Monday, March 10, 2008

Wowie Zowie Seoul is Great in the Spring

Before we get into the "I Love Seoul" stuff, if you have the bandwidth. . .

This is a stop-motion animated military history of the USA's last century, as told through indigenous foods from the countries involved in the conflicts. Keep your eyes open for the Korean Kimchi, Vietnamese spring rolls, French Croissants, British Fish and Chips, German sausage and Pretzels, and various middle-eastern Kebabs, Israeli Bagels and Matzah, Russian Stroganoff, and more! My favourite is their portrayal of the US/Russian arms race.


Soundtrack time: Hit play and read on. Band: The Notwist

Song: Pick Up The Phone: great song, really cool video, too.

This sign was in the COEX Mall: I found Jesus (read the lettering)
Turns out he's a fashion designer from Apgujeong (a high-fashion district in Seoul).
So, um, I guess you don't have to worry about me, despite all my essays about atheism: I found Jesus in a shopping mall, so I figure I'll be OK. (Didn't buy anything there, though. . . hope that doesn't come back and haunt me later.)

The Kebab guy I told you about before now serves lamb. Boy it's great having lamb around the corner from my workplace.

There's a bar in the Daehangno district titled "cocaine". It's a blues and jazz bar. . .no idea if they serve any specialty products with their cocktails.

Feel hungry?

Wanna eat a tourist?

I wrote about the Yellow Dust from China. . . if you don't think it's bad, take a look at this (black, I swear) car.

The yellow dust is pretty gross.On the way home on Sunday night, after spending all day with Girlfriendoseyo, I came across these cats, dressed funny, each holding a different mathematical symbol (+ - ÷ × =), and handing out umbrellas covered with math symbols, too. I have no idea what they're selling, but if you offer me a free umbrella, buddy, I'll take it, and a picture for good measure.

Rule of thumb for selecting an After-School English Academy: If the name of the academy includes words that are neither English nor Korean, you can probably find a better one.

On Sunday, Girlfriendoseyo and I met and took a walk around Samchungdong. We had a nice talk about some of the things going on in her life, and her evening appointment unexpectedly canceled, so suddenly we had a free afternoon! The weather this weekend has been absolutely smashing. The sky was eggshell blue, and everybody stowed their winter hats and gloves, their coat linings and boots, and got their lazy fannies outside! Spring jacket weather is my personal favourite: I love seasons!

We walked up the mini-mountain (what should we call those? More than a hill, but less than a mountain? A mountette? a mountello? a mountita? mountebank?), and at the top there was a wall called the Seoul Seongwak (서울성곽) that the old kings built to guard against invasion. It's a remarkable, and totally underappreciated bit of Seoul's local heritage: it stretches right across the northern end of downtown Seoul, from east to west, almost totally intact. It even remains defensible, as it's on a mountain ridge, from an elevated position, and as you can see, a few modern military modifications have been made to the original wall.

It still looks pretty daunting from the low side (I sure wouldn't want to attack it.)

You can see the difference in masonry skill here: one part of the wall was built by Sejong the Great (below)
And the next part was built by a later King (forget his name; too lazy to look it up). You can see how the rocks are much more even, and fit together more smoothly. Girlfriendoseyo pointed out the difference in stone-cutting, and the seam was pretty plain to see.

On the other side of the wall, we came into this old, old neighbourhood behind one of Korea's oldest universities (Sungkyunkwan University), where Girlfriendoseyo lived during some of her student days. It was full of varied little shops, uneven roads, and alleys that looked like this:
Now understand: Seoul doesn't all look like that. In fact, to my dismay, more and more neighbourhoods like these are getting bulldozed and replaced with this:

So when I DO come across one of these rambling little corners, I appreciate it all the more these days. Maybe I'm just being sentimental but I think these neighbourhoods reflect Korea somehow more accurately than rows of apartment blocks like cenotaphs.

Buildings piled up and stacked behind eachother all the way up the hillside. I have NO idea how they built them, and I'm certain that no urban planners had any say in what did or didn't get built.

Here's the panorama of the valley below my spot on the hillside. The prevalence of brick buildings (notice the red colour) is a sure indicator that this is an older neighbourhood.

The wires spattering all over the sky is another sign that this area wasn't drawn out by any urban planner.

I love stairwells like this. Notice the old man in gray carrying something down the uneven steps.

There's girlfriendoseyo. She also really enjoyed the neighbourhood, but doesn't want to live there. I asked why not, and she answered "access by fire trucks".

She wins.
This is my favourite of the pictures: look at all the layers and angles and different building styles: as one of my students likes to say, "Happy Chaos."

Yeah, if the poorer or older Koreans are going to live somewhere, I hope neighbourhoods like this stick around: better than the alternative.

So anyway, I had a fantastic weekend; can you tell?

(PS: Don't forget to help out Bill Kapoun's family; they're still on the hook for a buttload of hospital fees.)


bradj said...

Food Fight is incredible. Somehow it's the perfect metaphor for war, and can pull no punches. I love the minimal simplicity of its story-telling. There are no justifications for war, just graphic depictions of how ugly and horrible and useless it is.

For a similar theme and actually less historical accuracy (despite its title), check out the History of America. It's done by my all-time favourite multimedia geniuses.

I also can't express how cool I think that vertical trailer park is. I would live there in two seconds!

Roboseyo said...

wow that was amazing, brad!

your video reminded me of this one: about as historical, but certainly not as well animated. (shorter, though)