Monday, April 22, 2013

Caricature Me!

While I was at the cherry blossom festival yesterday, I did something I had thought about most of the previous years--I got a caricature done. Near the top of Yunjungno, along the left hand side, there is quite selection of portrait artists to choose from; some are straight pen-and-ink, some do pencil sketches, some are "couples specialists". I wanted a caricature, and the price was right, at 10,000W (about USD 10). Have a look:

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And the finished product:

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Of course, this is not the first caricature I've had done in Korea. Just recently, as shown in an earlier post, a young lady presented me with this:


And, going on a long walk down memory lane (i.e., searching through the Seoul Patch--all the way to December, 2008), I found this one, made by a high school boy:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival 2013

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Ah. So I have now attended more than half of the "official" Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festivals--they've all been pretty similar, except that this year, thanks to a particularly jealous winter (꽃샘추위), there weren't any actual cherry blossoms in evidence on my first visit, last Saturday. They actually extended the dates because of the late blooms. There was a profusion today, however, when I made my way out of Line 9 National Assembly station, Exit 1, across the street, and right to Yunjungno. Just look:

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Below are links to my previous posts about the Festival. You can see more pictures, but actually (since flowers don't change all that much), they're more interesting for the historical and cultural elements that I'm not going to repeat here:

Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival 2012
Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival 2011
Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival 2010
Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival 2009

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Remember to click on the pic to see a full-screen version.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Still Nothing to See Here

People often say that Koreans don't pay much attention to DPRK's saber-rattling. Well, today's Korea Herald front page apparently didn't get the memo.

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That story they head "NK warns foreigners to leave South Korea" is titled "NK trying to scare foreigners in South" by the Korea Times. Neither article plays up any actual concerns about imminent threat--and certainly none that should worry foreigners more than natives.

Curiously, none of my friends and family back home has emailed or FB'ed me or anything to tell me to get the hell out. Maybe you guys don't care about me any more ... Or maybe you are getting accustomed to the rigmarole surrounding the Kim dynasty's need for attention. Still, just to waylay any fears, I do have ready access to sufficient assets to effect a timely exit, should that be required.

The downside is that by the time I could actually get a flight out (to anywhere), make my way home, and have a patty melt on white plate, scatteredsmotheredandcovered, the game here would be over and time to move back. ,br>
In other news, I see Hyori is set to release her first album since 2010. I'm not too excited, as I didn't care all that much for the last one. It seemed so ... derivative.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Security Message for U.S. Citizens

... from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. It begins:
The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time. The U.S. Embassy takes as its highest priority the welfare of American citizens in Korea. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will issue updated information.

We urge U.S. citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends. U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), to receive the latest travel updates and information and to obtain updated information on travel and security issues.

It then goes on about how to contact them, etc, etc.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Flowers at School

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This is the view of the front walkway at my school. A keen viewer, or at least one who has read the title of this post, will observe occasional bursts of color along the edges of the walkway--indications that Spring is upon us. At last.

It's been slow coming, this year, but arrived all at once; I'm pretty sure that when I left school last Friday, practically none of these blooms had, uh, bloomed. Korea's harbinger of spring is the 개나리 kaenari, a variety of Japanese cornel dogwood, immortalized in the Korean children's song I blogged about back in 2010:

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I've been starting classes this week with some questions about spring time and greenery, and what flowers students have seen blooming already. They know the kaenari and the 진달래 jindallae, which is the Korean azalea, member of the rhododendron family--a third grader who has some in his yard even (more or less) knew the term azalea. It is a delicate fuschia:

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I also found this petite blue groundcover starting to spread in the flowerbeds alongside the main building. I think it may be something called veronica:

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Already springing forth with massive hand-sized blossoms, the Korean magnolia flanks the side stairways that lead up into the building. The Korean name is 태산목 taesanmok:

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The 산수유 sansuyu is another variety of cornel dogwood (like the kaenari) that shares its golden color but not its droopy bell shape. In the picture at the top of the post, you can see two fine specimens in full flower on the near left. The school has put labels on exemplars of many of the species on the grounds, and I include one here just FTR:

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I took these pictures around lunchtime, and a bee was also having a meal. No doubt there's a tiny amount of nectar in each little flower, so he didn't hang around very long posing for my camera. In fact, mostly he showed me his ass abdomen:

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I shoot flowers every spring in Seoul and post them here, as well as snapping them wherever I travel. Gotta be a hundred or two pics by now, so if you're interested, click on "flowers" in the label cloud on the right. Or just hang around the Patch--the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival is coming soon!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Report

  • Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston - I'm pretty sure this is the second part of the story that was told in a previous novel, but frankly there is enough action, psychology, blood and gore that it stands alone. Told in Huston's eccentric first-person narrative style, the reader is quickly sold on the basic humanity of the central character, even when the reader learns he has a slew of dead people in his back pocket. And about four million dollars, as well. Under an assumed name, he now lives on a Mexican beach, but is tumbled by a Russian backpacker and pursued by a psychopathic fan. He's got to shake these people off and then return the money before his parents pay the price he owes. Gripping, lively, different.
  • The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith - I'm pretty sure it's impossible NOT to fall in love with the Botswana of Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and with the people that populate it--Mma Precious Ramotswe, her long-time betrothed, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni of Ttlokweng Poad Speedy Motors, her assistant who scored 97% on the final exam at Btswana Secretarial College, Mma Makutsi. When Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is asked to sky-dive as a fundraiser for the Orphan Farm by Mma Potokwani, Mma Ramtoswe is spurred into action lest her marriage end before it has even begun. Do, oh, do read these books.
  • True Fires by Susan Carol McCarthy - Based on a true story (quite possibly my hometown, but certainly its environs in central Florida), a typical southern town's bigotry is confronted by a transplanted Virginia clan, the Dares, who claim to be related to first generation settlers. Sheriff Kyle deLuth, who I visualized as Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) thinks the quiet little girl has the pug nose of a "nigger" and decides to kick them out of the white school system. This has the making of a good story, but the characters are all drawn in black-and-white, the best action is relayed second-hand, and the final tragic moment was so telegraphed I thought there would be a twist--but there wasn't. Skip it.
  • Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre - Thoroughly-researched, well-documented story of how the Normandy assault of WWII would have failed were it not for the misinformation campaign of double agents who fed the German intelligence apparatus a pack of lies. Lies that they bought at retail, never aware that the Enigma code had been broken, and just as importantly, unaware that every single German agent in Britain had been "turned", and was working for the Allies. This is the fascinating story of how these double agents fed piecemeal misinformation to the Abwehr to cause the Nazis to misallocate forces to the wrong parts of the Channel defenses in advance of D-Day.