Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Gangnam Style" - A Shot-by-Shot Analysis

The Psy "Gangnam Style" music video phenomenon that's taking over the universe is truly, utterly head-scratching to me for so many reasons. But mostly because it's just NOT GOOD. I mean, I'm glad there's a Korean singer that's reaching this ridiculous level of success, so I initially avoided posting anything. But what's disappointing is that there are a few really great pop acts out here like 2ne1 and Big Bang who have amazing songs that should be getting the international recognition "Gangnam Style" is getting. Also, I just can't escape this song. It's been playing at the convenience store, the cafe, the shopping mall, my students are singing it and blasting it on their cell phones. And friends from the States have been posting the video on Facebook. It seems like one friend every other day.

Today was the last straw, as my sister posted the damn video on my Facebook page. My sister is the quitesential New York hipster. Which means she doesn't like anything in popular culture that has a fanbase of more than 37 people! But for some reason she posts "Gangnam Style" on my wall. She also writes the comment "That horsie dance!" While reading that comment, instead of hearing my sister's voice I hear a white grandmother from the Midwest! And since this video is blowing up so ridiculously, I'm willing to bet this is being said by an actual Midwest Granny as you read this!

So I've had enough and I've decided to analyze this music video shot-by-shot and tell y'all why this just isn't that good.

Here's the video for timecode purposes:

PARK (0:22) - After Psy is sunbathing in the park, a little boy appears and dances just like Michael Jackson, with the 'horsie' dance at the end of his bit. This would be fantastically entertaining...if it were 1983!!! It's been 30 years since the motherfucking 'Thriller' album. Not 10, not 20, 30 motherfucking years. We've seen Michael Jackson impressionists in every shape size and form over those 30 years, including hundreds if not thousands of children as well. Cheesy variety shows, reality show competitions, your fucking junior high school talent show night. So why in the year 2012 do we need to see this again? And how does a music video that consists of this mediocre an idea become an international phenomenon? Do we all really have such low standards for what we consider entertainment? A little kid doing a Michael Jackson impression? This is the "best music video of the year"? BTW, we're fucking only 22 seconds in!

HORSE STABLE (0:26) - Here's the first time Psy himself does the 'horsie' dance. Initially, I thought that the success of this song was completely unprecedented. Everyone in the States is a snob for homegrown pop culture and rarely do foreign artists achieve any popularity. So why has this song from Korea become so huge? Moments after watching Psy do the dance here, I realized there WAS something similar to this in the past: the fucking Macarena!!!

Let's refresh our memories: It was 1994 and a pop duo from Spain called Los Del Rio had a smash international hit. It was their first and last hit in the States (i.e. one hit wonder). It also had a ridiculously easy-to-do, funny, cheesy dance routine! So listen up native tribesman from Ghana that has dreams of being a pop singer: Stop trying to be the next Usher. Spend your time thinking of the most inane, asinine dance routine you can possibly think of and the pop music world is yours for the taking!

CONFETTI SHOT (0:33) - Sorry to nitpick but where is all this confetti coming from? I just don't get this joke. Why is this funny??

SAUNA (0:47) - This part had comedic potential. But they do nothing with it. Tattoo man comes in and you think he may be a gangster or something. But he just starts breakdancing. This is a problem because A. We just had a dancing joke with the kid doing the MJ impression. B. It just ain't that funny to begin with. There were so many other funny things they could have done here. A comedic opportunity is totally wasted.

OLD MEN (1:09) - Why do these two old men playing a board game explode? I just don't get it. Why is this funny??? BTW, I found on "Gangnam Style"'s Wikipedia page that the two old men are Daesung and Seungri from Big Bang. Awesome! Except the make-up is so good, we can't even tell its them! Hilarious!

MERRY-GO-ROUND (1:23) - I live in Gangnam. It's bars and clubs and restaurants and shopping and apartments and girls in really really short shorts. There are NO MERRY GO ROUNDS IN GANGNAM! Why is this in the video? What does this have to do with the notion of 'Gangnam Style'?

YOGA SHOT (1:36) - I think I speak for all of us when I say "HOMEGIRL AIN'T GOT NO ASS!!!!!" Why is Psy going crazy for this butt? There IS NO BUTT!!!

DANCE DUEL (1:45) - My friend told me this is a famous comedian Yoo Jae-Seok. I guess this is an attempt at a funny cameo. Only they give him NOTHING FUNNY TO DO. He just does the 'horsie' dance, but slower. Hilarity ensues! Again, an opportunity for a creative moment is just wasted.

ELEVATOR SHOT (1:57) - This is the only remotely interesting moment in the entire music video. This is another famous comedian making a cameo, Noh Hong-Cheol, and it works. The shot is funny because it accomplishes it's goal, to be completely random and bizarre and weird and that's it. The whole music video should have been filled with moments like this.

HYUNA (2:10) - Okay, the dance routine is fine here, mainly because Hyuna looks so friggin' adorable. She's not her skanked-out hot-pants-wearing gyrating self as we know from "Bubble Pop!", etc. She actually looks somewhat innocent and cute, hopping up and down like a bunny rabbit. I don't know what this says about my taste in women. Or maybe I'm just sexually attracted to bunny rabbits!

JIMJILBANG (AKA PUBLIC BATH) (2:40) - Again another wasted opportunity. Psy is drowning in the hot tub, which is sort of a good idea. But it could have been so much weirder and funnier.

TOILET SHOT (3:13) - This would have been another good moment in the video, but unfortunately the gag of a famous K-Pop star sitting in a public restroom toilet has been done before. And unfortunately it was another huge international K-Pop hit years before "Gangnam Style", Wonder Girls' "Nobody" (at 1:17):

The lesson here is: not only do you need a silly dance number to have a massive international-crossover-smash single, you need to have a MOTHERFUCKER SITTING ON A TOILET!!!

FINALE (3:03) - This is is not Gangnam!!! I'm 99% sure this is the brand new Busan Film Center in, you guessed it, Busan, a mere 6 hour drive away! (would appreciate it if someone could confirm as my Korean friend and I searched and found jack squat) Again, what the hell does this have to do with 'Gangnam Style'???

MORE DANCE DUEL (3:43) - Still not funny!!!

OLD MEN EXPLOSION REDUX (4:05) - What for???

CARTOON (4:07) - Cartoon version of Psy doing the 'horsie' dance. Midwest Granny just fell off her rocker! "That 'horsie' dance!"

To sum up, this video is melange of missed comedic opportunities, sloppy editing, and pointless cameos (except for the sexy bunny rab- uh, Hyuna). And I would've predicted it will be remembered as the "Macarena" of the 2010s, but I know the K-Pop marketing machine will churn out a few more hits for Psy. And that's good! Because I'm really rooting for him. I just hope the music videos are BETTER. Because I know 106 Facebook friends will post it on my page! And I might have to watch yet another ridiculous dance routine!

And Psy will be responsible for Midwest Granny's hip replacement surgery as she falls down the stairs attempting his latest dance routine, the 'soju bottle tornado twirl'.

It's a Korean thing...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kickstarter Site!

A few buddies of mine are shooting a bunch of short films based on my blog. Flattering and a bit weird. This guy Gavin is just not good-looking enough to play me! :)

Check out their Kickstarter site:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Weirdest Date of My Life

Dating for Kyopos out here can be a weird thing. If you’re fluent already then I’m sure there’s little trouble fitting in smoothly. And I’m guessing there’s some cultural differences you have to work out. In my case, where my Korean absolutely sucks AND I’m not very immersed in the culture, things can get very weird. 
During my first year in Korea, I was full of energy and excitement being in a new country. So I would do things I wouldn’t normally do in the States. Like go downstairs to the convenience store at the bottom of my apartment building to buy bottled water only to ask the 19-year-old clerk to go to the movies with me right after her shift ended in 3 hours.
I’ve seen this girl working at the convenience store a few times before. She’s very petite and cute. 
I grab my bottled water and go to the counter to pay. This time she instigates some small talk. 
“Are you from the U.S.?”
I do my best in my broken Korean. 
“Yes”, I reply.
“I’m Chinese”, she says.
“Oh really?” 
This leads her into a hysterical laughing fit. I have no idea why this is so funny. Why isn’t it a possibilty that a Chinese girl moved to Korea to work at a convenience store? Maybe she’s also a college student and working at the convenience store part-time. That’s not totally unusual is it?
Anyway, she had a really cute, adorable laugh. After a lengthy chat, my “being-in-a-new-country-enthusiastic-boldness” kicks in and it leads to “Hey, what are you doing tonight? I was gonna go to a movie later. Wanna come?” 
She says yes. We formally introduce ourselves and it turns out she has an English name, Esmerelda. Her old English teacher gave it to her. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Esmerelda in my life. 
I go up to my apartment thinking, “Man, she’s too young for me”, and didn’t think it would be a real date. Maybe more like just hanging out as friends. But who knows? May-December works in movies don’t it?
We go to the movies, then after it ends, she asks if I want to have a drink.
“Sure, what bar?”
“Let’s drink in the park.”
In Korea you can drink out in public. But I realize that a lot of teenagers hang out in the park she mentioned. This environment puts a “weird-perverted-old-man-providing-alcohol-to-minors” kinda vibe in my head, regardless of the fact that she’s enough to drink in Korea. Hey, it was her idea anyway!
We go to another convenience store and she buys a few fruit flavored wine coolers called KGB Vodka (We all know Russians know their Vodka. I guess if the KGB are involved it must be good. And a FRUIT FLAVORED WINE COOLER version only proves this!). 
So we’re sitting on a bench talking about this and that. I notice in the background, a group of teenage boys are sitting in the stands of a little basketball court behind us, hocking enough spit to fill the Exxon Valdez. 
She seems to laugh at every little joke I make. Man, what a laugh. 
At one point her phone rings.
“Hold on a sec”, she says. 
She gets up from the bench and suddenly BOLTS, running away like a fairy sans wings. She doesn’t stop running until she gets all the way to the other side of the park. She keeps going and going until she’s a small speck in my sight of vision. I find myself frozen staring at her. This is utterly weird and charming and funny and cute at the same time. 
A few moments later I see the tiny speck running back towards me. At the midpoint she slows it back down to a normal pace, I guess trying not to look like such a spaz (little does she know in her case spaz is GOOD). When she gets back to the bench she has a look in her eyes like she’s gonna crack up again. 
“Why did you run away?” 
“Oh, it was my dad.” 
“Was it a serious conversation?”
“No, he just makes me practice my Chinese. I get embarrassed because pronunciation’s so bad.” 
“Wait, are you actually Chinese?”
Hysterically laughing fit again. (Why is this so funny???)
A moment later her demeanor changes. She begins talking about her parents and how hard it is to live at home. That her parents treat her like a child and her older sister is always criticizing her. 
We down a few of these finely crafted, aged to perfection wine coolers and the ultra lightweight that I am, I start to feel a little buzz. I think she does too, since she’s talking about her personal life. I’m in my best good-listener mode. 
After a moment of silence, she begins the following exchange:
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Have you ever had sex before?” 
An 80s-sitcom-style massive spit take followed by laugh track would have totally fit here.
(Like this)
“I’m 33”, I say. 
“And?”, she says.
“Uh, of course I’ve had sex.” (I just took this question as “young-girl-living-in-a- relatively-conservative-country-naivety”. Or perhaps I actually look like a 33-year-old virgin! Not good.)
My slightly buzzed-ass has to take a moment to decipher why this question was asked, the timing of the question, and how I should react. Since she asked me this right after her little spew about her family problems, and that she agreed to go to a movie with someone she just met in the first place, I figured it was a sign to make a move! 
I turn and kiss her. We make out for a little while. As Borat would say “It was verrry niaaaace!”
A few moments later, she pulls her head back and says-
“I have to go.”
“I’m sorry I have to go.” 
She begins scrambling all her stuff together. 
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine, I just have to go now.” 
“Bye, sorry, bye.” 
She bolts across the park again, and this time the tiny speck makes a hard right turn and disappears. 
I’m left alone on the bench, with empty bottles of the powerful Russian secret police created hooch, and the endless sounds of teenage boys trying to flood the entire park with their flem. 
I walk back home and get a text from her. It’s long. I’m pretty sure it’s the longest text I’ve ever gotten in my life. But that’s immediately followed by three or four other Guinness-Book-of-World-Records-challenging texts. I’m reading endless text messages about how she can never see me again because she is still in love with her ex-boyfriend who left her for another girl and is studying in China and how she will get him back one day by moving to China and finding him and also apologizing for meeting me and for leaving so quickly and being rude and to take care and have a nice life. 
Ah, the intracacies of long term relationships!
She quit the convenience store, but I would see her walking around the neighborhood sometimes. She would always give me a huge smile and wave like nothing weird ever happened. After a while she just vanished off the planet. 
As I write this entry, the late, great Whitney Houston is playing over the cafe speakers…
Wherever you are Esmerelda…
…know that someone is out there…
…someone that is thinking about a girl…
…a girl that thinks telling people she’s Chinese is the funniest thing in the history of all verbalized comedy…
…and likes to bolt across public parks for no apparent reason…
“And IIIIIIIIIIII will always love yooooooooooooooooooooooooooou….” 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Yes, Koreans Do the Asian Squat

Korean people, like the rest of their Asian counterparts, sure do love to squat. 
I’m assuming Asians squat because it rests their legs. But have you ever tried doing this for a prolonged period of time? Your legs just start BURNING. Why is this position comfortable for folks on one side of the globe, excruciating for those on the other? 
Sometimes I’ll be walking around Seoul and out of nowhere, an old man will be squatting in between two parked cars, smoking a cig. Wow, now that’s the pinnacle of relaxation. Fuck my sofa! I need to have two filthy car bumpers inches from my head as my legs feel like they’re being bathed in lava!
Two KOREAN COUPLES, all in their 50s, walk over to a beach carrying bags, beach towels, and beach chairs. 
OLD MAN 1: Ah, ain’t this the life!
OLD WOMAN 1: So nice to finally get some vacation time!
OLD MAN 2: We can finally relax and get a break from work!
OLD WOMAN 2: Here’s a nice spot. Let’s put our stuff down.
The couples unfold their beach chairs and spread their towels over them. They place their the rest of their stuff on top of the towels. 
OLD WOMAN 2: Good thing we brought these chairs.
OLD WOMAN 1: Yeah, wouldn’t want to get any sand in our bags.
All FOUR PEOPLE then proceed to get into the ASIAN SQUAT.  
EVERYONE: Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! 
OLD MAN 1: Ain’t this the life!!!!!
A few beats of “relaxation”.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Weird Dude May Be Following Me

When I have to do busy work I go to cafes near my apartment. I’m one of those people that cannot do any work at home for whatever reason. So my baseball cap wearing, crappy LG Netbook using ass is constantly in one of the many cafes in my area. 
A couple of days ago I went to a chain called Cafe Pascucci and sat in the outdoor smoking area. Two tables down is a 40 year old man, hair slicked back with product, wearing sweat pants, sitting alone, smoking, with an ice coffee. He proceeds to let out one ultra-depressing, morbid sigh after another. About one every 3 minutes. In the States the ‘insane weirdo in a public place’ situation is a pretty common thing, especially if you’ve lived in NY or LA. In America we just ignore it and go about our daily lives. Here it’s pretty uncommon, so I’m getting pretty freaked out because I think he’s gonna pull out a gun any minute and start blasting away all the poor folks who just wanted to get a Cafe Mocha and chat about the latest episode of K Pop Superstar (one of the numerous singing competition shows out here). So I move inside by the front door, figuring I can at least dodge the first series of shots and jet like the UBER-PUSSY that I am. But 30 minutes later, he comes inside and sits two tables away from me again. And again, the utterly morose, ‘world is coming to an end’ sighing. There’s no way I can move again at this point, because then it’s obvious I’m creeped out by the guy, which may turn on the ‘insanity button’ in his head and really make him go postal. So I just pretend not to notice the sighing and continue with my writing. He does leave in a few minutes however. 
I’m now at a coffee shop across the street called Dalkomm, sitting in their outdoor smoking area and HERE’S THE DUDE AGAIN. He’s not sighing, but just staring out into space like a zombie. He’s got the same slicked back hair and sweat pants deal. But no ice coffee, just a cup of the free lemon flavored tap water they provide here. He walks by my table and I can FEEL HIM STARING AT ME, (possibly because he remembered me from two days ago?). I have to pretend not to notice him again, because I don’t want to have to make polite small talk with an insane person just to prevent the mindless stabbing of folks sipping on green tea lattes and wondering if they should get plastic surgery on their lower eyelids (it’s a thing out here). To my relief he leaves after about 20 minutes. A half an hour later he COMES BACK to the SAME table. He’s got ONE CHOCO PIE and is eating it and staring out into space again. He drops a crumb on the table then quickly makes it stick to his finger and vacuums it up into his mouth. DEE-lish!
There isn’t a more depressing sight then watching a dude bring ONE CHOCO PIE to a coffee shop to eat by himself. A choco pie can be downed in about 30 seconds. After you pay for it you can probably finish it and throw away the wrapper before your ass even leaves the convenience store. The fact that he brought it to the coffee shop means he WAITED to eat it SPECIFICALLY at the coffee shop. Meaning eating ONE CHOCO PIE is like SOMETHING TO DO. Like for example, some bring their laptop to write in their blog (like moi). Some might study for an exam or work on a school project. This guy comes to the coffee shop to eat ONE CHOCO PIE. Not even a BOX of choco pies. At least that’s like “I’m too cheap to buy the coffee shop desserts but I just want to chill and have a snack and pass the time so I’ll bring this box of choco pies instead”. It’s just ONE CHOCO PIE. This combined with his ‘all dressed up with nowhere to go ’ slick back hair is just an utterly depressing visual experience. 
If you hear about some crazy dude in the Gangnam area of Seoul chainsawing to death ice blended cappucino drinking folks talking about avoiding dinner for several weeks because of their ‘diet’ (it’s a thing out here) then…know that I’m okay. My pussy-ass moved near the front door…

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sounds Old People Make

I hesitated posting this entry because I don’t want to create any more negative stereotypes of Koreans/Asians than there already are. But this falls in line the blog’s humorous observation of cultural differences theme. Racist fucks that happen to read this and are obsessed with stereotyping shouldn’t make me censor myself. Korea is an amazing country with a tremendous economic future, an emphasis on education and infrastructure. As of this moment there are 6 subway lines or extensions being constructed. And none of them smell like urine! Take that racist foreigner! 
Onto the blog entry:
This is usually old men. I don’t know the rhyme or reason why this noise is made. One would assume it’s because food is stuck in the teeth. But when I hear on old man make this noise, it just seems to go on and on forever. I took the express bus from my neighborhood to the airport, about 30 minutes. The entire ride there, the bus driver made this noise non-stop, every 3 minutes minutes on cue. Either you just gotta give up and realize that piece of beef ain’t coming out, or wait until you get your hands on some modern marvel of technology, like the toothpick or dental floss!
But this is nowhere near as common as-
This is almost always old women. Sometimes you’ll ride the subway and, just like with the teeth sucking noise, it will just go on for the duration of your ride, 30 minutes or more. And since it continues after you get off, who knows how long this snapping session goes on for. I wonder what happens on a gum snapping old lady’s average day:
- Wake up, and still groggy with sleep, reach for gum. Snap! 
- Finish breakfast. Gum hidden in the back of the mouth. Snap!
- Take a shower. Snap! Snap!
- Go to work. Snap-mania!
- Evening power walk. Snap-snap-snap-a-roo!
- Go to bed. Put head down on pillow. Snap! Zzzzzzzzzzz.
But this is nowhere near as common as-
This is nothing short of a phenomenon here. It’s mostly old men, but a fair share of old women do this as well. People hock loogies at any place, any time, any situation. On the street. On the subway platform. On the bus. On the stairs. In hallways. In elevators. The public restroom is quite a popular place. An old man will get his flem wad ready about 5 steps before he hits the urinal, then splat a huge wad just before he takes a whiz. 
My subway stop is a mere 3 minute walk from my apartment but I almost always hear someone hocking before I hit the stairs. Then, inside the train, people are always making the hocking noise but not spitting. Hock and swallow it so it goes right back into your throat?! Can anyone tell me the point of this?!  I’ll lie in bed at night and just as I’m about to fall asleep, I’ll hear a loud hock from the alleyway 4 floors down. You can’t escape!
Just wanted to pleasantly share the top three loogie hocking moments of my two years here. BTW, all of these examples happened in a split second and my eyes just instinctively followed this stuff before my brain could tell me to look away or be scarred for eternity. 
3. Old man walks across me, begins hocking. He proceeds to, what looks like, CHEW on the loogie for a moment. Then slowly oozes out a line of flem from his mouth. Deee-li-shuss!
2. I get out of my apartment to go to work and of course withing a few steps a loogie hocker walks towards me. This guy had a crazy look in his eyes, like he may have just gotten out of the mental institution. Instead of the traditional hocking noise, he makes a noise that sounded a lot closer to THROWING UP. Then out comes a humongous flem glob. But the odd part was, he did not lower his head even a millimeter, his head was in the exact same upright position. And he didn’t even spit it, it just kinda falls out of his mouth. The glob was a centimeter away from his clothes, yet somehow managed to avoid touching anything. This guy either didn’t care if flem splattered all over his clothes, or was such a spitting expert that he knew the bare minimum amount of effort needed to clear his jeans! Scrump-shuss!
1. Walking to Yonsei University in the morning for my Korean class. There’s a 4-way crosswalk. I’m coming across one diagonal crosswalk, a dude in the other. We’re walking and about to hit the center at the same time. Right as he walks past me, he hocks a giant loogie. I look down and see the BIGGEST PILE OF FLEM IN HUMAN HISTORY. It was literally a COUPLE OF INCHES OFF THE GROUND. Not just a splatty wad of spit, it was visible mounds of greenish-brown. I felt the barf rise up in the back of my throat, quickly looked away and tried to block the image out of my mind just so I could keep my food down. I don’t know what kind of demonic virus this dude must’ve had, but the pile was so big part of me thinks he may have been just saving that shit up so he could make a huge pile of flem intentionally. Ah, it’s good to have a hobby! De-lec-tuh-bull! (BTW, had a brain fart and couldn’t think of a mere 2nd synonym for ‘delicious’. Thanks!)