Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Get ready for the the GREATEST sporting event, son!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A tale of two countries

Reading through the NYTimes, I feel that once again, like a teenager fumbling around with his first girlfriend on Lookout Point, they hit on something, yet manage to not totally take it there.

Stumbling across "In Deep South, North Koreans Find a Hot Market", I finally see a story that takes an interesting look at how the South now views. For people who don't get it, why the North being popular is radical, is because for a long long loooong time the North was the bogeyman above the 38th parallel. And this was up until very very recently.

It was merely in my childhood (and I'm not that old, we're talking late 80s to early 90s here) where we were still being fed in McCarthy-era like teachings of "For emergencies, dial 119, to report spies dial 112." At least I think it was 112. There were still posters in subways warning people to be on the look out. Around '96 or '97 was the infamous "NK Spy Sub" incident where a North Korean submarine was discovered and after a frantic search for the spies, the vigilance of the search proved to be too much and the bodies of the spies who committed suicide than rather be captured were discovered. It was also in the 90s where there was the knifing incident where a prominent NK defector who had been living in the South in secrecy (considering his former government position in the North) was killed just outside the door of his own apartment. It's still unsolved to this day if I remember correctly.

At the same time, there's the whole conflict of the fact that there's still the feeling in the South that the North Koreans are their people. While as the older generation dies out it's harder to grasp this since for people up until my mom's generation we're talking about people like brothers/sisters, uncles/aunts, and parents who got separated when the parallel border got thrown up, there's still the ephemeral connection that those are "our folks" up there.

And yes, while as the articles states on one side we had to keep our eyes peeled for spies from the North's government, we were still taught the elementary school song of "Our Wish is Reunification." Especially with more anti-American feelings springing up with the youth, the separation of North and South is mostly to blame on the imperialistic containment game played by the US and the USSR (but it's still mostly the US' fault since there's not Soviet Union anymore). Just today I saw someone on the A-train downtown with a shirt saying "Corea is One" with a stylized map of North and South Korea made up by the word "Reunification."

But back to the article. One thing that annoys me is that this article makes it seem like a very very recent phenomenon when in fact it has been brewing for a while. The article mentions the song "Whistle" in the beginning, but the only reason this song is being sung is because it was a huge hit around 2-3 years ago.

The article is very right in pointing out that the attraction to North Korea has a lot to do with the fact that North Korea is like the South Korean retro. If anything, it's comparable the Germany's nostalgia about the Trabant or the Ampelmännchen.

For years, late at night there have been "Window on the North" type of shows where they show clips from North Korean news programs. There was great interest in the animation work from the North which included use of old school techniques, but where highly sophisticated. Especially with stop-motion animation. Think like the stylings of "Davey and Goliath" or "Jack Frost" but better.

North Korean dialect was also the rage. The difference not just from regional dialect, but also because in place of using words borrowed from other cultures, the hyper-nationalist North cultural policy had to rely on very literal translation of phrases. So this meant even words that have Chinese roots (because Korean written language until King Sejong invented Hangul was in Chinese...even now Chinese is used...it's hard to explain, but if I had to draw a comparison, the usage of Chinese is like how you use Latin I suppose, but that's probably for another post). I can't remember if this is apocryphal or not, but hamburgers are actually called "meat between bread."

And everyone knows the only authentically good cold noodles are Pyongyang cold noodles.

When a delegation of female supporters/cheerleaders came with the North Korean delegation for the Asian Games, they became instant celebrities for how beautiful they were. Hell, one North Korean dancer actually got to star in a commercial with South Korea's Britney Spears Lee Hyo-ri. It just went to prove the age-old Korean saying that the best specimens were "Nam nam, book nyuh" (South Man, North Woman)

There's been cultural exchanges going on for quite some time too, with South Korea sending some of their performers to give performance in the North. So why does this article make it sound like all of this is happening at once? I must say, I do give credit to this article once again, for bringing up a fascinating cultural aspect in modern North-South relationships. I think it helps give a glimpse, but that's the problem it's just a glimpse.

I don't expect a drawn-out history lessons on the countries' relations, but it's the little touches like explaining maybe why the performer is specifically singing "Whistle," or even why there is that emphasis on beautiful North Korean waitresses. Especially how the author just says "yea up until the 90s people thought the North was evil" hardly cuts it and really there's not *that* much of an explanation of how attitudes shifted. While yes, there is that retro lovey feel, there's definitely more than that underlying as to why it the shift happened in attitudes happened, or why it was that easy to happen for that matter.

I mean, they mention Park Chan-wook's "JSA" for crying out loud...so then explain why did "JSA" resonate so much as showing the human face of the North? Because no matter how much you're taught the evils of the commies and reds up north, these people were in fact your relatives and neighbors, and you can't help but find it heartbreaking that maybe the really could have been in an alternate life. I mean, that was the point of the movie. It heart wrenchingly portrayed people of how things politics got in the way of human relations.

While "Swiri" was a blockbuster action flick about North Korean operatives, people still remember the impassioned speech given my Choi Min-sik's character about how hard life was in the North, the horrors he had witnessed while the South lived in luxury, giving people a tangible human rage to what was just the monolithic North (Trivia for you non-Koreans out there: Yes, the Park Chan-wook who directed "JSA" is the same guy who directed "Old Boy." And yes, the Choi Min-sik I'm talking about from "Swiri" is the same Choi Min-sik who played Oh Dae-su in "Old Boy," and Kim Yoo-jin who played another North Korean operative in "Swiri" is probably more familiar to you as Sun from "Lost".)

I don't know, I guess I just expected a little bit more. I feel like a lot of "Oh cool, notice this" was thrown out without really explaining why it was cool.

My mom, the hipster

First off, when I saw the picture accompanying this recent Look Book, my first reaction was "MOM??!"

No seriously, for those of you who do not know my mom (and to those of you who do, she is a legend), she can dress pretty...interesting. Well, looking at her again this woman looks nothing like my mom, but taking account her build (slightly too big head on small body...sorry mom), bigass sunglasses, bright red lipstick, and crazy "your art teacher in high school who you totally knew smoked pot after school" get up had me doing a double take.

How crazy can my mom dress? You seriously don't know. We're talking about a woman who wore a form-fitting white sequined dress to an elementary school reunion, loves animal print, and owns a blood-red SAGA fox fur vest. Even crazier is almost all her clothes are second-hand (the fur vest was from a rich friend)and she seriously looks good in all the random bits of clothes she owns (I have no idea where she got the dress/tshirt printed with black-and-white Italian mod guys on Vespas with random newsprint on the background). She seriously dresses ironic without trying to be.

If she was on "America's Next Top Model," Miss J would say she was "FIERCE!" My mom.......Seoul's Williamsburg hipster...oh God, I just ralphed a little because that image made me think what if my mom did live in Williamsburg and was getting her pictures taken to be put up on place like MisShapes and Last Night's Party...oh God...

Somehow I think the total embarassment my brother and I went through whenever my mom showed for parent-teacher conferences and just going out in public in general has influenced my own dressing. For one thing, I grew up a HUGE tomboy, but I also have an intense aversion to bright colors that I'm just getting over (my mom used to try and pick out American Apparel-esque hues of polo shorts and short shorts for me...thank God I finally got old enough so that my mom would not dress me. My nightmare would be if I was perpetually stuck at 7 and my mom was still dressing me like those old photos of 80s bat mitzvahs). I still dress art teacher, unfortunately that was inherited, but I'm more the art teacher/student who kind of dresses like a hobo (I guess that's boho nowadays).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New webcomic from Kang Do-ha

To make up for the previous spewing of a post here's something that makes a bit more sense.

Anyhow, I'm glad to see that Kang Do-ha is back with a new webcomic. Following the interesting writing and artwork of "The Great Catsby" (also discussed previously here) and the insanely surrealist and Saint-Exupery-esque "Pinwheel Boy's Dream," comes "Romance Killer."

(above image from Kang Do-ha's "Romance Killer")

According to the title image above from the preview episode, "Romance Killer" is actually the second volume in his three part "Drama of Youth" series. "The Great Catsby" was the first, and the final, third installation is called "Kubrick."

(above image from Kang Do-ha's "Romance Killer")

I always loved Kang Do-ha's drawing style. He definitely has an eye for setting up a scene, and using imagery. Also it's great to see him finally draw people for once and not anthropomorphized animals...pinwheels...elephant princesses...

For example, the above scene from the second episode just gets better the more you look at it. And the writing...the line from that above scene is great: "Once the cleaning is done, I can hear the hard panting of the Baretta. I resented the fact that the trigger that needed to be pulled had its mind elsewhere."

While "Romance Killer" seems to follow a more straight-up storytelling than previous offerings, it's still good to see that Kang Do-ha isn't totally dropping the interesting references, tie-ins and surreal philosophizing.

For one thing, we open up this entire series talking about the flower meaning of asphodel. According to Kang, the meaning of the asphodel is "I am yours." Interestingly enough the only flower meaning I can find attached to asphodels is "regret" or "unending regret." Even more interesting is it's a flower sacred to Persephone. I don't know if Kang knew of this, but considering the fact that his main character in this work seems to be a contract killer, that's another aspect to contemplate.

(above image from Kang Do-ha's "Romance Killer")

And in the fourth episode, in discussing the plastic surgeries the wife has taken, he not only draws out an interesting imagery of what the wife has done to her face but also he manages to bring in Elizabeth Taylor into the discussion.

So I'm going to look forward to how this turns out. I honestly was a bit disappointed by Pinwheel Boy after the story of Catsby since I felt the former relied a bit too much on imagery and metaphor. But even more so, I'm definitely looking forward to what "Kubrick" is going to be about.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Responding to viewer mail

I remember promising to respond to a comment for this post a while back, so here goes.

Anonymous reader, you are definitely correct. This movie is nothing like "Brokeback Mountain," hence the question mark in the title, the point of the post was to question the credit the NY Times seemed to be hinting for this movie breaking down barriers in Korean society.

I have yet to have seen the film since it's been released back in Korea, so I felt uncomfortable about the movie's actual story/content. Nonetheless, I still wanted to talk about what I've experienced as far as how Korean society seems to respond to alternative sexualities. While now will always be an improvement from the past, I can't help but be cynical because I feel like alternative lifestyles are being used more as a curiosity and marketing draw.

But the anonymous reader brings up a good point about same sex relationships in Asian culture that I barely glanced on. The reason I mentioned that I wanted people to look more into what the actual former clown said about relationships is because in Korean society very deep same sex relationships (that are not sexual) is common.

I think this mostly comes from the almost familial relationships that come from a more Confucian background. People older than you are called Older Brother and Older Sister, or they are your Elder and you are the Junior. Your parents' friends are automatically Uncle and Auntie. And when you talk to an elderly man or woman you don't know, they are Grandmother and Grandfather. Depending on how close and what kind of age difference, titles differ, but there's always something familiar even in impersonal titles. Not just a cold Mister or Miss, but the same words you use for family members. People who are older automatically feel like they must teach and steer those younger than them, while those younger have someone they can look up to and respect. One of the culture shocks I encountered when I first came here was the fact that relationships seemed more awkward and forced because you ahd no neutral ground to address people from. In Korea, you had your proper and formal language that you first tested the waters of a relationship first when you just get to know people. And while the use of proper and formal terminology may seem like useless shields and highly impersonal, the fact is it's much easier to feel out how you relate to another person when you both start out at the same neutral level. However, in America where adults sometimes insist that they be called by their first name even if you don't know them too well, the process of gaining an acquaintance seems much too rushed and you don't have enough time to dance the chereographed dance of getting to know one another.

Of course this is in best case scenarios. Such elder/younger relationships can be abused as well. I can bring up the Korean military as an example where such a thing can be easily abused, but that's another topic in and of itself.

But back to what Anonymous brings up. I remember many years ago when Americans who would visit Korea would be confused to see girls walking down the street holding hands (and I mean not 7 year olds skipping down the street together, but girls well into middle/high school age). I pick on this example specifically beecause it illustrates exactly what Anonymous is mentioning as well as what I mean by familial ties. And I think that the retired clowns explanation that the relationships between entertainers was not sexual as being highly plausible beecause of experiences like this. Not to say it's wrong, and who knows maybe some of those relationships did evolve into something else...but yes, the point is this movie is not the Korean "Brokeback Mountain." Don't worry, Anonymous. I agree with you on this, in my own rambling stream-of-consciousness way.

While we're on the topic of Asian movies, let me present to you either a really really bad joke that fell through or quite possibly an incredibly insulting review in the Washington Post for "Promise."

Just read the first couple of paragraphs. Really. Just read it...is the writer serious? Please tell me they are not. Stephen Hunter sort of qualifies his random spoutings with, "Possibly that represents some new policy of pan-Asian ecumenism on the part of the Chinese film industry, or possibly it's just sound box-office demographics, but I'll leave commentary on the subject to someone who might actually know something about it," but COME ON...this is like some reviewer watching an American movie going, "What the hell..this sucked, why wasn't Tom Cruise in it?" or someone watching British TV going, "So...is Benny Hill in this one too?" or, I don't even know. I really need to know, is Mr. Hunter being serious here? I honestly hope it was him being facetious very badly because the first opening paragraphs of the review just sound ignorant.

While I can't speak for the other actors he complains about not being Zhang Zhiyi or Chow Yun Fat (and Lord knows I love Chow Yun Fat...but his pre-Hollywood days when he was still doing "A Better Tomorrow" and whatnot), let me explain a possibility for casting Jang Dong Gun. While I don't expect everyone to know everything about Asia, maybe if you did take an interest in the "Huh, I wonder why they cast these people," aspect of it instead of turning it into some throwaway remark, then yes, you could've done a little digging to find out that the "Korean Wave" affect in Asia where Korean dramas and especially their actors are starting to gain popularity outside of Korea. For example Bae Yong Jun's rise in popularity in Japan (or as they call him there, Yon-sama), the popularity of Korean musicians that spawn outright copycat versions in mainland China, and of course, Mr. Jang Dong-gun who's been doing well for himself in China as well as places like Vietnam where his dramas have been aired. And even if you didn't catch that angle, yes, it probably was a marketing ploy to make the movie highly marketable in Asia since it is going for a blockbuster angle. Just look at any Korean group where the next thing they try to do is branch out. The Korean singer BoA is a good example of that, learning Japanese and creating albums in Japan, or hell, even Takeshi Kaneshiro, who uses his mixed heritage to make Hong Kong or Japanese films, but is popular in Korea too.

I honestly didn't want to play into the whole thing of "Holy crap, Asian SMASH! Can't Tell us APART! Make Hulk MAD!" but this is just so wrong. "Gee, I honestly don't know anything about movies made in Spain or Mexico or those other Spanish speaking places, but I think they should all star Gael Garcia Bernal and Antonio Banderas, no matter what country it's set in because why would I watch some movie in another language if I don't know who the hell is in it...nevermind they're not making this movie specifically catered to me."

It's like how I die a little bit inside whenever some American movie has a bit part of "Gruff French cop/detective/private eye" and you don't even need to see the credits to know they cast Jean Reno. The man can do other things you know. And he can do more than just bit parts. How about "Le Grand Bleu" anyone? He can do comedy too. Ever watched "The Visitors"? It's good lowbrow comedy right there.

Man....anyhow, that's my rant. I don't know, maybe I'm in a foul mood today.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Color work

Well, colored my previous Elizabeth drawing. I'm not that happy with it because it's been a while since I've wrangled with Photoshop so extensively. I need to invest in a tablet also.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Uprooted from my lodgings....

Well, it looks like I may need to find a new place to move to. Was it because of the previous incident? No, not at all, in fact even though someone got a cap busted in their ass on my staircase leaving behind a spectacular display that made the cop escorting me upstairs warn me rather unnecessarily "Please ma'am, try not to step in the blood," I could see myself living here for a bit longer.

The weird thing is I like telling people that if I had come home 30 minues to an hour earlier there was a pretty good I would've run into whatever was going on and who knows, I could've gotten shot or something too. Even weirder is I'm not really horrified by this in anyway (though the people I'm telling it to think it's just wrong and morbid that I say this with nothing more than a shrug).

It's actually a lot of little things that had me contemplating about finding a new place this summer. That was kind of the plan actually. The whole attempted murder business was just one more reason in the "Yea, I guess moving out is a pretty good idea" conclusion.

But of course trying to find a place to live in New York is its own level of hell that even Dante himself did not think to write about. I think it's the level of hell where those who dared to think they can survive in New York making less than 35,000 a year are condemned to...I'm not sure what part of Christianity would call this a sin, but I'm guessing it's a combination of pride and dabbling in fortune telling and sorcery or something. On top of that there are a some other things kind of complicating the whole moving out situation more than it has to be which is just stressing me out.

Anyhow, tried to go see two places today, and well...let's just not talk about that. I really don't look forward to looking for places. I mean, I'm lucky in that I don't have to leave or something like that at the end of the month, but oh well. We'll see how this works out.

Honestly, the only thing I really need now is someone to vent to about this, but I can't call family because I don't want them all freaking out on me. Then again, I feel bad about bothering people with my problems anyway.

I'm already hitting Craigslist, but if any of y'all out there know of any possible living situations, holler at your girl.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Elizabeth, now with more John Dee

A practice one in trying to figure out character design for John Dee and whatnot. I think I might have to just do Dee alone.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Yea, it's New York, but you never expect to come home to a crime scene

Yea...I got held up outside my apartment building...great city.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Drawing fresh off the press

Finished just now. Yea, at 2:20am EST...it was an idea that's been running through my head for a while and I had the worst drawing streak since I tried picking up again, so I couldn't stop once I had a good vibe. This one is "Elizabeth" (I don't really give titles...but that was the inspiration, so eh). And yes, I *have* used this pose before, but honestly I wanted to draw this character's outfit out first so I had to recycle...I promise to draw her again with something different.