Monday, 31 August 2009

Sejong Centre for Performing Arts

During August I went to the Sejong Centre for Performing Arts twice.

My first visit was with Young and Angelina to watch a world music percussion performance called “Go Go Sing”. I’m still unsure how the name fits in with the performance, as there were nether go-go girls, nor singing. The performance included three percussion ensembles, from Korea, Japan, and Switzerland. The melodies were primarily created on the marimba or xylophone, but occasionally with other interesting percussion instruments like a sansa. Harmony was also achieved with similar instruments, and the more robust percussion devices like gongs, bells and different drums.

The opening number was by the Japanese ensemble playing a rendition of Ravel’s Bolera. The YouTube-video below is also by a Japanese ensemble, but not the same one; although, the lady looks much like the one of the musicians that performed at Sejong. It might even be the same one. Also, the performance of Ravel’s Bolera at Sejong included four marimbas and a number of other instruments as well.



It was a lovely experience that benumbed my auditory sense – not with the agonizing bethundering* one experience to too loud thumping music at a rock concert; rather with overexposure to beautiful sounds. (* Bethundering is not an English word – I loan it from Afrikaans.)

It was after this performance that Young, Angelina and I went to the Taiwanese restaurant.

Not too long after this (probably the following week), I again visited the Sejong Centre of Performing Arts, this time with other friends, and to see a performance of Peter and the Wolf. The performance involved a clay-animation, accompanied by a live orchestra accompaniment. Actually the show had two parts, the first had only the orchestra playing different pieces from children’s operas and animations, and the second part concerned the actual “Peter and the Wolf”-performance. What I especially enjoyed was how specific musical instruments became the voice, or rather, themes for the different characters in the story. The oboe, for instance, represents the bird, and the French horns represent the wolf.

The majority of the audience included children, so it was fun to see how they experienced the performance -- where they laughed, screamed, giggled, and sneered. Viewing it with children made it a much intenser experience for me, as it helped me to see and hear and feel it less like an adult (and especially an over analysing adult), and more like a child.

The actual animation won an academy award for best short film in 2008. You can watch it in the YouTube-clips below.







What's in my ear?

This morning just before our faculty meeting all the faculty members had to line up to have their body temperatures taken. They pushed a small tube of a handheld thermometer in one's ear, and after a few seconds one's body temperature showed on a little LCD-screen. The reason for such invasion of one’s person? Swine flu scares. Anybody with only the slightest of fevers had to go for further tests to ensure that it is not the dreaded flu. And apparently, many teachers in Korea that went abroad during the Summer vacation had to stay at home once they returned for at least one week under observation. I could have done with an extra week of holiday – seeing as I moved apartments recently (more about that later) and am still in the process of settling in.

Cornish Pies

(Image Source: Unknown)

When I crave for something, especially when I crave for something unusual, something I do not typically eat, I know that my craving is not for the thing itself, but for a nutrient in it that my body requires.

Walking home from work today I suddenly got a craving for Cornish pie. I don’t think I’ve ever craved for Cornish pie before. The last time I had Cornish pie must have been many months ago, if not years. When I buy pies, I usually go for the vegetarian option, like spinach and cheese. If I were to buy a non-vegetarian pie, it would probably be chicken and mushroom. What is it that is so specific to Cornish pie that I should crave for it now? The main ingredient is beef mince – do I lack iron? If so why don’t I crave for beefsteak or a beef burger or mutton curry? It’s not a protein craving as I had a peanut butter sandwich during breakfast and I had two eggs with my vegetable stir fry during lunch.

Is it the pastry that I hunger after? Carbohydrates? It doesn’t make sense as I had rice during lunch . . .

Maybe I’m not craving after a nutrient at all, but rather after something Cornish pies remind me of. I remember often eating pies during high school. Why would I long for high school? I hated school.

And still the craving remains . . .


Here are two links for Corhish pie recipes; one with a beef mince filling, and the other with a mutton filling.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Korean Plagiarism

I've complained about plagiarism in Korea, or more specifically among my students, before. The Grand Narrative has a recent post on how Korean advertising companies plagiarise. "Korea has a deserved reputation for plagiarism," writes the blogger at The Grand Narrative.

But looking at the two pictures, I have to wonder if this is plagiarism or a tribute to Louis Vuitton's Sean Connory add? It is not that easy to label the artistic recycling of a piece of art as plagiarism. Artistic recycling is part and parcel of Postmodern art. Some authorities on Postmodernism are adamant that there is nothing new; all new artisitc creations are merely reworkings of previous art -- echoes. Now we have to wonder if this Korean add should be considered art or not -- can advertising be a piece of art? I would think so. Advertising use all the same methods employed by the visual arts.

Plagiarism or tribute; what do you think?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"When does manhood happen?"


When does manhood happen? This is the question asked in a podcast I listened to recently. The question can be phrased differently, and more personally. When did I become a man? When did I become an adult?

I remember asking some of my friends a while back something along these lines: “So when am I supposed to feel like I’m a grownup now?”

Although I still in a sense feel like I’ve always felt, I do—also—feel like a grownup. And it didn’t happen overnight, in a single event, or as a clear phase as the original question suggested. Instead, I felt myself moving closer to adulthood (and manhood) through a series of phases and events. In this post I’ll bare some of the most notable markers along that journey.

I got my red belt in Taekwon-Do when I was 18 or 19. Red is just before black. When I started Taekwon-Do at the age of 16, the goal of black belt just seemed too far away. I would watch those black belts in my class and envy them, but couldn’t imagine myself to get to that level, which looked to me almost superhuman. So I lowered my goal a little and aimed for red belt. The day I put my red belt on I felt like a cowboy: Tall and not to be messed with. It’s been many years since then and I’m working towards my fourth black belt now, but none of my previous black belts gave me such a sense of achievement as that red belt did.

Making the strange decision of moving to a small coastal town and fending for myself in a relatively new and foreign environment was a keystone phase. I lived in Mtunzini for only one year, but it proved pivotal to my sense of survival. I taught Taekwon-Do to teenagers and young men, and fitness classes to women desiring to lose weight. I took long walks on the beach, stayed up or slept in, did nothing or anything. I walked around naked in my hut (apartment). Why? Because I could. This was my house… my territory and I could do what I pleased, thank you very much. This year of taking off from my regular life and relocating to a secluded beach-town served a great purpose to confirm to me my independence.

When I finished and passed my master’s degree dissertation with cum laude I had a great sense of accomplishment. This was my third degree, but the only one I really felt proud of. It took me four years to finish and required the culmination of a multitude of experiences and emotions: I had to be humble. I had to be assertive. At times I was depressed. At times I was euphoric. Sometimes hopeless. Sometimes focused and determined. I cried in despair. I jumped up and down and sang halleluiah songs when the miracles happened. I contributed a new paradigm to a field of science, and received acknowledgement for it. Now it is just a dissertation gathering dust on a library shelf, but back then it was a tour de force – at least in my little universe.

The times I was challenged to fights and I calmly put myself forward – not backing down, nor aggravating the situation. So far every instigator has taken the less violent option of doing some posturing and then walking away. The martial arts training have given me the guts to stand my ground. Some may claim it to be an illusion of power on my part. Be that as it may, my opponents must have gotten the inkling that although first impressions had them thinking me an easy pushover, this would not be as trouble-free as they imagined, hence their reluctance to follow through on their initial challenge. Although I do see myself as somewhat of a pacifist (I am in disagreement with most wars), I do believe that there are times when a man has to be willing to fight.

When I told my X (while we were still together) that I see my future with her, and want to be the best father-figure for her boy possible, I both acknowledged and welcomed the responsibilities of being a husband and father. Even though, in the end, things did not work out between us, this moment would become a significant point in my journey to manhood.

When I made her squeal with delight just by the way I licked her palm, it did wonders for my ego.

Starting teaching as a fulltime lecturer at a university was the beginning of another noteworthy phase. I’ve worked freelance. I’ve taught at other institutions before. I also taught part-time at university before. However, becoming a “real” full-time lecturer was the arrival at a goal I made very long ago. Even though I still don’t think of myself as living the typical “adult life” – the full time job, the wife, the kids, the house, the car, the debt and loans – that is not my idea of having “arrived”. And although I have a fulltime job, I still see it as only one of a basket full of “projects” I’m currently busy with. Even so, this is one significant “project” I’ve been working towards and is an important stepping stone towards future goals.

When did I become a man? For some (young) men it is their first sexual experience. For others it’s their first car or first house. For others still it’s when they got married, or became fathers, or . . . I don’t think it really is a single point, and I don’t think it is a single achievement. In a sense, boys-will-(always)-be-boys. There are still moments when I feel vulnerable; uncertain about things, about myself, about the world.

But being a man is more than just a checklist. It is growing into knowing who you are; an acknowledgement of both your accomplishments and your failures, of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Mostly, I think, it is about living with your choices; about taking responsibility for where you are in life. Of saying: this is the hand I’ve been dealt, and this is how I’ve played it – for better or worse.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Little Sleep and Changing Places

Last night I went to bed at midnight (of course I only fell asleep around an hour later) and got up at 4am. The reason for my sleep deprivation was to see my friends off at the airport. I remember clearly how, after my first time to Korea, Young and other friends saw me off as I returned to Korea. Now it was my time to see him off – a strange irony that the foreigner should see the native off. I am going to miss him a lot. We customarily had lunch once or twice a week, so his presence in my weekly schedule will be surely felt. Not to mention our fellowship. I have very few friend with whom I can discuss the things Young and I discussed. As I said, I will miss him a lot.

When I returned at my apartment around 8am, I had just a couple of minutes to quickly eat something and then dash off to the continuation of the Faculty Meetings that commenced yesterday. As with most meetings the Faculty Meetings were boring; especially so if you only had three hours of sleep in.

I also heard today that I will be moving apartments on Sunday. My moving has been a contentious topic over the last couple of weeks, and it wasn’t until today that I had real clarity about the matter. I look forward to the move for at least two reasons: First, I will have a bigger bathroom in which I can install a bathtub. Korean bathrooms do not customarily come with bath tubs – only showers. My current bathroom is too small to install a bathtub. The new apartment, however, has a roomy bathroom, and another teacher who left recently left his bathtub for me. Soaking in a hot bath is one of my favourite recreations. Second, I will have my own laundry machine. At the moment everybody on my floor in our department building shares one washing machine in a shared laundry room. I almost never find it unoccupied, and frequently have to wash my clothes at odd hours in the night. In fact, at this very moment someone else is doing laundry, and I again have to wait for a gap to get a turn. It is starting to really frustrate me. Luckily, my new apartment comes with a washing machine installed! The apartment is a little further from my workplace, but these perks make up for it.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Movie Review: Unbreakable


How is it possible that I’ve never seen this movie? How is it possible that nobody ever told me about this film? That I’ve never even heard about it? Made nearly a decade ago, Unbreakable (2000) is a story masterpiece. Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson plays against each other in this peculiar suspense thriller / drama about a man faced with the possibility that he may be a superhero.

It is the story that Hancock (2008) could never be. Unbreakable is not an action adventure superhero story. It is a riveting drama, depicting heartache and loss. A story of an estranged husband and wife struggling with their crumbling marriage; of a father and son relationship torn apart by uncertainties; of a man in search of himself. It's a story of tragedies, and of reconciliation. And it is a surprising story that ever stays clear of the stereotypical superhero film, while at the same time being a tribute to all superhero stories.

The cinematography, like the story, unfolds in slow pans. There are hardly any special effects. The acting is subtle and authentic (even for Willis). The music score is ever complimentary – never interrupting. The writer and director of Unbreakable is Manoj Night Shyamalan, who also wrote The Sixth Sense (1999), Signs (2002), and Lady in the Water (2006). I’m yet to see the latter. With Unbreakable’s script and directing, Shyamalan has suddenly become one of my favourite writers and directors.

Having said this, Unbreakable is probably to slow a movie for the action junkie movie watchers of today. It is probably too quiet. The slightly skewed family relations are probably not dysfunctional enough for what one would expect of Hollywood. In so many aspects, this movie refuses to be what one expects it to be, and for this reason I can see why many people wouldn’t necessarily like it.

I’m mad because I nearly missed out on one of the greatest superhero scripts of the decade. Where was I in 2000?

O yeah, now I remember. It was one of the worst years of my life. The movie probably showed while I was alone at home, after hearing of a tragic accident; or standing by the grave of my girlfriend whom died in a car crash; or by the bedside of a friend in hospital with the doctors predicting grim probabilities.

Waiting for a Friend

I thought I lost a friend yesterday . . . to death or life. Which is worse? Luckily I was wrong. A friend lost himself yesterday and went searching. He came back today, but I don't know if he found what he was looking for. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I did lose a friend yesterday and only his shell returned. For now, I can just wait. And wait. And wait . . .

This morning, another friend whom I thought I lost long ago emailed me out of the digital blue, announcing that she is still alive, had PC problems and now have a new email address. I did not lose that friend either. Or did I? Am I merely corresponding to a ghost in the machine? A rogue message drifting through the Internet's waters like a bottle cast into the ocean long ago? For now, I can just wait. And wait. And wait . . .

I've lost friends before . . . to life and death. Both Death and Life are equally malicious, and there is pretty much nothing one can do about it. Apart from waiting, of course. And wait. And wait . . .

Friday, 21 August 2009

Friends and I


Angelina took this photo of me after she, Young, and I had dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant. The food wasn't that great, but the company made up for it. Before dinner the three of us went to a performance of world jazz music. I hope to blog about it still.

Young and Angelina are moving to the United States in a couple of days. They will stay there for two or three years while Young does his master's degree in divinity. I'm going to miss them a lot; especially Young whom I lunch with usually once or twice a week. Our friendship has come a long way.

Young is now the third or fourth friend that departed for America. I think now is the worst of times to go to America, since the economic depression hasn't seen the worst yet. Nevertheless, I try not to be too much of a doom and gloom prophet -- especially since they are excited about this new development in their lives.

Dog

What can I say about this creature? Clearly a dog . . . but those ears?! I saw it with its owner in a supermarket. It was just too curious an animal not to take a picture of, so I asked the owner if I could take a picture. She told the dog to sit and he obediently posed for this photo.

Street Preacher

Another familiar sight in Myeongdong is the street preachers. This one have pitched up a little tent and sits there reading some script, maybe a sermon or from the Bible. The Korean on his banner reads "Yaesu Cheonguk" (Jesus-Heaven) on the left and "Bulshin Ji-ok" (Disbelieve-Hell). It seems to be a clear and simple message for a materialistically oriented society that wants to increase their pleasure and avoid pain. Not exactly the way I'd go about presenting the Gospel . . .

There are numerous street preachers in Myeongdong. Some stand there singing hymns. Some walk up and down the streets preaching to the youth. The last time I went to Myeongdong I even saw a guy on a bicycle preaching.

From these displays of fervent focus, Evangelical Koreans must probably think of Myeongdong as the core of youth decadence. The Sodom and Gomorrah of Seoul. From my observation, Myeongdong might be the hub of trendiness, but it is hardly the sin-pit it seems from these preachers. The real decadence and sin-pits in Korea are not what happens in these materialistic centres; rather it is in the back streets with old sleazy old men visiting the many "barber" shops.

Korea is such a paradox. Definitely a country of extremes and contradictions.

Korean Street Snacks

On display at this booth are numerous dried sea food snacks, such as dried squid, dried octopus, and other oddities. The yellow things on the far right in the red cups are what we in South Africa would call chips ("french fries"), but instead of using potatoes, they use sweet potatoes in Korea. These "chips" are also fried to be much harder and crispy and if you're not careful you might chip a tooth on them. Apart from the sweet potato chips I haven't tried anything on the table as they are all Biblically unclean foods, which I tend to avoid eating.

This photo was taken in Myeongdong, an area in Seoul famous for its trendy clothes shops and young people hanging out in their latest fashions. Myeongdong is especially nice to visit in the evening -- buzzing with lights and people.

Korean Condoms


This puzzles me almost as much as the missing taegeuk in the palgwae depiction in my previous post. This is a photo of a packet of strawberry flavoured Korean condoms. Depicted on this packet is what appears to be a happy little penis, with a condom on his head, surfing. A surfing penis -- even after seeing it illustrated, it still boggles the mind.

I do not know what "Zzimong" means. The "z"-sound does not even exist in Korean. Above "Zzimong" there is written in Korean characters "cham sarang", which literally translates as "true love."

Palgwae

This appears to be a tile of some sort, that was used on the palace grounds, of a palace in Seoul. I immediately recognised it to be a depiction of palgwae (Chinese: Baqua), although a strange depiction at that. Palgwae are the eight trigrams that surround the taegeuk. The taegeuk is known in Chinese as the Taijitu, or better known in the West as the yin-yang symbol. Trigrams are symbols; basically three horizontal bars -- some of the bars are broken and some are unbroken. Each trigram have a special meaning based on the I-Ching, the Chinese "Book of Changes".

On this tile the taegeuk, which should be in the middle and surrounded by the palgwae (eight trigrams) is missing. The image below shows the trigrams with their Chinese names, surrounding the taegeuk in the middle.

In the tile, the taegeuk is replaced with the Gam trigram [ ☵ ] (an unbroken line sandwiched by two broken lines). The Gam [ 감 ] trigram symbolises the water-element and its familial relationship is "middle son". As it symbolises water, it would be the representative trigram for my personal Taekwon-Do group in South Africa, known as the Soo Shim Kwan. "Soo" means water and "Shim" means mind and is therefore the idea of "being like water".

I'm curious as to why this tile does not have the taegeuk in the middle, but instead the Gam trigram, and what symbolic value this serves.

Haetae

These are examples of haetae -- mythological creatures; usually in the form of lions. Haetae are "guardians" and often placed in front of gates or doors, or on roofs as explained in a previous post. The "lions" in the famous Chinese Lion Dances are haetae. I've always wondered why these lions do not look like lions -- the answer is that they are not "normal", but "mythical". I started collecting haetae-lions a couple years back.

In the photo below I played a bit with the colours -- pushing up the contrast and the colour saturation -- to get this interesting image.

Masks

One can buy these traditional wooden masks in Insadong. They were used in olden times during shamanistic dance rituals, much like the dance rituals in other cultural traditions such as those in Africa and South America. I'm considering buying me a pair of the white ones. I haven't had the opportunity to see a Talchum -- Korean Masked Dance -- yet, but hope to in the future. These dances are still perfomed and even taught at performing art departments at university, as part of the Korean heritage.

Gate

In this photo one can see another angle of the wall separating the outer and inner courtyards of a Korean palace. The grand structure in the middle with the curved roofs is a gate. The four pillars are similar to the pillars in the previous photo. Unfortunately, because of air pollution and bad photography the the upper roof is not too clear; however, note the little bumps on the roof. These are actually little critters, similar to gargoyles in Western architecture. If I remember correctly, these little creatures are called Haetae, and are mythological Oriental creatures, some of them recognisable as lions, monkeys, rats, frogs, and the like. And like gargoyles they are probably there as guardians, intended to ward off evil spirits. The curved roofs are unique to this architectural style and is supposed to give a balanced and natural feel, almost like the slopes of a mountain.

Palace Doors


This photo shows the humongous wooden doors separating the outer court from the inner court of a palace in Seoul. Note the rich terracotta-red colour, the distinctive colour used for these structures. In this photo it looks slightly more orange because the photo was taken at sunset. At the top of the photo you can see the decoration I spoke about in the previous post.

Joseon Art Nouveau


This is a close-up photo I took of a discarded roof decoration used for Korean palaces, temples, courts and memorial shrines during the Joseon Dynasty. This decorative structure is usually under the cover of the roof and is viewed from the bottom, giving the outer ceiling a floral expression. Because this piece had been discarded and is now more exposed to the elements, the colours have started to bleach. The turquoise colour is usually much greener. Note the repetition of similar colours and the detailed painting of floral swirls, which are often missed because this decoration is so high of the ground.

Brushes


This photo I took is of brushes displayed in a window in Insadong, which is a popular tourist place in Seoul where one can see and buy all kinds of Korean memorabilia. The brushes are used for Oriental painting and calligraphy.

In the News: The Death of a(nother) President and North Korean Respect

(Source: Famous People)

Former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, known as the “Mandela of Asia”, passed away on Tuesday (August 18th). President Kim received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work to ascertain relations between North and South Korea and is known for his establishment of the “Sunshine Policy” with North Korea. He was well respected in both the South and the North. Today, a delegation of high officials from North Korea came to show their respects. This is unusual and only the second time for North Korea to send a delegation like this to perform mourning rituals. With the recent death of president Roh, North Korea sent a message of condolences to his family, but no delegation was send.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Swine Flu in Korea

Thanks to Mary-Jane for forwarding me this image. Original source unknown.

Apparently the number of swine flu cases in South Korea has passed the 2000 mark. Apparently more than 90 people catch the H1N1 virus now per day! Korea is actually the ideal place for infectious diseases to spread rapidly. People live very close to each other. The public transportation is especially packed, with people standing shoulder to shoulder during high traffic hours. Koreans share food; i.e. they scoop food from the same bowls. Koreans tend to spit in the street and this alone is probably a major cause for such viruses to spread.

So how would you eradicate a pandemic outbreak of swine flu? If swine flu is anything like a zombie disaster one could use this mathematical model.

Here's a YouTube-video with some tips on surviving a zombie-attack.



Or get this book.



As for the swine flu, remember to wash your hands often. Never rub your eyes -- many germs enter the body through the eyes. Be careful of sharing food and eating at public places. So as the flu season starts to increase I'm considering to get a breathing mask to cover my nose and mouth when I use public transport. I'm also planning to keep more windows open during the winter. Students tend to close all the class windows during the winter to make most of the central heating and then I come into class and open the windows as I cannot stand the stuffy oxygen depleted classrooms, smelling of sweet kimchi.

Another must is to take LOTS of vitamin C. Humans are the only "animals" that do not produce their own vitamin C. Make 3 grams (3000 milligrams) your standard daily dosage. Don't take the whole dosage at once; rather spread it out throughout the day. You may experience some diarrhoea from an increase in vitamin C; however, once your body has accustomed, this will subside at which time you may consider raising your vitamin C intake to even double that. (Some people are allergic to vitamin C, so consult your doctor.) The famous Korean professor (I think his name is Kang Kyung-Sun) whom does research on the benefits of vitamin C takes 12 grams of vitamin C a day. Although this is clearly not common practise; I personally take between 1 and 6 grams a day. Apart from all the health benefits associate with extra vitamin C, it apparently makes your body a habitat that is inhospitable to viruses, which makes you less likely to catch something.

Germs also do not like alkaline bodies. Diets that are high in fats and protein are more acidic. Instead, a balanced vegetable rich diet is more alkaline and better equipped to fight the microscopic pests.

Also increase your water consumption. With enough water your body can better flush out the bad stuff. Fruit juice, herbal teas and all those other healthy alternatives are not substitutes for water. You can drink those too, but not to replace your daily water in take. How much is enough? It really depends on your body size, the amount of juicy foods (fruits) you eat, and the amount of toxins you normally consume, which would require more water for diluting and flushing out. "Toxins" refers here to refined sugary drinks such as soft drinks, tonics such as coffee, and so on. Drink about two litres of water a day. It is easier than it sounds. Start your day with two glasses of water -- there, you've already drank 500ml. Just keep a water bottle on your desk or at your workplace and drank from it throughout the day.

Don't forget regular exercise. I've heard one health practitioner say that if you have to choose between a healthy diet and regular exercise, choose the exercise. Of course, having both a healthy diet and regular exercise is the best choice. And as for eating, eat less, but more nutritious food. We tend to do the opposite -- eat more of non-nutritious food.

And lastly, the one thing I struggle the most with is to get enough sleep. Sleep is absolutely essential for your body to heal itself and keep the immune system strong. Speaking of sleeping, it is nearly 2 a.m., so I guess I need to start an attempt to go to bed.

Here is a "Swine Flu Facts Sheet" with more on the symptoms and other advice.

USB Microscope


So if you don't want to buy me those Star Wars-chopsticks, thinking that I need something more educational, how about this: A USB-microscope that you hook up to you PC. It's another Japanese invention and costs around US$130. Please buy it for me! Just think of all the things I can discover with this baby. Please . . . pretty please . . .

District 9


Every South African that's in the know (of course, there are many that are not), is very keen to see the new South African film District 9. This sci-fi film is an allegory on the apartheid segregation. The name "District 9" is most likely a play on District Six, the iconic landmark in South Africa, that have become a symbol for human rights violation. The "For Humans Only" on the second poster above, is, of course, a reference to the "For Whites Only" signs that was signature of the aprtheid-era. The timing of this film is also very apt with recent cases of xenophobia still fresh in the South African psyche. I have a suspicion that this movie will become a film of choice for film-study classes in South Africa.



Unfortunately it does not seem that the movie will be showing in Korea, which is just short of a tragedy for me, who have been looking forward to seeing it for some time now. It released in the USA on August 14 and will start showing in South Africa on August 28. I cannot believe it's not showing here. Korea often shows major foreign (apart from Hollywood) films. For instance it showed Death of a President (2006), the mockumentary about the assassination of Pres. George W Bush; a British film that had only a limited screening in the USA.

From Channel 24, here is a list of "10 best things about District 9."

1. Americans will finally know where Johannesburg is.

2. It's the first local movie that has serious hope of getting an Oscar, not because it's "foreign", but because people really think it's the best movie of the year.

3. It was made for $30 million, and it made $37 million in its first weekend alone, topping the US box office.

4. That District 9 spaceship solves the burning issue of what we're going to do with used 2010 World Cup Soccer stadiums... if we can just figure out how to get them to float upside down.

5. It wasn't made by Leon Schuster.

6. It doesn't star Colin Moss, the schmodel-chick from FHM with the hot sister, or any of the other overly recycled actor "in-crowd" we're all so sick of seeing onscreen.

7. The South Africans in it sound South African, not German, Dutch, French or American.

8. The Van Der Merwe joke has now gone international, possibly galactical.

9. Thanks to lead actor Sharlto Copley, the sexy South African accent will finally get the international recognition it deserves (Arnold Vosloo set us back by at least 10 years).

10. They're already talking about a sequel. Who said crime didn't pay?

Trailer:

Spent the Night in an Unknown Place

Last night on my way back from Taekwon-Do, while emerged in reading a selection of the Upanishads (Indian spiritual literature), I somehow completely missed my bus stop. When I eventually looked up from my book everything looked unfamiliar: dark alleys and deserted highways. Getting off in the middle of nowhere seemed like a bad idea so I decided to ride it out until I see some civilization. Eventually the bus drove into a busier area. I got off and since it was so late (nearly midnight) I did not expect there to be a bus back. Consequently I first set off to find an ATM. After ensuring I had some money I bought some snacks at a little shop and then started walking in search of a motel. It took me probably between 30 minutes to an hour before I found a motel.

The motel room was quite comfortable with a nice TV and just after I took a shower Die Hard 4.0 started. By the time the movie finished it was 3 am. This morning when I woke, I was quite surprised to see it being 9:30. The room was so dark that I had no idea that it was day already.

Catching a bus back I saw that the little village I spent the night before in is called Toi Gye Won 퇴겨완. It's a pity it is raining today and that I didn't have my camera with me, as it would have been an adventure exploring the village. I usually have my camera with me, but yesterday I took a fresh set of Taekwon-Do clothes to the dojang, so there wasn't enough room in my backpack.

Still, this accident caused for a nice little surprise from my routine.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Teaching this Coming Semester


Next week we start with faculty meetings and the week there after classes start (Aug 31st). I've received my roster and have completed the basic syllabi for these classes.

I'm going to teach the following five modules:

• 19th & 20th Century American Poetry
• Special Topics in English Literature: Poetry in Music
• Basic English Composition (Introduction to Academic Writing)
• English Presentation (Public Speaking & Speech Writing)
• Intermediate Listening and Conversation (including note-taking skills)

The first two modules (the poetry classes) I am teaching alone. This means big classes with lots of preparation. The remaining three classes are language skills classes, which I also taught last year. Each class is taught by around three to five lecturers simultaneously. For these classes we use workbook-style textbooks which makes for easy lesson preparation. One merely divide the chapters and exercises into the available weeks and try as best you can to cover the appropriate amount of material for each week. Since all teachers ought to cover the same work (since we all use the same exam paper), there is little deviation and few surprises. The good thing about this system is that it opens up some time for the two literature classes that I will be teaching, which require much more preparation.

For 19th & 20th Century American Poetry I will be touching on 15 poets in only 14 weeks of class time. Of course, I will be grouping some poets together. When I studied English at university we focussed more on British poetry, and only looked at a few American poets like T. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou. So preparing for this class has been a learning experience, which will certainly continue for both me and the students throughout the semester.

The other literature class, Poetry in Music, is going to be an interesting experience as well. It is an elective course for 4th year students, and it is the first time it is taught. I wasn't going to teach it at first, but then the professor that actually called for the class's creation suddenly felt overcome by the weight of all the classes she is teaching and begged me to swap with her one of my language skills classes. I gladly handed over Intermediate Reading & Writing. Last semester I taught a pretty tough reading course (British & American Essays), and as I am already teaching Basic Composition, I didn’t feel like teaching another writing course. I also prefer teaching literature classes over language skills classes.

After some deliberation with the department head and the academic office, we were able to swap classes, without too much timetable problems. But then the real anguish started – what exactly is “Poetry in Music”? The professor that was supposed to teach it has not prepared a syllabus and was also away for the summer break to America. Furthermore, it is a new module, so I have very little “history” to work with. I also couldn't find any textbooks on this specific topic: “Poetry in Music.”

After much reading from different sources I decided to make the class an overview of contemporary English music, with focus on the reading of the lyrics and how they are influenced by the genre of music they are part of. Basically it will be a poetry class, but the interpretation of the "poems" (the lyrics of the song) will include the "reading" of musical elements, such as melody, harmony, and rhythm.

The class will start with an introduction to some appropriate music terminology compared with relevant poetic devices, and then move onto the different genres. We will begin with Hymns, Gospels, and Spirituals. We’ll then look at how Spirituals formed the base for Blues (and later Rhythm & Blues), and how Blues developed into Jazz. That’s the first half of the semester.

The second half of the semester will start off with early Rock `n Roll; the groundwork for the cultural revolution brought in by Elvis Presley in the 50s and the Beatles in the 60s. From here on we look at different genres like Country, Blue Grass, Folk Rock, and Country Rock; Soul, Funk, Disco, and Dance; Rock, Alternative Rock and Grunge, Indie Rock and Punk Rock; finishing with Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop. We will also spend a week on Social Comment and Protest Music. Preparing for this class have been lots of fun, as I navigated through all the great genres, trying to find representative songs of each and trying to find the links between them.

I will prepare blogs for both the American Poetry and the Poetry in Music classes, mostly for my students as an easy way to disseminate some class notes and announcements, and will also have links to sites or YouTube-videos of most of the poems and songs we will be covering. Let me know if you want to "sit-in" on these classes and I'll make the blog-links available.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

What I Want for Christmas . . . Lightsabre Chopstick


I don't really celebrate Christmas (as a holy day), but that aside. You can buy these lightsabre chopsticks for me any time you want -- Christmas, New Years, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, my birthday, your birthday, no holidays required. I'm a Star Wars fan, okay. And I want these lightsabre chopsticks.


You have to give it to the Japanese; they always come up with the most peculiar things.

While on the topic of Star Wars, here is something a man doesn't see everyday (but wish he did): Girls in bikini's reading the Star Wars script.



The acting is terrible, but who cares?!

Friday, 14 August 2009

"Down to the River to Pray"

To settle into the Sabbath, here is a pretty little spiritual performed by Alison Krauss & The Union Station.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

"Picture" -- Another 'Favourite' Love Song

A while back I wrote a post, listing ten of my favourite "Love Songs". The list is, of course, skewed as it is impossible for me to list only ten songs and also because my favourite songs oscillate depending on my mood.

It is no secret. I'm a Sheryl Crow fan. It started while I was still in high school. Her cover of "Leaving Las Vegas" (from Tuesday Night Music Club) would sometimes play on television and I'd be enthralled. But it wasn't until I went to university that a good friend of mine bought her second album and shared it with me. Her second album is still my favourite with such great songs as "Every Day is a Winding Road", "Maybe Angels", "A Change Would Do You Good", "If It Makes You Happy", "Hard to Make a Stand" and not to forget "Love Is a Good Thing" with her doing that horrifically sexy scream somewhere in the middle of the song that sends endorphins through my body every time I hear it.

At this moment I'm preparing for a class that I'll be teaching this coming semester. The class is called "Special Topics in English: Poetry in Music". It is an elective class and it is the first time that it will be taught. I'm solely responsible for the syllabus and decided to cover the history of contemporary music starting with the hymns, gospels and spirituals, and working my way up through blues and jazz all the way to contemporary R&B and Hip-Hop; all the time focussing on the lyrics (as these are the "poetry" in the music).

Along the way we cover Country music and it's variants, such as blue grass, folk rock and country rock. To get back to Sheryl Crow; although she is a rock artist, there is a very clear country influence in her music that qualifies her as a "cross over" artist. This means that her music is sometimes marketed in more than one genre; i.e. rock and folk rock / country rock. Another cross over artist is Kid Rock, a rapper that also blends blues rock and country music into his oeuvre. And somewhere in between Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock got together to sing the beautiful love ballad below. It was written by Kid Rock; the title is "Picture".


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Skoolkinders raak histeries.

Iemand, vertel my wat gaan aan in Suid-Afrika met al die skoolkinders wat histeries raak. Die wêreld is sowaar aan die mal word!

Transkei:

“Three more Transkei schools were affected by apparent outbreaks of mass hysteria on Wednesday.” (Bron)

Pretoria:

Up to 25 pupils at a high school in Pretoria were treated for hysteria on Thursday, paramedics said.

"It appeared that several of the patients were hyperventilating and some even appeared to be having seizures," said Netcare 911 spokesperson Nick Dollman. (Bron)

Mthatha (Oos-Kaap):

About 30 children from an Mthatha high school were taken to hospital for checks on Tuesday morning after collapsing and complaining of severe headaches, the Eastern Cape health department said.

"The report is also that they are very hysterical," he said. (Bron)

Johannesburg:

About 51 pupils from Nompumelelo Junior Secondary school in Lusikisiki have been admitted to hospital since Thursday last week, after behaving as though they were "possessed by demons", the principal said. (Bron)
Ek moet wonder wat het hierdie kinders in gemeen. Ja hulle is almal skoolkinders. Maar is daar iets anders -- is hulle almal onlangs ingeënt teen varkgriep, is hulle op die regering se welsynskosprogram en eet daarom dieselfde kos? Maar hoekom is Transkei se kinders dan ook geaffekteer? Is dit chemtrails?

Why don't they just chip us?

(Source: Switched)

Why don't they just chip us? 'Cause with this, they don't need to.

My brother emailed me the news report, saying that it is now law in South Africa that all cell phones, regardless if it is prepaid or contract phones, must be registered – connecting the phone number and SIM card to your personal details: full names, identity number and address. “The law also made it compulsory for users to report to police should their cell phones be stolen, lost or damaged.”

Dear South Africans – kiss your privacy goodbye. A cell phone is basically a GPS, and henceforth you will be carrying a little beacon device with you, letting the powers-that-be know your every single location 24/7. While it is true that this may be used to combat “national cellphone theft,” the simultaneous loss of freedom is a tremendous price to pay.

It’s reminiscent of the old pass books. I really hope people stand up against this. But of course they won’t, because this whole thing is packaged as an anti-crime solution. Why do I think it is not to be used for the reasons they say it is going to be used for? Because you have to report to the police if it is stolen, lost or broken. The first one relates to crime. The other two is just so that the police know that they cannot track you anymore. I’m disgusted by this. This is better than chipping us – most people will refuse a chip implant, but since cell phones have become so integral to South African culture and society, we willingly accept it. No chips required – just a leash around the neck, without us even suspecting foul play.

Call me paranoid if you wish, but whenever laws are passed they should keep in mind the worst case scenario. The current government may not have any ill intentions with these tracking devices, but that doesn’t for a single moment rule out the possibility that a later government will be as benevolent, nor does it rule out the fact that there have always been corrupt government officials for most of South Africa’s history.

Also read: "No more anonymity under new cell phone law"

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

And so the cookie crumbles...

This reminds me of the 80s and 90s when I was still in school. Since I grew up right at a location I had first hand exposure to the riots, so these scenes of running youths, strikes and toyi-toying, burning tires, armour plated vehicles, the throwing of stones and the shooting of rubber bullets were common – the sad thing is that the videos below are not from 1989, but from 2009. The strangest thing for me is that a country that has come so far, hasn’t moved that much. Twenty years later and I’m experiencing déjà vu. It is just a pity that it is not déjà vu – it’s a sordid reality.

But then again, the whole world is progressively going crazy. Why should I for a moment think it ought to be different in South Africa?





My younger brother says that when he gets depressed about South Africa he visits EngineeringNews.Co.Za, and read up about all the latest great developments in the country. I tried it just now, but it doesn't work for me. I know Mary-Jane reads South Africa: Good News. It works a little better than Engineering News, but is still not putting me in much of a positive mood.

I'm beginning to understand why so many people are ignorant of the crisis the world is in. It's nicer not to be privy to such unfortunate forbodings. Let's all ignore the state of affairs and just pretend that all the problems will magically go away on their own. Humans, we are masters at the art of denial. I should try it sometime...

Monday, 10 August 2009

An Unexpected Surgery

When I woke this morning, I had not the slightlest idea that I’d be having surgery today.

This morning I went for the final part of my physical exam – a dental check-up. Upon inspection the dentist told me that my lower right gum area is inflamed because of a troublesome wisdom tooth and he recommends I have it removed. Being well aware of that dental problems can be the origin of other health problems elsewhere in the body, I decided to go to my own dentist immediately for a second opinion. He took one look at the area and immediately had an X-ray taken and after viewing the little skeletal photograph, he asked when I would like to have the surgery done, and if now would be alright. Since I did not have anything planned for the afternoon, apart for my chiropractic appointment a couple of hours later I decided that now is as good a time as any – lest anticipation cause cowardice.

Because of the position of the tooth it could not be pulled, but had to be surgically removed. A normal tooth is rooted perpendicular to the jaw. This wisdom tooth sat at a forty five degree angle, pushing upward against his neighbour (see above -- "Angular"). To remove it, an incision has to be made into the gum, which is then flapped open, where after the tooth is sawed, grinded, broken and excavated in sections. And like Christine’s experience, it was all done with local anaesthetic. The injection stung a little but in general the local anaesthetic did its job – locally. The pain I experienced was not “locally” but at the opposite side. The dentist had to put so much force on the right side of my jaw in attempts at pulling out the stubborn roots that the juxtaposing force caused the left side of my jaw to dislocate. When he asked me to bite down I couldn’t and had to indicate that the left side of my jaw is dislocated. He promptly put it back in place. I expected the popping-in to be painful, but it wasn’t at all, unlike the popping-out!

For most of the day I had hardly any pain, but now, in the middle of the night, I’m not so lucky. Such aches always makes me more empathetic with those far worse off than I. A similar painful experience, when I sprained a foot some years back, helped to inspire me to write an essay on happiness.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Physical Examinations

Yesterday (Friday), was a day of medical tests. In the morning I went to get a physical examination done at a hospital, which included blood and urine samples, blood pressure test (a little low, but normal for me), eye and ear test and even a chest X-ray. The exam also includes a dental examination, but the dentistry department is closed on Fridays, so I will need to go back tomorrow to get that part of the exam done. The reason for the physical examination is because it is a new requirement for working Visas here in Korea and although I have a two year contract at the university where I teach, the Visa needs to be renewed annually. Luckily my employer reimburses the physical exam. I’ll have to wait a week before I get the results.

Also yesterday, I had booked an appointment with a chiropractor. I’ve started to notice that my tendency to slouch has increased, especially when I’m tired, and therefore I wanted to get an expert’s opinion on my posture. The appointment with the chiropractor confirmed my suspicions. My spine is slightly out of line causing a one degree tilt in my knees and hips and a three degree tilt in my shoulders; thus my right side is ever so slightly elevated more than the left side. I’ve noticed some tension in my right shoulder, especially when I’m stressed. The test also shows that I have more pressure on my left foot than my right – most likely compensating for the slight raise on my right side. The real problem is my lateral alignment, which has a six degree tilt between my knees and hips (causing somewhat of a swayed back), and an eleven degree tilt between my shoulders and head (causing somewhat of a turtle neck). This explains why the pain in my occasional back ache shifts, depending on which is more stress – the bad angle between my knees and hips, or the bad angle between my shoulders and head. For perfect posture your knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and ears should all be in line when you stand comfortably with your feet shoulder width apart.

So over the next couple of weeks and months I’ll be working with the chiropractor for a series of treatments and exercises to fix the problem. Much of the problem, says the doctor, is from poor posture habits and sleeping on my left side too much. He ordered me to henceforth only sleep on my back, and if I do sleep for short bouts on my side, I should balance it out with turning on my other side for the same amount of time.

I’ve decided to tackle this problem even though it is going to make me much poorer. My medical aid does not cover chiropractic treatment. While these are not serious problems at present, they will probably develop into more serious ailments later in life if left untreated. So I consider the money spend on this treatment now as and investment. I prefer proactive treatment over reactive treatment. Nevertheless, as I said, I’m definitely going to feel it financially. One session will cost me around R500 and for the first couple of weeks I will be going for two or three treatments per week! I don’t even want to know what it all will add up to, but comfort myself with the fact that a back surgery twenty years from now will cost substantially more. Furthermore, now is a good time to do it. When I go back to South Africa I might not be as economically free as I am now, since I will probably have more expenses to concern myself with. At the moment my housing is supplied by my employer so it frees up more money than if I were to work in South Africa.

Besides, I’ll get a better posture, which always makes one look more self-secure and confident. And I'll acquire more healthy long term habits.

The tests also reveal a number of other interesting facts. My Body Mass Index is 22.0, which is healthy. My percentage of body fat has climbed a bit from the last time I checked (5 years ago) and stands now at 14.4%, which makes sense as I'm exercising far less. It used to be within the upper section of the “Athletes”-range (6-13%). Nonetheless, 14.4% is still within the healthy “Fitness”-range. My waist-hip ratio is 0.83 which is in the good to excellent range. My right arm is 0.2 cm, and my right leg is 0.1 cm bigger than their opposing partners respectively, but I guess that is to be expected since I’m right-handed.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Missed Placebo!


I cannot believe it! Placebo performed yesterday in Seoul and I didn’t know about it! Why did nobody tell me? I think I have to expand my circle of friends drastically. Not to mention that I did nothing special last night; plus, the tickets were actually affordable!

I can always quickly fly to Japan for the Summer Sonic Festival in two days. No wait, I can’t. I’m still waiting for my Visa to be renewed (the admin guy is taking his time), which means that I cannot leave the country since I don’t have my passport.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

In the News: Bill Clinton Leaves with Journalist Prisoners

A South Korean man watches a TV broadcasting news about two American journalists detained in North Korea at the Seoul Railway Station, in South Korea, Monday, June 8, 2009. North Korea's top court convicted the journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in a prison Monday, intensifying the reclusive nation's confrontation with the United States. The headline reads "North Korea convicted two American journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in a prison." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Truly something worth applauding. After going to North Korea a couple of days earlier, former US president, Bill Clinton, returns home with the two journalist that were captured by North Korea and charged with 12 years of hard labour. Apparently North Korean dictator-president Kim Jong-Il pardoned Laura Ling and Euna Lee. This came after an apology by Clinton for their "hostile acts," and probably a host of other negotiations we will never know about. Irrespective of the nitty-gritty, I'm happy for them. A North Korean hard labour prison is probably one of the worst places to be -- period.

I would really like to see a proper interview of these two and their experiences in the Hermit Kingdom.

Bring-'n-braai en 'n bokkige Suid-Afrikaanse besinning


'n Vriendin (nie die een van die vorige skrywe nie) stuur sopas vir my hierdie foto met die e-posonderwerp: "Sipho is on his way to a bring-en-braai."

Daar is soveel gelaaide elemente aan hierdie e-pos wat tans draaie onder die Suid-Afrikaanse Internetgemeenskap maak. Eerstens al daai Sipho-grappies. Dan is daar die kulturele diskontinuïteit tussen Sipho se Sotho-kultuur (waarin die kuiergaste nooit hulle eie kos bring nie) en die Afrikaner-kultuur wat gerieflikheidsonthalwe nooit (of ten minste nie deesdae) "lewendige" kos vervoer nie -- ons verkies dit geslag en verpak voordat ons dit huistoe, of braai toe, neem.

Maar kom ons vergeet vir 'n oomblik van die tragiese toekoms wat die bokkie by sy eindbestemming gaan ontmoet. Kom ons staan net bietjie terug -- as buitestaanders (selfs buitelanders) wat onbewus is van die sondebok se lot.

Kyk nou mooi na die foto. 'n Jong mannetjie op 'n fiets. Op sy rug abba hy 'n bokkie. Die bokkie loer oor die skouer van sy drywer nuuskurig oor die pad vorentoe, met groot ore (en kleinhorinkies) kierts in die wind. Sekerlik vir die bokkie moet dit die ervaring van 'n lewe wees! Dis nie elke bok wat 'n fietsrit kry nie!

Om te dink

'n Vriendin stuur onlangs vir my die volgende briefie, en met toestemming plaas ek dit hier:

hey sanko, ek sien dit ook al meer om my- dat mense nie meer dink nie. dit is scary, want dan glo hulle enige gemors wat in "hoe geestelike" boeke staan en toets dit nie aan die bybel nie. Of hulle toets dit aan die een enkele vers in die bybel. mense kies nie meer om voor die tv te gaan sit nie, dit is uotomaties- deel van elke dag. hulle dink nie aan "you become changed by what you behold" nie en prop die grootste klomp gemors in hulle koppe sonder om te dink aan die invloed wat dit op hulle het.maar aan die ander kant gee hulle nie regtig om oor die gevolge nie.
mense geniet dit nie meer om te dink en te redeneer en self dinge uit te figure nie. hulle doen nie meer dinge saam nie en gesels nie meer nie, want as mens nie dink nie, wat is daar tog om oor te praat. die lekkerste ding vir my is om diep-denkers se breins te pick.
dankie dat jy dink
fran

Nou ja. Ek kan dit nie beter gesê het nie.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

In the News: Bill Clinton in North Korea

Image from Associated Press.

Bill Clinton visits North Korea. I think he is likely to address nuclear disarmament (which have always been a priority for him), as well as negotiate the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee (I mentioned them before here), who worked for Al Gore's Current TV when they were captured by North Korean soldiers while on the border of China and North Korea. While Clinton was president, Al Gore was his vice-president.

See the latest news on "Bill Clinton North Korea" from Google News Search here.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Too Much To Read


At any one time, I can have over 50 tabs open in my web browser(s). At this very moment I have four web browsers open, each with numerous open tabs. In fact, there are over fifty tabs open ranging from email accounts, to news sites, to blogs, to search engines, to columns, to academic pages, to Wikipedia lemmas, to the weather, to articles and essays, and so this list continues.

Unlike the obvious tabs such as my email accounts or the weather page that I regularly visit, there are many tabs that I hardly look at. They are mostly web pages that I fully intend to read someday, but just do not have the time or motivation to do so at this very moment. The sad thing about this is that a number of these tabs have been open in my browser for months!

What’s the solution? Honestly, I do not know. I really intend to read them eventually; however, they are seriously cluttering up my browser’s capacity and causes it to crash every once in a while. (Luckily Firefox backups it open tabs so I don't lose them by accident.) Futhermore, these many open web pages uses up unnecessary RAM.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to make a reading list of web pages I intend to peruse sometime in the future on the side of this blog. I'll call it something like "Web Pages I Still Intend to Read". Then I can add links to these pages so I can easily find them, but more importantly, it will hopefully act as some kind of goal list and hopefully I can delete them as I slowly progress through them.

Wish me luck.

This Living Hand


This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed -- see here it is --
I hold it towards you.
A lyrical poem by John Keats -- one of my favourite poems.

Three Videos on Korea

These three YouTube-videos have been doing the rounds on some of the expat-blogs recently. What makes them so popular is that they actually reflect that typical avalanche of first sensations one gets when coming to Korea for the first time. There are the strange juxtaposition of ancient and modern, of cityscapes and nature, of cute-culture and busy business men rushing to work, of the underground transportation system and the buzzing markets on top, of the bright lights and dark alleys. Also, even though these videos are based on amateur footage, the editing is actually very well done, put to funky music that engages the viewer in an almost surrealist trance – exactly a foreigner’s first exposure to Korea. So to get a feel of Korea (and a little bit of Tokyo thrown in for good measure), sit back and enjoy.

(Warning: The second video contains graphic images of fish being killed at fish markets and fresh fish restaurants and other butchery images. If you are squeamish, I seriously advice you to skip the second video; or just skip over 3:25-5:50.)