Elwood 5566

I Don’t Mind Fat People – I Have a Fat Neighbour!

Posted in 'Westernization' of Korea, bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Health care, podcasts by 노강호 on March 29, 2011

Currently, Korea has one of the lowest levels of obesity in the world, but things are rapidly changing

podcast 77

I’m a fat arse and not particularly ashamed of it but then it’s much easier being fat if you’re male. This week I’ve had a difficult time being large as I’ve injured my knee and with the snow and ice have had to take taxis to work. I only work three or four minutes from where I live but I’ve noticed a pattern with what is probably a case of tendinitis in that if I rest it gets better, if I walk it aggravates it and hence I am trying to rest as much as possible. The problem is compounded because constant hobbling has already put strain on other muscles and joints and they too have joined the rebellion.

But the hard time I am currently suffering doesn’t just concern the extra pressure that weight puts on the joints but the extra pressure that you incur socially as a result of being fat. I haven’t bothered to go to the hospital as I immediately know their first response will be to tell me to loose weight. Frankly, an obvious response but one that is usually made and which is both a euphemism for attributing you with the blame and also a means of gloating over your predicament because you’ve taken too much pleasure in food. I see much of the attack made on fat people, especially in Britain where the debate is front page news, as a form of schadenfreude and largely media induced.   Even two pharmacists have very kindly told me I should eat less.

Many people simply have no grasp of the problems involved in being overweight and are apt to make the most asinine comments. Fat people know they should loose weight, they know they should eat less, and they probably know more about healthy eating than many professionals and probably more than you. It should be clear to any sensible person that the trends in weight gain witnessed in numerous countries with diverse cultures between them goes deeper than individual lack of will power or not knowing that a stick of carrot is healthier than a pack of lard, and is rooted in an array of social factors.

Most kids would prefer this to a quarter pounder and fries!

There is a concern with obesity in Korea, but fatness is still very much in its infancy. However, the number of fast-food establishments grows and the number of convenience foods available in supermarkets rapidly expands. McDonald’s plan to have 500 restaurants situated in Korea by 2015 (Korea JoongAng Daily March 2010). Worse, they intend increasing the number of schools participating in their ‘after school program’ which includes lessons on healthy eating. At this stage, I want to tear my hair out because parents actually send their kids to these programs, schools and politicians actually help facilitate their dissemination and teachers actually deliver their content. Any parent who allows a corporation like McDonald’s to take a hand in the ‘education’ of their kids needs arresting for child abuse and subsequently requires sterilization.  As for the politicians, schools management and teachers… shame on you!  In Britain, parents who are overweight or have overweight kids are slammed and ridiculed by the media and a moronic public who fiddle with themselves over the ‘successes’ of celebrities who have lost weight by undergoing expensive gastric surgery but ignore how McDonalds, (and others companies such as BP, Sunny Delight, Flora, etc) get a foot in schools with after school clubs, painting and story competitions, promotional goods or school equipment etc, etc. Yes, it might be innocuous, but as innocuous as booking a paedophile for a kid’s party. I know McDonalds encourage healthy eating but that’s the ploy to get the kids in the restaurant.  Have you ever taken a hungry kid in McDonald’s and then satisfied them with a couple of slices of bagged apple? The ‘apple’ gimmick works all round: it’s the passport for McDonald’s to get a foot in the door of schools, for parents, politicians and those loco parentis it absolves them of guilt and shame and for kids it’s a ticket into a McDonald’s store where they will quickly demand burgers, fries and milkshakes with the apple dipper bag either discarded on the tray with the wrappers or taken away as a snack.

McDonald’s – where foods are transformed into toy-like things in the attempt to secure future consumer loyalty

This week, my boss and a friend were excitedly talking about some shopping they had bought in E-Mart which included a new range of microwave meals such as bokkumbap and black noodles. The line in microwaveable fast food has been almost nonexistent and I was immediately reminded of supermarkets back in the UK where a substantial portion of the store is devoted to gargantuan freezers providing an enormous range of microwaveable food.   Unlike convenience stores in Korea, UK versions such as Tesco One Stops provide a large range of unhealthy foods: frozen burgers, burgers ready to microwave, frozen curries, rolls and sandwiches, various pies, pasties, pizzas, microwave French fries and sausage rolls. I haven’t even mentioned the fast food available in cans! I can only snack in my local GS25, there are only ever one or two sandwiches, a few kimbaps and the remainder mostly crisps and drinks and you certainly couldn’t furnish enough to make a meal. There are no mega pound bars of chocolate and biscuits come in piddly little packets and/or are individually wrapped – which sort of kills the fun! However, I could eat very unhealthily on a daily basis on the junk from my local Tesco One Stop. In terms of supermarkets, the same differences exists except greatly magnified. In a western supermarket there are plenty of unhealthy options to lure me and they are usually instant or at the very most require bunging in a pan or microwave. In Korea, there are plenty of goodies available but only if you assemble them with a recipe – which if you do is healthier because to produce the item requires physical activity. And in Korea I don’t even have a can opener!

Imperial Tesco – the One Stop

Living in Korea makes you more aware of the unhealthy nature of western eating habits and trends which the obesity debate in the UK generally overlooks. There is a stupid assumption that the nature of how we shop, what is available, and the impact of advertising haven’t changed in the last hundred years and that all that has happened is that people, the weak willed or working class,  are ‘eating too much and exercising less.’ I very much suspect that not only has the production and consumption of food radically changed, but what foods contain, what fillers and padding now adulterate them, are recent exploitations.

the ultimate in ersatz, Hershy’s chocolateless chocolate

I  love chocolate, but rarely buy it in Korea firstly because it is often that shite American type Hershey’s chocolate which  in comparison to Belgian or Swiss chocolate, is totally chocolate-less and ersatz and secondly; it looks like chocolate, smells like chocolate, but there’s hardly any chocolate in it at all (and I know there are exceptions). Secondly, the bars are too small and thin. Crunchy for example is wafer thin. Other brands come in small packets or involve unwrapping each piece. In the UK, where chocolate is one up from Hershey’s but still pretty crappy,we now have bars of chocolate that are so big you could knock  someone out with one, bludgeon them to death and the little bars of chocolate I remember from my childhood, Mars Bar, Kit-Kat, Twix, Marathon, etc, are now enormous bars that you eat single-handed. The  accusations manufacturers were promoting obesity by producing such enormous bars has been rectified by dividing the bar into two segments,  each the same size as the original single bar, and wrapping it in one wrapper. Divided or not it still amounts to twice the amount of chocolate!  And burgers have increased in size. I remember when a Whopper or Big Mac was the ultimate burgers. The Big Mac was so big it had to be sold in a box. Now it’s in a wrapper and though it still looks big it’s not the dead weight of a double quarter-pounder let alone a triple quarter-pounder. A double quarter-pounder is almost one-third more calories than a Big Mac. I also remember when the Whopper, now known as the Original Whopper (710 calories), was the largest Burger King had to offer and was provided in a box with a fold down side so you could slide it into your mouth. The Original Whopper, a massive burger in the 1980’s, is now small compared to the almost 1000 calorie-laden Double Whopper Sandwich.

I have to admit, this is clever

If I was to be able to see the size of meals my family ate when I was a boy, I’d probably be shocked. I’m sure I eat as much meat in one UK meal now as my entire family ate  in one meal when I was young. Of course, what one eats is an individual choice but if I buy a bar a chocolate that has two segments, I find it hard not to eat them both. However, if there were only one segment in the packet, I’d have been content. If you put a pound of meat on my plate I’m probably going to eat it or at least I will eat more than I would have if you’d only given me 4 ounces.  I know it’s my individual choice that makes me consume but I don’t need help to do so. I have eventually come to the conclusion that I am overweight largely because I’ve been a single person in a family orientated consumer society. The packet of biscuits for a family of four are the biscuits I buy for one and it’s the same with most food that is packaged. However, it’s much easier food shopping for one in Korea as biscuits, chocolates and even tins of tuna are available in smaller portions. (Ironically, with toilet paper, washing-up liquid and washing powder, it’s the opposite). Meanwhile, the enormous Snicker bars, containing two segments, have arrived on Korean shores as has it’s cousin, the Snickers ice cream bar.

Welcome to Korea!

So, when I ask my pharmacist for some pain killers for a sore knee, she very kindly tells me I should lose weight.  She almost whispers it with an accompanying smile. I want to call her a ‘fucking nosey bitch!’ but I like her and her lack of tact is cultural.  However, the audacity catches me unaware and momentarily transfixed, I stare at her gormlessly. There is a sudden mellowing of my mental processes; lose weight? Why hadn’t I thought of that before?  Such snippets of professional wisdom, the result of years of intense study, woke me to my senses.  I never realised that people within normal weight parameters never suffer injured knees! Have you ever seen a skinny person limping or a grey-haired skinny requiring a walking stick? No!  Knee problems only ever affect fatties and clearly injuries such as ‘athlete’s knee’ and ‘tennis elbow’ are sarcastic terms for anything but a sporty person’s ailments.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

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Sausages and Shit – Comparissons in Smut humour

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, No Pumpkin Category, podcasts, Westerners by 노강호 on April 30, 2010

podcast 15

Around a year ago, I wrote several mini plays for my younger students with the intention of encouraging stress and intonation and injecting some emotion into what was often flat and dull dialogue. Out of this came an idea to write something using those words which Koreans always mispronounce. I  trialed I’m Pine’ in a small class and quite scared the kids as I was the only one laughing, indeed I was hysterical and all red-faced and coughing. Meanwhile, the kids looked on without the slightest clue what I was laughing at. I abandoned the project when I realised that fnarr fnarr, innuendo and smut, work as effectively on Koreans as sarcasm. However, if you pronounce sarcasm more like ‘sharcasm’ or ‘sharcashi’ it will elicit a response as this has something to do with oral sex. If you use this word on Kindergarten kids you’ll need to explain it more graphically, perhaps by way of eating a banana or sausage.

I mean! Its a cock! Isnt it?

Have you noticed how you can have a roomful of Korean kids eating bananas or sausages and no one ever makes a joke or gesture about sucking a cock? In a class of British kids there will always be one who makes the connection public. My sister and I can never eat phallic food  without making jokes or obscene gestures and many a time one of us has deep throated a banana after using our teeth to quickly groove it a suitable helmet and meatus.  A banana might not strike one as a suitable replica of a cock, but one advantage is you can embellish it with far greater success than for example a sausage, which like cosmetic surgery, often  results in a simply ghastly mutilation. Bock-wurst sausages, the most realistic of phallic foods are particularly amusing  as like truly big cocks, no matter how hard you slurp, they remain bendy. Bratwurst too, can slip in and out of the throat provided not too hot or over grilled, when the skin splits and they can scratch your throat.  Westerners are much more apt to defile items resembling a cock in terms of texture or shape and pepperonis, lychees, strawberries, bananas, the entire gamut of sausages, marrows, courgettes, cucumbers,  etc, etc, are all the butt of our crude humour.

All the fun of a saveloy! (1982)

The herculean efforts required to suck away a stick of seaside rock provide an extension to, and memory of, holiday joys

Can we westerners eat a banana or saveloy in public without a fleeting association of it being a cock? Is it possible  for us to eat a banana without some awareness that we mustn’t lavish our lips too long on the tip or caress it fleetingly with a tongue.   We must certainly never suck it like a lolly, that’s a cardinal sin. And what about rock, the great British seaside tradition? Rock, and things like barley sticks can all be vigorously sucked without ever offending the sensibilities as can corn on the cob, the eating of which is never passive and certainly reminiscent of nuzzling along the girth of a bloated shaft.

Infinitely more gratifying, are the girth and grease of a sausage

In commercials, it is permissible to suggest oral gratification provided the object being ‘sucked,’ or more usually poked between pouted lips (of a sexy woman), is something lifeless and hence lollies and cream eggs are often subject to titillation. For the British juvenile commercial, fellatio is epitomised by the Cadbury’s chocolate flake  in which the references are all cock but the moment the tongue probes  that  helmet-less stump the thing either melts or flakes apart. There is an unspoken rule that sucking or licking something in public or  alluding to  the oral stimulation of a penis is acceptable provided the phallus in play is hard, unyielding, cold, fragile, brittle, and basically void of any life.  Once all the qualities of life are removed,  all potential threats nullified and nicified, you can lick it and suck it as much as you like. This is why it is okay to suck a lolly, the rigidity and cold reminiscent of a cock with rigor rather than one with vigour, but not a banana.  This is the reason you can never suck on a saveloy or nuzzle up the shaft of a succulent sausage, holding it in daintily between your fingers and it is why, in your favourite bistro, you never dip the head of your Cumberland  in the creamy mashed potato, lube it up with as smidgen of thick gravy,  and commence to lick it like a lolly.

All the characteristics of a beefy cock

A Walnut Whip

Such associations are lost on Koreans  and to me at least, with my filthy western mind, it seems as though such humour should be universal, I mean, a sausage, especially a long bendy one, it’s a cock, isn’t it? Six inches plus of warm meat, firm but not unyielding, broad enough to gnaw  like a sweetcorn, slightly oily and let’s not forget, juicy. They even have a skin! How could such characteristics not remind you of a cock? But give a Korean a turd, especially one whirled like an ice cream, and they’ll be highly amused. Seriously, one of the first words I learned  to recognise was ‘ddong,’ (똥). In those first few weeks  in Korea, I was quite intrigued by the appeal that many kids had for drawing ‘ice cream’ whirls on desks and walls. Why ice-cream, I thought? Are they hungry? There was a Baskin Robbins opposite my school but their ice-cream wasn’t whirled. And the whirls, expertly drawn, were literally everywhere: on desks on the wall and  even in notebooks.

Naturally, such visualizations are culturally informed. I shit quite differently back in the UK where my turds, and those left loitering in toilet bowls which I’ve had the misfortune to see, are rarely whirled; a whirled turd probably symptomatic of a bad stomach. No! Western poohs are more like yule  tide logs, bulky, loaded, substantive and sticky. If you’ve lived in Korea for any amount of time, and your diet is predominantly Korean food, you may have noticed how long a toilet roll lasts. I mean, two wadges are ample to clean your arse because you shit so fast  any residue left loitering  in your dirt track is dragged out by suction. If I had to calculate the time it takes to sit down, shit, and mop up, then on an average basis the process is far quicker on a Korean diet. Living in Korea actually adds time to your life because the moment you sit down, ‘hwang,’ and it’s out. Two little dabs with toilet paper, wash yours hands  and you’re done! You have to wash your hands if your from the UK as research by a British University discovered that 15-53% of British people  have  traces of shit on their hands.  Apparently, the further north you travel the shitier the hands. Since being made aware of this, as an act of both sanitation and disassociation,  I now use anti-bacterial hand-wash after every dump.

A national icon. Mr Whippy

A National icon. Mr Whippy!

Mr Pooh

Poohing Korean Style can take place in less than a minute. Korean faecal flurry can’t wait to get out, indeed your body blasts it into the loo in one atomic fart. But the moment you hit western food, the pastries, bread, burgers, potato, pizzas, and copious amounts of meat,  and every fibre of  your lower intestine is fighting to keep that clotted log contained in your gut and it’s so gargantuan in girth and solid in consistency that expelling it, like birthing, takes not just considerable will power but  a  highly rubberous ring piece. In its wake, a trail of muck, always sticky, pasty and clingy and which can only be removed by massaging it around your butt, sort of rubbing it off,  with half a roll of paper.  No wonder we need extra ply shit paper, and little lotioned wipes to prod our butts because an English diet, and this is the worst part, involves having to  manually dredge yourself. With all that poking,  and a paper draped digit, even double ply,  is never a reliable defense,  I’m not surprised many Brits have shit on their hands.  And I wonder how much psychological damage is done having to finger around the flesh of that dirty clam on a daily basis. How much of our national psyche is  shaped by those ‘turdy’ experiences. No  wonder we don’t like to touch each other and seldom shake hands, no wonder we are so unfriendly, no wonder pooh is taboo! Fingering shit first thing in the morning is a vile and shameful way to start the day and knowing that everyone else has been digging the dirt is hardly conducive to community spirit!

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©  林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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