Thursday, December 19, 2013

Changes to Traditional Theatre in Modern Korea

I was asked to write three entries in an upcoming publication called the Dictionary of Asian Theatre. This is my draft of one entry... the word count is practically killing me.

Changes to Traditional Theatre in Modern Korea
Three main primary reincarnations of traditional theatre in modern Korea have reimagined tradition in new ways: madanggeuk,yeonhigeuk, and changgeuk.

During the Korean pro-democracy movement activists became interested in re-appropriating Korean tradition from government control (as registered items of protected traditional culture), and to that end learned mask dance dramas and pungmul drumming. Motivated youth staged what appeared to be a traditional performance, but after a crowd had amassed and the show was underway, the traditional would often give way to a more explicit political message. Over time these young people realized that they no longer needed to clothe their politics within tradition and the genre madanggeuk was born. Through their connection with the democratization movement, these plays by and large focused on spoken and mimed messages. Due to performers’ background training in mask dance drama and pungmul and a desire to remain allied with Korean folk culture, their plays often incorporated traditional music and movement, with the players clad in Korean traditional clothing. In the present day many madanggeuk are performed without these elements, on a variety of themes limited only by the imagination of those involved. New members of madanggeuk troupes may never have learned pungmul or mask dance dramas, and although some troupes explicitly continue to incorporate tradition and train their members in these skills, others do not.
This madanggeuk performed by students of a women's university (not professionals) has lost almost all markers of tradition. 

This madanggeuk maintains the various traditional trappings, but the performers are not necessarily explicitly trained in traditional performance-- they employ the markers of tradition that are useful to evoke a country bumpkin aesthetic but the emphasis is on a humorous delivery of the story. When most Koreans picture madanggeuk they picture something like this.

             Although madanggeuk originally appeared to be the naturally evolving future of Korean traditional theatre, today yeonhi groups, or groups performing yeonhigeuk (yeonhi is a loose term for traditional folk theatre) have emerged. One reason for the resurgence of this term is the opening of a department in yeonhi at the Korean National University of the Arts. The department trains students in mask dance drama, pungmul, shamanic performance, and the skills of the traditional itinerant Korean performers, the Namsadang. Yeonhi groups, often including graduates of the university, have thorough traditional training and reassemble various traditions into full-length shows. Many yeonhi groups create new stories as a framework for presenting traditions they have learned. Instead of limiting themselves to one art or one genre (such as a single village’s pungmul style or one traditional folk dance), they combine styles and genres in a single show. This may include the lion dance from Bongsan’s mask dance drama, the spinning disks from Namsadang, drumming in a pan-regional style, and newly coined humorous dialogue delivered in a traditional style.

I really want to show you a specific video that perfectly encapsulates yeonhigeuk -- but for some reason I cannot embed it. Please visit it here.

Here is another example, this is of highlights from the yeonhi performance of "Good Morning Gut" by The Gwangdae

             Finally, changgeuk is the re-staging of the epic pansori tales that were originally sung by a solo singer accompanied by a drummer. In changgeuk, similar to an opera or a musical, each character is voiced by a different singer on an often elaborate set with props. Changgeuk were first staged in the early twentieth century and contributed to the ongoing success of the pansori genre by providing an alternative setting in which to hear the distinctive singing style. When staging pansori as changgeuk, the music expands from a single drummer to include multiple Korean traditional instruments, and other traditional arts such as dance may be presented in a scene only briefly described in the original tale. Newly composed changgeuk that are not based on the traditional pansori epics have been less successful.

This video is from a production of the National Changgeuk Company's performance of a changgeuk of the pansori tale of Shim Cheong. 


Almost one month ago I started training in Hapkido again.

For those of you who don't know, I am a 4th degree black belt. 3rd degree can teach in a secondary studio (but still technically supervised by their own instructor). 4th degree can open their own studio, if they choose to, or remain affiliated with their parent studio. Hapkido is only one of the many martial arts I've studied to greater or lesser degrees, and the one I have focused on the most-- I began in 1996 and for several years I spent up to seven hours a day leading class and practicing.

None of that is to say that I am some bad ass "grandmaster." I'm good, but not incredible, and I have spent years without any practice of Hapkido (although during many of those years I was practicing other arts-- in 2003-4 I was in China and learned wushu there, in 2004-2006 I was in Seoul and only occasionally went to Daegu to my studio to do Hapkido, but I did taekkyon almost everyday (I'm not going to get into my taekkyon story, but suffice to say it's not a short and simple one). In 2006-07 I was walking to Lhasa and in transition, in 2007-2008 I was dancing a lot but not doing any martial arts, 2008-2010 I did taiji seriously at UCLA and became an assistant instructor, then 2010-2011 I was in Korea practicing multiple arts (not martial arts), but sometimes I went down to Daegu to practice Hapkido in my original studio (although it's moved about 5 times). I did my 4th degree test in early 2011. In 2011-2012 I was back in LA doing taiji, and I kept doing taiji back on Lopez in 2012-2013 (it's the only martial art I've ever been able to practice on my own on a regular basis). Of course now I'm back in Korea.

At first I thought I could take the bus to Seoul and do my normal classes (Bongsan Talchum mask dance drama, and sangmo ribbon hat dance, plus rehearsing with Songpa Sandae Noli mask dance drama) but every time I leave Mohyeon I lose four hours or more to transportation, and the buses are horribly uncomfortable (when returning you don't always get a seat until you're halfway home). So I decided to find a local place to exercise. I interviewed the two closest Hapkido studios and watched their teaching style, both were acceptable, but Yi Sangsu's teaching style seemed better for me (if his studio not quite as nice inside). That was in September, and I planned to start in October, but... Karjam came and I was so busy, then I had the conference, so I finally started almost one month ago and I've been loving it.

At my age, I'm proud that I can still do a flip this well. I actually can do a little better than this, but after a couple more months of practice, I might have to upload another video to show the improvement!

I've written many times before about choosing martial arts studios-- and if anyone wants my opinion about it, please leave a question in the comments-- but I won't be going into that today except to say this:

If you think you need a martial arts studio where they speak English or whatever your language is, you're wrong. Watch and imitate, watch and imitate. This is about your body, not your intellectual understanding. I understand how to do a high scissors kick, that doesn't mean I'm able to leap off the ground and do one! Furthermore the studio is great place to practice Korean. And if you live in Korea, learn Korean already. No matter how long or how short you plan to stay, start learning Korean. It will improve your life.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Limitations to Simplifying English

Last week I had an unpleasant experience. The day before I was going to a TV show taping (for a program on traditional music that my friend's group was performing in) it occurred to me that maybe someone else wanted to go, so I posted a note in the elevator and one person responded. This colleague was about my age (perhaps a little more), white, male, and also American. I had never seen him before, but there are about 75 foreign faculty members that live in this building, so that is not a surprise. We met in the lobby and started walking to the bus. Almost immediately I noticed that he spoke in Broken English, or Pidgin English. Even though we were both American, he continued to do this on the entire 3 hour trip to the studio, and in between the two shows we watched them tape (thanks be afterwards he went to eat dinner before returning to campus, so we did not have to go back together). I explicitly called him on it, twice. I honestly think he has completely code-switched and has no idea that he's doing it. The alternative is to think he's a pretentious superior ass who was intentionally patronizing.

We all have a tendency to do this. We might start "picking up" the accent of a friend, or we might start speaking without using a/an/the (I watched a friend do that to her foreign ex-husband, but she'd do it to him and then speak normally to me in the next sentence), or if we're particularly insular, we might shout at foreigners thinking this makes English easier to understand. ESL professionals end up using shorter sentences and shorter words, and once they learn how difficult idioms are to explain to foreigners, they try to reduce the use of idioms and compound verbs, to the extent possible. (Go ahead, try to explain why we call up a friend-- are we turning our heads to the sky? Or are we just making a phone call?)

But the difference between ESL professionals and this faculty member is that he teaches in the sciences and probably never stopped to realize how difficult it is to understand incorrect English. Or how confusing it is for students--regardless of their own ability to speak error-free English-- to parse that they should not model their own English on that of their native-English speaking American professor. Korean students, although often horrible at speaking, have spent years learning English (the students we now have had English class since third grade of elementary school (English in elementary school, if my memory serves, began in March 1998, maybe 1999, and our freshmen were born in 1994). And that's just the English they had in school-- they also probably went to private after-school classes in hagwon. Sometimes in school and even more often in hagwon they learned with native-English speakers (who of course were explicitly there to model perfect English and not to speak in some sort of broken English). In other words, the students are relatively accustomed to listening to perfect English, although speaking slowly and simply is a good idea. They must be so confused trying to understand this man!

Please, foreigners teaching in Korea, or anywhere else, really. DO NOT DO THIS. It's easier to understand perfect English than to understand broken English. And you have a responsibility to model the correct way to talk. If any of this man's students are imitating how he talks (the same way I might start to speak with a weird hybrid-British accent, or use the same vocab in my answer that was in the question, because I'm sure the students have the vocabulary they just used) then he's doing them a huge disservice.   

Incidentally the TV taping was useful from a research perspective, and my friend's group did a group job performing.

During the taping of the second show I was right next to the stage, so I couldn't take any photos. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Father-in-Law

Today my father-in-law, Lorae, passed away. He was a wonderful man, always calm and patient, and accepting of me and my foreignness. I shared wonderful times with him, such as on our pilgrimage to Lhasa, Nepal and India.

He passed away in pain due to advanced cancer, but surrounded by his family, at home, and after religiously preparing himself to go. I am trying not to be too sad about not getting to see him one last time, because it's not about me. I will prostrate 108 times a day through the 49 day period, in prayers for the even better rebirth he deserves. He had seen too many hard times in this life, but still stayed strong and positive, and was a wonderful example to me.

I love you Apa Lorae, and I always will.

[I will post a photo later, apparently blogger has a bug right now and I cannot upload a photo]

Sunday, December 1, 2013

History Textbooks in Korea and Dr. Lew Young Ick (유영익)

As a general rule, even though I am a scholar of Korea, I do not spend much time worrying about the never­-ending squabbles of Korean political parties. I have been following the newspaper articles on the history textbook controversies with rolled eyes and an attitude of "oh, this again!" However, I recently become aware of the media castigation of Dr. Lew Young­ick that has accompanied the textbook controversy debate in the Korean media, and felt inspired to express my thoughts. Dr. Lew has been a tireless pioneer in scholarship of modern Korean history, it is only logical that the 국사편찬위원회 would ask him to head their organization, even if he's hardly a moderate. From my perspective, although Dr. Lew is a right­wing conservative (the opposite of my own political views), he is also a scholar. His efforts on behalf of the 국사편찬위원회 arise out of his own research-­based understanding of modern Korean history, and should be received in that way.

If Dr. Lew and his group has sponsored a textbook that those with my own political beliefs feel has gone too far, then there are two ways to approach the issue. The first is simply to, as scholars, refute the arguments, not at the level of sentences in the textbook, but rather through asking for the inclusion of alternative perspectives within the textbook­­ and striving to portray complex subjects without stripping away their complexity by portraying each detail as either "right" or "wrong." This is an issue partially because in Korea some (many) people still believe it's possible to make an impartial account of history. It's not. It's time for the world to admit their biases and move forward without the pipe-dream of impartiality.

The second and much more important step is to train Korean students to question the material they find in textbooks. Why do the politicians squabbling over textbook content believe that Korean students will receive the material in textbooks uncritically? Perhaps because when they were in classrooms their own teachers and professors did not encourage debate and multiple perspectives. Fortunately university education in Korea is changing, and many of the professors with whom I work are careful to present multiple viewpoints to students. In my own classes I encourage students to decode and analyze content. This will, I hope, trickle down to high school and middle school education as well. I think we should be striving for that goal, rather than fussing over ideological bias in the presentation of history.

Unfortunately much of the debate on textbooks recently seems to have turned into a witch hunt again Dr. Lew. First he was accused of lying so that his son could dodge the draft (a common practice for the Korean elite). Dr. Lew's son, an American citizen, did not serve in the Korean military and from a nationalistic perspective that does not look good. Then, on October 31st the National Assembly asked Dr. Lew Youngick, the head of the 국사편찬위원회, under oath, if he had used a conservative textbook 뉴라이트 대안 교과서 in a modern Korean history class at 한동 University. The elderly gentlemen, confused, answered "no" when he should have answered "yes." Now the media and various politicians castigate him for perjury. Obviously perjury is a serious offense, but the underlying criticism of Dr. Lew seems to center on portraying him as someone who is incurably and extremely right­ wing in his personal and professional life. Yet Dr. Lew, a pioneer in the field of modern Korean history, deserves our respect as a formidable scholar. A professor with talent and encyclopedic knowledge of the field, such as Dr. Lew, can teach students from any textbook, or no textbook at all.

As his former student, I know that Dr. Lew only assigned us a textbook, but never referred to it in class, carried it around, or opened it in front of us. The textbook was presented as pre­-reading that would help us to understand the lecture­­ familiarizing us with names and the chronology of events. During class time Dr. Lew, as any great educator, complexified the content from our readings ­­introducing multiple perspectives, not reducing his portrayal of events to either "right" or "wrong." As a left­-leaning liberal I survived Dr. Lew's classes with my own liberal understanding of Korea intact. My viewpoints, my test answers, and even a complimentary report on a book by (ultra)liberal scholar Bruce Cumings did not prevent me from having the highest grade in the class for both classes under Dr. Lew. 

As a liberal, and a professor at one of Korea's more liberal universities, I still adamantly refuse to join in the liberal witch-hunt that seems to ignore Dr. Lew's amazing contributions to scholarship, including his 2014 book (already available and in my office) on Syngman Rhee (Korea's first president). Instead I call on my fellow academics to convince these politicians that history textbooks can never be impartial, and ask them when creating textbooks to include multiple perspectives, because Korean youth are not "clay to be molded" but are more than able to come to their own decisions. 

To read more about this issue in Korean try these links: 유영익 위증, 유영익 경질 동의 못하겠다, and 대학교재 아들빌라

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Making Kimchi (Part II)

This is the second part of my post on how to make 김장 김치 (kimjang kimchi, the type you make in the late fall and eat all winter). The previous post is just a couple posts before this one. There are, of course, a million recipes for kimchi. Today I was totally bullied into buying some leaves to put in my kimchi I didn't even end up using (I'll use them in the second batch I'm making on Wednesday) because everyone thinks you should use their recipe, that their recipe must be better. Actually, not everyone, because most people don't even know how to make it on their own, and I did check with a nice woman in the market about ratios to make sure I had enough chili pepper flakes for the number of 포기 (pogi, heads of cabbage for kimchi, it's a special counting word just for napa cabbage kimchi).

It was Friday night when I salted my cabbage. Saturday morning the leaves had started to wilt a bit, as you can see by their degree of flop.
Although it had been 12 hours or so, the cabbage didn't look very wilty yet.

This is how much they would flop on Saturday around 10 a.m. Note that the flop is towards the inner part of the cabbage. 

Sunday morning they flopped both forwards and backwards, and dripped salty water when I held them aloft.
At that point I could have made the kimchi, but I didn't have enough garlic at home, so it waited until the evening.
See how the cabbage is able to flop towards the outer leaves by Sunday morning? If your cabbage can't flop that way, the cabbage needs more time. 

First I washed the salt off the cabbage (3 times), and drained my cabbage (I put it in the dish drainer, honestly).

Next I had to prepare all the items to put into the kimchi. The most time consuming was the green onions. An essential ingredient, they were still roots-full-of-dirt and cleaning took quite some time. After everything was chopped and assembled in the big bowl, I mixed it together. The ratio looked a little off in that the red was lower than I expected, but I used a lot of minari and green onions, so I guess that should have been expected. Then I rubbed my mixture into each leaf, leaving behind some oyster, radish, green onion, chili pepper, etc. between each leaf, then rolling the quarters of cabbage up and stashing them in my container, until it was done.
Here are all my ingredients in the big bowl (oysters, small shrimpy/krill thingies, radish, ginger, garlic (not too much, or your kimchi will not last as long), minari, green onions, and chili pepper flakes. 

Then I put on my rubber gloves and mixed it all up really really well. 

Rubbing the mixture onto each leaf, leaving behind spices, veggies, etc. 

Look at all that kimchi! It's a 16 liter tub, and it's got to have at least 12 liters of kimchi in it! (I put the book there so you can get an idea of the scale). 

Oh ya, I'm going to be having kimchi stew, kimchi fried rice, kimchi tofu every single time I want all winter. 

Now I'll get to do this all over again, since my neighbors Sara, Maria Anna, and Lyudmila want to try, too.

Quince Tea (Part II)

So, when I went to Seoul National University to lecture for my dear friend Hilary, my lecture was in the same building as their traditional tea house (전통찻집). First of all, can I just express my jealousy and irritation that I live on a campus with
1) Caffe Bene (it's a cheap Korean franchise coffeeshop and the coffee isn't very good).
2) Cafe Nescafe (is this better? maybe, because it's nearer to my building, but seriously, Nescafe!!!! Are you f-ing kidding me?
And who would not want to live on a campus with a traditional tea house? So I went there, and it looked like this:
Yes, indeed. It was full of sun, and there was a seating area (near the register and the door) with regular Western tables, and then an inner seating area, where you could comfortably sit on cushions on the floor. I was in 3 inch heels and a tight skirt, so I stayed outside the floor seating.
This is my little brother Changyeol, enjoying his tea at the tea shop. We team taught Hilary's class. I LOVE team teaching with Changyeol. The students love him, too. 

Anyway, so I ordered the quince tea (usually I would order 오미자 omija but they didn't offer it), and then it occurred to me to ask the woman making the tea about my quince tea.

First of all, I think adding another 1/4 of a quince and more honey after I took the first photo was the wrong idea. It must have needed more air on top, because it has consistently pressed honey out of the container and onto the plate that I fortunately placed below. The honey, though, tastes like quince. The quince itself is obviously fermenting, and I also found some small white mold blossoms (of course I stirred it up, to get that part under the honey). So I asked the lady if something had gone wrong that my quince was molding a bit and she advised that I dump it all into a bowl, mix well, put it back into the container, add a layer of sugar to the top to block the air, and then close it again. So I did. Yay for people who know what they are doing.
As you can see, there are bubbles in the quince and honey on the plate underneath. 

All sugared-up

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dressing the Part

I just read a long (too long, really) blog post on dressing for the AAA conference (this, my non-academic friends, is the American Anthropology Association). The blogger, Carole McGranahan has a lot to say about what to wear at conferences, or at the AAA conference in particular.

I've been thinking about clothes a lot since I got this job. In Korea professors dress much more formally than in the US. There are several reasons for this. I'll keep thinking about it, but I think these are the big three.
1) Koreans tend to dress more formally and don't have the same sort of resentment against the white shirt, tie, suit look that many Westerners do. It's partially because a generation ago getting a white collar job was such an amazing accomplishment.
2) Dressing less formally than the deans and university presidents would be disrespectful-- like if you went to dinner with them and sat down first, or started eating first. The person who sets the standard of dress is at the top.
3) Our students (not all, but many) dress really well, too. Sometimes you look at the students (esp. the female students) and you think you're looking at a bunch of women in a 1960s secretarial pool or something. Blouses. Nylons. High Heels. Make-up. The students are getting to dress up for the first time-- in high school they may have had uniforms. They certainly weren't allowed to wear make-up to school. Some of them just can't wait to graduate and land a job to start dressing up.

So... here's three days of me on my way to my office or a class/ or on my way home. No, I did not teach in the middle outfit... that was just sitting in my office. So that I don't get bored with all this formal dressing I decided to adopt a look that is usually mix-and-match, instead of wearing a matching pair of pants/skirt and jacket (like in the last photo). I save that look for days with big meetings.

So, when I went to SEM I wore nice clothing. More formal than most people there (see my previous post). On the other hand, I looked like a million bucks and it wasn't all boring pieces. I guess I really went for McGranahan's "flair" and "scarves." But Ethnomusicologists definitely dress less formally than Asian Studies scholars... and junior faculty trying to prove they are professional also dress fairly formally, so I felt at home around "my" people-- other people like me in postdocs and first jobs, and scholars of Korean performance. Except one Korean graduate student, who even presented, but seemed to have only brought one outfit with him. I was sort of amazed, actually. Because it wasn't unnoticeable-- it was a sweatshirt type top with bold stripes in aqua and grey. No one would look at it and not remember he'd worn it the previous day.
These are four of my students. Adorable, right? 

What to wear in your Korean teaching job?
If you're coming to teach in a Korean university, and you don't know what to wear/bring-- go formal. If you come here and try to wear casual chinos and a button up shirt and a sweater all the time you will be perceived as being much less serious about your job than you probably are (and you'll look like your students). Korean male professors wear a suit and a tie everyday. They may take the jacket off for most of the day but they have it wtih them and it's a black, grey, dark blue, sometimes brown suit. The shirt is oxford style. The tie might not be snazzy, but it's there. Women have more leeway- but as in all aspects of life in Korea, no cleavage. None. Never. You can wear a skirt that is far above your knee without issue, but never show cleavage. No spaghetti straps or sleeveless unless that will be hidden all day under a light jacket or cardigan. Women who work language teacher jobs (that might be you) can often get away with a cardigan and I've seen some distinctly frumpy outfits, but the better your job is, the more likely you should make sure what you're wearing always looks new, ironed/dry-cleaned, and reasonably formal. In Korea formal for women means a jacket, a skirt of just about knee length (mid calf and lower is not considered formal) or trousers, and a blouse.

On the other hand, if you got a job teaching kindergarteners (and yes, your job is all about earning your for-profit institution money), then wear whatever you want, esp. if you have blue eyes, blond hair, and boundless energy, because you're really just there to be foreign, fun, and full of games.

Making Kimchi for the Winter (Part 1)

I made kimchi in the late fall for several years, and then I moved to China, then the US, and I stopped. I wanted to, but I was just too busy. I made a few little batches of kimchi here and there, but no big ones.

Not so this year! Today I bought almost everything I need. I started with 3 heads of cabbage (otherwise known as 3 포기 because you use a special word for counting kimchi). I will have to buy more because I promised to teach some neighbors, but...

Tonight I cut and salted my 3 heads. The heads are quartered and the salt is big and coarse. The cabbage will wilt under the effect of the salt and once it's spongy enough, I'll move on to the next step.

As you can see, the cabbage is still fairly tight. 
Here's the salt

It should be inserted between each leaf. I couldn't show this process properly with salt in one hand and the camera in the other. Just imagine holding the leaves open with one hand as I spread the salt. 

Almost immediately you can see the salt start to draw the moisture out of the leaves.

And at the end my leaves are all spread apart from each other due to the salting process. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference (2013: Indianapolis)

I just returned from "Indy" last night, where I attended the annual Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) Conference. It was quite the big experience, each day full and I wonder if I can do justice to the experience in a blog post.

General Intro
First of all, for my wonderful blog readers who are less familiar with academic conferences, just a little background info. Conferences are held by all the major societies once per year, and generally the timing is the same. For example, I haven't ever gone to the Asian Theatre Association conference, because it's always the middle weekend in June. As a graduate student in a quarter system school this meant that the conference was about the same time as my final papers were due and about the same time as I might be moving somewhere. It can also overlap with summer solstice. SEM has their conference in early November (this year was later than normal) and the Association for Asian Studies (AAS, my other big conference per year) meeting is in March (usually the middle of March, although 2014 is at the end of March). The conferences move cities each year, and are usually in really large cities like LA or Chicago or Philadelphia. When the conferences happen somewhere smaller the transportation headaches can be a real nightmare. This type of academic conference may have presentations all day, in multiple rooms, even extending into the evening. There can be 20 or more simultaneous presentations (very frustrating because there is always an overlap and you have to make tough choices about what to see) in different rooms. When you're lucky it's easy to find all the rooms and they are all within a couple floors of each other, when you're not the last day of the conference you're still wandering hallways, lost, and walking into talks late. Talks are grouped into panels to present research, or roundtables to discuss a topic of general concern to the members of the roundtable. At SEM there was a roundtable to talk about phenomenological approaches to the study of ethnomusicology, and another to talk about multi-faceted mentorships, among others. There are usually key-note speeches and an address to the whole membership, with no other activities scheduled during that time period. There are also meetings of interest to sub-groups, for example I am a member of two SEM sub-groups: the Dance, Movement, Gesture Section and the Association for Korean Music Research, so I went to those groups.
                                                    View out the window of our hotel at pre-dawn
In the evening after all the panels are done there are various receptions, these can be hosted by a press, but usually they are hosted by a university with a larger department (or departments) devoted to the general subject of the conference. Receptions can have good food, and a free drink or more, but usually they have crappy snacks and increasingly they don't even have one free drink. UCLA, even though they have strong Asian Studies has never had an AAS reception when I was at AAS, this year they had one at SEM, but we didn't even get a single free drink and the snacks were overly-salty nuts, weird pretzels, dyed chips, and very crappy guacamole. Harvard, as you could guess, had better snacks (like grilled asparagus) and free unlimited drinks. The best reception I go to each year is that of the Korea Foundation at AAS. Last year they just kept bringing out food. And it was real food, people could get full! Receptions start on a rolling basis in the evening, and may continue until midnight, most continue for two hours, but there are other simultaneous receptions, and if your university isn't having one, you're free to go anywhere you want, or pop in and out. They are the best time to have casual conversations with people and make new connections-- of course it's nice if someone can introduce you to the right folks, but as I've gotten to be more of an old hand, I find I'm the one doing introductions, or people are being introduced to me. It's fun to feel the tables turning, because I definitely prefer to be the one who is helping others make connections!

For graduate students and anyone on a serious budget, conferences can be tough. Staying in the conference hotel is a good idea as you get to maximize your time at the conference, but still retreat to some quiet, or drop off books you bought in the publications room, without wasting a lot of time. The associations get deals on the hotels, and most people end up sharing beds and staying 4 people to a two double-bed room, although as I worry less about money I definitely want to shift to just having me in my bed. Even with four people in a room and the discount, a major hotel in a major city usually costs at least 55 bucks a night. In Indy we were stuck in the middle of downtown with no nearby grocery store (I prefer to go get some granola or granola bars and fruit and at least eat my breakfast in my room), and all the restaurants around were horrible franchises. Like pizza and steak and stuff like that. I found one franchise with a bunch of noodles from around the world, and went there twice, but otherwise it was sort of a food desert for someone like me. Smart students go to the receptions in a very timely manner so they can get more snacks, and they drop pieces of fruit and rolls and stuff into their bags. For me, with my diet, I'm usually lucky if there are more than a couple things I can eat in the receptions. One time I did the Master Cleanse for an entire conference. That was a good way to save money, but I think some people thought I was insane.

Highlights of the 2013 SEM Conference
One of the really cool things about ethnomusicologists and the SEM conference is the music. Basically every presentation has audio or video samples so the audience can get an idea what the presenter is talking about. There are also organized musical presentations (this was one of the only ones I saw, I found a clip on FB and hope the link works-- the main SEM members reception featured this group, and this is a video of them as they left). There are also jam sessions. The best jam session I saw involved a LOT of UCLA talent (of course). I can share one and two videos of that, since I actually did a favor for my friend Dave (the guy playing the sax in the videos) and shot video on his phone of the whole circle. My friend Shalini's presentation had a video clip of a singer that made me wish she would be hawking CDs after the presentation. And Smithsonian Folkways had a booth where I got into lots of trouble. Or in other words I bought the new music I'm listening to right now:
"Classic Old-Time Music" (compiled by Jeff Place) as well as the following CDs:
"Traditional Music of the Garifuna of Belize" (by the way, I know from my friend Lauren that Garifuna is said with each accent on all four syllables Ga-rif-un-a and the /i/ sounds like the /i/ in sit. I used to say that Gar-I-fun-a.
Roscoe Holcomb "An Untamed Sense of Control"
and three CDs that include DVDs from the same series, Music of Central Asia (I already own another from the series):
Vol. 1 "Tengir-Too: Mountain Music of Kyrgyzstan"
Vol. 2 "Invisible Face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks"
Vol. 6 "Alim and Fargana Qasimoy: Spiritual Music of Azerbaijan"
I love having new music to listen to!

I got to spend a lot of time with people I really like at the conference. I like people who are in AAS, also, but I feel much closer to these fun music/dance SEM types than the general AAS membership. I was sharing a room with Rebecca, one of my closest friends, and presenting on a panel I organized with her and Leticia, another very close UCLA friend. I got to spend time just hanging around with both of them (although Rebecca was mostly stressing about her presentation and being on the job-market so she couldn't relax and just go find good sushi with me-- oh well, I can find good sushi in Korea, too). The UCLA folks, including Kate, Mike, Michael, Scott, Ryan, and Dave are all people I already felt really close to. There were also other cool UCLA folks there that I don't know quite as well. Other folks I could just relax and be myself around abounded, and if I try to list everyone I'll forget people. Anyway, there were a lot of people at the conference that I am in frequent contact with, whom I feel very close to. Since I'm living in a bit of social isolation out here in our mountain-valley campus, it was really nice just to have relaxed fun conversation.

And of course I got to see a lot of inspiring papers. I think the one that hit me over the head the most was the first one I saw, by Nancy Guy. She gave me permission, through her talk, to write/speak about this research and the motivations of the performers I interact with as being based in love. Maybe that sounds obvious to you, but scholarship tends to avoid words such as "love," as if using this term makes your work sound unprofessional. If I was a good blogger, I would return to this topic and write a whole blog on it. Don't hold your breath. Other really great papers I saw presented were by Henry Spiller, Katherine Lee (even though I'd already seen a version of the same paper), Shalini Ayyagari, and Christina Sunardi. The best graduate student presentation I saw was by Ryan Koons-- it was on who sings the roles of castrati from baroque opera in the modern era, since we aren't castrating boys anymore.

                                 Ryan Koons answering questions after his presentation

I saw some dud papers, too. That always happens. But the inspiration of going to a conference like this is more than just the papers you hear presented, it's the conversations about your scholarship and other's scholarship that occurs informally at receptions, in the hallway, even in the elevator. You get such great ideas by talking casually with thoughtful, well-trained scholars who work on performance, even if it's not in your area of the world.

The two subgroups I'm active in were both interesting meetings. Dance, Movement, Gesture (DMG) included a keynote speech by Anya Peterson Royce, who is the grand-dame of scholarship on dance. It was amazing just meet her, and she summarized the entire history of dance scholarship, more or less, so that was a great lesson, too. The AKMR meeting included a lot of discussion about how we'd provide funds for a graduate student to attend SEM meetings, which is a very worthy goal.

My presentation came off pretty well. I was much too nervous when it started, with Jeff Todd Titon as the chair and Atesh Sonneborn as the discussant, I suddenly felt I'd bit off more than I could chew, and the live-streaming audience aspect of the talk (one panel per session is live streamed and archived on the internet) made me even more jittery. My hand was shaking as I held the paper for the first three or four minutes. Also, I had to use the mic, which was weird for me. I got three good questions before my time was up, and participated in the discussion afterwards, although I wish I'd expressed myself better at that time. Atesh led the discussion into a much more philosophical place than I felt comfortable in.

 Thankfully I asked Sydney to take this single photo and it came out well-- because on the day that Leticia, Rebecca and I presented, I totally forgot about photos

Directly after the presentation Rebecca and I hurried to the airport. I was lucky, my plane left on time. Tornadoes later in the day forced most other attendees, including Rebecca (her plane was scheduled to leave the same time as mine), to take other flights, even a day later (the aircraft control tower had to be evacuated due to safety concerns at one point).

Final photo is of Leticia and I-- this is my new awesome hanbok. Nice, huh?!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hanbok -- One

I have decided to periodically post some photos that could inspire people to consider new ways to incorporate hanbok into their fashion ensembles.

Hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) is generally worn as an entire outfit, not as a piece mixed with non-Korean clothes. Hanbok comes in three basic varieties: "traditional hanbok" (somewhat similar to the court hanbok of the past) and "gaeryang hanbok" (개량한복) (an updated and more colorful version of the peasant hanbok of the past), and "minbok," (민복) or peasant clothes, that are generally made from white cotton or unbleached hemp.

I own all three types of hanbok and have been wearing hanbok for years. But there are very few people who wear hanbok casually with non-Korean clothes (and it only really works with gaeryang hanbok). I'll go into more detail some day when I'm not preparing to leave for an international conference. Here is my example of the day, a gyaeran hanbok top instead of a suit jacket.

This next photo is a detail of how the hanbok top (meant to be worn over a dress) looks over a sweater with pants.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Neighbor's Children and Quince Tea

I recently had an article accepted for publication, so much of today was spent on the final editing and polishing of the article. This is a good thing. It's related to K-pop, so publishing it will help to establish me more firmly as a scholar of modern Korean culture.
The construction is getting taller and taller-- photo from maybe 10 a.m. and below around 4 p.m. -- ahh the changing light and a fall hillside!

For a break I walked to the market with Mohammed and his family. His wife and three boys arrived last week. The boys (if I have the names right), Youssef, Oman, and Achmed, are incredibly cute, esp. Achmed, who is four. For these Egyptians living here is already like living in an ice box. To go to the store they were bundling up in coats, more coats, hats, and gloves. I expressed my opinion and they left the second coat off the boys. The boys and I raced around (I wanted to make sure their core was nice and warm so they didn't wish they'd brought their coats) and no one complained of being cold the whole time. The leaves have almost fallen from the last gingko trees, but the maple leaves are brightly colorful and curling on the trees. The sun was as strong as it can be in November (yesterday was a heavy rain), and we skipped along quite cheerfully next to our little river.

Mohammed strongly prefers Nongmin Market (I almost prefer Nonghyeop's market as it has more organic food), so we went there. Mohammed's wife gradually became accustomed to my American English as we walked around the market, with her asking me hundreds of questions about the products (there is often no English on the labels on Korean goods). At last they had purchased a very large amount of food, water, and toilet paper and we proceeded back home. The boys were getting tired, so Mohammed waited for the bus with them, while his wife and I stopped at other stores so I could show her what was available in other places. By the time we got home we felt very comfortable together. I need friends here, especially with Karjam gone, and she seems to be a very lovely woman, perhaps we can be friends (first I need to get her name written down so that I can remember it, though). And I must admit I like young boys so much, I kind of just want to hang out around the kids (Youssef is 10, Oman is maybe 7, and as I said Achmed is 4). They were very amenable to racing, chasing, and fake-throwing-in-the-river. I love that boisterous little boy energy.
Thursday last week, light drizzle, students hurrying back to the dorm

I chatted with my dad over Skype while I took the first step in making quince tea (processing the quince). I'm not sure if I did it right or not, the internet directions I've found have not agreed with each other. Now my hands smell strongly of quince (this is a good thing)! The directions are as follows: wash your quince carefully but do not scrub at the skin, as the good oils on the skin is where the distinctive smell (and therefore tea taste) come from. Then cut it, core it, and slice it thinly. You can make small triangles or cut it even thinner into small strips-- but leave that nice peel on each piece. Then layer it with sugar (organic, white sugar-- brown sugar will obscure the quince taste) and honey in an air tight container and close it up. The ratio I followed was 2:1:1 with the 2 being quince slices. Leave it in a cool place (but not cold like a fridge). It should be ready between two weeks and one month. Then you just put the mixture into hot water and stir and let it steep to make honeyed quince tea.

I looks pretty cool. I'm wondering if I should go buy another container so that I can  make more tea out of my other quince (one quince filled the container I'd set aside for tea).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bicycle, Bicycle, Bicycle!

My bike arrived with the rest of my stuff on October 3rd (I think). I mostly put it together about five or six days later, then I hit a snag (lack of a long handled wrench capable of enough torque to make sure my pedals stay on, and it was a Sunday and the local excuse-for-a-bike-shop was closed). A couple days later Karjam arrived, and I ended up being super busy trying to get some quality time with him and still do my other essential tasks-- like class prep. In fact while he was here I only walked my mountain circuit 3 times, although I'd been doing it at least 3-4 times a week before he arrived.

Today, even though I have HUGE deadlines and tomorrow is the day I teach in Korean, I put together the bike, cruised down to the "bike shop" (no place that can see me roll in my bike and not be curious to check it out and even ask a few questions deserves to be called a bike shop). I used their wrench and headed down the road. I almost ended up on the toll road by accident, but at the last minute there was an exit, and after rolling through some small factories I found the bike-path-ish thing I'd seen from a bridge. The bike path petered in and out, with hard packed dirt, nice crushed rubber, and cement alternating for about three miles in the direction I was headed (next time I'll go the other way). It was mostly abandoned, and sandwiched between agricultural greenhouses and a small river. The path crossed the river, left the riverside and spat me out back on the road I'd been on earlier, so I rolled home and then pounded up the hill to the end of campus so that I could fly back down.

Although the road until I reach the path I found today has fast traffic whizzing by, and the air was not the best next to some of those diesel trucks, it felt wide enough that it should be reasonably safe.

My sit bones have not been subjected to a bike seat in several months and will probably be outraged next time I straddle my bike, but tomorrow and the next day I'm so busy, then I'm out of town Friday and Saturday, so it might not be until Sunday that I can ride again.

--Three photos of Gingko from three separate days--

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shopping with Someone Else's Money

One of the best things about this job, so far, has been ordering books for the library. Apparently others don't think so, because I rarely am informed by the system that the book is already in the library. In fact, it's so rare, I don't even bother to check before I track down the four pieces of information I need to order:

  • Title
  • Author's Name
  • Publishing House
  • ISBN (13 character version)

To be fair, it's a new department so no one has been invested in getting appropriate books into the library. On the other hand there are people here who are going to love these books even if they're not in my department. We have foreign students as well as 75 foreign professors on this campus, most of the professors read English and by putting up notes in the elevator as new books arrive I've made quite a few acquaintances who are excited to learn more about Korea through these titles. I should try to prepare a write up for any staff newsletter, as well. I bet some of the foreign-educated, English-fluent Korean professors of other subjects would be interested to see what is written on Korea.

At first I was tentative, only ordering books I knew I could easily justify if anyone accused me of going overboard. I also made very sure to not just order every book on Korean performance (to the neglect of other subjects). As the librarians met my enthusiasm with thanks and their own enthusiasm I began to order more and more books that were farther afield from the canon of classics in Korean Studies. In addition to key theoretical texts, I've ordered some books on Japan, China, and elsewhere in Asia that will be excellent for comparative readings. And happily I followed up on new book announcements on Asia-studies message lists by ordering some that seemed likely to be good. Ahhh, it's so much fun to shop with someone else's money!!!

Although I've now realized that many of my first year students (that I'll have in the spring) will be incapable of actually reading English language scholarship on Korea without exerting great effort (I will be giving them very selective chapters and articles, but probably not assigning any complete books), I have high hopes that by the time they are juniors and seniors that they will be enjoying the many titles in the library and citing them in their assignments, even if they were not specifically assigned those texts. In fact, I should try to maintain an up-to-date listing of the Korean Studies titles in the library so that I can remember what to direct students to find!


Three of these are books I ordered but have not yet read, by academic friends of mine, Theodore Jun Yoo, George Kallander, and Hyung Il Pai. Actually Hyung Il's new book was just barely released and hasn't even arrived yet. I love ordering the latest books!!! And finally "Samulnori" is a book that of course I love and already own, by another academic friend, Nathan Hesselink.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Settling In...

This is not an exciting blog post. This is for my family, really.

Lots of great veggies are in season right now. The street market (every five days) has had shitake mushrooms lately-- a big bag for about 5 dollars. Yay!

Everything is getting more and more homey. Here's the living room as viewed from the kitchen (which is the other end of the room of course)

There is a bed (can't remove it) and a desk in both of the bedrooms. This is technically the spare bedroom and my desk. Karjam gets the desk in the room we will usually sleep in (because I often stay up later). I put mom's quilt here because this bed is likely to stay made and pretty, and I'm in and out of this room. 

The bigger bedroom has a walk in closet. It's small, but I can hide the mess in it. Yay! I decided to liven up the walls with hanging a sarong. 

This room also has the balcony. As you can see my bike is there. I'll bring it inside after Karjam leaves. I also have a pretty big rosemary in a pot out there.  The branches are at least 2.5 feet tall, so it's got plenty to lend me for cooking and still grow well. 

Perhaps most exciting to me I got all the books I shipped here into my office and onto the shelves. As of this photo there was still a lot of needed organization, but... can't have everything!