Author: Larry Lawrence

I am, therefore, I think.

Japanese Right Wing Group Suspected of Vandalizing Anne Frank Books

Anne Frank Vandalized Japan


By Larry Lawrence

This just in from the What in the Holy Hell Were You Effin’ Thinking Department. Fingers are pointing at elements of Japan’s right wing for responsibility in vandalizing The Diary of a Young Girl and other books related to Anne Frank.

Yes, you read that right and yes, this is Sweet Pickles & Corn, not The Onion.

Reports say that more than 300 copies of the books have been found at public libraries around Tokyo with pages torn out or slashed. Library officials said the first case was reported a year ago, but that most of the vandalism appears to have taken place this month.

Nothing has been proven, and no one has claimed responsibility, hell, for all I know it could have been the neighbors trying to stir things up, or maybe it was Pat Buchanan making a move in his twilight years, but suspicions are strong that the page-rippers are conservative or rightist elements that have been pushing revisionist views of Japan’s wartime and colonial history.

Asian Studies professor Jeff Kingston, of Temple University’s Tokyo campus, is one of those leaning towards it being the work of the right wing.

“Twenty-first century Japan is in the throes of a culture war led by right-wing reactionaries who feel emboldened under Prime Minister Abe. The vandalism might be a colossal coincidence, coming so close to the uproar over the kamikaze letters — but I doubt it.”

An Abe administration spokesman has condemned the vandalism (that’s not to say that they might not revise their views later) and Tokyo police are investigating.

Aside of the asinine act of destroying books, or the possibility that it was Apple trying to build iBook readership in their continuing tumble against Amazon, one thing is certain: Whoever did it conceived an incredibly stupid plan from a geopolitical angle —regardless whether the intent was to stir dissent or to build support for rising conservative views in Japan. News of the literature lynching has only strengthened Japanese who are fighting to reign in Abe and his ultra-conservative crew.

“The Japanese public has loudly and widely repudiated the vandalism of Anne Frank’s diary. Overwhelmingly, this is seen as a repugnant act contrary to Japan’s norms and values. It’s a signal that core values remain robust despite the era’s culture wars,” Kingston says.

And good on Israel, they stepped up and donated 300 new copies of the destroyed books yesterday.

In the future, if you want to vandalize a book, how about this one instead?

OF NEEDLES and HAYSTACKS: KOREAN AMERICAN ACTRESS FINDS FRENCH KOREAN TWIN SISTER VIA YOUTUBE

Korean Twin Sisters Reunited

Let’s start this week off right with a feel good story. 26 years ago, twin sisters were born in Seoul and soon put up for adoption.

One sister, Samantha Futerman, went to the U.S. and became an actress with credits in such films as Memoirs of a Geisha. The other sister, Anaïs Bordier, was raised in France and is now a design student in London.

A friend of Bordier’s was watching videos on YouTube when he suddenly spotted a familiar face, but the accent was all wrong. He told Bordier, who then Facebooked Futerman, and our nice little made-for-television dramatic reunion ensued.

MIT statisticians have calculated that the chances of something like this happening are in the neighborhood of 144.7 billion to one. (OK, I completely made up that number and its source, but you get the point.)

They’ve thus far raised $120,000 to produce a film about their story.



NY Times on Spam in Korea: The ‘Glamour of Pink Bricks of Pork Shoulder’

Spam in Korea

For those who have spent an extended time in South Korea, all will know (and likely joke) about the giving of Spam as a present to loved ones on special occasions such as this weekend’s Lunar New Year celebration —a holiday that has seen 1.6 million Spam gift packs dispersed at homes across the country.

I wasn’t a big fan of Spam back in the States, and when I first arrived in Korea I thought it odd that people would give it as a gift to someone they actually loved. Though I have yet to break the gift barrier in my Spam ventures, I would later learn of its interesting history here and come to appreciate what we, as kids, called “mystery meat.”

The New York Times has taken up the topic of Spam in Korea and gives a nice bit of history behind its ongoing popularity on the peninsula, the second largest Spam market in the world after the U.S.

In the United States, the gelatinous meat product in the familiar blue and yellow cans has held a place as thrifty pantry staple, culinary joke and kitschy fare for hipsters without ever losing its low-rent reputation. But in economically vibrant South Korea, the pink bricks of pork shoulder and ham have taken on a bit of glamour as they have worked their way into people’s affections.

“Here, Spam is a classy gift you can give to people you care about during the holiday,” said Im So-ra, a saleswoman at the high-end Lotte Department Store in downtown Seoul who proudly displayed stylish boxes with cans of Spam nestled inside.

And hey, when economic imperialism is done right, you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due.

Spam’s journey from surplus pork shoulder in Minnesota to the center of the South Korean dining table began at a time of privation — hitching a ride with the American military during the Korean War and becoming a longed-for luxury in the desperate years afterward, when American troops stayed to keep the peace.

“PX food was the only way you could get meat,” said Kim Jong-sik, 79, a South Korean veteran, referring to the American Army’s post exchange stores. “Spam was a luxury available only to the rich and well-connected.”

My first Spam foray in Korea was when, in a pinch, I bought a can at the convenience store to throw in with some soup. I must admit, my middle-class American upbringing wreaked havoc on my conscious as I walked towards the checkout counter: Am I really going to buy and cook a can of Spam? What’s next, using the leftover tin for panhandling in subway?

In retrospect, these notions were all the more ridiculous considering that it cost me nearly five bucks for one can.

I have since come to thoroughly enjoy frying it up with eggs and given it a home on my list of occasional dietary staples. For me, the consistency of Spam makes it kind of like ham flavored tofu—it offers the illusion of health without the nasty side effects of eating healthy. What more could I ask for?

You can read the rest of the piece for yourself at The New York Times.


Spam Love Korea


5 Things I Specifically Hate About Korea

complainingBy Larry Lawrence

“Man alone is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed.” ~Samuel Johnson


Like fans of a bloodsport worthy of Caesar, a great many expats residing in Korea find immense pleasure in complaining about all the things they hate about being here. Whether minor or major, “troublesome” or “alarming,” nearly all who pass through the turnstiles soon carry some sort of gripe, and they anxiously await entrance to the pissed off parties being held at the local bar, the myriad blogs or in the howl-led halls of the Facebook Colosseum.

It’s really quite the thing, you know?

I might well have exceeded the age where trends are a concern or current style is more than a wink and a nod, but I refuse to miss out on this one. So, with your indulgence, I would like to gain admittance to the party.

The Top 5 things that I specifically hate about Korea, in no particular order:

1.  Nothing
2.  Nothing
3.  Nothing
4.  Nothing
5.  Expats complaining about Korea

There you go.


Let’s examine my top five one by one.

Number 1: There’s nothing particularly bothersome about everyday life in Korea that I haven’t been bothered by elsewhere in the world. Be it the full demographic of citizens standing in my way on the escalator like it was a geriatric thrill ride at the amusement park; morning vomit in the elevator, obnoxious drunks who created the vomit the night before, cigarette burns in the stairwell, pools of spit on the sidewalk, pushy people on the subway, insane bus drivers, racist glares or blind nationalism. I’ve seen it all before, at home and abroad, and there’s nothing I hate about it more in Korea than anyplace else I’ve been.

Number 2: The strikingly shoddy journalism sometimes witnessed in the Korean English media is anything but unique. Crappy reporting and writing disgraces the pages of news outlets around the world. Much like here in Korea, I have elsewhere been peeved by “unnamed sources,” a lack of context, ideological slant, sensationalism and by a complete absence of objectivity. I have also witnessed such a worldwide abundance of bad grammar and piss-poor prose that I expect any day now the entire planet will break out into a chorus of We is da World.

Number 3: Fashion and style are, of course, amongst the many “beauty in the eye of the beholder” concepts. Being as I am said “beholder,” I find nothing any more “hateable” in Korea than I have found in other places I’ve traveled. Be it couple outfits, short skirts in the winter, bandannas, heavy makeup, facial reconstruction, lens-less glasses, obsessive dieting, overdone piercings or metrosexual males, I share an equal distaste for them all, no matter where they are.

I also harbor no bias in my disregard for people who dress up their dogs, dye their fur or carry them around in the streets—regardless of what street they are on, in whatever country it may be, and whether they plan to eat them or not.

Number 4: Bad driving exists everywhere I go and, from my experience, the difference between Korean drivers and the rest of the world is negligible. Be it senior citizens’ lack of familiarity with the rear-view mirror in Florida, pistol-wielding commuters on the LA Freeway, meth-infused Tuk Tuk drivers on the streets of Bangkok or piranha-like swarms of cyclists in Vietnam. And yet, cries ringing forth from the cheap seats in Expat Arena make it sound like the Korean roadway is in the midst of an automobile apocalypse.

Number 5: Much like the previous four above, expat bitching and moaning is neither unique nor special to Korea—people will turn nada into whine no matter where the podium rests. But, as I am living in Korea, and my stream of media is mostly based here, I am immersed in Korea-themed bickering on a regular basis. “I hate this!” and “I hate that!,” “Why can’t they do it this way?” or “Why don’t they do it that way?”

At the risk of stumbling on the metaphysical tripwire: You are they, they are you, we are all each other. And, as best I can assess, the aliens are likely waiting for a higher-evolved monkey before dropping in for dinner. In short, according to the universal scheme of things, we all kind of, you know, suck.

* * *

In retrospect, if I could add a sixth category, it would be my loathing of locals who say, “If you don’t like it here, then go somewhere else!”

The source of my distaste for this common utterance, heard the world round, is my belief that it is wrong to inflict upon the inhabitants of “somewhere else” another voice in the continuing chorus of global bitching by people doing the same damned things everywhere.

Get over it, because overall, life is mostly quite good and we’re mostly all the same—no matter where we are.

Actually, I hate it when people say that, too.