“a tolerated stain”

From a review of  David Stubbs’ Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany:

The Third Reich looms large over Kraut­rock. Few bands or pieces address it directly but the ghost of it informs every riff and groove. Irmin Schmidt said that the loose, collectivist vibe of his band Can was down to a deliberate ‘no führers’ policy. Stubbs smartly points out that when Frank Zappa goaded hippie audiences in the US by telling them that their schools were run by Nazis, he was being figurative and hyperbolic. For Can, Faust, Kraftwerk and the rest, it was literally true. Altnazis were still in positions of power in German social life, a tolerated stain on the national culture.

Stubbs is also good at placing this music in  an economic and industrial context. ‘Invention, quite simply, is what Germans did. Industry and manufacture are key to the functioning of the German state,’ he explains. ‘When Kraftwerk named themselves thus, the German word for “power plant”, they did so ironically but not scornfully . . . The Kraut­rock generation were born into a mostly prosperous, highly industrial society.’ Kraftwerk addressed this most directly, with witty, tongue-in-cheek paeans to motorways, calculators and nuclear power stations. Like their peers, they did this in a way that owed little to the tropes of American or British rock.”

Buy it here. 

Kraftwerk (early rockin’ version) live

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Summer Vacation Pics: BAWLMER ORYOLS GAME HON!


Minor Confession: I grew up a huge Orioles fan but around the time Cal Ripken retired and Peter Angelos drove the franchise into the mud I pretty much gave up on them.  I guess that makes me the definition of a fair-weather fan, but so be it.  Anyhow, they’ve been playing some good ball for the past few seasons so my sister and her husband and son made it to Camden Yards for a glorious victory over the Yankees.  And it was my nephew’s first game, so that was also very cool.


But man, nine dollar beers.  Fuck that noise.

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Summer Vacation Pics: Blaine Peace Arch


My dad and I are pretty much creatures of habit when I visit him every summer.  We take long walks in the morning, eat a big lunch, read books, and watch NASCAR or the Mariners game.  We took a little trip up the coast to visit the gardens at the Peace Arch, celebrating the fact that Canadia has never invaded.  (Yet!)

026The flower and sculpture gardens are actually worth a visit.





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Wow.  Amazing how terrible the new WordPress format is.

If they ever get rid of classic mode I’m outta here.

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Summer Vacation Pics: Bellingham


Taylor Docks, Bellingham.




Old Town Cafe, Bellingham.

I basically eat one huge Western-style breakfast every year, and it’s here with my dad  But I ordered scrambled tofu because I’m growing soft.  But the potatoes were sufficiently greazy.

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Make It So

Dear South Korea:

Trader Joe’s.  You need it.



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Summer Reading

I’m having a great time near DC visiting my sister and her family.  I had a nice time last week in Bellingham too, seeing my dad, but since it’s still the 19th century out there and there’s no internet so I tend to average about a book a day.  Stuff I liked:

1)  Korea: The Impossible Country, Daniel Tudor

There are more detailed (i.e., academic) single-volume histories of Korea out there, but I’d recommend this to anybody interested in the subject.  In a very readable and concise 300 pages Tudor gets to the heart of the matter(s), and his cultural asides into Korean business and educational culture are excellent.  What’s more, he actually offers a viable solution to the many problems South Korea now faces (horribly low birth-rate, suicide, hyper-competitiveness): feminism.

2)  Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea, Barbara Demick

It’s not impossible for Western journalists to visit North Korea these days, and Barbara Demick does so, but the heart of her book is interviews with North Korean refugees who have made it into South Korea.  Ranging from “true believers” in Kim Il-Sung’s paradise to the more mundane orphans who knew they had to make it out in order not to starve to death, the book paints a horribly vivid picture of what it means to live and die in North Korea.  In a completely brutal accounting, the one fact that stands out is that during a state caused famine nice people are always the first to die.

3)  The Map And The TerritoryMichel Houellebecq

I never recommend Houellebecq to anybody I know because it’s not for the faint of heart.  Here he’s at his darkest, nastiest, most self-loathing, and of course, his most hilarious.  A book about art and creation but above all else, representation in a modern era that’s as absurd as it is redundant.  What can I say?    Two-thirds of the way in he has himself and his dog brutally murdered, and I laughed out loud.  This is my kind of summer book, but then again I’m weird and come from a broken home.

4)  Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution, Laurie Penny

Polemical writing is tough.  I enjoyed this book but came away feeling like her shorter journalistic / op-ed type pieces are more efficient than the attempt at a unified whole here.  Some of the loose threads are provocative as hell.  Others just feel under-cooked.

5)  The Joy Brigade, Martin Limon

Limon is about ten books in to a pretty amazing series of detective novels set in 1970’s South Korea, based on his experiences as a military policeman for the US army.  It’s all sleazy and dark, but at the same time underpinned by the solid morality of a main character who came of age as a Hispanic kid in the toughest L.A. neighborhoods.  I’d recommend him to anyone looking for a different literary take on life in South Korea.  However, start with the earlier books.  At this point Limon is getting into some pretty fantastical territory — instead of busting crooks and pimps in the back alleys of Itaewon, George Sueno is now going the full James Bond and pulling off spy missions in North Korea.  I liked it, but I can see how it might be a bit much for some.

6)  Railsea, China Mieville

Not his best, but also not as overwhelming as his best (IMO, that would be Embassytown).  Pretty much as “light” as he gets lately as a rip-snorter of a re-telling of Moby Dick with the ocean replaced by endless fields of railroad track and whales replaced with killer worms, moles, and “blood rabbits.”  If you like your adventure stories “weird” in all senses of the term, here you go.

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Sleepy Travel Blog is Sleepy

Leaving for America in a few hours to visit my wonderful family.

Back in three weeks.

You stay classy, Internet.

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Headed to America on Monday for a month.

This is the first time I’ve ever felt like I really needed a vacation / break from Korea.

My contract ends in Feburary of 2015.  It might be time to move on.

Things to do:

1) Read a bajillion books while I’m in Bellingham.

2) Go to an Orioles game while I’m in DC.

3) Figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Korea is a great place to visit but not one I can imagine staying in much longer.  The most simple, basic things become a huge fucking hassle here and no, it’s not because of the language barrier.

My inner sociologist realizes this is a complex culture based on social networks and maintaining one’s “face” or self-respect.  My inner neanderthal is sick of dealing with lies and an inability to solve simple problems in a timely fashion.

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“The Higher Sociopathy”


Most Americans are familiar with the Vietnam era phrase “We had to burn down the village in order to save it.”

Originally posted on Corey Robin:

In the annals of moral casuistry, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of the perils of moral reasoning than this defense, brought to you by The New Republic, of the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza:

We can say that there is a principle worth fighting and dying for: Civilians cannot be used to make just wars impossible and morality will not be used as a tool to disarm. And once we have that principle, the proportionality calculation changes. The deaths of innocents are not simply outweighed by Israelis’ right to live without daily rockets and terrorists tunneling into a kibbutz playground; but by the defense of a world in which terrorists cannot use morality to achieve victory over those who try to fight morally. It is the protection of that world, one in which moral soldiers still have a fighting chance, that justifies Israel’s operations…

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