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Ten hours of art: the Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (AGAST).

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What is it like to live and teach for a year in the Hermit Kingdom?

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The most popular and misunderstood thing I ever wrote.

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Friday, July 7, 2006

[naughty fossella]

Topic: Politics
Posted by: Josh

Gothamist has picked up on a Daily News investigation into the financial improprieties of 13th District Representative Vito Fossella, a Republican who is being opposed by Democrat Steve Harrison this November.

Highlights:

These are petty individually, but they add up to a contempt for regulations that are meant to prevent corruption among our elected officials.

Let's hope Vito keeps making it this easy.

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[will the real taepodong please stand up?]

Topic: Korea
Posted by: Josh

Salon points out that the name "Taepodong" is simply what US intelligence analysts designated North Korea's long-range missiles when they were first discovered in the Taepodong region.

The official North Korean name for the missiles is Paektusan. They're named after the highest mountain in Korea, which also happens to be the locus of Korea's mythic founding, not to mention the place where Kim Jong-il was supposedly born, though he was actually most likely born in the Soviet Union.

Thanks for the link, Daniel!

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[do you really wanna know?]

Topic: Personal
Posted by: Josh

I've started a blog about some of the subjects that I don't want to post here. Yes, those sorts of subjects. If you're interested, email me and I'll send you the link. Maybe.

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[missiles and the un]

Topic: Korea
Posted by: Josh

So everyone wants to know what's going on at the South Korean Mission to the UN now that North Korea has grabbed global headlines by testing its Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile, which fortunately didn't work.

The answer is not much. Or at least there's not much that involves me. One of the diplomats complained in passing that the North Koreans are keeping him and his colleagues busy, but so far there's no statement for me to work on.

That makes sense: the Security Council is meeting today in closed session, which means South Korea has no participatory role, and they will announce their results this afternoon. Until that happens, there's really no reason why the UN Mission should be speaking up — as opposed to the South Korean government, which has been plenty vocal and today suspended food aid to the North, though they have stopped short of calling for economic sanctions, which would force South Korean companies to suspend their operations in the Kaesong Industrial Region. The Ambassador might make a statement tomorrow at the Security Council, and this might be written without my participation, largely on the guidance of officials in Seoul.

In terms of my own views on the missile tests, I think that they have once again shown the impotence of all sides in the North Korean situation. China can't reign in its troublesome pawn. The US can't cow the North Koreans into backing down any better than we could win them over by being nice. The Russians and Japanese have little to offer, while the South Koreans have been flailing for decades. And North Korea proved that its most threatening weapon doesn't actually work, reminding the world that the only proof we have of their nuclear weapons is their declaration that they have them.

What happens next will be a lot of bluster and very little consequence. The DPRK may or may not get hit with economic sanctions, but they've shown themselves to be fairly uninterested in any kind of realistic economic development anyway, and certainly they're ready to wait out sanctions. Unless they do something way more provocative, like a nuclear test, I can't see much more happening.

And even then, what do we do? If you have an idea, tell me and I'll pass it on to people who might have some influence. As it is, short of a vast and devastating war, we've got few options other than haranguing, cajoling, bribing or sitting on our hands.

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[taepodong range]

Topic: Korea
Posted by: blog/robertooghe

I was looking into the actual range of the TD-2, as I was discussing with Josh yesterday, and indeed as he said, according to the BBC, it has a range of only about 6,000 km (3,730 miles).

Yet, according to the AP, they gave it closer to 15,000 km, or about 9,300 miles — significantly more threatening to the US were these things to work. This seems to be a pretty big discrepancy for something so relevant.

I dug a little deeper, and found various estimates over the years 1995-2001. Infer what you will about how much is actually known...:

November 1995: "Among Third World countries hostile to the United States, North Korea has the most advanced ballistic missile program. One of its missiles in development, the Taepodong-2, is assessed to have a range of 4,000-6,000 kilometers."
-"Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next 15 Years," Secret DCI National Intelligence Estimate, President's Summary

July 1998: "[The Taepodong-2] could reach major cities and military bases in Alaska and the smaller, westernmost islands in the Hawaiian chain. Light-weight variations of the TD-2 could fly as far as 10,000 kilometers, placing at risk western U.S. territory in an arc extending northwest from Phoenix, Arizona, to Madison, Wisconsin."
-Rumsfeld Report (Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States)

January 2001: "North Korea is developing the Taepodong-2 (ICBM), which could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload to Alaska and Hawaii, and a lighter payload to the western half of the United States. A three-stage Taepodong-2 could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload anywhere in the United States."
-"Proliferation: Threat and Response," Defense Department

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[world cup, carroll gardens and the united nations]

Topic: Around Town
Posted by: Josh

So the World Cup, the UN and Carroll Gardens have all made their way into one wandery, unfocused Slate article, in which Troy Patterson describes his experiences watching World Cup in various places around "Manhattan," as the headline has it, though Bar Tabac is pretty firmly in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, where it makes a fine contribution to the freakishly high standard of affordable quality cuisine.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006

[back from vacation]

Topic: Personal
Posted by: Josh

I suppose I might've mentioned more clearly that I was going on vacation, which is why this blog has been so quiet of late. But I'm back now, and I should have wonderfully insightful things to say about Maine over the next few days.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

[suicide and hyperbole in korean culture]

Topic: Korea
Posted by: Josh

Here's a curious story of a Korean-American woman who committed suicide by driving her car off a cliff at Bear Mountain — with her two children in the back. Her husband supposedly heard her threaten suicide, which has led to charges that he aided her, but the Korean community feels this is a misunderstanding. In Korean culture, apparently, threats of suicide are common, much as Americans say "I could kill you!" without any murderous intent.

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[heading north]

Topic: Personal
Posted by: Josh

This Saturday, Jenny and I will depart for our first vacation on our own, without family, since we got married. We're headed up to Bar Harbor, Maine, next to Acadia National Park, and we'll be staying first at the Open Hearth Inn, then at the Acadia Hotel.

This morning I discovered the Haze Cam Polution Visibility Camera Network, which takes pictures and measures particulates in both Acadia and Newark, New Jersey, among other places. I note this because Newark is up on the edge between medium and high, while Acadia, despite some current haziness by local standards, is way down at the lower levels.

In other words, we get to spend a week in cleaner air. This should be lovely for both of us, and especially for Jenny.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

[okay, now i'm against it]

Topic: Around Town
Posted by: Josh

Daniel McKleinfeld today alerted me to a Slate article by Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude, decrying Bruce Ratner's plans for a massive collection of Frank Gehry-designed towers in the heart of Brooklyn.

I have until now been ambivalent. There are always groups opposed to any kind of development anywhere in New York, and often this opposition is reflexive and silly. I've heard Mr. McKleinfeld himself condemn the new project because it would replace the Fulton Street Mall, though it's actually being planned for some distance away, mostly on a desolate unused rail yard. So we might find ourselves with hideous, windswept corporate plazas on an inhuman scale, but it's hard to see how that would be worse than an uncrossable rail yard. That's not to say that something vastly superior might be done with the space instead, but I do think it's relevant that unlike the territory appropriated by the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the proposed Atlantic Yards site won't be ripped from the fabric of the surrounding communities, because the site is already a gaping hole.

Another point raised by Ratner's opposition is that the towers will dwarf the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, as if this quirky Downtown Brooklyn oddity were a holy object that all Brooklynites must be able to spot from their front doors. We live in a city that dwarfs the once-towering Statue of Liberty, and I don't think this has been a disaster. I believe that the Great Phallus of Brooklyn can lose some of its stature without destroying the manhood of my borough. The insistence that we should never, ever allow anything to be built that might block views of the thing strikes me as arbitrary, sentimental and reactionary.

So then why am I suddenly on Lethem's side? Because the proposed development that will be 8.66 million square feet. That's more than a million square feet more than the World Trade Center towers, which remained partially vacant for most of their existence. Granted that significant chunks of this massive development would be residential, while 10 percent would go to the Nets arena. Even so, that's just a ginormous project. I mean, really fucking huge. Stupidly huge.

I hadn't quite grasped until today just how enormous this thing would be. If nothing else, it raises terrifying questions about the already inadequate transportation infrastructure. And who exactly is going to be renting out this massive new glut of office space? Assuming the Freedom Tower eventually gets built (not a sure thing, but never mind that), the two developments together would put vast quantities of office space on the market in a relatively short period of time, depressing prices and possibly leading to damaging vacancies.

Far more than an arena for the Nets, the Atlantic Yards project is a massive, centrally planned intrusion into a borough whose best districts — many of which are near the proposed site — are among the most elegantly organic, human-scaled urban spaces in the United States. These kinds of projects were all the rage in the 1960s, and they gave us disasters like the original World Trade Center and Lincoln Center.

The project site is currently awful, and a smaller development there — even one as bad as Bruce Ratner's hideous Atlantic Center Mall — would be an improvement. But I think Lethem is right: a project on such an enormous scale can't help but harm the surrounding neighborhoods.

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[happy morning!]

Topic: Humor
Posted by: Josh

There's a fabulously weird Folgers commercial (click on the TV set) making the rounds (Milk and Cookies, Boing Boing), and it should be watched by all. No, really. Especially you, Jenny.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

[pictures from the hermit kingdom]

Topic: Korea
Posted by: Josh


Daniel McKleinfeld has pointed me to a fascinating (and vast) collection of photos of North Korea, taken by one Artemii Lebedev, a web designer from Russia. (Note that at the bottom of the page, you can click through to subsequent pages of pictures.)

These images give a good overall sense of the bleakness of North Korea, which seems to alternate between gargantuan grandiosity and numbing shoddiness. The image above is a perfect example of the inhuman scale of North Korean monumentalism, which seems intended to make you feel very, very small and powerless.

Also startling is how bare everything looks without advertising. There is essentially no individual or non-state corporate expression on display anywhere in any form.

In the end, though, I think what the photos reveal most clearly is how well concealed North Korea really is. We see almost no one and get no feel for what North Korean life might actually be like. This is all that tourists are permitted to see and photograph, and though it's possible to see the many cracks in the Potemkin nation, it's still impossible to see behind the crumbling sets.

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[making a difference]

Topic: Politics
Posted by: Josh

Living in New York City, it can sometimes feel like the struggle for control of Washington happens far away: in states like Ohio and Florida, in competitive districts Upstate, in races around the country in places where you actually meet people who support the Republican party. Knocking on doors and handing out literature around these parts seems largely irrelevant.

So I was surprised to get an email today from the Congressional campaign of Steve Harrison, a Bay Ridge lawyer who is looking to take the 13th District, which covers Staten Island and Bay Ridge, away from one of the most conservative Republican representatives in the Northeast, Vito Fossella. I know almost nothing about Harrison, but I know he's a Democrat and that his victory would rid Congress of a right-wing extremist and move us one seat closer to Democratic control.

This is not the other side of the country, folks. This is right here in Brooklyn and Staten Island. If we can give time or money to Harrison, I think we should. Let's see if we can win one for our side right here in NYC.

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[weekly world music 12: cow-protector]

Topic: Music
Posted by: Josh

Hey Govind Hey Gopal by Jagjit Singh (Vaishnodevi website)

Govinda by The Radha Krsna Temple (The Rada Krsna Temple)

Govinda by Kula Shaker (K)


Whatever you think of the blue god of India and his devotees, you have to admit that he's inspired a lot of music.

Today we've got three selections in praise of Krishna in his Govinda, or "cow-protector," manifestation. The first, by the renowned ghazal and playback singer Jagjit Singh, is pretty much your typical Hindu devotional song in the popular style.

Next up is The Radha Krsna Temple, a recording made at Apple Studios in 1970 and produced by George Harrison, who was then deep into the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), whose penchant for child abuse was not yet known. You can find the whole album here, including the hit "Hare Krsna Mantra."

And finally we have a relatively recent rock devotional from Kula Shaker, who had a hit back in the 1990s with "Tattva."

I tend to find Krishna devotees a difficult bunch, but I really like all three of these songs.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

[notes from a life]

Topic: Personal
Posted by: Josh

I've been very busy lately, it seems, and I haven't had much time to update Palaverist. So I thought I'd spend a little time jotting down what's been going on with me lately.

For one thing, there have been parties, starting with the McKleinfeld wedding and seemingly continuing ever since, at least on the weekends, and sometimes on the weekends.

After the multiday extravaganza that was the McKleinfeld wedding, the newlyweds spent the next week still up in the Adirondacks, but returned in time to be informed by Twin A that they would be hosting his Memorial Day barbecue on Monday afternoon. This followed a very late night of Lord of the Rings Risk with the McKleinfelds, which followed a late night of drinking with Robert and Lydia Ooghe and Josh Axelrad. We started that night in the garden behind Frankies 457 Sputino — great cocktails — and eventually wandered up the block to P.J. Hanley's, which claims to be the oldest bar in Brooklyn. When the waitress took our order, Axelrad ended his with "God bless," which made me fall over laughing. "Yeah?" Axelrad said. "I thought I'd try it out. How'd it sound?"

"Ridiculous," I said, "coming from a godless heathen like yourself."

The next weekend, the McKleinfelds held yet another party, this one to celebrate their nuptials with those who couldn't make it Upstate. There was an evil sangria, the not entirely unwelcome news that Daniel had just been laid off, a complex network of blue tarps to keep off the rain that threatened and spattered all afternoon, and the first game of silent football in many moons, played around a kiddie pool for our feet and ruled by Twin B in the role of Brother Dictator

A mere three days later, I saw many of the same people at a 6/6/06 party hosted by Robert and his friend the Talmudist Jay Michaelson in the apartment upstairs — and on the roof. There was a kosher grill, and somehow Martin Dockery got his dog up there. It being a Tuesday, I didn't stay late.

On Friday, our German friend Beatrice came over, along with Lem, to watch the first game of the World Cup (Germany won). For once, our Saturday was free of parties, but then on Sunday, Lem hosted a picnic in Prospect Park to thank us all for visiting him in the hospital. That evening, a group of us headed to Martin Dockery's for a party on his roof deck, known as the Money Shot because of its incredible 360-degree views of Brooklyn, Manhattan and New York Harbor. We watched the sun set over Jersey and the moon rise full and orange over Prospect park as the air grew chilly, reminding me of summer evenings in Northern California, and I met a man named Master Lee who told me about performing kung fu comedy on a cruise ship much like the one that was moored off Red Hook and glowing in the night.

So now this week, I'll be going to see three young Korean classical musicians — Yeol-eum Son, Hye-jin Kim and Min-ji Kim — perform at the ECOSOC Chamber in the UN, courtesy of the Korean Mission. Then on Friday night we'll see Myung Soo Kim's Arirang: Korean Ritual Solos, some kind of mudang-influenced dance performance. And on Saturday, we'll be hosting Jenny's birthday party. And Sunday? Korea vs. France, baby!

I'm glad we're headed for Bar Harbor, Maine, on the 24th. Of course, as soon as we're back, we'll be having a party on the roof for July 4th. It's busy, but it's a whole lotta fun.

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Friday, June 9, 2006

[my brother in tzfat]

Topic: Personal
Posted by: Josh

My younger brother Effie is in Tzfat at the moment (aka Safed), a small town in northern Israel known as a haven for Chassidim of a mystical bent. He's there studying Talmud, and he's put up a few pictures of himself and his friends there on his homepage. Enjoy.

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[weekly world music 11: korea whiting!]

Posted by: Josh


Korean singer Shin Min-a (신민아), known as Mi-na (미나), who first became famous as "World Cup Girl." More pics here.
Pilseung Korea (필승 코리아) by Yoon Band

Da-Ga-Ra (다가라) by Uhm Jung-hwa (엄정화)

Youngnam Nong Ak by Kim Duk-Soo (김덕수) (Samul-Nori: Drums & Voices of Korea)


In the Konglish parlance of World Cup 2002, "Korea Whiting!" was a phrase you heard everywhere. They meant "Korea fighting!" but unfortunately the Hangul alphabet, lacking an equivalent to "f," left them choosing between "p" () and "hw" (). They opted for the latter, and so Korea was whiting its way through an ectatic month of surprise victories that landed them in fourth place.

Well, World Cup is upon us again, and here at the Korean Mission, a huge TV has been set up in the library, and we have been invited to watch Korea's first match, against Togo, at nine o'clock Monday morning, and instructed to wear red (I'll have my Be the Reds! T-shirt on).

In honor of the games, I thought I'd put up a few tracks that take me back to the glory days of 2002. The first, "Pilseung Korea," means "Victorious Korea," and was pretty much the national anthem during World Cup 2002. "Da-Ga-Ra" is a fun little pop tune by a woman who seems to be known more as an actress than as a singer. It was a huge hit in '02.

And finally, we have an example of samul nori (사물놀이), a Korean percussion music based on poongmul, or farmers' music. As I wrote back in 2002,
Going into the [semifinal] game against Germany, my feelings were no longer ambiguous. Jenny and I went with Suky and her family to watch it on a big screen at the local middle school. I wore my "Be the Reds" T-shirt like everyone else — the T-shirt vendors are the real winners of this World Cup — and I cheered for Korea. At half-time the score was still 0-0, and the crowd around us reacted as if they knew this might be their last hurrah. Fireworks were everywhere, and a circle of dancers beat on drums and Korean cymbals. It was very foreign and very beautiful, and we were reminded once again that we are living in a culture that is not our own.
Tonight, it begins again. GO KOREA!

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

[11th District Politics]

Topic: Politics
Posted by: Josh

So it turns out that Congressman Major R. Owens of the 11th District (i.e., mine) is retiring at the end of his current term, and the district is very much in play. Of course, it's not a contest between a Republican and a Democrat — you can be sure that come November 7, the 11th will go overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate — but among Democrats at the primary election on September 12th.

I don't know too much about the situation yet, but it's still some ways away. There's a useful, if slanted, Amsterdam News article. I expect that things will heat up in the coming months, especially considering how big a role race plays in this election. The 11th District was created in 1965 as part of the Voting Rights Act, and it has been held by African-Americans ever since. Councilman David Yassky, the candidate with the most money, is white, and possibly cozy with real estate developers who are driving the process of gentrification that is turning the 11th whiter. The other three candidates are African-American, but the question is whether they will split the African-American vote such that Yassky comes out the winner.

And who do I support? I have no idea at this point.

Here are the candidates' websites:

Friday, June 2, 2006

[now that's asciing for trouble]

Topic: Humor
Posted by: Josh

Do you like to use using Google Maps but wish there were some nerdier, less useful version out there? If so, ASCII Maps is the site for you. (This may be even nerdier than ASCII pr0n.)

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

[art on atlantic]

Topic: Around Town
Posted by: Josh


This Saturday and Sunday is the Atlantic Avenue ArtWalk 2006, "a self-guided tour of open artist studios and area exhibitions, a range of public art projects, special events, and extensive local merchant participation." The tour is clustered along Atlantic Avenue between Third Avenue and Smith Street, but it stretches as far afield as State Street to the north (or Schermerhorn, if you count the Transit Museum, but visit that some other time), Hicks to the west and 423 Smith to the south (that's at Fourth Place).

Remarkably, a quick glance at the list of artists suggests that there's not much overlap with the Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (AGAST), which I reviewed in some detail (1, 2). Whether I'll do a similar number on ArtWalk06 remains to be seen. I've got plans Saturday, but I do hope to get out on Sunday and see some of the local art. Maybe I'll bump into you there?

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