Friday, July 30, 2010

Love Them or Hate Them: You Decide!

When I see an article of any fashion-related stuff, I either love it, hate it or am indifferent to it. When I saw these "bubble flip-flops" I expected my mind to produce one of those three reactions. But instead, my mind froze--it did not know what to do. That's okay, I told myself. When an initial, gut reaction is seized by a "what-the-heck" moment, the mind needs some time to reflect on its past tastes, its likes and dislikes, its social, intellectual, and artistic implications, and the level of propriety for a 30-year old to be "flip-flopping" around in a perpetual cluster of bubbles.

So, I waited myself out and for the verdict. But even with the relative objectivity of hindsight, I still didn't love them, or hate them. Which is just fine. The problem was, I just could not be indifferent to them.

It's like looking at a good piece of modern art. It refuses to leave you unaffected. But these flip flops are no modern art unless somebody decides to put some toothpicks through the bubbles, sharpie some of them in black, sprinkle some jelly-beans on top and put them in a glass case with a scary-looking security guard yelling at you for being too close.

So, I am torn. Even through the filter of my bias, and sub- and unconscious desires, I've got nothing. Maybe I should stare at them a little longer.

What do you think? Do you like them or hate them? (See, I told you. You cannot possibly be indifferent to them.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Living History

I have always liked Hillary Rodham Clinton. I liked her even when I claimed to be Republican. I read a couple of books about her when I was younger that portrayed her in both good and bad light. It was good to finally hear her story from the horse's mouth.

This book mainly focused on her experiences as First Lady in the White House and the Administration's diplomatic relations with Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. She also used the book as a score-settling platform against Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House during the Clinton Administration and Kenneth Starr, an independent counsel who led the brutal Whitewater investigation about the financial dealings of the Clinton's.

Even though she left out or watered down a lot of the most difficult or humiliating part of her private life, I got to read about her vision for the world's future in woman's rights, health care, and global poverty.

This was an interesting read for me because I have always liked Hillary Clinton but I think it would still be an interesting read for those who are curious about who she is and what she has done.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Auguste Rodin

The first time I saw a great collection of Rodin's works was three summers ago when I trudged over to Musée d'Orsay after I discovered that the Louvre Museum was closed on Mondays. I was already super tired from backpacking around Europe and basically museumed out by the time I got to Paris. I walked around with what seemed like the capacity of a pea-sized brain and tried to admire the works of great masters. I don't remember much from that experience except for one piece of work called "Celle qui fut la belle heaulmière" or "She who was the Helmet-Maker's once beautiful Wife." It is more simply known as "The Old Woman."

I remember my visceral reaction when I saw the work for the first time. It was tragic and mournful yet beautiful and celebratory at the same time. The old, wrinkled body evoked the feeling of inevitability of the passing of time and yet it seemed to celebrate the strength of the human spirit that lives on in that frail body.

Rodin said: "Commonly ... ugliness in nature can in art become full of great beauty. In art, only that which has character is beautiful. Character is the essential truth of any natural object."

Rodin's sculptures and drawings went on international tours for the first time and I got to see many of his works again in Seoul. Although I didn't see "The Old Woman" again, I saw the great beauty of character in his works. Maybe it's the nostalgia evoked by the quality of impressionist sculptures, but I was emotionally moved by the experience.

Also, I learned about his pupil and lover, Camille Claudel and their love story. An artist is incomplete without a passionate, and stormy love story that often ends in tragedy. She ended up dying in a psychiatric hospital.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Mud Festival!

I don't know why they don't do this all over the world. Get some mud, and a bunch of blow-up bouncy obstacle courses, and voila! You have a mud festival! The festival was free (very cool) but we had to pay for extra activities like making mud soap, and pottery and getting a mud facial (my favorite!). Good thing was, they weren't expensive at all! Mud soap + pottery + facial = less than $20.

This festival was created to promote the city of Boryeong and as you can imagine, it generates a lot of business. (If I ever become a mayor of a city, I will most definitely host a mud festival.) Boryeong is famous for (guess what?) MUD! The mud that we used to paint, fight, tug and wrestle in is actually good for the skin. When I rinsed off after playing in the mud for an entire day, my skin felt smooth and soft and I didn't even have to put any lotion on! After I got my mud facial, I looked like I have been translated because my face glowed with amazingness (a true testimony of my friend Diana except for the translated amazingness part).

About 80% of the people at the festival were foreigners (I really cringe when I use this word, but that's the word they use here.) They were English teachers, military people, travelers from all over the world. For a moment, I felt like I was back in the States and felt a little bit homesick.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the festival.

Getting painted.

This was the second time I had a burger in Korea. Sarah (center) was equally excited.

I contributed about 20% to the process.

Transforming into amazingness.

Yeah, this is pretty much how I felt the whole time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Breaking News! Heavenly Mother is in Korea!

For those of you who missed the second coming of Jesus:

The World Mission Society Church in Korea was founded by a man named Ahn Sang-Hong who was baptized in 1948 and subsequently became "translated" into Jesus. Unfortunately for those of you who wanted to fly out and kiss his feet, he died in 1985. But his wife Zang Gil-ja is the female incarnation of God and she is still alive and kicking. The congregation prays to her and her husband. I know you are all dying to see what she looks like. So, here she is:

If you ever doubted the ethnic superiority of Koreans, this will dispel all unbelief. I mean both Jesus and Heavenly Mother are Koreans. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Korea is really Zion.

And get this: 70% of the members of this church is female. When they first join the church, they are told not to tell their husbands. The church requires substantial donations "for the glory of God" and many go into debt to pay their "tithes" so they can go to heaven. One of the main tenets includes the belief that the world will end at the end of 2012, before which they hope to recruit 144,000 members. (And what if 2012 comes along and the world is still rockin'? Does our Heavenly Mother just say "oops" or does the church go on clearance sale?)

A female God and her female underlings. Talk about the irony of feminism and abuse all rolled in one shot.

Love at Twenty-Three, Success at Forty-Nine

This is a love/success story of a Korean business woman who elopes with an American Catholic Priest who is 26 years her senior. Sounds like an interesting pitch for a Korean drama but, no. This is an autobiography of Joanne Lee, chairperson of Star Communications--an international consulting company based in Seoul.

Her success story was astounding and impressive but to an unmarried thirty year-old, her love story was much more appealing. She developed an innocent friendship with the founding president of Seo-gang University in Seoul while she was a student there. He was a devout Catholic priest and she was a smart, nerdy loner.

Friendship developed into love and a series of unfortunate events followed as they tried to "date"(think college kid trying to date a senior Mormon missionary) and "get hitched" (think Mormon missionary trying to get married on his mission. Imagine the face of the mission president, but in this case fellow priests and THE POPE.).

They eloped to America and after long months of waiting, they got a letter from the pope granting him release from his priesthood. They got married and lived happily until he died.

This was no ordinary love, folks. It made me believe that intelligent, selfless, kind men exist somewhere in this universe although they may have be to be preserved through the confinement of religious celibacy and marital ban.

P.S. This book is in Korean so if you want to read it and you can't read Korean, you are kind of out of luck.

An Asian Laundry Girl

Today, we had Joshua Selman, a conceptual/intermedia artist on our show. We talked about art and music (he has a M.A. in music composition from Yale) and chatted about this and that. He got his stage makeup done and wanted to change into a different shirt but it needed ironing. So, I got a steam iron and helped him iron it.

I held the shirt and he attempted to iron it very inefficiently. So, I told him to hold the shirt and started ironing it myself. Previously, I would have done it without thinking twice about what I was doing--it's an act of kindness. But after I have been exposed to what white men think of "helpful" Asian women, it got me a little uncomfortable. I didn't want my gesture of kindness to be interpreted as submissiveness or subservience.

It sad that I even have to think about this. I don't know how to be kind without being reduced to a stereotype. Ugh!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

One of the most heart-wrenching, and poignant tales I have ever read. This is a must-read.

The stories encircling 3 generations of a family strewn over New Jersey and Dominican Republic lay a foundation for the delivery of the ultimate lesson of the book-that love is a primeval need. The book tells the stories of a family during the era of the notoriously horrific (to say the least) dictator, Rafael Trujillo and their subsequent immigration to United States after his assassination and the fall of his regime.

Oscar, our protagonist, is a 300+-pound, sci-fi-lovin' nerd who says things like "I am copacetic" when asked how he is doing and "I will partake" when offered a smoke. The only goal in his life is to write and get published and get laid (but really, be loved). When he finally finds the "true love of his life" in a middle-aged Dominican prostitute, he risks everything, even his life to win her love. His almost-barbaric hunger and desperation for her affection left me feeling frustrated at times (C'mon man, get a better girl!) but bereaved by the lack of hope when I realized that she was the only one who showed any glimpse of love that he could hang on for life (literally).

He lived his life invisibly and without love. He was dark, fat and an immigrant.

He broke my heart.

After I read the final lines of the book, I closed it and held it for a while as tears streamed down my face. I was shaken to the core. It was a reverent experience.


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