Thursday, November 29, 2012

More of the transience of fame thingie..

For those who just can't get enough (of my double-chin!), here I am on the front of the Uni's web-site

And, for a slightly less appalling look, I have a 25 minute video interview on KBS online:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tonight just after 7, join me and lovely host Adrien on Arirang's Catch the Wave, where we will interview author Sang Pak.
For all of you who miss my nasal but scratchy voice, I'm on that show once a week, Sunday night at 7 (Korea time) and I'm told it is also available of AOD on iTunes, but haven't figured that out yet.

Here we are, pre-회-식!

Monday, November 05, 2012

"He Ain't No Human Being!"

Exactly one week ago I was given my exciting honorary citizenship in this here town. Unfortunately the event was on my standard day off, so I didn't get to cancel any classes, but other than that it was a swell event.

My buddy the Czech Ambassador was there, so we swapped small talk and talked inspecifically about some kind of project in the future.

Then it was time to take the stage, where we all lined up, and the Mayor came by and awarded us in St. Valentines' Day Massacre style.

Sit down again and listen to some surprisingly good entertainment. Normally they just trot out the drums and gayageum, but this time they had a kind of fusion band that was really quite good and did songs I could see as quite useful for background music while studying or writing. Because I have yet to receive any of the promised photos of this event, you will have to settle for this picture of me bedecked in my finery.

The lunch was good, and then a very few of us took off on a tour of a hanok in Bukcheon, and the new City Hall and Library. Again, surprisingly good events and the planners of the whole day deserve a raise for not going for the safe and traditional stuff at most banquets.

Here we are at an inexplicable craft:

And then it was off to tea (the worst beverage on this side of a Masai toff). So I stared out the window at the awesome falliage (patent pending!):

 Finally it was off to City Hall, which sports this killer 7-story greenery facade:

Also worth noting is that at the top of City Hall there is an awesome Cafe with some of the cheapest drinks in Seoul, normally about ₩2,000.

Two days after all this, the lovely folks at LTI Korea sent me this awesome orchid, which will now slowly begin to dehydrate to death under my uncertain care:


 And, last but not least, on the Sunday Arirang radio-show it was time to celebrate with Adrien, and lay out my goodies (a proclamation, a rapstar medallion, and a card that gets me free entrance to any Seoul City facilities.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'll get back with an account of the Honorary Citizen conferment when some pics come back from the PR folks at Seoul City...

I'll be on the Arirang (live!) Morning Show on Friday, unfortunately at 7am!

Until then, here is an inexplicable picture of me ranking high in some leaderboard or other ("Sulia" apparently a social media ranking website) that has to do with Korea..

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fridazed and Bemused

First, I suppose, a bit of good news. Had lunch with my Yonhap connection who informed me that when I return to the states, if it is not in a pine box, I can continue to write for them, so that would be a guarantee of some small money, depending on how many pieces they wanted a month. Somewhere between $500 and $1,000 probably, which wouldn't be a bad thing to add to some kind of salary. LOL.. they'll go out of business the day before I leave...

Then, chilling and listening to the Grantland Soccer Podcast (yes, it has come to that), I get a call from the city of Seoul. Oops! On Friday night they have decided that they need a picture of me for promotional purposes - for the press covering my honorary citizenship of Seoul. 

There are very few pictures of me, because I am usually holding the camera, and cameras that aim at me usually have their lenses explode. What pictures do exist are up in my office, backed up on an external HD and on DVDs with Yvonne and my general pictures.

Yvonne, at the time, was out walking with a friend, so I attempted to take pictures of myself using the iPhone. It's an iPhone 4, which has an even shittier camera than the shitty camera on the new iPhones, so nothing good came of that, except this amusing pic, showing me hard at work trying to figure the phone out:

I look pixellated and furrowed.

Fortunately Yvonne got home and we were able to take a picture that isn't exactly flattering, but may work:

Alas, I am old and ruint, but the press must be fed!

With all that excitement behind me, it is back to the sports podcasts and an early bed.

LOL.. I am really old and ruint!

Monday, October 15, 2012

I am an Honorary Citizen of Seoul, and other Tom, Dick and Harry-foolery

"Trash, go pick it up, don't give your life away"
Ah... Monday mornings in the cafe, sipping on a delicious Americano and watching the traffic go by. Clean blue skies, autumnal trees, and a nice breeze. Waiting for my free Korean language lesson in two hours or so.

 Why would I come back to the Empire in Decline, again?^^
(PS - ask me again in 2 months when I'm freezing my ass of, when not slipping on it going down icy roads)

 I suppose the big, breaking news is that I have been declared one of 2012's "Honorary Citizens of Seoul." This puts me up there with Guus Hiddink, Hines Ward Jr., and Jackie Chan, who are all previous recipients of the award. LOL.. Jackie farking Chan!

The only thing that scares me is that a little research reveals that just at this very moment, since the award was first given in 1958, there are 666 winners. Dang! I missed it by one.

I go to some kind of ceremony on the 29th, in which I will meet the mayor, get me a certificate, and score some kind of medal. If the medal is bitching I’m going to head to Itaewon and get a big, thick, gold chain and wear it like an Italian guy at a disco in the 70s or a rapper in the 80s. One only gets so many chances at this kind of thing, after all.

The other news, which makes me a broke-ass bitch, is that I had to go buy another laptop after what I euphemistically refer to as a "cleaning accident." While listening to sports podcasts from my laptop perched on a chair outside the bathroom, I placed the shower-head (water running) into the sink where it immediately performed a vigorous flip and sent a cascade of water directly out the bathroom door and onto the screen and keyboard of the old lapttop. *Sizzzzzzzzzle!*

Not a terrible thing as old one had a broken DVD drive already, iffy ethernet, and the trackpad would no longer allow dragging. Much of this the ongoing result of my abuse of the poor thing (like the time I interviewed Shin Kyoung-sook and just plain dropped it onto the road). I’m pledging to treat the new one a bit more respectfully, but just like declarations of new-found sobriety, or studying Korean an hour a day, this will only last for so long.^^

Oh well.. enough fritterization here. Although my homework is complete, I should probably review before class.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

LOL.. ESPN fellates Yankees even in loss..

Hard to tell what the score was in this game:

LOL... oh yeah... Yanks lose...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Raising the (Hanok) Roof

Saturday and the weather is grand in Seoul. One of my “online-only” buddies is Robert Fouser, a man who has devoted considerable effort in an attempt to save the hanok, the Korean traditional house.

On FB he announced that he was having a “roof-beam” ceremony for his hanok, so we decided to go. Grabbed a cab and got near where the site is, and then wandered around trying to find it (curse you IOS 6 and your lack of a Google Maps app).

On the way over we saw a traditional Korean band in the middle of the street and I joked that it was probably on its way to the ceremony, but in fact it was already dancing. It took about 15 minutes to find the place (with the help of a friendly Korea), and lo-and-behold, the band was there!

We watched the ceremony… some speeches, close friends bowing three times before a pigs head and then stuffing money into its mouth. Once the pigs mouth was full, the beam was revealed to be on the front of the table (with some Chinese characters – hanja – written on it, definitely for good luck. I should note that the pig is also a sign of good luck). The roof-beam was tied with two white banners, and the MC and various important people stuffed these tied areas with the money from the pigs mouth, as well as money that other guests gave them. Then the beam was raised to the roof, placed, and hammered down.

After that, it was pork and makkoli all around (Yvonne had some of the pork, but I had already eaten a tuna kimbap. We both avoided the booze.^^). I talked briefly to Robert, and then we wandered away to a bookstore.

 It was a cool ceremony, and I immortalized it on video, here:


Bookstore was cool also, but what you gonna say about a culpa and dropping 35 bucks on books?^^

Friday, October 05, 2012

Gwacheon HanMadang Festival

Even before the Chuseok holiday, Yvonne and I decided to get out of town. My idea was that I would go to Chuncheon and she would go to Gwangju, but she had a problem with this.

So it was that we decided to head to Gwacheon for its Hanmadang (one frontyard) Festival. Luckily it was easily reachable by the underground and after a light breakfast of cornpone, johnnycake, and light bread with hardtack (for balance)  we headed out.

We got there just after 2, which was a bit early as nothing was really going on.

We wandered around the outskirts of the festival until we found the “main madang” and sat down in the rather hot sun to watch some traditional Korean dancing. Then it was a short walk around the ‘main madang’ and a trip back out to the outskirts where there was puppetry, modern dance, and disembodied body parts – the typical fare one finds fair when a faire one finds.

Yvonne had brought homework to grade, making it fairwork, I suppose, and after a bit I wandered the town looking for a glasses shop as I was wearing a pair with its temples bent like, well, let’s stay away from Thai bars and say, bent like a modern dancer, and one lens taped in with masking tape.

No luck, but I did spot a boite, a hot boite I thought, and when Yvonne called me we met there for a quick beer and then headed off to see something that was going to involved garbage.

It was a coolish modern-art performance and it did include fire and confetti explosion, so I was well pleased. Then it was off so Yvonne could watch Korean traditional high-wire (well, about six feet off the ground) walking. I’m not sure how she’s missed seeing this before as it sometimes seems that the every Korean with a spare minute tosses on a clown suit, throws up a strand of nautical rope and performs for spare change.

Oh well, I headed off to check out the food (“alcohol”) stands and noticed that although there was an enormous bonfire being built, the schedule said it would not be fired up until after 9, and it was already getting a bit nippy. When Yvonne bailed on the semi-high-wire act, we both looked around and decided it was time to head home.

So we did.

 I believe the following film documents our experiences grandly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Midweakly Report

My goofball wife thudded my plans for a complete night of sleep, and I now sit in my office with a big coffee trying to get my head back into one piece.

This was to be my first Wednesday to sleep in (My gig with TBS eFM), so it's a bit of a tragedy. It is nice to jettison one of my radio shows, because writing the scripts was more onerous than I thought, and particularly for the TBS one. Now I'll have more time for real writing. LOL, if I do it?

On the plus side (as you can read about here on KTLIT) I finally made it to the Seoul Literary Society, and met some rather posh folks. One upshot of this is that the Czech embassy has invited Yvonne (who will be invited if I am not sleepy!^^) and I to a 고기 (meat) festival this Friday night.  It is good to be a relentless social climber!

With the "typhoon" (it was brief and non-impressive in Seoul) gone, we return to night shots like this:

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Second week of school is always a period of "settling in."

Unless things become unsettled..

Which leads us to Tuesday, when I ate the weirdest thing in the world..

And perhaps the evilest..

It looks like this:

Which claims to be something like "dish pizza" or "spoon pizza."  But looked more like what would happen if a French breakfast knocked up an English breakfast and as a result there were a late term abortion.

BTW... late term breakfast abortion tastes AWESOME!

The next day, however?

I was having butt abortions... about every 45 minutes.

so.. enough about that..^^

Then there's this whole Buckwheat Festival thing...

One of the last things my lovely wife did was buy one of those Chia-pet type things that swore Buckwheat Seasons Would Ensue!

I was skeptical and mocking, indulged in some mockumentaion, and thought about creating a mockumentary.

But when she planted it on an Wednesday night?  The next day it looked like this:

 and quickly grew to...

 Shortly thereafter...

 This buckwheat makes pancreatic cancer seem slow moving...

In conclusion, however, I have to say...

My camera sucks, so you really can't see how my nightfall crushes yours!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lee Hyoseok "Buckweat Blossoms" Festival, Bongpyeon and a great pension down there

 The Lee Hyoseok Buckwheat Festival (named after his super famous in Korea short story "When Buckwheat Blossoms Bloom") was on this weekend, so the wife and I decamped.
The bus ride down was uneventful, thankfully a full half-hour shorter than the guidebooks said. We got to Jangpyeong (the nearest town with an intercity bus station) and found a hotel that was basically right across the street from the train station. There is also another hotel on the main street, on the edge of town. From the outside it appeared more modern, but we had already got a room, so we were set. When our attempts to order a pizza without phoning the order in were rebuffed, we went to the Discount Mart and got crackers and cheese. Yvonne got a vat of some kind of hideous meat-product, and proceeded, with several crackers, to demolish the thing. This was very good for me, since the stuff smelled like monkey-anuses (or what I imagine they would smell like). While we shopped for this stuff a woman began chatting us up, and introduced us to two young girls who, she said, would be serving as hospitality guides at the festival. We laughed and promised to look for them.
In the morning it was a quick cab ride (about 8 chun, as the rates are a bit higher) to the festival
There are multiple ways in, but if you head in from the main strip of Bongpyeon you go through a long alley of pochang-type stalls, selling food, shoes, and other assorted things. I took one picture of Yvonne standing by the entrance and in protest my camera committed suicide!  Consequently all the photos here are from my iPhone.

The Last Photo!
Walk through the parking lot and you have the choice of two bridges, one all of stones, the other occasionally bridged by multiple lengths of thin tree trunks. For the less adventurous, there is also a fully modern bridge to the right.

Buckwheat in its natural state
Across the bridge you trek over some wood paths – narrow when there are multitudes of people, past a couple of pens with sheep and donkeys. Then it is up some stairs to a raised wood walkway to the left that meanders through the fields of buckwheat (pretty impressive in bloom) and past a variety of goofy photo opportunities with decorated chairs, benches, and cutouts of various kinds. You can follow this to the left until it peters out, and then loop back, up against the back of the park, past several restaurants.

The Ultra Confusing sign of schizophrenia (Note - 2 "You are here" notations^^)
Then it is back down to the road, and the pathway that leads up a short but often sharp trail (this is to the far left of the park, as you look at the park from the entrance).  This path leads up to the munhakwan, which charges a nominal fee (2 chun and lower) for entrance. There is also a funky little teahouse where 3 chun buys you a glass of maemil tea. One wall is covered in books, all of which are in Korean.
The museum is kind of cool, although only one little bit is in English and don’t expect the staff to have any English at all. It begins with Lee Hyoseok’s history and literature, and as you work your way around it counter-clockwise you soon enter a section on the history and uses of buckwheat (food, fabric, pillow-stuffing). It’s kind of cool, particularly the photo-essay on how buckwheat jelly (more like Jello, actually) is made – buckwheat jelly is a pretty regular form of banchan on tables around Korea, and I had no idea it was made of buckwheat.

The Museum Itself
Above the teahouse and museum there is a trail that runs the upper edge of the park and in a lovely little grass glen, there is another trail that runs through some beautiful woods, above the back of the park and off to god knows where. As it had just rained, the woods were overflowing with mushrooms and various kinds of fungi, but strangely not one ajumma could be seen picking them.
Back down to the front of the park and over the ‘real’ bridge and you come to the entertainment and food section of the festival. There were about 8 booths selling 8 versions of things buckwheat. I can say that the buckwheat makkeolli tasted just the same as any other makkeolli, but the buckwheat bread is quite good. This is right adjacent to Gasan Park, which is a small square of greenery in the middle of town.
Then we walked to the edge of town in search of some non-buckwheat late-lunch. At the very edge of town, like a whorehouse, biker bar, or Republican Party campaign office, the BBQ’s hung out in shame, clustered against their more popular buckwheat-based restaurants.

PSY is everywhere
A look at Naver maps the day before had shown a couple of pensions out that way, and so, with dinner destination set, we wandered out a country road about 200 yards before seeing about 6 signs advertising pensions to the left, and off we went, across a bridge and to the first pensions. One was up on a hill and looked pricey. The other was by a river, four little abutting cottages, and it was only 80 chun a night. There was only one room with a bed, which Yvonne wanted, but it was not ready. So, we left our stuff and wandered back and had dinner at a restaurant that had a very live and very big cow tethered in front of it.

This lucky cow is the restaurant's mascot and we later saw him being driven somewhere in the bed of a pickup truck

I have an idea for a clever caption that would result in Yvonne killing me.
The pension was totally awesome and one of the proprietors 으나 speaks brilliant English. So when you look at this website: and only see Korean, don’t freak out… give them a call or send an email. You probably wouldn’t want to stay here in summer as it is electric-fan only, but in temperate weather it is great, and within easy walking distance of the fairly small “downtown” of the town.
Late-lunch was good, and we went back to the pension to wait for evening. At about 4:30 we headed out back to the entertainment/food area, and as we sat there, lo and behold, the two girls from the night before came up to us and offered to take us sight-seeing.  Turns out they were 15 year-old best friends, and after the initial bouts of shy giggling (pretty funny, considering they rousted us) they turned out to be really good guides and happy to practice their English and let me practice my Korean.

Yvonne and our Canny Native Guides
Then it was back to the pension and perhaps the stupidest thing I have ever seen on TV, “Dinosaur Park.”  The premise of the show was that some amusement park had a time machine and was going back in time to trap prehistoric critters through a “time portal.” But out intrepid heroes didn’t just go back to ANY time, instead they chose to go back just prior to the asteroid-strike that killed the dinosaurs.  This seemed unnecessarily risky to me, but what do I know. Other ludicrosity included a man in shorts and boots keeping up with Tyrannosaurus Rex just after the narrator has cheerily informed us that the T-rex can travel at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour. The “Dinosaur Park” had ‘enclosures’ made of sapling-trunks roped together, and in at least one case the fence was less than the height of the ostrich-like creatures it was supposed to contain.
Yvonne, needless to say, was entranced!
The next day we talked to the nice people at the pension, then walked into town for some coffee and buckwheat bread.
It took a second to catch a taxi, and we got to the Jangpyeong Terminal about 20 minutes before the next bus.  Happily, there were seats available (one weird thing about inter-city buses is that you have to buy your tickets on the day) and we were off to Seoul.

Two more pics of Yvonne

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spring Semester Ends - Spring Rolls DIE!!

Aaah.. went to work and stayed until 5, because that's when grade changes ended. Not so many requests this year.

Headed home and the wife was out, so I stopped at the Thai place and got their super-burny chicken rice.  Grabbed a beer and headed home.

Wife had been home (determined by phone call) just before I got there and had left the AC on which is brilliant. Ate the food, have sipped some of the beer, may just nap.

The last two days were the IFC Colloquium, which was brilliant, but far away and a lot of time. On the positive side I am now a $500 an event speaker, which will totally disappear when I return to the Empire.^^

This weekend is for reading and editing.... how sweet is that?

Friday, June 08, 2012

More Rabid Doggerel

I doubt my eyes and become oblivious;
Ignore my ears, elude the obvious ;
Use both hands to grasp the tenuous ;
And model myself on the truly ridiculous

I love the way things really aren’t,
And how they can never be,
I enumerate things that just don’t count,
And look for things that I can’t see

I use pointed logic to make no sense;
Point my path towards the deadest ends;
Adopt darkest foes as dearest friends;
Wear the false gravity foolishness lends
I love the way things really aren’t,
And how they can never be.
I enumerate things that just don’t count,
And look for things that we can’t see

My bundle’s my burden, my safety my strife;
I embrace the wide world with a smile and knife;
In a bower take nonsense to be my sweet wife;
Which makes perfect sense when the sentence is life
I love the way things really aren’t
And how they can never be
I enumerate things that just don’t count
And look for things that we can’t see

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Big Day Ahead - I Become One with a Fraction of the Universe

For about a week, the Korean staff and faculty have been buzzing about some kind of lunch-meeting with the head of the Jogye (Buddhist) Order here. Every day someone comes to my door to invite me, and I think I've received an email every other day.

Yesterday and today the office staff has taken to pelting me with text messages telling me where to meet, what to do if I can't meet there, and where to go to if I want to go directly to the meeting.

All this activity made no sense until I realized what is going to happen today.

I'm going to be promoted to Dalai Lama!

It only makes since, given how evolved I am and now that I have attained spiritual mastery of all the beverages in the malted (excluding chocolate or milk-based varieties) category.

Sweeeeeeeet!  I bet the Dalai gets a lot of action, or, "nirvana" as they say in Buddhanese, which I suppose I will now have to learn.

Anyway, I have prepared  by bringing all the necessary items to work. I have newly cleaned suit-pants that fit, a nearly unwrinkled shirt, a sparkly tie (thanks Yvonne!  I will remember you when I am ascended!), fingernail clippings taken at the recent eclipse, a splinter of the true cross, and a quart of clarified butter (those with true Buddha understanding do not question this).

So prepared, I know wait in my office for an hour to pass, at which point I can walk over to the third story (third story!) of the cafeteria and let the savage and beautiful ritual begin.

I wonder if I get some kind of secret decoder ring, or something?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

As Though a Sister Commanded It: Jeonju on Yvonne's Birthday

We left for Jeonju on Saturday morning, catching a cab to the Express Bus terminal with tickets already in hand. At the terminal I made the mistake of going to the bathroom and when I returned Yvonne was pestering^^ some Kyopo grandmother to the point of extinction.

We got on the bus and napped on and off until the rest stop. Korean buses do not have toilets, so instead they stop every so often to offload, well, offloading. These stops are at massive official rest stops on the highway that feature 100s of parking spaces and vendors of every description. It's kind of like a small mall out in the middle of nowhere. We snapped up one bowl of baby potatoes and a couple of bottles of Jeju (the cleanest, you know!) water for the short remainder of the journey.

When we got to the Jeonju Bus Terminal we spent a second at the information booth to get a map, and then hopped a cab to the Jeonju Hanok Village. The village is the coolest "traditional" village I've been to in Korea, partly because it is traditional hanok with traditional crafts practiced inside interleaved with all kinds of businesses (LOL, about 50% coffee shops) for diversion. We stopped off in the information booth to get a map of the hanok village and to find out where the Kojok Hwegwan, a famous bibimbap restaurant, was.

With the map in hand, we set off, with the first stop being a traditional 한지, or Korean paper, shop. This was ultra-cool, as they were creating the paper in a small hanok and we were free to wander in and check it out up close and personal. As the four employees and one grandmother who just kind of walked around the place, worked from creating the paper to stacking and sorting it, we just kind of hung out and watched. The film clip below is of the guy who was, laboriously, washing a bamboo (?) sheet in a vat of water containing paper mulberry inner-bark and then laminating layers of the resulting sediment onto a bit of a birthday cake of hanji.


Once we had our fill of watching, we stepped over to the gift store, which had an amazing number of things that could be made from hanji, including neckties, and too the left of us, two halmoni were bargaining for a number (I think I heard 8?) hanji hanbok for a mixed group of men and women. With my rudimentary Korean I couldn't figure out what the event was. Anyway, we bought a couple of trinkets and then headed to the "traditional wine museum."

Hanji Masks, or Yvonne 오후!

 For an drunkard such as myself, this was a bit of a letdown. I had envisioned fountains of makkeoli, swimming pools of soju, and baekchu-spurting bidet. My active fantasy life was not rewarded in the event, but there was a rather funny diorama (isn't there always?) with little, apparently loaded, chilluns going through the processes necessary to create various kinds of traditional alcohols.

I'll have what the developmentally disabled kid is having!

I left with a bit more knowledge and a monumental thirst.^^

 Then it was around the corner to the Donghak Rebellion Museum, which was all in Korean and featured a young docent who was face down on the books on her table, sleeping. As we rounded the corner she woke up with a start, took one look at the two of us, and slumped back into her dreams, certain that whatever they were they were superior to the idea of trying to talk to two fat foreigners. The pictures and histories were all in Korean, but I already knew a bit about the rebellion which was anti-foreigner (this goes back quite a way in Korean history) and anti-yangban. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the Donghak Rebellion was to realize that the best way to reach its illiterate countrymen was to set the words of the rebellion to music, predating the lame efforts of the Rolling Stones by nearly a century.

Along the way, as a bonus, the Korean government's invitation to Chinese troops to come into Korea and quell the rebellion was also a cause of the Sino-Japanese war, so you have to count the rebellion as at least a partial success. As in the case of most 'democratic' rebellions in Korea, the Donghak Rebellion was stomped like a cockroach, although its grievances were later at least semi-addressed by the government.

Then, it was a merry roundelet as we attempted to use the tourist map to find the Choi Myeonghee Literature House. Myeonghee was previously unknown to me, but is obviously important in Korean literature, as the grounds were pretty big, stuffed with kids, a tour, and Yvonne and I. Anyway, we did find it, and looked around, not understanding much. Apparently the Literature House offers classes in making "Literary Postcards," but at the moment we were there the classes were not in evidence.

Myoneghee wrote 혼불 (Ghost Fire), which is apparently a Korean epic in both length and importance. Then it was on to the Joseon This was fun to walk through, but primarily along the lines of most palaces in Korea, with the various buildings that you come to expect. The main selling point was the "portrait gallery" which featured various pictures of the royal family which I can't be arsed to explain, so I steal from the intarwebs:

This is the place where the portrait of King Taejo Yi Seong-gye is enshrined. It was built in 1410 shortly after the death of Yi Seong-gye, the founder of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Originally, 5 sites throughout Korea were selected to enshrine portraits of the dynastic founder: one each in Gaeseong, Yeongheung, Jeonju, Gyeongju, and Pyeongyang. However, all but the one in Jeonju was destroyed by Japanese armies during the 1592-98 invasions. Gyeonggijeon itself was burned down shortly thereafter (it is not clear to the author if this was the result of the Japanese) but was rebuilt in 1614.

Attached to Gyeonggijeon are other historical buildings of interest including the Jeonju Sago (historical archives) and Jogyeongmyo Shrine, which honors Yi Han, the progenitor of the Gyeongju Yi family.

 At that point, tired of walking, we decided to head to toe tge bibimbap restaurant, where I managed to compose two entirely understandable sentences in Korean explaining that Yvonne would not want her bibimbap with a raw egg on top. The restaurant is obviously a kind of cafeteria/mass production joint, but in that Korean way, because it focuses only on one food, it is rather brilliant at it. The banchan was also excellent and although the bibimbap was a bit pricey at 12,000 won (about 11 bucks, Empire money) it was delicious.

Suprisingly, the "best thing ever" was actually the banchan dish of boiled scrambled eggs, which had no water at the bottom, was solid like cake, tasty, and covered in sesame seeds.

Then it was a walk past the Jeondong Catholic Church church, notable for being the location of the early beheadings of two Korean believers. Of such slaughter is belief cemented.

We were kind of backtracking, but it was to go to the calligraphy museum, which turned out to be worth it. It really wasn't a calligraphy musem so much as a calligraphy shrine to a great Korean calligrapher whose name is escaping me at the moment. His story is interesting, as he was a kind of rebel against the Japanese colonialists, refusing to give up his topknot, and eventually lived to nearly 100 years old. Interestingly,  most of his calligraphy was Hanja (Chinese characters) and not Hangeul, but I have long ago given up the attempt to parse what Koreans believe is Minjok and what is Waegukin.

Only one of the pieces had any hangeul in it. A couple of the pieces also had watercolor (often waterblackandwhite) illustrations attached and it is pretty clear that the guy was a talented painter as well as calligrapher.

Then, we headed back to find the "Road of Culture" which supposedly had some bookstores with English books. We overshot about two blocks and had to head back to a road which was torn up for sidewalk reconstruction. Stopping for a cola and a beer, Yvonne was felt-up by the Korean proprietess who was, apparently, impressed by Yvonne's cup size. LOL.. or lesbian? Who knows? In any case, with Yvonne's breasts sufficiently explored, we had drinks and peanuts and the woman told us where the bookstores were, even helpfully adding, since we were on the second floor, that we would have to go down (밑) the stairs to the ground level before attempting to walk to the bookstores. I wondered how many foreigners had previously perished at this very spot, by forgetting to go downstairs, before entirely leaving the hoff? Looking around, I saw that the windows were well secured, so the threat of unwary foreigners plummeting to the sidewalk was now doubly ameliorated.

The bookstores were a bit disappointing, with only one having any used books in English, three of which Yvonne absconded with. Then it was a cab ride to the hotel. This was kind of amusing, because the cabbie did not know where the hotel was and we had the name slightly wrong in any case. The website called the hotel the "Good Stay Lanuit" hotel, but as it later turned out, "Good Stay" is only a kind of appellation that the government applies to tourist hotels that meet certain standards. So the place was the "Lanuit Hotel," although that name later turned out to be worthless as well.

Anyway, after pointing to maps, repeating the name of the dong, etc., the cabbie figured out roughly where we were going and, not knowing we had reservations, dropped us off in the middle of a rich hotel area, from which I could see the LaNuit. So, we wandered over to it and checked in to a nice-ish room with an excellent flat-screen and computer. Not the best hotel in the world, but certainly adequate.

After a bit of settling in, we decided to head over to one of the "Makgeolli Towns" on the tourist map. Makgeolli and pajeon sounded just about right to me, and we piled into a cab. Who immediately drove up next to another cab and asked where the Sinseong Makgeolli town was. LOL, he got us close to it, I guess, dropping us in front of a Makgeolli and pajeon place that was already full.

We walked around as Yvonne, far braver than I about this kind of thing, popped into store after store with the map, and asked where the places were. It was clear we were close, but we could never exactly find the restaurants on the map. The map was singularly unhelpful in the sense that it had restaurant names on it, but not street names. With makgeolli and pajeon off the menu, we decided to get some beef and ended up in a really nice restaurant in which we got five pieces of hanoo, three of which Yvonne ate (this part of the story 'returns' in a way).

Then it was back to the hotel, which turned into another bit of a joke as the cabbie had no idea of the name of the hotel and asked me to "spell it."  Having no idea how the name reverse-Romanized, I just mentioned the name of the famous pond next to the hotel, Deokjin Pond, and this got the job done.

 Originally, we were going to just sit there, but it turned into a bit more, and one of those cool moments on the road. A Korean dad and his two kids approached us (cute photo right there) and started talking. The dad knew a bit of English and so we switched between languages as he tried to get his shy son to talk to us in either English or Korean. We chatted for a while and they headed off. A few minutes later we decided to walk across the rickety bridge (really, E-ticket material, if you are old enough to remember what "E-ticket" used to mean). Halfway across, we ran into them as they came back across the bridge with ice-cream for us! So, we continued across the bridge and chatted more, separating at the parking lot. Yvonne and I stayed on the path around the pond and came to a spot where that path was close to the road and, Lo and Behold, there the family was again. We all laughed at the coincidence, walked another 300 meters or so, and then finally parted for real. Unless they are waiting for us at home?

Then it was back to the hotel, some shitty US TV and an early bed.

The next morning we woke up at about 8:25 and were surprised at 9 when the continental breakfast was served to our room.

Yvonne was busy at the computer, accepting birthday wishes, and said she didn't want to eat as she was "still full from last night." Having eaten exactly no vegetables except Kimchi and having eaten the vast majority of the meat, she was a bit, er.. ill.

We headed back to the pond, to discover something we had guessed during the evening, that the (Korean equivalent of kudzu) which covered much of it made it much more attractive in the dark. Something like picking someone up in a bar, I guess. The shoreline was quite nice, dotted with pagodas, statues, and little gardens. We then walked through Chonbuk University, which was apparently built after someone got an awesome deal on pale red bricks, and entirely empty as it was Sunday.

As we walked, we saw signs pointing to the Honbul Literary Garden and headed towards it. This garden is dedicated to the memory of Choi Myeonghee and it looked like, also contained her burial mound.

The Garden is in the middle of an extensive and extremely beautiful park which is laced with easy and beautiful trails. As we approached the Sori Cultural Center, the contents of Yvonne's stomach began to long for a touching re-union with their bovine companions, so we ducked in so I could take pictures and Yvonne could.. well.. you know.

There was a piece of artwork about which you can draw your own conclusions.

 Once through, we grabbed a quick cab to the train station where Yvonne sat on a bench within 10 steps of the women's room while I explored the pedestrian area around the station.

Train came, the might Mugunghwa with its onboard computer, and it is hear that I sit typing this stuff, drinking a Hite (The Hite factory is adjacent to Jeonju, so Hite is THE beer of the area and no restaurant we were at served anything else).

Being childish, we were impressed by the big water tower on the way into town that said, in proud red letters, "FAG," as well as by the advert for the WonkWang Digital College, which was just one changed vowel away from being totally awesome^^ as well as the "Bong Dong" arrow on the map.

Childish pleasures for certain, but pleasures nonetheless.

A nice time in a nice town, and now Yvonne has her Kindle and, perhaps, I will have a bit more quiet about the house?^^

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Avengers get Angry

Thor is angry because the "coke" machine has no farking coke!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Seoul Friendship Festival

Yvonne was off galivanting around with her dedicated coterie of ajjumah, so I took the opportunity to go check out the Seoul Friendship Festival, stag-fashion.  First I walked over there... a jaunt past Namsan which takes just about an hour. I finally stopped and took a photo of the "frog" bus stop that always reminds me of Baxter.^^ Each bus stop around Namsan is themed, and this is one of the most whimsical.

Then, as I descended the stairs adjacent to the Namsan Cable-car, I spotted a bird on the bird statue. Unfortunately, by the time I got my long-lense on the camera, that bird had flown, so I only have this longish shot:

Once at the festival, it was clear that it was better than last year.. way more food booths and much better entertainment. I ran into one of the guys who was in my Korean class last month. He didn't move on to the next class because his girlfriend promised to teach him Korean. I made a joke that the rest of us in the class expected him to come back next month (learning language from a boyfriend/girlfriend has an excellent reputation for failure around here) and the girlfriend immediately stopped talking to me. LOL... too close to home, maybe?

Then I wandered around and ate some kind of Uzbeki pasty and drank a 500 liter English beer. NEVER in the US would they allow vendors to sell bottled beer on the street, but this is Korea, so it's safe.  One of the Eastern European booths (I can't quite recall which) was selling little (bigger than airline bottles, but smaller than half-pints) bottles of vodka, which I wisely forewent.

After about an hour and a half, I became bored and went home, at which point twitter and facebook began to blow up with notifications from friends who had just arrived at the festival. ;-(

Here is the most traditional of Korean athletics:

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Time Stamp on dead Buddhists

I would just like to mention my sincere sympathy to the Yauch family, and be pissed that cancer took a great artist.

Now - the trifecta is in play. We have two super-rich white Buddhists down.

Is it too much to ask that Richard Gere be next?

The Beginning of Buddha's Birthday

Buddha's birthday is actually the 28th this month - a bit of a pisser since that is a Monday, already my day off. But here at Dongguk, the only Officially Buddhist University in Korea (OBUK), we begin our celebrations early, at the beginning of the month. Among other things, we hang lanterns all over the campus and have a lantern-lighting ceremony on the first.

Because we are OBUK, there is some attempt by the Buddhist side of the Uni to control the academic side of the Uni. Part of this is expressed in what is allowed into the category of Professional Development here; part of your PF is supposed to be Buddhist related. This means that these events are attended by academics, but normally only those academics who are being evaluated this year. No one wants to get a thumbs-down from Buddha!

So, my handler-professor is up for evaluation this year and had to go to this event. For support, or something, she asked me to attend and I did. It was mercifully brief, featuring a stultifying speech (even in second language), by the head Buddhist dude, who really needs to take my presentation class^^, the lighting of the lanterns, and then a weird parade in and out of the plaza on the quad, walking on each path that laces it.

As we walked that path my handler was anxiously scanning the plaza to try to figure out where the sign-up sheet was, because if she didn't sign in, her attendance would not be noted. I spotted the sign-up first, and when I pointed it out to her, we bee-lined straight for it, signed it, and scutttled.

I think next year I'll attend, but to take pictures, not sit in the audience - It was difficult to get pictures of anything decent looking from within the audience, parade, etc..