Final Days of Pre-Production — Preview

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Yes, Culturebook is underway.  The domain www.culturebookmmx.com is now mine.  It is not operational yet.

I’m looking for funding.  I’m offering a 30% return for any one who wants to get in on this.

I need $2500 bucks; and whoever invests that amount will get back $3250 after 90 days.

There is no way I will not be able to pay. There is no way I’m not getting rich out of this.  I would even offer to keep the money for 120 days and pay back 4000.

Here is a sample.  Pages 48 to 56 of my upcoming book.  Enjoy.

Turning Japanese

Last month I went to Japan for the first time in my life. The year is 2002 and I live in Seoul, SKorea.



Yes, Culturebook is underway.  The domain www.culturebookmmx.com is now mine.  It is not operational yet.

I’m looking for funding.  I’m offering a 30% return for any one who wants to get in on this.

I need $2500 bucks; and whoever invests that amount will get back $3250 after 90 days.

There is no way I will not be able to pay. There is no way I’m not getting rich out of this.  I would even offer to keep the money for 120 days and pay back 4000.

Here is a sample.  Pages 48 to 56 of my upcoming book.  Enjoy.

Turning Japanese

Last month I went to Japan for the first time in my life. The year is 2002 and I live in Seoul, SKorea.

Recently, I was surfing the inter-web looking at concert dates in Japan. Because I live in SKorea, I miss live music very much. There is very little live music in Seoul, in terms of big name acts that actually visit SKorea.  The numbers are few and far between. Eric Clapton played Olympic Stadium in 1998. Smashing Pumpkins came in 2000, Ozzie came in 2001 and The Red Hot Chili Peppers with Jane’s Addiction played in 2002. Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, and Ricky Martin also played shows during those years. I lived in Seoul for five years and pretty much there were one or two good concerts every year, if that. However, most big American and British bands do a tour of Japan. The albums: Scorpions Tokyo Tapes, Iron Maiden Japan, Cheap Trick and others Live at Budakon have sold millions of copies worldwideIn the movie, Spinal Tap, how did the band successfully reunite years later? Spinal Tap did a tour of Japan!  Japan has it going on, musically. SKorea does not.

Having lived in Seoul as long as I have, I have a pretty good idea why.

The Korean economy is very protectionist; in that, industries that are established like to protect their monopolies through public policy and laws. One could say, ‘Koreans like a rigged game.’ One could also say, ‘All people like a rigged game.’ The second statement is less true.

In the case of music, the Korean music industry is a very thriving industry. There are numerous Korean pop groups, rock groups and singers – veritable household names, virtually unknown outside of SKorea. Some of them are very talented; however, many of them are nothing more than clones and manufactured schlock. 

It is not uncommon to hear a popular new KPop song that is basically a copy of an old American pop song with new Korean words, but the same music – Cindy Lauper’s She Bob became the hit song, Oppa, sung by Korean female singer Wax, whose real name is Cho, Hye ri. 

Oppa is the Korean word for ‘older brother’ but only to a female.  Males call their older brother’s hyung. The older brother nomenclature used by women to call their older brother – Oppa! Not like the Greek toast word, O-pa, but opposite intonation, o-PAOppa! is the standard honorific used by women or girls for ANY known older male of their generation.  

SKoreans socialize, strictly, by age. For this reason, boys and men address ALL their older male friends, hyung. ‘He is not my friend, he’s my hyung,’ is not an uncommon expression used by Korean males when talking to foreigners about their male friends, who happen to be one or two years their senior. 

 My New Jersey buddy Robust, long time resident of Seoul, has a funny anecdote. Robust got married in 1999, and he was at a beach with his young K wife and her family. K wife’s older brother went into the water and K-wife called out, “Oppa!”  Trying to get her big brother’s attention – every man on the beach turned around. 

It is also a fact that many popular musical ‘talents’ are recruited on the street or in clubs simply on their good looks or ability to dance; then given plastic surgery to enhance their good looks, voice and dance lessons to enhance their talent; only to be marketed as the next “hot new teen idol.” Most songs are written and produced by the ‘company’ who pays the talents very little and enjoys huge profits peddling shlock. 

The management of young Korean talent is very exploitive to the extent that hot young female actresses, singers, and talents not only must ‘give it up’ to become the new ‘pop sensation’, but they also get ‘pimped out’ by Industry execs, as told in the 6 page suicide letter of Korean actress Jang Jayeon. Jang took her own life, but before doing so, she wrote a scathing seven-page letter accusing many individuals in Korea’s entertainment industry of many improprieties and downright indecencies. Jang’s manager even kept a hidden camera in his office to videotape his sexual exploits of young talent. noonehastodietomorrowDOTcom tells the whole story.

There are tons of music video programs and so called “live showcases” of young Kpop acts: boy bands, girl bands, break dancers etc.; and the overwhelming majority of these ‘talents’ lip synch, which is pretty weak, musically. To protect this industry promoting a weak product, it is important to restrict the number of imports so to give the buying public less of a choice. For this reason, it is not common for popular Western artists to play in Korea. 

This is only my opinion; but it makes a lot of sense. For this reason, if Western music were to have a larger presence in Korea, more people might start spending their money buying non-Korean music.  

Probably not. 

Koreans are pretty loyal to Korea. Korean teens think the boys in G.O.D. and H.O.T. are much cuter than any teen pinups in the USA or Mexico. And even more than that, Koreans can understand the lyrics better if songs are sung in Uri mal, what Koreans called HangulUri mal – ‘our language’. 

Still, as a musician, it is not enjoyable watching entertainers who are obviously without talent, lip synching. Which is why when I say I am a fan of Britney Spears, which I’ve said in other chapters, what I mean to say is – If you want to experience THAT SOUND, at least Britney’s show is for real; and Toxic

Hit me baby one more time.

Recently, I saw on the internet that Lenny Kravitz was touring Japan. Kravitz had shows scheduled for Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka. Fukuoka is a two and a half hour fast ferry from Pusan, or a one hour flight from Kimpo airport in Seoul; and the show was scheduled for a Sunday in October 2002. I mentioned this to my Seoul friends, both Americans – Robust and N’wack Missouri – members of my band with no name, The Unnamed. My band mates told me that they were totally interested in going and to let them know when the date was approaching.

I played in a band at that time: a trio of bass, electric guitar and drums. We rotated instruments. I played mainly bass; but on the songs that I wrote, I sang and played guitar. The friends that I speak of – one, Robust, is a singer/guitar player who played the bass on my songs, and the drums on the other guy’s songs. The other guy, the main drummer, also played electric guitar and sang his own songs and is now retired into Fatherhood. That would be N’wack Missouri, and he is now teaching his daughter how to play the drums. Basically, we all sang and played guitar; but I played bass, N’wack played drums, and Robust did all three. 

For the first decade of the 21st century, Robust and N’wack Missouri have worked as English Professors at Sejong University, named for King Sejong, the 15th century SKorean King credited with the invention of Hangul, or the Korean written language, often called uri mal, by Koreans. Sejong Daehakyo, or university, is located right up the street from Konkuk University, where Robust and I worked together from 1999 till 2001. 

Our unnamed band played a 30 minute set at the Sejong Dae spring festival in 2002.  We had a bitchin’ stage with lights and smoke and monitors and a really professional sound system. We sounded great. We were checking out all of Robust’s hot freshman students in the audience with their tight nineteen year old bodies, strong legs from rice and kimchi and sitting on the floor Indian style all their lives. We were calling them. “I call that one!” I had the best job anyone could ever ask for.  That was 2002, my final year in Seoul, although I didn’t know it at the time.  And if somehone had told me in 2002, “This is the last year you are going to live in Seoul,” I would never have believed them.

The Lenny Kravitz concert was scheduled for a Sunday; and it was the Saturday before the show.  We usually practiced on Saturdays from 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. We all worked and/or studied during the week; so we played all day Saturday and sometimes one evening during the week for a couple of hours, at a rented studio practice space with really nice equipment, run by a nice young Christian man with a Christian RNR band, near Hong dae or Hongik University.

On this particular Saturday we practiced, and we finished at six. I returned home to leave my bass and have a shower; and then later that night we met for drinks in the Konkuk University KKU area, a high profile area of bars and rests coined by Robust, ‘The Walk of Fame.’ 

The main boulevard ran from the KKU subway station, past the campus of KKU to the next subway station, Sejong University station. The Kwangjin gu area is very green; both campuses have many trees and green lawn. KKU has a small lake with small paddle boats you can rent. Our coworker, long hair Hippy Jay from KKU and I smoked a Jackie Brown ‘secret agent’ out on the water in 2001.  

Smoke on the Water / Fire in the sky

The sidewalk on one side of the street, opposite Konkuk University, leading to a network of small streets, just about every night, was crawling with university students – you couldn’t walk up the street without brushing by people; three, four girls linked arm in arm coming up the sidewalk.

Robust coined the unnamed boulevard strip, the ‘Walk of Fame’ cuz it was lined with bars and hof and rests and coffee shops. The sidewalks didn’t have much walking space; since they shared space with venders and kiosk made from Bongo trucks selling deokpoki, which is deok (short, compressed rice-flour tubes) simmering in a red sauce made from pureed red peppers, with strips of o-dengO-deng is the hot dog of fish, but it’s flat and long. O-deng looks, nor tastes, nothing like hot dog, but that’s essentially what it is – compressed fish parts. You could also purchase o-deng by itself, an 8 inch long, inch wide strip, skewered in folds onto a stick, keeping warm soaking in the odeng mul.

These stands run by older women, ubiquitous outside anywhere there are drinking establishments in SKorea, also sell tempura-like goodies called dwi-kim: shrimp, long mild peppers, sweet potato pieces, and squid – battered and fried. You always find these stands, serving these same munchies, everywhere there are bars in SKorea. The stands always serve deokpoki and dwi-kim, AND you always get a Dixie cup of odeng mul, or hot fish broth with every order – at no additional charge. Koreans like their soup.

Korean women especially have some bizarre attraction to eating deokpoki. Sometimes, dwi-kim of your choosing – 3 pieces for 1000 won – gets sliced up and thrown into the big square metal vat that the deokpoki is simmering in; and then a heaping scoop of red sauced covered sliced dwi-kim and deokpoki gets served to you on a plate, covered with a plastic bag for hygiene and quick reuse. All for 3000 won!

This one side of the street, this wide sidewalk replete with bars and shops – The Walk of Fame – was wall to wall Korean college aged hotties 24/4 wearing tight jeans and/or mini skirts – many drunk Korean chicks stumbling down the street on almost any night of the week. Kids puking; their friends holding their hair or slapping their backs: as is the custom in SKorea when someone is vomiting. College students in SKorea drink to excess a lot. No different from college kids in the USA. And there with all those shops selling bangles and useless accessories; and bars and hair shops and rest and hof and video bang and norebang and coffee shops – no where is there a place with live music or dancing. The Walk of Fame is where Robust, N’wack, and I met Saturday night.

In the end, my band mates couldn’t get away, so I ventured to Fukuoka alone by plane Sunday afternoon, the following day.

Upon arrival, there was no concert. Lenny had cancelled his tour dates on account of an undisclosed ‘illness’. No one bothered to tell me.  There I was in Fukuoka mid day, with no concert to go to; and I didn’t know anyone or anywhere or any single thing about Fukuoka. Nothing at all! No one at all!

I had yet to find a copy of the free monthly, Fukuoka Now. Fukuoka Now, which also has a website, has Japanese, Korean, and different Western foreigners working as writers, editors, photographers, etc. It’s a small, colorful, info-filled monthly, interesting to read; and it tells all the haps going on each month in the city of Fukuoka. All the hot spots have an ad. FN’s got a monthly calendar. There’s a lot going on. I saw the Brazilian masterpiece, Ciudad de Dios at a screening room in Tenzin on a subsequent trip. And there’s a really easy to read full two page map of the city so you don’t get too lost, finding your way around. 

I rode a city bus until the end of the line for 90 minutes.  I had a nap along the way when I wasn’t site seeing; and then rode the same city bus back towards where I had begun, to get an inexpensive look of the layout of the city. I found myself at dusk in a foggy suburb having a cigarette with the driver before our return to the city. I told the driver in English my story. He didn’t understand I word I said, but he got the gist and told me where I should get off.   In Fukuoka, the bus drivers are extremely polite, no English; but they wear tidy uniforms with a uniform cap and everything is very orderly and hunky dory. I met a young 50/50 Japanese American man, who recommended that I go to Tenzin. 

— There are many Gaijin bars in Tenzin.
Gaijin? What’s that?
— That means foreigner in Japan.
— Oh, like waygook in Korea.

— Yeah. Exactly the same.

50/50 knew. He said, “If you are looking for a good time, go to Tenzin.” I’d never heard of Tenzin before. As I turned to make my way across the street, 50/50 called out: “Stay away from the prostitutes!” I did. Japan ain’t cheap. 

Fukuoka is a very flat city. There are numerous bikers and bikes parked and locked everywhere you go. The city is very clean and well laid out. Young people dress very fashionably. Most young men gel their hair. Cigarette Smoking will become banned on sidewalks in certain areas in years to come.

The main entertainment district for my money – there are many little downtowns in Fukuoka – the place I like to party is an area known as Tenjin. Tenjin has many bars and rests like the Happy Cock, The Crazy Cock and others. I went to a place called the Lamplight, which had a barbeque buffet on the roof; and like many bars and restaurants in Fukuoka, the Lamplight offered an all you can drink deal for 3 hours for like 2000 yen. I met many people that night, including one Japanese girl called Satomi, her Japanese BFF girl friend, and BFF’s loud Australian Russell Crowe-like husband. 

Both Russell and I have really loud voices, but different. Russell always seemed to be in your face. His voice had a directional; it was very loud and deep but it stayed contained within the group. When I spoke, every one in the bar could hear me. That’s how come I met so many people, like the tall, long hair flip flop wearing owner of Tenzin’s Voodoo Lounge. 

In truth, it was the story. The ‘I live in SKorea, first time in Fukuoka, come for a Lenny Kravitz concert, concert cancelled, I’m here all alone’ That story worked so well for sympathy and people suddenly wanted to help me out, be my friend.

We got along really well, the four of us: Satomi, BFF, and Russell Crowe. It was my first double date in years. Satomi and her BFF had lived in Australia studying English. Both had homestay-ed down under with Australian families. BFF met Russell and he returned with them to Japan and became an English teacher. They got married. Russell was a cook in Sydney. They opened and ran a restaurant in Tenzin. Satomi regularly corresponded with her Australian house mother and in every letter and email, she called her, ‘Mom’.

I would spend the night with Satomi in a love motel, after much intervention by her BFF. BFF wasn’t cock-blocking; she was checking me out, looking out for her friend. I passed BFF’s test. By the time I left Fukuoka the following day, I knew a half dozen people: regulars, long time residents of Asia from the US and Australia and Japan; people I’d see again and again over the next year. 

 And then, never again.

Fuck You Okay Uh?

As most NES teachers in South Korea know, Fukuoka is the most convenient visa run, the nearest Korean consulate on foreign soil. Fukuoka can be reached by air from any major city in Korea in under an hour; or by boat from Pusan in two and a half. It’s not really a boat, it’s a hydrofoil.  My Pusan friend from Montreal Jean François told me once about doing a visa run by ferry on the Beetle, the hydrofoil ferry. 

A hydrofoil is a boat with wing-like foils mounted on struts below the hull.  As the craft increases its speed the hydrofoils develop enough lift for the boat to become foil-borne – i.e. to raise the hull up and out of the water. This results in a great reduction in drag and a corresponding increase in speed.  From AUUUU.com/shiptravel

 

The Beetle, as the hydrofoil is called, had engine trouble and had to stop awhile at sea. The engines were off and the boat began to rock from side to side, as the bottom is very egg shaped, not flat in any way. JF said that everybody on the boat vomited – first the children, then the old people, then the men, then the women, in that order. I think JF exaggerated. Or maybe I’m the one that is exaggerating.

The following is an essay about Fukuoka.  It is my answer to an actual interweb query that I cut and pasted from some thread of comments/questions/quips:

 I read that “outdoor sleeping” was possible due to the low crime rate. This essentially means sleeping on benches at terminals. Has anyone seen this before? The article I read said that some students would do this.

I slept outside once in the city of Fukuoka, Kyushu Island, Japan. Hotels are 4-5 thousand yen for a cheap one; and the capsules, found in the sauna places, are still over 2 thousand yen (20 bucks) for the night. I’ve done both.  My friend Satomi and I spent one night at really cool Love Motel that had slippers and robes and a Jacuzzi bathtub and a Karaoke machine, which we used! I love the nightlife. I like to boogie. On the disco aha ha. Oh yeah. That room cost exactly 5000 yen. And there were no visible people working there.  

In the lobby of the ‘love motel’, as they are called, a large lighted board showed pictures of all available rooms on a grid where each square was a room. You chose the room based on the picture. Then you pushed a button on the square and the room’s lighted picture square went black. The board had about 25 rooms, many black. They were ocupado.

Once inside the room, we deposited 5000 yen into a machine, and then the key dropped out and the room was ours till morning. Japan is completely automated, with vending machines selling cans of beer and instant ramen in disposable containers hot and ready. In time, by 2010, Japan will have factories where robots do all the work.

 

If you take the boat from Pusan to Fukuoka, don’t take the Beetle, use Mirae travel on the second floor of the International Ferry Terminal. Mirae Travel has hotel packages for not much more than the cost of the ferry and the price includes a stay at the Fukuoka Central Hotel, where you get a buffet breakfast as well. Mirae is the Korean word for future. If Minjung still works at the ticket office, tell her Bravo says ‘Hi.’

 

Mirae Travel also has ferry service to Osaka, two days one night travel time; and to Vladivostok Russia, two days two nights travel time.  

On one visit to Fukuoka, my first visit after meeting Satomi, in order to conserve money and have a little adventure – Satomi stayed home that night – I bought a 750ml bottle of Bacardi Rum at the Gulliver’s Liquor in Tenjin (1000 yen) and took a bus to the pier/ferry terminal and drank with fishermen all night. I ended up sleeping on the pier after catching a small octopus. 

I never felt in any danger at all. And boy did I get drunk. It was Hammertime! From midnight till 4 am I stumbled round that pier and did catch some fish. I remember I got my reel in a big tangle and Japanese fisher-dude had to cut the line and start it anew.

Remember, Japan is not SKorea or the US for that matter. I think the biggest difference between SKorea and Japan is the male population. The fishermen I met weren’t Ajoshis, the Korean word for gentlemen. They weren’t even old. They didn’t speak any English, but they liked drinking and they were most cool letting me use their gear to fish with them. Most young Japanese guys are laid back, hip. Most SKorean men are dorks. Ubiquitously uninteresting. Arrogant AND dull. Always with the personal questions. 

In the morning I took the first ferry (7 a.m.) to Noko Island to have a proper kip on the beach. Nokonoshima, or Noko Island, is the site of bi-monthly parties. Big Theme Parties like Hawaiian Luaus organized by the Gaijin, or foreign, community of Fukuoka.  I didn’t know this at the time, but I would find out that day.

After the short ferry ride, I found a nice secluded strip of shore and crashed out only to be rudely awakened hours later by a thunderous sound check. As luck would have it, I had stumbled onto a Bob Marley Tribute Festival featuring about 10 Reggae Bands from around the world. It was the weekend of the anniversary of Bob Marley’s leaving this earth. 

The time was May 2003, and I was working at KNUE near the city of Cheongju with my Canadian brethren, R and S; and I remember earlier that week, S had made one day officially Bob Marley Day – May 11th, the 22nd anniversary of Marley’s passing – and all of S’s classes: we trained adult Korean middle and high school teachers that lived in dorms for a six month period, returning home to their families on weekends and holidays; all of S’s classes that day listened to Bob and used Marley’s lyrics for conversation classes and pronunciation drills. Saying words on cue in a rhythmic pattern is a good tool for improving pronunciation. Get the Korean teachers to speak in dub. 

This morning I woke up in a curfew. Oh God! I was a prisoner too.

It was a total Bob Marley festival complete with a huge stage and dance area, a dozen or more stands with food and beverages of various sorts. There wasn’t any weed smoking that I could see, but I did see trampolines and all kinds of festival regalia, face painting, Jamaican Jerk BBQ and other food stands; and since it was hours before the actual festival began that I stumbled onto the major construction site, and after befriending some organizers and agreeing to help out with their barbequing, I basically got in free (3500 hundred yen admission waved). 

I not only got free food and booze all day, but I would see EVERY person that I met that first night in Fukuoka at the Lamplight.  I rapped with Voodoo Lounge flip flip dude.  I even made out with this hot Japanese chick, Ryoko for like 5 seconds. I was just standing there working the barbeuque looking at her, and she walked right up to me saying something about ‘That smells delicious.’  Next thing I know, we’re kissing; and then not. Ryoko ran off.

I had to stay with the barbeque. Plus, I was meeting Satomi that night. Satomi told me the night before; before I bought the rum and headed to the pier, “My mother said if I stay home tonight, I can stay out all night tomorrow night.” It was tomorrow day when I kissed Ryoko, as the steel drum band ding dinged instrumental Marley. Lots of people were on their feet dancing barefoot. Some people must have been ‘imbibing the horticulture’.  But in Japan, like in SKorea, you gotta keep that to yourself.

Japan Rocks! A lot of Japanese dudes wear dreadlocks. There’s even a head shop in Tenjin, a hip party sector of Fukuoka, called 420. I bought an Easy Rider poster with a photo from the film there in 2003; and the poster still hangs in R’s office at KNUE. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda on their Harley’s, with Jack Nicholson riding on the back of Fonda’s chopper – that picture so much resembled R, S, and I that we had to have it on our wall. The Easy Rider poster USED TO hang in OUR office, for the time we worked together. Now in 2010, only R remains. The Easy Rider poster now hangs in R’s office. It’s kind of the same office, one floor above the former. I was the wide eyed Fonda character in the poster; R was the Hopper director riding his Harley one handed with the cigarette dangling and the handlebar mustache hat instead of helmet.  S was the friendly little Nicholson riding bitch on the back. That character would get pummeled to his death by white baseball bat wielders. They’d all meet their makers at the hands or bullets of dogmatic closed minded Americans.

I don’t recommend sleeping on a pier. It’s not very comfortable. But if you want to sleep outside for whatever reason, go to an island and sleep on the beach. Bring a tent. It’s like 500 yen for a ferry to Nokonoshima.  Or you can go to Shikanoshima, which is another island you can reach by ferry or by city bus. That’s a good swimming beach. And if it’s sunny, you’ll see a lot of hot Japanese birds in bikinis. Oishi!

 

There’s a lot to do in Fukuoka. The biggest Ferris wheel in Asia is in Fukuoka. You can go to the Asahi brewery for a tour and drink free beer afterward. The Asahi brewery is located near Hakata Station. Once, while I was alone in Fukuoka, I visited the brewery. I didn’t take any tours, but they were having an international beer festival. Free beer for one hour, then you had to leave. I met some Japanese minor league baseball players and drank with them for that hour before going out to have a traditional Japanese chicken dinner, which included a RAW CHICKEN appetizer! Oishi means delicious. 

If you are in Fukuoka and are missing Western food, eat mouthwatering American favorites at Pik’s coffee shop in Tenzin. Piks! Giving you the look and feel and a real American diner! Or get a Mos Burger at a fine Japanese fast food burger joint of the same name. I dined at a Mos Burger location once near Hakata wharf and they were playing Public Enemy over the speakers. That would NEVER happen in SKorea. Go shopping at Uniqlo on Tenzin’s main intersection. Be the first kid on your block to have tee shirt designed by Basquiat. The Japanese know how too live.

 

There’s always something going on in Fukuoka. 

Still.

Leaving Fukuoka for me, EVERY ONE of the many times I visited there by ferry, I remember sitting in the ferry terminal before my exit.  Remember, while in Japan, everybody is Japanese. I mean, you may see some Koreans; but in the terminal, awaiting the ferry back to SKorea, it’s MOSTLY Koreans!  And for the first time in how ever long your stay was, you find yourself surrounded by Koreans in Japan, on the way back to SKorea. 

At that moment, I always get overwhelmed with this feeling of – I don’t want to go back.  

I’ve talked with other foreign NES teachers living in SKorea, who’ve done the Fukuoka ferry trip, and they all agree. Coming to back to SKorea after being in Japan is always difficult.

 

 



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