For more on Korean markets, scroll down
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
As her career progressed, she moved on to acting and blinking
I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence unfolds in full 1950s-style Technicolor kitsch , complete with Sedaris, known best for writing and staring in the TV show and film Strangers With Candy, art-directing herself through umpteen costume changes in her own apartment.
"A Glimpse of History in the Marketplace"
Market culture in Korea fascinates me; it's something you can only catch the vestiges of in downtown Seoul, which has been caught up in a frenzy of modernization and self-improvement for several decades now. (I suppose the exceptions are Dongdaemun and, in particular, Namdaemun markets. But they're geared to clothing and electronics, and don't quite catch the flavour of the more traditional markets emphasizing food.)
The demise of the traditional markets is explained as an inevitable off-shoot of progress. And I suppose no-one can argue with the inevitability side of it. But something else is lost, too. I don't want to sentimentalize the markets: with their ramshackle design, their lack of heat, their constant emphasis on discount prices that cut into the profit margins of the people in the stalls, they represent a harsher way of life. But they also represent an autonomy that you don't find in the perfectly cleansed lucite halls of the spanking new department stores.
A Glimpse of History in the Marketplace
She's smiling. They often do here. This part of town is called Nambu Shi-jang (Nambu Market), and though it isn't the only traditional market in Jeonju, it's the largest. It's run in large measure by middle-aged women called ajumas. (Ajuma means aunt. It, along with ajushi — uncle — is an almost universal term in Korea, and can be used to address a multitude of people, from shop owners to bus drivers to strangers.)
The traditional markets all possess the same basic elements: a large indoor shopping area specializing in textiles and cooking utensils and rice desserts and butchers' shops. Outside, an even larger area selling food comprises small booths or sometimes simply individual sellers — the latter crouched close to the ground next to goods which they have spread out in front of them on blankets and plastic sheets.
Friday, October 20, 2006
"Bombing Perfect Strangers"
[The following are the opening paragraphs to "Bombing Perfect Strangers", a piece that I wrote which appeared in the online magazine rabble roughly three-and-half years ago. At the time I wrote it, the invasion of Iraq remained only a possibility -- and the stand-off with North Korea was much more temperate. But as in life so in history; what goes around comes around, and the piece, I think, has become timely again. I've made a few minor changes to it to clean it up a bit, but this is pretty much as it originally appeared.]
“We don’t want to talk about North Korea,” my students say. “We want to talk about music or movies.”
I’m an ESL instructor at a university in a small city in South Korea. And I’m frequently made painfully aware that most young people today are uninterested in politics. Pop culture is their real passion, and the currency of pop culture is physical attractiveness. When I go to the maze of bars, restaurants and shops that is at the south end of the university campus and pass the bulb-lit merchant wagons that sell pirated cassettes, the music is usually by singers chosen as much for their looks as their talent.
This is so much the way of the world that it feels tendentious to point it out. But, I must; pop culture is like a drug. As the clouds of war gather in the Middle East, not many people in Korea seem especially perturbed. Most are simply happily living their lives. But, underneath, there is pervasive unease in this country over the possibility that unless the regime in North Korea falls of its own volition, there will, at some point, be war in this region of the world as well.
This explains in large measure the antagonism that Koreans often feel toward the U.S. government and “George Bushi.” The relationship between Americans and South Koreans is enormously complex. America — in fact, North America generally — is seen as a kind of utopia. And Americans as individuals are both liked and cherished; Americaphilia runs as strongly here as Americaphobia. But there is a distinction made between the American government and American people. For the most part, current U.S. policy is seen as actually being opposed to the interests of peace. After all, the current U.S. administration has staked its prestige on fighting an “axis of evil,” and needs an enemy in North Korea. This, then, is the theory proffered for why the administration has taken steps to squelch the Sunshine Policy of North/South reconciliation.
to read the rest, click here.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Claude Chounlasane on the concept of the "scénaroman" (a French neologism for screenplay novel):
"My goal is that readers not so much read a novel as regard a film -- except that this film here is made of words, not images that move. This is the philosophy of the scenaroman: one does not read a book, rather one "reads" a movie."
Claude's blog is entitled Scenaroman, and the work his is posting is called "Un Gars Trop Chanceux" ("A Very Lucky Guy"). You can read his work here.
(Note: it is in French).