Friday, 31 October 2008

Trip to Damyang with Girlfriendoseyo

Well, I was going to exercise the full extent of my researching and sleuthing skills (step aside, Popular Gusts: there's a new kid in town), and google "Korean Ghost Stories" and then post the first four hits for a spine-tingling halloween post. . . but Brian and FatmanSeoul beat me to the punch. (I'll link to the first stages of my research, though, so you can get a feeling for the kind of terror I would have laid at your shivering feet. . . were I so inclined.)



So instead, here's a slide show and some great pictures of the gorgeous little town of Damyang in Jeolla Province, where I travelled last weekend with Girlfriendoseyo.

It's a pretty town, with a gorgeous (but crowded on Saturdays in Autumn) Bamboo Forest, and a riverside park right next to the forest. Perfect place to rent a bike. The food was fantastic (it being Jeollado) and as Brian mentioned in a facebook message: it's kind of a travesty that there isn't a Korea food blogger living in Jeolla-do and exploring the local specialties down there. (However, whenever Tourism Jeolla offers me a six figure salary (in Euros, thanks), I'm their man!)

At night, we walked back into the forest, now empty, with green lights planted all along the paths, creating ghostly, lovely shadows between the bamboo stalks. And it was silent. Almost dead silent. I haven't heard true silence (other than "I've stuffed my head under five pillows" silence) in Seoul just about. . . ever . . . so being able to actually not hear anything was a bit shocking, and glorious.

Great place. Wonderful. Can't wait to go back.

That slide show, then. The song is "The Naming of Things" by Andrew Bird, a favorite artist of mine.


rented bikes and hit a biking trail

in the forest proper: it's a popular movie filming location, too.  can't imagine why.

this street was just MADE for couples.


the photo doesn't do a single iota of justice to the scene in the forest after dark.  

I'll be back there again.  Oh yeah.


Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Birds and the Bees and The Rocks and the Bee Man

Life cycle of an inflatable advertising sign:
Flaccid.


Expanding


Fully extended. (source)

Add dancing girls.  Pretty ones if possible.


Then suddenly, you have baby inflatable signs.  It's all very mysterious, little grasshopper.

In other news. . .  spotted this "Travel Korea" ad next to the CNN Election news.
A little closer up:Now sure, they could have said, "How about your vacation" which would have even MORE awkwardly told us, "This ad was conceived and written in Korean, and a native English speaker may never have been consulted during any step in the process of creating it, except as a token whose advice we don't follow" but the fact is, native English speakers pretty much never use the question, "What about your..." to introduce new conversation topics.  "What about" is used to explore a different aspect of a topic already under discussion.  On the other hand, my Korean students love to start sentences with "What about" or "How about," whether it's appropriate English usage or not.  Then again, given that the ad was up on CN-freaking-N Online, I don't think they're trying to convince Korean esl students to travel to Seoul. . . in which case. . . 


In other Korean ad news: spotted on the wall of a restaurant in Damyang: (warning: adult content)  turns out Michaelangelo's David was a playa!


Also from the Damyang bus terminal: "Hey Minji!  Do you mind if I set up my prune operation in this corner of your shop?"
"Well, Mom, I WAS going to put up a shelf of munchies and other kinds of snacks to SELL there."
"But my house is too small, and these plums smell really strongly when they start fermenting.  Please?"
"Uhh... OK whatever, Mom."

And finally, the payoff you've been waiting for...

When you want to say "I'd DIE for this cause!" (and there are people who probably would here in Korea) there's a new way to express yourself:

Un-subtle (warning: gross)


More subtle:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dokdo Cigarettes!


These are Amazing. Especially Borat.



So, uh, now that the world has been flooded with US Election coverage, is the rest of the world allowed to vote, too?

Makes me wish I could.

The original is here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Reason Number 1 that Korean Highway Rest Stops ROCK!

First Thing:

Korean highway rest stops are THE GREATEST PLACE to buy Trot, 트로트 music, in the world. There was a song I heard in a taxi and found catchy enough to sing, and get it stuck in my friend Amy's head. . . I went down to the Trot Music Stand which EVERY Korean rest stop has, and sang a bit of the song, and the lady pulled out just the CD. Cheap, too -- a double-CD - two full hours of cheesy musical goodness -- for only ten thousand won (and the way the won's going, may as well spend it these days).

This is the song: a goofy, great, silly, catchy as hell song to accompany your drive.

I don't know why they ONLY have Trot at the rest stops -- you'd think dropping in a few other genres would make sense . . .but I'm not gonna go looking a blessing from heaven in the mouth, now, am I?

장윤정 - 이따이따요 Chang Yoon Jung - Later,Later


You know you wanna dance.

The other great thing about trot music is this: it is absolutely the best noraebang (karaoke) music in the world. It's simple, not hard to sing, and instantly familiar for everyone around. I swear these songs are written to head straight for the Karaoke room, but buddy, it works.

and now you're gonna have that song in your head all day.

Teeheehee.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Nirvana in Korea: Lithium, or Roboseyo's chuckle for the day

The Original Song, by Nirvana


Now, the SECOND goofiest version of the song.
(by the bliss-out band, polyphonic spree, with sock puppets)


Thanks to No-Brain, the Korean punk band, (makers of this song, which I like) and the album of Nirvana covers by Korean punk bands slipped to me by Gomushin Girl. (thanks, eh?), we have a new champion for goofiest version of an awesome song (Lithium is one of the greatest Noraebang songs EVER too, just so's you know.)  This is pure beauty: wait for the chorus, and listen to the dude's pronounciation.

Epically Bad Wedding

Even worse than this:


Geek in Korea experienced the entire grab-bag of Korean traits that annoy foreigners (short of a discussion about The Islands Which Shall Not Be Named) in a single wedding. Go read about it.

P.S. Trot music (the stuff he was forced to listen to for two hours on the bus) sounds like this: (music from a CD I got at a rest stop on the way down to Damyang).

Turn your computer volume up to maximum, and then imagine being trapped on a bus with this for two hours, to drum up some sympathy for Geek In Korea, and maybe leave a kind comment on his blog.



Here's the video Geek In Korea himself uploaded. Pretty awful. It's like the worst elements of disco, the worst elements of polka, and the worst elements of Indian pop music, all rolled into one.


And..two pictures from Damyang, to tide you over until I can write it up properly.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Back from Damyang

It was beautiful there.

If the complaining expats thing is still interesting to you, go check out the conversation-starter/comment pertaining to that topic, which I posted at the Hub Of Sparkle. It takes a stance different than most of the others I've read, and might be worth discussion.

I'll put up more about Damyang once I get the pictures sorted, adjusted, and slideshowdafied. Until then, I want to tell you about David Smeaton, an amazing photographer I discovered through The Grand Narrative's James linking him. Scroll through his photos: they're amazing, and here's a picture he posted from another photographer that stopped me in my tracks.


More Tony Frissell pictures here.

David himself is the taker of possibly my favourite photo of Seoul: this one.
From here.

Go check him out!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Off for the weekend

I'm going to travel down to Jeollado this weekend, to see the Bamboo Forests. That will be good.

In the meantime, I really liked this photo essay over on Galbijim about Chilseong Market in Daegu: an amazing looking market of a type that's slowly vanishing from the cities, and also the kind which, if you don't know how to find it, you probably never will.

Go take a look!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Superheroes...real and fictional.

Video: Batman meets somebody with real superpowers. This is funny. Up there with "How Lord Of The Rings Should Have Ended" as movie-related viral videos go.


And as far as actual human superpowers. . . last night, for my birthday, I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Alegria with girlfriendoseyo. Some of you might remember way back in April '07, when I saw Quidam and came back gushing that if Cirque comes to town, save up, borrow, beg, steal, and go see it, because you'll never regret the sheer wonder of the show...

and yeah. I think I'll just have to reiterate that.

somehow Cirque manages to take familiar elements and look at them in a new light, or combine elements in a way you'd never think of, and then top themselves, and top themselves again, and top themselves again, and again, and again.

Here were two highlights of the show -- who thinks up this stuff? "Hey... let's do something with hula-hoops. . . but instead of just doing hula-hoops, let's, like, use a contortionist! And then dress her like a frog!" It's like those comic book fan fictions where Superman teams up with The Incredible Hulk, and Batman borrows Iron Man's super-strength robot mecha shell and they all join James Bond to bring down the Evil Russian empire (ruled by astrally projected horror-wraith Hitler, military run by robot clone Napoleon), establish democracy in China (re-killing Zombie Chairman Mao), solve world hunger, and invent three new card games that are better than anything in existence, and then, since they ended crime anyway, they form a pop band that outsells the Beatles. (the one in our show was dressed like an angel, not a frog, but you get the point).



Adding the music and the dancing and the character clowns with the textures and interactions they bring, creates an experience that just goes beyond impressive.

This was another of the best parts, for the sheer thrill: as always, watching a video of a show like this compares to the real thing about the way a third-grade drawing of a flower compares to your wedding bouquet, but you'll just have to live with it, until you get a chance to see the show.


so, uh, go get your tickets and see the show, eh?

The only other performance company I can think of (though I'm sure there are others out there) that puts on such an impressive display is Stomp, which seems like it was formed by a pair of of jazz drummers and a dancer who found themselves working as janitors, and started composing rhythmic compositions using the tools and objects in their maintenance shed.

Be amazed, dear readers, at the things creative humans can do!


Girlfriendoseyo also gave me a nice sweater for my birthday, and after Cirque du Soleil, I bought a new set of juggling balls. I'm a happy old cat.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

I Like Big Bibles, and thoughts on Sir Mixalot and Lee Hyori

Just watch it. It's funny as heaven.



Next...
Lee Hyori was in a soju ad that's been playing on loop at subway stations around Seoul for a while now.


Now sure, it's Hyori bringing her special brand of hypnotic, "You. . . will. . . buy.  . . this. . . product" CF queenieness and all. . . but what the heaven is up with the song choice?

Of all the songs to choose for a Hyori ad, why choose a schlock novelty from the early nineties, from a one-hit-wonder Dr. Demento crossover poster-boy -- and then running an ad with THAT song, fifteen years after it came out???

(PS: it creeps me out that there are kids who can rap that entire "baby got back" song, who were not even BORN when it came out...though the video is wildly hilarious)

adding to the weirdness of that song showing up in an ad, sorry, but the song fits Hyori like a baggy sweater.  Ass lovely as it is, I'm still looking for the "big ol'" part.  Unless she forgot the other cheek at home on the day she went in for this photo shoot:
Sorry.  While the word shapely is certainly apt, bootylicious just isn't the one for dear Lee Hyori. She's lovely, in that "dear god what a perfect stomach" sort of way,
and a big part of her appeal is the old "of all the K-pop stars, she actually seems like she's having fun instead of just pacing through her choreographer's routines" kind of charisma. . . but she doesn't have enough junk in the trunk to sell records on her big ol'juicy buh-tawcks (thanks, Forrest Gump) alone.

allow me to illustrate:

Big ass:
(courtesy of Nike; text here)
Happy Sir Mix-a-lot (he and his othabrothas can't deny they got sprung):


(lovely nonetheless, but) NOT big ass:
UNhappy Sir Mix-A-Lot: (his othabrothas and he can't deny: they AIN'T got sprung.)

Though with a little help, she might yet hold her own against J-Lo and the bootylicious gang. . .  Sir Mix-a-Lot and his fellas might like this augmented bitty-bit:


But I shall stick with admiring the assets Hyori pops best:
fun charisma, and a really great tummy.
To the choeum chorom music choosey-people who picked THAT song for their ad:

work harder.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

How is the weather? The weather is yech today.

The last three days have seen a swanky haze flop down upon the city of Seoul and not let up.

It's gross, and usually air quality this poor is reserved for the spring, with the yellow dust from China, and Autumn is my favourite season because the skies are clearer then than other times.

But not right now.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Heh heh heh. That's exactly what I thought the first time I saw it. Roboseyo's Untimely Film Reviews, part II

"My Sassy Girl," Jeon Jihyun's breakthrough film role (though really, the Samsung commercial and the Giordano commercial will be the reasons she's remembered), was a huge hit in Korea, and remade into a Hollywood film staring Elisha Cuthbert and something something something.

The Korean movie's Trailer:


The Hollywood Remake's Trailer:

(IMDB page)

The Hollywood version tested so poorly with audiences they cut their losses and sent it straight to video. Article here.

"My Sassy Girl" — a smash hit in its native South Korea in 2001 — went straight to video in the US because men rejected its premise of a male character putting up with a bossy love interest in American test screenings, Lee said Friday.


Here's my summary of the movie:

Guy meets beautiful girl.
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!*
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!**
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!***
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
Jeon Jihyun dances. She's hawt.
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
A limp excuse for her ridiculously self-absorbed behavior is half-heartedly presented.
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!****
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
Some sad stuff happens. They can't be together for some stupid reason.
Long after he's given up hope of meeting her again, they meet again, through a coincidence that strains credulity, then bursts it, stomps it, and poops on it.
She finally realizes he's the man for her.
Movie over.

* at this point, I'd stopped buying the film.
** by this point, I had not even a single shred of respect for the male lead anymore, and wanted to punch him and tell him to grow a pair.
*** beauty nothin': by this point it could have been Audrey Hepburn and I'd have kicked her to the curb for constantly treating me like a turd
**** heavens to betsy they're still stretching this garbage out?

I KNEW this movie wouldn't fly in North America. Knew it. No man would watch another man be treated like such a sap for the entire duration of a movie. Meanwhile, many Korean women I've met love this movie, and think it's touching how the guy dotes on the girl, without ever thinking about how completely emasculated he's been -- degraded to a level reserved for discarded cellphone accessories -- and wish a guy would dote on THEM like that. To them, I usually answer, "Do you want a boyfriend, or a puppy?"

And every once in a while, I meet a young lady who seems to have taken this movie as a how-to-guide on how to attract a man. And I lose interest about the way you do when you realize that the chocolate bar you saw on the table is actually cat poop.

(kinda like this)


Doesn't. Work. (unless you want a man you can't respect)

There's another movie that sets an even WORSE pattern for young women's behaviour in Korean society. . . but only one I can think of, and I'm saving my write-up on that one up for a proper, spittle-flying frothing rant-down.  

Sure, there are cultural reasons why Korean women might gain some vicarious pleasure from seeing a woman treating a man like poop for ninety minutes, in a culture that is still recovering from having sexism institutionalized pretty much at every level possible, and if a movie like this is part of the recovery process, fair enough. . . I don't have enough sociological background to explore that in depth, but I can understand the movie's existence, from that perspective.

(update: on the comment board, James Turnbull, who is eminently qualified to expand upon these points, provides some context for what I mean, but ultimately dodge, here.)

However, I still don't have to like it, and whatever the movie represents aside, as a matter of personal taste, I found the movie charmless, and the characters unlikeable (the cardinal sin for me watching movies).  I just didn't want to spend time with these people.

Anyway: here's to North American girls NOT having this crap model of femininity foisted upon them.



(PS: For another rant/review I wrote back when nobody read my blog: Here's what I said about D-War back in January!)

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Korean Traditional Baby Washer


This is how we do it in the R.O.K.!  (taken while wandering around my hood)

For the people back home:


If you know this girl, you know which of the "friends and family" sidebar links leads to her blog.  If, if, IF you know her, you should go click on her name, and send her a bit of emotional support today.  She's a wonderful lady, and she lost her Papa to cancer early this morning.   (if you don't know her. . . kindly ignore this post; grief is a bad time for hits and comments from curious strangers).

Get on her facebook page, or her blog, write a note, leave a comment, look up her old e-mail address in your contacts list.  Get in touch with her and send her some moral support somehow.

-Rob

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Today is Blog Action Day; Topic: Poverty

Last year, I participated in "Blog Action Day," a project aimed at getting as many bloggers as possible to write about a single topic, to raise awareness. The topic then was environment, and you can see my post here.

This year, the topic is poverty, an especially pertinent one, as oil and food prices have been increasing all year, and corn-fuel experimentation basically boils down to rich countries taking food out of the mouths of the world's poorest people and putting it in their cars.

Now I'll be honest and say that I don't know a whole lot about the myriad complexities of world poverty, and I'm sure others here at the Blog Action Day site have better things to say about what we can do for world poverty, other than giving regularly and generously to aid organizations.

One thing you CAN do, that's free, and only takes five seconds, is to put The Hunger Site on your sidebar or your front page, and visit it every day, and (if you blog) tell your readers to visit it every day. It takes five seconds to upload a page with ads for Hunger Site sponsors, and just for spending half a second looking at ads, they'll feed starving person. There's no reason you shouldn't do this every darn day of your life, even if you're too cheap to give money or too lazy to volunteer.

Once you're at the Hunger Site page, you can toggle and support a few other groups with your eyeballs: Breast Cancer, Child Health, Literacy, Rainforest Preservation, and Animal Rescue. Sometimes, because I'm a horrible person, I visit all of them except animal rescue, because screw those stupid animals!

Now you can be a horrible person like me, and choose which cause NOT to support for free, as well.



Have fun excluding one!

from: Roboseyo the horrible
(more puppy hate)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Pictures and pictures and pictures and dumb commentary.

My friend Myungshin has magic hands: look what they can do! She can also make them pass through solid objects.

Met this guy out in Shinchon.   
Can't remember his name though. Might've been Brian.
Somebody has the job of writing those t-shirts.

And I want their job.
But bad.  REeeeeeel bad.

Met this guy out in Shinchon too. He found a hot dog stand he, uh, really liked. Street food. Aah, street food. He said it was nice: thick, juicy, and just spicy enough.  I...uh... don't eat hot dogs.

The bad economy's trickling down to the little guy now: those cheapie 3300 won samgyupsal places are now patchworking their signs to cover the budget.


Went to a bar.  It was rough.
You'd think, though, especially in a place like Hongdae, that they'd check SOMEBODY, just SOMEONE to veto signs like this one: "Club DD: We got all black music"

There's a bar called Boobi Boobi in Hongdae, too.  It has another meaning in Korea, but I don't have the background to give an exact translation.  It DOES seem like it must be a cool name for a bar, though.There's also a bar named "Ho Bar."  In fact, there are TWO of them...and more (three...maybe even four) in Hongdae, and another two, maybe three in Jongno.  These bars are a running gag to pretty much every foreigner in Korea.  'nuff said.
Hyori has another soju poster.  Those airbrushers are getting more and more involved in these soju ads. . . it's at the point now where they're not even trying to make it look like an actual person anymore.  It's like cartoon Hyori standing behind a cardboard frame.



Went to a little arboretum near my house with Girlfriendoseyo.  It was gorgeous: the sun was out shining through the leaf canopy and setting little trees aflame with sunlight.Purty.
Girlfriendoseyo made a friend.

Seen on a sign near Sinchon station:
??And English school where you learn to talk dirty??

Saw these in City Hall Subway Station.  A Korean artist had a really interesting take on the interactions between old Korean culture and modern pop culture.


Finally: a soju ad advertising that Soju is "Non-GMO".

Nope.  No genetically modified chemists were involved in mixing cooking alcohol with MSG and water to make this soju.
Advertising soju as non GMO is just weird to me -- isn't that kind of like selling "New Marlborough. . . 100% organic!" -- I mean, so what?  It's still soju.  That's like selling me a rottweiler and saying, "Don't worry.  This one only attacks adults without provocation, so your kids'll be safe."  Big deal.