjoy!


Which do you prefer, blogs or vlogs? Let me know.

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The Official J.Wiltz Update (November 2018)

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Here’s the business.

Introduction

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to a completely arbitrary update about my life, interests, hobbies, and thoughts. As you’re aware, the holiday season is upon us once again. It’s cold outside, and it’s even snowed a little here in Seoul. So, I thought this would be a good time to bundle up, find a cozy spot indoors, and update this here blog. Nothing terribly exciting, but stick with me for a few minutes. I’ll try to make it worth your time.

A Disturbance in the Force

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There goes the gameplan.

For starters, there’s been a change in my plans for 2019. I had made arrangements to come back to the USA and write for a year, but those plans have unfortunately fallen through. (Long story short: trust no one.) I’m not exactly sure where that leaves me just yet, but I’ve got 2-3 months to figure it out. Wish me luck. I’ll update again when I know something more concrete.

Go East, Young Man

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“To be a sailor of the world, bound for all ports.”

In the meantime, here’s some better news. My winter vacation plans are fully green-lighted and ready to go. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year’s adventures will take me to Bucharest, Romania, then over to Budapest (via train), up into Poland, and finally to Moscow and St.Petersburg. I’ve got an amazing itinerary mapped out, but I don’t want to say too much about it, because it might ruin the element of surprise when I post my daily vlogs from the road. Be sure to subscribe to my fledgling YouTube channel so you won’t miss anything. (No joke, I’ll send postcards to all my subscribers.)

When in Russia…

brown book page

On a related note, I’ve decided to end this year (and begin 2019) with something of a literary endurance test. Because I’ll be traveling in Russia and eastern Europe, I think now is as good a time as any to dive into Leo Tolstoy’s 1444-page magnum opus, War and Peace. My students were amazed at the size of this book when I brought it to class not long ago, so I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when I tell them that I’m actually going to read it. I’ll keep you updated on my progress in the aforementioned vlogs.

Today is the Greatest. Know Why?

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Speaking of great works of art, I’m extremely happy to report that the Smashing Pumpkins have just released a new album. It’s called Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol.1 and it’s pretty awesome. A lot of Pumpkins fans are happy that 3 of the 4 original members of the band are reunited on this album (and that is great!), but truthfully, I’ve enjoyed both incarnations of the band, so it doesn’t really make or break things for me one way or the other. I’m just happy to have new Pumpkins music in my ears.

If you’re one of those fans who tuned out after the Mellon Collie era, please allow me to suggest that you check out (if nothing else) Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Oceania, and Billy Corgan’s solo album Ogilala. You can thank me later.

J-Jitsu: Legend of the White Belt

jiu jitsu

A couple of months back I mentioned something about starting jiu-jitsu lessons with one of my co-workers. I know it probably sounded like one of those crazy ideas I often play around with and then forget about, but nope: I have indeed started taking jiu-jitsu. I’ve only had five or six lessons thus far, so obviously I’m not what you’d call an expert. If anything, it’s only made me realize how clumsy and uncoordinated I am – and how I really need to get a better handle on my eating habits. (It’s no fun being the only guy who gets out of breath doing the warm-up exercises.) But I do enjoy it and a couple of people have told me they’re already seeing a little bit of progress in my technique. Honestly, it’s like a more disciplined version of the backyard wrestling I used to do with my buddy Jeff and the kids in my neighborhood growing up – minus the DDTs and elbow drops off the swingset, of course. I’ve had to sit it out for the past week or so due to a chest cold that started veering dangerously close to pneumonia (don’t need that sneaking up on me and ruining another vacation), but with any luck I’ll be back in the gi by the end of this week. We’ll see.

Taking it to the Next Level

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The last thing I have to mention this time around is, of all things, the Heaven’s Gate cult a.k.a. those people who killed themselves so they could ride on the UFO back in 1997. Of all the crazy news stories the Nineties gave us, Heaven’s Gate was the one I was most fascinated with. Some of you might remember that I framed two issues of Newsweek about them and had them hanging on my bedroom wall. Others might recall that time I got in trouble for pulling up their website in our high school library. A select few might even have read the short story I wrote based on their ideology. It went over very well in my junior college creative writing class.

Well anyway, after years of only seeing their materials in snippets and highlight reels I was surprised to discover that almost all of the Heaven’s Gate videos, including the farewells they recorded before they “exited their vehicles,” are now available in their entirety on YouTube. Open rabbit hole. Insert J.

 


Tell me I’m not the only one who gets lost in this crap and I’ll write a more detailed post about it later.

For now, this is J signing off. Like I said, this isn’t the most interesting or well-written update I’ve ever posted, but I’m heavily medicated right now. Thanks for bearing with me.

– J.

IG: @poms_are_metal / @sell_your_seoul (metal/horror page)
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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.

Seoul to Bucharest


As my vacation begins, 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.

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.


Krakow to Moscow

The grand finale of this eastern European tour will begin 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 when the time comes 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. 🙂

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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