Saddle Sores
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The Saddle Sores Super Asia Tour 2000

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Crab eggs, potato pizza and Korean Japanese food (Seoul, Korea August 8, 2000)

Ok, I have to fess up, this was not written on August 8, but it happened then, so let's leave it at that.

Sunday, Jang's friend Chong-ho took us out to lunch. Chong-ho is serving his three years in the South Korean military (still in basic training!) and this was his last few hours off before heading back to the barracks. We went to a Japanese restaurant in a section of town I cannot find on a map, and enjoyed very pleasant conversation. The delicacy for this meal was sushi with crab eggs, which are about as pleasant as chicken bone marrow--i.e., not at all. At around the sixth course, a kimchi-laden broth emerged (part of the WEID diet), which I tried and failed to consume fully. Neither Jang nor Chong-ho finished it either, so I didn't feel so bad about resenting it.

Chong-ho had to return home to get into his dress uniform, so Jang and I got a lift to Coex mall and took the subway from there to TechnoMart, which I think is best summarized in iambic pentameter:

I scurry 'cross your aisles full of toys,
And think that I shall never feel the same;
For every window case has in its frame,
A panoply of widgets I'll enjoy.
Like other pleasures best enjoyed alone,
Your stories twelve of electronics stuffed
all leave my techno geek side aptly fluffed
And make the gadget junkie in me moan.
An IR mouse, a homemade PC clone!
A Voodoo GrafX card, a new TV!
A 'frigerator, hub or DVD!
A stereo karaoke microphone!
Oh TechnoMart, you nothing have foresworn:
A food court apt for any Park or Kim;
A temple built to worship techno sin;
Oh TechnoMart--the king of technoporn!

I felt like I needed a cigarette after leaving TechnoMart (laden with my newly-purchased digital camera), and I don't even smoke. That place would have made my buddy James start speaking in tongues.

On our way back to the Kangnam area to catch dinner, Jang had a realization and remembered my mentioning something about a place I read about called Lotte World, which had sounded like the most absurd
View of Lotte World
Lotte World to the right!
monument to Asian mall culture I had ever read about. We got off at the station directly connected to it.

If TechnoMart makes me want to write sonnets full of unbridled techno geekdom, Lotte World makes me want to write cultural analysis predicting the downfall of all that is worth writing about. Take Epcot Center's version of what a European village might look like if people stopped living there and they were replaced by fluffy bears and toadstool-wielding gnomes and you might begin to approximate what Lotte World's designers probably had in mind when they designed the amusement park in the top level of this mall-cum-amusement-park-cum-hotel-and-sports-complex. Then again, the general strangeness of Lotte World is the fact that it is the largest indoor amusement park suspended above a skating rink inside a Mall beside a man-made lake with a hotel and Wedding Hall attached in Southeast Asia. Oh, I forgot the bowling alley. The amusement park, with its parade of lights and animatronic dinosaurs and monorail and fake mountain goats all crammed into a space the size of a minor sports arena, takes what Disney does best and pushes it to an extreme: take an exoticized real place, extract from it all that makes it dirty, unsafe and liable to erode, decay or corrode, cover the rest with fresh
View of Lotte World
Lotte World to the left!
white paint and easy-to-clean tiles and add to it synthesized violin renditions of music from some other exoticized real place. It's interesting to see that exoticization works both ways; in the case of Lotte World, it's a European village that's exoticized, not Japan. But Lotte World does seem to go farther, larger, more, brighter than anything Disney would do--which in itself is frightening.

There, beside the skating rink and three floors below the celing from which were suspended the hot-air-balloons-on-tracks, we sat in the food court, under a dome with an inscription in Latin that was meaningless (something about "rocks", "years" and "food"), and had potato pizza. Dr. Atkins would heavily disapprove, but it took care of the post-TechnoMart munchies.

I took the subway back to the hotel and chilled, playing around with the camera and realizing that there is something funky with the serial port data transfer from the camera to the laptop. I think it's the general status of this system.

WEID: Will Ensure Intestinal Distress