Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

Obama is playing all socialist again, signing a massive public land reform bill. Good for him. And for us. And for the marble.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Soren's Song

Jonathan Mann over at rockcookiebottom.com just wrote this song for Soren. It's wonderful.

He even took the time to explain about Soren and made it very personal for him. Many of the lines for the song are taken from Soren's website, curioussoren.blogspot.com, which he also linked to on his homepage.... and he included the lyrics, too. All too cool, really.

Last week Soren and I began a little email conversation with Jonathan after I wrote this post about his "Hey Paul Krugman" song. He said he'd write a song for Soren, and the first thing Soren has done every morning since is to check rockcookiebottom to look for his song.

The thing is, Jonathan made it kinda big this past week with the success of "Hey, Paul Krugman". It led to him being interviewed by MSNBC's "1600 Pennsylvania Ave." and writing their theme song (it's great, see below). He received a lot of exposure, a lot more traffic, and all sorts of requests. He wrote a general post asking for people to be very patient about their song requests. Secretly, I was expecting Soren's song to be put off for some time and was hoping Soren wouldn't be too disappointed.

Not so. Not only did he do the song, but he made it completely personal for Soren as well. We're so grateful. Soren's thrilled. After watching the video, Soren quickly wrote about it on his website and then asked if he could skip art class so he could stay home to write another song. Of course I said yes....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

G'Dragon vs. Donnie Wahlberg

Soren came home the other day and told me he looked like G'Dragon (Gangsta Dragon?), the "bad boy" sort-of rapper from the massively popular Korean pop/hip-hop band, 빅방 (Big Bang).

To put this into perspective for an American in his 30's, this would be akin to my son saying he looks like Donnie Wahlberg from the New Kids on the Block.... and don't pretend like you don't know who Donnie is.

Donnie is the NKOTB (yeah, I'm confident enough in my person that I can both write about Donnie and use the abbreviation for the band). Donnie was the one member that made you think twice about the group. He was the tough guy. The really, really cool, really tough guy that would beat you up. Or at least dress that way and have a scowl on his face that said "I'll fuck you up if you say I'm in a gay boy band."

[side note: I have a pop culture fascination about the NKOTB phenomenon. It was triggered by trying to understand the motivations of my friend's younger sister - she covered every inch of her bedroom walls with NKOTB posters and photos. She travelled to Boston to see the first concert of several NKOTB tours. She told me a cryptic story about being in Donnie's hotel room.... I'm not sure if she was crazy or just a slut. And to be clear, I never liked them - I was just interested in the NKOTB phenomenon. No. Really.]

This is 빅방, and G'Dragon is the guy in the middle with the faux mohawk - or as they say in Asia, the "beckham sytle". In case you can't tell, he's a bad-motha-fucka with gangsta street-cred (and an elite private school upbringing). If you check out Soren's website, you'll see his profile pic is somewhat similar. So maybe his friends are right in that he looks like G Dragon. Maybe he should be happy b/c his friends sure think G Dragon is cool, so that can't be a bad thing.... but two things keep coming to my mind:

One, Donnie Wahlberg.

Two, Korean pop music really, really sucks.

I'm highly biased against pop music in general, but Korean pop music makes me hurl. When I came to Korea 15 years ago, Korea still had terrible boy bands (yeah, and NKOTB was huge), but there were also music stores on every corner hinting that musical diversity still existed. And then around 2000 the Korean music industry semi-collapsed after everyone stopped buying music and turned to illegal downloads instead (Korea has the world's highest percentage of internet users).

With no one buying CD's, the music industry changed it's business structure. Instead of making and marketing music, they began to make and market pop culture. Not completley unlike pop music in the states, but here it's in overdrive. The music industry makes most of its money by having bands do commercials (everyone here is a sellout - that is the entire point), be regulars on TV talk/reality shows, perform weekly TV concerts, etc. Basically they make money by being famous.

While typing this post, I glanced over at the TV show my wife was watching - "Imagination Plus" - a standard-fare Korean talk show. It summarizes my entire post. 소녀시대 (Girls' Generation) is the guest, and the whole point of the show is to talk about how awesome they are - especially their awesomely awesome dance moves (starting after 1:00 cuts to the chase).

This kind of music, dancing, and TV broadcasting is everywhere. I'm constantly dumbfounded. Every new song has a new dance. And most of my students know every move.

I'm torn between telling them that their music sucks or just shooting myself in the head.

I know I'm being condescending of the Korean culture, which I suppose is my intent. It helps me stay sane. I love living in a culture that makes me feel dizzy at times - it keeps life interesting... and really, who am I to judge?

What is happening to the Korean music industry is also happening in many other Asian countries. I wonder what will happen in the states when almost everyone stops buying music. America has a strong tradition of counter-culture music so musical diversity will always flourish... but where will the profits come from?

Last thought: I wonder what would happen if Rage Against the Machine and Ani DiFranco had a concert in Korea. Most Koreans, after running away in fear, would likely have the same reaction that I have when I hear Big Bang: What the hell was that shit?


This is a mix of many famous Asian pop/hip-hop bands. Oh Lord, the apocalypse is upon us.

This is Soren's favorite Big Bang song. He saw me looking for videos for this post and asked me to find this video. He begged me to add it to his iPod. I will, but it'll hurt.

For those who just can't get enough (that'd be you, halloweenjack), you can search YouTube for K-pop.

Lastly, to show that I'm either a hypocrite or not quite so negative about my adopted homeland (answer: both), here is a song by MC몽 (MC Monkey - Koreans think he looks like a monkey). I actually kind of like this song's unique, humorous gusto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Paul Krugman Song

I love this song. Any song that successfully utilizes "Paul Krugman" and "Timothy Geithner" has by default earned my respect. But the lyrics are so true. I keep reading Krugman, keep getting frustrated, keep wondering why his ideas aren't being adopted. So yeah, this song is right on. And it's kind of funny.

I saw this video a couple days ago. The odd thing is that tonight as I was walking to the supermarket, I started humming this little ditty, trying to remember the words, wondering what song was cycling through my head.

Damn! It's the Paul Krugman song from that strangely captivating nerd who's making a song a day for year. Came home from the supermarket, pulled up the YouTube video and gave it several listens. I love this song. I paid $0.99 for it and put it on my iPod Touch.

Yeah, and the way he dances at the end even makes me like myself a little more.

So this dude is making a "nerdy song a day" for a year over at rockcookiebottom.com. That's pretty nutty/awesome. You have to be pretty creative and carefree to make a song a day. And probably jobless. Another favorite of mine, Battlestar Galactica. And I'm linking to Saving Newspapers: The Musical (DEMO) in honor of my hometown Ann Arbor News which CNN tells me will publish it's last paper this July.

Soren has been learning guitar and writing many semi-songs, sans lyrics. I showed him rockcookiebottom.com and he found it fascinating. We've decided to make wathching his daily song part of his homeschool project. As Soren is sort-of writing his first songs, I think seeing a new/different song each day will help him learn a little about song structure, but probably even more importantly, better understand creative courage and the willingness to just try. Ah, educational freedom.

UPDATE EXTRAORDINAIRE: This fella says he's open to song topic requests, so Soren and I emailed him and gave him a little background about Soren learning the guitar, making his website part of his homeschooling, and our journey from Michigan to Korea. He sent a nice, sincere reply.

"...maybe I can post the chords and he can learn it. I'll try to write it from his perspective, maybe that way it can be HIS song. I'm seriously honored to be part of your daily homeschool program. That's pretty much the best thing that I could ever possibly imagine."

He's gonna make a song from Soren's perspective.... curious what that'll turn out to be. Pretty cool. Nice guy.

Yeah, the Paul-Krugman-song-guy is gonna make a Soren his own song. That rocks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A bombshell is about to explode

Step one: play video

Step two: look at tim.

Welcome to tiny's, Tim.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Worst. Job. Ever.

A couple weeks ago we took Soren and some of his friends to Kid's Lands for Soren's 8th birthday party. The best part of the day was watching this poor chap get mobbed by rabid children. You can hear me at the end of the video yelling "Kill him... Kill it." Yeah, I might have gotten carried away a little, but man, that was good watchin'.

when I first witnessed this mauling, I immediately said to my wife, "That's what I feel like every day!" I'm the only non-Korean most days, and little children often react to me as if I'm a zoo creature. Staring. Pointing. "엄마, 외국인!" (mommy, foreigner!), an occasional poke, whispers to friends. You get the picture. Overall, no pain inflicted... except the bottomless pit in my heart knowning that I'll never truly belong (key violin). If I'm in a good mood, I'll give them a nice "hello, what's your name?" At times I've been known to make sudden odd faces at the children just to mess with them. Most laugh but some of the younger ones scream and run away. That's always fun.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just your average fish with an alien see-through head

Cool new pic of a deep-sea fish. It looks alien or computer generated, but it's real.

Its head is a transparent shell, and even crazier, the fish's eyes move around within this shell. The eyes are the larger green blobs in the upper part of the head (the eye-looking black areas above the mouth are actually the nostrils). This floating eye / see-through head works for this deep sea fish b/c it lives in almost complete darkness. Its eyes are tubular allowing it to see the tiniest amounts of light, but also giving it almost no field of vision. Of course, if you can just move your eyes around within your head, field of vision becomes a little less critical. Cool. Freaky.

For all the moms who used to say they had eyes in the back of their head, like my mom said, I think it would be cool if they woke up one morning and had this type of skull. That'd make for an interesting breakfast conversation.

It's pretty fascinating how much, how fast, we are learning about the deep sea - yet we still know more about the moon than we do about the deepest areas of the earth's surface. Space, however, is still that greatest prize. That is why the article, wonderfully entitled Galaxy may be full of 'Earths,' alien life, greatly intrigues me. We at tinybluemarble are alien life groupies. More thoughts on this article later....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Criminals were Correct

Kudos to UofM
for not renewing their licensing agreement with Russell because the company had such a poor workers' rights record.

12 much bigger kudos for each student activist arrested (my friend Yousef Rabhi pictured) after peacefully occupying UM President Mary Sue Coleman's office. The students demanded Coleman follow university policy and stop the licensing agreement with Russell because of their poor human rights record - or at least begin a serious dialog about this issue.

One polite fuck you to the university, and President Coleman in particular, for dragging their feet for so long! If it was right to do now, then it was right to do two years ago when the students occupied her office. Instead of creating waves by doing what was right and following the university's own workers' rights policies, Coleman had the above students arrested and charged. UM, the "leaders and the best", had a great opportunity to not only lead, but to encourage the leadership of their own students. They chose to take the road of safe non-action instead. They chose to counter their students - who today were shown to be correct - and instead bow to the temptation of the dollar. It is right and good that UM finally acted today. I doubt they would have done so without the scrutiny and pressure created by these committed students.

UM is the world's most sold university apparel. It's a huge business. After travelling S.E. Asia, I have a stronger understanding of the damage caused by the lack of workers' rights (human rights). When US companies operate in 3rd world countries with no oversight, they profit off cut-throat policies that pinch the last red pennies from the truly destitute. I understand global economics and the tough competition morally-guided (or strictly regulated) companies face, but this is a critical minimum standard to help install human rights in many places. We need to understand that to effectively lead to a better world, we need to make decisions that are not always convenient. And we need to hold people and companies accountable. Like Russell. And Coleman. And Bush... but that's another post.

SOLE, UM student activist group, has been working on this issue since 1999. That's a loooong time. It reminds me that patience is key for those working for a better world. Change comes slowly, but it does come.

PS. this is also being labeled under "stupid ass people" is in honor of President Mary Sue Coleman.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscar Results

Jane Craig goes 6 for 6!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deserted Island Dozen

Because it's never too early to plan for a disaster, I'm preparing my "deserted island dozen" -- 12 CD's I would most want on a deserted island. Yes, my deserted island has an endless power supply and a surprisingly high quality CD player. Unfortunately it doesn't have a USB port to plug in my iPod.

1) Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Like Bad News
2) Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde (hard to pass on Blood on the Tracks, but since Blonde is a double album, it makes more sense)
3) Ben Harper - Live from Mars (yes, double album)
4) Ani DiFranco - Revelling, Reckoning (yes, double again)
5) Led Zeppelin - I
6) Digable Planets - Reachin' (A Refutation of Time and Space)
7) Bob Marley - Legend (more diverse than my favorite, "Live!")
8) Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans
9) Jeff Buckley - Grace
10) Lenny Kravitz - Acoustic Live
11) Radiohead - The Bends
12) U2 - The Joshua Tree

(My honorable mention albums that I tossed out at the last minute b/c I didn't have room in my backpack were: Damien Rice - 0, David Bowie - Honky Dorey, John Coltrane - My Favorite Things, Rage Against the Machine - S/T, Tori Amos - Under the Pink, Cure - Mixed Up, White Stripes - White Blood Cells, Yusef Lateef - Eastern Sounds, Beatles - White Album, Tom Waits - Closing Time, Nick Drake - Pink Moon, Bjork - Post)

If I don't starve to death or get eaten by wild boars on my deserted island, I'll probably kill myself for not adding any jazz or enough musical diversity.

By the way, this is my deserted island, and it looks like I'm not completely alone after all. Good furtune.

Oscar Predictions

Hi everyone, Jane Craig here. I'm Tiny's "official" arts and entertainment contributor. I thought it was a good idea for my first post to be my 2009 Oscar Predictions (just the biggie categories too, I'm not skilled enough to predict "Best Sound Mixing" ). I'll come back on Monday to see how I did. Please to enjoy!

Actor, Leading
Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

A couple of months ago I would have bet hard on Rourke, Oscars usually enjoy a sad sack/come back from the ashes kinda story, just not necessarily in real life. I'm going with Penn because I think more people saw Milk and he really does give a stellar performance. Still, this is the most hotly contested race, it really could go either way.

Actor, Supporting
Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Without a doubt, they will give it to Ledger. Although, it must be said, Downey's performance was better and probably deserves it more.

Actress, Leading
Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)

Another easy one I think. Even though Hathaway and even Streep for that matter earned a lot of buzz, once Winslet won two Golden Globes this one was decided. If she doesn't win, Winslet becomes the Susan Lucci of the Oscars (and that would be sad).

Actress, Supporting
Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

A tough one for me considering I've seen none of these movies (I know, I'm an awesome A&E contributor). So I defer to my bible, Entertainment Weekly, which says Cruz wins. The females in Woody Allen movies have good luck in this category too, so I think it's a safe prediction.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Ron Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features)
Gus Van Sant
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
Stephen Daldry
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight)
Danny Boyle

See Below

Best Picture

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

Easily my favorite movie of the year. In hindsight maybe it seemed a little schlocky, cutesy at the end, but no other movie made me feel so bad about a place (Mumbai) and so excited about Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

P.S.-Whatever evil geniuses managed to get The Reader nominated, all I can say is "Bravo". I found it melodramatic, slow and just sort of offensive. But the Academy does love a Holocaust movie, oh well.

I'll be back Monday to see how I did! Enjoy the Oscars!

Jane Craig

Righteous Anger

I think we have a new candidate for 'America's Mayor'.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Into the Wild

I finally saw Into the Wild this past weekend. Short thoughts: Loved it. Two thumbs up.

For those who don't know, Into the Wild is the movie adaptation (by the great Sean Penn) of the 1996 non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer about the adventures of Christopher McCandless. On the first page of the book, you find out that Chris will starve to death. Oh. Odd start.

This is one of my favorite books, certainly influenced by when/where I read it. My friend Pete Macias, a fellow Chung'Ang professor and want-to-be-professional traveller, gave me this book before I took off for a trip through S.E. Asia. I read this book while travelling some pretty remote places in Indonesia. The Alaskan wild and the Indonesian rain forest can't be much more opposite, yet the suffocating wilderness of both made me feel quite connected to the story.

I can't quite put words to it, but I felt a great bond with this young traveller looking for something more tangible than the suburban life he knew. He was so idealistic, naive and foolish that it killed him. I don't like to think of myself in those terms, but I did see similarities. Unless I'm moving away, I often feel cramped. As Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Landlocked Blues) says, "The world’s got me dizzy again. You think after 22 years I’d be used to the spin. And it only feels worse when I stay in one place, so I’m always pacing around or walking away." And here I am, in Korea.

Watching the movie brought back memories of the book, that trip, and what I feel is an innate desire to know the earth and lose the nonsense that too often surrounds me. The book isn't depressing, but rather reflective. And watching the movie made me reflect. I recommend the movie, recommend the book even more.

Dad, what's a walkman?

My son turned eight on Valentine's Day. I gave him an iPod nano. Yes,this is my old nano which I no longer needed because I bought an iPod Touch (best purchase ever), but still... he got his first iPod. He was very, very happy.

For my bithday on the 15th, we took a little trip to the city's lone Mexican restaurant. Soren and I listened to music for the entire taxi ride (both listened to Modest Mouse, Good News...). No talking, but in complete harmony. Very nice.

We got out of the taxi and I mentioned how amazing it was to have so much music in such a small package - how it's funny to think back that we thought a walkman was advanced. Soren asked, "Dad, what's a walkman?"

This used to be so totally awesome.... I have 250 albums on my iPod - I would need a large suitcase to carry that many cassettes.

Damn. Time flies. Technology even faster.

2008 election - in just two videos, 56 seconds

OK, I'm burned out by politics as well. So burned out in fact that I left my political job and moved halfway around the world. But still, a political post: A 2008 election summary in in just two videos and 56 seconds.

Bush 3rd term voter.............and..............Streets of Ann Arbor, after Obama declared the winner

Friday, February 06, 2009

New Thread

Thread that needle and let's start sewing ourselves a new conversation.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The Korean word for "stress" is "스트래스", which is pronounced as ... "stress". Like all languages, Korean has adopted some English words, usually words for new technologies or American ideas/traditions. But "stress"? Before the adoption of this word, the idea of stress simply wasn't communicated in the Korean language. Other words were, like "Shame" or "Expectations", yes. But not stress.
Spreading stress to the world. The exporting of America.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

25 things

Taken from the widely-cast facebook note.

1. I have a very had time being brief. Sorry.
2. I donated money to Al Franken's Senate campaign, and I think it was my 25 bucks that put him over the top.
3. Most days, I'm the only non-Korean person I see.
4. I was once bitten by an enormous monkey in the mountains of Thailand that looked like this.
5. My world has infinitely changed since I became a parent for all the normal reasons, but mostly because I see the world through different eyes.
6. I've eaten dog, live eel, live octopus, and silkworm. By far, dog is the best.
7. I published a book, that no one's read, called "A Cosmology of Becoming"
8. I lived in South Carolina for about 18 months. I hated it beyond description.
9. Once, while alone and taking an extremely empty, overnight train through Serbia, I was awoken by two armed guards asking for border fees / passport fines / transport fees. Fortunately I was prepared: I had stuffed the cash into my socks, so I took out my cashless wallet and showed them my one credit card and offered to pay with it. They weren't happy and quickly left.
10. I still have the dream of buying a large boat and sailing from country to country for about a year. Companions?
11. My wife and I married without her parents' consent. They have slowly warmed to me..... very slowly.
12. When I look at my seven year old son, Soren, my heart fears that he is growing up too fast, and that he tries too hard to please me.
13. My oldest son, Soren, cried wildly when he was born. I went to him and said, "It's OK Soren, daddy's here." He turned to me and stopped crying. Probably the best moment in my life.
14. Worst moment: I carried my preemie baby into the ER because he was having great difficulty breathing. He was staring into my eyes as he stopped breathing, his eyes rolled back, and he went unconscious. In the following hours he was attended to by about 20 different doctors, specialists, and the helicopter flight team. It took them three attempts with lots of squirting blood to successfully force a tube into his lungs to get him to breathe again.
15. Now Sage is the most active and determined baby I know.
16. Sometimes, like today, I miss my best friend terribly.
17. When I was born, my best friend was three months old and lived in the other 1/2 of my duplex. We've been best friends ever since.
18. When I moved to Korea, the only possession that pained me to part with was my massive record collection and my wonderful Pioneer PL-570 turntable.
19. I got over it by buying an iPod Touch. Best toy ever.
20. I was once severely beaten by 20+ gang members. That sucked.
21. My favorite place on earth is the remote Paula Weh island, Indonesia, where I stayed for several months in 2000. My stories from here are endless: undersea volcanoes, swimming with dolphins, bricks of marijuana, being offered prostitutes by the secessionist military general (declined, but was afraid to do so), sea full of glowing plankton rivalling a star-choked night sky, daily swims with a green sea turtle family that lived in a coral mound just off the beach -- actually, they swam with me. This was the first land area hit by the massive 2004 tidal wave. I've often wondered what happened to that turtle family.
22. Sometimes I regret not being a better friend.
23. I believe our founding fathers would expect George W. Bush to be behind bars.22. I'm still angry at the church for all the ignorance, and at times hate, it has spread.
24. I think the world will be a better place when women are in charge.
25. Being in nature makes me believe that a one-buddha-spirit god might exist.

Monday, February 02, 2009

tinybluemarble is...

t i n y b l u e m a r b l e is Joel Eckel (buddhafrog) with friend's Bryan Foreman (halloweenjack) and Tim O’Donnell (both without computers at the moment, so it's basically just Joel)

I started this website as a way to journal my life in Korea and random thoughts in general. I've asked two of my best friends from back home to join me in this blog because 1) life is best when shared and 2) my life in Korea is more reflective when it directly compares with my Midwestern USA upbringing. That and because they're odd people and they make me laugh. I need to laugh more.

t i n y b l u e m a r b l e loves comments. It makes the marble go ’round.