‘The Company’ & My Wild Days In Seoul

by Shelt Garner

This is an instance of me either being extremely delusional (which is very possible) or sensing something that is true. Way back when, when I was living in Seoul, I was a man on fire. I was EXTREMELY CONSPICUOUS. So much so, that it’s probably reasonably likely that…uhhh…some spooks…in Seoul probably at least were aware of me.

I say this only because given where it is, it seems reasonable to assume that Seoul is crawling with spooks. Like a whole lot. And when I was there, there was a huge fucking military base in the middle of the city. And I was frequenting places like Haebangchon that probably had some military intelligence people living there. (At least in my fevered imagination about a decade later.)

Anyway, the only reason I bring his somewhat (ok, maybe a lot) bonkers idea up is I keep getting the occasional ping in my Webstats from people looking at this Website from Seoul. It makes no sense. None. I haven’t been in Seoul for about a decade now and, so, what? Why? I have been talking to the FBI for the novel and I even went so far as to mention “The Company” to the FBI PR guy.

I dunno. Just seems logical that some long-term spooky people in Seoul might have gotten wind of what I’m up to and thought they would take a look at my Website to see what was up.

I don’t think you can fully appreciate how insanely conspicuous I was in Seoul at my “height.” I was so balls out nuts someone even put me in a book about crazy expats.

All I can say is, I’m a changed man. I’ve learned humility.

‘3W:’ The Personal History

We got this.
Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner

First, generally, no one listens to me. They see me as a kook and a crank, which, to some extent, I guess I am. And, yet, I do have some value. I am very good at strategic thinking. I learned I had this gift while I was the publisher of ROKon Magazine in Seoul, South Korea. The magazine was a complete disaster — it’s problems and failures were all my own — but the fact that we lasted the few months we did was pretty much because for once in my life I was “cool” and people listened to me. That only happened because of the late, great Annie Shapiro, but that’s a story for a different day.

I often say if the end of the world came, say, a pandemic, I would either be murdered in cold blood the first day by someone who hated me or I would bring figure out a way to bring back civilization. I really believe that. Living in South Korea as an expat for five years really gave me some sense of how to survive when it seems you’re about to die. Everyday as an expat in an adventure and, in a sense, a crisis to be solved.

Anyway, all I know is if the worst happens in the States I really do think I’ll either be dead within the first few days or somehow manage to make life better for my fellow man. I really would rather not have that particular opportunity — I do have a novel to develop after all — but I think simply admitting to myself what may be about to happen is a way of taking the threat to the world, the United States, the people I love and care about –and myself, seriously.

Godspeed, gentle reader. We’re all going to need all the luck we can get in the coming days if the datapoints that are flashing red all over the world are pointing in the direction I believe they may be.

Shelt Garner may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com. Please don’t be crazy.

The Metrics Of Maggie Haberman

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m not a fan of pretense. I’m also not a fan of people who feel they can be snooty to me because I don’t meet their preconceived metrics. This brings us to Maggie Haberman. The more I about her unnecessary rudeness to me on Twitter the funnier it becomes.

She reminds me of this woman I met through Tinder once who told me very earnestly that I should stop writing, full stop. In her ever-so-well articulated view I was wasting my time and she could convey this opinion with authority because she “worked with creatives” and I sucked and had no future in writing. This was the same woman who got triggered because I posted pictures of hot chicks on my Facebook wall.

Haberman seems like she would be the woman everyone would avoid at a party. Or if I was at the same party with her, I would spend my time eyeing her and preparing to wait for my moment to chat her up in a sly way that would expose her for the pompous ass that she is.

The crazy thing about this is that all the other Times people I’ve met or talked to have been very serious, very professional but also fairly human. They seemed at least willing to humor me when I talked to them. I mean, hell, Jennifer 8. Lee went out of her way to talk to me when she swung by Seoul to work on her book on….fortune cookies*.

Anyway. Now that I have closure I just want to laugh about my little run in. People who use metrics that cause them to look down on me evoke a level of derision that keeps me entertained for some time. I get where she’s coming from — she is the Trump Whisperer afterall. She has it all. Fame. Power. Access. You name it. But she also doesn’t have much humility.

In fact, the only thing that prevents me from making fun of her in a gratuitous manner for days to come is she’s so humorless that she is unlikely to get the joke. So, lulz. You win this round, Ms. Haberman. But I am writing a novel and you can rest assured I’m going to make an allusion to you somehow.

*The article about that event I wrote for ROKon Magazine is reproduced below.

ROKing Sinchon with Jenny 8

Jennifer 8. Lee likes food.

A lot.

Recently, I hung out with the New York Times reporter and her friend Tomoko Hosaka of the Wall Street Journal here in Seoul.

The plan was for her to go to a jimjilbang with Annie Shapiro and ms. tiff, but that didn’t work out. Tomoko wanted to go to eat “Korean barbeque” and since Annie and Tiff are veggies, they were left out. This story was supposed to be about Annie and Tiff taking Jenny to a jimjilbang and getting all nekkid – now that would have been funny – but there are no happy endings in Korea so you get this write-up instead. I took a picture of the two ladies at the restaurant, but they wouldn’t let me use it. I generally think taking pictures of yourself with famous people is kind of lame, so you, gentle reader, will just have to settle for a picture of the fortune cookie I was given. If Annie and Tiff had done the story, maybe the situation would be different.

On the way to the subway, Jenny kept stopping to eat stuff from street vendors. I had to DJ that Friday night and we had to go all the way across town, so I was starting to stress out a little bit.

Again and again, she would ask me what this or that food was offered at street vendors as we headed towards the subway station. I had no clue. “I eat because I have to, not because I want to,” I told her finally. What else could I say?

The fact that I met her is a testament not only to this wacky Internet age that we live in, but how being an expatriate in a place like Korea has its quirky advantages.

I met Jenny ’cause I, well, picked on her middle name online. When I first came to Korea I had way too much drunken spare time on my hands, so I often found myself in bouts of soju-fueled writing binges.

“I can not stress enough how odd it is that Jennifer Lee uses an ‘8’ for her middle name. It’s just totally unheard of. It’s like one of the

columns of Western civilization has suddenly become just a little unstable,” I once wrote. “I don’t care that her name really is ‘Jennifer 8. Lee.’ In

years gone by, an editor would have taken one look at it, eyed the flask of Jack Daniels in his desk drawer then said, ‘Look, kid, I don’t care how

lucky the damn number is, you’re going by ‘Jennifer Lee‘ from now on.'”

Her middle name is a lucky number in Chinese culture. How exactly she was able to keep it in her byline eludes me. The fact that she graduated from Harvard University may have something to do with it.

When this actual famous reporter out of the blue contacted me, it both made me very happy and very nervous. She contacted me because she had read some of the shit I had written about her online and she needed some help finding Chinese restaurants in Korea. She’s on sabbatical from the Times to write a book on, like, the best Chinese restaurants in the world or some such. The first time she contacted me, I suddenly felt kinda bad about all the pointless mental masturbation I expended on her.

It’s funny how you can talk shit about a famous person online, but when you actually meet them you treat them like you would anyone else. While she’s no Maureen Dowd, in some media circles, Jennifer 8. Lee is, in fact, “famous” or “notorious.” For people who read Gawker.com, Jenny is shorthand for a reporter who writes seemingly pointless trend stories about things like “man dates.” She had the odd habit of using the phrase, “people of my generation” in a very authoritative tone, like she literally was speaking for everyone her age. “Jenny, you’re younger than I am,” I said teasingly at least once over galbi.

She actually has a rather bubbly, cute personality. My lone meeting with her did leave some1thing of a mystery in my mind — how is it that someone who, in the words of one article “causes $148,000 in damage to her Washington condo” actually be quite nerdy? What the heck does she do? She is obviously an extremely smart woman and from the little mischievous glint in her eye I can see how she probably loves to host a great party. But like all the great reporters I’ve known, she didn’t seem like much of a extrovert. She was quiet and curious about everything.

I picked her up at the Ritz Carlton. When I met her, she handed me a fortune cookie, while I handed her a copy of ROKon. “Fortune cookies are actually originally from Japan, not China,” Jenny said. It was a huge fortune cookie. It looked like a piece of found art. “I’ll either eat it when I’m drunk or crush it when I’m drunk,” I quipped.

I took the women to Sinchon to my favorite Korean restaurant. I go there so much that I’m like a part of the family. Tomoko seemed a bit uneasy hanging out with little old me, while Jenny was a good sport. I wanted to get Tomoko drunk to loosen her up a bit, but she had an early morning date with the DMZ.

At one point, I felt kinda bad for Tomoko. She’s a fairly important journalist in her own right, and all I did was talk to Jenny.

“I know you went to Harvard, Jenny,” I said invoking the “H-bomb” without meaning to, “But where did you go, Tomoko?”

“Northwestern,” she said with just a touch forlornly.

We talked a long time. I talked up ROKon, while the ladies were more interested in the food than anything I had to say. They’re an intense bunch, those two. I told them about knowing another Wall Street Journal reporter, Lina, but neither of them knew her. They were perplexed that they didn’t know her ’cause she has some connection to the Washington Post. Jenny acted like if there was an Asian who worked in any capacity at the Post, she would know her.

I had of vision of taking Jenny to Nori People and being able to see her shake what her momma gave her to my musical selections, but it was not to be. Jenny couldn’t stay. I did take Tomoko and Jenny there just to show it to her. “Oh, this is fun,” she said. You have to give those New York Times reporters credit, they are an observant bunch.

They left a lot sooner than I’d liked. As I said, I had all these grand plans to show them what a fun time we ROKon staffers were. Jenny promised to show me around New York City if I ever happened to end up there. The more I look at that fortune cookie, though, the more it looks like something that rhymes with “Mulva.”


ROKon Magazine Editor

V-Log: The Influence Of My Life In Seoul As An Expat On The Novel I’m Developing

by Shelton Bumgarner

Some thoughts.

I Was ‘Famous’ Once, And Young

by Shelton Bumgarner

I only write this out of extreme boredom and a love of writing, but let’s talk about that one, brief moment in time when I was “famous.” Andy Warhol famously quipped that in the future we’d all be famous for 15 minutes, so I guess those few months in 2006-2007 in Seoul were it for me.

I’m now doomed to shuffle off this mortal plain in relative obscurity.

But back then, I was a man on fire. I was DJing at the best expat bar in Seoul and was the publisher of the only monthly expat magazine. Really, I was only really all that cool for, maybe, a month. I think it was December. That one month in 2006, to date, has been the apex of my life to date.

Sadly, I wasn’t really even that happy at the time. I was obsessing over not only the magazine I was struggling to run, ROKon Magazine, but a young lady named Annie Shapiro as well. And I was quickly becoming overwhelmed at my DJ gig. So, if you really wanted to get all nitty-gritty about it, I’d say Christmas Eve, 2006 was it. That was the moment in time when I about as good as my life has gotten to date.

I learned a lot about what it’s like to be famous — or notorious — during those brief months. I learned if you’re famous, even in an extremely small pond like Seoul’s expat scene, people not only feel they have a vested interest in everything you do and say, they can eat you alive if you aren’t careful.

That’s why I know should I ever truly become “famous” — and the way things are going right now, I definitely never will — I will zoom from zero to hero back to zero in record time. I’m just too different and outspoken in a weird way for me not to offend entire swaths of the American populace.

But even to propose such a thing at this point is delusional in the extreme. I’m a nobody and always will be the way things are going. I just like to write, even though to date I don’t really write that well relative to the people I would be competing against for jobs I might be interested in. I’m self-indulgent, narcissistic and self-involved as this very post proves. I keep thinking I can figure out some easy, quick fix that will get me out of this horrible situation I’ve found myself in since I came back from South Korea the last time, but, alas, it’s not to be.

I have some structural problems in my life that can only be fixed through hard work, money and lots and lots of luck combined with time. Even under the best of circumstances I’ll be 50 years old before I dig myself out of this hole I’m in and by that time I can’t very well bang hot 24 year olds without being really, really, creepy. (Not that I can do it now, but you live in your delusional world and I’ll live in mine.)

So, here I am.

I barely have enough food to last me until I can get more, don’t have enough gas to do anything that is otherwise free and my life is at a complete standstill. I need to face my fears and get back to working on my novel. It may not make me famous, but it at least will give me hope.

And that, as of right now, is in short supply.

Idle Musing About The Past

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m of the age where I find myself reflecting on the past a lot. In fact, I’ve pretty much been on pause for half a decade, if not longer. I did, in fact, do something interesting about 10 years ago. I, along with a young woman named Annie Shapiro, started a magazine for expats in Seoul called ROKon Magazine.

It’s a long, convoluted and tragic story you can read about at length there — > Somehow

It’s about 30,000 more words than you want to know about me. But I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test and I’m 100% extroverted, so I would rather anyone interested in me read it and understand my background than not know about it and be shocked.

Annie and I had a weird, difficult relationship and she now, tragically no long with us. I always thought she and I would reconcile, but we never did. It’s all very boring to me now, but if you’re in the media business, if you can get past the narcissistic drunklog nature of it, Somehow is worth a little bit of your time. I did some pretty shitty stuff to Annie in Korea and I regret it. I’m a completely different person now. Totally different. It’s like I got a brain transplant.

Anyway, it was a long time ago and no one cares anymore. I’m just in writing mood and am struggling to figure out what I’m going to write about tonight before I go to bed.

The Struggle Is Real Redux, Yet More Mulling A Novel

by Shelton Bumgarner

I am now struggling directly to tell the story of the high concept speculative fiction satire I’ve come up with and the specific story of ROKon Magazine. The only reason why ROKon Magazine’s story is important is, well, it’s the only plot I have.

So, I don’t know. I know the more I tell the ROKon Magazine story literally, the easier it is to write the novel. But the more I do that, the more muddled the high concept aspect of the novel becomes. So, there is a balance I have to strike.

But I am really passionate about both aspects of the story, so I am willing to do the work needed to integrate them. It is going to take a while, though. It is going to require some real fancy footwork writing-wise on my part.

The Struggle Is Real: Writing A Novel Is Hard

by Shelton Bumgarner

I find myself looking at my blank page, struggling to write an outline. I know the general story I want to tell, but the individual scenes are difficult. I have stumbled across a pretty good system for writing an outline — I do it in longhand with a Sharpie — so it’s just a matter, really, of taking the risks needed to get the story down.

As I have written before, I have pretty much only one plot to my name. The rise, and fall, and rise of the magazine I started 10 years ago with a young lady named Annie Shapiro. It has taken me about 10 years to figure out that I probably can’t literally tell the story of the magazine.

But we’ll see. It seems the closer to get to telling the literal story of ROKon Magazine, the easier it will be to tell the story overall. But I have to give it all a huge amount of thought. I have to figure out how to take something that happened on a very small scale and how to make it huge and epic so people will be interested.

It is going to take a lot of thinking, regardless.