Korea- My, But It’s Cute!

If you want to lose five pounds fast, go to Korea and tell them you don’t want to eat any animals. We were served something at sushi that would still writhe if poked with a chopstick.

We had Chinese food for lunch, I considered stealing the menu so Beloved Spouse could enjoy the legend of the Frog Congee and Fried Mud Carp Balls and Pig Giblet Soup- alas, I spilled soy sauce on it.  I was reading the traveler warnings for Avian Flu, and they pointed out to me that I should avoid eating any raw duck’s blood while in Korea, which was not in my plans to begin with.

Despite keeping me hungry, Seoul is beautiful and ultra-modern. I was annoyed that we missed Hugh Jackman visiting to premiere X-Men 3 at the movie theatre attached to our hotel by a scant five hours. I would have liked to wave at Wolverine in a sea of excited Koreans. We went out to drink and sing karaoke with people from work, (Favorite odd title: “Don’t It Make My Brown Eye Blue?”) and they sang me a song based entirely on the melody and rhythm of Cyndi Lauper’s She-Bop, but the lyrics are not about masturbation at all. They are about rice. That seems to happen a lot here, there is a video by a k-pop star called Jacky about Korea winning the world cup, and in it the pop star is running around playing soccer heroically, and the Superman theme is in it, totally without irony.

In the gym in Korea, they have a gravity machine that lifts you upside down, a wooden-beaded massage machine, and the vibration machines with the belt that you see women using on postcards from the thirties, and I saw people using all of these apparatus. They also let you borrow workout clothes *and shoes*, so the overall effect of being in the gym is a little Gattaca.

I left Korea at 2PM Friday, then traveled backwards around the world and returned to PDX around 12:40 PM on Friday, an hour and twenty minutes before I left. Oh, I could never get used to space travel. Anyway, I am back home, and someday I will no longer suffer from jet-lag.

Singapore- Hope You Like Madonna!

Singapore is kind of a dream-state Fantasy Island. At least, the hyper-trendy-spendy Central area is. Every shop is playing Madonna’s Hung Up. At one point, I walked out of one shop playing Hung Up and into another playing Lucky Star. It was a Material Girl Node. Singapore is named after the word for Lion in Sanskrit, but there aren’t any lions there. It’s super hot and Houston-humid outside, so the residents have done the only logical thing, which is build a hamster trail of malls from place to place, and all through the subway, so you never have to be un-air-conditioned or without an espresso coffee drink. One of the disadvantages of living in such a wealthy, capitalist city is that you feel a little like a cog in the wheel of a money-making machine. One of the advantages is that there is a lot of public art and sculpture, and you are never without a coffee drink. Also, it is nice to be somewhere that at least feels more superficial than the U.S. This is one of the pieces I really like, it is a Frank Stella from the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, and to get it all in frame, I think I would have to lie down on the floor, which the employees would really not have liked. On another note, I never cared for Dave Chihuly until I saw some of his work in Singapore. I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.

This is a “Tanuki”, the Japanese raccoon-dog. He’s got huge balls and represents good luck, but you can probably feel your luck change just looking at him. He lives in the Japanese restaurant at the hotel where we were staying. Apparently, there is a children’s song about the size and length of his scrotum (tankuki kao’s balls shake/even when there is no wind blowing) and I wonder if it is related to the song we sang about do your balls hang low, do they wobble to and fro?

At long last, I have found my own tube of Darlie toothpaste. Darkie toothpaste was a brand from the 30’s that is still available in Asia as Darlie or Black Man Toothpaste. And here it is. Smiling Black Minstrel toothpaste, for your mintiest mouth.
Last night at the giant mall that is central Singapore, we went upstairs to a section called “The Groove Zone”, and I noticed that “The Groove Zone” is really “Asian Teenage Land.” I went B*apeshit. I went to a store called Newbie and a clothing store called Milk and store called Make-Up Store that is a make-up store that carries a brand called Make-Up Store. A nice shopgirl asked if I was here on a shopping trip, and for a moment I fantasized about having the kind of life where I jet off to Singapore to buy Japanese T-shirts and listen to the latest Madonna single in the mall.

Postscript: I never thought my responsibility in this world would be writing a blog as a repository for un-PC foreign products, but a friend has brought me back this item from Helsinki that just would not fly in the States. It is described to me as “salty licorice.” Eccch.