Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to Songpa Sandae Noli

February 27th, 2011
At 3:45 I swung my legs out of bed and shortly after 4 we heard the 목탁 moktak (wooden clacker used by Buddhists in ceremonies) outside. We climbed up the stairs I'd been told to use, emerging from behind the altar.

The only lay people were the grandmother and I, and the abbess didn't come to the morning service, only 연일스님 Yeonil Seunim. We carried out a fairly typical morning service. Before we even began 예불문 Yebulmun (a key chant) I had already finished my 108 bows. After Yebulmun we did two other chants, one of which was hard to follow even when reading along, because of the speed and non-Korean combination of sounds (Sanskrit written in Korean). Back downstairs the grandmother read in the prayer book and I worked on translating a paper. Breakfast was shortly before 7:30, and it was much of the same foods I'd had for dinner the night before, including excellent 된장찌게 bean paste stew. After we ate and shared the apples that had been starting to go bad sitting in front of the altar in the prayer hall, Yeonil took me outside to the large ceramic jugs full of handmade sauces and filled up a huge container with bean paste for me to take back to Seoul. I was also given a bunch of 고추장 chili pepper paste, but that wasn't made at the temple. Yeonil wandered off and came back with toothpaste and facial wash, emphasizing that it was just given to them and they didn't need it, she added it to my bundle, then a few minutes later added some large pounded rice noodles.

It was really awesome to see her, but they were going to be running a 제사 jesa memorial service and I decided that my foreign presence might mar the solemnity of the occasion for the grieving family, so I headed back to Seoul.

It took forever, and it was raining cats and dogs part of the time (and I didn't have an umbrella) but I finally reached my house and changed into dry lounging around pants and started checking my email. Then the office manager from 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli called me.
"Where are you?"
"At home."
"Aren't you coming?"
"I came yesterday, should I have come today, too?"
"How long does it take to get here?"
"About 70 minutes."
"Leave right now and you can have lunch with us."
Uhh…. I was actually really pissed off, though it took me a while to figure out why. One reason was that if I'd gone from the temple back to Songpa I could have had a leisurely coffee and been on time for class. Another was that only I am apparently expected to show up for two classes every week. And I hadn't quite been clear that I had to do that before the phone call, so I felt a bit like, as they say in Korean 양 다리 someone who is two-timing. You know, keeping both the Saturday crew (Human Treasure Ham) and the Sunday crew (Professor Yi) happy. And finally I just hate that Songpa is so far away and I'd be out a good portion of my day to have lunch with them. But I decided that since the abbess of the temple had given me some "transportation money" (totally excessive) I would take a taxi to Songpa. And then I got a really horrible taxi driver. I can translate academic Korean into English for publication, but this guy refused to hear me as wanting to go anywhere other than Itaewon (the foreigner district which was an eight minute walk away). Finally I got out of his taxi (and was incensed that I'd paid to be pissed off) and got another taxi, who was very good and sweet and calmed me down.

I got to Songpa as they were packing up to end class, and had lunch with 김학석 Kim Hakseok (the other National Human Treasure), 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk (my office manager friend), 이병옥 Yi Byeongok (2nd ranked and a professor), and 강차욱 Gang Cha'uk, the best and most versatile musician in the group. Lunch was pretty good and afterwards I interviewed Gang. There is a lot of tension in the group right now I just can't write about in the public account.

In the evening I had dinner with Eugene and his wife 주희 Juhee, who seems just amazingly real and unpretentious, not to mention warm-hearted and beautiful. I guess it's pretty clear why Eugene wanted to marry her.

Visiting Yeongseonsa (Temple)

February 26th, 2011
I went to 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli practice and it was just 함완식 Ham Wanshik (one of the two National Human Treasures), 함승헌 Ham Seungheon (his son) and 어원석 Eo Wonseok (the other 전수자 jeonsuja—actually, there are more than just the three of us, there are also the two musicians who are jeonsuja). We were also joined by someone who I think is Ham's co-worker and his two young daughters, elementary school-aged. It was frustrating. At the start Ham wanted my help explaining something about Songpa Sandae Noli in English (he has a work related conferred in the US in a couple months, and he'll present about Songpa Sandae Noli during an evening dinner-time session, I guess). After that Ham led us through four motions. That's right. Four. And we took a lot of five and three minute breaks. Why? Honestly, Ham looked tired and irritated. Then Ham Jr. and Eo worked on Act 4. There are four principal characters, the two monks (that was them), the old woman (former gisaeng/geisha) and her daughter (whom she sells), the musician/entertainer 'Aesadang.' Ham told me to try being Aesadang. But to me, that character is completely wrong. First because the part includes a drum solo. Second, because this is one of the most feminine acting characters in the mask dance drama. Which according to the general concept of suit the part to the personality of the player, means it's the wrong part for me. I was very uncomfortable and really annoyed. Because the old woman enters stage first and I'd much rather learn her part! Then exactly one hour after the start of the class, Ham called it a day. Which irritated the bejesus out of me. It takes me 70 minutes or more to get to Songpa, the last thing I want is to only practice for an hour.

I walked back to the subway with Ham and I explained that I'd rather learn the part of the 8 dark-faced monks (which is the part almost everyone starts with) and that we should practice for longer, since it's so far away (esp. for Eo who needs two hours to get to Songpa!).

I grabbed a snack and found a bus to 남양주 Namyangju where my friend 연일스님 Yeonil Seunnim (Seunnim is Buddhist monk or nun) is staying at Yeonseonsa, a small temple of (one of?) her teacher(s). I wrote about finding this friend again in this blog post. Yeonil doesn't normally live in Namyangju, but she told me she commonly goes to this temple after she finishes the twice yearly retreats that (almost) all Buddhist clergy in Korea engage in.

I arrived just a few minutes before evening prayers, and after introducing me to the main prayer hall (so I could bow to the Buddha and admire how amazingly beautiful the prayer hall was) and the abbess, Yeonil insisted that I eat. Two 보살님 (lay people who volunteer at the temple) were in the kitchen, and they fixed me up a meal. It turns out that the younger one lives at the temple, she's been there for a year and a half. The older one was visiting, just like me. Dinner was excellent (and fully vegetarian). Before I had quite finished (in the temples you really have to polish your plate) Yeonil was back. The two lay women, Yeonil and I drank 보이차 puer tea for almost two hours of great conversation. Then (not yet 9) it was time to go to sleep, since we would all be waking up for the 4 a.m. morning ceremony. Amazingly, I was able to fall asleep next to the grandmother lay woman on a platform bed with a thin pad over a marble slab (the marble was heated and green and silver veined, very fancy). I slept lightly and after 3, particularly because of the drumming of rain on the skylight in the room, I couldn't get back to sleep.

Super Junior-M and Big Bang

Super Junior-M has released the Korean language version of "Too Perfect." It's funny but I prefer the video for the Korean language version but the Chinese language version (although they are not fluent) sounds better, somehow. Not sure if I will maintain that opinion if I keep listening to both.

제 블로그를 방문해 주셔서 고맙습니다. 저는 이 블로그에 일주일에 4번 정도 한국 전통 공연 문화에 대해 쓰고 있습니다. 처음에는  K-pop에 관심이 있으셔서  방문하셨겠지만 나가시기 전에 한국 전통 문화에 관한 것도 한번 봐 주시면 좋겠습니다.

Big Bang's "Tonight" was released a couple days ago. The song has a fair amount of autotune, but it feels like a stylistic choice, not like they can't sing. Not that I'm claiming Big Bang are some amazing singers or something, they're not, but they're individualistic and flashy and not-safely conforming to expectations, so I like them. I don't think they're style icons, but I do think that the video is really well made. So, while this song doesn't seem likely to hit the top of my personal K-Pop Chart, I think it'll get a fair amount of play. And Taeyang is just plain yummy. I'll just pretend he's closer to my age than he is, to make me more comfortable with that statement.

There is a review of Big Bang's mini album on

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fulbright Forum and More

February 25th, 2011
I took the 무궁화 Mugunghwa train back to Seoul. It was nice to be able to be at the station in 5 minutes from Georgy and 진홍 Jinhong's house, but honestly I don't like the trains unless they're the fast KTX trains (which are so expensive).

In Seoul I attended a Fulbright Forum because Professor Pai, Hyung-il was speaking about her research. I had heard much of her presentation in the past, but she is an amusing speaker (partially because she says some things that most academics, especially junior scholars, would never say—I guess that's the advantage of being a more senior scholar). Afterwards I probably should have hung out and socialized for longer, but I did at least manage thirty minutes of hang shaking and card exchanging. I met some interesting academics, and Jenny from my dissertation support group was there.

I left the gathering and rushed to 대학로 Daehangno, one of the big college kid hang-out zones and met up with 6 out of the 10 (besides myself) students of 상모 sangmo in week 6 of the 임실필봉농악 Imshil Pilbong Nongak winter session. They had already been together for a couple hours, I had one cup of 막걸리 makgeolli and then we headed to a 노래방 noraebang (singing room for karaoke). It turned out no one could sing worth beans (although I was still probably the worst) so we just laughed a lot. It was really awesome to see everyone, my favorite people 진영 Jinyeong, 범준 Beomjun and 지원 Jiwon were there. Beomjun leaves for the military in two weeks, so it was sort of our last chance to hang out as a group. Although I didn't have a chance to have any in depth conversations, it was good to sort of secure the connection by meeting back up in Seoul.

Despite the fact that all 7 of us are non-smokers, by the time we left the hof they had been drinking in we all stunk to high heaven of cigarettes. Ventilation appears to be completely unnecessary. Ugh. I had forgotten that really bad aspect of going out in Korea. I came home and stripped on the verandah then took a shower so I could tolerate being around myself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Two Days of Hapkido in Daegu

February 23rd and 24th, 2011

I woke up late, but still made it to the bus station and to my Hapkido Studio (한양대 신라 합기도 체육관) by just after 4pm. This is a bit off-topic from my research but I am in 대구 Daegu again practicing Hapkido for a myriad of reasons great and small including
1) It is very hard to find really good instruction in martial arts. Since I've had some of the best instruction ever, I find going other places to be quite unsatisfying. And yes, I've gone plenty of other places. The only other truly good instructor I've found is Jason Tsou (UCLA, Taiji)
2) My Hapkido instructor and I have been working together on my Hapkido skills (except for a couple of years when I tried to find some place more convenient) since 1996, that's a lot of history. To say that he is one of the people I trust most completely in the world is an understatement. He's someone I would and have trusted to speak for me.
Taken on my 관장님's iPhone:
3) When you move from one teacher to another, it's hard to not go through a fairly long period of satisfying that person before they'll sponsor you to advance in degree. I want to finally get my 4th Dan (I tested for 4th Dan with my instructor in 2005 but not with the federation). I'll be able to take that 4th degree black belt test in just over two weeks (with that certification I am able to open my own studio anywhere, instead of running a studio for someone else. That I've already done, as those who have known me for a long while know).

For my Hapkido test, of course, I need a partner. Being a partner for someone who is testing for a high level is not fun. We practice moves again and again, but since 4th Dan takes years to attain, it's not like 1st Dan where you partner someone and they partner you. I throw my partner around but he doesn't throw me around. My partner is 박형건 Bak Hyeong-geon. Hyeong-geon has known me his –entire- life. He started Hapkido when he was 5. That's 5 in Korean age, so really it means 4. From when he was 5 to when he was 10, I was one of his primary instructors. Now he's a full grown high school senior who is 5 centimeters taller than me. Pretty wild to think about that, for both of us. On Wednesday we were joking around and we told one of the classes we were teaching that we were brother and sister and one of the students actually told us that we resembled each other. Koreans say you resemble someone when you spend so much time with someone that you sort of act alike and speak alike and have similar mannerisms.

Photo taken by the instructor on his DSLR:

Teaching with Hyeong-geon (which we did all day on both Wednesday and Thursday, practicing our own stuff between classes and when we could assign an activity and keep an eye on the students while we were practicing) is amazing. We teach in perfect sync, just tagging each other back and forth without even once misunderstanding, it's sort of mind-blowing. It's actually a little like having two bodies and one brain. In terms of Hapkido, I think it's true. Hyeong-geon has been shouldering a lot of teaching duties (with the 관장님 instructor teaching the most advanced moves and designing the lessons for the day) and his skills are fabulous, he's 3rd dan, now (which is unusually high for his age, but like I said, he started when he was 5). There are 50 minute classes from 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 (not a Hapkido class) and 10:00.

On the actual test I will primarily be working with weapons: cane, belt and staff, although I also have to do a series of moves which are how to counter when someone tries to put you in a lock/hold. I don't like working with any of these weapons (I mostly trained on a different weapon), but I particularly dislike working with the belt. It's not fun for me or Hyeong-geon because almost all belt moves end up with me choking him with the belt. Seriously, I was trying hard to make it look like I was choking him more than I actually was, but still imagine someone practicing four moves that include choking you with a cloth belt (you know, like the belts we wear in martial arts) several hundred times over two days. Not fun for the chokee. I will be executing five belt moves. One is a non-choke move. I will also have to demonstrate all basic kicks and they must be perfect (the idea for the 4th Dan is that you have to be able to teach the basics perfectly, not that you're able to do all the flashy moves). The most advanced sequence I will be required to do is 3 consecutive spinning kicks (done as three spins in one continuous motion) at head height, waist height and knee height. I will have to demonstrate all basic falls, again, perfectly. This includes being able take a running and diving roll over 8 people crouched side to side and being able to do a diving roll over something that is at least the height of my chest. Those aren't the tough falls for me although they are supposed to be the hardest, an easier fall really hurt so much on Wednesday I only practiced it twice. And I will be required, more than likely, to spar. We haven't talked about that yet. I am not as fast as I once was, and haven't sparred seriously in years.

Wednesday we worked from 4 to 11 without a break and I forgot that I had only had some sun chips on the bus for lunch and no dinner at all. Afterwards my instructor, 김유림 Kim Yurim and I went out for 막걸리 makgeolli, and I had to take a taxi back to Georgy and Jinhong's house on the far end of Daegu. 25,000! Thursday I had lunch with long time friend 문정호 Mun Jeongho who quit smoking! I picked up my new glasses (chosen and paid for in December as a present from Karjam) and got to the studio by 4 again. During the 6:30 class when our instructor was leading the students Hyeong-geon and I ran out to the nearest restaurant and had a super fast dinner. We were gone 15 minutes. Otherwise I practiced the whole time until 10, when I left and took the subway back to Georgy and Jinhong's with the former.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

K-Pop (and K-Pop in Japanese and Chinese)

After School has decided to release their first song in Japan/in Japanese together with Namie Amuro, one of J-Pop's biggest stars (like the BoA of Japan). The song is "Make it Happen" and it sounds okay and doesn't look too bad, but the best video I could find is this one obviously shot on a video camera off a TV broadcast… not exactly a high quality recording.

제 블로그를 방문해 주셔서 고맙습니다. 저는 이 블로그에 일주일에 4번 정도 한국 전통 공연 문화에 대해 쓰고 있습니다. 처음에는  K-pop에 관심이 있으셔서  방문하셨겠지만 나가시기 전에 한국 전통 문화에 관한 것도 한번 봐 주시면 좋겠습니다.

Dalmation- "Lover Cop" This song is total bubblegum pop, in fact musically it's incredibly simplistic, and so predictable you just expect someone to start someone to start making heart signs with their hands and arms. Oh wait, they do do that. The most interesting thing about the video is that one member has blue hair! In Lover Cop and 그남자는반대 (Against that man) they have to wear a lot of black and white because they're Dalmation, get it? Actually I watch this video and I think "wow, is the image they are aiming for that of the total dork?" I guess they're too young to shoot for sexy, so… that leaves being cutely geeky.

Gahi (from After School) has finally released a single. Okay, I just like her because she's an amazing dancer and one of the oldest people in an 'idol' group, but this song doesn't do much to convince me that she's a good singer, too. The video is visually arresting and she's gorgeous in a so-thin-you-could-break-her sort of way. The song is "Come Back You Bad Person" If they showed more dance and perhaps had at least one catchy part to the chorus or something… Frankly I am disappointed. There is a long review on allkpop.

Gan Miyeon has released "Paparazzi," I have three thoughts on this video before I forget I ever saw it—one it's vaguely Gaga sounding, two it actually incorporates shutter release sounds from cameras (cool!), three Gan Miyeon is how old? She looks like she's a badly preserved late 30s, but I get the feeling she's a lot younger than that.

5Dolls (a subunit of Namnyeo Gonghak or Co-ed) have released two music videos: "Lip Stains" and "Your Words" with Jay Park (박재범) formerly of 2PM starring in both. "Lip Stains" and "Your Words" are telling the same story, which is very Korean so it involves Leukemia in a young beautiful woman (who can dance aggressively up until the day she collapses of course), but the musical sound isn't bad. The words are totally boring and predictable and the singing isn't great (one singer seems competent out of the 5), but overall, it's above average. A few days after I wrote the above Allkpop reviewed the new album. I don't entirely agree with the review (I liked Co-ed's "It's too Late"), but it's sure a heck of a lot more detailed than mine.

Kim Jae-uk, one of the sexiest men in Korea, along with his group "Walrus" has released a video for the song "서울마녀" which mean Seoul Witch. This of course is a pretty odd name for a song illustrated by a video shot entirely outside of Korea (not that they didn't find some beautiful locations, they did). The singing is average, the music is boring Beatles-esque, but the eye-candy is definitely there.

Coin Jackson is "a cappella hip hop group" and they've just released their debut MV, "feedback." I'll give them some feedback—don't try to do a cappella unless you have really good pitch. The MV is bad (and of course still emphasizes the physical appeal of the girls which is far from a hip-hop aesthetic as you can see from the screen captures below) but even worse than the official MV was a recording I saw of them performing live. I'll spare you, but if you don't believe me, just search it out on Youtube.

Super Junior M (the Chinese recording sub-section of the 13 member Super Junior) is back with an awesome new video and song. Almost enough to make me into a fan girl (to actually become a fan girl I think I'd have to find any one of them attractive, sorry boys...). They use only two sets, there is no story to the video – it's just good old dance music with an excellently choreographed dance performed by some of the best male dancers in K-Pop. Although I'm not a native Chinese speaker, the lyrics and their Chinese sounds good to me, too.

Ham has released a song "눈높이를 낮추고" which should be translated as something like "Don't set your sights too high," but has been literally translated by the internet world as something a bit more awkward "Lower your Sight." It's classic bubblegum, as you can see in the photo. The girls don't shy away from any potentially sexually suggestive move possible, but they most like to swish their hips from side to side in tiny skirts. The entire image of the video turns me off, it's not particularly danceable, and the girls don't have particularly good voices. With the release they announce they'll release in Japan next. Uhhh, this is when I wonder for a moment if government oversight is needed. If you want to keep Hallyu strong, don't let weak acts release overseas. Oh wait, Kara is already big in Japan. So maybe overseas audiences aren't very discriminating and everyone who can make it in Korea might as well release around the world....

Bongsan and Sangmo Practice

February 21st, 2011
I worked on the computer and then headed to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class in the evening, just barely arriving before 김은주 Kim Eunju, my awesome teacher (who is always a couple minutes late). We had one new student, 나례 Naryae, who was sunny and bright, a perfect addition to our group. 수미 Sumi and 하연 Hayeon were there as well as 정현 Jeonghyeon and 병호 Byeongho and 허세준 Heo Sejun (sp?). There were a total of 10 students, but with four key members absent. We practiced all the monk parts, then proceeded to practice 소무 Somu, then 사상좌 Sasangjwa and finally 사자춤 Sajachum (lion's dance). In other words, we actually have a lot of things we know now. If we can keep a key group of people coming we may actually be ready for a performance in April or thereabouts (since the performance in January fell through).

Class has become increasingly dominated by people who are in the class to either add to their bag of tricks (as actors or some such) or to prepare for school entry. Of the people who are regularly attending now, of those whose employment I know (almost all), only 미행 Mihaeng (who is taking a break this month but text messaging me periodically) is not in the larger field of performance/preparing to be a performer.

February 22nd, 2011
I spent the day on the computer and in the later afternoon headed to the Seoul training center for 임실필봉농악 Imshil Pilbong Nongak to practice 상모 sangmo. We have been meeting at 6, but today there was a class in the space, so we had to wait. I talked to the 교포 gyopo (Korean-American) while waiting. Her name is 이 은 Yi Eun, and she graduated from Northwestern with a degree in music education, but is now spending this entire year in Seoul working on her Korean (she's in Level 4 at Yonsei KLI) and learning 풍물 pungmul. She had previously learned a little, now she's in the intermediate class. She has never studied at Pilbong, however. But I gather she's not been in Seoul for long.

Class was tough. As I get better 이종휘 Yi Jonghui becomes stricter—he more or less constantly corrects me these days, then constantly corrects 현석 Hyeonseok, then looks back at me and corrects me again. He was already pretty strict! Or maybe it's just comparison with 이재정 Yi Jaejeong's style of teaching. At any rate, sangmo is a challenge mostly because you have to coordinate a very large number of different motions which must be properly synchronized. Now that I have to use the 소고 sogo (beating out the rhythm as I step and spin) it is even more complex.
Potential mistakes, all mentioned today:
1. my chin is too low (too close to my chest)
2. when doing a high step, my foot looks like it's kicking rather than just be lifted
3. instead of doing 1.9 spins and then reversing direction, I'm doing 1.7
4. I'm minimizing my knee bends on count 2 and 4, but they need to be the same as the bends on 1 and 3
5. When turning to the side for a two count, I need to turn 90 degrees on 1 and 3, instead I turn 80 degrees on 1 and then 10 degrees on 2 (but funnily 3 and 4 are not a problem)
6. My beat is too early on the sogo
7. My beat is too late
8. I'm doing the move too fast
9. I'm using too much power to turn so I don't look fluid
10. My sogo is pointing down instead of out
11. My sogo stick holding hand is not bent enough at the wrist
12. I'm not timing the very first pre-move correctly
I think I'm probably still forgetting some mistakes I made.

After class I interviewed Jonghui. He started playing when he was in fourth grade, and began sangmo when he was eleven.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Angelique Kidjo is Coming

I've seen Angelique Kidjo perform live, she's amazing. You should trust me and go to her show. It's at the LG Arts Center, tickets are 30-70,000 won, March 13th, 6 pm. Call o2 2005 0114 to get your tickets (you can use your credit/debit card).

I saw Angelique perform this song years ago and have never forgotten how she electrified the audience.
This song, too.
This isn't so much a video as a top quality slide show backed by Angelique's music, but it's songs like this that make me love her.
Angelique with John Legend and Bono "Move on Up"
Singing "In my Name" with
Here she is performing at the kick-off for World Cup Africa.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coffee in Korea

February 19th, 2011
I worked on the computer all day. More or less bored out of my gourd but trying to stay on task.

February 20th, 2011
Spent most of the day on the computer.

At 3:30 I went to meet the friend who is transcribing the first part of my interviews, 소영 Soyeong, at a Starbucks in 강남 Gangnam. Maybe I suddenly feel loquacious but, let me explain that the saturation of Starbucks in Korea is insane. At one time Starbucks was about the only good coffee to get in Korea. In fact, when Starbucks opened in Korea in 2000 it was a shocker and an industry changer for the country.
Young Koreans don't know this, but at one time in Korea if you went to a coffee shop (and they were popular even back then), you really didn't go for the coffee. You either went to the type of coffee shop (especially in rural areas) that sort of doubles as a way to hook-up with a prostitute (or at least flirt with a pretty girl you could hook up with if you had the cash) or you went to a place that was all about renting a fancy looking (but ultimately not comfortable) seat in a "posh" and "western" atmosphere (think mis-matched grandmother stuffed furniture, doilies and really awful décor like plastic flowers). The coffee, you ask? It was beyond horrible. It was either that crystal stuff that comes in the jar and if it gets humid it all becomes one huge lump, or it was so instant it was already mixed in with the sugar and the creamer. Seriously. No one ordered anything but "black," "black with sugar," or "milk coffee" (which definitely had sugar). And if you didn't specify, you got milk coffee. In a regular sized cup but a serving the size you get from coffee vending machines in Korea (less than half a cup). In fact, the coffee didn't even taste as good a vending machine coffee (which isn't bad, surprisingly though it took me about five years to ever try it).

I remember in the late 90s a few real coffee shops opening up, but they were mostly abandoned and only did well in areas around a lot of dating couples (if they also served regular Korean style drinks). It wasn't until Starbucks came along that people began talking about bean origin, roast, espresso, and ordering fancy drinks with long names.

Although Starbucks might seem expensive to the foreigners newly arrived in Korea (What?!! Almost 5 bucks for a tall latte?!!) at the time it was shocking to Koreans that the same 5 bucks they'd dropped for less than half of a Starbucks 'short' made from instant coffee in a café that was realistically only open to your 30-60 minute conversation during a date was now enough to get a 'tall' made by one of the most famous coffee companies in the world in a café that welcomed you to stay all day (Starbucks even opened up near universities and installed long tables for studying with extension cables available for laptop). I have a friend I'm out of touch with these days who was doing her doctoral research on Starbucks in Korea, I remember her talking about how it recreated a Western space for those nostalgic for their days overseas. The décor, the chairs, the smell—it's all just like Starbucks in America. (Although I suspect Starbucks Korea has many more green tea drinks. Oh, and the baked goods are hoity-toity in Korea. Scones and muffins, sure, but tarts and tiramisu, too. There are no donuts or super frosted white cake- bananas, baked rice chips and 7 dollar organic fair trade chocolate bars are next to the cash register.)

So in Korea Starbucks was actually a –good- deal, especially considering the amount of coffee you got for your money and the long hours (they opened, shock, in the morning so you could get coffee on your way to work!) and openness to singletons and studiers was great, too. In fact, I felt proud to mention my long association with Starbucks (which really had mostly meant walking by Starbucks as a youngster in Seattle because I'd never had the disposable income for a coffee habit).

After Starbucks opened in Seoul friends and I would actually make a point that each time we went to Seoul (I was living in Daegu at the time) we would make a pilgrimage to Starbucks before we came home. Then when Starbucks opened in Daegu, well, I was ecstatic. Seriously you couldn't get good coffee before that. There were only a few in Daegu and shortly all the staff members learned that I was a regular and treated me very nicely. Swinging by Starbucks on my way from one end of the long rectangular city to the other seemed perfectly logical to me. So did have a crush on a barista (nothing ever came of it).

Things changed, particularly in the mid 2000s Starbucks Korea began to grow at a ridiculous rate, for awhile I was able to keep track of the location of every Starbucks in any area of Seoul I ever frequented, before long they became so thick on the ground it wasn't worth bothering. And other coffee shops started opening. The chain Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Seattle's Best Coffee (they didn't last) and then the Korean chains. By the time the TV drama "1st Shop of Coffee Prince" aired, understanding coffee was becoming something a cultured person should know about, just like wine. Baristas had to have training. By that I don't mean a couple weeks on the job, I mean baristas might need to go to foreign countries for months of training if they were to be a real barista. At the very least they needed to attend an academy inside Korea. Starbucks became just another shop, not unlike Angel-in-us, Holly's Coffee and Café Bene. The independent shops sprouted up and espresso took a back seat to "hand drip."

All of which does not change the fact that I had brewed coffee at home, then had an Americano at Starbucks with Soyeong (and while waiting for her and using the computer since she was late), then before I came home again (and while doing another 1.5 hours on the computer) I stopped at my local specialty shop- Chans Bros- for a nice hand drip.

Between meeting Soyeong and Chans Bros I engaged in retail therapy, running into 정현 Jeonghyeon from 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum at Uniqlo where I managed to replenish my spring wardrobe and snatch some bargain bin deals and ate dinner. I invited a random stranger in the restaurant to sit with me (as we'd ordered at the same time), which was extremely un-Korean of me, and I grilled him on his knowledge of traditional culture (zip) and asked him what sort of Korean he was if he didn't know his own roots (I'm so mean—but I did say it with a grin).

Blog of a guy who REALLY knows coffee who used to live in Korea, he reviews a LOT of Korean coffee shops. Freshground.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ahn Eunme

February 18th, 2011
I had an amazing day. I woke up and all that stuff, then at 2 I went to meet 엄승용, Eom Seungyong, the Policy Director of the Cultural Heritage Administration. He is tied with three others as being the third highest ranked person in the Cultural Heritage Administration, the CHA is the governmental body that administers the law that designated and protects the traditional culture I study. Meeting him was great for three reasons 1) He's open-minded and speaks amazing English, and so he was able to share information with me like no other bureaucrat I've met in the course of my research. 2) He shared specific information on plans to amend the law which is the backbone of my research, and was open (and taking notes) when I stated some of my tentative (and not so tentative) conclusions about this law based on my 8 years researching the topic. 3) We are going to cooperate. I am going to facilitate him meeting opinionated artists to help him understand the law the way I do, and he even asked me to draft a very interesting proposal. We talked for two hours, which seemed to pass in a minute, because I had so much to say to him and everything he said to me was so valuable.
Screen capture to show you where this guy is in the scheme of the CHA:

I was able to go home for long enough to eat dinner before going to see my favorite modern dance choreographer of all time in the first night premiering her new work at the Doosan Art Center. Ahn Eunme is out of this world. I know a lot of modern dancers and choreographers. But she is peerless. I found an excerpt from my favorite of her pieces, the first I ever saw (ten years ago): Sky Pepper. I also found an excerpt from Chunhyang, freaking most awesome interpretation of that story –ever- (but obviously not shot at the two locations in Korea, both of which I watched the show at, because some of those scenes used full nudity and body paint). Tonight's show, "Dancing for Grandmother" contained the same strong musical score (she always uses the same guy, he's scored dozens of top films, but he always finds time for Eunme), the same love of color (but in light of the grandmother theme we had more prints and less solids), and even a bit of nudity (but nothing like some of Eunme's pieces which have full male and female frontal nudity including bouncing body parts). The dance, however, took the motions of grandmothers and brought them onto the stage, followed by the grandmothers on ethnographic-style film, followed by the actual grandmothers boogeying on stage! It was awesome. Okay, I just have to give you this one more link, to a performance of Louder which must have happened in Germany (at any rate my friend Clint who is American but dances in Germany (and Korea) with Eunme is the guy is sparkling pink).

I went to find and upload some old Ahn Eunme photos, but they're all TIFF files and it's 3:30 a.m.

Daeboreum (First Full Moon of the Lunar New Year)

February 16th, 2011
Worked on the computer all day.

February 17th, 2011
Today was 대보름 Daeboreum, the first full moon of the lunar new year. In the morning I tried to get stuff done on the computer as I have a couple deadlines next week, but I left my house a bit before 2 and headed to 서울놀이마당 for the Daeboreum Festival. When I arrived we were preparing long sticks by wrapping them in tape. Then balls of fabric (later to be soaked in fuel and used as torches) were attached to the end. We had made the balls the previous Saturday. I was rather stressed not about my own performance (as one of the 등롱 deungnong lantern carriers) in the performance of 송파다리밟기 Songpa Dari Balpgi, but because the four KNUA students who I had roped into participating really weren't being given the information they needed to participate to their best and I felt like we were looking unprofessional in front of them as a result. I want them (희수 Heesu came today, too, in addition to 재윤 Jaeyun, 정우 Jeong-u and 장호 Jangho the guy I did not previously know) to think of the Songpa folks as professionals or at least serious about what they're doing, but I am afraid they didn't appear that way.

We had an early dinner (or late lunch?) at a restaurant we often go to and then went back to preparing (I got into my 민복 minbok and continued to try to rope 탄종원 Tahn Jongwon, the only one I could trust to remember and explain clearly, into telling the boys how to do the performance). Eventually we did have the tiniest bit of rehearsal (3 minutes?) before we had to go and distribute peanuts and drinks to the assembled audience as the 풍물 pungmul performance was going on. Actually considering that it was an outdoor nighttime performance in February and about freezing, it was a great turn out. After a 민요 minyo performance we did Songpa Dari Balpgi. At first everyone was cold and stiff and not in sync with each other, however as the performance went on things loosened up and straightened out. I ended up having a lot of fun with only one small error. As we ended the performance morphed into the torch lit parade along the banks of the lake with the pungmul group dominating the soundscape. I sprinted to the practice room, dropped my lantern and grabbed my camera. After our march we ended up at the 달집 daljip (house of the moon), a branches and bamboo wrapped up with thousands of wishes for the new year (the wishes had been collected at Songpa Noli Madang for over a week). My wish was in there, of course. After more pungmul and speeches by the local government official (the head of Songpa District) the bonfire was lit and we continued to dance around it until it was burned down to the ground and the pungmul players were exhausted.

One thing about the pungmul team- the leader of the team (the 상쇠 sangsoi or lead 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari player), who also chanted the ceremonial wish-chant during the speeches and 고사 gosa ceremony- turned out to be my friend 박연식 Bak Yeonshik from my 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class. The world of Korean traditional performing arts really is quite small.

After everything was finished I was still, for lack of a better term, high on the communal release of energy. There is not much I like more than dancing to ecstatic drum music by a bonfire under a full moon. I hung around hoping something good would happen, eventually 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk, 이수환 Yi Suhwan, 서병무 Seo Byeongmu, Tahn Jongwon and I went out for a late dinner and some more drinks. With the exception of Seo Byeongmu those are just about my favorite people from Songpa Sandae Noli, so I was happy, but then after only about one drink Seo turned into an argumentative nonsensical annoying drunk. Actually he's always an annoying drunk, but I hadn't realized he'd already been drinking so he only needed a bit more to tip him over into unacceptable.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sangmo Class with Yi Jonghui

February 15th, 2011

I got a lot of work done on the computer in the afternoon to the extent that every additional minute to type meant another amazing rush of words onto the page—bam bam everything coming together-- then rushed to 상모 sangmo class. And frustratingly 이종휘 Yi Jonghui was over an hour late (he's never been more than ten minutes late before and that only once). This was complicated by the fact that he had a new phone without any of our numbers in it and until I called him, he couldn't even tell us he was running late. When I got there 현석 Hyeonseok was already there, playing 장구 janggu, as was another woman, who turned out to be a 교포 gyopo (Korean-American) but no, I didn't talk to her. Maybe next week.

Before Jonghui showed up 구철회 Gu Cheolhoi (my first sangmo teacher) showed up. I was weirdly nervous. I think partially because I know I'm still not that good. But he was really surprised to see me. Probably thought I'd never spin a sangmo again after the week with him last summer. It was awkward to have him there, but fortunately a couple minutes later 진영 Jinyeong showed up, very happy to see her. When class finally started, it was such a weird adjustment to be back to Jonghui's style again. He forces us to take no breaks and do everything perfectly. He hassled me a lot to get some moves (more basic motions) right, but then praised my 나비사 nabisa (the most difficult motion I know).

Today after sangmo class when we were packing up our sangmo in our bags Hyeonseok started talking to me a lot more than he has in the past. His opening salvo was "I'm not good at this so I'm working towards being a professional – If I want to be professional I have no choice but to work, so (after much practice) I'm good at this." And "sangmo isn't fun at first. It's hard and frustrating and over 90% of the people who start quit it then. But if you get past that, then it's alright." We talked all the way to the subway and waiting for the subway and the stops until my transfer (he mostly talked and I listened and tried to follow along because he was talking to me as though he would another young person and young people have their own ways of talking these days. Most of the college kids I talk to sort of match the way I talk (a bit more formally) but Hyeonseok was talking with a lot of slang and full use of the habit of Koreans to not speak the subject and even the object of sentences if –they- think it's obvious.) He's getting more excited about his future prospects (I think he was really happy that I had complimented him on his drumming, which is frankly amazing) and really thinking about applications to university. He feels that students from arts high schools have a disadvantage when applying to KNUA, but he agreed with me that KNUA wants to see solid basics more than the most talented advanced performance. He went through a long list to me of which schools have better chances of sending their applicants to KNUA. The schools with good odds had two students accepted this year, so I don't see big difference from one (Hyeonseok goes to the same school 원중Wonjung was going to, and Wonjung was the only applicant that got into KNUA this year). It was really interesting to hear him lumping himself in with the professionals already, but he is performing (and probably earning money from it) already and he's definitely driven and hard working. Another subject of the conversation was that he is from a poor family and they don't have enough money for him to take lessons, not really, or not the number of lessons he wants to take. Instead of studying 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum directly with 손병만 Son Byeongman he plans to start attending the evening Bongsan class, it's a lot cheaper. He told me he's planning to ask the teacher if she'll waive tuition for him. (And he's only planning once a week, which is around 30 bucks for the month- almost nothing!). So I sent her a message and told her that I wanted to secretly sponsor him to attend class. Among the many things Hyeonseok wants to learn is 바라춤 Barachum (the dance of the cymbals) it's a dance performed as part of the 영산재 Yeongsanjae ceremony (intangible cultural asset #50) by Buddhist monks.

Back to Bongsan Talchum Class

February 14th, 2011

I wrote during the day then headed to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum in the evening for the regularly scheduled class. Class was, strangely, me and ten men. One of this, 박신마 Bak Shinma, was a brand new attendee who has been studying with 손병만 Son Byeongman (who performs with 허창열 Heo Changyeol). I have to interview Byeongman. He seems to have a lot going on. The class was pretty ordinary, we practiced the monks in order, then did the lions dance at the end. The only really out of the ordinary thing was that since in Korea Valentine's Day is when women give chocolate to men (even all men co-workers or fellow students they see for the day) and White Day (that's March 14th) is when men give it to women, 병호 Byeongho started giving me crap for not giving him chocolate and how (poor poor pity pity) he hadn't gotten any chocolate all day. So while 김은주 Kim Eunju was teaching the beginners I ran to the convenience store and bought a bag full of chocolates which I shared with the entire class. The funniest thing that happened all night was I started sort of mini-interviewing Shinma to see why he was studying Bongsan Talchum (he teaches drama to kids as his regular job). And he looks at me as if I've asked a question I shouldn't need to ask and says "(I) like (it). Because I'm Korean." (좋아해요. 한국사람이나까) which if I hadn't been squatting on the floor would have made me fall off a chair laughing. If only it was that simple. I mean, if it was, we'd have thirty students in the class and it'd be running every night of the week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Recruiting Performers

February 13th, 2011
Ironically despite going to bed early, I managed to sleep late. So late, in fact, that I woke up only 41 minutes before I needed to be at the subway station by 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli. I allow, ordinarily, an hour and twenty minutes for the trip; it's nowhere near my house. By slipping into the wrong clothes (for movement) and skipping any sort of grooming or eating I was able to get into a taxi in eight minutes and make it to the subway station so early I had time to buy a half dozen donuts before 허창열 Heo Changyeol, 심재윤 Shim Jaeyun, 이정우 Yi Jeong'u and their classmate from KNUA 장호 Jangho showed up.

I walked with them to 서울놀이마당 Seoul Noli Madang, feeling sicker by the moment. We bowed in the office, then proceeded to the practice room where 이병옥 Yi Byeong'ok talked to them about the art and led everyone through basic motions. I must admit the three students (not Changyeol) were a bit confused, since this wasn't rehearsal for the performance on Thursday, but I want to snare them into liking Songpa Sandae Noli, so they've got to get introduced at some point! However I felt so lousy I had a hard time following along and felt sort of embarrassed at my performance.

After that we walked through the 송파다리밟기 Songpa Dari Balpgi performance under the assumption that they would all do the part of lantern carriers (this was later changed on the phone).

I hurried home, rested and then wrote in Chans Bros (coffee shop) until closing.

From Sangmo to Songpa Dari Balpgi

February 11th, 2011
In the morning I practiced 상모 sangmo with the class until at 11:20 when everyone went outside and bowed goodbye to me. 이재정 Yi Jaejeong ran me to the bus station. Unfortunately just as I was leaving I realized that my hat (a green fleece hat my mom made) was misplaced. I couldn't find it again in my few minutes before leaving even though I checked the most obvious places. Frustrating!

In 전주 Jeonju I had lunch at a vegetarian buffet with my awesome friend 월덕 Woldeok who has gotten engaged (and chosen a wedding date) since I saw her a month ago.

I reached Seoul rather later than I wanted to and scrambled to go meet a friend who was on her way from one country to another and only in Seoul for about 15 hours as a layover. She spent the night. I'd say who except she doesn't want other friends in Korea to feel dissed because she only saw me. It was really awesome to see her, but I'm afraid she was so jet-lagged I did most of the talking.

February 12th, 2011
I had to wake up at 5:30 to prepare a very light breakfast and walk my friend to the airport shuttle, and surprisingly I stayed awake afterwards and got some work done. At 1:30 I arrived at 서울 놀이 마당 Seoul Noli Madang, the home of 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli for rehearsal of 송파다리밟기 Songpa Dari Balpgi (Songpa Bridge Crossing).

Songpa Dari Balpgi is registered for protection by the City of Seoul (Songpa Sandae Noli is registered by the nation). Dari Balpgi is a perfect example of a reenactment. The life of the ceremony is gone, it's just motions that people (we) are going through because it has some historical significance and has been chosen (somewhat arbitrarily) to be labeled "important heritage" that should be protected. It is taxidermized culture. On the other hand, if you openly admit something is a reenactment, and don't pretend that people in the modern world actually do march around Seoul guarding and escorting local governmental figures as they survey the region on important days of the year, there isn't any harm in it, right? Ceremonies, like Songpa Dari Balpgi, tend to be quite openly reenactments and acknowledged by participants and observers as non-living culture. There are some other reenactments that are not clearly taxidermized; chief among these is National Intangible Cultural Asset # 1, 종묘제례(악) Jongmyo Jerye(ak). This is a ceremony for honoring the ancestors of the Yi (former ruling family) line and the associated music (ak). The participants include professional musicians and college students BUT they also include a large number of Yi descendants holding tablets with ancestral names. To those people it's a pretty big deal to be part of the ceremony, and they (maybe not all of them) do feel a real connection to their ancestors. So –that- ceremonial reenactment is in much more of a grey area.

As I explained last summer when I performed in Songpa Dari Balpgi, most of the performers are members of Songpa Sandae Noli with a group of about 8 singers (who manipulate 소고 sogo) who sing 선소리 Seonsori (standing songs) during a key part of the reenactment. These singers and about a half dozen other people are not Songpa Sandae Noli members, but the rest are. And on Saturday we prepared for the big 대보름 Daeboreum (first full moon of the lunar new year) event first by filling small bags with roasted in the shell peanuts while others made bundles of cloth for torches, then by rehearsing Dari Balpgi. We had to rehearse outside, of course, and it was -10 celsius which made it so we really rushed through practice.

Cell photos of An Byeong'in directing us and a bunch of us milling around the 마당 madang practicing.

Afterwards 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk, my friend and the office manager, asked if I knew one more person we could get to perform with us (someone had bailed out). I agreed to contact some people and she clarified that she wanted as many young men as possible to show up on Sunday morning at 10:30 to rehearse Songpa Sandae Noli. I contacted friends from KNUA and by the end of the day had a good response.

The rest of the day I just worked on some computer stuff and went to bed super early.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sharing Links

Sometimes other people just write really cool things:

My dad's business website currently starts off with this awesome essay that shows just how articulate and knowledgeable he is. Check it out! Yay dad!

There is this awesome website called Native Appropriations (link in the side bar). I was raised very close to Native American culture and the issues with appropriation of native culture are something I've been sensitive about and followed for years. The author is almost always really thought provoking. Her recent post is on Pendleton blankets. Check it out. You may find yourself following her blog later on.

I'm not a Girl's Generation (소녀시대) fan, but if you are, check out this essay and translation of the lyrics from The Grand Narrative. But it's for essays like this on Korean socialization and body image that I sometimes find time to read The Grand Narrative.

Not so much about reading:

This isn't really reading so much as viewing, but it's fall off your chair funny. Simon's Cat.

This is about listening-- some good remixes of K-pop created by Areia Remix. Another person who remixes K-pop in some interesting ways is Masa. I've been following Masa for awhile, I really love his video work.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Last Full Day of the Winter Sangmo Intensive

February 10th, 2011
I had a frustrating morning. After a bit of work on the 나비사 nabisa move (which is getting very fluid), I was assigned to work with 범준 Beomjun on steps. I got stuck on the second step we tried, I just could not get the timing right and it frustrated the heck out of me the rest of the morning. REALLY frustrated me. It seemed so simple, and I understood what I was doing wrong, yet… After lunch all the students with high enough skills met and had a mini group concert in the dirt expanse between the two main teaching buildings. I joined in and learned how much harder it is to do nabisa when you are timing it to the music and the other 상모 sangmo people, while being too close to each other so 지용 Jiyong's ribbon kept smacking me, with a pesky wind that kept trying to snatch the ribbons and take them out of the course we'd set them on. It was not easy. Nor were the other spins that I did, or combination spins, but the challenges I've named here are pretty much what challenged with all of the moves. Fortunately 진영 Jinyeong was at the front of the sangmo group and she knew what to do with each musical cue.

In the afternoon after everyone stopped playing it was starting to snow (it never really got going) but 이재정 Yi Jaejeong had been promising us all week that he'd cook us a bunch of chicken (it took people various amounts of time to realize he meant eggs). So we boiled eggs over an outdoor fire, spinning while waiting. Jaejeong taught us this really interesting way to peel an egg. You take a bit off the shell at each end; then you blow really hard in one end. The whole shell just slips right off. Totally wild. He's very sweet but he's also quite Korean in his teaching methods. When students are roughhousing for just for fun, he'll hit them. That sounds bad to American ears. Hmmm, how can I explain. It's funny, for one thing. Everyone laughs a lot, even when he's slapping their wrist with two fingers as hard as he can. None of it really truly causes any physical distress (except possibly the wrist slapping when it happens too much, but it only happens too much if people have been losing games and stuff like that. Today's games included a relay race while spinning the sangmo. Things like that. It's sort of affectionate.

Photo of Jiwon and Jeonghwa from the Hallym University team and of course, me. Not sure I like the treatment i did on these photos though.


Awesome instructor Yi Jaejeong

Uiyeong (yes, this is a woman)



My afternoon practice was MUCH more successful, I immediately nailed the steps from the morning, and started working on hitting the 소고 sogo while doing nabisa. Jaejeong definitely teaches people really fast. He doesn't make anyone perfect a move before they can move to the next move. I think this is because he feels that teaching us the basics of a lot will let us have more to practice on our own later, when we can polish things. But of course I worry that people don't realize how different their move is from someone like Beomjun's move—we don't have mirrors in the room we're in. I also think Jaejeong gets bored and wants to avoid student boredom as well. But I could be wrong. Anyway, when I had class with 구철회 Gu Cheolhoi last summer he didn't teach people more than two moves in a week. And in Seoul with 이종휘 Yi Jonghui he definitely nitpicks each move before he allows anyone a chance to try something new. In 5th week of the winter session Jinyong was studying with Yi Jonghui and he studied the whole week and only worked on 양사 yangsa and 자반 jaban (giant jumping spinning move) but I suspect he worked on the latter without Jonghui around. He's been learning that move since last summer. Jaejeong keeps saying "it has to be interesting! This class has to be fun!" Jinyong thinks this is different than the way he used to teach, that he's mellowed out a lot and lets us goof off a lot. Of course there is also the factor of the space (size of space for the number of students) and the total number of students the teacher has to divide his (her) time between.

Egg party:

Our entire class (except Minsu who left on Wednesday). Click on the photo and it'll get larger

After class we had a special 민요 minyo session. The minyo teacher was very young, she taught us 성주풀이 Seongju Puli. Or rather she taught the chorus and one verse, the shortest one. After leading everyone through the song, she started calling people out to sing it on their own. 박주동 Bak Judong was practicing the song starting last night, so he volunteered to sing right off the bat. At the very end she called on me, but I flat out refused. I will do a lot that makes me look silly (like the sangmo move with my hair last night) but I will not sing absolutely horribly in public.

After dinner we had one more sangmo practice. Everything I'm doing is getting pretty smooth and nice, but I have a long way to go before I will look good in performance. I ran out of energy half way through the practice, though, and didn't even get on the case of the other people who were talking instead of practicing.

We're getting visitors today. 다원 Dawon from week 3 came, and then later after the last practice 태강 Tae'gang showed up. They both brought food and presents for the group. 뒤풀이 duipuli was pretty normal, just drank a bit of 막걸리 makgeolli and tried hard to circulate to have a last few minutes with each groups of students that included someone I'd gotten close to during the week. I try hard to talk to everyone, or give everyone a chance to talk to me if they want to take it, and I think I did an excellent job, socially, during this week. On the other hand I'm physically exhausted after battling a cold for the whole week while practicing sangmo which is intense and sweat-inducing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 3 of the Winter Sangmo Intensive

February 9th, 2011
It stayed warm all night. Or should I say seriously hot. But the good news was that in the morning the video camera was working properly. I really think it just hates to get cold. I was able to shoot the entire morning class.

We began class on time, with me leading the beginning exercises, then practiced on our own stuff until the teacher arrived (all in all, though, this teacher is much more prompt than most of the teachers I have had here). He had everyone who could do 양사위 yangsaui do 150, but at just past 100 there was a mistake and he made us start again. So we certainly got a work out. Then I was assigned to walk and do 나비사 nabisa at the same time!!!!!!!!! Wow! And I was able to do it (with sort of tentative steps at first but I got better). That was great.

In the afternoon, as usual on Wednesdays, we had a game day. I was in team 8, and each team began by making a name and a song/chant. We named ourselves 원래 골찌 "have always been last" more or less. I could probably translate that better if I spent time thinking about it. I think in Korean, so I don't always know how to translate things. Anyway, it was a joke about how the team I've been on has always been last every time I've done one of these camps at 필봉 Pilbong. And the song was pretty funny, too. It went more or less "There's no denying I'm always last, that 막걸리 makgeolli over there won't be mine, even coming here four times, always last, this time I'm sure to be last again." We had four rounds of games. First we played a charades type game, where you relayed the acting through the whole team (pair by pair) and the first person in line had to guess what it was. We lost totally unfairly because the other teams subject was movies, and all the movies were major blockbusters, then our subject was animals and the animals were like "water skater beetle" and "gray bearded baboon" and things like that. Really hard to guess! Two times our team just had to pass the animals because the first guy had no idea what they were. The only one that compared with Titanic and Matrix was giraffe. The second round was the best. Totally fun. We had to lock our arms to our legs and then scoot on our butts and knock over the other team with our feet until we got their queen. I was a total killer. It was great. We won twice and so there wasn't a third game. Which almost made me sad we had won both times. The third round was horrible. We had to do three legged races to the 장구 janggu and then one person played each side of the janggu. After you'd randomly drawn the name of a 장단 jangdan (rhythmic pattern). Of course I don't really remember any of the jangdan names, so I was a total handicap to the team. We lost royally, because it was a race to get through all our pairs before the other team did, and they won by miles. The last round was actually four games, we won the first and third, but then the judges said the first game was a practice game. Game one was where you say a number and the people on the other team stand up or not. If the same number stand up as was named, then the team loses. Game two was a really complex Korean rhythmic syllabic game and I bowed out. You had to say a four syllable word or phrase four times, accenting a different syllable each time, as fast as you could. Then the next person did it but they couldn't go in the same order as you. The third game was another speed game with guessing the word, but this time the person who knew the word described it to the next person in line. We had to get through as many people as we could in the allotted time. We got through nine people, I did fine. Our subject was "bathroom" I had to guess "plunger" and had to describe "bidet." The other team drew the subject "Korean TV stars" so if we'd had that then my team would have been screwed. The final game was a game of true or false, the last team with players who were right would win. It was so sad, it ended up me against two girls from the other team and on the last question I went true, with one of them, the other went false. It was false. So close…

Then we all reassembled and my team had come in seventh (out of eight). We got 4 bottles of makgeolli as our prize, but then there was a big true or false game and my team was the last standing and we won 5 more bottles.

Photos of our team:

After dinner we had sangmo practice again. Everyone was doing well, except 의영 Uiyeong still can't really spin even once. This guy 진용 Jinyong who was with me in Week 3 arrived the evening of the 8th to do sangmo, too. In the morning he wasn't able to do nabisa and worked with 정화 Jeonghwa, but by the evening he exploded into really doing it well, which sort of frustrated me.

The 뒤풀이 duipuli for the night was according to the teams of the day. We had our 9 bottles, with 8 people, but we were having fun and decided to go begging off other groups. We got one from our neighbors, then three from one group by doing my arm trick, and three from another group by using my braid like a sangmo ribbon. So we all ended up with at least two bottles each. I was sitting next to 문형 Munhyeong, another individual participant, and 형진 Hyeongjin, a future acupuncturist. It was a lot of fun, especially when we started playing this huge selection of games. I'm almost getting good at those with so much practice. Fry pan game, strawberry game, image game, makondo, one where you have to do the multiplication tables, etc. I went to bed at three after two and a half bottles.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 2 of the Winter Sangmo Intensive

February 8th, 2011

It was another really amazing day. First of all, though I doubted I could sustain it I –still—did well in 상모 sangmo class all day long. Today the teacher, 이재정 Yi Jaejeong, had me work on 나비사nabisa, a movement that sketches a butterfly with the sangmo (left wing, right wing, center backward and forward). Amazingly by the end of the day I could do the move at least mostly correctly 5 or more times in a row without pause. It's really amazing! Other than that in the afternoon because two of the more beginning people are able to sort of do 양사위 (right 1, 2, left 1, 2) the six of us had to practice together (as in 정화 Jeonghwa, 진영 Jinyeong, 범준 Beomjun, me and those two). We just stood in a line and practiced over and over, trying to hit 200 without a mistake, which of course since two people had only started doing it that day was impossible, but at any rate we practiced a lot as we TRIED to hit 200 as a group.

Today Jaejeong put on a sangmo (Beomjun's) for the first time. Which made it clear that he teaches NOT by example, but through talking. He does physically move the head of low level people, but not more advanced students, and he does sketch the moves without a sangmo on (which is pretty important when you are talking about a spinning move or a jumping move like he was having Beomjun and Jinyeong work on today). However, in general he talks us through things, in a very relaxed manner.

In the afternoon 김동민 Kim Dongmin came to talk to him. Dongmin came into the door and got down belly to the floor. So Jaejeong did the same. But then Dongmin was moving forward on his stomach, and Jaejeong had to slither off the stage he was sitting on to do likewise. The whole time they'd come up, see the other and go "Ohhh ohhh, aigo" and go down in a super deep bow again. It was really funny. I was, however, conducting an interview when that happened, so it did interfere with things, but Dongmin had to come and complain about being forced to learn to drum right handed (he's left handed) in order to teach some students. Jaejeong is also left handed… so they commiserated.

Otherwise… we had the drinks I bought because I couldn’t play the game, and we also had drinks after Jaejeong demonstrated (the idea was that he deserved an appearance fee). I led us in beginning exercises before morning and afternoon classes. I told everyone to be back at 7 for evening classes and we all worked hard and helped each other to improve. I went back to my room at 9:30 and worked a bit on a fellowship application then showered with 민경 Min'gyeong. I forgot to mention but three of the students that I did 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae with in 2009 are here, including Min'gyeong.

Starting at 11 we had an exclusive 뒤풀이 duipuli for the sangmo people. I tried hard to facilitate a good mood, and eventually everyone really loosened up and talked with each other a lot. I think we're all getting to be close. We switched seats several times, talking to whoever was next to us and also playing games together. We didn't drink much because the training center has a new 1 bottle of 막걸리 makgeolli per person rule, which is not much. In my opinion anyway, since for me one bottle would only be a buzz if I scarfed it on a mostly empty stomach.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spinning the Sangmo (again)

February 7th, 2011
I am particularly happy as I type up my report for the day. There are ten people in the 상모 sangmo class, and I'm the third best! The best two are 진영 Jinyeong from the Ewha University team and 범준 Beomjun (who as I mentioned yesterday was with me last summer and in Seoul). I'm not sure which of them is better- it probably depends on the move, but I think probably Jinyeong is overall a stronger sangmo person. At any rate, four or five are trying sangmo for the first time and the others have had very little experience. The best of these, 종화 Jonghwa from the Hallym University team, is where I was at in about the end of September. The instructor 이재정 Yi Jaejeong has been an 이수자 isuja for the past 15 years. He has been doing traditional performance for 21 years and is the same age is me. I was told last night that he taught sangmo to all the current sangmo teachers (who weren't available to teach us), and that he was very "scary." I don't think he's scary at all, his class is really comfortable.

First thing in the morning he determined who was a total beginner and had them take off their sangmo and put it back on to his satisfaction. At this point he announced that we needed a class captain. And I became the captain which is sort of funny, especially since without Jinyeong and Beomjun I'd have no idea what to do. Jaejeong took us through some exercises and told me to lead the group through the same exercises before each class (morning and afternoon) for twenty minutes. After the exercises he split us according to whether we could or could not spin, and then asked us to do several spins, I was between Jinyeong and Beomjun, and acquitted myself fairly well. He then had the three of us keep working together. We had to do 500 circles of 양사위 yangsaui (both sides), and I only lost the spin about 3 times! He had us work on the same thing with beating the 소고 sogo, then we had to do a lot of forward and back marching while spinning but –not- bending our knees (he has a point, I'm not sure what it is yet). We had to march 1,2,3,4 for each beat, then we had to march 1,2 (two beats per step) then we had to march 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 to only 4 beats! Which was really hard, especially when we were doing it in reverse. This is all while we're doing two spins on each side (1,2 looking right 3,4 looking left). At first we were doing this while hitting the sogo (1,2 at waist level, raise to face level, 4) later after we learned this super fast sogo beating technique, we were supposed to do the same. I really didn't do well at this, because I kept tensing up, and as I tensed up, then I wasn't relaxed enough to move fast. Frustrating … At the end of the day Jaejeong had all of us work on the steps for the giant spinning jumping move that is the highlight and pride of any sangmo dancer.

After class we had to watch a video of a performance that I was present at (I appear in the video), we had to watch the same video in week 3, and 인하 Inha was with us in week 3, and has been here the entire time (from week 1), so I wonder how many times she's seen it.

After dinner starting at 7:00 we had our individual practice. Usually at this time people practice with the members of their team, but the practice for sangmo students is for the sangmo students to keep working together. Around 8:00 we finally had all 10 members of our class. In my position as captain I brought everyone together and we introduced ourselves and played a Korean game for name memorization. Which I had never done before, and I sucked, so I lost—this means I have to buy refreshments for practice tomorrow. But we learned everyone's name. In addition to Beomjun and Jinyeong, the other members (I know you don't care, but this is where I make my notes to remember things later for when I'm writing my dissertation…) are 서민수 Seo Minsu, 구윤회 Gu Yunhoi, 안의영 An Uiyeong, 김형준 Kim Hyeongjun, 홍선형 Hong Seonhyeong, 오정화 O Jeonghwa and 서지원 Seo Jiwon. I practiced hard (I was sweating) but I'm not sure about some of the others who are (like I was six months ago) so frustrated it's hard to keep going.

Jaejeong teaches without spending much time correcting mistakes. For example, I know I need to power my swing by going down, but I power on the up stroke. He hasn't mentioned it. I know when I do yangsaui I have a head twitch, he hasn't mentioned that either. He also hasn't told Jeonghwa that her sangmo hat is so far forward it's not able to spin in the correct place. He mostly just tells us new things and works with us on –those- things, and leaves the rest of it alone. I'm not sure if he will go back and correct them later, or not. He smiles a lot, but he also says "Dal (that's what he calls me, but it's the closest to a name any of us have, he calls others by their major or what not), you have to relax. You have to count while you're doing it and not rush the move." And other similar corrections. I'd videotape it, but the video camera is being uncooperative. Really frustrating. Perhaps it'll work later.

At 9:30 I quit practicing and grabbed my computer, which I used in the office for a few minutes. I've been so busy since I've been here that I have to put some serious time in now just to keep the journal up to date and get ready a paper to submit to one of my dissertation writing groups. Back in the room, however, we quickly started an informal 민요 minyo class. One of our independent members can sing well, so she's helping everyone to either learn or learn better a series of minyo. The 뒤풀이 duipuli was pretty ordinary, as duipuli goes. I just talked with some folks, esp. 주원 Juwon.

Back to Pilbong

February 6th, 2011

I woke up and cleaned some more and packed the rest of the way (but forgetting both my face lotion and my bite guard). Georgy arrived a few minutes before I had to leave, she'll stay at my place for three weeks while she attends an intensive Korean language class.

At the spot the bus picks us up to go to 필봉 Pilbong I met up with both 예술 Yesul and입새 Ipsae from 이화여대 Ewha Womans' [sic] University, which I expected, but also 범준 Beomjun who I studied with last summer and at the Seoul Training Center (and was my favorite fellow from last summer) and his university 'junior' (can't remember his name) who studied with us at Seoul Training Center as well. I was blowing half my brain out my nose every couple of minutes but felt more alert than I had the previous day. The bus was so packed that we had 장구 janggu and other instruments in the aisle to the extent that getting out to pee at the rest area was hard.

At the 임실필봉농악전수회관 Imshil Pilbong Nongak Training Center the independent people were assigned to room 12, at first this was me and 종욱 Jong'uk, a nice guy studying dentistry at Yonsei University. A little later another man, 주동 Judong joined us. He has just got back from 5 weeks in India and immediately changed into a full outfit of things he bought in India. All very comfortable but so not Korean. I liked him immediately. We had dinner and at 9 assembled for the meet and greet. Each team introduced their members and performed a little routine. We (the two guys and I) had also prepared (for ten minutes) and we went over just fine. After this meeting the evening 뒤풀이 duipuli commenced. I had an entire bottle of 막걸리 Makgeolli, which is, mind you, medicine, and in fact I felt much less congested afterwards. I was also on some of my most social behavior, I greeted and sat with each group except one (I gave them two chances, but as I approached both times they called out in English, and you have to train the students not to do that, so I turned away).

Tomorrow I'll find out who all is in 상모 sangmo with me, one thing is for sure, 이종휘 Yi Jonghui will not be our teacher (he's injured his back) and there won't be a 대보름 Daeboreum festival. As soon as I knew these two facts I decided to go back to Seoul on either Thursday night or Friday morning.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Three Days in Seoul

February 3rd, 2011
My friend Bonnie and her husband Curtis came and spent the night, so I made them dinner and we had a long Korean pop culture conversation. Otherwise I finished Photoshop on the photos from Goseong and transferred all the video to Karjam's computer and other book-keeping type tasks.

February 4th, 2011
I went to a concert at the 국악원 Gugakwon with Kimberely Hall in her capacity with the Asia Society, as the event photographer. However the seats weren't ideal for photography. Worse, though, was that the lighting in the hall was atrocious. The person I was particularly supposed to photograph, Jocelyn Clark, an American professor in Korea with amazing 가야금 gayageum skills, was lit with a spotlight straight down from above, so she had dark pits for eyes and her nose cast a shadow over her mouth—it's not pleasant for the audience to see a show lit like that, and definitely I was dissatisfied with the photos. When I met her after the show she said the lighting also made it difficult to see the strings. The rest of the show was moderately better lit, but none of it was very good.

The show itself consisted of six pieces of new music for Korean traditional instruments (usually). I have limited patience with such, in general, because for every good piece you hear quite a few bad ones. It is as if the musicians, composers, directors, etc. are all so bored with the traditional repertoire they're willing to try anything—but that doesn't mean it's good for the audience! The first piece was for five solo gayageum. No, that doesn't make sense. Why not just have one solo player do the whole thing? Why five? They alternated playing in a very unconventional way, taking the new techniques popularized by composers like 황병기 Hwang Byeonggi and then going way beyond into new territory. Chiefly, the piece was not melodic. I'm sure it must be beastly hard to play as nothing was predictable at all.

The second piece featured the 생황 saenghwang, an instrument that was described after the show by Kimberely American boyfriend Shawn as "you know, the bong," and indeed Hilary Finchum-Sung (who also attended with son Oliver), confirmed that it's filled with water. It was saenghwang, viola, cello and two violins. I honestly didn't feel that the music fell within the category of "Korean music" in any way at all, but I'm probably just being conservative. Honestly, to me, it sounded like the music to a movie montage about a person who was losing their mind and was committed to a mental hospital.

The third piece was one of the two I liked the most, it showed the promise of new compositions particulary through the interesting conversation between the 단소 danso and the 피리 piri and a lovely part where just the danso and아쟁 ajaeng were playing together.

The fourth and fifth piece were for full orchestra, the orchestra was seated in chairs (western), and wearing black and white (so western), with vaguely hanbok styling to the neckline, the women's outfits ended up looking more to me like Vietnamese clothes given that it was a slit skirt over pants. I have not much to say about either piece, they used some interesting additional instruments from western and other non-Korean areas, but the music itself didn’t captivate.

The sixth piece was in the broad genre of military music, powerful and aggressive with 나발 nabal horns, 태평소 taepyeongso and piri plus a lot of percussion. More than just the music, I enjoyed hearing the composer (who was also the conductor) talk a bit about his process before the piece began.

February 5th, 2011
I met Joji at the Electronics market and bought another voice recorder because the one I bought in August records at much too low of a volume to be useful. Even if the mic is practically in the mouth of whomever I'm interviewing. We then proceeded to the National Museum where we toured the Silk Road and Dunhuang exhibit.

At five "The Gwangdae" had a performance, the hall was crowded but 대천 Daecheon's wife helped us to find a seat. The show was fairly good.

사물놀이 samulnori, a singer, followed by 풍물 pungmul, followed by 이매 Imae from 하회별신굿탈놀이 Hahoi Byeolshin'gut Talnoli, followed by a lion's dance (the lion pretended to be a camel to great amusement), then a spinning disk performance and that was the it. The audience, especially the young children loved it. After the show I got to see everyone which was awesome. 가은 Gaeun also came to the show.

Still feel sick.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Various K-Pop Releases

K-pop Reviews:

제 블로그를 방문해 주셔서 고맙습니다. 저는 이 블로그에 일주일에 4번 정도 한국 전통 공연 문화에 대해 쓰고 있습니다. 처음에는  K-pop에 관심이 있으셔서  방문하셨겠지만 나가시기 전에 한국 전통 문화에 관한 것도 한번 봐 주시면 좋겠습니다.

When MBLAQ asks you to "stay with me" how could you possibly leave? In "Stay" hese guys are so hot, I can almost forget they're practically young enough to be my sons. This is definitely MBLAQ's best work yet, in many ways they are maturing as a group, but I find the song overall to be too "busy," there is just too much going on. And the video, with some of the colors and lighting, sort of strains the eyes, when I'd really just like to relax and look at the guys. There is a longer review on allkpop, just in case you're interested.

Park Jungmin, one of the performers from SS501 (at least in the short term the group is taking a hiatus), has released a solo effort, "Not Alone." The song lacks originality and although the choreography has a few moments of brilliance, we mostly just get to look at the new slicked down hair cut and dark eyeliner that Jungmin is sporting, rather than dance moves. Like some other SS501 songs, Jungmin has utilized a bunch of string instruments, but it feels contrived. And he really shouldn't have changed his look, the old one was much hotter. At least the autotune is not overpowering his voice, which isn't bad.

This character shows up in the video. I just thought the glasses merited a screenshot.

Teen Top (talk about stupid group names) has released the video for "Supa Love," which apparently was produced by a guy who has also produced for Justin Bieber. That should tell you a lot. But as much as the previous releases of this group have fallen short in my opinion, this one is actually a very danceable/club track. If I have to hear it too many times it's going to irritate me, but in the short term I can see myself getting the dishes done in a big hurry while listening to this. The last twenty seconds should be cut off the track though. The video is fairly good, somewhat simple choreography but a nice consistent look throughout. The teen top guys are young, but they don't come across as pre-teens, despite the sort of immature references to supa as in Superman, and a set of outfits that sort of look like trainee superhero garb. I read an online review that says basically one guy, Niel, is singing the whole time. But if it was a solo singer instead of a group that'd still be the case, so who cares how they divide up the work?

A new group that wants to fight back against the idol group culture had just released their first song—the group is called Piggy Dolls and indeed the members are hefty. The song, "Trend" has a long intro, but once the singing starts, you can see that these three can sing, they've got serious lungs, although autotune is still in use, perhaps stylistically chosen, not needed though in this case. It seems to me, though, if they dance that much they are going to lose their trademark plus size. At any rate, Korea is a bit too hung up on appearance and I applaud attempts like this to fight back. But they aren't the first such group, so I am skeptical if they can stick around.

Infinite released a video for "Before the Dawn" that is too violent, apparently, for television. Shots of dance choreography alternate with a dark fight scene. The fight scene just doesn't seem justified in the lyrics, I think it's supposed to be a metaphor, but way too heavy handed to work out. The choreography is pretty good, very strong and masculine, but the singing isn't gritty enough to match the fight or darkness, it's too pretty and smooth.

Joo has released the new track "나쁜 남자", or bad man. The song is whatever, nothing I'd want to listen to again, but the video has an advantage, in that the man is played by Chansung from 2PM, definitely their hottest member. He has the best eyes.