Thursday, March 27, 2008

Repost - GalleyCat: Peggy Seltzer: Fourteen Minutes and Counting

Well, the discussion still goes on about Love and Consequences. I've stopped talking about it just because I haven't read any new perspectives. However, when I trip over them, I'll keep you up on the new commentaries on it.

Peggy Seltzer: Fourteen Minutes and Counting

margaret-jones-fakememoir.jpgThe op-ed section of Eugene, Oregon's Register-Guard squeezes a few more inches of copy out of the scandal surrounding their local literary fraudster, Peggy Seltzer, with one more op-ed about Love and Consequences. Veteran journalist John Hurst takes a couple whacks at the handful of university professors who, in his characterization, "have been circling their academic wagons around her... with spirited public defenses of Seltzer’s moral right to lie." In addition to Gordon Sayre, who defended Sayre's lies as valid self-expression, there's been the but-it-was-so-beautifully-written defense and the at-least-it-wasn't-boring defense... all of which leads Hurst to suggest facetiously that maybe journalists should embrace a more freewheeling attitude towards the truth.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, Chris Lehmann catches up to the debate, echoing my comments during the first few days after "Margaret B. Jones" was exposed as a fraud that Seltzer delivered exactly what the industry wanted: "Here was a wrenching narrative of personal triumph over adversity," he summarizes, "pitching a tough but sentimental ingenue against the lurid doings of a cruel, dangerous world." Then there's the usual stuff about James Frey and Holocaust hoaxers, before Lehmann sinks his teeth into a really sharp analysis of just how heavily Seltzer's narrative played the victim card, and how "actively offensive" the portrait of inner-city society she crafted to resonate with liberal guilt fantasies really is.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Club Spektra Party on Friday in Chungdam, Seoul

Update 1: March 29, 2008 @ 1:35pm

Let me say that Club Spektra was a great party. Make sure you're there next time.

Here is the write up from FMS.



These folks are some new friends of mine, so if you're in Seoul, check this party out.

It will be this Friday, March 28th at Club Answer in Chungdam.

The flier has phone numbers and a map. Just click on the pic for full size.

They also have a MySpace page.

See you there!


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The Korea Herald: Regina Walton's Expat Interviews - Schulte's wines fill a void in Seoul

The Korea Herald: Regina Walton's Expat Interviews - Schulte's wines fill a void in Seoul

While Seoul might not be New York City or London, it does have many interesting activities and events. Some of the more worthy of note are wine tasting events put on by Dan Schulte, CEO of Pieroth Wines, Korea.

Considering that I use wine tasting events to prove that Seoul is moving up in the culture ranks, imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a new wine bar in Seoul. Imagine my additional excitement when I heard that this wine bar was operated by none other than Dan Schulte and his associates at Pieroth Wines.

"It's just one of those things that you happen to be in the right place in the right time," said Schulte on how he found the position with Pieroth Wines.

After working in Japan for two years, he came to Korea initially to work for Cambridge University Press, specializing in marketing "English language learning books to all the universities in Korea. I did that for about seven years. It had reached a maturity point, and I was ready to move on ... I was still keeping my eyes open to see if could see anything interesting."

He added: "I had quite high standards of what would keep me here." Something interesting presented itself when he heard that Pieroth Wines was looking for someone to send to Europe to learn about wines in-depth, and who would in turn help them establish their wine business in Seoul. Pieroth Wines, a German wine company specializing in top-quality wines, fit his high standards and he fit what they were looking for, due to his success in establishing Cambridge University Press in the competitive textbook market in Korea.

In terms of marketing, Dan has achieved great success with Pieroth. Initially, Dan had to convince Pieroth that a mailing list business style wouldn't work in Korea.

"They wanted to set up a mailing-list style of business. Just set up a mailing list, see who is interested, and then do a tasting at their house ... And I told them immediately that would never work here.

"It has to be something through networking and you have to get access to this kind of upper level of society who have the money to drink, the extra time and who've traveled, because in Korea, that's who the wine drinkers are."

He started marketing Pieroth by going to events exclusively, networking and making sales. Over time he says he started "meeting key people who are people who know other people," and their sales grew.

After a while he started creating events where these people would come to special wine events and, in turn, bring new people with them. They realized that there weren't many events happening here for expats, or wine related events.

Dan acted, and now Pieroth Wines fills that void by having "accessible and fun" wine events.

"I had so many customers where I was coming in, and more and more I was becoming more of a consultant rather than just supplying their wines. I would come in and advise them on their business, right down to helping them with their license.

"We started doing all of these things and we started thinking, well, why don't we just open our own bar?"

The need for Kabinett became evident. He realized that while there are bars and lounges south of the Han River where you can sit down and have a nice quiet drink, north of the Han there weren't any "nice places where you could go where you could take a girl on a date and just have a nice drink."

The wine bar is bathed in a soft light, decorated in red tones with stonework and accented with light and dark tones of wood. The atmosphere is welcoming, cozy and comfortable.

The feelings from Pieroth events are the same. You feel welcome, cozy and comfortable, even if wine and wine tasting isn't a regular part of your lifestyle.

Through Kabinett, Schulte is working with other local businesses. Clients include a Latin dance school and a theater company to co-sponsor events. The result is a space that hosts many social functions in a backdrop where anyone from a wine novice to a wine connoisseur can enjoy themselves.

Regarding their events, Schulte says: "We always try present them in a way that is kind of down to earth and everyone can have fun. You always walk away from our events feeling like you've learned something."

"Originally, wine was just a hobby. I'm originally from the (San Francisco) Bay Area," Schulte explained.

Now, he's a resident of Seoul who has an exciting career where he brings something new and interesting to the drinking and dining scene.

An Adobe Acrobat version of the page:

Read this document on Scribd: kh03262008


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Seoul Fashion Week, Day Eight

Yesterday I was just tired and so ready for it to be over. I think I wouldn't have been so tired if it wasn't basically a week of me having two jobs. I was at work teaching in the day and in the evenings I was at the shows and interviewing people. Because the show went through the weekend that means I was there Saturday, Sunday and Monday too (Mondays are my days off.) I'm looking forward to next weekend where I'll make sure to give myself a whole day to myself.

Here is a picture of me, Korean-American signer Park Jeong-hyun and her friend backstage before the last major designer Gee Choon Hee's, 지춘희, show.

moi, Lena aka Jeong-hyun Park (박정현), and friend

In the meantime to entertain you, if you don't know who Lena Park is, here is a video from YouTube of her performing the Eagles classic Desperado at the Korea-Japan Friendship Music Festival in 2005.

I'll add fashion videos soon. Right now I'm in heavy edit and upload mode.

Update 1 - April 3, 2008 @11:20am:

Okay, it's been a few days off from fashion week editing for me. Between a fair amount of social engagements last week and Club Spektra (covered here by FMS), I was just tired when I finally made it home. However now it's time to flip and crop these videos so you can get a feel for what I saw. I'll just add them as I go.

Miss Gee just had an onslaught of tasteful retro inspired clothes coming down the runway. One of my favorites is Barry White. So when the show started off with one my favorite songs from him "Let the Music Play" it was hard to suppress the desire to want to dance around. Of course, I didn't and was able to satiate that desire by looking at the lovely garments coming down the runway.

I also discovered 박희현, Park Hee-hyon, who was one of the runway models. I really liked her look because she has a more authentic look. Yes, I alluding to the excess of eyelid surgery and stuff like that - although she just might have a nose job, it's hard to tell.

Here are a couple of video slices of what I saw.

The start of the Miss Gee F/W 08/09 show:

The end of the Miss Gee F/W 08/09 show:

Here is the beginning of the Lee Young Hee, 이영희, show. She had a great selection of pretty semi-formal and formal dresses and gowns.

Here is the end of the Maison de Lee Young Hee show. She had some wonderful Asian inspired evening gowns. If you can spot it, pause on the strapless hanbok one. I thought it was a lovely dress in what was a lovely collection.

The start and end of the Edward Shin, 신영재, collection, Publicka. The website is embarrassingly sparse, so don't expect to see much. However, if you're Korean you might want to register to see what's there after you register.


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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Seoul Fashion Week, Day Seven

Today was straight up great at Seoul Fashion Week. I've named it "March of the Bad Asses" in my head.

I say this because I saw the Ha Sang Beg, 하상백, show first. And take a look at the video and you should get what inspired me to use the word "march".

What a way to start the day. He's all the rage here. He's a former illustrator, turned model, turned TV fashion correspondent, turned designer and I hear he DJ's from time to time too. He's pretty much doing all of these things simultaneously. That makes him fierce.

He had an awesome show. I also scored an interview with him which turned out great. He's fun to talk to. That interview will make its way to the FeetManSeoul site as soon as we can get through all of the great pictures and interviews we've gotten.

Since Ha has modeled, he's not shy and he opened the show with videos of himself. Now I saw it as him visually giving the crowd an idea of his design concept. I could be wrong about that though. However, whatever the concept was behind it, I liked it.

I'll add more of what I saw, but I LOVED the model who came out first. He basically did a subdued robot (very popular pre-pop locking) routine to the music and then the rest of Ha's fashions followed. It was all wonderful theater and there was a pink jacket that was about thigh length in his collection that I just LOVED.

This is the end of his show.

More videos from this and the other shows I saw will follow. Now, however, it's time to get ready for tomorrow and then it's sleepy time. One more day of Seoul Fashion Week to go and I hope it only gets better from here.

Here comes more video. I'm uploading in reverse chronological order.

The end of the Andy & Debb show.

Their collection was really nice. However, my video shots weren't, so I'll only upload the end of the show. They had great pieces that I could see being stocked and sold in department stores back home. They had a cool 60s retro theme in both the pieces, the styling of their models and, of course, the music. Also, the clothes just kept coming. They have a few stores here in Korea and just seem to really know what they're doing.

The day ran so late that I didn't get a chance to interview them for FMS. However, I hope to sometime soon.


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Seoul Fashion Week, Day Six

Update: May 7, 2008 @ 4:49pm

Finally, an interview has been published. I'll post more as they're uploaded on the FeetManSeoul site.

Korean Fashion Designer Profiles: Hwang Jae Bock


There is no day five because I didn't go to a show on Friday. Instead, when I left work, I ran home because I'd left my cell phone behind that morning. After writing and answering some emails, I headed out to the other side of town to party and spend time with some of the cool folks I've met this week. That was fun because I rarely spend my time south of the Han River. The group I was with made our way back to my side of town later for a party. However, the end of my evening was showing a journalist I met around the big shopping centers of Dongdaemun and that translated into me not getting to sleep until just before 5am. It was all great fun.

I headed back the shows on Saturday and saw a few shows. I took it easy though and out of eight shows I only saw four: Hwang Jae-bock, 황재복; Jeone Mi-young, 전미영; Yang Hee-deuk, 양희득; and Jung Hun-jong, 저혼종.

Hwang Jae-bock's show was great. It was a great way to start a Saturday. She designs beautiful gowns for formal events and celebrity weddings, and even the most cynical girl likes a pretty gown.

She had celebrity Ahn Seon-yeung, 안선영, a comedic actress, modeling in her show.

Here are a couple of videos from her show.

I've got to edit quite a few more video clips from other shows and don't be impressed. By "edit" I mean use a program to flip the video upright. I shoot most shows sideways to get full shots of the outfits on the runway. However, it takes time to edit and upload so this post will evolve with me adding the video clips over the next few days.

Here is video from Jeone Mi-young, 전미영. Her collection is college Lilycomes. I got a chance to sit next to her at the dinner Seoul Fashion Week had for buyers and press. She's a nice lady. We also interviewed her for FMS, so that interview will get posted as soon as it's edited and translated.

Ms. Jeone had a collection of really great dresses with a lot of vibrant patterns and sensuous fabrics. I'm telling you, these Korean designers really know how to make pretty dresses.

The end of her show:

Now for the life of me, I didn't get the Yang Hee-deuk, 양희득, collection. It was a lot of bright colors over bright leggings that you have been able to order from Capezio Dancewear for years. You can't like them all. I mean kudos for throwing the color combos out there, but I didn't see much design or marketability. However, he's got previous collections that do show his design talent.

Here are two clips from the Jung Hun-jong, 저혼종, collection. This was another one that I wasn't feeling. I'm not into over sized appliqués and this collection was full of huge gaudy roses sewed on to otherwise lovely dresses. Since I love pairing red and black together, this collection hurt my otherwise fashion forward sensibilities.

Here is the start:

Here is the end:

Day 6 wasn't a consistently great day for me. However, this is about sharing what I saw, so opinions may differ.


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cheerful Koreans Running Wild in the Streets!!!

I was walking from church on this rainy Easter morning when I was stopped by a big group of really happy and friendly Koreans. I wasn't quite sure what was happening, but then someone handed me this.

Yes, someone stopped me on the street and, with a big smile, handed me an Easter egg and wished me a happy Easter. They asked me a few questions and I told them I was just coming from Easter service at the local Anglican church. It turns out the group was a group of young people and some church elders from the local Presbyterian Church. They'd split up into small groups and are wandering around this morning passing out Easter eggs as I type. Back home a big group comes my way and I brace myself to bust out into a sprint. I thought it was another example of how Korea, particularly the city of Seoul, can be a really fun and random place to live.

Here is a shot of one of the groups I saw roaming around the Gwanghwamun area this morning.

Happy Easter ;)

Another random act of kindness from a few months back.


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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seoul Fashion Week, Day Four

Another partial day for me at Seoul Fashion Week. I got to see two really great shows in the evening, Lee Ju Young, 이주영, and Lie Bong Sang, 이상봉. Both of these designers had exciting and unconventional collections. Lee Ju Young has a love for hard rock music which is apparent in designs and was also apparent in her show. With her clothes you could step out and go to a club or concert. Lie Bong Sang's collection seemed to be like art you can wear. That means some pieces seemed to be more experimental than not, but it was very pretty collection with lots of circle patterns and florals.

moi and Lee Ju Young

I had a chance to interview Lee Ju Young and, like the other designer interviews, it will end up on the FeetManSeoul site.

Here is video from the end of Lee Ju Young's show. She had quite a few celebrities walking down the runway for her. However, since Korean isn't my first language, I'm going to have to look the spelling of their names up. I'll post that info here later. Here is a link to the website for her collection Resurrection.

I was scheduled to interview Lie Bong Sang but tonight everyone was in hyper mode tonight. Even though I had no problem with waiting for him, between parties that were happening later on, lots of peer pressure and a bit of fatigue from the people working there, I didn't get a chance to speak with him tonight. However, I'm hoping I'll be able to track him down sometime soon. We'll see.

Here is video from the end of the Lie Bong Sang show.

I'll be taking Friday off. The general buzz is this weekend is what's going to be kickin'. Tomorrow there will be no fashion week shows for me, but there will be fashion week parties this evening for sure.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Seoul Fashion Week, Day Three

Like I said, I didn't go to the shows at Seoul Trade Exhibition Center today. However, I did catch Jain Song's, 송자인's, collection at Daily Projects in Apgujeong.

Daily Projects is an AMAZING space. At least, it looked nice at night. On the link check the "Garden 1F" page. That gives you wide shots but it still doesn't capture how it looked tonight.

During the show my diabetes reminded me that running too much will get me in trouble. My blood sugar crashed in the middle of the show so badly that after the show I had a can of Welch's grape soda in one hand and a can of lemon lime soda in the other, so the best video I have is from the start of the show. Once that insulin reaction hit full force the shots I got were just horrible.

It's late and I have a couple more that aren't bad. Since I shot the video sideways you get a full picture of the outfits. I couldn't get that right side up. However, it's late now, I'm tired and it's sleepy time.

Update: March 20, 2008 12:15pm

Okay, I've had a chance to flip the videos upright, so here are two with full length shots of what I saw last evening.

Here is the Daily Projects blog. They take orders via email, both domestic and international.


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Love and Consequences: The Discussion Goes on...

Another Peggy Seltzer and Gordon Sayre slap down by Bob Welch, who is a columnist for Eugene's Register-Guard and is an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

If you've been following this you know that Peggy Seltzer was revealed to be a literary fraud and that essentially nothing in her Love and Consequences memoir is even close to the truth. Sayre, who was her professor in 2001, said this:

Every memoir or autobiography is an individual’s fashioning of his or her life, directed toward that individual’s conception of audience. The more intimate or psychological the events recounted — of childhood trauma, of addiction, of religious conversion, or even of racial identity — the more ludicrous it is for readers to insist upon documentary truth.
Huh? I think he forgot this wasn't a memoir at all. It was pure fiction. There was no recounting. I didn't happen.

Bob Welch points this out in a great op-ed piece for the same newspaper.

Authors don’t have literary license to lie

But, with all due respect, to suggest, as Sayre does, that the end justifies the means seems a dangerous defense. Especially for someone whose job is to not only inspire students and share knowledge with them but, you’d hope, to make them appreciate the responsibility that goes along with the freedom to write. Or should.
And there it is.

Here is my response to Sayre's argument.

Thanks to the Galley Cat blog for talking about this: Shutting Down the Peggy Seltzer Apologists.


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Seoul Fashion Week, Day Two

Update: October 25, 2008 @ 3:30pm

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr...for some reason Google has indexed this particular post pretty high up when you search for "Seoul Fashion Week". That means people are landing on a page from the March 2008 F/W shows.

Click HERE to get to all the posts in reverse chronological order (basically, the most recent post is first).

Thanks for stopping by too ;)

I had to work today, so I was only able to make it to a couple of the evening shows at Seoul Fashion Week. I figured today would be really good as it was the last day for men's fashion. It pretty much was.

I had a chance to see two shows, Choi Bum Suk, 최범석, and Song Zio, 송지오. I also had a chance to interview both of them. Those interviews will find their way to the FeetManSeoul site soon.

The treat was the great fashion but also the celebrities showing up. The problem is I keep a far distance the celebrity thing. I know who my favorites are, but, beyond that, I wouldn't know a Korean celebrity if one was right in front of me. It's happened a few times that I've met someone socially not knowing who they were and the people around me are frantically either trying to act cool or they're trying to get me up to speed so that I know I'm talking to so-and-so. I like being wonderfully clueless about the celebrity world. If it's someone I've met a few times over, they seem to appreciate that I don't seem to care much about their notoriety.

One bad thing and this is a constant in Korea with just about every international event: the English is horrible. Because the shows are scheduled so close together, when I've signed up to interview a designer I'll pretty much miss the next show. That means I had time to go through the Lookbook and the designer's concept booklet. Both were over flowing with errors. Seoul Fashion Week is still developing and the designs are so good that I'm sure they'll get more international attention with each show. I just hope that for the next one they hire a competent English editor. (Hint, hint...I'm free.)

I'm not even going to compare the two shows I saw. The designers were totally different and both shows had wonderful clothes.

Choi Bum Suk's, show was very young and fresh. It had a classic rustic influence with lots of plaids and traditional winter patterns, but he changed up the dimensions and jazzed the clothes up with lots of color. This video clip is of the start of his show.

Me and 최범석

Song Zio's show was much more dynamic but structured. He stuck to primary colors, like black and white.
Me and 송지오

The colors he did use were subdued taupes, olive greens and grays. He also had a great treat as two of the models were Korean celebrities.

The crowd gasped and the flashes went off as Cha Seung-won, 차승원, started off the show and there were more gasps as Kim Heung-soo, 김흥수, was at the end of the cycle.
Cha Seung-won

Here is video of the end of Song Zio show. Mr. Cha is the first model and Mr. Kim is the last model.

Sorry for the over exposure in both videos. I think between my bad photography skills and tons of flashes going off, it's just how it is.

I'll be taking tomorrow off from the shows, so I'll give another update on Thursday. The women's collections I'm sure are going to be tons of fun to see too.

Okay, it's been another long day and it's time for bed.


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Monday, March 17, 2008

Seoul Fashion Week, Day One

I've spent the whole day running around Seoul. First, just on personal business. However, I got to the Seoul Fashion Week in the afternoon and had the best time.

Now I've come to finally admit I'm a horrible photographer. However, someone did take a shot of me and designer Han Seung-soo, 한승수. So I can prove I was there ;)

Today was the start of the event and it will go through next Monday. Today and tomorrow will feature men's clothing.

Out of the shows I saw today, my love was the "beyond closet" collection by Ko Tae Yong, 고태용. As stated though, I suck at photography, so keep tabs on the FeetManSeoul website for the pictures.

Here is the start of the "beyond closet" show. The camera is a hand held and it's askew, so forgive me. But, from it, you can catch a quick glimpse of some of the stuff I saw today:

Okay, it's late and I'm tired. I've got to work tomorrow and then I'll get myself over to see the last shows tomorrow.

Here is a shot I found of his show...very nice, no?

FMS has some great shots of Ko Tae Yong's show too.

Here is a funny update. I finally got this pic Mike, aka the Metropolitician and FeetManSeoul, took of me and Korean celebrity Hong Suk Chun. I know Mr. Hong from socializing way too much at his restaurants. Only at an event like this or San Francisco would I be at risk of getting felt up by a gay man ;)


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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fashion is Feeling

I was on the subway heading home Friday night when I saw these ads on the subway door.

I just thought it was interesting and somewhat clever. It's the slogan for the doota! fashion mall in Dongdaemun market that caught my eye "Fashion is Feeling."

I think that is it. It's how it makes you feel whether direct, 'cause you're looking good, or indirect, because people draw certain conclusions about you based on how you're dressed. But it really ultimately is how wearing whatever it is makes you feel.

Since Seoul's fashion week, Seoul Collection, is next week and I'll be there, I figure why not start with a little fashion philosophy.


Feetmanseoul's: Doota Podcast
NYTimes: April Can Wait (ready to wear fashion week in Paris and its street fashion)


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Friday, March 14, 2008

A Funny Commentary on Fakers

Thanks to Kate over at FishBowlLA for sending this to me.

The Phoenix: Pants afire

Yes, if you’re impatient with the facts, if you feel they require enhancement, colorization, or “jazzing up,” now’s your moment. If you’re Tom Ashbrook, on the other hand, the times are vexed. “A program note,” announced the host of WBUR’s On Point on Tuesday, March 4, sounding unwontedly small-voiced and glum. “In our second hour on Friday, you may recall we talked with an author. Thought her name was [slight spin of sarcasm] Margaret B. Jones. Her new memoir was Love and Consequences, it was about life in South Central Los Angeles, growing up half-white, half–Native American, uh, running with gangs there, selling drugs for the Bloods . . .” A sigh. “Well, it comes out today the whole thing was a fraud . . . Story a complete, uh, fraud, the publisher now says. We’re learning this along with everybody else. It is embarrassing, it is frustrating, it’s kind of infuriating. Don’t know what to make of the memoir business in this country . . . Going to have to be a little warier in the future, and I trust you will, too.”

Poor old Ashbrook. Sing-songing his way through the Great American Conversation, with the grandest themes of the culture constellated around him in Newtonian splendor, he had collided head-on with Planet Bullshit. The deconstruction of Margaret B. Jones had been swift: a week after the publication of Love and Consequences, following a profile in the House & Home section of the New York Times (“One of the first things I did once I started making drug money was to buy a burial plot”), her real-life older sister dropped the dime on her. Margaret B. Jones, gifted ghetto survivor, was actually Margaret Seltzer, well-educated Valley Girl, and everything in her book — the guns, the drugs, the foster care — was fiction. Or rather, it wasn’t fiction, because it had been advertised as truth: it was bullshit.

And the weird thing is, if you listen to her original On Point interview, you can hear it. You can hear the conditions for bullshit being created in the ardent queries of the duped Ashbrook — “How old was Terrell when he got ‘jumped in’?”, “And how did Big Momma feel about that?” — and you can hear bullshit grooming itself in her sketchy, improvisational replies. The philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, in his lapidary little primer On Bullshit, taught us that the focus of the true bullshitter is “panoramic rather than particular. He does not limit himself to inserting a certain falsehood at a specific point, and thus he is not constrained by the truths surrounding that point or intersecting it. He is prepared, so far as required, to fake the context, as well.” Or as Margaret B. told Ashbrook, parrying one of his more direct questions, “You have to take that artistic vision.”


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is why...

This is why I'm a misanthrope.

I'm a little pissy right now. I'll tell you why. I went out last night with a group of people. Now, for the most part, it was fun. But, seriously, sometimes people just don't know how to act.

I'll admit I'm sensitive. It might not come off in the way I present myself. I'm confident for sure. I know my stuff but I'm also interested in hearing what others have to say on things. I mean how else do you learn if you don't take the time to listen to other people? I also know, however, that my facial expressions reveal volumes. The one thing I don't have is a poker face. It's the drama and performance art school wiring that still hasn't worn off.

Anyway, I'm out and an acquaintance of mine was frequently lamenting about how she needed to find work. I've been here awhile, she's a smart and funny person, so I went out of my way to ask my Korean friends to let me know about any job openings they'd hear of. I forwarded whatever I got and lo and behold through one of my contacts she got an interview. Cool, right?

Turns out this was around the same time I'd gotten back to Seoul after my great vacation home. I was, and still am, heartsick 'cause it seems there's a great guy back home who really likes me. I was homesick for a myriad of other reasons and wondering if coming back for one more year was really worth it. But, most importantly, I was jet-lagged like a mug. Both mentally and physically, this was one of the hardest readjustments I'd ever had since I moved here and, no, this stuff didn't work at all.*

As a result, I started turning off my phone because I was waking up at 1 or 2am Korea time which is 9 or 10am in California time. Basically, just as I was wondering if I'd made the right choice, my body was refusing to switch back to GMT +9 time without a fight.

Well, as I said, she got the interview, hooray! However, she'd not told me about it nor did I have any clue about what was going on until the day she's got to show up. This is the story. I finally wake up. I turn on my phone and there is this frantic text message from her asking me how to get to her interview. I text her back saying I was jet lagged and turned my phone off, but that I hope she made it there and to keep me posted. Well, she didn't keep me posted. In fact, I got radio silence from her. I sensed she was irritated with me.

I finally saw her last evening and she said that she was irritated with me for having my phone off. Excuse me? Last I checked, if it weren't for me you wouldn't have heard about the job. Second, I'm careful over careful regarding job interviews to the point that I will go in advance to scope out the location just to make sure I know where it is. Third, I'd never have the nerve to pull attitude on someone who'd given me a connection to get work. My style is a bit more gracious. I thank people who use their resources to help me.

Later on we're leaving and a group of us are piled into one car. The topic is a friend we have in common. People were going on about how she was "droppin' it like it's hot" on the dance floor and I thought that was a great story.

I also know she's got a great attitude and she's fun to spend time with, so I mention that her mother is in town and she's contacted people to have dinner with them sometime this weekend. I said something like "I can't wait to meet her mother, that's going to be fun." Someone in the car whom I'd not spoken to much during the evening asked me "what do you mean by that?" with this accusatory tone. That caught me off guard because I didn't mean anything bad. I meant what I fuckin' said, asshole. I then decided for the sake of not loosing my temper 'cause I didn't know her and that wasn't the place or time for a confrontation that I meant the woman is funny and interesting and, because of that, I can't wait to meet her mother.

Weird ass fucking people - even drunk I think I'm pretty nice. That's said to anticipate the "maybe they were drunk" defense which is never an excuse in my book. If you can't handle your liquor then don't drink because you being an ass ruins the time for all the drunks with good dispositions. Too bad some people don't think that being nice doesn't applies to them.

I can see why sometimes I'm just content with doing my own damn thing. The social life in Korea can be a Waste Land and I'm starting to loathe the foreign population again in particular. People are irritating.

Other than being rich, I think I might have more in common with the fictional Due des Esseintes than I want to admit.

Huysmans recounts that the Duc des Esseintes lived alone in a vast villa on the outskirts of Paris. He rarely went anywhere to avoid what he took to be the ugliness and stupidity of others. One afternoon in his youth, he had ventured into a nearby village for a few hours and had felt his detestation of people grow fierce. Since then he had chosen to spend his days alone in bed in his study, reading the classics of literature and moulding acerbic thoughts about humanity.
from the Art of Travel by Alain de Botton


Okay, :::rant mode off:::

Time for me to get started with my day.

Oh and, yes, I told the first person how I feel, so no this isn't the punk's way of calling someone out. I don't know the second person well enough to care to discuss it. I'm just sharing the story 'cause it's on my mind and triggers some sort of feeling. Feeling is pretty much what inspires all of my blogs.

And here is the music selection for the day from the same album with "Drop It Like It's Hot" but I like this song better.

Signs - Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake:


*In all fairness, it did seem to work from Seoul to the L.A. But I forget which way is supposed to be the easier adjustment. Either traveling from east to west or vice versa across the Pacific is supposed to be easier. I hit the ground running when I got to L.A., so maybe it's east to west. West to east was just BRUTAL.


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What the...? Reporter Charmayne Brown Attacked

I was clicking around the Internet this morning and found a link to this story.

Here is the video first:

What's funny is people are haggling back and forth about whether it was racially motivated or not. Some of the Huffington Post comments on this are just moronic. Honestly, I can't say. I can't really hear what's being said. I, however, will believe Charmayne Brown, the reporter, who said that her attackers had used racial epithets towards her and her cameraman. I'll also point out that there was another news crew there whose employees on the scene happened to be white and they weren't attacked. Was part of it the fact that the reporter was standing alone while her cameraman was putting the camera away? Probably.

Honestly, I just don't know if going back and forth about whether it was racially motivated or not really is the issue here. Shouldn't the issue be who the hell do these women think they are? You just don't rush out and attack someone like that. She was on public property and she was doing her job.

What's troubling to me is how stupid her attackers are. You've got reporters in front of your home because your 33 year old relative is under suspicion of killing another relative who was his 73 year old grandfather. Don't you want to put on the best face possible for the media? The answer that popped into my head to answer my own question was "this is the best face this family has, it seems." If that was the best face possible that they could manage, I've got to say I wouldn't be surprised if the guy under investigation did take his grandfather out.

What calculus, well, arithmetic 'cause they're not striking me as having taken calculus...goes through your head that you think it's okay to rush and assault someone? Also, how stupid must you be to do this when you KNOW there are cameras rolling? Reality TV has ruined us all.

Anyway, it made me sad to see this. In all seriousness, it does throw me into a mood where I seriously worry about my country, its culture, and the low education levels there. You can only ride on the nationalism for so long before it runs out on you. It's disarming to see your country struggling and right now the States is struggling from it's upper-class to it's lower-class. This is most definitely in the rungs of the lower-class.

It reminded me of a podcast I'd heard from Gloria Steinem when she was at Yale last September (don't click the link unless you have iTunes installed). She was talking about violence in society and basically said we normalize it over time if it's something we grew up with. Considering that one member is up the creek for killing grandpa and we see his mother and other family members rush out to attack a reporter who was doing her job, yeah, I think Steinem's theory about normalizing violence just might be right. That's just scary.

Links (all of the links have video): Reporter Attacked Covering Murder Story Police: Family attacks TV news crew, yells racial slurs
The Huffington Post: Charmayne Brown, Black Reporter, Attacked On Camera By White Family In SC


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tricked Out Hoopties

Update 1: April 3, 2008 @ 10:53am

I was walking to my office and I see a similar (or is it the same) car this time with girly accouterments like pretty pastel flowers and smiley faces.

Of course, I had to snap a couple of pictures.


What's funny about Korea is sometimes you see some weird similarities between Korean pop culture and ethnic pop culture. There is no denying that in black and Latino urban culture in the States that the tricked out hoopty is a pop culture phenomenon of sorts.

Now I'm not familiar with the subculture. I just know that there is one. It's involves like most car subcultures cool cars of some sort and women in very little clothing. What's funny is in Korea you'll see cars that have all sorts of weird additions to them. Now these aren't the most expensive cars and the additions are just so ghetto that I'm usually smirking a bit when I see them.

I was walking to my office today when I saw this one.

Clearly, this is one Korean interpretation of a pimped out hoopty ride. I say "pimped" because of the Playboy logo. Can you imagine this guy picking up some poor girl for a that? Well, considering the number of tricked out hoopties I've seen, it's part of the culture of some younger male drivers here. Maybe she wouldn't mind.

While I'm at it here is a pic of the inside of a tricked out Korean taxi cab I got in just before I left for vacation in January. They can't really mess with the exterior, I guess, so he went all out with the interior. What's funny is a couple of weeks before that I was in a similarly tricked out taxi cab.

You'd never see that one in Japan ;)


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Presumptuous Racist

I got a message on Facebook from a friend who also lives and teaches here in South Korea. Like me, she’s also a black teacher. Like me, she’s been here for a few years. I’m thankful to her and a few others who gave me advice about coming here way back when. Basically, she told me about this thread on Dave’s ESL Café’s Korea forum. Now I simply rarely go to that forum, if ever. So I was actually really surprised that with her being here way more years than I have that’s she’d bother with it now. It’s good to get the basics, but beyond that it’s so overwhelmingly negative in its tone that it’s not worth it. I've described in the past as being a shit-stirrer's and whiner's moshpit. It seems to be where all the foreigners who hate Korea congregate online. Now there are so many Korea-specific blogs that you can get the same information but with a smile rather than a pessimistic frown.

The thread is titled “Best thing about Korea”. There are a range of replies; I’m sure they range from the women to the booze to the work. However, there is one that had her worked up. I’ll reveal what it said later.

When I was researching whether or not to come to Korea I specifically set out to find other black people who had lived or were still living and working in South Korea. I found that soliciting advice from white teachers left a big void when it came to what it might be like here for me as a black person. Usually, because whites are coming from societies in which they're the overwhelmingly dominant majority the issue of racism never hits them from the crap side of the equation. They're always usually looking at it from the position of privilege. However, in these same societies the black teachers that are recruited to live and work in Korea arrive with a completely different perspective regarding racism.

I’ve not met a white teacher yet who has recognized that key difference in our points of view. It's always sad and very frustrating when you have to deal with racism. I've got to admit I kind of laugh when I see whites dealing with it for the first time ever. Of course, the black and other minority teachers that I meet here do recognize the difference in perspective. A lot of white teachers will launch into how overwhelmingly racist Korean society is. I advise all minority teachers simply not to listen to white people telling them about the hard racist road ahead in Korea. Their perspective is usually totally different. It's actually quite comical. You can tell that it's traumatic for a white person for the first time ever to get shit end of the racism deal.

What I've found is that essentially white teachers really exaggerate how bad racism in Korea. At least from the black perspective it’s exaggerated because in our home countries we have to deal with it, so when we come here, for better or for worse, we're used to it. We’re used to people gawking. We’re used to people assuming negative things about us. Of course, we’re used to discrimination based on the color of our skin.

What I've found is that Koreans actually have a steeper learning curve when it comes to racism and bigotry. I'm not saying that South Korea is a refuge from racism and I'm not saying it's ideal. All I'm saying is, for me, Korea is no more racist that the US or any other white country I've been to. Also, the racism is different. Here it's mostly ignorance and a naive belief of the stereotypes white Westerners have brought with them. In the West it's usually deep seated and virulent hate. Ignorance you can fight with knowledge, experience and a more sophisticated way of looking at the world. Koreans learn quicker and now that I'm seeing more black teachers, most of whom are nice, educated and hard-working folk, I think we'll keep seeing our numbers increase.

It seems that whites don't like to hear that Koreans get past racism quicker than they do. However, sometimes the truth hurts. I find that if a Korean judges me negatively when they see I'm black the prejudice melts away fairly quickly. This is for a few reasons. Maybe it’s a combination of my citizenship, my education, and my attitude. I have seen attitudes switch in a flash as soon as they get a whiff of my education and experience. However, those people I don’t like just as I don’t like the person who hangs out with you because you’re in the “right” crowd. It’s a variant of the same thing. I believe that it’s mostly because I'm essentially a decent human being and they simply get to know me. That "color of their skin" vs. "content of their character..." issue Martin Luther King, Jr. so badly wanted for us. I know it’s that way with my Korean friends and who else really matters?

What inspired this post thinking about the audacity of someone to write this:

I don't know about you, but for me it's the minimal amount of black and spanish people.

Oh yea and the gun thing. In the US, you can get *beep* at school, here guns are almost non-existant.

The bad, lack of and strict regulations of drugs.
Oh really?

What would possess someone to say they like Korea because it has less black and Spanish people? Actually, I know the answer; the anonymity of the Internet makes otherwise cowardly people VERY brave.

Well, duh, genius it’s an Asian country. It’s going to mostly have Asian people.

To be honest, it goes both ways. I prefer Korea because there is actually a higher likelihood that my race won't keep me perpetually fighting a loosing battle with people who are so committed to believing negative stereotypes about blacks and other minorities that I’m always the exception and never the rule. You just don’t know how frustrating it was to hear from white classmates when I was young “oh, well, you’re DIFFERENT from them.” No, asshole, I’m not.

I’m black and like whites we come in range from evil to angelic and dumb to brilliant. Speaking of brilliant, what makes this reply truly brilliant is the tacked on addition of the bad being the strict regulation of drugs. I’m sorry. I was never into drugs, so I love that drug abusers get chucked out of this country faster than you can blink an eye when they're caught.

My point to ImInKoreaAintI, the idiot that wrote that reply, is touché. I'm happy to be here because, for the most part, there are less dumb ass and completely unreasonable racists I've got to deal with. I can also point and laugh at you with the Koreans who don't like you as much as you think.


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

The VICE Guide to North Korea

I got an email about this from Rory over at VBS TV.

I'll just go ahead an quote his email pretty much in full.

The VICE Guide to North Korea on

Hey ExpatJane,

Yeah it's not just the NY Philharmonic who is getting in. VICE decided a few months ago that as far as stories go, this was one we wanted to do. So what else to do but lie and call yourself a tourist and then start filming.

We are pulling the curtain back and shedding light on the darkest of countries, not just giving viewers spoon fed images like the government staged image in the New York Times. Those do nothing to capture what the hell is really going on there like our series does.

It's 14 parts cause its a big story to tell, here are clips that are some of the more bizarre.

The VICE Guide to North Korea

Episode 3 - Fine dinning at a hall, the only problem, there are no people.

Episode 5 - The uncomfortableness of being the only customer.

If you want to show your viewers they can follow the epic saga here and see all the episodes as they roll out -

I've looked at parts of the site but haven't been able to dive into it all. It's been a busy day. I interviewed Alexandre Kolinka this evening...oh, how exciting!

Anyway, check it out and report back if I missed something really interesting on this site.


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Sunday, March 9, 2008

STFU? No, no, no...DPRK, speak up and "play" nice.

Yeah! Finally, the Korean news scene is starting to perk up a bit. I'm sick of talking about this.

It looks like the folks up north are giving Lee Myung-bak and his new government the cold shoulder.

N.Korea Starts Denouncing New Seoul Gov't

North Korea has recently started a rhetorical offensive on South Korea’s new, conservative government, apparently after completing its assessment of the just-inaugurated Lee Myung-bak administration. There had been no mention of Lee’s election in the official media, prompting observers to think that the North was exercising mature restraint. But since early this month, a string of statements in the North Korean media have slammed South Korea, pegging their commentary on annual South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise and Seoul’s reference at the UN to the North’s dismal human rights record.

Has North Korea given up its hope that it can work with the Lee administration, or is this just another example of the familiar brinkmanship?

A U.S. Marine uses his wireless telegraph set as a U.S. Marine helicopter readies to land during a combined arms live fire exercise at Rodriguez Range in Pocheon, north of Seoul on Saturday. About 27,000 American troops, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, and an undisclosed number of South Korean soldiers were participating in the drills, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, according to the U.S. and South Korean militaries. /AP
Er, "given up its hope"? Lee Myung-bak JUST took office. They haven't given him a chance.

Yes, it's going to be much harder as Lee isn't going to play the games that a more liberal head of state would. But this hard-line error is the same mistake George W. Bush made regarding North Korea. They should know the reaction it will get.

Why not play the game, see what you get, and then roll it back if you see it's not going to get you much?

It's disappointing to see the same tired Cold War style diplomacy rolled out, again.


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My response to Professor Gordon Sayre's "Fine line separates, memoir"

This is another post that started as an update but took on a life of its own.

I got the link to Gordon Sayre's article: Fine line separates, memoir. Again, thanks to Kate over at FishbowlLA.

Sayre was Seltzer's Native American literature professor at the University of Oregon. He says that Love and Consequences is:

...a powerful story of a young girl coming of age, and features much better dialogue than most first novels can achieve. The members of her foster family, as well as others in the South Central ’hood, all emerge as complex characters.
That's great. In fact, that's exactly what I said about Love and Consequences when I heard about this story. I said she had to, at least, be a good writer.

She had to be a good enough writer to convince her publisher that her story was real. Sure, there was the lurid fascination from the publisher that a white girl lived this life. But Seltzer's writing skill would have to be good enough to get across the emotion and drama she was selling in the story and convince these people that she'd done and seen these things.

He goes on to use how the scandal surrounding the authenticity of "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself" illustrates that we shouldn't be upset that Seltzer is a huge liar. 1999 scholar Vincent Caretta brought to light two documents, including Gustavus Vassa’s baptismal record, on which he said that he had been born in South Carolina, not in Africa. Some scholars refused to accept this evidence that a prominent African-American author and abolitionist had fabricated the story of his own childhood, while others were forced to read his account in an entirely new way.

The Equiano saga suggests how readers’ sense of indignation (or should we say, embarrassed credulity) can be heightened where race is involved. Some African-American commentators saw in this week’s events a white woman exploiting white readers’ fascination with gangland culture. The book’s editor and publisher scrambled to defend themselves. Yet we should be skeptical of claims from all parties that they wish to defend the cause of truth.
Well, had Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African lived in this day and age, it would be easy to flush him out as a fraud or to verify his story. That is something Seltzer forgot, but others didn't.
What kind of stupid are we growing on trees these days? Do they not realize that the internet will find your shit out in less time than it took you to come up with your bullshit idea?
My sentiments exactly.

Maybe she knows about Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African's autobiography or others in history where the author's credibility is questioned and decided "well, they did it, so can I." However, she forgot about James Frey's. No, in the day and age where someone can Google you and find out tons more about you that you want. This has much less to do with race than Professor Sayre says. No, in this day and age it's near impossible to get away with a big fat fraud about your life no matter what color you are or, more accurately, no matter what color you claim to be.

As others have said, I'm not really bothered that people lie.
We’ve all lied before. OK, big deal. But to tell a whopper like this? How did Seltzer expect to get away with it? Does the publishing house have fact checkers? Weird woman.
Whether we want to admit it or not, at times, we all lie. I'm bothered when the lie takes on such huge dimensions that it crosses a line from stretching the truth to taking on a completely different character.

Had Seltzer fashioned this maybe as a white girl who got pulled into the gang life after going across town, learning about and getting to know the people in it, fine. That seems to be closer to what really happened. No, she rolled it way back and made up a childhood for herself that is not true. Maybe that's the difference between an immaterial and material fact. Someone flush that distinction out for me. It's Monday morning here in Seoul. I've got a long day ahead of me and not a lot of time to flex my philosophical, English lit., and legally-honed language parsing muscle.*
Every memoir or autobiography is an individual’s fashioning of his or her life, directed toward that individual’s conception of audience. The more intimate or psychological the events recounted — of childhood trauma, of addiction, of religious conversion, or even of racial identity — the more ludicrous it is for readers to insist upon documentary truth.

So it is no accident that the notorious recent memoirists J.T. Leroy and James Frey also wrote accounts of lives on the margins of society, feeding readers’ lurid curiosities or morbid fascinations.

If a reader accepts such stories as true, he or she should examine why these memoirs are so enticing and convincing. Don’t take the publisher’s word for it, and don’t judge a book by its cover.
Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight, but this is a very simple issue. As they say where I'm from, "don't get it twisted" and Professor Sayre, you've got it twisted.

Was it marketed as a memoir or was it marketed as a powerful first novel? It was marketed as a memoir.

She was giving interviews saying she'd lived the life she wrote for her character. I understand that some writers will get so involved that they'll take on aspects of their characters life or lives. So, okay, Seltzer is a method-actor novelist. But that's just an eccentricity. In fact, that eccentricity could be something she could have marketed for interviews and a book tour...for her novel.

However, Seltzer took it to the point of fraud. She signed contracts and promised her very clueless publisher that her story was, indeed, based on fact.

What's funny is my life in South Central L.A. was Ozzie and Harriet-esqe: two cars, mommy stayed at home while daddy worked and I had a square meal on the table every night while, at certain times, shots rang out down the road. That's where my caustic, wry and, sometimes, slapstick sense of humor comes from, I guess. It comes from seeing my parents struggle to make life as normal as they could for me while we all knew that outside the borders of our home a very different world surrounded us.

What irritates me about Sayre's former student is she's spun a tale but said she was there. SHE WASN'T THERE! Sure, there are gang bangers in the 'hood. I know this only from a distance because my parents worked hard to keep me isolated from it, but Seltzer marketed her story as first-hand experience. No, if anything, that experience was second-hand, if not third- or fourth-hand knowledge.

With all due respect Professor Sayre, readers understand that things might be intensified for effect. However, the point remains that the things they read about are, or should be, based on fact. All writers are taught to anticipate their audience, but the point is Seltzer lied. She shouldn't have even if that means it would have been harder for her to publish Love and Consequences. I don't doubt it could have been marketed as a novel, it wasn't.

So, yes, now the book is gone. I've ordered a copy. I'll read it. Should anyone want it maybe for the good of literary society, since Professor Sayre believes it will be a significant loss, I'll go ahead and scan it for all to read. However, maybe he ought to do that. He's got more resources than I do.

Update 1: March 13, 2008 @ 8:53am

Usually, I put my updates at the top. However, this one is a bit off topic. I've decided to put it in this post because I see Sayre as an enabler. I also see Musico, the person who referred Seltzer to her literary agent as someone cut from the same cloth. I won't deny that the criticism of her has been harsh. I think that's a combination of the subject matter that she deals with, feminism and racism, and the fact that if it weren't for her maybe Seltzer wouldn't have gotten an agent in the first place. I think Musico was conned like everyone else was conned and the ultimate responsibility lies with the publisher and the agent to flush out the people trying to pull a con.

With that said here is a link to an article which talks about her reply and links to her blog complaining about the tough words aimed in her general direction.

David Glenn, thanks for the lengthy quote: Chronicle of Higher Education - Untruth and Consequences

More links:
GalleyCat: Margaret Jones Punditry Devolves Into Farce
FishBowlLA: Margaret Jones /Peggy Seltzer's Childhood on the Reservation/Professor Duped
Kevin Allman: Margaret Jones' Diaries: truthiness and beauty
GalleyCat: JT Leroy's Legacy Blown Out of Proportion?

*Yes, I'm putting my education out there not to brag, but for effect. What irks me I think the most about Seltzer's yarn is how she chose to devalue education because that fake life she claimed to have taught her so much more than school books could. Uh, huh.

As we all can see, clearly, she could have benefited from actually taking an ethics course along the way and graduating.

I also believe that the people she chose the write about, people like me. My people in South Central L.A. have much to gain from working to get ourselves educated.

I'm just spelling it out because you'd be amazed the conclusions people can sometimes jump to on the Internet based on a few words. ;-)


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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Repost - L.A. Times: Why would author label fiction as fact?

Thanks to Perez Hilton for the photo annotation inspiration ;)

Update 1: March 12, 2008 @ 5:40pm

A proposal re fake memoirs from Stephen J. Dubner over at the Freakonomics blog.

1. A true story gets a lot more media coverage than a lifelike novel.

2. A true story generates more buzz in general, including potential film sales, lecture opportunities, etc.

3. The reader is engaged with the story on a more visceral level if a book is a memoir rather than fictional.

Every time a memoir is exposed as a fake, you hear people say, “Well, if it’s such a good story, why didn’t they just publish it as a novel instead?” But I think reasons 1-3 above, and maybe many more, incentivize authors, publishers, and others to favor the memoir over the novel.

With No. 3 in mind, and having read recently about how an expensive sugar-pill placebo works better than a cheap sugar-pill placebo, I thought of a fun memoir/novel experiment. If anyone would like to go to the trouble to carry this out, please let us know and we will post the results. Here’s what you do:

Take an unpublished manuscript that tells an intense and harrowing story from a first-person perspective. Something along the lines of A Million Little Pieces or Love and Consequences. Assemble a group of 100 volunteers for the experiment. Give a copy of the manuscript to 50 of them with a cover letter describing the memoir they are about to read. Give a copy of the manuscript to the the other 50 with a cover letter describing the novel they are about to read. In each case, write and attach an extensive questionnaire about the reader’s reaction to the book. Sit back, let them read, and compile the results. Does the “memoir” truly beat the “novel”?

Okay, that sounds great because the first excuse most people make for Seltzer is it would have been hard if not impossible to market this as a work of fiction. Someone test this theory, please.

I'm fatigued at this point. Seltzer's lies are so huge that the payoff of paying anymore attention to it is close to nil.

However, I got this from Kate over at FishBowlLA. It's written by Sandy Banks, who has a weekly column in the L.A. Times. I think she sums it up well.

Why would author label fiction as fact?

Why should it take a white author's "gripping memoir" to cast the problems of ghetto blacks in a sympathetic light?

March 8, 2008

I cringed as I read the book jacket blurb calling the recently unmasked fake memoir "an unvarnished look at inner-city life beyond the statistics and stereotypes."

On the back cover were tributes to the author's "pitiless intelligence and scathing honesty."

"Margaret Jones uses her own life to tear down the walls between South Central and the world beyond," wrote one. Said another, "My God, Margaret is brave."

Turns out Margaret is neither brave nor honest. Nor is she a half-white, half-Native American girl raised among black gang members in a South Los Angeles foster home.

Margaret Jones is actually Margaret "Peggy" Seltzer, who grew up white and middle-class on a cul-de-sac in Sherman Oaks. Her education didn't come on the streets, but in a private school that counts Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen (and my oldest daughter) among its graduates.

Seltzer's book "Love and Consequences" is a fabrication. The hoax, which came to light this week, is a big-time scandal among the literati. Seltzer's agent and editor said they were duped. Readers wondered why the publisher didn't fact-check.

I read the book this week with the luxury of knowing it was fiction. I found it superficial and melodramatic.

I give Seltzer credit for being curious enough to care about gang life and diligent enough to get the details right -- the clothes, the language, the recipe for turning powder cocaine into crack. And I give her props, as her fake homies might say, for trying to show that some gang members we fear are struggling brothers, fathers and sons, caught up in a mindless cycle of destruction.

So why am I so offended?

In "Love and Consequences" Seltzer describes a startling life -- rife with stereotypes -- as a white foster child sent to the "urban Third World country" of South Los Angeles.

Her "Big Mom" is a stoic, hard-working grandmother struggling to raise her crack-addicted daughter's four kids. Her "homies" are lovable rogues with hearts of gold who carry her backpack, escort her to the homecoming dance and enlist her to deliver their cocaine.

Seltzer was outed by her sister, who read a profile of her in the New York Times and called the book's publisher to say it was all a lie.

In a tearful apology, before she went into hiding, Seltzer defended herself, saying she was trying to help people she cared about by showing readers the harshness of their lives.

But what ticks me off is the notion that it takes a white author's "gripping memoir" to cast the problems of ghetto blacks in a sympathetic light. I suspect what really intrigued publishers, promoters and reviewers was not the story but the storyteller -- the image of this tough little white girl cooking up a batch of crack on the kitchen stove. She's got to get the utility bill paid and the water turned back on before Big Mom gets home from one job and leaves for the next, cleaning offices for "CEOs and their white secretaries."

It's the race card being played by a white person.

Eso Won bookstore in South Los Angeles was supposed to host the author at a book-signing Friday night but canceled and sent the books back. No customers have asked about the book or mentioned the scandal, said owner Tom Hamilton.

"There's been too much going on," he said "The 6-year-old shot in the car, the high school football player killed outside his house."

In other words, it's been the kind of dispiriting week in South Los Angeles that makes hand-wringing over a suburban girl's play-acting laughable.

I stopped at Eso Won while cruising by places mentioned in the book -- First AME Church and Baldwin Village apartments -- as if finding some kind of physical sign to link her to the community would make the hoax less offensive.

But it became pointless after a while. The story is fake, so what does it matter? The gang prevention group she said she now works with doesn't seem to exist either, beyond a website created last fall by her agent.

Even her list of acknowledgments is suspect. "I never heard of her, never met her," said gang counselor Khalid Shah, mentioned in the book and thanked by its author.

Is he angry about the charade? He laughed. "If I got pissed off every time somebody makes their name using [South Los Angeles], I'd be angry all the time."

I know he's right. I'll get over it. But I'm still wondering what made her do it.

In what may be the truest statement in her book, she disparaged a social worker for trying to understand her life. "Seeing and living," she said, "are separated by a big, maybe even uncrossable divide."

If she understood that, then why did she lie?
And there you have it.

For all of the criticism blacks get for playing the race card, the publishing industry fell over themselves to put forth a white girl who'd lived the life of a gangsta. They wanted it and the stereotypes that flowed from it so bad that they couldn't be bothered to check if her story was true.

It's not about playing the race card. It's about some wanting to cherry pick who can and can't play it.


Links that summarize this farce:
FishBowlLA: Margaret Jones/Peggy Seltzer Toteboard
Get Lost With Easy Writer: More on Miss Jones

And analysis from the Christopher Caldwell at the Financial Times that breaks it down nicely: Tall tales of the would-be victim

Two good comical commentaries:
University Diaries: Et Tu, Cyndi?
Get Lost With Easy Writer: Of No Consequence: The Fictional Diaries of Margaret B. Jones (link to the same piece at


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