Love by Ondol’s Light

Awwww. Burning charcoal makes him wistful.

Back in the day when serving in Korea the wife and I had to move out of one house heated by an ondol system, a series of heated pipes that run under the floors of a residence, due to carbon monoxide leaks. By regulations, U.S. service members living off the base were required to live in homes that had been upgraded to use heated water pipes in the floor instead of the more dangerous hot air systems that were notorious for leaking poison gas. One morning shortly after moving into our new apartment the wife and I woke up each of us with pounding headaches and nausea. After our IQ’s returned to normal we decided “We’re outta here.” We discovered the landlord had lied about what heating system he had installed, being greedy for rent money. We were lucky we woke up at all.

The ondol heating systems may be behind the Korean urban myth of “fan death” that remains a concern primarily through fear-mongering by the media. In the public panic over illness or death that may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning it was often blamed on fans “stealing the air” or dehydrating sleepers. Most fans, even those sold today, have a timer that shuts the device off not to save electricity but to prevent death. That a fan is in the room of a person allegedly affected by a “fan death” is incidental. The fan death myth is persistent and even the skeptical blame it on dehydration and suffocation using rather shaky science to support their beliefs. But more than likely fans are blamed because one happens to be present in the room of the elderly or ill. more likely explanation that death through natural causes or carbon monoxide is ignored in favor of the scary idea that death can strike anyone, anywhere caused by nothing more than a gentle breeze.

The remote possibility may be that if a fan was involved in a death or illness at all it could have been from disturbing carbon monoxide gas that had settled under the floors from leaking heating pipes. It is possible the gas may have been disturbed by moving air from a fan that caused it to swirl and rise up through the floor to the level of a sleeping person who, in traditional Korean homes slept on mats on the floor, could then have then been in direct contact with the gas. Any “fan death” reports that had a basis in fact would probably have come from the passing of elderly residents in older style homes heated by older ondol. It is unlikely the one or two deaths per year attributed to “fan death” occur in modern homes with safer heating systems and are probably due to natural causes.

The Record Bar

Decades ago when people wanted to browse, listen to and purchase music they had to leave the comfort of their home and journey miles away to a large department or specialty store to do so. One of the ploys used by stores to entice shoppers was naming the departments creatively. In some instances the music section was called the Record Bar (a practice that existed prior to the store of the same name). It was a way of differentiating the music department from the staid sections of necessities like shoes and clothing and implied luxury and fun. Hanging a sign that just read “Music Department” was too boring even though over the years stores have returned such naming simplicity even if made in flashing lights or neon. Calling a corner of a department store containing alphabetized shelves of long playing records a “Record Bar” promises fun, excitement and possibly illicit nightclub acts.

Other than branding a department in exciting ways what most promoted sales of LP’s is the usually fascinating and sometimes lurid cover art. The 1950s and 1960s were famous for their cover disconnects, where the artists cleverly relied on sexual imagery to boost sales of polka or lounge music. The greatest disparity in using sex to sell LP’s occurs in those categories of music that one doesn’t normally associate with fun times and parties such as highway motel lounge ensembles, nightclub musicians and organ soloists.

While enough people went out to such places to justify employing them for a few decades no one really wanted to buy their music and take it home with them. Drinking a highball after a hard day of selling reverse-threaded screws to gas stations while decompressing in the orange and aqua booth of a Howard Johnsons doesn’t usually make one wistful for the musical stylings of the guy at the piano that has a mop and bucket in view leaning against the turquoise burlap-covered wall behind him. Those purchases were typically reserved for the headline and more heavily promoted and polished acts that were marketed at the national level. So when browsing the aisles of the Record Bar the tired serf of the Camelot lifestyle had to be promised wild parties and lewd play times by way of a woman with large breasts who worships the man who plays the organ at the local park pavilion on alternating Saturdays.

Gilligan at Retrospace (from whom I ganked a few images) exhaustively details the practice of using sex to sell music and other products. Click the link to check out his entry on Cheesecake Album Covers. He hosts many fine examples and even more links to consumer-baiting LP covers.

The following cartoon by Art Lutner from Bachelor #2 (1961) is a good example of the logical progression of the use of sexual imagery to sell records and would have rung true with most readers of the era.

While Lutner was making a comical statement about using sex to sell children’s LP’s he wasn’t far off from reality. Quite often advertising for children’s products is aimed at the adult who holds the money and has little to do with the content of the purchase.

The TYMAGA Award: Jenny McCarthy

With the recent news that even more parents are declining to immunize their children against preventable diseases I have created the first ever TYMAGA Award. What is the TYMAGA? Well, TYMAGA stands for Take Your Money and Go Away and it goes out to those rich, powerful, famous or infamous that abuse or misuse their position or entitlement to make things worse in the world we live in. When those people, entities or companies know, or should know, better than to do the things they do but still endeavor to make any situation worse then they get a TYMAGA. The TYMAGA is a plea to stop it, just stop it by withdrawing from the public dialog for a while, roll around on your big pile of cash and give us all a break.

Anti-Vaccination advocate Jenny McCarthy is the first person honored for a TYMAGA. Why should Jenny McCarthy pick up her bags of money and depart the public consciousness? Why pick on her? Jenny is not the only person out there wrongly speaking out on the dangers of vaccinating children. Primarily, it is her influence as a celebrity coupled with her steadfast adherence to junk science and support of discredited anti-immunization studies. Simply put, many people believe that vaccinations could and do cause syndromes like autism in children. Jenny McCarthy promotes not immunizing children using certain methods because of alleged negative reactions to vaccines. She is part of a movement that has had the effect of seeing a resurgence in formerly rare childhood diseases that in some instances resulted in death. One of the main problems with the anti-vaccination movement is that much of the evidence they base their decisions on originated in a thoroughly discredited study. Sadly the onset of some of these diseases and fatalities could have been prevented through routine vaccination and probably would have if not for Jenny McCarthy and her ilk supporting the study.

Over the last several years Jenny McCarthy has managed to avoid sinking into the bog of obscurity most celebrities fear drowning in by attaching herself to anti-immunization hysteria. Jenny McCarthy has remained one of the most influential spokespersons advocating not vaccinating a child long past when people should have recognized that the supposed risks of preventive health are far outweighed by the benefits. But Jenny, who uses her far-reaching platform of celebrity to misinform the masses and stoke fear in the stupid and gullible, remains steadfast in her support of discredited research and fraud. To lead people to believe that a child contracting and spreading to others measles or whooping cough is preferable to getting preventive medicine that almost no one in scientific circles believes will cause an undesirable side-effect is sadly negligent if not criminal in nature.

Her adherence to the cause is perplexing. Surely she has seen evidence the vaccine study that initially created the controversy was overturned and the person most responsible has had his license to practice medicine stripped away? Why then is Jenny not able or is unwilling to reverse her stance? Is there a reason she is not willing to accept the facts? Would doing so devastate and alienate her victim-hood worshiping fan-base? Would it invalidate her own sense of self?

Look, Jenny, you may have been fooled just like a lot of people were. Your personal situation may have blinded you to the fact that data was manipulated for money. That was then. It’s been a few years since the study was discredited. I don’t think anyone wants an apology from you, just acknowledge that everything you have advocated up until then was based on fraud and new information has allowed you to revise your position. This is a chance to change your mission and use your celebrity for good instead of perpetuating the damage. Check into the science yourself. If you don’t understand it, have someone (more than one, preferably) respected and accredited in the field explain it to you and your organization.

It is incredulous that in spite of all the facts you continue supporting something that has almost no evidence, that certain immunizations cause autism. One would almost think money is the reason for your unwillingness to break from the anti-vac movement. Hopefully not, as that would make you a terrible person in light of your personal experiences. You probably had money before joining the cause, you probably will have money after you leave it. No one should begrudge you making a good living. But are you so lacking in confidence that you believe you have no other options left for a career other than supporting ignorance and exploiting worry and fear? If so, you are no better than the psychic that preys on a wealthy widow.

So, Jenny McCarthy, until you do the right thing do us all a favor and move somewhere sunny and exclusive far away from us and shut up so you do no more harm. Just please…


On this lazy Sunday here’s some more Korean pop music I’m familiar with only because they play on the televisions (alternating with sports) that provide atmosphere in my favorite Korean restaurant in San Diego. As ever it is the choreography, costumes and set changes that drives these videos almost as much as the catchy tunes.

RainbowSweet Dream (2011): I have no idea what they are saying but it has a good beat and you can dance to it. As one video commenter puts it, “Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are” fits the bridge just right.

SISTAR19Ma Boy (2010): This K-pop entry is really hot and sexy and not part of the reserved Korean image I remember from the 1980s. Wow to this. I doubt the positioning of that monkey arm was a coincidence. Marketing!

SecretStarlight Moonlight (2010): This group is just 100% Hayley Mills-level adorable in this video. They are incredibly cute in this, but not all of their videos have them appearing so sweet and innocent. This music video looked ridiculously expensive to make.