Showing posts from May, 2008

Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again -

Guano is always in my heart, who knew it would be back in the news?

My globalization students will be interested to think of Guano in light of the Guano Act of 1856 -- the U.S. first piece of extraterritorial imperial legislation. Everybody else can just think of guano in the more commonplace way.

Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again - "The anchoveta, a six-inch fish in the anchovy family, is the main food of the seabirds who leave their droppings on these rainless islands. The biggest fear of Peru’s guano collectors is that commercial fishing fleets will deplete their stocks, which are increasingly wanted as fish meal for poultry and other animals as demand for meat products rises in Asia.

While the bird population has climbed to 4 million from 3.2 million in the past two years, that figure still pales in comparison with the 60 million birds at the height of the first guano rush. Faced with a dwindling anchoveta population, officials at Proabonos are considerin…
It was a warm sunny day, but the visibility at the top of the mountains was terrible, and at times the sky darkened so much I thought it was going to rain.

Nope, just a massive yellow dust storm that triggered official suggestions to avoid strenuous outside activity. Does hiking count?

Check out this chart to see what today looked like, from the 18th Medical Command Yellow Sand?Asian Dust monitor system webpage:

I went hiking again today and was happy to see that two enterprising women had set up a food stand at the base of the mountain. One was selling chicken feet in a red pepper sauce, and the other had some cooked bugs--silkworm larvae.

I forgot to take a picture but will this weekend next time I see them. Those larvae are sold absolutely everywhere in the city.

I can't believe I haven't written about them before. They have a very particular smell, and it is very hard to escape in any area that has a lot of people. Since virtually every part of Seoul has a lot of people, there are ubiquitous vats of silkworm larvae cooking and ready to eat. (I will find out the Korean name for them).

I have been reading about eating bugs (forgive me for being repetitive, those of you paying attention) there is a push afoot worldwide to increase insect consumption (see this article for instance "Insects, the original white meat").

"Grilled cicadas are more likely to elicit…
I hiked on Gwanaksan yesterday, which is the large mountain next to Seoul National University. This is some fantastic hiking on innumerable trails. There are several peaks to it and it straddles Seoul and Geyonggi Province. I have to go back at least a few more times to really begin to cover the whole area. It takes at least an hour from my apartment to get there, way on the south side of Seoul. The whole park is 19.22 million square meters, and the sign at the front indicates, helpfully, that this translates into 5.82 million pyongs. The interschnitzel reveals that this means 7.420883 square miles. It is big, to say the the least, especially right in the city, though not hard to get far away from Seoul. You hear traffic noise for a short time but soon are in the woods and it is very peaceful. The peaks offer fantastic views.

Here is the impressive front entrance to the park:

The main path is, like many major Korean parks, wide, paved, and crowded with people fully geared out i…

Beef Protests

There have been a series of large protests against American beef, and more broadly against the current Korean administration. They have been simmering for awhile and now suddenly as the beef is about to be released they have become larger and more vigorous (including a large on at Sinchon yesterday)

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

My students were very interested in talking about it today. It helped that we happen to be studying the Korean-American relationship last week and this week, and that they wrote papers on it. Amazing that the timing worked out that way.

It was interesting to learn that some students see no reason to protest since they don't believe Korea really has any options to stand up to the U.S. "Someone has to eat this beef," is how one student phrased it, and it isn't being sold in the U.S. or Japan.

That kind of fatalism really surprised me. A few students thought that free trade in all goods including beef was a good idea that will be a big boon to Korea.

Blogging has been light since I have another friend in town visiting.

This will end five consecutive weeks of visitors, which has been fun and has definitely pushed us to maximum exploration of all parts of Seoul.

Always good to have new eyes and new interests. My friend here now had an eagle eye for the only place in Seoul that deals exclusively in Cuban cigars (and was disappointed I hadn't spent the year there). It is a bit sad, no?

We are leaving Seoul one month from today, which is actually kind of hard and saddening to imagine still.
I gave a talk about Mexicanizaiton of the U.S. southeast yesterday at Seoul National University, ralking about migrant music as usual, and explaining some photos I've taken of great graphics such as this (from Haw River, N.C.)

I made some salsa for the students to enjoy while I spoke, which they gobbled down. I couldn't find cilantro so I used this stuff that looks like grass and tastes kind of like garlic, called puchu (sp?). it worked pretty well, it was a legit salsa if I do say so myself. I also provided chips, made in Colorado and not bad.

The class T.A. dolled out the salsa in little cups for everybody using chopsticks.

Watch your wallet

Oh, those islands.

Seoul Slams Tokyo Over Dokdo: "Seoul expressed strong regret Monday over Tokyo's alleged plan to describe Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo as part of its territory.

The government called it a move to pour cold water on efforts to mend strained ties with Japan.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan called in Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Toshinori Shigeie to deliver a message of protest over a news report that Japan's Education Ministry plans to refer to the islets as ``Japanese territory'' in its revised curriculum handbook for teachers and textbook publishers.

The report came three months after Japan's Foreign Ministry posted a document on its official Web site, laying claim to the islets.

Shigeie's summons followed an urgent instruction by President Lee Myung-bak earlier in the day to confirm the authenticity of the report by Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun and to ``ask Japan to rectify'' the action if it turned ou…

$1 Billion Later, Subway Elevators Still Fail - New York Times

Maybe they should hire a Korean to fix the system. It is always good for a third world country to get assistance from an accomplished, productive, world class economy.

$1 Billion Later, Subway Elevators Still Fail - New York Times: "New York City Transit has spent close to $1 billion to install more than 200 new elevators and escalators in the subway system since the early 1990s, and it plans to spend almost that much again for dozens more machines through the end of the next decade. It is an investment of historic dimensions, aimed at better serving millions of riders and opening more of the subway to the disabled."
These are the results:

¶One of every six elevators and escalators in the subway system was out of service for more than a month last year, according to the transit agency’s data.

¶The 169 escalators in the subway averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls each last year, with the worst machines logging more than double that number. And some of the least reliable escala…

Korean National Heritage Online

I happened on this site today, with a long list of different museums in Korea. Even having thought we had covered about everything in Seoul, the list of museums (separated by type) is very impressive and I find there are still a bunch of university museums we haven't visited that have some great treasures to see (checking off our list of national treasures). Skye just went to the Ewha Women's University Museum and thought it was fantastic. We are heading to the Dongguk Univ. museum next. The hours are helpfully posed as open M-F and closed weekdays.

Korean National Heritage Online

But nowhere on this list can I find information on the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art, surely a must see on all lists.
These are amusing (if you are of a cute frame of mind, have kids, love bunnies, etc)--a Korean photographer produced real world examples of children's drawings.
I haven't been real pleased to hear about the spread of avian flu throughout Korea, and its appearance in Seoul. I keep meaning to post something on it but haven't. One thing I had cut out is going to the market where they slaughter chickens, ducks (and rabbits, dogs, etc) to avoid possible problems. Now those have been closed anyway.

I did like this picture, if only because of the memorialized portraits in the background, endearing isn't it?

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "The current H5N1 strain of bird flu sweeping the nation is a different variation of the virus from Korea��s two previous outbreaks, a government body announced yesterday. But National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service officials said they need more time to confirm what exactly the difference is.
��We have found that this is a different H5N1 virus than that of 2003 and 2006,�� said Kim Ki-seuk, head of the team researching the virus. ��We don��t yet know if this season��s virus is a mutation. Also…
Those of you who know me will not be surprised that as I have been learning to play the kayagum during my time here I have managed to acquire not one but two kayagums.

Two kayagums is, possibly, one kayagum more than it is necessary to have. Or so certain parties claim. So, today I sold the cheapo one I had bought back in the fall to a guy in my class. And I have finally set up the one that I bought back at Dongdaemun flea market back before it closed down.

It was just the plank when I got it, and was cheap (80,000 won). Turns out it was quite a find, forty years old (according to the engraving on the back) has a great, resonant sound at least as good as the ones we play in class. So, I am pleased with that. The sound is certain to open up quite a bit too, as it is played. The set up was a hell of a process. There are four separate kinds of knot to learn for the strings and a huge amount of adjustment to get the thing properly tuned. I was helped along by comparing it to t…
This was a new one to me.

Here is a poster that was on a hair salon window. It advertises using squid ink to dye the top of the skull to hide a bald head...

It is always good to ask those who know more...

I asked my friend who is an ethnomusicologist studying Korean music (and also a Fulbright here this year) and she provided me a very clear explanation of the difference between p'ungmul nori and samulnori. She has, in fact, written about it, and here is what she has to say :

P'ungmul nori

P'ungmul nori is one of the oldest and most popular folk arts of Korea deeply rooted in the country's traditionally agrarian lifestyle and culture. The term consists of pung (literally, "wind"), and mul (literally, "thing" or "object"), with nori meaning "play." Generally, p'ungmul (sometimes known as nongak) refers to the percussion bands that performed in farming villages on various occasions, festivities, and celebrations, including planting and harvesting seasons, New Year, Full Moon, to invoke blessings and repel evil spirits. But perhaps most importantly, p'ungmul nori is an activity th…
Buddha's birthday was, as expected, an extravaganza and a visual and aural feast. It offered some surprises too.

The L:il Buddha was ready for an adventure.

We hiked over the mountain behind our apartment to Bongwonsa. It was an ideal day for a hike weatherwise, and it was cool walking over the mountain with the faint sounds of celebration coming up from the temple.

First we passed the gold Buddha above Yonsei, which was decorated with the lotus lanterns and had some friendly old ladies who were, of course, smitten with Lark.

Then it was up and over the mountain. Lots of people were out hiking and also picknicking in the woods all over the mountain.

The temple complex had a lot more people there than usual, although it was not crowded. Many of the buildings that are usually closed were open, so we were able to see into them for the first time. I have posted pictures from this temple before but here are some of the things we haven't seen before:

This is a picture of Skye on the …
My friend Brett just sent me the pictures he took at the GukWan Temple show.

This is me and JiYoon soundchecking, you get an idea of the beautiful setting here.

Shot of the audience, monks in front row.

On stage with Buddha looking on:
I also just went back south to Gyeongju, since I wanted to hike Namsan there and had a friend visiting who also wanted hike it . It was last week on a national holiday- Children's day, so there were no classes, perfect time to go. It helped that the weather was absolutely perfect.

This area was the heart of Silla period Buddhism and the whole region is saturated with temples, shrines, statures, and historic sites. Namsan is a large and very rugged mountain covered with statues and Buddhas carved into the rock. It also offered some really tough and fun hiking. The top had several parts to steep that you basically hauled yourself up with a rope.

Here are a couple different views of the path, note the rope in the second one:

Here are a few Buddhas on the way up, this is only a tiny selection of what we passed. there were several other routes with other places as well.

The most impressive was the seated Seokgayeorae image, which is the largest Buddha image on Mt. Namsan.

Hard to re…