Showing posts from June, 2008
Back in the USA and it definitely is striking how you can leave for a year and return with nary a ripple felt. It didn't seem that way across the Pacific, but then again part of that feeling of timelessness may be staying a few days at my folks' house, where time itself comes to a grinding standstill... But I did, as intended, get some good barbarcoa tacos in Pilsen (the Mexican heart of Chicago) and tonight will catch a Cajun band up from Louisiana playing in Grant Park. In the a.m. I am off to drive to Virginia (16+ hour drive, for those of you thinking in Korea distances, this would be like driving in laps around Korea for a couple of days). I just got an email from someone in Seoul who read a piece I wrote for the Korea Times about learning the kayagum. I didn't even know it had been run, though it was over a week ago, and I am am happy to see it was published. You can read it here .
We are leaving Korea early in the a.m., not having a whole lot of deep thoughts at the moment aside from wondering how exactly we ended with quite so much stuff over permanent condition it seems. Nunal will continue on in a new world form, but there will be a bit of delay posting since we arrive in Chicago and after an abbreviated period of recovery from a 12 flight with infant in lap we will be driving to Virginia, a 16 hour endeavor enlivened by the return of our dogs to our life, Wee Oscar and Mother Maybelle. That is, assuming we do recover from a 12 flight with infant in our laps, which remains to be seen, only to survive a 16 hour trip with two insane dogs in our lap.
This just in: the arrest of the head of the internet site distributing information about the anti-beef rallies has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that his webpage is distributing information about the anti-beef rallies. It is all about movie piracy, which Korean officials are shocked, shocked to know has been going on. INSIDE JoongAng Daily The arrest of Nowcom head Mun Yong-sik has stirred up the already angry masses who have been staging protests against President Lee Myung-bak for the past month. Prosecutors arrested Mun Monday night on charges of illegally distributing pirated films through online storage services that Nowcom operates. The storage services, PD Box and Club Box, have 9 million and 8 million registered members, respectively. Nowcom also operates the self-broadcasting Web site Afreeca (, which has become one of the most popular Internet forums for protesters to get information on rallying points and riot police presence. Demonstrators a
Having discovered that new eel place we have been doing our heroic best to eat there as often as we can before leaving, if only to get more little checks off our Frequent Eel Eaters card. We will bequeath that hard-earned but not quite filled in card to our friend helping us get all of our stuff and the lil Buddha off to the airport. What a prize, a partially filled in Frequent Eel Eaters card. It is almost as good as the clothes drying rack I found on the curb (perfect), the large number of paper lotus lanterns given to us at the lantern festival parade, and a broken cuckoo clock I found on the street and brought home with some vague idea of fixing (this was months ago, it hasn't been fixed yet, nor fixed itself I should add). It just needs one reglued cuckoo, I think. That has been given the executive veto and won't be returning with us to Virginia. At the eel place, a man who was the cousin of the owner came over and told us (as much as we gathered) that he was buy
That mention of silkworm larvae caught my eye because just earlier today, as I was musing about leaving in a week, I was thinking of what things the Nunal eyeball really should cover. Silkworm larvae (called bundaegi) immediately popped into my head since they are sold absolutely everywhere on the streets in Seoul. It is difficult, in fact, not to smell them all of the time. Not a nice smell. I think I may have mentioned them before. In any case, toady we were down at the horse track with a friend in town and I took a picture at the top of the subway stairs. And at the bottom. When I say that they are everywhere this gives you an idea. Beautiful day at the track, albeit unwinning for yours truly. Here is a picture of Lark and I enjoying the races. This is the first time she has sat on my shoulders.
Last night I went to a concert of much-loved Korean protest songs from the early 1980s democracy movement. Apparently everybody knows these songs. I had heard one of them somewhere while here as it was familiar. The show was run by my friend Cecilia Kim who also set up that concert last month at the Buddhist temple in Cheonan (she is a composer and music professor here in Seoul and definitely has a hand in a lot of things). Lucky for her and for the show, this concert (which was planned long before) just happened to play for three nights during the non-stop rallies against US beef and President Lee. Good timing, to say the least. The rallies are happening only a few blocks from the venue in Central Seoul. So the music struck an even stronger chord than usual. The concert was an amazingly intense experience for the people there, who sang along, demanded multiple encores, and were visibly moved by the experience. When people left the show, they walked to a table and got candles a

Buddhas, Buddhas, y Mas Buddhas

One of my favorite things to do here has been to visit Buddhist temples and Buddhas. If you have been visiting this blog with any frequency you have probably figured that out. No shortage of them here, luckily. Shake a stick and there is a temple worth visiting and a Buddha worth admiring. I have some Buddha images that haven't yet appeared on Nunal I have been meaning to post, so here is a surfeit of big Buddhas in Seoul. If I really get a chance I will post some photos of myriad little Buddhas. Well, maybe just one photo of little Buddhas. This is from Samseongsa (there are two sets of these flanking the main Buddha image: Now on to the big Buddhas This one is actually in our neighborhood, just north of where we live on a parallel street, at the base of a mountain that is really one of the foothills of Bukhansan. As I have developed a more complete understanding of the bus system (which is entirely in Korean, unlike the subway, so a bit mysterious), I have a new appreciatio
I received 21 (of 22 coming in) research papers from my graduate students yesterday, 15+ pages, amounting to something akin to 2 reams of paper. They are all on some aspect of globalization, and I was struck my the creativity of approach and outlook of all of the topics. The optimism and internationalism of all of the students, that was really something that surprised me. I expected harsh criticism of the U.S., and heard even less of it than I had anticipated. Reading through the papers I have been impressed by the research, so it will be an time well spent.
I guess we can see what it takes to get the attention of the American media. There have been massive anti-beef protests for the past couple of weeks, with hundreds of thousands of people, but when they finally got to be the biggest protests since the 1987 pro-democracy protests (which ended authoritarian rule here), the New York Times reports on it. Nobody ever said they were cutting edge. The size of the protests now is really starting to signal something truly significant. The reports are that somewhere between 70,000 and 700,000 people were there, likely somewhere in the middle between those numbers. I was in Central Seoul yesterday afternoon and was really astonished by the number of riot police around. I didn't even get to see the barricades they were building out of shipping containers. According to the JoonAng Daily: "The police used 60 shipping containers, 12 meters long, 6 meters wide and 2.7 meters high each, to build walls at three locations. Using cranes, p

South Korean Protests over U.S. Beef - The Big Picture -

A reader suggested these pictures of the anti-beef protests, and they are good ones worth checking out: South Korean Protests over U.S. Beef - The Big Picture -
We have been meaning to eat at this grilled eel (kwang oh) restaurant not far from out house for awhile now and finally got around to it. I wish we had discovered it earlier, it is yet another great restaurant that I would happily eat at every night for the rest of my life. There are a lot of those restaurants here... This is different than Japanese style unagi as the sauce is red pepper based rather than bar-b-que, and it is a different style grilled eel than we have had here. At this place the eel is killed fresh and served cooked, and rather than have it grilled over charcoal as we have had here usually, it is served cooked and you keep it on a grill to crispen. Perfect. We had this style eel in Busan a few months ago but this restaurant hopped it up a level. Lark was sitting at the table with us and enjoying herself (note the hair), though no eel just yet for her. One of the great things about this restaurant is that is inexpensive and has big "potations". But the gr
One of my students mentioned today that she attended the anti-U.S. beef rallies over the weekend and that they were a lot of fun. People chanted, sang songs, and generally she said it was more like a festival than a rally. But she left before nighttime, when the violence started. She went home and watched it on the web. The major media is not showing it, but you can see live video on Korea sites like

lost in translation

A guy I know here teaching English had his students pick English names. The best names chosen were: Clitty Thank You Al Pacino Arnie Noodle Neon Skye met a parent in the park who introduced her child by his Korean name, but then added: "His English name is Juan".
Is it inappropriate to wonder at burning yourself alive to protest the importation of beef which hasn't actually started yet? And is the newspaper's use of "long simmering" here actually appropriate? INSIDE JoongAng Daily : "Long-simmering tensions boiled over earlier yesterday when a 56-year-old former worker on a cattle farm set himself ablaze in an apparent suicide attempt after attending a protest. The man, identified only as Kim, drenched himself with gasoline and set himself on fire with a lighter. The 2:35 a.m. incident was near Seoul City Hall, witnesses and the police said. Jo Yong-seok, a doctor who treated the man at Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital, said Kim is in critical condition. “My husband has attended candlelight vigils for the past two weeks,” Kim’s wife said, adding that he lost his job at a cattle farm in Gyeonggi about a month ago when the farm shut down. The police said Kim telephoned Namdaemun Police Precinct around 2:18 a.m. warning of

More for the self-aggrandizement file

The NCKTPA posted pictures from the concert last weekend, here is one of yours truly playing. Sense the concentration! Note the laser-like precision! Ignore the dirty socks!

whales and squid

There is an old Korean saying that goes something like this (I am paraphrasing at 2:30 am, so cut me some slack): Korea is like squid between whales. No matter they are doing-- playing, fighting, or mating-- the squid get the worst of it. This is going to be fascinating to watch this unfold in real time: INSIDE JoongAng Daily : "South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says it¡¯s tough balancing diplomacy with its powerful partners: China, Japan and the United States. Yu¡¯s comments come as South Korea¡¯s new administration is increasingly squeezed by public fury at home and frequent diplomatic disputes abroad." Japan isn't trying to be helpful, save helping itself to more Korean territory: "Korea, a country born of division with few natural resources and heavy reliance on exports and energy imports, has ¡°far more diplomatic demands than other countries,¡± Yu said. ¡°Its international diplomacy is more delicate than elsewhere.¡± ¡°I cannot stop thinking

The Mountain Music Project

An old friend of mine in Madison is now part of this project bringing old time mountain musicians together with Nepali mountain musicians, you can see the preview for their upcoming documentary here: The Mountain Music Project Paul Brown is quoted here that in learning some Nepali songs for the project he was struck by their suitability for the banjo. I thought the same thing with many of these Korean songs on the banjo. Though not the sanjo tunes, those don't transfer the same to the banjo. Though if they did, think of the marketing possibilities.
One of those women who was snapping pictures of Lark in the park the other day as I mentioned here actually sent us the pictures. She also posted them on her blog . If they start appearing in subway ads now at least I know where to turn. Here is a good one she took : The woman wrote me a note, though it is entirely in Korean. It seems nice enough. I will ask a student to translate it for me, but meanwhile I have the magic of google translate, which came up with this. (boy these computers are really going to replace people, especially now with monkeys controlling robot arms): Hello? Filming was to meet in person. Seonyudo baby. A little too late. The original file is large-capacity iljuilan download to obtain them. Nowadays, I'm I feel interested in making wildflower wildflowers. Jebeulrogeue atseupnida put the baby pictures. Come see the photo of the baby. ... He saw the pictures. ... Then I'll send you the original file So bye

Beef, it's what's for dinner

So these anti-U.S. beef rallies are getting huge . This weekend they ran constantly, with anywhere between 40,000 and 100,000 people (depending on whose estimates you trust), and the police used water cannons to break up the crowds. The stridency of the whole thing is really fascinating. Certainly there was nothing comparable in the U.S. when deadly or poisonous Chinese goods (toys, medicine, etc) were revealed, and those were deliberately manufactured. I can't think of any big protests of this sort since the anti-Japanese car protests in the 1980s, and those were nothing like this in scale. And U.S. beef is only theoretically dangerous. But from what I have read most of the protests seem directed against the administration of President Lee and the way he did it, and less so anti-American. Though the US military is not taking any chances and is tightening things at bases . I'd like to see these protests but also am not really interested in being identified as an agent of
One thing really lacking in Seoul is grass. There are precious few parks with grass and even soccer fields are packed dirt. There is some grass at the palaces. The mountains are green, but grass, forget it. Since the Lil Buddha is tearing around these days (crawling) it is nice to find her some grass to move on. There is one interesting park on an island in the Han river which has some grass. There used to be a water treatment plant out there, now it has become a park. I had only been there in the winter, when it looked really barren and forbidding. But in the spring it is quite nice in a post-apocalyptic sort of way. Everything is overgrown and really changes the structures left. The grass is actually roped off. But we took the risk and let Lark crawl around. She was looking ridiculously cute, I tell you what... We weren't the only ones who noticed. Pretty soon photographers ran up and started taking picture after picture. The woman with the tripod was something else, sh
It was a stunning, perfect day after the concert and I finally got around to hiking the mountain behind the NCKTPA and Seoul Arts Center. It is called Umyonsan. It doesn't look very big as far as Seoul mountains go (it is only about 300 meters tall at its highest peak) but the whole wooded area it is fairly long (several kilometers) and wide, there are trails all over the place and alot of ridges in the woods. I hiked back there for a few hours, nice afternoon. Here it is behind the center: One thing that was really fascinating were the military fortifications all over the mountain. There was a military base on the very top (I think an air force base perhaps) and all around it concertina wire and signs that said "past mine field". I am guessing this means it was mined and now they are being cautious. I stayed on the trail anyway... The path runs right along the wire. There was a more detailed Korean sign, I am going to ask one of my students to translate it. There
Saturday was the end of the kayagum class, which means a performance in the theater at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. Our class (five of us) sounded good and tight on relatively difficult sanjo tunes, so I was happy with how it went. As was the case last time, the samulnori class sounded the best of all of them. When I posted a picture of me in hanbuk (traditional Korean wear) last fall people seemed amused by it, so here is the new picture of me waiting to go on stage, standing with my teacher.