Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Eulogy for Opa

Strangely enough, the story that sticks in my head about Opa isn't even something that happened to me. When Mom was sick, she and I talked a lot, sitting on the couch, between Mom's increasingly frequent naps. One of the stories that stuck the most is when Mom told me about doing the family chores when she was young. All the other kids avoided the after-dinner dishes, but Mom did them with Opa, and she says she loved doing the dishes, because it was an hour a day of Opa's undivided attention.

Maybe the story had a bit of extra meaning for me, because at the time, I was living in Mom and Dad's house, not working, to dedicate time to Dad and Mom. It might have been my own version of washing dishes with Opa, to sit across from Mom, to play some music she enjoyed, or chat, or share a story. Spending time with someone you love, I've realized, doesn't have to be meaningful. In fact, the meaningful stuff often doesn't come about without ordinary, un-meaningful time working like the soil where seeds of real closeness might grow. This is a lesson I've learned painfully this year. In a month visiting my family, it was good to have meetings, to get together, to talk about Big Stuff, but even while we discussed all kinds of deep or fun or far-reaching topics, when something went wrong at Dan's house, the people they called up for help were the ones who lived in town. The ones Silas felt comfortable with were the ones he saw daily or weekly, and it didn't matter to him that Dan and I shared a room for most of elementary school.

Opa was like that too, for me. It took a fair bit of poking and prodding for me to get any Big Topics out of him: it was more to the point to be with the people you loved, and to enjoy their company.

Opa was the gentlest man I knew. He was patient, and warm, not in the pull you off the ground with a bear-hug way, but in the "come over here and sit with me" way, and that made it easy to be comfortable around him. He had a sneaky, unforced wit that popped up from time to time, just rarely enough that I never expected it. I once asked him, after coming back to Canada from my first year in Korea, "Do you have any advice for me on how to live my life?" and he answered, "Don't get old." It's also impossible for me to think about Opa without thinking about my Mom, and or to think about Mom without thinking about Opa, because there was so much of Opa in Mom: the gentleness, the listening, the joy in being around the people she loved. Between them, with the simple way they both enjoyed being near the people they loved, the gentleness, the listening, the generosity, I think that they laid the groundwork for a lot of the best parts of my character.

Opa wrote two family histories. The first was about his father's generation, a history that started with a bunch of unfamiliar Dutch places and names that didn't mean a lot to me when I read it, and ended as a tender, admiring tribute to his father. The second volume was the story of his and his own children's lives, with stories about childhoods, courtships and marriages, and the like. But the more important heritage that Opa left us is first, a deep spiritual grounding, a Godly and faithful upbringing for all his children, that contributed to a powerful moral compass that I'm pretty sure has been passed on to every one of the grandchildren, too. Opa left in every person of his family, a softness that proves softness is not the same as weakness -- the gentleness of spirit that Opa lived out now repeats itself in his children and grandchildren. It's one of the best parts of me, when I let it come out. In fact, if you call and ask me what’s up, I’d tell you that one of the reasons this has been one of the hardest years of my life is because I haven't allowed that side of myself, the side that most resembles Opa, to come out more.

One of the most powerful spiritual experiences in my life came about because of Opa. This was in 2003, my first year in Korea. It was June, just as I was starting to get my expat feet under me, and I got a call from Mom and Dad saying that Opa was in the hospital again, and not doing so well, and that I might need to schedule a trip back to Canada if I wanted to see him again. I went out for a walk around my neighborhood: walking is something I do when I can’t think of anything else to do, and as I came through the gates of the park built for the 1988 Seoul Olympics -- right near my house -- it was near sundown, not quite dusk yet, but the sun was low and the sun rays were getting long. I looked up, and saw a triple rainbow, with the middle one as flaming bright as any rainbow I've ever seen. Then I turned around, and a brilliant sunset seen circled the entire horizon, in every direction, from shades of pink and orange, to layers of clouds in purple and gold. Later I learned that a typhoon was approaching Seoul that day, and that’s why the moisture in the air led to a sunset rainbow, but all I felt was the peace that comes of being assured, "Things will be OK," by the only one big enough to make a sunset with a triple-rainbow. I love that from time to time, God chooses to talk to us by showing us staggeringly beautiful things, that only He could have invented, and just like Job, we're silenced with wonder, never bullied into submission, but awed back into trust.

And this time, well, I'm still waiting for the triple-rainbow, and the dishes in the sink are dirty, and I wish Opa could stand beside me and we could wash them together, and maybe talk, or maybe just be silent, and do a little task with someone we love, and have that be enough. And maybe the time we got to spend with Opa while he was here on Earth... maybe that was the triple rainbow. Maybe Opa's life, and his character, and the way he left himself behind in all of us, maybe that's more beautiful anyway, than some wild typhoon sunset. It's sad for us that he's gone, but it's good that we knew him, and maybe what we have to do next is find the people we love, the ones we want to be with, the ones we want to care for, the ones we want to remember us when we go to God, and wash some dishes together.

Goodbye Opa. We'll always miss you.

My Uncle Al's Eulogy for my Grandfather

Two Eulogies were read at my Opa/Grandfather's funeral.

Here is the official one, delivered by my Uncle Al.

Dear Family and Friends,

As I sit and write this, Psalm 139 comes to mind.

Verse 13, “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” These verses reflect the way Dad lived his life. IN spite of the doubts Dad had, Dad lived as an example to us his children and grandchildren. He taught us that God was his God, that, if we trusted him, God would be our God also.

Dad lived that out every day. He read his Bible faithfully. He prayed from his heart. When he sang—and he did not sing outside of church—he sang heartily. When we were younger, he talked with us individually about his faith and our faith. He showed us it wasn’t about feeling, but about trusting that God is as good as his word. The feeling would come later.

Dad encouraged us in everyday ways. When we went to college or university, he encouraged us in that. I remember well a conversation he and I had in my first year of college. He remarked about the changes he saw in me in only four months of study. He understood the value of education how it affects people and gives them a different outlook on life. He was interested in that without having the benefit of the experience himself. In our various experiences, he always had questions to ask, wisdom to offer and failing that, an ear to listen with. Because of his experience as a construction estimator, Dave, Dad and I always had something about which to talk.

Dad was also an industrious person. Witness the fact that he built two homes. The first took a few years to build, but money was short then. But, he and Mom, with some help built it all. When we were young, Saturdays were not spent sitting around like I like to do now, Dad had things to do. The garden consumed some of his time. But Dad built the canoe, made a picnic table, toy chairs for us, a swing set, a bicycle rack—not to mention the repairs on those bikes—bunk beds for Jane and Greta, a desk, more bedrooms in the basement of that house, and the list goes on. When Dad and Mom bought the lot at 312 York Road in October 1973, with tow exceptions, we spent every Saturday from the first weekend in October to Mid-March cutting and clearing trees. We chopped out about an acre of trees in that time. Except for the chainsaw, it was all bull work.

When Dad turned 65, he didn’t know what he needed or wanted to do. He opted for semi-retirement, and his employer was amenable to that. So, for the next year, Dad worked half-time. After that year, he fully retired. True to his industrious nature, Dad still couldn’t sit still. He spent time tutouring at Jarvis Christian School as well as spending time tutouring in the community. Dad also gave us something to read. He wrote a book on the Boonstra family history, starting with his grandparents up to the present (at that time). As if that wasn’t enough, Dad turned his attentions to Mom’s side. Mom had been collection recordings from her family about their history and tighter they collated the findings putting them in book form.
With the exception of bird watching, Dad never engaged in any sport or other hobby. Reading and gardening were his mainstay. Actually, the garden was Mom’s. Dad helped when needed. Dad was a voracious reader.

When we were younger Sunday afternoons were spent walking the trails of Coote’s Paradise, McMaster, or King’s Forest. We learned to identify trees, flowers, and birds. My favourite was Coote’s Paradise because there was a variety of birds, the meadow, forest, and wetlands birds. The things he taught me on these walks were life-long. He had an interest in nature that he passed on to me. Sure, there’ much I don’t know, but what I do know, I learned as much by osmosis as I did by being told. Those were times for me where I connected with Dad in a personal way because, sometimes there were times when I’d be with Dad by myself.
Dad was also a devoted husband. Yes, there was a time earlier when thong weren’t as they should have been, but Dad and Mom worked through those times. After that, they never looked back. They didn’t argue in front of us. They were an example to us of love and devotion. In later years, Mom showed us her devotion to Dad when she took care of him, and later yet, waiting on him, quite literally, hand and foot. They slept in separate bedrooms because Mom, being a light sleeper, was kept awake by Dad’s coughing at nights. When we visited overnight, they always said goodnight to each other with a kiss and an “I love you.” They were married for almost 58 years.

Dad was an integral person, that is, he had integrity. There were no two sides to Dad, no Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He didn’t play favourites with his children, and in his dealings with us, he was honest. In his dealings with others, he was just as honest. I can’t say more to describe him this way, because that is all there is to say. That’s how he was.

Dad was a generous man. The injunction in Malachi 3 is one that he and Mom took seriously and lived by to the day he died. There we are told to test God and see if the will not open the floodgates of Heaven. We cannot out give God. They taught us that concept of tithing. They, if my suspicions are correct, went beyond tithing.

That brings me back to Psalm 139. Verse 16, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Dad has come to the end of his days. His earthly remains were buried just a short time ago. We didn’t know when and how Dad would die. We all knew it would happen. I personally thought it would have happened a long time ago. Dad was not always healthy, nor was he strong. God knew, and he was always in control. After Dad’s major heart attack in 2003, Dad did not venture out much when it was cold, hot or windy. He was susceptible to pneumonia and fluid build-up around hi heart and lungs. Every time he had this he was left a little more weakened than the previous bout.

Psalm 139 Verse 3, “you discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways...You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand on me.”
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, into verse 10, “even there your right hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.”

The last month of Dad’s life was not easy. He spent two and a half weeks in the hospital on three occasions. The last week was most difficult for Dad. Yet, we read that God’s hand was on him, that Dad could not flee form his presence, that even in the depths, God was there, and that even on the far side of the sea, God’s right hand held him fast.

Verse 17, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake I am still with you.

Mom left Dad Friday afternoon to come to get some sleep. Their last words to each other were, “I love you.” When Dad drew his last breath, nobody was close by. Nobody knew he was that close to death. When he awoke, he saw that he was still with God. God had not abandoned him.

Psalm 139 Verse 23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Happy Halloween, Everyone.

my favorite hallowe'en clip.

P.S.: my new favorite Konglish:
Swiss Army Knife = MacGyver Knife in Konglish
"I love you, too, Korea"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Get Noticed in K-Blogland

Update: this post is long. It deserves a soundtrack.

Everclear: AM Radio. One of my happy place songs.

So, this one blogger has lately been leaving comment spam and links to his/her site all over the k-blogs. Seems like everywhere I go this person is linking "for hard-hitting" news and some other stuff.

Problem is, as Brian Deutsch told him/her right before deleting his/her comment, "There are proper ways to promote your site. Like I told you the first time, pretty much the best way to ensure I'll never visit your site is to spam it on unrelated posts."

Ask the Expat talked briefly about this, and sent people to ROK Drop's "How to get a good blog" and Acorn in the Dog's food referred to's advice, as did James Turnbull in this comment at hub of sparkle, talking about the Golden Klog awards. A lot of what I'm saying here is gleaned from these pages. Especially ROK Drop's.

So here's my take on how to get a popular K-blog. Some of this probably works for others too.

There's a bunch of stuff that's really well-known, and obvious, so I'll brush over that. Read ROK Drop's post for further explanation ... (of stuff that ought to be obvious). Other tips are a simple matter of blogger courtesy. Here they are:

Start in 2002. Seriously, this is the best thing you can do. The K-blogs that are still around, that started a way long time ago are generally some of the most linked, read, and referenced blogs out there. I also tell my students that if they want to speak English perfectly, like natives, they need to start when they're six. I teach adults.

Yeah, that's a funny one, haw haw, but here's the truth behind it:

Be patient. It takes time for a blog, even a good one, to find its readers. And be aware that different topics have different popularity ceilings.

Post regularly, and consistently. Long breaks or infrequent posts, or a blank week and then five posts in a day won't give you as much bang for your buck.

I'm going to add... there's also a maximum number of posts a day people will read before they stop trusting you to produce quality content, or get blinded by all the noise. Nobody can write five posts a day without recycling a lot of their own thoughts and ideas, and running the risk of losing some of the nuances in their thinking, as a sheer function of time spent per post, so unless you're fashioning yourself as a headlines blog, don't do it. Also, if you produce THAT much content, it gets harder to look through your archives to find something, so old posts won't get many link-backs.

Maintain a standard of quality. durr.

Add your own thoughts. Don't JUST do a link (ahem irony alert ahem), or you're nothing better than a newsfeed, and people won't see the point in reading your blog rather than just checking K-news feeds.

Acknowledge what you don't know, and own up, either in comments, or with post updates, when someone points out an important error. I'd add "don't talk about things you don't know about"... but your readers will figure that out pretty quickly regardless.

Get on the Korean Blog List. This should be your first step. When I was getting started, a third of my new hits (that is, not family) came from there. People DO go there and browse, just to see what's up.

Don't intimidate readers with walls of pure text. If I'm studying for a masters, I'll read journals. Blogs that are screens full of letters (especially if it's in small or difficult to read font) get skimmed, or skipped entirely. Break up paragraphs, add pictures, embed youtube videos, make sure there's empty space on your screen somewhere.

Have a commenting policy. This equals credibility.

At the very least, respond to comments on your own site. Maybe you don't have time for all of them, but take part in the comment board discussions, and acknowledge your commenters. They're important to the success of your blog, and if you're asked a direct question in the comments, and fail to answer, you may have lost the respect of a reader and in some cases, a potential friend/ally. This is especially important when you're starting out.

Link to other bloggers. Most bloggers have measures and metrics that tell them when they get linked. I'm more likely to visit and read a blog that's linked me, than to read a blog that puts a comment saying "Read my site" on an unrelated post.... but when you link them...

Make sure there's enough at your blog to intrigue them. Frankly, one of the first things I do when I visit a new blog is check their archives. If a blogger has e-mailed me or linked to me, or asked me to visit or link their site somehow, the first thing I do is check how many months of material they've already written, and how consistently they produce content. Were there ten posts in the first month and two per month in the next five? I'll lose interest fast. Has the blog been in existence for a single month? I'll come back later, and see if they've stuck around, before I start sending much link-love that way. I'll also sometimes skim the topics in the post headlines of the archives, to see how well the blogger stays on topic, or whether it's just a random, unfocused modge-podge (modge-podges are fine for your friends to read, but won't get linked at The Marmot's Hole. That guy's busy.)

People like lists, top-tens, and other countdowns. It's the fastest way to get linked. The internet attention span fritzes out at about 500 words, but each new point on a top-ten list or an itemized list is a mini-reboot of that attention span. Use headings and lists and countdowns to stretch out the amount of time people are willing to read your post. Or write posts that are generally less than 500 words, or find other ways to break things up -- change of topic, photos, video clips, jokes. Or say "to hell with attention spans: I'm writing good stuff!" and just write an excellent post that will attract attention for its excellence (cf: Popular Gusts and The Grand Narrative).

Pick a format, and a focus, and stick with it. This is why Roboseyo will never be more popular than it is right now: not enough focus. Ask A Korean and Ask The Expat got popular, really fast, because their format was really accessible and interactive. The Grand Narrative is popular because it has a very specific focus, and that means people interested in that will visit. But if one post is weekend trip pictures, the next one is a restaurant review, the next is an academic discussion of English teaching styles, the next one is about Obamacare, and the next one is a confessional about one's best friend back home, don't expect readers to follow the jumps all over the map, and don't expect K-blogs with a specific focus to link you too often. I've seen a lot of bloggers put a ceiling on their own popularity by failing to choose a clear focus. Keep in mind also that if you get known best for an emotional tone, rather than a topic, it can be hard to break out of that pigeon-hole. (Says "The happy one")

To get noticed, and promote yourself:

Follow the Kushibo Model, or the Popular Gusts Model: The two main models for blog popularity can be explained by contrasting Kushibo and Gusts of Popular Feeling.

Popular Gusts and The Grand Narrative just wrote excellent blogs, and waited. Particlarly Popular Gusts -- TGN had an early phase where he put pictures of hot Korean stars up on his blog a lot, to get hits from "Lee Hyori sexy" searches and such. Planting common search keywords in posts and titles isn't something I ever got into too much, though I'm sure it works. Even though PG's Matt rarely commented on other blogs, eventually, other K-bloggers noticed, and started linking, and he, like TGN, built his credibility from the ground up. This version is credibility-intensive -- you can't afford to toss off a few cat videos in this model. It takes time, so be patient. Both are active on their own blogs' comment boards, taking part in discussions of their ideas, even though they aren't often on other blogs comment boards. Remember to link other bloggers if you're doing this. (This model doesn't only work on "smart" blogs. Humor blog Dokdo Is Ours also rarely comments on other blogs, but it has a clear focus and a quality standard as consistent as can be expected in a humor blog.)

The Kushibo model is much more extroverted: Kushibo is all over comment boards at other blogs, getting involved in discussions. Now, you don't necessarily have to take a different stance from other commenters on issues the way Kushibo does, and I don't actually recommend putting [update: TOO MANY] links to your own site in your comments, as that form of self-promotion is pretty naked, and can be off-putting, but I'll tell you what: one of the best ways to get me to visit your blog, and read it more carefully, is if I think "Hey, I've seen that username on other comment boards. He/she's generally smart/funny/knowledgeable/concise and witty." This was how I got started, by contributing a lot to commentary at The Marmot's Hole. There are a few other blogs that are popular and well-read, where you can do the same. This advice comes with the warning that if your comments are repetitive, ignorant, half-baked, poorly thought-out, or offensive... well, your comments are representing yourself, like the cover letter you send with your resume. Let your comments be a fair representation of what people will see at your blog, if you're taking this tack. And if you're ONLY commenting to get hits on your own site... people can tell. We netizens get things wrong sometimes, but we're pretty good at sniffing out a fake. Also, make sure there's stuff to see at your blog. I can't tell you how often I've been disappointed to click on a really interesting commenter's profile, to find a blog that updates twice a year.

Remember to do courtesy link-backs. A little thing like this (see the bottom of the post) goes a long way. When I started out, I'd even personally e-mail bloggers to thank them for linking me.

Have a unique handle that shows up on comment boards. There's only one Roboseyo on the internet, so when I put a comment somewhere, everybody knows it's me (for better AND for worse). There are about five Melissas (some are friends from back home), who comment on my blog, and four Matts who comment on K-blogs. If you want to build your brand on the comment boards, make sure your handle is unique, so that I'm not clicking on your ID and wondering "Is this the Baseball Matt or Popular Gusts Matt or On My Way To Korea Matt?" On the other hand, off the top of my head, there's only one Sonagi, only one Korean Rum Diary, only one Gomushin Girl, only one Kushibo, only one 1994, and only one MKM on the K-blog comment boards, so I remember them.

[Update - January 2010] By the same token:
Don't use Kimchi in your blog title, and don't make your blog title a pun on Seoul. Not to crap on the bloggers who have done exactly that (especially ones that have been around for awhile), but buddy, there are already so many blogs that pun on Seoul in their name, and so many more that use kimchi in their name, that it's getting harder and harder to tell one from the other. It's like that cruel prank of female names where there are so many women named Kristen, Kiersten, Kristen, Christa, Crystal, Kiersta, Christine, Christina, Christianna, and all of them get upset if you call them the wrong name. So yeah. If you're thinking of naming your blog "Seoul of Kimchi" or "Kimchi is my Seoulfood" or "Say Kimchi with your Seoul" - save yourself getting confused with a dozen other blogs, and don't.

If hits are all you care about, write about K-pop. The K-pop blogs get more readers and commenters than anybody else in Kblogland.

Don't Spam. Every once in a while, somebody goes through the entire Korean Blog List and leaves a comment on each one "Hey great blog. You should check out my blog, too." with a link. Or somesuch. Don't do that. Especially if the only post on your blog is "This is your new blog from Wordpress." I had about a year's worth of content before I started actively promoting Roboseyo, never asked people to visit my site -- just made what I thought were worthwhile comments, and because of that, Brian (one of my early boosters) has something to read when he DID come by, and later he listed me as a significant up-and-comer. Write a polite personal e-mail instead, saying something like "I just wrote about this topic... maybe you'd be interested in checking it out."

If you're not getting acknowledged by "the big bloggers," aim lower. Sending e-mails to The Marmot or Brian in Jeollanamdo about "Hey, I just wrote about this topic, maybe you could link me" might not have results, because they might get five e-mails like that a day (I sure don't)... so go to one of the several dozen "second-tier" bloggers around the K-blogs, the less popular ones that DO get read regularly, that post consistently, that are creating original and/or quality content, and get active on their comment boards. They're more likely to become blog pals anyway, and I've even seen some sweet friendships develop through bloggers starting to comment on each others' sites. There's a lot of good content there, and many of the "big" bloggers read a lot of them for leads, or for links. This is also a nice way to learn more about blogging during the first few months, to get excited about it, and to generate enough content on your site that "the big bloggers" will actually pay attention when you try to join the discussion there.

What else?
respect other bloggers starting a feud with Eminem helped Insane Clown Posse, but it won't help you if other bloggers won't link you because "that writer pisses me off"... instead, get in touch with other bloggers. Meet face to face, hang out, write e-mails. People visit the sites of people they feel like they know personally, more often. Friend them on facebook...but be friendly, not stalkerish, especially if they don't know you from Adam.

answer your e-mails... and read the FAQ's on a blog before sending an E-mail.

get into other media (Newspapers and magazines, also facebook and twitter)

be funny, or be smart, or be both, but be readable: academic writing is satisfying to accomplish, but hard to read. I'm more likely to revisit the site of someone with an engaging writing style than someone who doesn't, whatever the other merits of the site. Even a few sites angry enough that I'd never read them otherwise, get the occasional "train-wreck" hit from me, if they have an entertaining writing style.

edit your work: sloppy writing, obvious "I posted this without proofreading it" errors are a huge turnoff. The occasional typo is forgivable -- it's not a peer-reviewed paper -- but I've seen the ugliness when a mean commenter and a careless writer meet, and it ain't pleasant.

start a separate blog for your family and friends, or e-mail them. Mixing personal posts in when you want to "make it" as a k-blogger puts a ceiling on your blog's popularity, because of the lack of focus. You need to choose your audience -- that's one of the most important rules to good writing out there.

recognize that this is a pretty small niche. You'll never be as popular as if you write a "celebrity gossip photoshopped into cat photos" blog. There just aren't THAT many English Korea blog readers to go around, so don't expect twenty thousand hits a day. Seriously. Don't expect to quit your job, thanks to your google ads income.

K-blogging is not an exclusive club, as far as I can tell. New K-bloggers are constantly getting in "the club" and making their mark, and no matter how big you were a year ago, people drop off the map pretty quickly too, if they stop caring about what they write. However, it takes some time to become part of the club, not because we're snobs, but because so many other blogs have come in, made a splash, and then disappeared. But seriously, if you demonstrate that you've got some staying power, and you return the courtesy of links and such for most of us, that's all we ask. And if you don't feel like "part of the club"... then I guess I'd ask, are you blogging to get recognition, or are you blogging because you love sharing your ideas? Because the ones who are only in it for the recognition... usually don't stick around. If you want recognition, get your friends together, drink four beers, and get into that "you're my best friend" stage of happy drunkenness instead. It feels better, it's more reliable, and the high lasts longer than the high of getting linked by Roboseyo.

Are there any other tips I'm missing?

Bits and Pieces

I put up a links post at Hub of Sparkle. But some of the stuff I discovered was too random for that site, and too entertaining to let it slip by.

So here you go:

photo source

I posted once before on "what does English sound like to non-English speakers"?

today at they had this fantastic video of what English DOES sound like to non-Englishers.

Plus, there's sweet dancing. And a guy who reminds me of the "I Kiss You" guy... who, according to an article I read, may have been the inspiration for Borat.


And musicwise... Radiohead's latest album, "In Rainbows" has grown on me slower than any of their albums so far... but I'm finally coming around to it. I got a hold of their special edition second disc, and there's a song on there that's the prettiest song Radiohead's made since "How to Disappear Completely" - the last track on the second disc, in keeping with Radiohead's habit of saving one of the best tracks on the album for last. Wolf at the Door was the best song on "Hail to the Thief" "Life in a Glass House" might have been the best song on all of Amnesiac...really, OK computer was the only album that didn't save the last track for something gobsmackingly magical. but anyway, here's a lovely, lovely song.

I've talked a lot about Bliss-outs lately, but the thing I love about Radiohead is that (other than on The Bends) they're not so much about the bliss-out, the unbridled thing -- but instead they approach slower, and give a longer-lasting sort of elevated feeling, almost a sensitization rather than a mere bliss-out, like the way your scalp feels cold for a day after getting your hair cut short. So, the song is gorgeous.

And while we're squeeing about Radiohead, this is a good song, and a super-cool video, too. Love the rain when the music changes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If only Koreans used Google...

If Koreans used google, here is an elegant solution to territorial disputes that Google is using between China and India, that could be used here in Korea for a certain other... Islandish Asia Correspondent explains.

Unfortunately, Koreans don't use Google. Last time I was on a PC Room computer, visiting some of my favorite sites, a window or notification opened, saying, in effect, "Hey there. You're using Internet Explorer 6. Microsoft will stop supporting IE 6 really soon, and it's archaic and really slow, and the security is rubbish, and many websites run faster, or work better if you try browsing with Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, or IE 8."

And the question is, when the rest of the world forgets about IE 6, will Korea finally decide to update its browser programming, or will Koreans simply stop visiting foreign sites entirely (as opposed to only mostly avoiding them now), and Naver and Daum's takeover of Korean netizens intellectual input will become complete? (Maybe that was the plan all along... pretty awesome evil plan if it was)... on the other hand, when The Machines take over and Skynet infiltrates the world through the internet, maybe Korea will be immune. Terminators will reach the Korean border and go "WTF? This country is incompatible" leaving Korea alone unaffected. Or maybe the robot army will be stuck at the border, frozen, uploading activeX controls, until Korean soldiers can take them out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gilsang Temple and Daehangno

So girlfriendoseyo and I went walking around Seongbuk-dong, after heading out there with another friend a few weeks ago. That time, it was late, and Gilsangsa, or Gilsang Temple, was closed. But this time, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and Fall came, too.


I love the Buddhist temples in Korea: they're old, so the builders got to pick all the sweetest locations with the best views. This one in particular, was built into a craggy bit of hillside, rather than a smooth open area, as is more common, and that wacky layout led to more variety in the paths and trails -- curves and corners lined with old trees, that made each nook and cranny a surprise. All that to say, dudes, the landscaping was supa dupa sweet.

as were the colors -- the same kinds of colors that inspired my happiest post ever.

We had lunch at this restaurant/wedding hall thingy up at the top of Samchungdong, where we paid about 150% more than the food was worth, in order to eat it looking out at this:
winding paths. nice.

Had my birthday, and one of the sweet gifts Girlfriendoseyo gave me was an awesome cream-colored cardigan/jacket/sport coat. It goes with pretty much everything I own, it's super comfortable, looks nice, but not so formal that I'd feel weird wearing it to work, say, and it's from a tiny, unique little shop that decreases the chance I'm going to pass a dozen other people on the street, wearing the same one.
That's a happy seyo you're looking at.
The sunlight was amazing, all over the place.
and the paths meandered wonderfully. I like landscaping and paths so much better than the sterile symmetry that comes of over-adherence to the principles of Feng-shui. That's why I liked the gardens in Japan more than the geometric patterns of Korean palaces, Gwanghwamun Plazas, and, yes, Forbidden Cities.




Here's the road the temple was on.




nice pics. nice place.

apparently they have tea, too.

Then we went to Daehangno, the theater district, which is one of my favorite hot spots in Seoul, and at some nice Persian food, and spotted this restaurant:

more on the way "sand" has become the Konglish abbreviation of "Sandwich": this shop's name is "Sanderella" -- a pun on "cinderella". A horrible pun.

Now, I don't want to sit around and rant and wail about how every pun in Korean menus and restaurant names are awful and Konglishy and horrible, so instead, I'm hereby opening the Roboseyo e-mail lines up to another Roboseyo contest: send me a photo of your menu item, sign, or restaurant name, with an actually clever pun in it. There must be some out there. Somewhere.

Good news for all you Daehangnians: those amazing giant poops that used to be right in the center of Hyehwa -- the most distinctive landmark in Daehangno, possibly next to the giant Gandalf in front of the (is it CGV?) theater. They're in a different place now (on the south end) but the giant turds ARE still there. Whew.

Speaking of turds, I didn't have my camera handy, but there were poop shaped hammers for sale in Jongno 3-ga station.

Also, they dug up most of the sidewalk along the main strip, and put in this stuff.

It looks nice, for the most part.
there's water running down the surfaces of those wall-ish things.

however, this channel, dug right into the sidewalk, with little panels in front of the street-vendors, looked to me like the very definition of a drunk trap. I'd LOVE to walk around Hyehwa on a friday night, at 2:00am, and count the number of slobbering drunks falling into the little stream-channel. High comedy, all night long. I might have to open a street-vendor stand.


and that'll do for now, dear readers.

Keep it real, or whatever they do these days.

In conclusion, Korea is a land of contrasts. Thank you for reading my essay. Teacher! Do you know Daehangno (Hyehwa)?

New K-blog: Not Dead Yet

There's a new K-blog on the scene that you should be reading, if you aren't already.

Not Dead Yet, which I hope is an indication of its longevity-to-be, given the way several other Roboseyo featured K-blogs have gone mostly defunct (where are you, Dongchim? We need you!) is a cool new K-blog taking a well-researched analytical look at aspects of Korean culture. From the site itself: "This is a travel blog written by someone who majored in cultural anthropology, and whose idea of fun is wandering through the Sonoran Desert picking thorns out of my naked ass cause I sat on a cactus while trying to soak in the psychedelic desert scenery in front of me…"

In a recent post, NotDeadYet deconstructs the "Korea is 5000 years old" myth, and the effect the ahistorical Dangun origin myth has had on the current Korean study of history.

It's an interesting read, and there's other stuff on the blog worth reading as well, so go check it out. (for example: on "justified suicides" in Korea, and Who's to Blame for Korea's sex industry.)

Joe's Wedding

Zenkimchi Joe got married a couple of weekends ago now... which totally means I bet you he and his wife did it by now!

A lot of other people have posted better pictures than I took of the wedding, so I won't bore you with those, and joe's covered the whole thing extensively on his blog, but here's the video I made: this cute old lady wouldn't stop fussing with Eunjeong's outfit, so I started snapping pictures. It was adorable.

a gajillion congratulations, Joe.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ah, Korean Game Shows

The whole "Japan is weird" meme that goes around, and leads to tv shows in America like "I survived a Japanese Game Show" and the most bizarre scene in "Lost in Translation"

parodies have also been made.

but the real thing is wackier.

anyway, never one to be left in the dust, here's a clip from MY favorite silly game on a KOREAN game show: the steel trash-can-lid karaoke showdown! (make sure you watch to the end to see what happens if you get the words wrong). I believe they're usually made to sing a folk song, and I've seen some really famous stars go through this rigmarole. I just put this on one of my friends' facebook walls, to cheer her up, because she's sick, and I thought I'd share it with you, too.

yeah Korea.

and aw heck: for good measure...
the greatest Korea-made short video I've ever seen:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2S2 The First: Second Saturday, October, 2010: Picture Post

The Jaraseom Jazz Festival and a few other pictures

These benches are popular drinking spots for students near my place. One morning I headed out early...ish to see this. It made me happy.

Downtown Seoul at night looks great when I bring my tripod.

The lady with purple hair didn't notice.
I went to a cocktail bar with a buddy and it was really really good. Nice mojito, amazing side-dishes, and halfway through the night, we realized that every glass we'd drunk from was shaped differently forom the others. So we took pictures, of course.

This kid was in a subway station, holding a sign saying, "Don't run on the escalator" in front of his face, to hide his shame at being busted. It's not the first time I've seen kids holding signs at this station... whoever's responsible for using shame to punish kids' bad behavior might be onto something, though.
And girlfriendoseyo and I went to Jaraseom, an island near Chuncheon where they have an annual jazz festival.
It was beautiful out there.
and busy.
and pretty at night
and the fall colors are kicking in for real now. it's great.
though the English on the signs wasn't always the best.
and of course a few pictures out the train window, on the way back.
Meanwhile, we saw a bunch of jazz acts, including this guy, Avishai Cohen, a bass-player from Israel, who created a really nice soundspace as he played. He had a mellow gravelly, but mellow voice -- like Sting, but less whiny, and his drummer was really cool, and Girlfriendoseyo and I just generally really enjoyed the show. Plus, when he was really into the music, he made funny faces - his face looked like it had no bones in it - and stuck out his tongue, but it didn't matter, because he was really into his music. I liked him. You can learn more about him here, at his website.

One of the things about music is that it's almost always better live than on a recording, but of all the genres, I'm convinced that Jazz is the one that improves the most, upon hearing it live. There's really nothing like the experience.

Oh yeah, and we saw the Band Formerly Known As The Gypsy Kings, too, and they flamenco'd the HELL out of their set.

More on the jazz thingy later, if I get around to youtubing the video I took.