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Are North Korean held journalists worthy of sympathy?

While I wish them well in their ordeal, I have yet to decide whether we should have any sympathy for the two American journalists being detained in North Korea. My suspicion is they knew exactly what they were doing, they expected to be arrested and were considering book deals long before booking their flights.The pair, who work for Current TV, a San Francisco-based media venture founded by

What Happened to Random Street Food Man?


Screw mandu's nonexistent magical properties.I have magical properties!I haven't seen hide nor hair from Random Mandu Man since I last complained about him. My desire to be talented, interesting and sexy has finally come to fruition: I can make people disappear, just by thinking it!(He probably just moved his tent down the street or something lame. Also, now that I've made note of this, he'll

Top 5 all time April Fool's Day Hoaxes

A long time reader and frequent commenter, the incorrigible, "Making of a Man," has been prodding me to do something special for April Fool's day. I thought about it and figured any prank I pulled would be cliché and decided to instead feature some of the greatest April Fool's day gags of all time --in no particular order.#1 The Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996 The Taco Bell Corporation announced it

Dumb America Gets Burned by Coen Brothers

Burn After Reading


Directed by: The Coen brothers

Starring: George Clooney, John Malkovitch, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt

In a time when warantless wiretapping, and the neglect of due process have become government policy, there are surprisingly few black comedies that challenge these frightening realities with sharp, witty humor. “Burn After Reading” - a clever farce that captures the absurdity of the post-911 era - does just that.

Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt), two obtuse gym employees, stumble upon the unfinished memoirs of former CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovitch). Thinking it’s highly classified information, the doltish duo plan a not-so-elaborate extortion scheme that completely backfires as they suddenly discover they’re in way over their heads. Meanwhile, a federal marshal named Harry (George Clooney) and a handful of secret agents find themselves entangled in the mess.

The film plays out like a parody of the spy-thriller genre, only darker and more provocative. In the opening shot, the camera zooms in on a photo of the world. It eventually ends up in Washington, D.C. and into the lives of the main characters, as if to suggest we’re all being watched from some distant satellite in outer space. The entire movie seeks to illustrate the disturbingly large reach of state-run surveillance programs. The CIA is portrayed as an omniscient and intrusive organization that regularly monitors American citizens. Ironically, nothing comes of it beyond inducing widespread paranoia - no crimes are prevented and no lessons are learned.

“Burn After Reading” is as much a commentary on the culture of stupidity currently engulfing the United States as it is a satire of contemporary politics. The Princeton and NYU Tisch-educated Ethan and Joel Coen rail against what they call “the idiocy of today” - the superficial obsession with appearance, and the value of physical over mental exercise. Linda and Chad are the primary representatives of this dumbed-down America that the filmmakers resent so much. While she’s almost exclusively driven by her desire to get a series of plastic surgery operations (which to her bewilderement isn’t covered in her health care plan), he’s, well, just plain clueless. By spending all day working out his muscles, he seems to have forgotten how to use his brain.

Of course, these colorful characters wouldn’t be nearly as funny without the talent of the actors playing them. Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt’s caricatures of peppy personal trainers are spot-on. And it’s absolutely priceless seeing George Clooney transform himself from a cool and composed Cassanova to a twitching ball of nerves who’s convinced he’s being tailed by spooks; or John Malkovitch angrily dropping f-bombs in every line as he takes on “the league of morons” around him.

The Coen brothers are obviously in their element here. “Burn After Reading” is cynical, unflattering, and yet hilarious - the perfect mix of goofiness and intelligence, and by far the best comedy of 2008.

Rating: 88/100

Snow White and the Last Dwarf

After seeing this comic I got to worrying about the other six dwarfs. A little Google research revealed nothing, so you will have to rely on my own conjecture.1. Doc: Last seen living in a cardboard box outside of a medicinal marijuana clinic in New York's red light district muttering, "Hi ho, high ho."2. Happy: Busted for selling Ecstasy to middle school students in Springfield, Massachusetts.3.

The American media's latest Chinese poster boy

It's that time of year again when the American media fawns over some "rising star" in the Chinese government. Someone who doesn't fit our "preexisting idea of a Communist Chinese official," who "speaks accented but fully colloquial and very high-speed English," and who promises to be the first coming of the Chinese Christ.The person I am referring to above is last year's poster boy, Gao Xiqing,

Back in the Future (not)

As my first year in Korea will come to a close soon it has been of utmost importance to figger out what I am going to do next. I have had to face the grim reality that I am very, very happy here. Why this is I can't pinpoint exactly but there is little I can do now to fix it. I seem to be stuck with a beautiful Korean girlfriend who is nearly half my age and thinks I can walk on water. I have also nearly procured what appears to be, on paper at least, a deeply rewarding and highly lucrative new job. All my friends here, expat and Korean alike, seem to think I am funny and witty and at times tolerable. And Spring in Busan is just simply incredible.

The main source of angst now is the break. I have nearly two months with nothing to do. I am not sad about this. If you know me you will recall that leisure is my area of expertise. But with this amount of free time comes responsibility. Should I go home and see the people I miss who apparently miss me as well or should I go see something in Asia or should I get a temporary job and work like a good boy?

In what amounts to being as close as I ever come to a serious commitment about anything, I purchased the Loney Planet for Southeast Asia today. Aside from being a major financial investment (damned Korean bookstore), simply holding the thing in my hands makes my leg start twitching. It is huge (we are already calling it "The Bible") and chock full of travelley goodness. I remember the day I bought the Loney Planet for Korea. Even though it was still a tentative decision, when I opened that up it was over: I was already on the boat.

This is worse. From what I have been told and now read, we can go almost anywhere we want in Southeast Asia outside of Singapore and Hong Kong for $30 a day. That means that I could conceivable spend the whole two months walking about down there. I am also looking into the possibility of working for a little while here in Korea during that time or possible getting some temp work in Thailand. That would make me feel better about it.

I would like to hit Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malasia, Sumatra (Indonesia), and Bali as well but all of those places have had political/terrorist/Muslim issues lately. They just caned an Italian aid worker in Indonesia for having pre-Marital sex with his Muslim girlfriend, but usually (so the book says) the Islamic laws are only enforced on Muslims. And I am and have always been exceptional when it comes to the authorities (there is a standing bet among the wait staff at the Sangamo Club regarding the date/cause/number of lashes of my inevitable caning). Many of the areas I will be visiting were affected by the Boxing Day tsunami, which killed approximately 220,000 people. In many of those places the after-affects were positive. Northern Sumatra rebels negotiated a peaceful coexistence governance due to the necessary presence of foreign aid workers there. It is now safe to travel to some of the most pristine beaches in the world along the western coast.

Burma is still largely off limits and there are issues with Muslim separatists in Southern Thailand, but they aren't into killing tourists too much. I also have to figger out an immunization schedule, as it looks like I will need about 30 shots. This doesn't sound good, but then neither does Dengue Fever (they call it "break-bone fever because of the associated joint pain). Asia has budget airlines like Europe now and I can get flights around the region for next to nothing (Bangkok to Manila $60, to Singapore $30, to Hanoi $50 [in all cases cheaper than first-class bus or train]). It is my plan to find an island bungalow ($10) and chill for a week and then getting out a bit. The Loney Planet lists cooking classes at most of the larger Thai destinations and a three day course with lodging is well within the budget and I wouldn't mind adding Thai to my already impressive culinary qualifications (it's true, I'm sorry, but when you look like me you better have some skills or you are going to be L-O-N-E-Y).

So that is the deal. All of those people back home who feel like they can't wait another year to see me could maybe consider meeting me in Hawaii at Christmas time. Peace.

South Korean official charged with stupidity

In a page right out of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's playbook for the cranial negligent, a Korean official on president Lee Myung-bak's staff has been charged with paying for sex on several occasions. He was busted by chance during a police sting."He was with a female employee at the massage parlor when we were conducting an undercover investigation," police said. "The shop operators said


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