31 October 2008

Mariah Carey - and US-Korean relations

I did everything to ensure that I would be less bogged down by US politics (despite all the emails from Obama and No on 8 campaigns), and that I will be looking forward to life well beyond November 4th. To that end, I spent some time in Jamsil and at Costco.

My first order of business was to buy Mariah Carey's newest greatest hits collection, The Ballads, which came out last week here in South Korea, but won't be available back in the US for months. It's the first time that I am buying someone's CD from three different markets; I've also bought Mariah Carey CDs in the US and in the UK (the latter were Europe-only singles). It's also the second time ever that I ended up buying an album outside the US, before its US availability; the only other time was early 1996, when I picked Sir Elton John's Love Songs in London, well before it became available in the US.

I'm loving the CD packaging - just like the Sarah McLachlan CD from earlier this month, this one also comes with full lyrics in English, full translations in Korean, and a synopsis of the artist and each track. The synopsis includes information that is particularly meaningful to South Korea-based fans of Mariah Carey.

With this CD in hand, I am finding myself again looking beyond just the artist and the music. Mariah Carey is important, because she is possibly the most beloved American in South Korea; her albums continue to sell well here, even when she slumps, or even when violent anti-W protests rage on. She's returned the favor by visiting Seoul a number of times, and doing a show in Busan as well. I've repeatedly stated that the US-South Korean relations must develop beyond a special-interest partnership of the Republicans and the Grand Nationals, and Mariah is a very high-profile person getting it done. (I also like that after staying out of politics in public, Mariah is now supporting Barack Obama, partly due to the shared half-black background.)

And I am very proud to have taken part in helping her do just that. Listening "Hero" and "Without You" still reminds me of my summer 1994, spent right here in Seoul. Mariah was just as popular back then as she is now, and I took note; I made sure to wrap up the year by meeting Mariah in New York City, telling her about the Korean fans I had met, and walking away with an autographed Christmas album (which, of course, I brought to Seoul yesterday, primarily as a conversation piece, but also to play in my rental car when I do my road trip later).

For those reasons, as stated before, if I were ever to pick any place in the world for my next Mariah Carey concert, I would demand Seoul. And now that I belong to both the US and South Korea for the foreseeable future, I want Mariah's music to inspire me to help improve everyday relations between the two nations. The ordinary people must take control.

I'm glad to also know that starting November 17th, South Koreans will be allowed into the US visa-free. Of course, I will never forget that this was done by W as a partisan favor to 2MB; however, it's still a valuable opportunity to bring the everyday people closer together, and get something done contrary to W and 2MB's original intentions.

I spent the rest of the day doing things related to this whole idea. I also bought Celine Dion's two-disc compilation today; although she's French-Canadian, I'm not all that big of a fan, and all the grandiose international relations stuff don't really apply to her (at least for me, anyway), her CDs will gladly be good companions as I embark on my road trip - and well beyond. Afterwards, I had lunch at TGI Friday's, and loved all the Americana decorating the place, complete with JFK '60 posters and American Airlines logos. (I would *love* for American Airlines to start service to Seoul, in response to all the extra South Korean traffic into the US.) I wrapped up my day shopping at Costco - an ethical American merchant with a good reputation in South Korea (unlike Wal-Mart, which recently had to leave the South Korean market).

Last, but not the least, both Mariah and Celine are people I've seen in Las Vegas. That reminds me, I must keep traveling, in order to broaden my horizons so that I can be of benefit to all the people I come across - not just the Americans and the South Koreans. I will travel quite a bit throughout South Korea, and into Hong Kong as well; when I return to the US, I will need to go back to Vegas, and San Francisco again while at it too. I must also keep going on, to Toronto and other parts of Canada, as well as make a new trip to Europe, something I haven't done in 5 years (as of tomorrow - !!!).