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Explain This Show to Me Please

I need help understanding a TV show my mom watches on weekdays on MBC, a Korean cable network we get here in Flushing. I don’t even know the name of the show, since the local TV listings seem to have garbled the time slots.

Each episode contains a handful of featurettes, about 10 minutes long, each following a different scandal/mystery/historical event. Most of these stories take place in the United States or another Western country. Tonight’s show featured the life of Marlon Brando, something about Hitler, Hollywood McCarthyism, and something about Obama’s approval rating after the Bin Laden assassination. A previous episode covered that white guy who robbed a bank last year wearing a realistic mask of a black man.

These particular stories contain reenactments in English, with Korean subtitles, starring white actors for whom English is clearly not their first language. (I missed parts of the Obama featurette, but it looks like they worked around their pesky lack of a black actor with some clever camerawork – and maybe a black mannequin head?) The result can only be described as A Current Affair meets Unsolved Mysteries, brought to you by the Tommy Wiseau players.

Side note: Though the acting and editing is laughable, my mom doesn’t seem to notice. This begs the question, Can you distinguish bad acting in a different language, with a different cultural backdrop? Who knows, maybe my mom thinks all native English speakers act like this: halting speech, with slightly delayed yet explosive, emotional reactions.

Oh, also the actors sometimes wear ridiculous wigs.

Pictured: The blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, presumably dying of shame from this wig.  (BTW, the best translation I could find for that text in the upper left corner is “40 years of awards,” which I can’t find any relevant results for on Google, and which may in fact be a tribute to the station or something else rather than the show.)

Anyway, I’d really like for someone to explain to me the overall tone of the show, since I don’t 100% trust the pulpy presentation. (Aside from the bad acting, each vignette features lots of grainy black & white photos of things like CIA documents, sliding across the screen repeatedly.) I want to know if this show is pushing some dangerous agenda, and if I should advise my mom to take it with a grain of salt, or perhaps even flip over to one of the other 2 or 3 Korean channels that are available.


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On PSY, Snoop Dogg, and Good Hair

This music video by PSY and Snoop Dogg made me really sad, you guys.

In it, PSY and Snoop Dogg are at a bar, throwing back soju shots, when they catch eyes with a laughing, pony-tailed woman a few tables over. She and her fellow fun-loving gal-pal (one with a curly bob and bangs, like me!) pull up some chairs to join the rappers(? Is that what PSY does? Rap?) and they all continue on a raucous night out in the town.
Later, at a karaoke bar, it’s clear that PSY and Snoop are looking at their companions with soju goggles, as evidenced by the intercut scenes of skinnier women with long, straight hair and skimpier outfits singing and dancing seductively. Afterwards, the quartet drunkenly staggers through a carnival – affording me a better, head-to-toe look at these apparent frumpsters.
And you know what? Other than the fact that the one who looked like me had mysteriously changed into a garishly colored pantsuit (Was it a carnival prize? Maybe PSY won the jacket and Snoop won the pants? And they fit one girl better than the other?), they looked fine. They were not comically fat or old or anything else that pop culture sneers at (which is also a problem, but other than to say I’m super into white hair and big butts lately, I don’t feel like it’s my place to… blog about it). These girls looked normal. They looked like me.
I suppose, in a music video for a song called “Hangover,” with copious drinking as foreshadowing, I should have figured that these ladies were going to end up the butt of a joke. I guess, in my excitement at seeing some normal women – women who seemed to love soju and comfortable sweaters in equal measure – featured in a glamorous PSY/Snoop collabo, I dropped my guard and thought YES THIS IS OUR MOMENT.
And, I mean, I’m not blind. I noticed right away that these ladies bore a few extra pounds and layers of clothing than the booty-shaking backup dancers in the rest of this video (and every video ever). I just thought maybe PSY and Snoop – neither of them exactly an archetype for the traditionally attractive male body themselves – were saying that that’s okay for a couple of drinking buddies, if you’re outgoing, unpretentious, and down-for-whatever. But no, apparently you also need to be rocking a thigh gap and a long, sleek mane.
I may have taken this harder than I normally would have, because I was reminded of how earlier that week a boy I’d been seeing confessed that he prefers my hair longer. This was right as I was contemplating giving myself what I thought was a long overdue trim, because as agonizingly awkward it feels at first, I think I look happier with short hair. And, since it came from a white guy, this also took my hurt feelings at the “Hangover” video outside of the “Oh, that’s just an Asian pop culture standard of beauty” realm.
So, with tears in my eyes after watching that PSY/Snoop Dogg video (which is a very ridiculous situation, I admit) I thought, Wow, people really don’t like the way I look, do they.
I think I’m going to go ahead and give myself that haircut anyway.

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Spot It!

Last Christmas I got my sister Alice this game from her Amazon wishlist.


How to play: Each Spot It! card is covered with cartoon illustrations of eight easily identifiable items – a dolphin, a cactus, a key – that kind of thing. You lay out a couple of these cards, and the first to call out the matching pair of illustrations wins the round and collects those cards. The cards are replaced and the process is repeated until the deck is gone and whoever is in possession of the most cards wins.

I was excited about this game because, since it’s so straightforward and visual, I figured it’d be easy to explain to my mom and get her to play with us. And I also figured it’d be an opportunity for my mom and I to brush up on our respective English and Korean vocabulary as we named the matching items.

I was right on that first point: My mom took to Spot It! right away, growing her stack of cards with the same deranged enthusiasm she’d previously shown for Jenga.

My mom was quick. In fact, in her mad rush to beat me and my sister, my mom didn’t bother to even name each item. “이거! (Ego!),” she’d declare, using the Korean word for “this.” My previous intentions to identify any items I could in Korean went out the window; I was sluggish enough finding matching sets and conjuring up words in my native English. My mom’s card collection swelled at an alarming rate – even though my sister and I adopted her triumphant “Ego!” technique.

When all was said and done, Alice and I had collectively collected less than half the cards that my mom had, without having learned any new words in Korean. We called for a rematch but my mom, satisfied with her 100% winning streak, called it quits. Ego, indeed.

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No, we don’t.

I’ve moved past some things, but in my deepest point of embarrassment over, um, “seeing,” guys with yellow fever, I made this thing:

I wasn’t intending for this to ever see the light of day but I got drunk the other night and showed it to my gay bestie, who asked, in all earnestness,

“Do you people really have sideways vaginas?”

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My Meal Ticket

As part of the healing process for breaking up with a boyfriend of almost five years, I went on some OkCupid dates with a boy who was funny and charming enough but distant. The meaningless sex got depressing quickly (for me, anyway) and we pretty much stopped texting each other, no hard feelings. About two months after our last hookup, he came up in a conversation with my roommates about OkCupid, because ohmygod we love talking about that shit.

It turns out one of my roommates’ girlfriend works with that guy. This tickled my roommate to no end, so he mentioned this connection to other people he knew from this workplace through his girlfriend. Through his gossiping, my roommate gleaned that this guy is apparently a big womanizer. And not just any kind of womanizer:
“You know a girl who dated him?!” – Mutual Friend, Also From This Workplace
“Yeah, my roommate.” – Gossipy Roommate Of Mine
“Is she Asian?” – MF,AFTW

Wow! So that was my first time confronting the actual fact that someone I’d done had a confirmed Asian thing. Maybe it’s not so surprising for others, but this realization was like a bucket of ice water to my face. “Me? Being a ‘fix’ for some white guy with an Asian thing?” I wondered. “But… I’m not… a typical Asian. Fuck Margaret Cho! I went to Bennington! Look at my fucking hair!” (My hair is thick, coarse and curly for some reason.)

See, for a good part of my life I’d operated under this assumption that I was a special kind of Asian girl. Part of it was my coping mechanism for those strange sadolescent feelings kicked up for not being as effortlessly skinny and straight-haired as my Korean peers. Physical appearance aside, I was quirky! I spoke no Korean! I didn’t care for math! I did stupid man-on-the-street performance art with white friends! It didn’t take much time after graduating from my tiny liberal arts college and moving to Brooklyn for me to grasp the idea of other cool Asian girls who don’t aspire to be a pharmacist or a banker or a pharmacist or banker’s wife. And with some pain, I came to terms with the fact that this growing crop of cool Asian girls was getting younger, fresher, skinnier, more in touch with music, and the outfits they wear are just awesome, or at least just so revealing of their great bodies that they just qualify the whole thing as unfathomably awesome. (I’m looking at you, Greenpoint Asian cool girls of the summer, in your loose flowing tunics with your cool bra showing! YOUR BRA IS SHOWING! But, God bless you, mine would be, too, if I had both your figure and fashion vision.)

Anyway, this incredulousness over the Asian thing evolved into anger over the player thing. (Guys, if you want to stick your dick all over the place, go ahead. Please just leave the smart, funny girls out of this, because when they feel shitty about themselves it’s a lot more devastating than when a shitty stupid girl gets fucked.) Then it finally mellowed down into indifference. Like I said, this guy was funny and I thought (and still think) we could be friends. While I joked about the whole situation with my roommates, taking to referring to my Asian-ness as my “meal ticket,” I still felt that my guard was officially up and on alert for sufferers of yellow fever.

That is, until I found myself willingly bedding a boy from out of town, who I would say has an Asian thing. As in, spent-the-last-5-years-teaching-English-in-Japan Asian thing. As in, the-last-time-I-saw-him,-at-this-party-before-he-left-for-Japan,-I-asked,-with-a-wicked-glint-in-my-eye,-“So-you-have-the-yellow-fever?”-and-he-said-yes-and-I-proceeded-to-try-to-set-him-up-with-this-hot-half-Japanese-friend-of-mine-and-he-was-totally-feelin’-it-and-they’re-actually-Facebook-friends-now Asian thing.

I wasn’t expecting it; I was just being a good host and seriously it’d been like over four months and shut up. I did what any girl in my position would do. (That position being, on my back and having things done to me that felt great.) I broke the dry spell and had sex with with a white guy with an Asian thing. Said guy is now back to his life in Japan and things are cool.

I’d like to think I can go back to being on the lookout, ready to swiftly and soundly eschew the next boy I meet (okay FINE probably from the internet again) who is looking for a kimchi fix. But the reality is I might find myself in a situation with the same or a similar guy, antsy to break another dry spell, or maybe it’ll be another guy I meet and kind of like so far but he secretly has yellow fever and I don’t know it yet.

I guess, without explicitly going through someone’s ethnic sexual history, it’s hard to really know.  And even if I did, is it any more deplorable than my preference for, say, boys with facial hair? I’ve never hooked up with an Asian boy, or any other color really; just white boys — What if I have a white thing?

I’m curious to hear how other Asian girls feel about this. Do you not even care? How about you skinny hipster Asian girls with your bra showing all cool? Does it ever bother you, or are the guys you date equal opportunity studs who like you because you’re you, and that’s funny and stylish and you really just have it all?

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My Mother is Going to Korea

My sister alerted me to the fact that my mom is visiting her brother and sister-in-law for a couple weeks later this month. She said our uncle, who is 17 years older than my mom, isn’t doing too well healthwise. My mom confirmed this over the phone, except for the sad health part – she said my aunt & uncle had simply asked her to come. (I’m not sure if she didn’t want to bum me out, or if she didn’t feel like trying to break this information down into Korean baby language for me. Maybe both?)

My uncle and aunt on my mom’s side live in a really rural area in Korea. The last time I visited them, their walls appeared to be made from yellowed newspaper and rice paper (or maybe my Western upbringing racistly fabricated that impression upon my 8 year old mind), I peed in a copper pot, pooped in a field while looking at a cow, and there was a gleefully deranged jindo dog (permanently?) chained to a weird cave-like structure in the front yard, doing flips in his shit and piss. They were, I observed, kind of South Korean rednecks. But still, very kind people (dog rearing practice notwithstanding) who obviously appreciated and respected the lush, river-lined foresty farmland that surrounded them.

I’d like to think that they’ve at least gotten an indoor toilet by now, 20 years later. But I guess I’ll ask my mom and find out for sure when she gets back.

My uncle visited us for a few weeks at at a time in New York on several occasions. I remember these visits as tense, because there was another non-English speaking grownup in my midst, and later, frustrating because OHMYGOD THAT HICK JUST TAMPERED WITH MY ONLY PAIR OF CONTACT LENSES AND NOW I HAVE TO WEAR MY STUPID GLASSES TO SCHOOL IN FRONT OF RYAN SANDLER AND I JUST HAVE ALL THESE EMOTIONS MOSTLY RAGE. I hope he doesn’t think I’m still rotten like that.

His wife also came to visit New York once, but her stay was long enough for her to land a job nannying for a young Korean couple with two sons. I remember watching her inscribe farewell notes onto the very burlap sacks of barley she’d gotten as parting gifts for the kids.

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Merry Christmas 2011!

Merry Christmas 2011!

Nancy, Josh, Penny and Zed <- She's the one we decided to keep!

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December 25, 2011 · 11:34 pm