Friday 5: Know When to Fold ‘Em

Four aces on a background of black playing card backs with a Wild West motif.

What did you last place into a file folder?

Physically? Some hard copies of comments and revisions I got back from a critique group member. I have an accordion file folder for this project (I’ve been working on it since 2014) and each slot is feedback from a different reader. I should probably go through and clean it out. Some comments are about revisions I’ve since made, others are on sections that have since been discarded. It’s not really worth it to keep that much of a record around.

What do you know how to fold a piece of paper into?

Not much. A paper airplane? And I could probably make a cootie catcher, still.

What’s your laundry-folding procedure like?

I don’t fold laundry.

When do you next expect to invite someone into your fold?

Making friends in Sweden is hard. Maybe I haven’t met the right Swedes, just, but all of the new friends I’ve made (if the word “friend” can even be applied) have been other immigrants and expats. I think this moment is coming soon, though; I have quite a few acquaintances on the periphery that I’m ready to befriend.

When have you slept on a foldaway bed?

Probably not since high school. One of my friends had a fold-out couch in her rec room and if I slept over, it was on that bed.

Friday 5: Vive le Difference

Fried chicken in paper boxes.
Image courtesy Brian Chan at Unsplash

What’s a food that tastes completely unlike anything else you can think of?

This one is taking a lot of thought. I mean, lots of things have a relatively distinct taste, right? Even if everything also tastes like chicken.

I imagine surströmming is singular in its taste. (I say that having never tried it. I don’t dig on fish.) I also have a hard time with the artificial sweetener Splenda: it leaves a distinctly coppery aftertaste that ruins anything it touches.

What’s a movie that’s completely unlike any movie you can think of?

Russian Ark  is a weird but surprisingly enjoyable artsy look at the history of the St. Petersburg Hermitage that’s all one long 90-ish minute shot.

Who’s a musician or band you consider completely unoriginal but whom you still like?

I think it’s a given that most popular top 40 bands and artists cleave to the lowest common denominator instead of doing anything groundbreaking, but most of the music on my phone is popular top 40 bops (and obscure international indie bands) because it’s good workout music.

Who or what are two people or things you keep mixing up with one another?

To this day I still confuse Silent Hill and Resident Evil (the video games, not the movies). No doubt there are countless celebrities that I mix up as well, because I’m not good at keeping track of famous names and faces.

What’s something you’ll do this weekend that’s different from your normal weekend activity?

Concerning the weekend after I’m writing this, there’s a small chance I’ll be attending the Japanese Flea Market in Sundbyberg. Concerning the weekend after this will actually go up (about a month later), it’s hard to say.

Friday 5: Aloon Again, Naturally

With which Looney Tunes character do you have the most in common?

I didn’t care much for Looney Tunes as a kid. The physical humor that’s inherent in the genre has never been my cup of tea. I’ll cheat and say Shirley the Loon from Tiny Toons.

Who or what are your metaphorical Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote?

I don’t think I have a Wile E. Coyote (I hope not!). But we all have a Road Runner, don’t we? Mine is a totally stress-free vacation. One day…

What’s up, doc?

That’s all, folks!

When did you last hear some opera music?

I listen to a lot of classical music while I edit and translate. That doesn’t usually include opera, since I find vocals distracting, but the Fidelio overture came up in my playlist yesterday.

What’s a good life lesson you learned from Looney Tunes?

You can’t always get what you want, and often when you do, it’s not as good as you hoped it would be.

Friday 5: Welcome to the Terrordome

A figure wearing a white bucket on their head, standing in the middle of a brightly lit concrete industrial setting with orange air ducts.
Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

What’s the scariest movie you’ve seen?

I don’t know about scariest as such, but the most unpleasant movie I’ve ever had to watch is a Japanese one called Blood and Bones. Every trigger warning ever for that movie; I actually had to hit pause a couple of times and take a break for something more pleasant.

In the same vein, Pan’s Labyrinth also messed me up. I went to see it with a bunch of friends on a Friday night, and afterwards the plan was to have a Dungeons and Dragons and beers session. Instead I just curled up in a ball on the couch without drinking or talking to anyone for the rest of the night.

I think the last movie thing that genuinely terrified me, though, were the TV commercials for Bram Stoker’s Dracula back in the 90s. I had nightmares about vampires for a solid week after catching a glimpse of that ad.

What most recently startled you?

I guess my alarm?

What’s something in your residence that’s frightening?

I have a postcard with art that I guess someone might find frightening but I just really like. It’s original art by a friend of mine, an altered photo she took of Buddhist statuary in Japan.

What kinds of social settings cause you anxiety?

Social settings where I’m not in charge of something or running something but where I just have to open-endedly interact with other human beings. So you know, most of them.

What’s something you are no longer afraid of?

I’ve 99% conquered my fear of getting hit by a car. As a kid I was terrified of blacktop pavement because I was afraid that cars lurked around every corner, waiting for me to step on the road just so they could run me over. (One summer when I was maybe 6 years old or so, I just straight up exposure therapy’d myself by running back and forth across the street in front of our house, as if proving to myself SEE NOTHING HAPPENED IT’S FINE.) I still get nervous crossing the street, but you don’t have to carry me across parking lots anymore!

Friday 5: Waste

Compact cubes of trash in a landfill on a sunny day.
Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash

What’s something you unintentionally threw away?

Nothing, thankfully!

What disgusting memory of garbage do you have?

The job I worked at in the US has a picnic grove attached to it. It’s a tourist trap (I say that in the most affectionate and loving way possible; I love tourist traps) in a small town, so naturally it has a bit of extra property with space for visitors to relax and plan their next stop (or for visiting school groups to eat their lunch). The trash cans in that picnic grove were some of the foulest things I’ve smelled in my life, especially during the summer or after a tour of 120 school kids with bagged lunches. They usually required two people to empty, too, since they were big, heavy-duty things, and the picnic grove was downhill and across the street from our dumpster.

I get nostalgic for that job a lot, but not for that part of it.

How are you about deleting emails?

I think the oldest email in my inbox is from 2006. It’s weird to think I have emails that are older than some (most) of my students, but there you have it. I should maybe be better about deleting them, though.

What do you treasure that someone else considers trash?

One of my best sources for beads is old jewelry no one wants anymore.

What’s the litter like in your neighborhood?

Not too bad. And the Nazis have stopped putting up posters as well!

Friday 5: The Shine of a Thousand Spotlights

A dozen blazing spotlights focusing on a distant figure on a stage, framed by darkness and dark silhouettes.
Image courtesy Jacob Morch on Unsplash

What physical trait are you (or have you been) self-conscious about?

Hi guys, I could write a whole novel on being fat! But so many other writers handle it better, so rather than go into it myself I’ll just post links to two writers whose perspectives helped me get right with Fat Jesus.

Dances With Fat

Jill Grunenwald (and her memoirs Running With a Police Escort)

Even though I’ve gotten right with Fat Jesus, small things remain. Mostly my nose. I don’t hate it enough to go under the knife, and my human brain recognizes that it’s a perfectly normal nose, but my lizard brain can’t stop comparing it to adorable ski jump button noses. Even actresses who are constantly put on “quirky beauties” or “big noses” or whatever lists don’t have the same kind of nose I do.

When did you last do something risking injury?

I guess going for a run always risks injury, right? So depending on when this post goes up, either Wednesday or today.

Why do critics and the general movie-going public never seem to agree?

I’d say the operative word is “seem.” I suspect most of the time critical opinions and the public’s opinions are generally in line. Otherwise I imagine that the contributing factor is that movie critics are a self-selecting group of people who gravitate towards the arts and appreciate, even crave, novelty in the form and as a result they’re generally more appreciate of movies that are subtle or unusual. Most people watch movies for comfort or entertainment rather than critical engagement, and so they’re more drawn towards predictable (or surprising-within-predictable-schemas) and comforting rather than challenging or difficult.

How do you feel about Hugh Jackman as an actor?

#NotMyWolverine

Who is the best singer you’ve seen in live performance?

I don’t really go to live music performances that often. (Aside from the odd years where I can make it to Musikfest.) I guess two come to mind:

Ssingssing, with lead singer Lee Hee-moon

 

Black Masala, with singer Kristen Long (though my memory of their Musikfest performance seems to have a different singer?)

Friday 5: Mist It by That Much

This week’s Friday 5 is a delightful callback to one of my childhood favorites, Mel Brooks’s Get Smart. 

If you didn’t pick up on that before, you know now!

What did you most recently spray out of a can?

Dry shampoo. I like having bangs but after about a day they get really piece-y, so I sometimes touch them up between washes.

What’s your favorite food (or food product) that’s sprayed from a can?

None of them? The options are either cheese or whipped cream, as far as I can tell, and I don’t care for either of this. I guess the cheese wins by a slight margin, as a “whiz with” is a Philadelphia favorite.

When did you last spray-paint something?

Probably when I was helping touch up a metal trash can when I worked at Lost River Caverns a million years ago.

What’s something that’s not sprayed from a can but would be pretty cool if it were?

Pancakes! Too tired to make breakfast? Just spray out some pancakes! Got a case of the munchies? Even the most chemically impaired person in the world can manage a spray can. Want to get a perfect circle every time? Just make sure the nozzle’s clean and that your aim’s straight.

What’s conceptually the oddest thing sprayed from a can?

Honestly, dry shampoo. It’s up there with dry cleaning in terms of how counter-intuitive the concept is.

Friday 5: Aroma

Garlic, chili peppers, and other foodstuffs in baskets on a market table.



What’s something you enjoy that contains garlic?

Um, literally everything?

One of my culinarily-inclined friends here grew up with sound advice from her mother: “There’s never enough garlic in recipes. You should always double however much garlic they recommend, and then that’s enough.” This piece of advice served my friend well until she tried a recipe from her garlic-loving mother that she didn’t realized was already calibrated to have an appropriate amount of garlic. Yowza.

What’s something you enjoy that contains ginger?

Probably a few things. Yujacha (Korean lemon honey tea) springs to mind. Ginger is a flavor I tolerate because it turns up in cuisine that I like (Korean), but on its own ginger is awful and I hate it.

What’s something you enjoy that contains cloves?

I’m sure I’ve had mulled wine or hot toddies or hot buttered rum with cloves at some point. No complaints. It’s a cozy flavor.

What’s something you enjoy that contains cinnamon?

There’s a scene in the short-lived, maybe-underrated show “Welcome to Sweden” (starring Amy Poehler’s little brother, with cameos from Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell) where baby Poehler turns down a kanelbulle and tries to explain to his Swedish girlfriend’s family that he doesn’t like cinnamon.

“How can you not like cinnamon?” they ask each other, bewildered, in Swedish baby Poehler can’t understand. “It’s just a spice. It’s not like Hitler.”

That moment was too real.

What’s something you enjoy that contains celery?

If you put it in a chili or a stew, I’ll eat it, but on its own celery is one of the more disappointing vegetables.

Friday 5: Games People Play

A young white boy in a red shirt is about to pull out a Jenga piece from a tower.

How good are you at word games, and what’s a word game you really enjoy?

I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at these, but I haven’t played any except Scrabble, and every time I’ve played Scrabble I’ve come somewhere in the middle because someone aggressively outmaneuvered me to get to, or to block, the bonus tiles.

How good are you at trivia games, and what’s your strongest category?

It depends on the game. Like, a copy of Trivial Pursuit from thirty years ago (and I suspect that might be how old my parents’ copy of Trivial Pursuit is!) is not going to be my strong suit. Of course, there is something of a horseshoe effect with these things: there was a burger joint/diner near my college that included a handful of Trivial Pursuit: Boomer Edition cards at each table and out of my peers, I tended to clean up when it came to the arts and entertainment category, at least, just because of my movie and music taste.

But Best Chemist Friend and I were a two-woman trivia team for a while and consistently did well enough to win prizes, if not actual first place, until we got other people to join us, so I think that says it all. I don’t know what my best category would be, but without a doubt my weakest category is sports.

How good are you at spot-the-difference or what’s-wrong-with-this-picture games?

Considering that the only ones I’ve played are the super obvious ones in Highlights for Children, I don’t think I can really judge my ability based on my past experience.

How good are you at memory games, and have you ever played Simon?

Of course I’ve played Simon! But what does it mean to be good at Simon? I don’t have enough data to really say.

Otherwise I play a lot of memory with my students. Confession: in the interest of making the activity maximally educational, I deliberately throw the game whenever we play.

What’s your favorite party game of all time?

I have a couple!

Since I have an astonishing memory for song lyrics, I always really liked playing Encore!(My copy is still at my parents’ house, now that I stop to think about it. The things that slip your memory when you’re packing to move out!) I’m also preternaturally good at Tri-Bond, though I guess it’s up in the air whether that counts as a party game? The same could be said for the aggressive and competitive Munchkin series.

I’ve talked before about how much I love Dixitso that should come as no surprise. Apples to Apples is always a good time and I confess to getting a kick out of Cards Against Humanity, though when I’ve played with others there has always been the house rule that you’re allowed to discard anything you feel is beyond the realm of good taste, no questions asked.

A new favorite I’ve encountered in Sweden is Orangino, which is maybe the most Swedish party game ever developed. The whole point of the game is to determine how well others know you, and how well you can gauge other people’s perception of you. The game consists of cards with different personality traits and descriptions; you rate yourself (from 1 to 4) in secret, while everyone else does too, and people get points for matching your rating. There’s no English version as far as I can tell, which is a shame because as dorky and feel-goody as it sounds, it’s also a lot of fun! (Maybe a future translation project?)

Friday 5: Korea Guidance

I see your pun, Friday 5. Well played.

What would be a better name for the color of goldenrod-colored paper?

What’s wrong with “goldenrod”?

Where did you get your silverware?

Either IKEA or the grocery store downstairs.

It is a weird tradition in America (and possibly elsewhere) for parents to have their children’s baby shoes bronzed. What artifact from this past week would you have bronzed as a keepsake and heirloom?

Last week was pretty unremarkable. If I had to pick anything, it might be the toy dinosaur that lives with Chuck, one of my snake plants.

I have no sentimental attachment to the dinosaur or anything. (I bought as part of a Jurassic Park costume a few years ago.) I just think it would be funny to have it bronzed. Maybe I’ll just spray paint instead?

What was the most recent ceremony you attended?

The wedding I went to in August.

What east Asian cuisine is good for your Seoul?

I lived and taught in South Korea for over two years, as I’ve probably mentioned before, and one of the (many) things I miss big time is the food. The Korean diaspora means that Korean barbecue is familiar to most non-Koreans who live in any metropolitan area that approaches international; it seems that bibimbap is also gaining traction thanks to the recent health food obsession with “Buddha bowls.”

But that is only the tip of the iceberg, my friend.

Korean street food is the best, hands down. (Apologies to all of the gatuköks and Philly pretzel carts out there, but it’s true.) My favorite in this genre is tteokbokki: dense rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce. It wasn’t uncommon for teachers at my first school to spring for a whole tray of these for a “snack party” after a particular class finished a level test, since they were cheap, tasty, and filling. It helped that we had a little snack shack in the first floor of our building.

A step up from street food are the ubiquitous gimbap restaurants. I don’t know enough about Korean food history to know whether or not these restaurants predate the appearance of American-style fast food chains in the peninsula, but I would guess that they did. These places specialize in cheap, easy-to-make meals and are popular with broke students and people with criminally short lunch breaks. (This is also the kind of restaurant built into Korean spas.) The backbone dish of these restaurants is gimbap (rice, veggies, and sometimes meat rolled in a sheet of dried black seaweed) and all of its varieties, but the menus always include a wide assortment of variations on jjigaes, larger portions of popular street food, and a few odds and ends. Anything off the menu here will be fantastic, though my personal favorites are dolsot bibimbap, rabokki (a combination of the aforementioned tteokbokki and ramen), and cheesy ramen. I actually don’t care that much for gimbap, ironically enough, because I’m not a huge fan of black seaweed.

When it comes to “real” restaurants, places start to narrow down their menus to a handful of specialty dishes (or a handful of variations on one particular dish). Now you have your Korean barbecue restaurants, with various cuts of pork or beef to grill at your table. I preferred the chicken stir-fry equivalent, the marinated version known as  dak galbi; sometimes my coworkers and I even went out for duck. You have seafood restaurants, with raw fish, squid, and octopus. You have, borrowed from Japan, shabu-shabu. On a slightly lesser tier, you have chicken-and-beer joints. You have what are theoretically restaurants but are really bars with obligatory anju (bar snacks, or bar more-than-a-snack-less-than-a-meal), like stir-fried rice or seafood or kimchi pancake-fritters. (These bars are usually famous for the quality of their anju, though, so having to order to be allowed to drink isn’t a problem at all.)

But for me, the crown jewel of Korean cuisine is something else entirely. The city where I lived, Uijeongbu, is famous for budae jjigae, a relatively modern invention that takes a traditional jjigae and incorporates the kind of meat found in American military MREs: sausages, hot dogs and (of course) SPAM. Unlike other jjigaes, it’s usually served with ramen and glass noodles right in the dish.

A bowl of budae jjigae.
By LWY at flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwy/2184707139/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3402989

As far as I can tell, Korean entrepreneurs haven’t brought budae jjigae abroad yet. I guess the immediate connection with scraps and cast-offs from American military bases doesn’t really jibe with the image Korea wants to present to the rest of the world? But that’s a tragedy, because budae jjigae is so damn good. I’ve learned to make a lot of Korean food myself, to scratch my Koreastalgia itch, but the one thing that you can never just make yourself is budae jjigae. It’s a dish best cooked in huge heaping batches, tended by a watchful restaurant employee, and enjoyed in the company of others. Like, if I were fabulously, obscenely wealthy, I would open a budae jjigae restaurant in Stockholm. That is how much I love this dish. One day…!