Thursday, January 31, 2013

Motivation, Research and the New Article

It's been hard to stay focused on writing this article on K-Pop and the construction of femininity. For one thing, I have to do lots of background reading which always leads to MORE background reading, which leads to MORE background reading, which leads me to throw my hands up in the air and decide to cook food instead. Or exercise. Or go take photos of mom's quilts because she's finally going to open an Etsy shop (don't worry, I'll popularize the link as soon as she has something in her store).

In order to do a good job on this article, I need to cite the research that already addresses aspects of femininity, sexual exploitation, and K-pop yet at the same time I have to avoid recreating the work other scholars have already done-- that's why I'm doing a performance analysis and looking specifically at choices that were made by the staff at Music Core, Inkigayo and the film crew for I AM SMTOWN as they presented these performances/these artists for the viewer.

Do they emphasize specific body parts through camera angles and close-ups (other than the face, of course)?
How do camera operators, editors, and the person choosing to use feed from camera A v. B v. C v. D treat suggestive clothing and choreography?
How is this different in each of the three cases I'm examining?
How does the gender of the performers impact the treatment by the camera? (Or does it?)
How do the emcees lead to emphasis on different aspects of the performers and their performance through use of descriptive phrases and adjectives as they introduce the acts or react to a performance?
How are backdrops and lighting decisions (or use of smoke machines) contributing to a gendered reading of performances? (Or are they?)

Those are some of the questions I'm seeking to address here. I want to take this paper from conference to publication as soon as possible.

I leave you with these blurry screen captures:

Music Core was not afraid of a momentary crotch shot of Boyfriend's suggestive pelvis thrust/penis stroke movement:

On the other hand Inkigayo only got this close to the same movement.
And close-ups of choreographic elements included details such as this hands to chest and then chest pop motion

Maybe next time I'll have more to say about Girls' Generation (this is a capture from I AM SMTOWN)

p.s. you're right, for the article I may abandon femininity as a focus and just look at differential treatment of the body depending on gender of the performer. But I better keep something specific to femininity in my conference paper since it's in the title... 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Recommendation- Scenic Spots by Pal Nyiri

Because I am applying for jobs in different (generally interdisciplinary) fields, I've had to prepare a lot of syllabi and course proposals (or versions of syllabi with somewhat different approaches) in the last few months. I highly recommend that you prepare a few syllabi before you ever enter the job market, because a good one takes quite a lot of time (I can bang out a course proposal pretty fast, but when it comes to planning each course meeting of a semester/quarter it takes days to plan a good class).

One recent syllabus was for the course "Cultural Tourism in East and Southeast Asia." As I prepared readings I discovered a review for a book that sounded so interesting I just had to use ILL (Inter-Library Loan) to get a closer look. Although I initially included it as an optional reading for the planned course, now that I've read it, if I have to submit that syllabus again I'll re-order my readings to make this one the first tourism ethnography the students will read. The book is by Pal Nyiri, and it's called Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State and Cultural Authority. It came out on the University of Washington Press in 2006.

To tell the truth I wasn't even planning to read it. I thought I'd skim the introduction, check out the quality of the writing, and get a feel for the level at which it was written (there is no point in assigning highly theoretical works to the average undergraduate, or at least not if you expect them to finish the reading and participate in a lively discussion). Instead I found it difficult to put down, high praise for an academic publication. Nyiri's writing is clear and precise, without meandering paragraph-long sentences. In addition he adds the occasional quip with just a hint of dry humor. One of the things I appreciated the most about his book, though, was the way that he provided an excellent demonstration of fieldwork technique. That's why I would assign it to undergraduates early in the term: a discussion of how Nyiri approaches and participates in tourism from multiple perspectives would make it clear to a student how they could visit a tourist site near their university and conduct their own field research project. Because I am interested in issues of performance and presentation of performances to tourist audiences, his observations on how performances were presented, what the narrative surrounding the performance was, and how other tourists engaged with the performances just makes the book that much more useful. And finally I loved it because it dealt with issues of ethnicity and Tibetans, including fieldwork in parts of the greater Tibetan ethnic area (not the TAR) that I have visited.

I leave you with a few passages from Nyiri to whet your appetite:

"Some examples drawn from promotional materials published by tourism authorities in 2002 and 2003 illustrate the features of the contemporary marketing of scenic spots. Promotional materials are structured in the gazetteer tradition of the pastiche, cataloging sites--from temples to theme parks-- with photos and brief texts without setting up a geographic or historical relationship between them. We learn, for instance, that a site lies "in the midst of high mountains" or "on crystal clear waters," but most of the time we do not get any of the tectonic details that we've come to expect from Western travel literature, such as the height, name, or geological origin of mountains, or the names of rivers or lakes.Following a tradition started by early twentieth-century guidebooks, or "local specialties" (tutechan) to taste and buy are included among the cameos." (p. 22) 

"As is customary in China, the show was led in dialogue by female and male hosts who presented the introduction and text between the performances. It covered the standard repertoire of an "ethnic culture" evening, providing a cultural master narrative of the place. This "culture," according to the narration at the show, consists of "solemn and mysterious religious rites, cheerful folk songs, and wild folk dancing," including alluded-to-mating or drinking rituals. Although some songs were in Chinese, each song and dance was identified as either Tibetan or Qiang. The representation confirmed Gladney's observation that while minority women in China are invariably presented as highly feminine and sexualized, "when minority men are portrayed... they are generally exoticized as strong and virile, practicing strange and humorous customs, or possessing extraordinary physical abilities in sport, work, or the capacity to consume large amounts of alcohol" (Gladney 2002). To complete the picture, the Qiang and Tibetans were established as patriotic Chinese citizens through the song "China, I love you" performed by a Tibetan singer." (p. 39) 

"As with its policy reversal on domestic tourism, China changed from a state that prevented foreign travel to one that encouraged it but attempted to control its meaning. The public discourse in 1990s China, from academia to the media, equated travel abroad with migration in pursuit of individual "development" (fazhan) through education or work and, ultimately and optimally, entrepreneurship." (p.99)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Femininity and K-Pop

I have followed K-pop (as an academic subject) with greater and lesser vigor over the past few years and several times I've even written academic papers on the subject and presented them at conferences. The world of K-pop is fascinating in a bizarre train wreck sort of way, and sometimes the music is good. This year I'm on the job market and I want to show my multiple spheres of teachable knowledge to the maximum extent possible, so I applied to present on K-Pop at the IASPM (International Association for the Study of Popular Music) conference in Austin, Texas. I left preparing the abstract until the last minute, and somehow was not able to prepare one that folded in my previous knowledge or research in any but the most incidental and general way. I was accepted based on my abstract for a paper titled "The Construction of the Feminine in Korean Popular Music: A Performance Analysis of "I AM: SMTown Live" and Multi-Artist Musical Variety Shows."

Whoa. Wait a second. I'm not someone who works on gender. Ever. Never have.

So, here's my first paragraph (at the moment it looks this way, anyway):

According to Philip Auslander, "the field of cultural studies generally emphasizes the reception of popular music much more than the performance behavior of musicians" (2004: 3). Auslander identifies reception of performance and performance of performers as two objects of study. I suggest that research can also focus on the presentation or framing of the performance. In this paper I will primarily consider the framing of performers of Korean popular music as presented by live music shows Music Core and Inkigayo and the performance documentary I AM SMTOWN: Live at Madison Square Garden. Consequently my attention will focus on choices made by the television stations and their emcees, stage and video production crews that produce the two music shows and by the decisions made by the director, film and editing crews who created the documentary for SM Entertainment. 

I will proceed to discuss how femininity is constructed not through talking about clothing, song choices, and dance choreography (all decided by the management company and production teams in greater or lesser consult with the artists before we ever see the performance), but through observing how the performances of the women on these shows is framed differently than performances of men are framed (fortunately for my analysis either women perform or men perform, there are almost no groups in Korea that mix men and women together). I might be onto something, I might not. I have viewed two entire episodes of Music Core and Inkigayo, and I am proceeding through the 4 DVD set of the I AM SMTOWN DVD. 

I would love to have your help. Point out something. Challenge. Share your thoughts or observations. Anything you say might help me think through these issues, please do not hesitate to comment.

Here are some clips that could help you help me:

Here is Boyfriend on Inkigayo (top), and on Music Core (below). I see a large difference in how the production companies and video crew for these two TV stations chose to shoot the performances. If you see a difference between the Inkigayo and Music Core framing of the same song by the same group on consecutive nights, please let me know what you see that's different. I don't want to tell you what I see as it may bias you. 

Here's a comparison with a female group, Girls' Generation. Again, I've put Inkigayo first and Music Core second. 

Please note that I am not claiming that either of these songs is really great. I'm just comparing the two "biggest name" performances on back to back nights but shot by two different production companies. Also because both songs are "dance" and performed by fairly large groups of artists with a more "mature" image (they aren't rookies, they aren't 15 years old), the comparison is more legitimate than if I asked you to compare singing a ballad in comparison with a large group dancing...

If you just want to comment based on the above, that's great, but I am also analyzing these performances below~~

I don't normally listen to K-pop outside the "dance" genre, but watching these shows I discovered the beautiful voice of Juniel who is also (surprise!) able to play an instrument. Inkigayo on top, Music Core below:

Men also get to do ballads. However I only have one male-sung ballad that is on both of these shows (Jan. 13th and Jan. 12th), and it's a duo. I still think you can compare with Juniel, however. 

Hello Venus is definitely not likely to get onto my frequent play list (esp. not this song), but here you go Inkigayo first:

Following cute girl group with cute boy group-- A-Prince with "Hello" 

Here's a duo that really should have gotten a better name: Ego Bomb. Really? Ego Bomb? Inkigayo first, Music Core second (just trying to be consistent here).
And the somewhat comparable Glam (except I'm sorry, I think their voices are atrocious). 

Comments? Please. Please. Please.Thank you^^

p.s. if you think these videos are pretty crappy quality (it's true, they are), then watch the entire show on Hulu (if you're in the US only, I think Hulu doesn't work outside the US). 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Everything You -EVER- Wanted to Know about Korean Mask Dance Dramas

Ah yes, my favorite subject! I wrote an essay to accompany photos published by the Journal Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review. If you want to access the article and the photos, here is the link. I wish I had found more time to edit the writing, as it's a bit clunky, but I'm pleased with the article in general. It was also reproduced in the the Vol. 1, No. 2 (November 2012) print version of the same journal.

The photo collage below did not make the cut for inclusion. The photo is of the Bibi Gwajang from Goseong Ogwangdae.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Coffee the Right Way

Many years ago I wanted the caffeine and not the taste and I loaded up my coffee with white stuff, honey, you name it. I shook cinnamon on it. Stale cinnamon, even. I knew some things about coffee (hazelnut is not a flavor for coffee) but didn't know much.

As some of my friends grew older they learned about wines. Everything I know about wine I knew in my early 20s. As I got older I learned about coffee. Most of all, I learned that I really want it one way:

Indonesian grown, preferably Sumatran (shade grown and organic, of course)
Dark roasted (but not burnt)
Drip (don't let the water get too cold)

Yet, on Lopez I only had my old stove-top espresso maker. I tried to get by, really I did. Often dad shared a cup of his coffee (not Indonesian but otherwise perfect), or I went to Isabel's, a coffee shop in town (I like the windows and good tables for sitting to work at). Finally I broke down and asked my Facebook friends what coffee maker to buy.

Thanks be that certain wise people (Jenny! Tommy!) said Aeropress.

My Aeropress has a stainless steel filter (nothing to throw away except spent beans), it tastes a million times better than a French Press (that's a totally different process of making coffee), and it makes a double sized cup so I can share with a friend, or have enough caffeine to keep me going all day. Here's a photo I took. Note that the jar catches the drip coffee, that the press part suctions to the side of the maker (I will use the press after I've added more water to drip through my two cups), and that I have the super cool "cuppow" as a screw on sippy cup lid that works with my wide mouth canning jar (they also have regular mouth cuppow).  Oh, and the Aeropress is tiny, I can take it anywhere and it cost less than all but the cheapest coffee makers!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tourist Cards

Two women had a gallery on Lopez so they could sell the things they made, and since their shop wasn't full with only their stuff they also had other local artists selling for a monthly fee (including my mom). Then one of them decided to pull out and move to Norcal. The remaining woman transitioned her gallery into a cooperative gallery, and asked me to supply tourist images of Lopez (the lady who left was a "photographer"). I'm not a landscape photographer or very interested in tourist images, and I didn't have a ton of images to choose from since I haven't been here that much in recent years. But I did print a bunch up, mostly batches of 100. Then two months later she decided to close down. Now I have a bunch of cards and postcards lying around. Fortunately Ron at Paper, Scissors on the Rock bought 12 each of about 3/4s of my images. If he sells them well, maybe I can get him to buy the remaining 50+ of each image. In the meantime if I send you a card and it looks like one of these below, don't be surprised.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mother and Daughter Time

One of the most precious things about spending all this time at home is getting to reconnect with my family. Actually my mom and I have been pretty close for a darn long time-- she always makes such an effort, including visiting Korea (twice), visiting L.A. and meeting my friends there, even helping grammar proof my dissertation.

Today she had to go to the cemetery to take a photo for some genealogy buffs (my mom is one of those, too) who wanted to see the gravestone of their ancestors on Lopez. She asked if I'd like to go and then go hiking at Shark Reef.

If you come to visit Lopez Island here are your beautiful must-see places:

-. Iceberg Point
-. Watmough Bay, the marsh and next door Merk's Mountain (sometimes called Chadwick Hill)
-. Point Colville
-. Shark Reef

There are lots of other beautiful places, but none that are as magical and beautiful as these four. Fortunately for you, all are public lands that you're welcome to visit (as long as you're respectful of the plants, the mosses and lichens, the wildlife, the trees, etc. and take all your trash away with you). Sharf Reef is the most northerly, but it's still on the south end of the island, as are the other three. Really the southend is the best. Even people who live on the northend can only say things like "at least the village is close" or "I don't have to drive as far to the ferry" but they can't actually say they live on the best part of the island. It's just a fact.

There is even an outhouse, a parking lot, and a bike rack at Shark Reef.

This is the headstone of "Uncle" Phil, who was my next door neighbor  from when I was born until his death in 2007. The pipe is so that we can go talk to him and tell him all the gossip. I told him about gay marriage passing, and about some marriages and births and what not. I always talk to him when I go to the cemetery. 

I know, we're super cute, right?!!

Shark Reef~~

Lots of awesome lichen on the trees

Walking at Shark Reef

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Letters of Recommendation

I hate asking for letters of recommendation, if I was only asking for 5 or so a year it wouldn't be so bad, but I think I've applied for about 25 jobs (tenure track and fellowships) during this year's job hunt, and there are still a handful left. Every time I write my professors and ask for more letters I feel like I'm burdening them more. A certain number of letters is reasonable to ask for (part of their job, right?) but so many... I start to feel really guilty about it.

Most jobs require 3 letters of recommendation, although once in a while it's only 2. Occasionally they ask for the contact information for your recommendation writers and they contact them -if- your application proceeds to the second round.

Why not every time? Don't they understand that letter writers are people -just like them- but working at another school? I frequently apply to positions that get 700 or more applicants, which means 2,100 letters per job. What a waste of the time and effort of my recommendation writers. Their letters are being lost in a sea of paper.

1. Even a few years ago the odds (the numbers of applicants per position) were better and convention has not caught up to these new desperate times.
2. Many of my applications are sent to schools that do not have vibrant graduate programs-- in other words, these professors are not as fully swamped by letter writing as the professors at more elite institutions (like UCLA).

I promise you, when I get my permanent position and have to serve on search committees I will reserve letters of recommendation for second round candidates only.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Enough with the White People Pretending to Speak Chinese

So today I was watching something on hulu and up pops this ad. Looked nice, but watching it I was left totally scratching my head at the end. I know it's supposed to be Chinese, but what did she say? The way hulu showed it, it ended with the laugh.
As you can see, in this version that I found on Youtube at least Shatner comments on her accent (this despite the fact that she's been living with Chinese monks who strangely have long hair for 20 years). But seriously, it seems every time I turn around there is a westerner speaking atrocious Chinese.

People, Chinese is NOT that hard. (Yes, I know, you've been told it's hard because of the tones, whatever, I speak Chinese, and speaking is pretty easy, it's MEMORIZING characters that takes a pain in the ass long time.) So blondie, here, really has no excuse. Or more accurately, Priceline and the commercial creator/director have no excuse. What the F!!! Just get someone who speaks decent Chinese to repeat it to her a few times, because I promise you it's not that hard. So really they didn't care enough to get someone to teach her to say it right.

And why is it acceptable to speak bad Chinese, bad Korean, bad Japanese, in movies or TV shows? What is wrong with giving people some hope that they, too, can learn these languages? Everything comes out so robotic, no one watching who doesn't speak these languages thinks they're really speaking well. The only show I can think of that doesn't completely mangle foreign languages is Covert Affairs, but I've only seen a couple episodes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Persistence and Professional Acknowledgement

Please give me persistence. I need it. The job hunt is quite a depressing process, but I KNOW that my research is awesome, that I'm a great teacher, and that I get things DONE.

I love it when people notice-- and I've gotten some nice professional acknowledgement recently. Today a scholar who wrote one of the books that has influenced my research the most, in other words someone I deeply respect, asked me to co-chair a section of SEM (the Society for Ethnomusicology). I'm already a newsletter editor for another section of SEM. That society is the most vibrant place for encountering research on performance of all kinds. Yes, they focus on music, but they understand how it is interconnected to dance, theatre, etc.. I'm also currently a candidate in a professional election, the Committee on Korean Studies of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS is the other professional association I am most committed to-- there are lots of amazing papers presented each year, I struggle to see even a small fraction of the interesting panels). There are five people running for three seats, and I'm far and away the most junior of the five, but... why not?!! It shows what sort of person I am that I received enough nominations to get on the ballot, and if I'm not chosen this time, it'll happen in a couple years.

Although it is hard, I have to be persistent. Right now I seem to be getting noticed in these two professional associations, and hopefully that will lead to getting noticed on the job market!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Three Months!

So, Karjam left to visit his family.

In years past, although I've been nervous about various political things that could or could not happen I've been much happier to have him gone.

1) He adores his family, and really truly misses his parents and all the rest.

2) Although Karjam is slowly gaining friendships here on Lopez that he feels he can rely on, due to enduring linguistic issues (not to mention cultural differences) he is still unable to just sit and chat freely and at length with anyone other than me.

3) When I was working on my dissertation (and even when I was in classes) having him at my elbow really hindered my concentration, and I knew he was happy in China, so I didn't feel so bad for ignoring him as I wrote and revised.

But now I'm not that busy and having him gone for a whole three months seems incredibly long and my house feels empty. It's true that we'll avoid arguing about the three conferences I'm planning to go to (two to present, one just to network and listen to presentations), but I won't have anyone to snuggle with in bed. It's true that I don't have to cook meat for him, but I also will probably forget to make myself meals on time. It's true that he won't be miserably working outside in the cold, but I'll miss rituals like trying to make his after work cup of hot English Breakfast tea (don't forget the organic half and half) so that he arrives after it has brewed but before it's even a little cool.

We did, however, have a very sweet make-out session at Sea-tac Airport.
Dad took this photo of us at Thanksgiving

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Being Tourists in Seattle

The weather was nice-ish with clear air the first day when we went to the library, with the sun playing peek-a-boo with the clouds. The next day, Saturday, the weather was dripping wet all day. We ended up deciding to stay home (except I ran off to pick up groceries in the late afternoon). Our big activity for the day was taking a long soak in the hot tub. It was really sweet~~ dark and raining on us, but we were warm and happy in the water.


Today, however, as I was enjoying my morning coffee and working on job applications but before we'd had breakfast, the sun came out again. We drove over to Volunteer Park, and the visibility was not that great, but the sun was mostly out. We walked around the park, went up the water tower and strolled through the conservatory (100 year anniversary this year!). Afterwards we went to the nearby cemetery. Karjam had us stop the truck several times so he could take video from a good vantage point as we returned home. Hungry for lunch we almost went to a restaurant, but ended up just buying a couple random things in a Vietnamese grocery and returning home.

Karjam looking at old Seattle houses

In the evening we went to the Compline chanting at Saint Mark's Cathedral. I took these snapshots after most people had left. After Compline there was an organist. Karjam was very impressed at the quality of the music, the difficulty of the singing. I was impressed at how many people, esp. how many young people were there.