Monthly Archives: December 2015

Pretty pictures giveaway!

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One thing that I don’t quite understand is why Block B bothers doing pretty pictures of themselves–I mean, it must sell, but why? There’s no reason why everyone should think the way I do, though, and my limitations can be your gain!

Yup! I’m giving away pretty pictures! Here they are!

Pretty Pictures #1: Block B in USA Photobook

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This is JUST the photobook. Photobook ONLY. NOT the DVD, which I will never give away. The photobook ALONE.

It has been unwrapped, and the DVD is gone. I leafed through it once or twice when I first got it, but it’s like new.

Pretty Pictures #2: Block B in USA Poster

This came in a tube with the photobook. I took the poster out of the tube very carefully to photograph it, returned it to the tube equally carefully, and then realized that my camera phone had decided to focus on the air six inches in front of the poster.

Rather than take the poster out again and risk damaging it, I’ll just tell you that it’s the same photo as on the cover of the photobook. It measures a little bigger than 18 x 24 inches.

Pretty Pictures #3: Dodgy 2016/2017 Desk Calendar

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My sister got me this for Christmas because I needed a calendar; unfortunately, it’s not the kind of calendar I can actually use (the dates are just a line of numbers across the top of the new pretty picture you see each month).

Yes, my sister knows I’m giving this away and is cool with it–we’re adults, thanks.

You’ll notice that this 1. is NOT the official Seasons Greetings calendar, and 2. the picture on the 2017 side is from the Skoolooks campaign. Yeah, I’m guessing this calendar infringes not a few copyright laws. But it’s not like you’re paying for it–the damage has already been done, so you might as well enjoy the calendar!

Pretty Pictures #4: U-Kwon Edition of the Japanese Version of “Conduct Zero”

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“Hinko ZERO!!!!” This contains the Japanese version of “Conduct Zero” and “Charlie Chaplin,” which are both great songs in any language, plus a photobook containing pretty pictures of U-Kwon. It’s been opened and the CD has been played (and digitally ripped), but it’s in like-new condition.

How do you win these pretty pictures?

We’ll do it like we did the Japanese stuff giveaway: Leave a (non-anonymous) comment that says which pretty pictures you would like to win. You can name more than one item: You will win only one item, but I will try to make sure that all the winners get something they actually want.

Winners will be selected via A RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR, which chooses winners RANDOMLY.

International entries are OK, and don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away–I have to approve comments from new people.

The contest will close…um…let’s say January 15.

Good luck!

Deep thots on deep lyrics

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I think I may technically be stalking Asia Jackson at this point, but she’s kind of new to the whole Korean music scene, and it’s really fun to watch her recoil in horror at some of The Dumb out there.

This one especially amused me:

Because–I mean, Junhyung? The rapper from the . . . uh . . . legendary hip-hop group . . . Beast?

Well, you gotta admit, they got some great lyrics.

I have always wanted to post this video, and now I can!

The attempts of non-Korean speakers to judge Korean music on its lyrics have always genuinely mystified me–I agree with Kpopalypse that one of the benefits of Korean music for people who don’t speak Korean is that you can’t understand the lyrics. I can think of only one Korean song where I could pretty much understand most of the Korean lyrics–and they did move me deeply.

Yum.

I do sometimes look up lyrics of songs, and like I said before, if they’re good, that’s great. But I don’t do it often, and if they don’t float my boat, I just stop looking up lyrics from that artist and get back to listening to the music. I realize that there are Korean speakers out there with strong opinions about lyrics, but guess what? I’m not one of them, and I don’t borrow trouble. I honestly don’t understand why other people do–why take a song you like and research the hell out of it until you find out something about the song that makes it so you can’t enjoy it any more? Are you not getting your full complement of suffering out of this life?

Plus, you can’t judge for yourself–you are reliant on other people’s translations and other people’s opinions. A lot gets lost in translation: Things that are clever or punchy in one language often aren’t in another, and allusions mean nothing to someone outside of that culture. I’ve seen enough extremely self-assured people massively screw up literary analysis when the work is in English that I don’t feel the need to pay attention to someone pretending they are the Lord High Literary Judge of Lyrical Quality when it’s in another language. I mean, who knows how badly they’re embarrassing themselves? I certainly don’t.

But that’s the negative side, right? What about lyrics you really like?

For example, back when I was 13 and wanted to marry Simon LeBon of Duran Duran, I thought this guy had some really profound and meaningful lyrics.

Let’s read them together!

I’ve been waiting for so long
to come hear now and sing this song.
Oh, don’t be fooled by what you see.
Don’t be fooled by what you hear.

This is the song for all of our friends
take the challenge to their hearts.
Challenging preconceived ideas.
Say goodbye to your standard fears.

Don’t crack up.
Bend your brains.
See both sides.
Throw off your mental chains.

I look at that nowadays and wonder just exactly what kind of cult Howard Jones was attempting to start. I mean, it’s certainly all very positive! (His album was called Human’s Lib–I thought that was really profound as well.) It just doesn’t mean anything–it’s nebulous feel-good pap. Self-helpy, but not in a way that’s actually going to help anybody.

But at the time, I thought Howard Jones’ lyrics were so deep and so important that (this is really embarrassing) I wrote him a letter to tell him how much I appreciated his words. I never wrote a letter to any other celebrity (not even Simon LeBon!), but Howard Jones was just, like, wow, you know?

I would have fit right in.

My point is, your feelings about a song’s lyrics can change–a song that strikes you as too angry, sad, happy, sappy, or whatever at one moment can later be a song you really relate to. (Or a source of complete embarrassment. It can go either way.)

And typically with K-Pop groups, they’re not actually writing their own lyrics. Even if they are, songs are commercial products–the lyrics you love so much were probably written (and then edited, and then edited some more) with that explicit goal in mind.

Songs about romantic love are especially popular, so many of them are written in response to situations that are not even vaguely romantic. Whitney Houston’s monster hit “I Will Always Love You” was written by Dolly Parton for Parton’s . . . old boss. Who got upset when she left his shop and became a soloist.

“No Hard Feelings, Bud!” would have been a more-truthful song title.

And as a writer who has known many other writers, I have to point out that a writer can write beautifully and still be a total douchebag. Oftentimes people are writing about what they wish were true, not the way things actually are, and any writer is going to be self-serving to some degree.

The musician who sings songs about true love but is a total womanizer is so common as to be a cliche–of course I’ve known those. I have also known:

  • An SJW folk singer who was a vile racist
  • A fellow whose brother wrote incredibly touching songs about him; they did not talk, and he was never comfortable when anything having to do with his brother came up
  • A woman who did quite well writing about how unfair it was that she was single. Left out of her writings was the fact that she was a cokehead who preferred to date men already married, because in her mind there was really no point in dating someone if you couldn’t shaft another woman in the process

So, yeah. When you work in the creative arts you learn that talent is just that: It’s talent, not moral fiber or even basic decency. Being good at writing isn’t really any different than being good at fixing cars–you can make money from it, it can bring you joy, and other people can appreciate it. But it doesn’t make you a good person.

Physical. Digital. Does it matter?

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One of the areas where you see a lot of odd beliefs about the business of the arts is the realm of physical vs. digital product. This is true in the arts in general as well as the K-Pop industry, which has responded to the rise of digital music in its own way.

Ironically, one of the largest sources of misinformation about digitalization is industry associations. Such associations are dominated by businesses that were founded on the sale of physical objects. They often don’t respond to well to the major changes caused by new digital technologies and send out dire press release after dire press release about how the decline in industry revenues caused by digitization is going to KILL US ALL.

(No, they don’t talk about industry profits. Why would they do that?)

Granted, technological changes can wipe out enormous chunks of old-school industry–I used to work in the encyclopedia industry, so trust me, I’ve seen that first hand. But what digitization tends to take out is the middlemen, not the artists themselves and certainly not the consumers.

And consumers love digital.

Why? Simple: Digital goods are cheap.

Do artists love digital?

Here is my provocative reply: If you are an artist who is smart about business, you love digital. If you are dumb about business, you do not.

Taking novels as an example: In the United States, you as a writer can sell an e-book for $3 and make $2 in profit from it. You can also sell a $20 paper book and make $2 in profit from it.

Guess what consumers are going to buy more of?

Buuuuut . . . you can also sign with a publisher who will charge people $20 for your e-book as well as your paper book. When the e-book (shockingly!) doesn’t sell so well, they’ll cut the price–but then you’ll get almost nothing! And then you’ll write bitter, angry articles about how digitization is going to KILL US ALL.

In other word, if you sign dumb contracts and make dumb decisions, you will handle digital dumbly and lo and behold, your career and finances will suffer, because digital is where it’s at these days. Not just true for writers–true for everyone.

The Korean music industry appears to have made its peace with the notion that most consumers are going to buy digital, and musicians seem to act like you can do fine with digital nowadays.

In fact, at this point the Korean music industry aims its physical sales at one group only: Hard-core fans. This is why K-Pop CDs are so expensive and so fancy; it’s also why they come in multiple special editions (one for each member!) and contain collectibles like DOLLS. You personally may buy the CD because there’s some kind of annoying Japan-esque market/technology barrier to buying digital in your country, but you’re in the minority–most buyers are fans. And in many cases, these fans are buying the CDs specifically to gain access to fan events where they can meet the musicians.

So, what segment of the Korean music industry has a lot of hard-core fans? The K-Pop idol groups, of course!

That’s why you’ll see really weird phenomenon like idol group BAP having a #1 album but no high-ranking digital singles. Non-idol musicians will often flip that, doing well digitally but not posting that much in the way of album sales.

That’s also why you’ll see people massively exaggerate the importance of doing well digitally or physically. Obviously in a perfect world you’d sell everywhere–plus you’d have complete strangers hand you large sacks of money for no particular reason!–but if you’re doing well in one market, you’re probably not going to worry too much about the other. The whole K-Pop idol thing is divisive in Korea, though, just as teen idols are in the United States, and so the people who really like the idol system will claim that physical sales are super-important, while the people who think those people are a bunch of lamers will act like digital sales are all that matters.

Does it matter to the artists?

I’d argue–sort of? It depends on who you are and what you like to do.

The upside of physical sales is that you’re maximizing revenues from your fan base–basically selling CDs is like selling DVDs and calendars and whatnot, which typically are also sold via fan events. So, as long as you don’t push it too hard and generate a fan rebellion, you can make money and keep fans engaged without having to put out much in the way of new music.

The downside of physical sales is that they take more work. CDs are expensive to produce and have to be shipped and stored, which can also be costly. If you want to move appreciable numbers of them, you have to do all these fan events, which means you aren’t doing other things, like making new music, that you might enjoy more.

In other words, I find it kind of amusing that Zico is going to be doing fan events to promote physical sales of Gallery. Hopefully he doesn’t incinerate anyone with his terrible gaze.

How to keep up

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Because I do BlockB.com I’ve had to become kind of a freak about keeping up-to-date with the group, and I was thinking it might be helpful to do a post for people who would like to get updates about the group’s activities but would also like to pursue normal lives. I don’t have any kind of alert system set up for that Web site, and I’m not going to set up some kind of social-media/e-mail alert system because that would be more work. In addition, as I hope the rest of this post demonstrates, it would be unnecessary–there are plenty of options out there for people who want to stay in the loop. (I’m going to focus on updates regarding the group’s activities, not on pictures and the like.)

Obviously, the K-Pop media sucks on many levels, but if all you really want to know is 1. when is new music coming out? and 2. is Block B coming to my non-Asian country? I would just set up a Google News alert for “Block B.” If you just ask for News updates, not Web updates, you’ll get relatively few e-mail alerts that cover big news like music releases and overseas tours. Since this is K-Pop news, you’ll also get unbelievably vapid crap–How Does Zico Feel About Being Compared to G-Dragon? was, no lie, a major K-Pop news story all around the world. Recently. (Answer: It doesn’t bother him any, and he doesn’t think the people making the comparison are actually G-Dragon fans. Smart boy.) Nonetheless, the ratio of wheat to chaff is usually pretty high.

If you want to feel more like you have your finger on the pulse of things, then it’s time to start subscribing to Twitter feeds: Block B United posts a ton of information, including schedules–the reposts typically aren’t translated, but original posts are often in English. Block B International has two Twitter feeds: One that translates Tweets from the group and one that has schedule and fan information. (ETA: BeeSubs has begun translating Tweets as well.)

The issue with all the English-language news sources is that they tend to focus on the U.S./European market (Block B United is probably the best of them for global coverage). Block B hasn’t come to Latin America yet, so I don’t know how well that would be covered by these sources: If you’re nervous about it, I would definitely plug into Block B Brazil because those guys are wired.

For people living in Asia: If you’re in Japan and want to know what’s going on there, you are really in luck because the official Block B Japan Web site is kept very up-to-date. (I remember the days when my main news source for Block B activity in Japan was the page of some random-but-extremely-well-informed blogger who kept jumping ship to what was then just Jay Park and VV:D–normally I wouldn’t care, but under the circumstances, I was like, nooooooooo!!!)

I wish I could say the same thing about Seven Seasons’ Schedule page, but, a-ha-ha, no. They tend to update it at the beginning of the month–like, right now, it’s December 14, and they have nothing on the docket for January. Of course, Block B has had a five-concert tour scheduled for January in Japan since October, but you’ll find that only on the Block B Japan site. It may show up on the Seven Seasons site in late December; it may show up (I have seen this happen) after the Japan tour–you know, once everyone gets back and things settle down, and the staff has a chance to decompress and catch up on things; it may never show up at all. Updating that thing is definitely very low on Seven Seasons’ list of priorities.

If you’re OK with just Korean performances, Interpark’s Korean (not English!) ticket site and the related Play DB have most of them, but you have to search both the English and the Hangul spelling (i.e. both Block B and 블락비) if you want complete results, plus if you’re looking for an individual member, that won’t be included in your Block B results. (One day I will learn Korean well enough to figure out if it’s possible to set up alerts on either site; at this point I do not know.)

ETA: I used to have links to Korean fan Twitter feeds, but the turnover is high, so I’ve deleted those. Usually you can look to see where information from the English-language feeds comes from and then trace it back to see who’s worth following.

Even profounder analyses

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I know the nieces already wowed you with their deep thoughts regarding Block B videos, but Asia Jackson (the model in the “Veni Vidi Vici” video) is attempting to figure out what the hell the plot was for that video, so I thought I’d contribute some analysis of my own. I was a literature major, so prepare for amazement!

The video begins and ends with Asia trotting around what might at first glance appear to be a mysterious briefcase.

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However, the briefcase should be very familiar indeed to fans! It’s this:

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Or possibly this:

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Either way, the briefcase contains money or money-like objects, which explains why Asia can saunter off so leisurely with it. No need to stress: The members of Block B always lose the money.

You see a lot more concern surrounding the red knapsack she hands off to the other young ladies.

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What’s in there that causes such worry?

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Fear me.

* * *

While I’m at it, I’m going to explain this video as well.

Lots of people think this video just makes no sense or that it’s some kind of abstract statement on K-Pop or Block B’s lawsuit or something. But it is in fact an account of how an unconventional security system, combined with well-trained staff, foiled a vicious robbery.

People notice that the bank robbery starts out looking like it will be successful. The group of thieves have a fortified van that can smash through walls (!), they’re well-equipped and intimidating, and they are masked. Conventional security measures are immediately neutralized.

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However, the thieves soon seem to lose sight of their goals and become extremely disorganized. They pull off their masks, and although they readily gain access to the safe, they simply throw the money around and eventually leave without it.

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Adding to the mystery, the bank and security staff (with one notable exception) appears to accept these dangerous criminals, even joining their nonsensical activities.

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Why?

The answer lies in something that appears at the very beginning of the video:

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Is that smoke? Is that dust? No. It is an unconventional security system in operation: The moment the bank’s wall was breached, a potent mix of powerful hallucinogenic gases was released into the air, confusing and confounding the robbers.

Was anyone unaffected? I think the answer is clear if you look at this photo:

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The guy on the left is obviously tripping balls. The lady on the right is stone-cold sober, waiting to strike.

Why don’t the drugs affect her? If you look carefully at the contents of her purse when it is dumped out, you will find your answer:

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American currency. Yes, this woman is clearly a CIA operative, presumably on loan to the Korean government as part of some shadowy joint operation. As part of her training, she has been rendered immune to the drugs contained in the bank’s security system.

But what about the poor employees? You can’t expect every bank to have a CIA operative hanging about! This is where training comes in–if you drill people hard enough, they can perform vital tasks even when heavily impaired.

Take the two bank tellers: They are clearly affected by the hallucinogens and even participate in drug-fueled orgies with the criminals.

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All this means that the criminals do not view them as a threat. However, thanks to their intensive training, while the criminals are running around like idiots and blowing up random things for no reason, the bank tellers are retrieving the money.

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You wonder where the money went? Right back into the vault, counted, stacked, and with all the bills face up and in the proper direction!

Now, that is a security system!