Saturday, March 14, 2009

After an evening of unsteady sleep (perhaps getting home and finishing the bottle of soju on the kitchen counter was a bad idea?) I was unaccountably awoken at 7:30 by the OAF. I spent two fruitless hours trying to get back to sleep but finally had to give it up as a bad go.

I was cranky and out of sorts. A shower helped a bit, but what really helped was a trip to the Waffle House.

It was a freezing morning; that face-peeling cold that keeps my skin young. The Waffle House opened about 10 minutes late, so we got to stand in the cold for a bit just to appreciate how cold it freaking was. Still, the place was really good. The eggs weren’t great (mixed with water for beating, I think?) and the slice of ham had some unusual spice (Bay leaf?) on it, but the syrup was grand, with little berries of some sort in it, the potatoes were cooked not greased and fried, and the two pancakes were grand. And who in their right mind ever complains about bacon?

Vegans, that’s who.

Vegans and communists.

And child abusers.

But no one else.

Add a cup of coffee, and all of a sudden I was feeling ready to head downtown to see the second to last day of the Rubens exhibition down at the Sejong Cultural Center.

We hopped the subway and headed up (down? over? through? Pi divided by negative infinity? I’m still getting the geography right (left? straight? asymptotic? I can never tell)) to the Gwangwhamun station which dropped us off at the back of the Sejong Cultural Center. So we took a quick moment to check out the Art Garden, which had some stainless steel sculptures and benches. Not a ton of stuff, but nice enough. There, I snapped that picture of the OAF with the reading statue. Shortly thereafter, the OAF whispered something to the statue and sprained a finger trying to go in under its brass sweater.

After about 15 minutes of this, we headed around to the front to see the exhibit, and I was thrilled to see that there weren’t horribly long lines.

Oddly, the ticket booth was shuttered.

But, on the positive tip, there were no lines - Since lines require two points (See! I didn’t sleep through all of calculus!), and there wasn’t even one person in line. There are normally Koreans everywhere in Seoul, and here you couldn’t find two to rub together.

Confused, we walked over to the big stairs, but they didn’t lead to the exhibit. Stumped, we looked at the site map and realized the ticket booth was right in front of the exhibition.

Which, it turns out, ended yesterday! Thus the picture of the OAF in front of the shuttered box office.

We had FAIL! And tons of it!

Instead of implementing our (failed) brilliant plan, we ambled. We walked down past Admiral Yi Sun-sin to another museum that the OAF had spotted on a previous trip. It had some kind of incomprehensible exhibition called “The Scene of Criticism.” Part of it was incomprehensible because there was no English translation of some of the text-heavy work (which I think is quite sensible – I’m not sure why the Korean have always been so obsessed with English – still I miss the ease that English translations give). But part of it was just incomprehensible due to, well.. incomprehensibility. A lot of the work was crap, but a couple of things were quite good. Amongst the crap was this aquarium presented as art (after all, it has Roman ruins AND a pirate. Perhaps it is the lack of actual fish that makes it art?). I thought I’d include a photo of it for SIS, who once at SFMOMA nearly expired of laughter (and had to be hauled out of the place down the stairs) after realizing some “artist’ had created a circle of white-painted gravel as art, whereas in Tuscon it would have been the front-yard equivalent of a lawn.

To be fair to SIS, she had just seen Art Arneson’s sculpture of Michael Jackson with a monkey, so was already on edge.

And Art is funny, I guess.

But some was good, including a display of pop culture artifacts that could only be seen through a cut in a wall (the picture at the start of all this gibberish) – no entry was possible. There was also another piece of which I include several photos. It is nearly indescribable as you enter past a scene of a white bird which has beheaded itself flying into a window, and then you enter an office which has a reassuring conservative look (reinforced by technology on the desk, in a useful configuration, from an old Bell phone, through a typewriter and up to a Dell computer – so still a few years behind Apple). When you turn around you see the other side of the avicidal window, and over that a projected video plays.

Like I said, difficult to put to bits and bytes. But it was good. Someone had put together an arresting (particularly for the poor bird) external image, but then gone on to figure out what lay on the other side of it.

Then it was on to Cheonggye stream where there was a three tent “festival” celebrating strawberries, if the half limp inflata-berry yawing in the wind was any indication. Ennui washed over us as we approached the sagging tents, and the dispirited folks inside them didn’t even get out of their chairs to try to sell us their wares. We turned around and headed back to the main street.

As we walked further, we came across a little palace that we had never visited. Deoksugung is also the home of an art museum, so we wandered in to find an exhibit on art and modernism in Korea. Pretty good, although the first gallery was incredibly poorly lit. I think this was to protect the older works it held, but it made the art pretty difficult to take in. One highlight was near the end; a room that showed the necessity for the ‘restoration’ of modern works. During the Japanese interregnum, and probably during the post civil war period, artists had no money and materials. Of course they didn’t stop working, but they worked with flawed media and thus, today, even recent works need the kind of restorative effort that the West associates with resuscitation of works in the Vatican. It was kind of cool to see.

We were a couple hours into the random walking, so we decided to catch the subway back to home turf (As I often make fun of the OAF’s stunning ability to get lost, I have to mention that I resolutely ignored her correct argument that we needed to board a train headed in the.. oh… right direction … and I got us going the wrong way). We stopped at an Italian restaurant (pic over there somewhere) that we had tried to hit a couple of times. This time it was open, and worth the stop. The proprietess is a quiet, meticulous and fastidious woman who makes excellent thin-crust pizza from her own dough. While we ate, we watched her make dough for the next day. The pizza was great, but the wine was, while from the West, Korean in nature – sweet as syrup. I’ll go back, but it will be for the traditional pizza and beer.

It being White Day here in the land of tomorrowness, when we got home we exchanged gifts, I got 80% done on the sound and light proofification of the bedroom, and the OAF slumbers away as I type this. While I was doing the insulation, I had the windows open and the OAF responded in the way you see in the picture below.

We are currently baking some chicken and potatoes.

Just another day that stinking San Jose would never have offered. ;-)


Anonymous said...

SJ did however provide money and motivation to get the hell out!
Sounds like a great day.

Anonymous said...

Touche to YSM!


rwellor said...

sort of...

I did save no money, though it did get me through grad school.

Oh, and crushed my will to live and added 50 lbs.. ;-)