Monthly Archives: March 2006

As the Saints Go Marching Out

note: forgive the title – a terrible attempt in trying to convey the winding down of March, the month, with a reference to a song that reminds me of my birthday (March Fourth / “Forth”)

It’s hard to write an entry with a clear mind anymore. Not after about thirty or forty emails at work all ending with meaningless “Thanks” or “Regards” followed by some spreadsheet attachment that I probably should’ve checked twice – but didn’t.

I’m sitting here with a bottle of Rock Rabbit syrah, from Sonomoa County, and I’m very pleased with this $12 investment. A full body and very subtle flavors – I love it when you buy low-priced (not cheap!) wine and don’t get that overwhelming alcohol aftertaste. And wine just drinks better in this wonderful Spiegelau glass, part of two sets of wine glasses (for white and red occasions) that sweet Melanie got for my birthday. Speaking of which, 100% of my birthday presents were all wine-related. I guess people think I like wine or something. Novi got me two books, one about wines and wars and the other a huge “Wine Bible,” Jina got me a pocket wine book and a bottle of riesling, and Sei-Wook and Brandon pitched in to buy a $95 bottle of Barolo at a classy Italian restaurant on the UWS. If only I had more occasions to drink it. But I’m very grateful that these people are taking a bet that I will in some way emerge as a wine connoisseur.

was this past weekend. Quite a ride indeed. For three straight weekends and some very long weeknights, Sei-Wook and I, with the help of Annabel and Dan Sim, labored on various KASCON (Korean American Student Conference) related projects. Our involvement for this phase of KASCON was to create various collateral items bearing the KASCON20 brand, which I happened to design back in November. Most projects were easily accomplished such as the t-shirt, a faded vintage look we got from Abercrombie, and the folder, a pattern of various symbols that I felt represented KASCON in some way. The conference program book was what drained us. About 60-70 hours in the course of two weeks, about 50 of them coming in one weekend, were invested in creating the 44-page book. I felt it was too text-heavy, but Sei-Wook, who manned the layout on Adobe Indesign, toughed it out and pumped out the final version. I don’t think anyone noticed, but I’m a arm and hand model in two 2-page spreads in the book – part of my last-ditch efforts to incorporate photography into the book to give it some additional flavor.

The KASCON20 experience was capped by our work for a workshop we put on at the conference called Tailor Made: Crafting the KSA Identity. The actual presentation was not too difficult to make, but making the highly customized CDs, using the Jewelboxing system, kept us sleepless until the moment we actually presented on Saturday. People seemed to respond very positively to our workshop, with many people coming up to me and Sei-Wook to ask questions afterwards, and our Tailor’s Kits – the CDs – were gobbled up in seconds. Wook and I talked today about launching a site devoted to addressing issues regarding KSA with periodic advice and resources for KSA members all across the country. There certainly seems to be a community for this, so I think it may be a worthy idea to pursue.

I realized that I went through all of February without a single Menand article in The New Yorker. Luckily, he finally posted one last week, and I was thrilled. The article is about Francis Fukuyama’s break with the neoconservatives. I had been ignorant of the neocon movement, mostly because I thought it was a label for people like Bush & crew, but apparently, there’s a deep history to the neocon ideology, and it gave me goosebumps reading about it. Menand’s review of Fukuyama’s book does a good job of outlining why Fukuyama finds himself at odds with this newly-defined strain of neoconservatism, but to get a detailed understanding, it may be worth checking out Fukuyama’s New York Times Magazine article – basically an excerpt from his book – which came out sometime in February. Fukuyama is one smart dude, and his intellectual view of policies and history makes me wonder how in the world he was associated with hegemonic neocons in the first place. You can even sense Menand’s excitement in welcoming Fukuyama after a puzzling alignment with the wrong side. Wilsonian realism is what Fukuyama calls his proposed approach to international affairs. I soaked up his words and reveled in the fact that I had read various books on Woodrow Wilson and the Cold War, which helped to make this Wilsonian realism a very clear idea.

Today I bought a bunch of books from A friend of a friend, who I’m hoping can be my friend, mentioned Paul Auster. I’ve seen books by Auster everywhere but never cared to pick one up. He’s a Columbia alum in his fifties now whose very postmodern way of writing – in that he often writes consciously about the act of writing – has found lovers and haters of his work. I think I’ll like him. I ordered The New York Trilogy, Book of Illusions, The Invention of Solitude, and Timbuktu, apparently a book about homelessness from the point of view of a dog named Mr. Bone. Awesome. I also ordered Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in paperback, Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, and I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I’m waiting for cheaper versions of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink and The Tipping Point as well as McInerney’s The Good Life. Oh, I’m just hoarding books right now. I actually have about five books I still need to finish. Bleh. Need. New. Job.

Only a year ago, I used to think that status and money would be the keys to happiness. Well, both things will certainly make anyone look good in the eyes of others, but at what price? I look at the list of all the books I would love to read and all the ideas for short stories that I would love to write. I think about all the pick-up basketball games I haven’t been able to play and all the films that I haven’t been able to watch. I think about the cooking skills I’ve been unable to nurture or the happy hours I’ve been unable to attend. Sure, the grass is always greener on the other side, people tell me, but what if I really had a plan and I knew exactly what I would do with additional time? What if I was able to travel more – roam different cities, taste different foods, learn different languages? What if I could take classes, attend lectures, or volunteer? How many years of your life can you defer in hopes of achieving financial security and comfort? A stack of lucites can only bring so much satisfaction.

Go Korea! and Double Consciousness

I remember the rush of nationalistic pride four years ago when South Korea made an impressive showing in the the 2002 World Cup. For the historically overrun and raped peoples of the peninsula, it was a sweet feeling to find the Koreans outshining all of their Asian neighbors, especially the co-host Japan, and to see them compete at the highest level of sports competition. Sure they looked really short against the Germans, but the success of Korea’s soccer team imbued a sense of confidence and can-do attitude in this small country.

I may be out of touch with the Korean way of life – my language skills are lacking, my cultural tastes are often at odds, and I haven’t even gone back to visit the motherland since immigrating here some 17 years ago – but I still get a bit upset if people think I’m Chinese or criticize Korean cuisine. And how can I ever forget? I’ll never lose my Korean physical features, the cravings for Spam in ramen noodles, or eating seaweed soup on my birthday. My parents and grandmother, as remote as they’ve been from the country of Korea, are still in step with the latest dramas, celebrity gossip (via Korean websites), and holistic medicines. But I digress; back to sports.

It’s a good time to be someone with Korean ties and a sports fan. The Winter Olympics saw the triumph of Koreans on short track and although Ohno won a gold (at least in a fair way this time), everyone knew which country produced the top short track skaters. The way the Koreans blasted past the Canadians in the men’s relay race for the gold was awe-inspiring. They made it look too easy. And what of this year’s Super Bowl MVP? Hines Ward is not fully Korean, skeptics would say. But he’s half Korean, has the unmistakable Korean face, was raised by a single Korean mother, and spending his vacation time – where else? – in Korea. Let us have our stake in claiming him for our community!

And most recently – the Korean baseball team. Ichiro, the Japanese superstar who plays for the Mariners, wrote off the Korean team early by saying that a crushing Japanese victory would set the Korean team back for at least the next 30 years. So when Japan and Korea met on Japan’s home turf, what just had to happen? A Korean victory, of course. A New York Times article mentions how Korean players are especially motivated to succeed in the World Baseball Classic tournament because waivers for military service will be given to the younger players if the team can make it into the semifinals. Tonight, they did the unthinkable and crushed an incredibly stacked American baseball team. Alex Rodriguez? Derek Jeter? Chipper Jones? How about a lineup full of Lees and Kims?

The reason I tout the success of Koreans in sports is not so much that I am an ultra-nationalistic Korean (I don’t even remember what it’s like there) or that I have some blind notions about an inherent Korean superiority (no “children of the God” complex), but it has to do with this vague feeling of a double consciousness. Yes, it’s a reference to DuBois for those who care, and I mean it in the same sense. As much as I would love to grasp the idea of being American on my own terms, I am always forced to see myself from the eyes of others. Asian before American, immigrant before citizen. I exaggerate for dramatic purposes, but I do feel the “twoness” that DuBois uses to describe the Negro. For me: an American, a Korean – “two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one [yellow] body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” I seldom find myself cheering for American teams. The stakes are too impersonal when a superpower takes the tracks or the mound. But with a Korean team, I can look at their faces and see myself and my father. And this is why I draw my pride from the success of Korean athletes, because it gives me hope and confidence that it is not about abandoning one side for the other, but ultimately, about merging the double self into something I can truly call my own.