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Showing posts from September, 2007

Another clip,

Here is another selection of footage from the festival, this one with some more drumming. It should also give you an idea of the dancing going on.
I had forgotten to mention that the musicians were all in traditional garb as well.This was Miss Lark's first real trip out during the day and she was really soaking it all in. It was so loud that we eventually moved across the street since it felt like out ears were being pinned to our heads.

another film clip from the Festival

Raucous music at the Cheonggye festival

We never made it to see the B-boys opening day at the Cheonggye Stream festival. It turns out that things move a bit slower with an infant in the picture. Who knew?But we did get over there Sunday afternoon in time to catch some really wild traditional Korean music. There was a large crowd gathered around an incredibly loud band playing drums called jang-gu and Korean cymbal-gongs with an old timer playing a reed instrument called a senap into a microphone, which made its shrill sound almost unbelievably loud. The overall vibe was just great. Many people in the audience were pulled into the every swirling circle, handed drums, and then following the dancing around the circle. It is hard to relay exactly how loud this was, but I have provided a brief film clip which gives a small idea.

Festival Music Film clip
I had read that Koreans find American babies to be especially cute, and that does seem to be the case. As we have walked along the street, most people make some comment on the baby, point at her, or otherwise acknowledge her presence, Even tough looking dudes make googly eyes at lil Lark.

I do wonder if there is some cross cultural phenomenon that tends to make one culture consider the babies of another as especially cute, but it isn't something I have spent a lot time pondering.

And anyway, my baby is superlatively cute, so there is no non-cute control baby to really make this a scientific survey.

But one thing I have learned after two sleepless night: this whole jetlag concept definitely finds expression in infants.
There is a festival at the Cheonggye Stream starting tonight to celebrate its opening a couple of years ago.

(This is the stream I pictured here at the Eyeball a few days ago, for those of you keeping track of how I just instinctively seem to be taking the pulse of things...)

The opening of the festival features, oddly juxtaposed, "a performance of b-boy and b-girl dancers and Argentinean tango dancers".

If I can get a chance to catch live the "B-boy and B-girl" dancers it will be a good way for me to test my theory that Korea has absolutely no sense of kitsch.

Incidentally, I asked the Fulbright enthnomusicologist if she thought there was a sense of kitsch in the culture, and she said that there was not. Furthermore, she thought that it was not analytically useful to apply that Western notion to Korean pop culture at all. Since I haven't really studied theoretical models of kitsch (but likely should) I couldn't roll out a good answer. But my sense is that k…

Putting the D in DMZ

There is a push actually to demilitarize the demilitarized zone.

During the Oct. 2 to 4 inter-Korean summit, President Roh Moo-hyun will propose the complete withdrawal of armed forces from inside the demilitarized zone that has separated the two Koreas for more than a half century, a high-ranking administration official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.
“President Roh will propose to Kim Jong-il, the North Korean National Defense Commission chairman, to completely pull out 100 South Korean GPs [guard posts] and 280 North Korean GPs from the DMZ,” the source said, referring to the military posts located inside the 4 kilometer-wide strip of land along the 243-kilometer long border. “Removing the GPs means the withdrawal of soldiers and arms located inside the zone.”
The 1953 Korean War armistice established the demilitarized zone, and only light infantry is supposed to patrol inside the DMZ. Building guard posts and deploying heavy weaponry is in violation of the truce, but the North Kore…
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Before Chuseok, the papers ran pictures of the crazy traffic leaving Seoul for points south, today they carry pictures of the crazy traffic coming back. They are pretty striking pictures (one is below). No wonder I could get a seat on the bus for the past few days.


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My students back at VWC just harvested the honey off of our hives and sent me some pictures, which I post for your enjoyment. I am very proud of them for taking care of the whole process despite my absence.

It definitely is a drag to be away from the bees for a year!












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I did want to post this one picture, of what has to be the best concept bar in the world: Judas or Sabbath.

When you think about it, this is about the only choice you need, no?

I am so glad this place exists, right in the heart of things too.This bar is over in Sinchon. I go by it all of the time but only got over there finally the other night.

It is an upstairs bar and it is smaller than it looks from the outside. The inside is simple- tables, walls covered with posters of metal bands, and then a screen on one wall. On that is projected footage of different bands. The stereo system is good, the music is loud, as it should be.

There were a decent number of young Korean guys playing air guitar as they drank their beers. There was one table of young Korean women playing air guitar too, which I must admit surprised me. In general, there was a lot of singing along,

One thing I have to say about Judas or Sabbath, maybe the most important thing, is that they know their metal and have impres…
I haven't been blogging because I have been knee deep in writing a couple of conference papers that are due shortly and so have been focused. "Laser like" as Geo. H.W. Bush used to say.

I would do the poor-man's blog entries and just comment on the Korean news, but because of Chuseok they don't seem to be updating the papers.

Empire as a way of life, revisted

Likely if we have talked about empire at some point (and likely we have) I would have urged you to read William Appleman Williams. If you were/are a student of mine, you had to read William Appleman Williams. Anyway, I have been continually struck by how thoroughly he captured the character and dominant drive of US foreign relations, and US empire in particular, and I regularly return to his writings with much appreciation.

And, as I also have probably pointed out to you at some point, he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he transformed the study of American foreign relations. He taught my graduate school advisor, in fact, Tom McCormick. In some way I hope I have been carrying on the fine tradition of scholarship and teaching in the Wisconsin School of Diplomatic History these two giants (and others in Williams' seminar) pioneered.

McCormick just wrote a very interesting piece worth taking your time to read, "What Would William Appleman Williams Say Now?&…

Honey makers lose marketing sting - Fiji Times Online

In Asian beekeeping news, Fiji honey producers are having some problems, also induced by imported honey.

Honey makers lose marketing sting - Fiji Times Online
Kaumaitotoya: That is another area we have highlighted to the Minister, Mr Kumar, because overseas markets take up our chances of selling local honey to local supermarkets. If local buyers depend on overseas honey, what's the use of our existence?
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A few other pictures from around Seoul.

Here is a subway station. Some of them, like this one, are air conditioned and so have these glass doors between the AC and the tracks. They are very clean.



Each station has one of these stands with gas masks and other emergency equipment. (I think if I was caught taking a picture of this sort of thing in the US it might make people suspicious). There is not nearly enough for everyone, since the trains are veyr long and usually pretty crowded, but I guess in case there is a Tokyo style sarin attack at least a few dozen people per station will survive, at least in theory.



And then a totally unrelated picture: this is a long streamside path that runs beneath the street level going East-West across central Seoul. This is Cheonggye Stream, it is a nice place to walk and you don't get stuck by busy streets either. It is kind of a green space, if you don't get too caught up in the definition of "green".

some good music at Dongdaemun market

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I went over to the Dongdaemun flea market on the other side of Seoul because I heard there was a guy selling refurbished kayagums there. No such luck, or maybe he wasn't there this week.

But there were piles of all manner of other crap to check out. It is, like every other market I have been here, incredibly crowded and piled high with stuff in all directions. Since it is inside on the ring of a stadium, it is dark and very crowded with narrow, warren-like alleys and stuff piled way over your head. About half of the vendors are selling new junk, the other half is more traditional flea market style with everything you can imgaine. Lots of musical instruments, but nothing worthwhile. Many old guitars with "Gibson" on the headstock but paper labels inside with Asian writing. Somebody needs to get the counterfeiters on a more even keel...

The stadium the flea market was in had a stage set up on the far end, on which these four women were singing. They were dressed in …
One thing that Korea does which is interesting is identify and rank their cultural treasures.

That means that when you are looking at something ancient you also can know just how significant it is because it is ranked!

Actually, I am just being smarmy. I think it is quite admirable that the country has done something of an inventory of its treasures, though I shudder to consider the politics that must be involved.

I've seen a lot since I've been here and I have been keeping something of an informal list of which of the national treasures I have seen, an additional numbering system I suppose. Maybe I should submit my own enumeration of the treasures.

There really are too many to list at this point, Seoul has quite a number of the top treasures. Naedaemun gate is numero uno, right in the center of the city and very striking as surrounded by modern, glass and steel sleekness. The Main Buddha Hall (Daeungjeon) at Jogyesa is "Seoul City's Local tangible cultural propoerty …
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Now that I started looking for them, I have been amazed that those little storage lockers are actually everywhere in the city, not just in subway stations.

This sign on one amused me:


I'm glad I planned ahead and left Wee Oscar and Mother Maybelle at alternative storage spot at home.
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My second kayagum lesson was interesting because the class shrank by about 2/3 this week (no doubt because of Chuseok and people heading home) and so it wasn't an insane wall of sound. Plus, I was able to observe the fingers of some accomplished players who obviously have been studying the style for some time. Plus we learned a couple of folk tunes rather than just exercises.

It turns out they let you play the instrument there but not take it home, so I had to stay out there to practice. There are worse things. But that old saying "too good to be true," you know the rest.

You still can't complain about the price and set-up of these lessons. It is a brilliant way to promote the traditional culture. I spoke with a wide array of people learning various instruments: an American ethnomusicologist learning one of the drums (as it turns out she is also a Fulbright researcher here), an French-South African learning a different kind of drum, a bunch of gringos picking awa…

NYC enters the 20th century

NYC is going to get cell phone service in the subway stations. In two years it will be in a handful of them, and then if that works out, in only four more years (well into President Hillary's second term that is) the others will be wired.

So, in 6 years at the minimum (probably more) the largest city in the richest country in history of the world will have cell phone service in the its stations. How about that, huh?

One more factor--the phones won't work in the cars so nobody has to listen to loud conversations.

M.T.A. Makes Deal for Cellphones in Stations - New York Times

In Seoul, all stations and trains have cellphone coverage of course, even though the stations are often many levels below ground and much lower than in NY. And the cellphones are so much more advanced here that many people watch TV on them as they sit on the trains. I haven't noticed any problem of people speaking loudly on their phones. In fact, many people cover their mouths when they speak into the p…
The Korean Association for the Study of How to Become Rich has done a study that found that 110 out of 111 "ordinary adults" surveyed actually do want to be rich. 107 of these same people also want their kids to be rich.

Meaning, of course, that there are 3 ordinary people who desire wealth for themselves but not for their kids.
All that discussion of the Chuseok gift boxes maybe shook something loose. For the holiday, today Sogang gave me two quite hefty boxes of little dried fish, maybe 8-10 pounds worth. That should last awhile. These are much better quality than the ones I've been buying at the local market, and are quite good. Knowing when to stop eating them is something to be learned.
One thing you hear and read in the papers a lot in Korea is about national development and the rising position of the country due to globalization. It is something my students speak of as well as professors, an awareness that this is a dynamic nation and that continued growth and prosperity require commitment and focus. Also, a part of is a strong nationalism that is expressed often but does not seem to me to be exclusionist in the way of European nationalism. The energy and focus is very much on the new rise to prosperity and importance of Korea. It has indeed been a rather stunning rise from poor, third world divided nation to technologically advanced major economy (if still divided). So it is interesting to read this kind of essay in the newspaper looking approvingly at the dynamic small countries in Europe that have unexpectedly and rapidly used technology and brains to become prosperous, such as Ireland or Estonia ("cool countries" according to Der Speigel). An ar…
I am not only experiencing my second typhoon in under a week, this one actually gets categorized as a "supertyphoon" named Wipha
Here is a clear picture of just how internationalized the Korean plate is these days. Or, more precisely (and, in a way that will be totally understandable to China-dependent Americans ), is how much the dominance of China is obvious even in the food on the table.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "One-third of agricultural and fishery products used to feed guests and in traditional rituals during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean Thanksgiving, may be from China. A third of marine products sold at the National Federation of Fishery Cooperatives are foreign. Seven marine products, including trumpet shells and eggs of walleye pollack, are nearly all imports. Among fishery products used in traditional rituals to pay tribute to ancestors, 95 percent of Atka mackerel, 77 percent of walleye pollack, 72 percent of thornback and 45 percent of yellow croaker are imports."

Eva Crane, English Expert on World’s Bees, Dies at 95 - New York Times

This isn't actually Korea related, but my beekeeping students will be interested and saddened to know that Eva Crane died.

Eva Crane, English Expert on World’s Bees, Dies at 95 - New York Times: "Eva Crane, who earned a doctorate in nuclear physics and then abandoned the field to devote herself to expanding and spreading knowledge about bees as a researcher, historian, archivist, editor and author, died on Sept. 6 in Slough, England.
She was 95, 57 years shy of the reputed life span of the 17th-century English farmer Thomas Parr who, she suggested in one of her books, owed his longevity to eating honey that she said he produced as a beekeeper. The International Bee Research Association, which she founded in 1949, announced her death. For more than a half-century Dr. Crane worked in more than 60 countries to learn more and more about honeybees, sometimes traveling by dugout canoe or dog sled to document the human use of bees from prehistoric times to the present. She found that …
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Next week is Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving. It is a huge national holiday for several days (the universities are all closed and so is everything else). The newspapers are already printing comments like "and there is only one week before Chuseok..."

I am looking forward to it, although since I think everyone will be with their families the city is going to be desolate and I will be wandering streets out of 'The Day After".

Actually, I am planning to hole up and work. I have two conferences coming up in October and November, and the papers are conveniently due right after Chuseok, so even here in Korea Thanksgiving can be the crucial time to get procrastinated work done!

From what I can tell, giving gift baskets is very popular at Chuseok. The stores are starting to fill with them. Being a bit slow,when I began to displays of boxes I just thought that perhaps Koreans went for packaging in a big way. But the sheer variety of the boxes made it clear that it is gi…
Oddly, Koreans don't wear sunglasses. I realize this sounds like a massive over generalization, but I noticed it since I got here and have held my tongue until now there is more than a tidal wave of mere anecdotal observation--I have actual hearsay to back me up! My students inform me that if you wear sunglasses you somehow draw negative attention to yourself and so it just isn't done.

It was brilliantly sunny, one of those no-cloud in the sky fall days (though it was very hot). Not a single person I saw on campus or on the crowded way there or back was wearing sunglasses. And I am sure you will agree with me that college kids are an inherently sunglass wearing demographic.

But everybody uses umbrellas when it rains, as I noted, and on sunny days very many women use umbrellas to keep the sun off (which is pretty old timey). It seems like sunglasses are a graceful solution to this quandry. But maybe nobody sees it as a quandry.
So it turns out that the miserable rainy day the other day was actually the edge of a typhoon- Typhoon Nari.

It sounds pretty rad (typhoon) no? But really it was just a lot of rain.

Diploma Falsifier, Sugar Daddy Questioned(The Korea Times)

This scandal just keeps getting better. The headline is great. The Munhwa Ilbo really did publish nude pictures of her, although she claims they are digital fakes

Diploma Falsifier, Sugar Daddy Questioned(The Korea Times): "Shin Jeong-ah, 35, a former university assistant professor who stunned the country with her faked diplomas and inappropriate relations with a top presidential secretary, returned to Seoul several hours after her ``sugar daddy’’ Byeon Yang-kyoon, 58, appeared before prosecutors. The prosecution summoned Shin right after her arrival at Incheon International Airport. They questioned her on her role in the expanding scandal after quizzing Byeon on his alleged patronage of Shin. Shin apologized to the people for causing trouble but denied that her Yale University diploma was a fake. She threatened to file a libel suit against the Munhwa Ilbo newspaper for publishing what she called ``fake’’ nude photographs of her."

This story is all over the place. Meanwhi…
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Here is something you don't see in the US anymore: self-service bomb lockers in subway stations.
I have been really impressed with the public transportation T cards, which work on the buses and the subway, make it easy to transfer and so on. You just have to wave the card at a machine and it works, you don't need to remove it from you wallet or insert it into anything. To put more money on it you actually just place it on a shelf in a machine and it uses magic rays to recharge it (or something like that).

As I was saying, I was really impressed with it, until my suddenly stopped working today. I got on a bus but it didn't work. The bus driver just shrugged, which I interpreted as: ride as long as you need. I went to a subway station to work it all out, but trying to figure out how to get the money back that is on the card turned out to be an elaborate killer of the afternoon.

As I was thumbing through my dictionary in the station trying to find the correct phrase for "this thing is busted" or "please refund my money" a gaggle of junior high girls c…

Song Heung Rok sings "Farmer's Song"

This is some incredible Korean Pansori singing, which is a genre that started as a rural, peasant style but by the end of the Joseon period at the start of the 20th century had evolved to a popular favorite.

This is Gurye Province style Pansori singing. This song was recorded in 1891 (if I am interpreting the notes correctly) and Song had releases on Decca records and also Columbia. The sound quality is going to sound rough to your modern ears, but take a moment for them to adjust and you can appreciate the beauty of this.

The cd that this is reproduced on has notes entirely in Korean, though there is a small English section at the end. It has this wonderful line, which is maybe the best musical description I have ever heard, especially considering that music is almost impossible to write about:

"There are many vehement voices, the first utterance grave, and the end finishing clearly like the punch of a hammer. It feels like simple and tastes like vegetables."

01 Farmer'…
I was really happy to discover that the National Center for Korean Traditional Music is offering 12 week classes on a number of different Korean instruments. I chose a gayageum (also called a kayagum), which is a 12 string lute, as it was the only string instrument being taught.

Usually it is a woman's instrument, I gather, but they aren't offering classes in the male version of it, the geomungo. The class was large and about half male anyway. But I would love to see the expression on the face of the cashier who was so tickled when I bought the sewing kit when I sit down to play a tune on the gayageum.

The classes actually started last week, as it turns out. I seem to find out everything going on slightly late, which is probably what I get for a lifetime of being late. I was at the track last saturday anyway, of course, so no regrets. My 8000 Won winnings from the horses paid for a good chunk of these lessons, as it turns out. Twelve weeks of lessons for 2 hour sessions …
When you try to pay for things with change in the US other than laundry you usually get dirty looks or maybe even stubborn refusal.

I have a friend in Milwaukee who once, to prove some point known only to him, tried to pay overdue parking tickets with sacks of pennies. When the police refused his passive aggressive form of payment, his little tantrum about coin as legal tender eventually got him thrown in the hoosegow.

Little danger of that here. Every time I have pulled out change I get not scowls but motherly insistence that I hand the whole fistful over so it can be counted by someone other than a big dumb American poking slowly through them. These helpful cashiers usually count it all up and gave me Won bills back. Twice now, at convenience stores called Family Marts (which are all over the place) the cashiers have taken my change even though it doesn't add up to the total due, with a conspiratorial wink as if to say "let's just dispense with this whole change busin…

Korean bullfights #2

I just learned that there is a Korean bullfighting tradition.

It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

Korean bullfighting is not man vs. bull, but, beautifully and gracefully, bull vs. bull. It is a totally non-violent sport, as the bulls do not kill each other. They essentially wrestle until one turns its head.

So, vegetarians can love Korean bullfighting too.

You can, as you would expect, find Korean bullfighting videos on Youtube.

Here are some Korean bullfighting terms and moves (from this description):

1. Milch'igi : Pushing
2. Morich'igi : Head Attack
3. Mokch'gi : Neck Attack
4. Yopch'igi (Paech'igi) : Side pushing
5. P'ulgoli : Drawing Horns
6. P'ulch'igi : Horns Bumping
7. Tolch'igi : Head Pressing
8. Yont'a : Horns Bumping and Head Attack

I wonder why this sport hasn't received more international attention. Given its peaceful nature and its inherent appeal, you would think it would spread.

I gather that the major Korean bullfighting se…
Speaking with one of the professors at the school, who, like many, was educated in the United States (NYU in this case), I was interested to hear about his comparison of teaching in America and here.

At a community college in the US he taught at in the US for two years it was not uncommon to have students who barely seemed to have a command of the English language. They could not express their ideas and, Lord have mercy, could not write a meaningful sentence or a coherent essay. He was stunned.

By comparison here, as I can confirm, the students' command of English is remarkable and even flawless and accentless in so many cases. About the only thing they don't know well are idiomatic expressions.

Never do you realize how many of these phrases you use until you speak daily to non-native speakers.

Communication via cliche, the heart of a language.

That is a horse of an entirely different color grey, as Henry Watterson liked to say.

I send them to this cliche finder site to look them…
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Sushi lovers do well here. It is reason enough to come here in fact, you can save enough on each sushi meal to pay for the airfare. Since I can happily eat sushi each meal this is a good thing. At home, we limit ourselves to sushi once a month so we can eat our fill of it and still afford to still pay the mortgage.

I haven't had sushi for breakfast yet since that requires the operationally complex move of leaving the apartment early, but I have had flying fish roe for breakfast, since you can buy that in the market and take it home.

My Midwestern core finds eating flying fish roe for breakfast both exotic and delicious.

Sushi is, happily, everywhere. There are regular and/or fancy sit down places, sushi buffets, and, my favorite, the restaurants where you sit in front of a conveyor belt and grab sushi pieces as they come by. You simply pay by the number and color of the plate. I have eaten at that sort of place in Hawaii, but the overall quality here is a qualitative leap forwa…
It is a clear sign that something is afoot when major presidential contender Lee Myung-bak calls for consideration of an all volunteer force (there is compulsory military service here).

But what it means is open to interpretation, to be sure.

In the US, the move to a voluntary military seems to have freed the President to use it more recklessly and without public complaint. One big reason there have been tiny or no protests against the war in Iraq is there is no danger of any of the college kids being sent. Easy, then, to ignore. In Vietnam, the protests grew as the war continued, but when the draft ended the protests vanished like a mirage.

On the other hand, when leaders in a nation like South Korea faced with a real existential threat start to call for this kind of change, it is noteworthy.

Or maybe it is just shameless ploy to get the youth vote.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

I was asked why I am not commenting more on the slowly heating up presidential race here and the main reason is that I have no specific expertise (meaning none, really) in Korean domestic politics. As an observer I feel more confident holding forth on dried octopus, let us say.

But the scandals are interesting, if not bizarre and hideously complicated. For instance, here is the main story in the JoongAnd Daily, a snarl of controversy if there ever was one. (The Blue House is the Korean White House)


INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "The spreading scandal of disgraced art curator Shin Jeong-ah’s illicit love affair with a former chief policy secretary to the president is about to cost more Blue House jobs. Jun Hae-chul, the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, offered to resign from his post yesterday, citing his failure to uncover the compromising affair, but he kept his job for now, Blue House officials said. The trouble turns on the allegation that Byeon Yang-kyoon, the former…
The Korean cellphone obsession put to a vital new use: ordering McDonalds. And it has been unveiled right in my neighborhood too.


``It is a convergence service that utilizes SK Telecom's RFID technology in the restaurant industry,'' said Lee Joo-sik, senior vice president of business development of the mobile service company. ``We hope this partnership with McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant chain, will lay the groundwork for our RFID business on foreign markets.''

The Touch Order was unveiled at McDonald's Shinchon branch in western Seoul near Yonsei University. SK Telecom said that it hopes to expand it to a few more stores by December, and hopefully to other restaurant chains next year. But McDonald's remained more guarded about the new technology.
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I write about food a lot, I guess. But only because food is so interesting here!

On one hand, the markets are filled with things that Americans just don't eat: parts of animals that are not used and entire species that aren't eaten. That is immediately striking and also the most obvious thing. Asian markets in the US are filled with all of that good stuff. Here, every market is like one of those but much more intense.

But at the same time, even by the completely excessive American standards of processed and packaged food, the packaging and variety of prepared of foods is really astonishing. In the large, modern markets, which are American style supermarkets, you can buy an overwhelming amount of things in already prepared packages.

I have stumbled on some new foods that I now love unconditionally. One is sliced dried octopus. Essentially this is octopus jerky. It is hard to conceive of a better food.



The other is pre-sliced and packaged strips of laver seaweed, the wrappin…
I bought a little sewing kit today, which caused the woman at the checkout to just about bust a gut. She called over a man working in the store to get him in on the ridicule. He was also greatly amused.

They obviously haven't heard the proverb: "Needle and thread are half clothing."
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I've been reading Ronnie Pugh's fine biography of Ernest Tubb, which is interesting if you are an Ernest Tubb fan, which of course I am very much.

I was not surprised to learn that Tubb came to Korea during the war and entertained the troops, along with Hank Snow and some other country stars of the time.

Here is a picture of him playing in Korea, from a fan's personal website with many other snapshots.


(it is amazing what is on the internet, is it not?)

Pugh notes: "Tubb himself stayed completely sober during the trip, quite a feat for him at the time and remarkable in light of the tough circumstances and the generous offers of libation from their Special Services offer..." (p. 182)

It was especially interesting to learn that the North Koreans used one of Ernest Tubb's songs as the basis of a propaganda ploy. They copied the words of his song "Soldier's Last Letter" for a fake letter they dropped behind the US lines. Since Tubb's song was so w…
Maybe they want to rethink that part about using the Big Dig as a model....

The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper

Seoul City plans to construct underground tunnels for small-sized vehicles to solve the city's traffic problems, city officials said yesterday. The tunnels will be the first of their kind in the nation. The city government will use some projects from other countries as models, such as the Big Dig tunnel, which is a $14.6 billion project in downtown Boston in the United States, and Norway's Laerdal tunnel, the world's longest one, at 24.5 kilometers. Traffic lights will not be installed throughout the tunnels, and access roads will only be built in the most congested parts of the tunnel, officials said. The city plans to spend an estimated 900 million won on a two-year research project. "Traffic jams are the biggest barriers when trying to raise the competitiveness of the city, which is why we decided to improve conditions in the city b…

some other street scenes

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It isn't at all unusual to see Buddhist symbols like this across Seoul, but it is definitely jarring at first.



It was such a nice day, people were drying their peppers on the street all over the place, like this:


What I liked about this drying set up is that when they ran out of room on the tarp they just put them right on the sidewalk.

In the markets, refrigeration for the fish is not necessary if you light an incense coil:



They sell live everything from eels, octopuses, and squid, in big bins to ducks.

Here is a nice shot of some big bins of peeled garlic.



Here is a pig's head dried and in place.

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I went for a ride anyway, covered a lot of ground on the west side of Seoul, and found yet another bike and jogging path along a crick running about a story below street level. This one was pretty marshy for awhile, but clearly filled up during the rainy season since there were poles with markings up to 16 yards high. The street sewers seem to divert into this.

Here is a view of the marshy end


like most they just kind of dead end at a small dam.



Up top of the deadline was this interesting building on a narrow wedge of land. It is similar to the Flatiron building but narrower and very cool looking.

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Yesterday (Sunday) was a beautiful day, by far the nicest since I've been here. It was one of those warm fall days, barely a cloud in the sky and no humidity. A perfect day for a bike ride. I decided to start out on the hills behind my apartment. Here is a view:


I live in a nice neighborhood. As I think I mentioned before, this is unusual in that there are many large houses behind gates. Apparently, two former military dictators of Korea live in this neighborhood. I'd figured I'd get some good views up top of the hill and maybe even get to ride by the dictator's house.

No such luck. As I rode up the hills, I was surprised to come upon young men very sternly warning me not to proceed. They just came out to the center of the road and shook their heads. They didn't have visible weapons but they also were quite clearly not friendly, so I didn't push my luck. That was a surprise though.
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I ventured to the Seoul international film festival. It is off to a rough start. The film kept being postponed and then finally was cancelled. At least they gave us all two free tickets to see other films.

Going clear across town to the theater was good at least because I got to see an area far from home where I had never been. It was a long train ride out there. There is yet another university (Konkuk University) over there, and the requisite insanely packed area of restaurants and bars surrounding it. I took a picture which kind of relays the density on just one of these streets (of many):


It is worthwhile to look how many signs have at least some English on them.

This area had something I haven't seen elsewhere, which was people standing in the doorways of each restaurant waving people inside. For some reason, they were all, in each successive restaurant, moving jerkily like robots or pinocchio or something.
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I ventured south of the Han River today for the first time, to see one of this ancient nation's cultural treasures right here in Seoul.

I am speaking, of course, of the Seoul Racetrack.



It was a beautiful day at the races. I wasn't the only one who thought so--there were thousands of people there. The subway, which goes right there, was packed, and the stream of humanity leaving the station and going to the track was powerful.

It is only 800 won to get in, which is 80 cents. The track itself is nicely maintained and user friendly. Instead of seats, the entire lower level consists of low concrete stairs. It is an enormous facility.

These two pictures are taken standing in one spot facing two directions, and you can't see the whole thing.




It is situated next to a park, and is surrounded by mountains. The area where they show the horses before each race is framed by traditional Korean style buildings and a natural waterful as well.

this is the actual track:



No corndogs at this…
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I wrote before about the Korean War memorial, it was one of the first "sights" I saw. Today I happened by it and had a working camera for once, so I took some pictures. It is impressive and huge and seems to embrace both sorrow for the war and a nationalistic militarism. I am not sure which one wins out. I need to tour the inside museum to decide. It was too nice a day today to do that.

Here is the main hall. This is bigger and more impressive than it appears in my picture. The area in front is absolutely huge, there is a large open space on top of the stairs, and the building is as big as the US Capitol at least, though perhaps a wee bit squatter.


In front of this is a large bullet shaped monument surrounded by a wreath of statues of soldiers and others in the war. This photo is actually taken across the street:


Half of the wreath of statues looks like this:

From the other side, the wreath of people and the bullet appear to be on a landing ship of sorts, perhaps a nod …