Daily Hate Mail

Russell Brand has a joke about The Sun, "I grew up with The Sun. It's like an old friend. But it's, like...does anyone have an old friend that they just fucking hate?"

I feel that way about the Daily Mail. It's the paper we had delivered to my house my whole life and, until I was old enough to question the nonsense printed within that rag, it was the only paper I ever read. In fact my earliest memory of journalism as a concept was around the time of Stephen Lawrence's murder when the Mail printed it's infamous cover declaring a gang of youths to be his murderers and inviting people to sue them if they were wrong. I remember thinking how bold and brave that was, and wondering how a simple newspaper could know something that even the police did not - 'Here y'are coppers, go buy the Mail, they've got the bad guys for you!' - but now, as an older and (slightly) wiser man, I can see how this could be so. The police have to worry about a simple thing called 'The Truth'.

Now, those 5 lads might well have killed young Stephen Lawrence - they were certainly a racist, violent and small-minded group of individuals and an intelligent black man like Stephen Lawrence probably stood for eveything they despised - but that's not my point. My point is that the headline was there to sell papers and, in it's ferocity, exascerbate the issue of racial segregation within Blair's Britain. And those 5 men have never been convicted. We don't know if it was true.

This week, over 15 years on from the tragic death of young Stephen Lawrence, came the tragic death of young Stephen Gately, a pop singer with the irish boyband Boyzone and the star of a number of West End shows. Gately was 33 when he fell asleep on the sofa of his holiday home in Majorca and never woke up, the coroners verdict being that he died of a rare condition culminating in a build up of fluid on his lungs. This was the tragic death of a young man in his prime, and one that affected many people as he was a popular man with fans all over the world.

Oh, by the way, Stephen Gately was homosexual.

The Daily Mail waited a few days, during which the pathologist report came back showing that Gately died of natural causes, before publishing a piece by their esteemed columnist Jan Moir entitled 'A Strange Lonely and Troubling Death'. Throughout this piece, Moir makes the most oblique and petty jabs at the circumstances surrounding Gately's death and displays a lack of sympathy and respect that is disgustingly typical of this most sneering of tabloids. She shamelessly uses phrases like, "sleazy" and "dubious" and suggests that, as another man joined Gately and his partner back at their apartment, "It is not disrespectful to assume that a game of canasta with 25-year-old Georgi Dochev was not what was on the cards." No, Ms Moir, it fucking is disrepectful, and it is journalism of the most pathetic standard to take such a low blow at a dead young man who had not yet even been buried. She goes on to suggest that Gately's death, "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships" that he, "at least" smoked cannabis on the night that he died and that, "his mother is still insisting that her son died from a previously undetected heart condition". Yeah, I wonder why that is, Jan? Could it be that the coroner said that's how he died? Could it be that there isn't a jot of evidence to suggest that anything untoward happened that night? Could it be that smoking a spliff before bed does not lead you to die in your sleep - ever?

Even though every shred of evidence and common sense points to the contrary, Jan Moir displays an arrogance and self-belief in her bigotry that would be almost admirable were it not for it's stupidity. I began to get on my high horse when I first read this article, and worried for the number of people who would be sat around, nodding to themselves, and thinking how this dangerous homosexual got his just desserts for the "dark appetites...and private vice" that he embraced. But after this initial anger and fear subsided, I'm left with only pity. The article was pathetic. A disgusting, poorly written, dreadfully ill-researched load of tripe that could just as easily have been written by a 16-year-old idiot. It just seems so fucking 80's to even bother being racist and homophobic now. What's the point? I'm sure when you were a little girl dreaming of seeing your words in print, you saw yourself making snidey little jokes about dead, gay pop stars. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Oh, and to anyone who still reads this piece of shit, please stop. It stands against everything that a forward-thinking human being should believe in. And it is forward-thinking that this poor little planet of ours needs nowadays.

Love, Smithy x


Sundays, eh?

These are just a few of the convoluted thoughts that have passed through my head this past weekend -
  • Autumn is a fantastic season in a country where the words 'grey skies' and 'drizzle' mean not a jot.
  • Krispy Kreme is as dangerous as crack.
  • The deaths of Michael Jackson and Stephen Gately are not - I repeat, not - comparable.
  • The crescendo of strings at 5:56 in Noah and The Whale's First Days of Spring is as exciting a moment in music as any other.
  • Beef is good.
  • Missing friends and family members is not a sharp, impossible-to-ignore pain but more a dull, never-ending ache.
  • The England national team, like Manchester City, will find a way of fucking up every opportunity that is put in front of them.
  • Had Barack Obama been white he would not have won the Nobel Peace Prize but, if he had been white and had won the prize, nobody would have said a word about it.
  • I want a puppy.
  • I am becoming dangerously blase about suicide bombs and the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan - proof positive perhaps that apathy will be the friend of the tyrant.
  • The death penalty is, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, wrong.
  • The love of a good woman can make everything else seem rather meaningless.
  • Learning new languages is actually rather exciting.
  • I don't look good in purple.
  • You get what you pay for with W5,000 watches.
  • Hidden geeky-ness is very attractive.
  • I want a pair of 1980's original tortoiseshell RayBan Wayfarers, a gold Rolex and, in fact, the entire wardrobe (and not, I should add, the personality) of Patrick Bateman.
  • AstroTurf burns take a long time to heal.
  • Don't ask, don't tell could be the most offensive policy towards sexual orientation I have ever heard.
  • To be a critic, be it in food, movies, sport or music, it must inherently mean that you spend your life criticising something that you are, in fact, not good enough to do yourself.
  • The only bad thing about a good Sunday is the morning that follows.
Love, Smithy x


Soccer, Studying and Saluting

Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything here which isn't very good now, is it? I'll just choonfully briefly bring you up-to-date on what we've been up to...

Work is going ok. Kendra seems to be finding her feet a bit more and, although she still finds it difficult with her less-than-enthusiastic students, and staff who think it appropriate to communicate only in hand gestures (a half-hearted salute on his entry and exit into the room), she comes home from work with a smile on her face more often than not which can only be a good thing. My work is plodding along. I'm beginning to build up relationships with a few kids as I begin to recognise their faces - as with last year I am more drawn to the cheeky ones and find them much more fun to teach. I have had a couple of small issues to do with money and with one co-teacher in particular who has been far from helpful - to be honest these issues didn't seem too small at the time - but I believe they are being sorted now and I should have the money that I'm owed within days. Or else I'm going to start throwing things at people.

We have taken as many opportunities as possible to get out and explore Seoul - starting from the touristy areas outwards. We went to Insa-dong with it's endless streets selling tradtitional Korean tat, we strolled through the department stores of Jongno-dong and the designer shops of Akpujeong. We also found a nice little park not far from our place in Yongsan-dong where we enjoyed the end-of-summer sunshine one Saturday afternoon. This really is a fantastic city.

For me, the most exciting thing that I've done since I last posted here is that I joined an expat football team, Seoul United FC, who play in the Seoul Sunday Football League. I was incredibly nervous before my first game as I hadn't played 11-a-side football for a good few years, but those nerves were eased slightly when I learnt that our opponents would be a Japanese team who were bottom of the league and who only had 10 players for the first half hour of the game. Anyway, I made a good account of myself - scoring the first goal and setting up a few others - and was asked to join the team for the rest of the season. It's going to be really good getting into the competitive spirit again and I can't wait for the games ahead. We had a friendly the other day and I managed to get on the scoresheet again from right-back so, fingers crossed, I can keep that going!

We have also signed up for Korean lessons every weekend, as both of us are a trifle embarrassed about our Korean ability after each living here for over a year. They will take place for 3 hours every Saturday and aren't exactly cheap, but it will make a huge difference being able to communicate properly with the locals, not to mention being quite interesting and giving us something productive to do with our time off. It will also be good to get back into studying mode because.....

We're going back to Uni next year. Well, Kendra is and I almost definitely am. This will be our last year teaching ESL after which we will both spend a year training before starting our careers. Kendra will do her teacher training which will give her a qualification allowing her to teach both in Britain and Canada (handy, given our little arrangement) and I will (fingers crossed) be doing a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism. Obviously nothing is set in stone, and the fact that I want this so much will probably allow sod's law to intervene and deny me my opportunity, but I'm going to do everything in my power to get accepted and then find the relevant funding to do it. Writing is the only thing I love doing (besides playing football and, when FC Seoul inevitably come knocking after my goal-to-game ratio becomes too impressive to ignore, I will have some serious decisons to make) so I've decided to stop saying, 'Well, I'd love to be a writer', and just go ahead and fucking be a writer. Maybe I won't be a millionaire, but I think I'd be happy. More important, some might say.

Anyway, that's the happy-hap from Seoul. Get in touch, let me know what you're up to and please leave feedback! 'Cause I probably miss you.

Love, Smithy x