Friday, October 31, 2008

WTF? 6 Days in Customs?!!!

Update: November 2, 2008 @ 8:07pm

As I thought, it did get delivered. It just got delivered 5 days behind schedule after languishing in customs. My vote is in...yeah!

But I still don't like that it took so long to get through something that should take maybe a day.

Uh oh.

I mailed my absentee ballot back to the States on October 23rd via EMS. The form said it would be delivered by the 27th, and I mailed it EMS so I could track its arrival. What's cool is I get text messages that update me on the status when something changes. I got a text days ago saying it was in the system and on its way. I expected to get something at the start of the week but I gotten nothin', nada, zlich.

I just checked it online and nearly fell over. Check it out.

  • Foreign Acceptance, October 23, 2008, 3:43 pm, KOREA
  • Foreign International Dispatch, October 24, 2008, 1:27 am, SEOUL INTERNATIONAL POST OFFICE, KOREA
  • Inbound International Arrival, October 24, 2008, 10:37 am, ISC SAN FRANCISCO (USPS)
  • Inbound Into Customs
  • Inbound Out of Customs, October 30, 2008, 2:26 pm
I'm wondering how many other ballots are languishing in customs for six days?!!! Is customs just swarmed with ballots from abroad? And, couldn't they have predicted this?

I mailed it early enough that it still will get there on time, but wow...that's scary.

Anyone else tracking their ballots? This worries me.


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Big Weird Tuna Rice Ball

This week the store in my building at work got something new in the snack corner. It was labeled 참치주먹밥, (cham-chi ju-mok-bap) so I knew it had tuna (cham-chi) and rice (bap) but what the hell was 주먹? It was wrapped in foil, but I took a chance and got it.

Basically, it was a ball of rice covered in nuts and grains with a layer of tuna inside. Just for a sense of perspective regarding its size, it fit in the palm of my hand. It might look kind of weird, but it was quite good. I've actually experimented with tuna and rice concoctions in my kitchen and it tasted about the same.

BTW, I looked the term up and 주먹 means fist. So "tuna fist rice", I guess literally. K-blogger foodies...weigh in on whether I just botched that completely or not. Thanks.

It's random but I'm sharing 'cause it was the first time I'd seen it in a convenience type store.

Okay, now it's time for dinner ;)


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Trick or Treat - 2008 ;)

I was leaving for work earlier this week when I saw these two kids heading up the hill to the local preschool. Their mom let me take the picture (so don't freak out y'all).

I thought it was cute because I've seen kids in Korea dress up for Halloween before, but it's not something you see at the same level you see it in the States. In the States, it's a cultural phenomenon complete with stories and rituals and flaming bags of poo (I'm sorry that prank is gross but makes me giggle for hours.)

So have a great Halloween everyone. I feel a cold coming on, so I'm staying in my warm apartment tonight.


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Peru's shamans send US election vibes

This is great. I was up early this morning and saw a clip about Peruvian shamans performing rituals so that the US presidential candidate they believe will win will be successful.

Even among these 11 Peruvian shamans, Obama is in the lead: 9 to 2.

This also reminds me of the purifying rituals that Mayan priests died back in 2007 when George W. Bush visited Guatemala.

I couldn't find video, so I recorded it with my digital camera. Click here for the BBC link.

Uploaded by ExpatJane


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Vote 2

Thanks to Roboseyo for letting me know there is a Don't Vote 2. The first Don't Vote I posted here.

And this one has Neil Patrick "Bad Ass" Harris...(Dr. Horrible? Harold and Kumar? Come on, this guy is great...yes, I know he was Doogie Howser, M.D. too.)

Check it:

Please vote. Thanks.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The HuffPo Strikes Again: "Hope" Is Not a Buzz Word by John Mayer

Another Huffington Post coup!

John Mayer speaks and, let me tell you, when it comes to politics he plays his hand pretty close. Outside of a some jokes exchanged about Ron Paul or Ru Paul with friends outside of a NYC hot spot last year and the inclusion of his hit single "Waiting on the World to Change" on Voices of a Grassroots Movement, which is the Obama campaign CD, John Mayer hasn't said much on the upcoming election.

However today, I woke to see an RSS link on my iGoogle page to a Huffington Post blog that John had written.

Here is is, in full:

"Hope" Is Not a Buzz Word

I was 23 years old when the nation was attacked on September 11, 2001. I can remember hearing pundits say "this changes everything" and "things will never be the same." Obviously it was a tragic and traumatic event, but that sentiment has carried on through the better part of my twenties. If you were 43 years old on that day, I would imagine it was a difficult concept to get your head around as well, but if you were a young adult just entering his or her individual life, there was an added twist; how can you process the idea of everything changing and things never being the same when you have no point of reference for what "everything" and "the same" is? I was just beginning to put my hands on the world around me, to interact and engage with it, and to actualize the dream of being an adult in a free society. To wait in line for 23 years only to have the "sorry, future canceled" sign flipped in my face was depressing, to say the least.

The social and political narrative of the last eight years, if you're a young adult, has been "you are the first generation of the second half of the rest of human existence." That's a huge psychological undertaking, and I believe it's one that will someday be diagnosed on a massive scale as having led to a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Something has to explain away our premature obsession with 1980s nostalgia.) My generation has come to know itself as the generation that should have seen the good days, my, were they spectacular, now take off your shoes and place them on the belt.

What Barack Obama says to me is these days are good for something. Just when I'd thought my only role as an adult was to help shoulder the nation through its darkest days (known to us as "the rest of them"), Obama gives me the feeling that I could be alive to witness one of the most brilliant upturns in a country's history. Imagine that -- a young adult in this day and age being given something to someday brag to his children about having being alive to witness. What a concept.

That's why hope is a worthwhile commodity. To those who question whether hope is a tangible product worth building a campaign around, I'd say take a look at despair and how powerful that has been in reshaping how people think and live. I believe the definition of the "hope" that Barack Obama enthuses operates on the unspoken thesis that there has to be a polar opposite to the despair of 9/11. Because if we accept that there's not, the will to live becomes forever altered. To adults who will vote for him, Barack Obama represents a return to prosperity. To the youth, he represents an introduction to it.

So, John, for what it's worth, thanks for letting people know it's okay to have hope.


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wassup 2008

This has got to be one of the best pro-Obama commercials out there.

However, you've got to go back to get the full impact of why it's so good.

So check out this Budweiser commercial that was a hit and was doing the rounds about 8 years ago first:

Now check out the wassup guys in 2008:

Tru,'s time for change. Seriously.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Seoul Fashion Week, S/S 2009 - Picking Up

In all fairness to Seoul Fashion Week, let me write a quick update. Today is the last day, so check out some of the events if you can.

The last couple of days have been better. The crowds have increased and the energy is up. It's still not the crazy huge standing room crowds that were VERY frequent last time. However, the shows are good. It's great seeing the hard work of these designers come together on the runway.

What's been greatest in boosting the energy were the off site events I mentioned in my last post. The events at Daily Projects and De Vill Hwa Soo Mok have lots of young and enthusiastic talent. Also, the Woo Youngmi, 우영미, show at COEX I heard was amazing. I missed it because after a day of work, I'd already rushed from my office to the venue listed on the press info only to find out it had been moved to another location. After that, I was just irritated and wasn't up for running from a show in Apkujeong to another in COEX and then back home. Unfortunately, that was a mistake because I heard the show and the small after party were just amazing.

However, the issue of me running to one venue to find out that it had been moved is part of the mass disorganization that's staining the event. I just don't have the energy to chronicle it any further.

I did make it to Ha Sang Beg's runway show and after party. His shows are always fun and that jacket he had on was in the show. I loved it. Of course, being the designer, he had dibs on wearing it at his party.

I had a chance to speak to and interview Diane Pernet last night before the screening of the A Shaded View on Fashion Film (ASVOFF) at Daily Projects*. During our conversation, she asked me why the paper I write for, the Korea Herald, hadn't bothered to cover the events? She asked because the paper has been delivered to her hotel room daily and there have been no mentions of the events in the paper. I have no clue how the culture desk runs, so there wasn't much of an explanation I could give her beyond my theories as to what was behind it.

It's just not good for such a major event be ignored by all the Korean papers on a daily basis. Again, I think it comes from this "if we build it, they will come" mentality that Koreans have where they think that just planning something and pouring money into something that alone is sufficient.

No, it's a big world and you've got to let people know what's happening but, beyond that, you've got to give them a reason to care that it's happening. Part of upping the profile of Seoul Fashion Week is getting the local media to care enough to cover it. That would pull in other media. However, it's the last day, and I lack the energy to wax analytical on how to promote this event. It would be much different if it was my job, but it's not.

*A note - ASVOFF is an interesting selection of various films expressing fashion from various points of view and differing techniques from interviews to animation. It was fun to watch. If it comes to a city near you, make the effort to go see it if film and fashion interest you.


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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Voting is Sexy, so Vote Y'all ;)

I voted on Monday because that's when I got my replacement absentee ballot. However, due to Seoul Fashion Week, I've literally been leaving my office as soon as I'm done with work and rushing back to the city for shows, interviews or other events.

However, Thursday is my best work day because I'm off at 3pm. I walked over to the local post office and mailed my ballot back. It's guaranteed to be delivered on or before October 27th, so yeah! I just feel good that my vote is en route to be counted.

Make sure yours is too. US citizens who are registered to vote please make sure you do.

Here is a reminder. Remember there are voter help sessions in Itaewon tomorrow and on Sunday if you're in or near Seoul.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews]'Alegria' performers

Today the Korea Herald published my interview with two of the performers in Cirque du Soleil's Alegría. Alegría opened in Seoul last Wednesday and I had a chance to go see it on Friday. It was my first Cirque du Soleil show. I have to say, I'd heard they put on amazing shows. I just never realized how amazing they were.

Cirque du Soleil has been around for years, but when they hit big in the States I was dealing with other things (mostly grief from my parent's deaths, a big move from L.A. to San Francisco to start law school and the general stress that big life changes bring).

However, I'm catching up pretty well, I think.


If you're in Seoul, click here for ticket information.

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] 'Alegria' performers talk to Expat Living

Last week Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria" opened in Seoul at the Jamsil Sports Complex in Gangnam, adding one more thing to your to-do list.

"Alegria" is Spanish for elation, exhilaration and jubilation - all definitely feelings spectators have when watching the show. "Alegria" is one of eight performances Cirque du Soleil is putting on around the world. In addition to its touring shows, the company has resident shows in various locations around the world, and it also has a seasonal winter show in Madison Square Garden, New York City.

Cirque du Soleil launched "Alegria" in 1994 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The show kicked off in Montreal, Canada and has been performed in cities all around the world since. With a cast of 55 acrobats, musicians, singers, clowns and characters more than 10 million people have seen "Alegria" since it started in 1994.

When you think of Cirque du Soleil, you think of a group performance - but not usually of the individual performers.

Two "Alegria" trampolinists, Lisa Skinner from Australia and Ken Futamura from Canada, sat down with Expat Living to discuss what it was like to perform in the show.

Lisa Skinner, who does the power track (a high flying trampoline act) and is a nymph in the production, has been with Cirque du Soleil since 2006. This is her first visit to Seoul and she said she has been getting out as much as she can to see the city.

Skinner is from Clear Mountain, Queensland, Australia. She is a gymnast who competed at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, where Cirque du Soleil first noticed her talent.

They first approached her after seeing her performance at the 2000 Olympics.

Skinner's response? She told them she'd think about it, but said she "didn't know too much about it at that time." She added: "I'd started to pick up a bit more information and I'd seen one of the shows before because of my coach. Her sister was in Cirque du Soleil and had been performing for awhile. But then I ended up continuing with gymnastics."

Lisa took a break from gymnastics after the 2000 Olympics but started training again in 2002.

"I actually bumped into a scout at the Athens (Olympics) and she asked me again 'so what do you reckon?' I was more interested at that time too and knew more about it and it seemed pretty good."

It was after the 2004 Olympics that she auditioned and joined Cirque du Soleil.

How would Skinner describe Cirque du Soleil to someone who has never seen it?

"When I saw my first (Cirque du Soleil) show, which was 1998, I saw 'Quidam' in Texas. I'd never seen anything like it before. I'd never been to a circus before, so this was my first one. I was just amazed by everything that they did. I could hardly blink. I didn't want to take my eyes off of it.

Cirque du Soleil

"Later on, when actually I got the opportunity to work here, it's as good as you probably think it's going to be. It's not too difficult. Most of the work the (performers) have done before in their sport. They've done their repetitions. They've done the training. They've got the aerial awareness already and here it's just upkeep," she said. "You're doing the show every day, so there isn't too much training. There (are) great people and there is not as much pressure. Obviously, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to do your best, but you have fun.

"I don't feel like I work. I come to work and I play."

Kenneth Futamura, unlike Skinner, has been to Seoul before. The Cirque du Soleil performer was working in Japan and came to visit for four days about 10 years ago. "I'm really looking forward to seeing a little bit more."

Like Skinner, Futamura is also a trained gymnast. He competed in the Commonwealth Games in 1994.

Also like Skinner, Futamura performs in the power track in "Alegria."

Futamura heard about Cirque du Soleil when he was "coaching at the gym and they had a posting concerning auditions in Montreal. I said 'Why not take a chance?' because a lot of the Canadian athletes and coaches were in Cirque du Soleil at that time. So I heard a little bit about the name but I didn't know anything about their shows."

In 1997 he auditioned for Cirque du Soleil and was accepted. He has been with the company for almost 11 years. He was a rookie in Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba" production, based at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and he's been with "Alegria" since August 2004.

Futamura described the difference between his performance on the power track in "Alegria" and his performance in "La Nouba."

"The two main differences are that La Nouba is a permanent show, so it stays fixed and it's a bigger stage with more mechanical things. The act I was doing ... was a building with two trampolines on the side and cross of power track. It's a building with two stories and windows that people can come out from. So people can jump from the top of the building to the trampoline. On the floor you have a power track."

Futamura describes Cirque du Soleil as "theatrical, everything is live. We have beautiful costumes and the acrobatic skills are very high."

When it comes to advice to young people interested in joining Cirque du Soleil, he says, "It depends on what you want to do." As a gymnast, Ken's first suggestion was gymnastics.

"Gymnastics helps a lot because it works all the parts of your body. Any sport is good, like dancing." He then went on to say that there were other performers in Cirque du Soleil, like musicians. "The main thing is if they love what they do, that's a good start."

Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria" is a touring show and ends its stay in Korea on Nov. 19. Tickets are priced from 50,000 to 110,000 won. More information can be found at this website

Unfortunately, the editors changed my ending in this piece and got it wrong. I wrote this, "Don't wait too long because it is a touring show, so they'll be moving on after a few weeks." It got replaced with this, "Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria" is a touring show and ends its stay in Korea on Nov. 19. " Where they got that from, I'm not sure.

C'est la vie. You can't control everything...

Here is the Adobe Acrobat version of the article:


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Need Help Voting? Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot Assistance in Seoul This Weekend - Oct. 24th and Oct 26th

I'm spreading the word. Democrats Abroad Korea will have Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot Assistance Sessions to help those who need it.

Here is the information:

If you need help with your absentee ballot, or have not yet received your absentee ballot and need a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), then please come to one of our help sessions:

Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot Assistance

Itaewon, Starbucks (closest to the station, line 6, exit 3), 2nd floor

*Friday, Oct. 24, 7:00pm-10:00pm

*Sunday, Oct. 26, 4:00pm-7:00pm

We'll have FWABs available for those whose official absentee ballots have not arrived yet and will answer questions you have about the absentee voting process. We will also have on hand a complete list of all Congressional and Gubernatorial candidates running for election to help you fill out your FWAB.

This is a non-partisan, voting assistance service, and people of all political affiliations are welcome.

For more information, please write to Democrats Abroad ROK is dedicated to Getting Out The Vote, and we are here to help make sure you have all the necessary information and resources to vote absentee from Korea.

PLEASE don’t hesitate to contact us with ANY questions you might have.

Democrats Abroad ROK:


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

At least...

At least this can of Perrier in this special edition gold can by Paul & Joe won't be mistaken for a bottle of soju.

Soju is bottled in small green bottles that, at a glance, could be mistaken for Perrier bottles or, here, vice versa. Imagine my shock to have students ask me if I was drinking soju a few years ago in class. Yikes...I stopped bringing Perrier to work after that.

Unfortunately, it still might get mistaken for a can of beer. I think I'll just drink this one at home too.


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Seoul Fashion Week, S/S 2009, is kind of blah.

This is one reason why the current Seoul Fashion Week is just blah: Seoul Fashion Week’s Got a Rift. Believe me, there are others, but I'll wait on those for now.

It's unfortunate because fashion weeks are the time for local designers to show off their collections to both local and international press and buyers. If the designers don't all show together, there is no way the international contingent is going to double back. It's basically a lost marketing opportunity. It just seemed extremely odd that quite a few big players weren't showing this time. Unfortunately, their non-participation dampens the entire production.

It's not a completely boring event. It's just in contrast to the energy at the last one, this one is lacking. However, yesterday the International Fashion Exchange was great. They featured four Asian design collections: Thuy, Steve J and Yoni P, Eley Kishimoto and Ravage by Raj Shroff & Neetu Gunta. It was nice to see collections by Asian designers from other regions. There was also a Global Fashion Forum featuring three notable fashion specialists: Diane Pernet, Nicole Fall and Félix Boukobza. However, neither event was publicized widely, so attendance was very light. I was a bit embarrassed for the organizers because of the low amount of people in attendance. These things should be packed and, this time around, they're not.

Also, the folks in charge haven't been the most accommodating with the press. I've heard a range of murmurs and rants about bad experiences from others. I've seen some crazy behavior from the organizers before the shows begin regarding press and seating. (Basically, things like demanding that press not sit in seats designated as "press".) I now officially have one "crazy ass Korean" fashion week story of my own. Even though I'd scheduled an interview with the PR contact for one of the designers bought in for the International Fashion Exchange and was escorted in by a PR rep, someone else approached me as I was starting my interview and asked "who are you?!" I do get that these designers are VERY high profile people, but that's why I made sure my access to her was legit. Knowing I'd done the right thing by communicating with the designer's PR division directly, getting the okay from them to interview her last week and making sure I went out of my way to let the with the PR reps on site know I'd set this up, I knew all was good. So when someone approached me like I was some interloper, I was nothing but cool. However, it did feel like I was in one of those old David Spade "and you are?" Saturday Night Live skits.

As the most important person in this situation, the designer, knew I'd been in direct contact with her company to arrange the interview, I didn't mind the rudeness too much. It was yet another case of arrogance coupled with botched communication on a few levels; and stories like that in fashion are legion. I just answered the questions and wondered how this person's lack of graciousness and, frankly, lack of class was playing out in the head of the designer sitting across from me. It was more funny than irritating because this was coming from a woman who is also a well-known member of the Korean press and this person was also a prominent figure in the Global Fashion Forum event. It's the epitome of non sequitur behavior since, again, fashion weeks are merchandising and publicity events. The point is to get press and generate sales. It's more of a shame that there is such a high level of unprofessionalism in an event that claims it's trying to establish itself as "world class". I mean really. I wasn't pulling an impromptu interview ambush on, American Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour*. There are moments to be harsh with the press, but it's not really when someone has actually gone out of their way to play by the rules and has scheduled an interview. What is showed was, as usual, Koreans have a very hard time organizing themselves and communicating effectively. (* Here is that blogger's take on what happened and why she bum rushed Anna Wintour.)

My little story is nothing actually. I just heard a doozy of a story that I'm not at liberty to disclose, but I'm truly shocked that someone I know with backstage access press pass got harshed so severely right before a show.

It's not all a loss. And, don't get me wrong, the shows I've attended at SETEC, the main venue for Seoul Fashion Week, have been very nice and well put together. But there is a clear lack of energy and, even worse, some serious arrogance coming from some of the people putting on the event. I'm not the only person commenting on it.

For interesting, energetic and still happening, there are the Generation Next events over at Daily Projects and De Vill Hwa Soo Mok. Both venues are also in Seoul and they will have events going all week long. I went to the opening runway show of some of the featured young designers at Daily Projects tonight and that was both fun and exciting to see. There were also a few great pieces. Kudos to Lauren Kovin whose draped pieces were just lovely. My favorite is this blue dress.

So, as you can see, all is not lost. It's only Tuesday, so here is hope that things just might continue to pick up. I hope so.

Here is some visual proof that all is not amiss. here are three photos from the Resurrection by Juyoung runway show.

And yes, the model in this last shot is Andrew Gordon. He is an American model who is based in Seoul; I interviewed and wrote about him a few months ago.

Runway photos by Denise Lejcar and courtesy of


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Podcast Picks of the Week - 10/19/2008

Yeah, I'm late. It's Monday morning. I just gotta say "fashion week and Cirque du Soleil". I'm busy y'all.

Okay, here they are.

Slate's Political Gabfest is back to form: The Joe the Plumber Gabfest. Yeah! They talked about the last debate and ended with a discussion of the article Why I Blog written by Andrew Sullivan.

Here is a fun one by Slate V: From the First to the Last Debate in Four Minutes.

For you exercisers, I found a good stash of exercise music with the Podrunner podcasts. They have both regular and interval podcasts to keep your heart rate up. Now there is a licensing issue with them right now, so get what you like because, unfortunately, they might not be around for much longer (and that sucks.)

In fact, as much as I just don't want to, I need to hop on my own exercise bike for a few minutes, so let me hit the "publish post" button.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty and the Microfinance Movement

I got turned on to the idea of microfinance by the man who is famous for it, Professor Muhammad Yunis. He won the Noble Peace Prize along with his organization Grameen Bank in 2006. At the time, I was at Ewha Womans University at the Graduate School of International Studies. Right after he won the Noble Peace Prize, he came to Ewha to speak. I, along with other Ewha students and some people from the general public, got to hear his story about about how he made his idea of microfinance a success in his native country of Bangladesh.

Being a student, I was lucky enough to ask him a question. I asked him about how he envisioned microfinance working in more developed countries like the States. I asked because I come from a working class background. My father was a blue collar worker and my mom was a housewife. My parents figured out the benefit of credit and never had problems. However, in the neighborhood I grew up in, they're the exception rather than the rule it seemed. As a result, I was a lucky (and spoiled) only child, who didn't want for much. Others in my neighborhood weren't so lucky. As a result of white flight, the neighborhood was a mix of working class families and those on public assistance. The working class families, for the most part, did alright as did some on public assistance, I'm sure.

Just across the street there were many who were struggling with unemployment, drugs and goodness knows what else. My neighborhood went from a pretty calm place to a place where the cops showed up way too often and gang members loitered for a bit too long. My mom was very keen on limiting my exposure to all that was going on at that time, so I can't give you many details. I just know it was about getting to school and getting back home safe and sound without incident. We made it like most families there did. However, it did leave me with a keen sense of haves vs. have-nots even on that small scale.

So, what can be done to help people in those situations? Poverty in a developed country is more nuanced in some ways because those in it are often portrayed as shiftless and lazy. However, I know it's not about being shiftless and lazy. I know some shiftless and lazy trust fund babies too. What is more on point is the issue of really feeling powerless, lacking knowledge and being ill equipped. So how can you help those in poverty who are in developed countries?

Yumis said they were planning to get involved in microfinance in the US and sure enough they have. I'm still half a world away, so there isn't much I can do to help right now. But maybe that email I got from a contact I made when I met Dr. Yunis about Grameen America will still be good when I finally choose to return.

In the meantime, I help where I can. I'm a member of and I've helped two entrepreneurs, one in Ghana and the other in Mexico, get the loans they need to expand their business. I don't have much, but it doesn't take much to help someone with microfinance because these are very small loans. I'm proud to say that I just got an email letting me know that one of the two I loaned to has paid back 14% of her loan. I do hope it helps her rise up out of poverty.

With the economic crisis, everyone is concerned about their finances. However, put it in perspective. Languishing over the diminished value of their 401Ks is probably an issue they never wrestle with. It's simply about getting enough money to fund a small business, so they can make a living. Just a few dollars can help someone and, I think, it's worth it.

Even if lending to someone in need is beyond your means right now, you can still get involved in fighting poverty.

Here is a list of what one person can do from the Blog Action Day website: What Can One Person Do?

Here is the accompanying video. The video is tinged with religion, but you can be an atheist or agnostic and recognize that collective action is needed to help eradicate poverty:


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Culture All Around Me... ;)

Lucky me.

With it being midterm exam week at my job, I essentially have the week off from work. However, Sunday was my birthday and my department just HAD to get me a cake. Last week they asked me if it was possible to come to work this afternoon. It worked out because the Korean professors had to proctor this huge exam for the department. So I met them at 2:30pm and they presented me with a cake, sang Happy Birthday (Korean style) to me and that was that. Granted, it could have waited until next week, but really, would it kill me to just go? No, so I went.

I then went to my office to take care of stuff completely unconnected with my teaching job. Cirque du Soleil's Alegria opens in Seoul this Wednesday, October 15th at Jamshil Sports Complex. I'll be there later this week to interview a couple of their performers for my interview column for the Korea Herald.

Then on Saturday, October 18th, Seoul Fashion Week starts. I've had a few people ask me about it. I think for the general public a one day ticket is only 7,000 won. The lines to get into shows are crazy long, so get there early and plan an attack plan for which collections you want to see. FeetManSeoul has put up something to help Seoul Fashion Week newbs out, so check it out: Wanna Go to Seoul Fashion Week?

Honestly, it sounds like both Saturday and Sunday are going to be very good. On Saturday the men's collections are up and, last time, the men's collection day was one of the best days by far. However, on Sunday, Lee Ju Young among others are showing their collections. Ju Young's show last time was pretty much one of the best. I have no doubt she'll live up to that this time too. Plus, she's just a pretty damn cool person, so check out her show if you'll be there. (previous mentions of Juyoung on this blog 1 and 2).

Also, FeetManSeoul has a great piece on the development of Korean fashion and his predicted "fashion wave": The History of Korean Fashion and the Coming “Fashion Wave”. I think the fashion wave claim is jumping the gun a bit because Japanese fashion dominates the NE Asian fashion scene and they will for awhile. However, I think there are some great Korean designers who can challenge the best of the best. The FMS piece is a good primer. Check it out. It's really informative. I know I needed it (and I'll be using it because it will help me with an upcoming piece I'm writing for


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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hey Sarah Palin - a funny song courtesy of YouTube

This is so worth going viral, so I'm spreading it like a virus baby.


Update 1: October 13, 2008 @ 7:34am

Heh...they're at it again.


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brought to you by Jack Daniels

After a fun time running around and drinking in Shinchon with ZenKimchi and Roboseyo, I'm home and nicely pickled.

I was checking out the news headlines after I stumbled home. That's when I saw this headline coupled with this advert.

"IMF warns of financial meltdown as crisis rages"..."brought to you by Jack Daniel's"

Check it out:
I think a lot of Jack will be consumed in the next coming weeks and months.

The satire of it all made me laugh.

Have a good day or night. Time for me to sleep.


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Podcast Picks of the Week - 10/11/2008

I've got political fatigue, so my podcast picks this week are video ones.

I just can't take anymore political analysis! (That's probably because my mind is more than made up, so I'm just over it and want my replacement absentee ballot so I can vote.)

Man and Wife is hilarious. It's Fat Man Scoop and his wife Shanda giving sex and relationship advice. They've been doing this for over a year and now have an MTV version of the show. I've not seen the MTV version. I honestly can't imagine how they top the podcast version when Scoop is swearing and saying words that will earn you FCC fines in every episode (and it's funny.)

Anyway, I spent this week going from their first episode to their most current one. Some episodes are funnier than others but I just love this podcast. I also have to say having a positive representation of a marriage between a black man and black woman is great. Too many times it's negative stereotypes being thrown about and these two buck that negative trend. I'm hooked.

I'm going to state it plainly. It's explicit. They're talking about sex and it's not in the middle school sex education way of doing it. So if that's not your cup of tea, then don't click over.

Another one that had me cracking up was from SlateV, which is's video podcasts: C'mon, Move to Canada! Now I know it's a joke to them, but, seriously...if I have to face another four years having someone I just can't stand and truly don't understand as the president of the USA, I'm moving to Canada.

That's pretty much it. Last week they bumped up Slate's Political Gabfest a day early. It was only around 12 or so minutes. All they talked about was the debate. And, well, I'm burnt out, so I wasn't feeling it. Maybe next week that will change. However, it was still interesting. It was just, blah, for me: The Couples Therapy Gabfest.


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Friday, October 10, 2008

Blog Action Day : October 15th

Blog Action Day is on October 15th this year.

Last year the topic was the environment and my take on it was Koreans needed to be more proactive when it came to environmental issues. I got on that because the topic of Korea's economic development came up constantly in class when I was getting my masters here. And I'd hear the "we're a developing country" excuse a lot, but I'd also see no recycling bins for plastics and pretty much no awareness of wasteful behavior: Koreans Can't Afford to Think Poor. Basically, the point was if every developing country gets to lean on that as an excuse, the world is going to get worse before it gets better and is that really a legacy we want to leave?

This year the topic is poverty. I'm in again this year. Unlike last year, I already know my angle because I'm already involved in it.

If you've got a blog, I just want to ask you one question. Are you in?

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


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Look to the Stars Mentioned in USA Today

Yeah! Another great distraction from politics! (I'm actively looking for distractions these days.) Look to the Stars, a website I contribute to from time to time that talks about the charitable work of celebrities, got mentioned a couple of days ago in USA Today.

Celebrity status yields charity action

From traveling the world to playing gigs, many celebrities parlay fame into opportunities to help others. The charity work means even more when it grows out of a personal connection, as these four celebrities found.

Among places to find more information on celebrities and charities: The site allows users to find out which charities their favorite celebrities support, offering interviews and news updates. Users can search the site's database by cause, celebrity or charity. The Giving Back Fund encourages and advises entertainers and athletes on establishing charities. It also produces and annual list of top celebrity donors. The fund is preparing case histories on celebrity philanthropists, which it plans to post online. The coalition is composed of celebrities who lobby for various causes, particularly First Amendment issues, education and the arts. ...

There is a section of the article that talks about four celebrities and their charity activity, so click over for that.


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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Terrorist"? "Kill him"? This is an outrage!

Update 3: October 11, 2008 @ 1:14am

Rolling Stone: Make-Believe Maverick

Update 2: October 8, 2008 @ 10:55am Political Ticker Blog: Fact Check: Is Obama 'palling around with terrorists'?: the verdict - false.

Update 1: October 8, 2008 @ 2:04am (yeah, can't sleep)...

Huffington Post: McCain's Desperate Claim: Obama is Dangerous. Vote for Me If You Want to Live!


Okay, I really have no words and, if you read my blog, you know how rare that is.

I heard about this maybe 30 minutes ago: Obama Hatred At McCain-Palin Rallies: "Terrorist!" "Kill Him!" (VIDEO) from the Huffington Post. It's almost midnight here and I should be asleep. However, I can't sleep in good conscience and let this simmer without writing about it.

McCain and Palin have taken this game of demonizing for political gain too far. This happened at a McCain-Palin rally in New Mexico. McCain asks "who is Obama?" Someone in the crowd yells "terrorist" and someone yells "kill him"???

McCain says NOTHING to censor this?!!!

People in the crowd laugh?

This is a short clip and I'd rather see more, but come on. Now one interpretation is they're yelling "kill him!" in reference to William Ayers. Possible, very possible, but who thinks whipping a crowd into a frenzy where anyone's life is threatened is okay? This is, however, the reason I want a longer slice of the video.

If you continue to support a man that will stand and say nothing while his supporters say this then you're just as evil as he is. And I'm someone who in 2000 thought McCain wouldn't be so bad. Clearly, he's learned all the bad and dirty tricks that kept him from the nomination in 2000.

Letting people yell "kill him" is simply dangerous and unnecessary. I also have to say if you don't support him but you sit back and don't tell others about this video and what's in it, you're complicit too.

Can you imagine how much worse this makes the USA and its citizens look? Like Obama or not he's a husband and father of two young girls. I don't like McCain or Palin but I don't wish death on either one of them. This is an outrage!

Another link with another "kill him" yelled from the crowd.

More links:

The HuffPo story is from the blog: McCain does nothing as support calls Obama a "terrorist" - News & Views: Palin Supporter Shouts At Black TV Sound Man: 'Sit Down, Boy!'
Race Wire - The Colorlines Blog: Racist Republican Strategy Attracts Violent Supporters
Jack&Jill Politics: Palin Supporters Hurl Obscenities At Media. Tell Black Sound Man, “Sit down, boy!” McCain-Palin, Unfit To Lead
The Seminal - Independent Media and Politics: McCain Has Already Lost
Raising Kaine - The Voice of Progressive Virginia: McCain Allows Audience Member to Call Obama a "Terrorist"
Deus Ex Malcontent: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Shop for Truth: Obama Hatred At McCain-Palin Rallies: “Terrorist!” “Kill Him!”


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Glass Houses

Update: October 11, 2008 @1:07am is in the fray now. Check it out. Meet Sarah Palin’s radical right-wing pals

The Palins’ un-American activities



You see, I've actually been busy. At my job, midterms are next week and my thyroid is all a flutter again, which means a medication change but, until it takes effect, I'm much more tired and sleepy than usual (maybe it's this election and the growing anticipation that comes with it.)

Anyway, starting this past weekend, Dumb Dumb Palin is on a new project. She's basically trying to tie Obama to a 1960s radical William Ayers. It's a last minute attempt at character assassination.

Let me just say it's not working.

She's also associated with "terrorists" too and, according to general wisdom, she associates with fringe characters. However, clearly blind to her own associations, someone has convinced this silly woman that it's time. It's time for the inevitable mud slinging that starts in the October before a US presidential election. However, what's great is with so many pundits, bloggers and (gosh darnit!!!) Google searches, people can fact check a lie in a heartbeat.

This stuff does not appeal to people who are either 1) already supporting Obama and 2) undecided. The only people I can imagine who buy this malarkey are people who are already entrenched in the McSame camp who have a bad habit of only turning critical eye to people with whom they disagree.

I was going to write on it, but Keith Olbermann, in his awesome way, hit her hard. It spares me the trouble of writing about it and, damn, he's also very entertaining while doing it.

Riddle me this?

She's a complete idiot. Go get her Keith!

The transcript of Olbermann's rant: It's Palin doing the pallin' ;)

More links:

Huffington Post:Olbermann "Special Comment" On Sarah Palin (VIDEO)
LA Times: McCain, Obama introduce newly sharp tone amid major news events

Link to the video of Thomas Muthee and the laying of hands.


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Sunday, October 5, 2008

AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka on Racism and Obama

AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka on Racism and Obama:

So please go ahead and accuse this white man of "playing the race card".

Goodnight ;)


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Podcast Picks of the Week - 10/05/2008

My podcast addiction goes on. It's only my second week posting podcast picks, but I don't know how frequent it will be because it's a pain keeping track and then having to double back to find the link. I just subscribe to a bunch and that means they download and sync to my iPod automatically. Then if the podcast moves me, then I go back to find the link to post here. I'm going to see if just going directly to the sites rather than through iTunes helps me with speed. For some sites that's not an option and for others it is. We'll see. Clearly, I need an assistant ;)

This week's picks:
On the Media - September 26th.
On the Media - October 3rd.

I think the On the Media podcast will become a regular pick simply because it's a good selection of interesting media stories. One really good story was on the Media Bloggers Association and another good one was on the website.

Slate is on the list again. This week it's definitely my favorite podcast: Slate's Political Gabfest. Last week's Sept. 26th's podcast was titled, The Jittery Ball of Sunshine Gabfest. They're just smart and funny. Smart is good when you have smart and insightful things to say but also don't take yourself too seriously.

I also figured out Slate's Today's Papers Textcast. It took me a try or two to figure out the concept behind it. There is no sound. It's just text summaries of news stories from daily papers. It's good for getting a quick summary of what papers are talking about. With your iPod you just click the middle button three times and there you can read the text summaries.

Another pick is from Bill Moyer's Journal: Andrew J. Bacevich. Professor Bacevich has a best selling non-fiction book titled: The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. He's a conservative historian who now teaches at Boston College, but seeing this podcast* got me to buy his book. It also made me notice his new post on the Huffington Post. Check it out: Sarah Palin and John Winthrop.

* I downloaded the video podcast and not the audio one.


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Apkujeong on a Sunday Morning: Butterfinger Pancakes and 10 Corso Como

Intent on not doing the same thing this Sunday morning I decided to trek from my neighborhood over to the Apkujeong area of Seoul for breakfast. The draw to Apkujeong was Butterfinger Pancakes. Butterfinger Pancakes opened two years ago, but I was a stressed out student at that time. Then my Sunday mornings were spent camped out near a power outlet for typing my thesis into my PDA either in the Sogang University's Loyola library or at a local Starbucks from the morning to, at least, late afternoon. After graduating, things have changed and I have both more money because I'm working again and more free time. Yeah! But that means I'm still behind the curve on certain areas of the city.

The draw of Butterfinger Pancakes is their great Western style breakfast food. I got there around 10:30am this morning. There is always a wait on the weekends, but it wasn't so bad as I'd missed the party until dawn crowd but was a bit ahead of the brunch crowd. Also, I was by myself, and you always get seated quicker when you don't take up a whole table and can be seated at the counter.

If you read my blog, you know I'm a stickler for service. That's simply because I worked in the service industry for a time. If you're a rude bank teller, sales clerk or bartender in the States you're not going to have your job for very long. But I also recognize that I'm not in the States, but in South Korea where the idea of good service differs. This morning the waitress made an error took the order of a couple that were seated after me (actually, it was faux pas on the couple's part because there is a waiting list to be seated but they just strolled in and sat down...ooops). Anyway, she took their order first but when she told them it would be a 20 to 30 minute wait for their food they left. Then she walked off. That's bad service whether it's L.A. or Seoul, so I let the host know that their wait staff really should take orders in the order that people are seated. This is particularly because you usually have to wait just to get a seat. But, okay, no real harm, no real foul.

I then ask if I can substitute the blueberry pancakes for their regular pancakes in one of their sets for an extra charge. Their answer was "no, we can't." I was like "no, you can but you won't." I then just ordered what I wanted individually. However, that is one thing I don't like about Korean food service. It's not just at this particular restaurant, so don't mistake this as a critique solely of Butterfinger Pancake.

It's simply not an accommodating service culture in that respect. In the States, you can sub in or switch up dishes as you like. The restaurant might charge you a bit more for certain substitutions, but I don't have people telling me "no, we can't". That's an issue, like I said, with a lot of restaurants here. Koreans, I guess, don't ask for special substitutions or accommodations, and I can see that's pretty much the case. Here in what is a very homogeneous society, the idea of fair is everyone gets the same thing. Back home, the idea of fair is more flexible, in that you get what works for you.

In the faculty cafeteria at my job it's the same menu for every one on a daily basis. If you're a vegetarian, you're on your own. If you have other dietary restrictions, you're on your own. If you think the menu selection for the day sucks, you're on your own. In contrast, Westerners are used to a more accommodating food culture. This is particularly so if you're from the big city like I am. Since my only real restriction is excessive sweets and that I can control just by what I order, I just point out the distinction between "can't" and "won't" but then I let it go. However, I hope in time the service industry here gets a better clue about accommodating the customer. I ordered the blueberry pancakes and some other goodies. My coffee and breakfast goodies arrived. I had a great breakfast and went out of my way to thank them for the delicious food. I had a great and filling breakfast.

After that, I walked over to 10 Corso Como to browse and have something to drink in their visually stunning cafe. I went to an opening party there which was at the same time as Seoul Collection, now known as "Seoul Fashion Week", last March. However, I always end up thinking about going there again as an afterthought when I'm leaving the Apkujeong area. This time I remembered and I'm happy I did remember them.

Again, the space in 10 Corso Como is just spectacular, they have great merchandise (only a bit of which I'd ever buy because it's simply out of my price range) and in March they had an awesome small exhibit of dresses from the couturier Madame Grès. I was hoping that there was another great fashion exhibit, but sadly, there is no exhibit right now. Maybe they'll put something up in time for fashion week which is happening this month. We'll see.

I settled in for a glass carrot juice and some peace and quiet. The thing I like about spots like that in Seoul is the gawk level is substantially reduced. In these spots, they very well might be snotty or pretentious, but due to that and other factors they're not going to play the gawk or point at the foreigner/black girl game. They're too cool for that and that's awesome when all you want to do is sit down, have a something good to eat or drink and just read or relax.

Some other links on Butterfinger Pancakes:

Another good link on Madame Grès


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Friday, October 3, 2008

The VP Debate - a wee bit of a rant

Update 4: October 5, 2008 @ 7:15pm

This definitely goes up top! You know Saturday Night Live had to do a Biden/Palin VP debate spoof and they did complete with Queen Latifah as Gwen Iffil ;)



A nice debate flow chart from the HuffPo.

Yes, I watched the VP debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin live on Friday morning with a group of Obama supporters at a local restaurant near my apartment. (Remember, Seoul is across the dateline.)

All I have to say is "you betcha!" I'm going to rant here for a bit, so be warned.

Biden won hands down and the polls show that others agree. (Forbes, CNN, CBS and Chicago Tribune)

He countered her spin with facts. He countered her attempts to relate to the American voter with vivid examples of how he, too, understands the average American. Unlike his opponent, he did not blatantly disrespect Gwen Ifill by saying he'd answer questions how he wanted to answer questions nor did he shamelessly flirt with the viewing audience. ~wink~

This is the thing. If Michelle Obama chose at any point to lace a speech with any trace of Ebonics or throw a little wiggle in her walk and a hair flip or two, the media would have a field day and the backlash would be incredible. Michelle would be attacked for not being enough like a First Lady and she'd certainly be accused of not being classy. However, Palin can be "folksy" and wink at the camera and simpletons give her a high five for it. Sure, many say that she's just "being herself", but that's the antithesis of a formal setting. I'm sure I can't be the only person who sees how off-kilter that is.

This was a debate and debates have rules. You answer the questions and if you're unresponsive then that's a problem. Palin said she would not be "answering the questions the way the moderator would like." If she wants to talk to the American people then she ought to get out there and talk to both the "liberal media" and more conservative press. If she wants to talk to the American people then add tons more public appearances onto her schedule. However, a debate is not the place to say what you want when you want.

People are saying that Palin did well. Okay, but realize the bar was set so low that all she had to do was show up, look presentable and hold her own. She did that. By that appallingly low standard, she did well!

It's truly amazing how things are spun in her case: low standards is now the standard!

:::ExpatJane - disgusted - drops the mic and walks off stage:::

More stuff:

HuffPo - As Palin Refused To Answer Questions, Ifill Should Have Pushed Back
LATimes - Sarah Palin's in Carson tomorrow -- will she answer your questions?
SF Weekly - The Real Loser of Palin vs. Biden: Gwen Ifill
Undercover Black Man: Gwen Ifill becomes the story
boiling mad:Biden K.O.'d Palin


Update 1 - @ 9:17am

Like with McSame's first debate, the McCain/Palin campaign jumped the gun with their ads.

Check this one out: Famous Person loves Palin:

"Famous person", eh? It looks like they jumped the gun again and couldn't wait for the end of the debate and the inevitable discussion that follows for a famous person to say something good before releasing the ad.


Update 3 - 10:28pm - Some Video from MSNBC


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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Checklist for Overseas or Absentee Voters

I'll add this up top 'cause it's deserving of being immediately noticed:

Click on this link: 2008 US Voter Info, enter your address and it will pull up voter registration information for you. By the way, some states have deadlines later than October 4th, so just check. Okay?

If you're abroad, like me, register using Vote From Abroad or the Overseas Vote Foundation. Either one does the trick.

If you're in Korea and have questions about your absentee ballot, contact Democrats Abroad Korea:

Okay, done.

I got this in my email from Democrats Abroad this morning. It applies to all Americans voting from overseas though, so go through the checklist and make sure your vote counts.

I got my absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, the mail carrier left it out in the rain and it got soaked. I returned it as a spoiled ballot per my election authority's instructions and got an email today that they'll be sending a new ballot to me today. Remember should something happen to yours in transit or you make a mistake, you can use a Back-up Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. You can get step-by-step information on how to use that here at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.

Click to

Time to Vote! A Checklist for Overseas Voters

Request Your Ballot: Make sure that you have requested your absentee ballot. Go to if you have not.

Be Aware: Let your American friends who may not know - that voting in the Democrats Abroad Primary this past February will not get you a ballot to vote in November. Help us spread the word.

Source for State Deadlines: Deadlines are fast approaching. Send in your ballot today to ensure you have sufficient time to meet this deadline. Note that most states allow the deadline to be met by faxing the original signed FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) as long as the original hardcopy is mailed and received before the ballots are counted.

Here is an up-to-date list of registration and ballot return deadlines.

Confirm Your Registration with Your State On-line: The following states allow you to find your registration status on-line: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Go to the following and click on the link for your state.

Confirm Your Registration with Your State via Other Means (i.e., if not available online): Contact information for your local election officials is available at the following website. Select your state and then the local jurisdiction from the drop-down menus. Email or call your election official directly to find out if you are on the voter registration and absentee ballot rolls.

Use the Federal Write In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), as needed: Along with your ballot request, will provide a backup ballot called the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Keep it in a safe place. If you do not receive your official state ballot by October 15, then go ahead and send in the FWAB. If your state ballot arrives later, complete and mail that one, too. This is not double voting - your election official will count only one. Provided you requested your ballot early enough.

If you are not on the electoral roll or if you cannot contact your local election official, please let us know and we will provide additional help and guidance.

Questions? Email with your state and as much information as feasible:

Don't forget the postage!! Expect to receive your absentee ballots in early October, although dates depend on each state. Every state ballot is different since some may have pages of referendums. We recommend posting your absentee ballot at a post office and getting this post marked. Return your ballots as soon as feasible to ensure sufficient time to be returned to your County's election office.

Note that even if the envelope says postage paid, this is NOT the case from mailing outside of the US. Ensure you add sufficient postage! Take your ballot to the post office. They can give you proof of posting for free, weigh the ballot to assure correct postage and stamp it with a post mark which is required in some states.


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Platon's Photos from the New Yorker

Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, honorably discharged in 2007 after five years of service, refused to be redeployed in Iraq

Like I posted earlier, I'm into podcasts now.

I branched out and downloaded some from the New Yorker. On Tuesday I was listening to one with the photographer, Platon. In it he talks about taking photos of those in the service either before or after their deployment to Iraq.

Kesha Brown, photographed at the United States Military Academy at West Point during graduation week

Listening to his description of the photos is great and a couple of those descriptions had me near tears. Granted, I was listening to this while in transit on the Seoul subway system, so I was in that awkward situation where you know you're tearing up but you're holding back as to not make the people around you uncomfortable. I managed, but barely.

Here is the link to the podcast: Platon on photographing members of the military (you need iTunes to view this link).

And here is the link to the rest of Platon's photos in this series: Service


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