Thursday, 27 September 2012

To a passing creep

This week we have been discussing the work of Walt Whitman in my 19th & 20th Century American Poetry class. We looked at three poems: "I Sing the Body Electric" (my favourite), "I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing" and "To a Stranger". It was while discussing "To a Stranger" today that it suddenly reminded me of a music video I saw long ago of Radiohead's song "Creep". The video illustrated the theme of fleeting encounters and lost connections. I asked the students if they believe in love at first sight. They responded inconclusively. I don't. Not love. Lust at first sight, yes, or infatuation at first sight. As I explained to a friend recently, I fall in love all the time, but I seldom lose my heart.

Whitman's poem is below and below that the video.

To a Stranger

Passing stranger! you do not know
How longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking,
Or she I was seeking
It comes to me as a dream)

I have somewhere surely
Lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other,
Fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,

You grew up with me,
Were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become
not yours only nor left my body mine only,

You give me the pleasure of your eyes,
face, flesh as we pass,
You take of my beard, breast, hands,
in return,

I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you
when I sit alone or wake at night, alone
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

I translated this poem into Afrikaans a while ago.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ek hou van die kat

Image Source

In 'n e-pos skryf ek vir 'n skoolvriend die volgende:

"Ek is in 'n eksperimentele langafstandsverhouding. Ek kyk nog die kat uit die boom uit. Ek hou van die kat; dis die boom wat die probleem is."

Outokorregeer gee my die horries

Microsoft Office se outokorregeer-funksie gee my die horries! Ek het nou amper die sleutelbord 'n vuishou gegee uit frustrasie.

Die probleem is as volg: Ek gebruik vier tale op my kantoorrekenaar: Amerikaanse Engels, Britse Engles, Koreaans en soms Afrikaans. Nou goed, ek het die "Detect language automatically"-opsie afgesit want wanneer jy met soveel tale begin werk en daardie opsie is aan dan spring die woordverwerker sommer lukraak van een taal na die ander. Maar dit is juis omdat ek hierdie opsie afgesit het dat ek so gefrustreerd raak wanneer ek een oomblik nog Afrikaans tik en die rekenaar skielik besluit dat dit Koreaans is en 'n eenvoudige woord soos "ek" skielik "다" word! En omdat die rekenaar dan nie self terug skakel na die oorspronklik taalinstelling nie, kan ek 'n hele sin of twee in Koreaans tik terwyl ek nog dink ek tik in Afrikaans. Dis veral 'n irritasie omdat ek baie goed kan tik en nie na die skerm hoef te kyk nie, so ek besef nie altyd onmiddelik dat daar het skielik iets fout gegaan nie. Maar selfs al sou ek die heeltyd na die skerm kyk, bly dit 'n hindernis wanneer die insleuteltaal skielik vanaf Romeinse letters na Koreaanse letters verander en ek dit dan doelbewus moet terug verander elke keer. Die oplossing is om die outokorregeringsfunksies heeltemal af te sit, maar hoekom sal ek dit wil doen?--woordverwerkers se waarde lê tog juis daarin om jou spelfoute uit te wys en tyd te spaar!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mmm . . .

"The trouble with people, nine out of ten of them, is that they stand on insulators and watch the play of the lightning through drawn shutters, and never stand out and let the electric storm play in their own bosoms." --  Charles Henry Parkhurst

Concerts: Past and Future

Pierre Rigal (Image Source)
I recently went to see two performances.

French choreographer Pierre Rigal (official website) presented a dance performer with Korean dancers called "Theatre of Operations" at the LG Arts Center. The performance was set in a post-apocalyptic landscape and contextualised as some type of scientific observation of a civilization going through different phases of development, oscillating from beast to man, from innocence to violence, from community to individuality, from intimacy to apathy -- often in disturbingly short moments. True to Rigal's style, the performance was surrealistic and emotional. Many of the scenes will stay with me for a long time.

Hwang Sehee (Image Source)
I also went to the Kumho Art Hall, a community theatre that supports young artists introduced to me by a friend, to see a harp recital. The recital was by young Hwang Sehee. When I told my students about it they were very impressed. Apparently there are only three professional harpists in Korea, making it exceedingly rare to enjoy a harp recital. I assume that Hwang Sehee must be an apprentice of one of these three classical musicians. My students also said that the western harp is such a rare exotic instrument in Korea that people that a students who actually owns one can more easily get into one of the Ivy League schools (or SKY-universities, as the are known here: Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University). Hwang Sehee performed eight pieces in total, showing a great dexterity in different genres. My favourite piece was Ami Maayani's Maqamat. (Listen to another harpist performing it here.) Her rendition of Henriette Renie's Dance of the Goblins was also particularly nice.

In the following months I'm looking forward to a number of productions coming to Korea.

The one I cannot wait for is Aurélia Thierrée's production Murmures des murs that will be performed in Korea in middle October. Aurélia Thierrée's production

Aurélia Thierrée is following in the footsteps of her mother Victoria Thierrée Chaplin's footsteps to create fantasic theatrical illusions that transport the audience into a magical world. 

Also on my radar is acclaimed theatre director Jung-Ung Yang. His award winning (2009) adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt will be showing in October as well. 

Yang is known for his ability to create imaginary spaces: "One simple space turns into a village, forest, beach and other imaginary places, which create a dynamic theatrical experience."

Another dance performance also at the LG Arts Center will be the Korean Doo Dance Theater's "Forethought-Promerheus'Fire", in November. I really love the aesthetics of bodies in motion and I'm eager to see this one.

I might also be helping out with the choreography for a production later this year. A Korean friend of mine is a director and she is putting on Macbeth again and asked my input for the fighting choreography. It will depend on our schedules though.

There is always great art and theatre to experience in Seoul, but in the Fall season it is especially wonderful. I love this time of the year!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

National Museum of Korea

During the last month or so I went the National Museum of Korea four times.

Image Source: Korea Herald
The first was to see an exhibit of artifacts from Turkey that were owned by the sultans of the Ottoman empire. The heavily Islam influenced artworks were truly exquisite and included some of the sultans’ ceremonial weapons (swords and rifles) inlaid with mother-of-pearl and other jewels, golden diadems and other jewelry, paintings, calligraphy, garments and chests for keeping the Korean in. While I have little interest in visiting the Middle East (I prefer mild or tropical climates over dry, arid climates), I would definitely like to visit Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, because it has such a rich cultural history. As the hub for the historic Silk Road, Istanbul became a grand mixing pot for cultures and between the Orient, Europe and Africa.

My second visit to the National Museum of Korea was to attend a free jazz performance—saxophone with piano accompaniment. It was held in the museum’s amphitheater, and while the music was good, the seating was rather uncomfortable. I didn’t stay through the whole performance and instead went to my favourite pizza restaurant with a friend.

My third and fourth visits to the National Museum of Korea were as part of guided tours for the Royal Asiatic Society of Korea, of which I am a member.

The first tour looked at a special exhibition of Korean artifacts from American museums. During the Japanese occupation of Korea and the Korean War many priceless Korean artifacts were looted from the peninsula or bought at very cheap prices from poor and desperate people. A number of these artifacts ended up in different museums, particularly in Japan and America. For this special exhibition some of the more interesting artworks held by American museums loan the pieces to Korea. Included in the exhibit were beautiful ceramics showing old a Korea’s superior ceramic techniques and jewelry boxes exquisitely inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

Large Pensive Buddha
One of two large pensive Buddhas
owned by the National Museum of Korea.

The second guided tour I attended was last night—the tour looked at the Buddhist sculptures on display at the National Museum. The Buddha statues are on the third floor towards the back of the museum so usually when people visit the museum they are so tired of browsing through the cavernous exhibition halls that they hardly have the energy to go to the third floor and often miss out on these beautiful sculptures. On display at the museum is a rather large Pensive Buddha—which is one of the less common poses for depictions of the Buddha. Pensive Buddha sculptures are generally quite small, and meant to be carried easily while travelling. The one on display at the National Museum is definitely not meant for travel. It is, I guess, around a meter tall. It is also intriguing as the back of the sculpture which is usually not well crafted is full of detail, suggesting that this sculpture was meant to be viewed from all sides, not just the front. The Pensive Buddha is my favourite portrayal of the Buddha. The Pensive Buddha shows the Buddha with his right leg crossed over his left knee, and while resting his right elbow on his right leg he touches his chin or cheek with his right hand, clearly in deep contemplation. It is somewhat reminiscent of Rodin’s The Thinker. The portrayal is usually of the Buddha before enlightenment, while he is still considering the big questions of life and death. The other Buddha postures found in Buddhist art are the Seated Buddha in a meditative posture, the Standing Buddha and the Reclining Buddha. The Seated Buddha and Standing Buddha are the most common depictions of the Buddha with the Reclining Buddha and Pensive Buddha less common. The Pensive Buddha is only found in the Far East (China, Korea and Japan). While the Reclining Buddha is found all over Asia, it is more common in South East Asia and very uncommon in Korean—I have heard that there is one big Reclining Buddha in Gwangju, but am yet to see it. The National Museum of Korea has two large Pensive Buddhas but only display one of these per year. They are alternated on Buddha’s birthday every year. The one currently on display is the more decorative of the two and has a diadem with decoration reminiscent of Persian symbolism, making it a particularly valuable piece as it validates the great religio-cultural exchange all over the Orient.

I will be returning to the National Museum of Korea again next month to join a tour on some of the artifacts on display outside in the museum’s garden, like some of the pagodas, for which Korea is particularly known.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Biotherm's Live Like a Man Campaign

Because I do not have a television, the amount of commercials I'm bombarded with is less than the average person that has a television and gets his or her daily doze of advertisements. My exposure to TV commercials are limited to the ones I see when I go watch a film at the cinemas and the ones on YouTube that popup every so often, but which I either mute or skip. Because I'm so seldom exposed to commercials I think I have a better sense of which ads work on me -- which ads actually strike a chord in my psyche and really makes me interested in the product.

It is seldom that I feel an advertisement work on me. But every so often there is one. Biotherm's male product range, Biotherm Homme, just launched their new "Live Like a Man"-campaign. In my books it is a winner. I currently have some products that I use on occasion from another cosmetic production line, but I may just experiment with Biotherm Homme products once my current products run out.

Here is the commercial that made me want to switch brands:

Friday, 7 September 2012

I Want This Rick Owens Jacket

This is a jacket designed by fashion icon Rick Owens. And I want it! I'm not a fashion slave and will definitely not spend the exuberant price such a brand name item sells for -- I'm much too practical minded for that, but I cannot help craving for it. The jacket speaks to me. It resonates with my self-image. I love the colour(s). The design appeals to my sense of aesthetics. It is bold in its warpedness. It is not merely a piece of clothing. It is a construction and I want to don it. 

See what Owens has in mind for Men's Fashion in 2013.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Self-Portrait: Knife

Where Is My Mind?

"Where Is my Mind?" by the Pixies is one of those cult songs that somehow captures an archetypal feeling and the spirit of a whole generation. Think of other such songs like Nirvana's "It Smells Like Teen Spirit". Recently I have been in the mood for "Where Is my Mind?" again. Maybe it is a question I have been asking myself, as my mind has not been here. I find my mind wondering a lot, I find my mind wafting to exotic locations, to Laos, or Hong Kong, or Egypt. Especially Egypt. In any case, here is an acoustic rendition of "Where Is my Mind?" by the Pixies.

The version of the song that I'm currently listening to a lot is the one that is on the Sucker Punch (2011) soundtrack, featuring Yoav and Emily Browning.

Of course, the cover by Placebo is also one I particularly enjoy.

I wasn't familiar with Chinese-British singer Emmy-Lee Moss, aka Emmy the Great, until I searched for videos of the song. She does an interesting fast tempo version.

Another English artist I didn't know of before is Jade Williams, aka Sunday Girl. Her cover of "Where Is my Mind?", accompanied by piano and violin, is exquisitely beautiful..

If I had to choose a female vocal cover, I think I will opt for Storm Large's version. As a long time rock singer that has turned cabaret artist, she has a wonderful way of adding layers of emotion to her voice.

The Portuguese artist David Santos does something magical with his music project (go experience the evocative sounds at his Noiserv-project website). There is something enchanting about his cover of the Pixies' song.

A version that I thought a fun interpretation is by the indie-folk-bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles.

There are some beautiful instrumental pieces to be heard online too. A favourite is Maxene Cyrin's heart wrenchingly beautiful piano rendition.