Thursday, January 25, 2007

Randi in Korea Part 1

p>I stumbled upon this while over at James Randi's site. Randi is a former stage magician who has spent the last few decades debunking psychics and other con men who prey on the gullible.

It is a recount of his trip to Korea in 1995 to take part in a TV show. For almost everyone who has spent some time working in Korea, regardless of the kind of work they do, this story will sound all too familiar.

Some of the choicer bits that took place once he arrived:

Nothing, but nothing, took place as planned.  People would call, arrange to

meet me, and never show up.  There was little, if any, understanding of what

I was there to do, though I'd gone into exquisite detail on the faxes.  It

took us two days to discover that the Big Producer, Mr. Kim*, had been

misinformed; he thought I was a genuine psychic!

Well, that posed a major problem.  I'd outlined 16 tricks-of-the-psychics I

would do, along with explanations.  And I did them all at the production

meetings, to establish that they'd work.  Everyone oooohed and ahhhhed, but

Kim was quite troubled.  He finally announced that I would wear a silver

robe and hat, and declare it all to be the real thing.  I counter-announced

that I'd do no such thing, and he could only get that costume onto my

corpse.  [Would like to have heard the interpreters handle that one]. Kim suggested that I say that some of what I did was fake, but most

of it was real.  I said no.  He told me I could say that most of what I did

was fake, but some was real.  Nyet, nein, no, non.  We were not at all happy

with each other, and Kim kept saying that the Korean people like to believe

that psychic stuff is real, and they would expect me to say that it is.

"A silver robe and hat", that's just classic. It reminded me of the last time I saw local celebrity Isaac Durst on his latest TV show teaching English to kids. He was wearing a jester's suit, complete with the jingle-bell hat for no apparent reason whatsoever. I can just see his own Mr Kim: PD' coming up with this grand idea and Isaac, basically completely bereft of whatever dignity he once had when he first came to Korea, just went along with it.

And Big Producer Kim was right; most people watching these kinds of shows on TV want to oooh and aaah at the supposed supernatural, rather than have some party pooper come along and tell them that its all bullshit that can be done anyone. That's not just Korea, but the sad state of affairs in all of the supposedly enlightened first world countries. Even the Discovery channel stoops to this kind of nonsense repeatedly.

Back to Randi's misadventures in Korea

Note: Mr. Kim wasn't at all interested in the truth of the matter, but only

in what the Korean public wanted to hear.  His lack of respect for their

dignity really annoyed me.  And his confident declarations of psychic powers

that were, he said, part of the lives of Koreans, really depressed me.  When

he ran on about a Korean girl who could read sealed envelopes -- and had

been "tested by scientists!" -- I offered to give her my fee for the

engagement if she could do it for me, just ONCE, but he waved away that

suggestion.  We have an exprssion that involves putting up or shutting up,

but I think it would have been lost on the man.

Be sure to read the rest, especially about how they tried to get around paying Randi his fee.   Par for the course in these parts, Randi. Welcome to the Hub of Asia.

Randi did return to Korea in 2003 and did a series of shows for SBS. This experience went a whole lot better and the shows actually did let Randi expose Korean psychics for the frauds they were.  Not many shows in the West have the decency to do the same thing, so mad props to SBS for this moment, however brief, of sanity.  More on that in Part 2 of Randi in Korea, coming (relatively) soon...

Comments on original blog post

Great Post, sounds about par for the course.

Posted by: EFL Geek | January 25, 2007 at 02:51 AM

Too bad I have not looked through Randi's site enough to find the gem. Thanks for the sharp eyes.

As a counterpoint, if anybody wants to find the Skeptic's Guide podcast of a few weeks ago Randi has some very complementary things to say about Korea as well.

His whole dilemma reminds me of trying to serve cilantro at my old restaurant. Korean's expect not to like it, so you should never serve it. Or so the told me while eagerly shoveling homemade cilantro laced salsa down their gullet.

Posted by: Dram_man | January 25, 2007 at 05:09 AM

Korean TV producers exclusively use the Ooooooh-meter when making programming choices. Frauds and con artists (read: psychics and fortune tellers) get plenty of airtime, not only because Koreans are eternal suckers for the supernatural, but because the entire culture is inundated with crap of a similar vein like blood-type bullshit, golden pigs, street psychics, lucky grave sites, CHINESE MEDICINE and on and on. Authoritarian culture + general lack of skepticism + inherent "trust" in your seniors/parents/authority figures + inability to differentiate science from pseudo-science = Absolutely Gullible.

I would have to disagree, Pooper, with your assessment that not many shows in the West have the decency to expose psychics. Of course the dipshit talk shows (with Larry King, Montel, Maury Povich, etc. being the worst offenders) tend to book asshats like John Edwards, Sylvia Browne, and Something Van Something and give them free reign to talk with the dead without much skepticism. But the news magazines (20/20, Dateline, Primetime) do a solid job of digging deeper and exposing the manipulation and bullshit behind the entire industry.

Watch James Randi's account of how he and Johnny Carson exposed famous (at the time) spoon-bending douchebag Uri Geller on the Tonight Show. It's a classic. Carson part starts at 5:42. There's also a sweet healing-preacher he exposes at the end of the vid.

Randi for Preznit.

Posted by: iheartblueballs | January 26, 2007 at 11:19 PM

partypooper is pooping everywhere here!!! iIt rocks!..... yeah..... u really need to go pro with this! ;)

Posted by: partypooperwannabe | March 05, 2007 at 09:06 PM

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Michelle Wie's Ass Kicked by Japanese-American Punk

After the first round at the Sony Open, 17-year-old former golf phenomenon Michelle Wie finds herself second to last in the qualifier in a field of 144.

Playing the Sony Open for the fourth straight
year, Wie hit into the water twice, the bunker twice, clipped two palm
trees and didn't hit a fairway until the 15th hole. Headed for her
worst score ever, the 17-year-old kept battling and played the back
nine in even par for a 78.

That's one stroke better than her opening round a year ago at Waialae.

But it still leaves her chances of making the cut about the same as the second round being postponed by snow.


This continues her string of failures in qualifiers, finishing either dead last or second to last in all last year's events.  This one looks to be a bit worse, as a younger (and much shorter)  teenager is doing much better. 

"The best score by a Hawaii teen belonged to 16-year-old    Tadd Fujikawa,
one year younger and a foot shorter than Wie. Fujikawa, who qualified
for the U.S. Open last year, opened with a 1-over 71 at Waialae."

Schooled by a short 16-year-old Japanese American punk; will Korean pride ever recover?

Now some of you may question why I gloat over Michelle Wie's dramatic failures. To tell the truth, I had never had anything against Michelle Wie until her father opened up his mouth to Korean reporters about how 'the only thing American about Michelle Wie is her passport'. He basically played the Korean nationalism card to get some sweet advertising contracts for his daughter and did his little part to set back Korean-American relations in the States just that much further. Honestly, if Korean-Americans are to become fully accepted into American society (as most should be), idiots like this need to shut up and keep their nationalism (and implied racism) to themselves. I can't imagine Robert Holley being able to say 'the only thing Korean about me is my passport' and getting away with it in Korea, and neither should this clown be able to do the same.

So, for the sins of the father, I will relish each dramatic loss my Michelle as she continues to compete with the men (solely for marketing purposes). Let her first actually win a few women's competitions and build up her skills before she wastes everyone's time competing against the men. Someday she might deserve to be there, but until then, she should stop embarrassing herself.

Comments on original blog post

Bonus: Move the mouse over her boobs and see what pops up. On the screen, I mean.

All chick photos should have this feature.

Posted by: nobody | January 12, 2007 at 08:30 AM

In this day and age, the separation of men and women in sports competition strikes me as silly. People who want to ignore biological realities should be allowed to compete together, I say.

While I'm at it: I advocate the elimination of weight classes, too.

Kevin "There Can Be Only One" Kim

Posted by: Kevin Kim | January 13, 2007 at 07:43 AM

Even if this occurs, Kevin will always remain the undisputed champion at cat bowling.

Posted by: Rhesus | January 14, 2007 at 12:01 PM

I agree with all of your points, but at the same time, I might say the same things as her father if it meant I would have many more millions of dollars to add to my bank account (notice I say my, because there is now way pops is nice enough to give it all to her. He will have some screwed up Korean logic of all mine will be hers, so I might as well have control of it right now).

Posted by: koreaspondent | January 14, 2007 at 08:35 PM

Nice blog facelift!

Too much Corean Pryde is bad for the stomach; just like KimChi

Posted by: Mark Milton | January 15, 2007 at 08:34 PM

"I can't imagine Robert Holley being able to say 'the only thing Korean about me is my passport' and getting away with it in Korea,"

Really? I can imagine him saying it, and Koreans nodding in agreement with him.

Posted by: Hugh | January 16, 2007 at 07:55 PM

It has always amazed me how Korea and Koreans can raise an absolute nobody, like Michele Wie, into Godlike Stardom without that person ever actually accomplishing anything but being cute.

Posted by: kimchipig | January 18, 2007 at 08:03 PM

Koreans generally want it both ways. Whilst honouring the 5000 years of culture etc etc and thrusting every artefact of absolutely no interest at all under our noses,they also revere the USA and aspire to that ideal.

The sad reality is that the ones that make it there just turn their backs on the homeland as the Samsung crowd turn their backs on old school mates. Despite what certain sources will have us believe - Korean 'collective' consciousness only really applies in a 'fair weather friend' context.

Koreans are a very selfish breed with a good deal of ambition coupled with self-loathing and an overwhelming sense of inferiority which displays itself as an overwhelming attitude of completely unfounded superiority - and that's just the Kindergaarten students.

Oh well - it's great to see them overseas huddled in groups without the comfort blankets afforded to them by the family and years of the likes of President / Father Park mk 1 /2 etc.

Yes guys when you leave this place - you too are way-gooks but unlike us - you haven't got a fuckin clue!

Posted by: Leone | January 20, 2007 at 06:21 AM

Sometimes Koreans overcompensate their Corean pryde by making up fake history, promoting racism against non-Koreans, and hyping achievements such as Dr Hwang's faked cloning, etc.

Ironically, this type of KCrean pryde is actually fueling anti-Korean sentiment. Japan doesn't need to work that hard in promoting anti-Korean sentiment at the rate Corean Pryde is achieving.

Posted by: Mark Milton | January 20, 2007 at 10:47 PM

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


A 'Hallyuwood Couple' I've never heard of is all over the news these days with allegations of domestic violence.


"On Tuesday, Lee Min-young spoke to reporters from her hospital bed for
20 minutes, having undergone reconstructive surgery on her nose. The
actress alleged she miscarried after being kicked in the stomach by Lee
Chan, who had beaten her several times even before their marriage. Lee
said she believed he would become a different man after marriage but
was bitterly disappointed."

Lee Chan denies such violence, saying that they only engaged in slapping matches.

Lee Chan immediately denied the claim, saying
that although he slapped the actress on her cheek eight times, he had
nothing to do with her miscarriage and broken nose.

See that? Two sides to every story. He may only be guilty of nothing more than just slapping a pregnant woman eight times (and quite a nice job of counting as well. I always lose my place on the slap count after 5 or 6). And honestly, haven't we all, from time to time, roughed up our pregnant girlfriends and/or wives a little? Ok, so we haven't, but nonetheless the point still stands that Lee Chan might actually be the victim here. Come on, isn't it possible that in a little hissy-fit after some trivial spat, Min-young decided to get petty revenge on her husband by hiring a gangster to come over and beat the shit out of her, putting her in the hospital for reconstructive surgery on her nose and causing the miscarriage? Can you really say something like this isn't possible?

Ok, I guess you can. But does that mean we have a right to condemn this man without a fair trial?  And obviously when the question is put this way, I think we would all have to agree that the answer is 'probably, yeah.'

And finally, my advice to Lee Min Young is that after a few weeks have passed and Lee Chan shows up on your doorstep begging for forgiveness, telling you how this whole public episode has finally shown him the error of his ways and that he is seeking counseling, try to find it in your heart of hearts to understand his 'special situation' and give him just one more chance. Even if the odds are only one in a thousand that he really has changed and won't beat you even worse next time, isn't this what people are talking about when they say that love is worth taking a risk? Maybe if you could just learn to duck and weave a little bit better, then you could manage to bring the next pregnancy to term and then you'll bring a wonderful, innocent child into Lee Chan's world. Maybe he'll finally change then, won't he? Seriously, he still wouldn't beat you (and possibly the child) then, would he?

Probably, yeah.

Comments on original blog entry

I like his hat.

Posted by: James | January 03, 2007 at 07:53 PM

Lee Chan makes Ike Turner look like a masculine feminist

Posted by: Mark Milton | January 03, 2007 at 08:39 PM

"Maybe if you could just learn to duck and weave a little bit better"

Oh man, I just spit coffee all over my keyboard.

Posted by: Nomad | January 04, 2007 at 12:11 AM

Some misunderstanding about the phrase "beat your meat"...

Posted by: Kevin Kim | January 06, 2007 at 02:30 AM

she has pretty good eyebrows

Posted by: hardyandtiny | May 02, 2007 at 05:12 AM