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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facebook Failings . . .

I've been a fan of facebook for some time, but also a little concerned of the neediness and narcissism it can encourage. I've watched young friends and family members share exceptionally private matters and post a multitude of "selfies," many while still too young to legally use the medium and definitely too young to understand how easily it can be misused, but I've also watched those same young friends get encouragement and affirmation online when they're down or struggling. I was shocked the first time I received notification of the death of a friend via facebook, yet watched on with interest as family kept an uncle's page open and active after his death, and it became a living tribute to the man and a place they can go to visit with him, particularly those whanau far from home. A few weeks back, when a friend shared sad, sad news on her page, it seemed a smart way to make the announcement just the once rather than having to tell multiple people many times, and quickly became a way for those of us who love and admire her and her family to show that love without intruding.

I've also witnessed many changes social networks have made in society, not all of which are good. But life is change, and what we make of life comes from how we react and adapt to those changes, or in turn change the ones we dislike.

One good that is part of the social network process is the instant shaming of those who do ignorant, hurtful acts. From the salon owner in Michigan who berated the mother of an autistic child because he cried during his haircut, to the officials in China who handcuffed and humiliated a teen for spilling a drink on their car, the Internet has given power to ordinary people to say some things are unacceptable. That power can also be misused or taken too far, as all power can be.

It's interesting to watch that power, the power of the consumer, also alter the way the networks themselves conduct business. I have one friend who is an admin on a facebook community, Adventures of a Curvy Girl, who was banned yesterday for posting a picture of a fully dressed woman with a kitten lying across her chest. Facebook said it "violated community standards.

 It also recently rejected an ad about breast cancer because it contained an image of a woman's breast.

At the same time, it allows content featuring battered women, rape and violence, apparently claiming it falls under its definitions of "poor taste" or "crude attempts at humor." An internet campaign has thus far encouraged 15 companies that advertised on facebook to cancel their contracts, tho Dove, which markets itself as "committed to helping women realize their personal beauty potential," apparently has no problem with its ads appearing next to images such as one that shows a woman's face with her mouth taped and the words, "Don't wrap it and tap it, tape it and rape it."

Epic fail, facebook (perhaps you could rebrand yourself as talibanbook?).

Epic fail, Dove.

Good work, concerned Internet users.

UPDATE: Because the Internet moves quickly . . .

It's now being reported that Facebook has folded and released the following statement:

"In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria," the statement read. "We need to do better - and we will."

Yes, they do. Let's see if they will . . .

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Unexpected gifts . . .

As part of a very busy day yesterday (prep for an article, baseball game, New Zealand Wine Festival), I interviewed two women who stunned me. I'll link the article next week when it's published but the best bits won't fit there. This post is for Kimberly:

Background: Part of the USFK Good Neighbor program is an annual English Camp, where Korean high school students spend a week with an American host family, attend Seoul American High School on  Yongsan Garrison and live like Americans (albeit, Americans in Korea) for a week. I attended the graduation ceremony yesterday and interviewed a student and her host Mom.

I asked both what was their favorite part of the week.

The student told me it was going to feed the homeless at Seoul Station. She said her host family does this once a month and she intends to join them each month to do so.

I asked the host mother her favorite part of the week and she told me it was watching the girls' (she hosted two) reactions to her food. Then, because she talks more than me, she went on a rambling hilarious tangent about it. After we stopped laughing, I told her that her student said feeding the homeless was her favorite memory. I'm going to let her tell the rest:

"How could I forget that!

"My husband and I come from two totally different backgrounds. My Mom says that we weren't privileged but if we weren't, I didn't know. My husband was the complete opposite - he was raised very, very poor. So, in the beginning of our relationship, I always noticed how my husband thought I didn't understand less fortunate people. I don't think I did understand what it was to be less fortunate. At the same time, I didn't like the thought of people thinking I didn't understand or that I was totally unaware.

"So, we started that when we were in college. We were dating and we were constantly going out to eat, and we decided that once a week, whatever we were going to spend that day on going out to eat, we would put it in our pockets, which in college was only about five or six dollars. So, we would save that money up and at the end of the month, we would go to the grocery store and we would buy sandwiches and cookies and stuff like that and we would hand it out for the homeless."

They continued that throughout their marriage, which is nearing it's seventh anniversary, and it was at that time the students visited.

"We baked cookies, we baked brownies and muffins, we made sandwiches, we put juices together and we put it all in this bag and we went out to feed the homeless.

"What's really important, regardless of where you are, people are people, regardless of where they are, and some people fall on hard times. A lot of people think that homeless people either choose that way or they are lazy, and some of them might be, but if you can help that one homeless guy in the group that didn't choose, that was really trying and didn't quite make it, if I have to feed a hundred to get that one who really needs help, I'll do it, time and time again."

Friday, May 17, 2013


I had a response to yesterday's post from a friend in Korea, saying I had been threatening to leave Korea for so long it was "akin to the boy who cried wolf" but he agreed if I am no longer happy here, it's time to move on.

The excitement has been missing from my relationship with South Korea for some time. We've reached the stage where we're simply tolerating each other "for the sake of the kids" and I'm constantly pointing out "his" faults. (I view most countries, like ships and waterways, as female, but I definitely view Korea as an old, set-in-his ways, misogynist male.) He, in turn, ignores me, and I'm not good at being ignored.

Meanwhile, in the wings, waits a richer, older, more experienced Kingdom. Offering excitement and adventure and really wild things.

So, it's time to leave South Korea. I hope we'll remain friends as he has been better to me than he's been bad. I'll visit, to see the kids and check how he is doing, but he's not been doing too well of late and I don't want him dragging me down any longer. I also hope to stop in and see his younger brother, North Korea, but the younger brother is capricious and may not allow that. We'll see how the relationship evolves - these things take time.

But, it's time to move on. To stop expecting Korea to change to suit me, to say thanks for the memories and always treasure them, and to look to my own future. The kids are old enough to look after themselves now . . .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Heading to the Middle Kingdom . . .

Gyeongbukgong - Seoul is showing it's best side as I prepare to leave.

I shared an article yesterday that inspired some lively debate among friends on travel, relationships and life. I am blessed with the amazing, talented, adventurous friends I have and they constantly inspire and challenge me. For me, while I didn't agree with the whole "find a partner" aspect of the piece, I loved the reminder of what travel offers. The following is from the article, with the romantic advice removed (I didn't even correct the writer's grammar and spelling) :
. . .  who’s lived out of a backpack because he lives happily with less. A boy who’s travelled has seen poverty and dined with those who live in small shanty’s with no running water, and yet welcome strangers with greater hospitality than the rich. And because he’s seen this, he’s seen how a life without luxury can mean a life fueled by relationships and family, rather than a life that fuels fancy cars and ego. He’s experienced different ways of being, respects alternative religions and he looks at the world with the eyes of a five-year-old, curious and hungry. 
It was a timely reminder as I prepare to go to China for at least a year, a choice that has caused very different reactions among the people I know. My soulmates - the adventurers or adventurous at heart - are excited for me and planning their own visits. An amazing friend had booked a 10-day trip within an hour of me making my choice public, I already have other visitors confirmed from as close as Seoul and as far away as Arkansas. Acquaintances have been more negative, but it's possible to find negative in anything if you try. I acknowledge their concerns and assure them I intend to have an exciting adventure, and even the bad times make for good stories when one is a writer. As for my beloved, I'm not quite sure.

Then, on my way home, I picked up a travel guide for China, wanting to start planning mini adventures and also to work out where I'll be living. The map was inadequate to give me more than a neighborhood but on browsing the book, I realized I know the area. The Pearl Market is there, where I've been to buy pearls (obviously) and silk on previous visits. So I now have a mind map of where my new home is in relation to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, which I view as the center of the city. It's become much more real to me, knowing that, and I'm getting excited.

I'm also excited by the magnitude of China and the knowledge my new employers want me to write of it, and also of the countries that surround it. I'm already trying to decide whether to take the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian Railway on a trip to Moscow, and realizing that there is so much to see and do in China and it's near neighbors that a year will fly by in a mere blink. Did I already mention that I am excited?  

I will miss Seoul, and the city is particularly beautiful right now, but we're no longer happy together so it is time to move on. Korea has been good to me but I never intended to stay as long as I have. I'll still visit, we'll  stay good friends, but it's time to part. Jeju will always be part of my heart, but there are direct flights there from China so I'll still be a transient resident.

But for now, I'm making lists of where to go and what to experience and looking forward to a glut of topics to write about. I'm also looking forward to sharing the adventure with those friends who come to visit in person and those who come to read my tales of the Middle Kingdom.

The adventure continues . . .

Missing text . . .

I wrote a post the other night, that those few who read it thought the most personal and beautiful I'd written here.

I deleted it because I realized parts of it might hurt someone I have no desire to hurt. I hate that I lost the words, but I will always have other words.

Sorry to be so enigmatic. It has been brought to my attention that not all who read me do so because they enjoy my writing.

But, that's done now, on to a new and exciting post . . .

Saturday, May 11, 2013

China, Korea, Aotearoa, America


It's been a busy and hectic few weeks.

For those who have lost track (ME!), the Kiwi applied for a job in China back in December but large bureaucracies move slowly and, after many long conversations with many different people, got a great offer Tuesday.

She also, separately, was asked to manage the Seoul VFW because of staffing issues, and agreed to, not realizing how sick the smoke there would make her.

By the way, the flightless bird quit Yonhap in a fit of principle in December, was earning peanuts and being treated like a monkey at her new job and worried about her dearest being able to cover his bills and other commitments (but, being an American male, he would never accept her money anyway).

So, the VFW is now not only surviving but has a better manager, the Kiwi is very excited about China and friends already have tickets to visit, and she is counting down the weeks in Korea. Yonhap photo snafu's and the president's spokesman being an assclown in Washington are at least making that embarrassingly amusing.

As is a compatriot, who sent an e-mail yesterday that she was being detained by immigration and unable to contact the embassy. Obviously, that rings alarm bells, so the shy, retiring bird forwarded the e-mail to the Ambassador and publicity officer.

Here's where it is absolutely amazing to come from a small country - the message to the Ambassador came back with an auto-response that he was on leave for three days but in less than five minutes, he'd personally responded that he had people on the issue. They did what they could, as did the Kiwi.

As for America, I love it (and him), but am choosing China right now for adventure, travel, career advancement and food. Am hoping to survive the air, and looking forward to visiting friends in Shanghai and making new friends elsewhere.

Watch this space . . .

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's not only "their" fault . . .

A Jezebel article appeared on my facebook page yesterday about the concept of female "purity" and I read it quickly, agreed with much of it, and shared it. Then had a totally unrelated long conversation with a long-married man who is a "great provider," didn't argue with my love because he isn't talking to me again this week, slept  a little, thought a lot then reread the story today.

And, as much as I agree that the idea of purity and the whole "girls you fuck, girls you marry" concept is bullshit, I don't agree it is all the fault of males. I also don't agree that blaming males is any more valid than the whole "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" bullshit. (Apologies, John and Will, I'll tone the language down now.)

Quick reality check, people. Women are from earth, Men are from earth, both are human and fallible, get over it! The men writer Lindy West is complaining about on Jezebel were raised by women who helped instill their misogynist views. Elizabeth Stark was taught her "used gum" analogy by her parents and religious teachers, who were not all men. (I mean no disrespect to Stark's parents here, I understand they did not view her as "spoiled" when she returned but a precious gift they thought they had lost.)

But let's be honest, ladies, are we any better? How many times have I read articles by women writers on the "wrong guy" or the "bad guy" who is the "fun guy," versus the "good provider" we want to marry and be the father of our children? I've seen women who view their husbands or significant others as little more than an open wallet and I've seen men who treat their partners with disdain or disrespect. I avoid those people rather than expecting they are the norm.

Here's an idea, Lindy West. Why not avoid PEOPLE who think that way, regardless of their gender, and treat others with the respect you want to be treated with. It may not get as many shares on Jezebel, but you might be happier.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The good, the bad, and the terminally stupid . . .

Walking to work this morning, I took this shot of  newly reopened Namdaemun/Sungryemun and thought how much I love this crazy mixed-up country.

I was working at a local newspaper when an irate ajeossi set fire to National Treasure No. 1 in 2008 and was amazed it had no security or sprinkler systems. I've been walking past it almost daily as it has been rebuilt, and was happy this morning to see it open, and full.

I took this pic, crossed with the light and veered right, assuming I could enter the gate that way. There was no entrance so I slipped through the fence, wanting to get off the main street before the lights changed again, as it's one of Seoul's busiest thoroughfares. The mistake was mine, but it looks like the most obvious way to enter.

I then encountered another irate ajeossi, this one in a uniform, who tried to physically push me back over the fence, onto a road now full of traffic. The only English he could speak was the word "Go!" which he screamed at me loudly. I held up my hands, told him to remove his hands from me and took his photograph.

Well done, Korea, for restoring the gate. Perhaps you need to give your tour guides a few lessons if you want people to feel welcome here.