‘Vomit’ – My Korean ‘cultural’ column

Sometimes – as the product of a few too many drinks – you have a really stupid conversation about something really ridiculous. It’s inevitable. If you happen to work for a magazine, however, and that conversation happens to be with your editor, it can end up turning into much more than just a drunken conversation. This is exactly what happened here.

‘Vomit’ was a concept Julian and I came up with, in which I used my well developed talent for criticizing things to good effect, and spewed some ‘verbal vomit’ on a person or object of my choice each month. All in the name of good fun and comedy, of course. I was a little surprised when he got back to me a few weeks ago and asked me to knock up a couple, largely as I thought there wasn’t anyone out there (espeically in conservative minded Korea) who would actually publish it. I guess I was wrong, Bling (the biggest magazine I’ve ever worked for up to this point) took it on. Below are my first two columns (to be published either both in January, or January and February). Be warned, those who worship either God or Guns and Roses may not take this too well…

Is Axl the King of Irony?

You’ve gotta love Guns and Roses. As a public relations exercise, taking seventeen years to make an album was a stroke of genius. The ‘release’ of Chinese Democracy is the music medias best loved April Fools prank, and GnR’s have been living off the publicity while many of their peers faded into obscurity. Then, just when we think it’s never going to happen, Axl obliges his ever-loyal fans and picks up another royalty check. Maybe he ran out of cash.

The facts surrounding the album are astounding: it’s banned in China, it’s almost single handedly responsible for bankrupting the bands former record company and it features 18 different ‘members’ of GnR’s. Axl could hardly have milked it more. It’s probably for the best, as the overwhelming statistics have largely overshadowed the hypocrisy of the content.

An unsubtle stab at ‘democratic’ China, the politically loaded lyrics of Chinese Democracy seem more than a tad ironic coming from the lips of GnR’s notoriously tyrannical front man. The banning of the album in China was about as shocking as the restriction of protests at the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese government, however, would do well not to copy the leadership that has left Axl with little more than an imitation of his stunningly successful band.

The revolving door of Musicians involved in the new album – many of whom he recruited, irritated profusely and then fired – were never going to provide the stunning musical backdrop to Axl’s crooning voice that Slash and Co. had previously offered. Axl evidently never realized that the vast majority of the talent in his band lay elsewhere.

Was Chinese Democracy worth the wait? Well being a CD – as opposed to, say, the democratization of a country – obviously not. It’s not bad, but when an album takes seventeen years, not bad doesn’t really cut it. Whilst very listenable, Chinese Democracy is dated and lacks the originality of any of GnR’s earlier work. Frankly I was far more entertained by it before it came out. And just to top it all off, now that Hell is officially frozen over, we have to come up with a new prank this April.

Sunday Morning Blues? Fight back on Saturday Night

It’s 9am on a Sunday morning. The battering of the Green-Eyed Soju Monster against the inside of your skull is threatening to raise you prematurely from a Hongdae induced coma. Someone, at this unearthly hour, is drumming his fist hard against the flaky wood of your apartment door. You want to leave it, but last night is blurry, and you can’t be sure if everyone made it home. Besides, who else could it be but a friend in need?

As soon as you get to the door you know you’ve made a big mistake. You never could think straight after a big night. Standing on your doorstep, dressed in a cheap suit and curve-covering flowery dress, are the bane of Seoul expat society. Right there, just visible through your blurry eyed morning vision, are a couple of Jehovah’s witnesses. Your heart sinks.

What is it with these guys? They seem to work on several assumptions: a. people actually change their beliefs when confronted by uninvited strangers; b. the hung-over are more susceptible to badly made arguments and c. winning a debate on morals and ethics is possible when you believe harmless things like homosexuality are wrong.

Now, I wouldn’t want to restrict religious freedoms, so I’ve come up with an alternative solution: beat them at their own game. For one night only, we should forsake our Hongdae gatherings and spread ourselves far and wide across Seoul, promoting our own ‘religion’. We can print flyers on ‘the questions God doesn’t answer’, ‘How religion is damaging society’ and ‘What it’s like to have faith in science’. We can wow our convertees with the promise of eternal bliss (at least until last orders). Then we can all refuse to open the door the next morning.

So, who’s free on Christmas Eve?

Note: the titles used above are adaptations of commonly spread religious pamphlets. Fair’s fair!

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