Thursday, November 25, 2010

Family war

Yeonpyeong Island in flames - photo from Yonhap News

I've written and rewritten this post about a dozen times.

On November 23rd, the North lost its mind and a small island inhabited by fishermen and their families soon found itself in total chaos, with both military and civilian casualties. The whole country was in complete shock and bewilderment. Even my loquacious self was at a loss for words; exclamations full of foul expletives was all that I could manage.

Technically, the Korean War never ended. There has always been tension on the Korean peninsula, military skirmishes now and then. We in the South learned to live with it, tolerate, persevere, deal with the problems as they came. Why? Because we're not talking about a neighboring country. This is a country divided, a family torn apart, with some wounds so deep they'll never heal - but that doesn't change the fact that we're family. You don't give up on family.

But this time it's a bit different. Crazy brother has gone over the frickin' line. You give and you give and the selfish bastard just throws a temper tantrum of epic proportion, not caring who gets hurt in the process. So what do you do?

As a mere citizen, there's nothing substantial that you can do, unfortunately. You wait for the decisions made by the "big people", who might not necessarily be whom you voted for, whose decisions might not be to your liking. There's a Korean word for this: 'dahp dahp' (답답), i.e. 'stifling', where you feel helpless and frustrated and trapped at the same time. I am lost in a field of dahp dahp right now,

For those who lost their lives, R.I.P.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The whole country (or to be more specific, Seoul) has been in an uproar for the G20 summit for the past few weeks. Security levels were hiked up (although nothing compared to the '80s), various campaigns were launched for public awareness (some were ridiculously patronizing), and all that you heard on the news was G20, G20, G20.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to take in the various G20 related sights and events - including seeing Gyeongbok Palace which is open at night for the first time in its 615 year history - because I am absolutely swamped with work.

However, in an effort to maintain my sanity, I am taking a mini-break from work to very belatedly participate in the "25 facts about me" meme. In the spirit of the G20, I have changed it to the Me20.

Here goes:

1. Got a new tablet (Wacom Bamboo) and am trying to get used to it. Nothing is going to replace graphite on paper but I have to adapt to the digital world, don't I?

2. I suffer from chronic low blood pressure, bloodshot eyes and dark circles, bouts of insomnia, hard to manage hair, and unreasonably high expectation of others.

3. The last time I've been to the States was over 20 years ago. I've been to Canada in the mid-90s but that's the last time I've visited the American continent. Whether work or leisure, it has always been either Europe or Asia on my itinerary. I want to visit the Napa Valley and the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, although I'm hoping that the latter will show up in an Asian city someday.

4. My favorite color is true red but I don't look very good in it. I wear a lot of boring colors (grey, black, brown, beige, khaki) with a variety of blue jeans and black trousers.

5. I personally like having short short hair but EVERYONE prefers my having longer hair. Seems that it makes me look less "scary" (which I'm quite sure is an euphemism for "bitchy"). It's in the messy middle stage now.

6. Was a yuppie in the fashion industry for over 10 years before I quit to be this freelance writer/editor/translator/designer/planner/consultant. Never regretted it. I still adore fashion; it's the business part that was dreary. I get satisfaction everytime a headhunter calls me up - if they're still asking for me after all these years, it means I did an adequate job.

7. I will not discuss politics nor religion online.

8. People always expect me to smoke but I don't. I get horrendous headaches from second-hand smoke so I can stand up to a couple of hours with smokers but that's it.

9. Socks are my best friend. My feet are always cold. I even wear socks to bed; big, fluffy, warm, sleeping socks.

10. I keep mentioning things about Seoul and Korea on Twitter and other online platforms because I constantly had to explain to people where Korea was when traveling and it's become a habit. It was a shock to discover how little was known about this country of mine. I honestly think Korea is one of the countries that benefited most from the internet and the internet generation. At least, I don't get "So you guys speak Chinese?" as often anymore.

11. Besides taxes and bills, most of my money goes to eating out, wine, coffee, and books. My doll spending has curbed down considerably, which is good for my wallet!

12. I'm the bestest babysitter. Kids adore me. I adore kids. However, I have no intention of having any. The world has too many children already and it doesn't need another with a totally neurotic mother.

13. My Amortentia would smell like vanilla, freshly baked baguettes, Korean pine trees in the rain, bergamot, and dark black coffee.

14. Music used to be a huge part of my life, when I wasn't certain of who I was and what I wanted to be. I needed reassurance and comfort; music did it for me. Now, I don't "listen to" as much as I "hear" music. Weakening of my eardrums as I got older and my being unable to listen to music in transit (following advice from the doctor) may have affected this change.

15. If I could be a fictional character, I would choose Edna Mode from the Invincibles. "Dahling, it's just so fabulous to be me, dahling!"

16. Famous people I'd like to meet, greet, wine and dine: J.K. Rowling, Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie, Chung Myung-Whun, Murakami Haruki, Tim Gunn, Joaquin Phoenix, Anthony Bourdain, and Tablo. I'm too lazy to state reasons.

17. I like "teddy bear" guys because I'm so damn skinny. You gotta have some cushion when you hug someone.

18. My group of friends runs the gamut from debutantes to indie artists so consequently none of them mingle together. My best friend Rumi, who has heard of everyone in my circle, once speculated that if all my friends were put in one room together there would be numerous groups of people speckled here and there all staring at one another in awkward silence. Pretty accurate, if you ask me.

19. I'm thankful for my parents and siblings, despite our hangups and all. It means we're normal. Sorta.

20. "Swamped" is currently the most overused word in my vocabulary. For obvious reasons.

Back to work.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rainy day bus ride

from Banpo to Nonhyeon's "furniture street"

I use public transportation a lot. I usually read on the metro; something I can't do on the bus because I get carsick. I either doze off, stare aimlessly out the window, or make unedited "as is" video clips.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November melancholy

There's a November Legend in the Korean entertainment industry - it's an extremely unlucky month. Many scandals, accidents and deaths occurred during November for the past several decades.

Talented singers Yoo Jae Ha and Kim Hyeon Sik both died on the first day of November; Yoo in 1987 from a car accident, Kim in 1990 from health problems. Before the Korean music scene became peppered with well-trained autotuned-to-the-max prancing and dancing K-pop idols, there was an abundance of "real" singers. Both Yoo and Kim were the cream of the crop, and their early deaths were quite the shock to fans. (Yoo was 25, Kim was 32.)

Their music is like poetry with melodies, tinged with sadness and melancholy.

Yoo Jae Ha - Because I Love

Kim Hyeon Sik - My love near me

And so November starts.