Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not with standing.

I put together a new mix. It's called:
Not with standing.

Listen to it:
part 1
part 2

Lots of jazz on this one, interspersed with some Brazilian obscurities, one beautiful African high-life track, as well as an instrumental track from Taj Mahal's collaboration with the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar. And then you have maybe the thesis statement track From the Lonely Afternoons, which is Wayne Shorter teamed up with Milton Nascimento, an amazing Brazilian musician who solos with and uses his voice like a jazz instrument, which goes head to head with Wayne Shorter's saxophone. Enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"the magic method of contracting space"

So I gave my 6th graders an assignment to make an informal book about their schedule everyday including stick figure drawings and all that. Each page was to have one sentence about the usual stuff: "I get up at seven-thirty everyday" or whatever.

So this girl Ui Ju who is the highest level English speaker in the entire school (including teachers), basically filled the book up like an essay. Which is cool, because in the odd spaces smashed between poor translations, her crazy awesome level of intelligence and growing understanding of the world, and her crushingly monotonous daily life here and how she deals with it, always produces some AMAZING sentences. She's the same girl that wrote me the letter where she asked me whether I liked sloths or tadpoles more from an earlier post.

Whenever I give a writing assignment she always writes literally pages more than anyone else in the class. It is her main and almost only method of communicating with me. She's still just a little too shy to talk to me around school in the many times during the day I'm not teaching, and she feels awkward or embarrassed to speak in class because she has an innate understanding of how it will make all the other students feel bad about how little English they know themselves and either jealous or angry at her for showing off. So it took me nearly a year to find out that she even had the English ability that she did and how intelligent she is, and how unique her outlook on the world seems to be for her age.

When I come home at night I sometimes see her jump-roping outside of the entrance to my apartment. It's always a bit of an odd scene because she never really says hello unless I do first, and her mother is always there, standing eerily still, in the shadows watching her daughter jump-rope silently. She lives on the first floor of the same building I live in and actually used to live in the very apartment I live in now, which adds another wrung to the ladder of bizareness about certain aspects of my life here that I haven't found any way to express in words. I found out from her book about her day that:

"I exercise at eight. I jumprope 2000 times a day. My record is 2012. I was surprised."

"I eat lunch at the cafeteria of my school.
I don't have any story to write about lunch."

"I eat dinner at six. I also watch TV when I have dinner. My mom and I always watch American TV shows, such as 'American next top model', 'The biggest loser'. At first, only I liked the TV shows, but now, my mom enjoys them, too."

"I go to school at eight forty. Few years ago, I used to go to school too late. I had to wake up earlier or walk faster. I decided to walk faster to be on time. As you know, my school is located on a hill. And that is because my legs are developed. Nowadays, I am said to be the 'virtuoso of the magic method of contracting space.'" [emphasis added]

"I go to bed at ten or ten thirty. I used to go to bed at eleven. But I realized that eleven is too late. I have decided to go to bed earlier so that I can be taller."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a mean while

Been meaning to up some posts, but I have this photo class coming up, so I've been pretty busy. But I have a bunch of tidbits and music and image gems to post soon, so hopefully this weekend I'll get around to it. Until then.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Man, this is a small town

So I thought the thing with the other Dave that punched the dude in the face was long over, but apparently one of Lindsey's co-teachers told her that he received a call from his friend who told him that her boyfriend punched some other dude in the face while he was "very drunken" at a bar. Man...I think those lame cops must have spilled to someone.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

17 million won

I had a meeting about my photography camp I'll be teaching this month yesterday. I really like be involved with meetings in Korea when the education office supervisors are there. They're so detailed and precise with everything and with the gestures and modes of their speaking. And Koreans are always dressed to the nines for official meetings like that complete with shiny shoes and shimmering suit jackets. The supervisor would close her fist inward slowly as if she was gripping an imaginary sword in slow motion as she was explaining the details about the plan for my class. The three other teachers there were younger female teachers, so they were sitting there still bundled up in their jackets because the heat wasn't working well, one had a flu mask covering part of her mouth, and all three of them had this tense energy about them like they were ready to jump out of their seats so they could be the first to catch the drift of the supervisor's words in mid air as they wafted across the table. I was really impressed because for the location of the camp they were letting me use a brand new school up a little ways towards Taebaek mountain that had a computer room with 30 computers (one per student), which they were going to install editing programs on, with another classroom right across the hallway with large tables for the students to share while watching my slideshows and lessons and doing activities. The supervisor even had it broken down to how many students will be sitting at each table. And they're funding the camp with almost 17 million won. Wow. I was without words. I just can't get over that quite a few months ago I gave them just a few sheets of paper with a plan and an idea for teaching Language Through Photography, and now there's a 17 million won budget, 60 kids from all around Taebaek attending, and each student being picked up from and dropped off at their home by a private bus every day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

There's only one Dave in town...and that's me.

I never thought of my name as unique or uncommon before. But something happened two nights ago that burned the fact into my mind that I am definitely the only person by the name of Dave to live in Taebaek, with a population of around 50 thousand, and maybe even within a good size perimeter around Taebaek, as well.

Elvis told me last night that I had to go to the police station and apologize to the Korean man who I punched in the face over the weekend while I was a belligerent, drunken mess at a bar in town.

I had just finished a lesson for his son and daughter and a couple of kids in the neighborhood and I was literally in the process of putting on my shoes to leave when Elvis' wife handed me the phone. It was Elvis and he asked with a hint of urgency if I could stay there until he arrived. A little alarmed, I asked him why and he said the police called him and he began to explain while he was driving to no avail, and then told me he would explain it when he got there.

At first I was mostly convinced that he was going to tell me that Lindsey and I owed some money for a couple of speeding tickets we thought we'd gotten when we rented a car a couple of weekends ago. We weren't sure if we'd gotten speeding tickets, but we thought we engaged a couple of speed cameras when we passed under them (there's so many in Korea, and everyone has a GPS sensor for them on their navigation systems that starts screaming at you when you're getting close, so you can speed as much as you want in between them and know when they're coming up), so we were half expecting a ticket in the mail. Since speeding tickets were only 30 dollars or so here, I wasn't that worried.

But then when Elvis arrived he asked me if something had happened a couple of days ago. I said nothing that would concern the police, and he asked me if I was fighting in a bar and hit a Korean man in the face. I told him I was in Seoul, so that would have been a little bit impossible. Then he told me that the man who got punched in the face was at the police station and he said that someone named Dave hit him. Then he said I need to go to the police station and apologize to him. Then I was like wait a minute, slow down, I'm not going to the police station or apologizing to anyone because I didn't hit anyone. Then Elvis asks me if I know any other Daves, and of course I had to admit that I didn't know anyone else by the name of Dave that lived in Taebaek or around Taebaek (but why should that matter again!!??). And then Elvis said he didn't know who else it could have been, implying that because I was the only person by the name of Dave that he knew of, it was impossible that it could have been anyone else that did the drunken belligerent punching in the face of the Korean man.

So I told him again that I was in Seoul and that I can't apologize for something I didn't do, and would have been impossible for me to have done because I wasn't physically present in Taebaek, but that I do know for a fact that there are many people by the name of Dave that probably live elsewhere in the country or work for the American military, an NGO, or just happen to be travelling through. So he told me that if I didn't go to the police station they would file a report about me and it would become a bigger problem. So I told him I could get at least seven people in Seoul, not including motel owners that could be contacted if need be, to all confirm seeing me over the weekend. At that point the police called back and said they had a picture of the Dave that did the punching, and I should come to the police station so they could compare it to me.

I said I still wasn't willing to go to the police station unless I could be assured there was an English speaker there to translate in case I needed to explain myself. Maybe I'm paranoid by nature, but there were a already few tragic scenarios playing out in my mind: for one, there are a couple of crazy people in town that know my name (only being one of 21 foreigners, a lot of people do), and one particular drunk crazy old man that always hits me (aggressively but never hard) on the shoulder and then gets in my face and pulls his fist back like he's going to punch me. I always have to pretty much just stand there staring at him, because let's face it, even if the old man was trying to tear my nose off with his teeth, if a 6ft white guy beats a tiny crazy old man to the ground, it's ALWAYS going to be my fault. There's one other guy in town who I met when I first got here because his English was really amazing and he would talk and walk with me when I was out and about town. We exchanged numbers before I found out that he was a Jesus-loony stalker-type and monumental space invader while he's talking to you (leaning into me and almost literally pushing me off the sidewalk into the street without even realizing it). When I decided to stop answering his phone calls or talking to him because he would just make the conversation incredibly uncomfortable by talking about Christ continuously and not letting a word in edgewise, he actually showed up at my school unannounced while I was working and walked into the teacher's office naturally, as if he worked there. He leaned over my desk and actually started ruffling through my papers in front of me and leaned down so close to me I could feel his breath as he wanted to see what I was doing on the computer. Even when I almost shouted at him to get the hell out of my space and over-gestured with both arms towards the door, he kept asking when he could have my "permission" to meet with him. I told him never. In any case, I was thinking it could be completely plausible for one of those people to tell the police that it was me that assaulted them, either because they mistook another foreigner for me, or just because they were demented and couldn't quite distinguish reality from what goes on in their minds.

Another scenario, I was worried that the police might have some tiny, low resolution picture of the other Dave, taken at night from a distance, which they would confuse for me themselves. It ended up they did have a tiny picture, taken at night from a distance on a small LCD screen of a camera.

So, I was trying to explain to Elvis that there's no need for me to waste my time going over there unless he could go with me, or there was a guarantee for a translator, or even at all, because there's 7 or 8 people that could confirm seeing me in Seoul, at least three of which are Korean, and do they even have this guy's last name? Then the police called him back and said they were just coming there to Elvis' home, where we could meet in the dark playground just outside the apartment building, where they could compare their picture of Dave with me.

We waited 20 minutes, and they finally arrived, and Elvis finally started believing that it wasn't me, and his wife was almost irate, and the only thing I could make out her saying was that she was repeating over and over again that she thought this was making me feel so bad. Finally the police got there, we went out to meet them, and right as they got out of their car, I could see on their faces that they knew they'd mistaken me. They sauntered over to Elvis and showed him the bad picture on the digital camera LCD screen, and I popped over his shoulder so I could get a look (and I swear I could smell alcohol on their breath). It was a picture of some heavy set dude, dancing debaucheresly in the middle of the street with some big boned Korean woman, holding a red hoodie. He had really short hair and dark skin, and didn't even vaguely resemble me. They asked if I knew him, I said no, then they said his name might not even have been Dave at all but "Bin Dave" (?). So that was that. But I really wonder why when the police called the vice principal at my school and called the other administrator they didn't just ask what I looked like before wasting everyone's time along with the possibility of defacement and embarrassment? Bunch of wackos, really.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the civlized man's commodity

new mix: the civilized man's commodity

get it:
part 1
part 2

The title is from a Korean commercial that I saw. Sometimes I feel like Korean advertising is so transparently fake that I can't call it bad, but mostly humorous and sometimes interesting.

I've been listening to a lot of ambient drum and bass music from the 90's while working on editing photographs. It really takes me back to that period of electronic music that reminds me simultaneously of 80's horror movies and breakthroughs in the fields of subatomic and astro physics. In terms of 80's horror movies, there's just this creativity and experimentation that's not afraid to be considered cheesy and just work through a complete idea without the benefit of a large production budget. In terms of physics, this type of music was simultaneous slowing down and speeding up the sounds and rhythms and portions of sampled drum loops and usually seemed to have an underlying floating in space vibe. The slowing and speeding up of various overlapped samples ends up spreading all the sounds out and opening up a lot of space in the track.

In 1997 there was an experiment conducted where they shot curiously interconnected but independent photons 7 miles apart and studied their movements. They found that even at a distance of 7 miles apart, when one photon began spinning in one direction, its sister photon, which was not connected in any observable physical sense, simultaneously began spinning in the opposite direction. I'll link to some information on this study later, but just not right now. But for some reason, ambient drum and bass makes me think of that inexplicable interconnected subatomic spin.

Burial has been my editing soundtrack lately as well, and his music is so beautiful, I can't get over it. Makes tedious hours at the computer float by.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Divola, John - As Far As I Could Get

Just stand the camera up on three legs, engage the self timer, and run. Man, this is so simple and awesome.

Get the flash player here:

There's so much more on his site.
Been loving the Zuma Series too. He just occupied this place, and then it changed as he changed with it, and then he changed it sometimes himself, and imprinted all these images of the moments between all those transitions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

ggachee bap

This is called 까치밥 (ggachee bap), which means "magpie rice". During autumn, persimmon trees become LOADED down with persimmons. They almost look comical when this happens because all their leaves fall, leaving them as barren tree skeletons, filled with countless sweet bright orange spheres. When they are harvested, one persimmon, or a few persimmons, are left on the trees as a symbolic (and very practical) gesture to the magpies. It's a really nice sentiment, I think, to consider the magpies. They're probably my favorite bird in Korea. They're the first bird I noticed when I arrived, and whenever they land on a branch for a moment, or a do a fly-by they always seem like they're just on their way to do something really important.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I almost forgot about The Disentegration Loops

"I started a joke, which started the whole world crying
but I didn't see that the joke was on me...oh no...
I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing
oh, if I'd only seen that the joke was on me..."

William Basinski was trying to preserve some of his old tape loops from 20 years ago and realized that the safety window had been long past and it was too late. The magnetic material on the tapes began to flake away as they played and the sound began to fade away and decay with the tapes and change drastically in character as the tapes were played over and over again. So he just let them play over and over again, until the sound decayed into almost nothing and recorded this process. These recordings are so beautiful because the slowly escalating destruction of the sound, as it plays out, changes the loop each time it repeats itself, making what would be identical cycles become constantly (d)evolving ones. The sound of the disintegration of the music creates a fascinating music itself. I've never sat and listened to the process of a physical/analog recording disintegrating into nothing before, but I'd do it again any day. This is the sound of music dying in the physical world and making its transition into the digital one. It can never go back.

Here's a cool review on Pitchfork.
And you can get the whole thing here.

Ballen, Roger

Get the flash player here:

I happened upon a few of these images by a random link through an unremembered chain of connections, and then, mystified, I had to research their origin and felt compelled to know more. There's not many composed/staged photographs that really hit me viscerally, but some of these definitely do. They appear obviously set-up as you look at them, but then after a while they also seem loose and free-formed and there's some tense spontaneity about them. The black and white tones bring me back to Weegee and Diane Arbus and photographs from the Great Depression. The square format, the shadows and lack of them from the harsh flash, the degradation of people and animals hiding amidst the surroundings, the flattening of space, the sometimes beautiful arrangement of objects, and the one word titles that stick in my memory and bring out an interesting interplay of ideas when paired with the metaphors going on in the pictures.

What's crazy is that the place in these photographs actually exists:

"Eventually we reach the crux of the matter, upon learning from the text that this quite extraordinary place which Ballen has felt compelled to photograph over the last few years and calls the Boarding House, far from being a figment of his imagination, really does exist. Very remote and hidden amongst enormous tailings from gold mines near Johannesburg, it is in actual fact a three-storey warehouse building which has become a neighbourhood unto itself. The interior is crowded with the poor: entire families of workers, transients, criminals hiding from the law, even witchdoctors who attend to the many diseases within this unsanitary and overcrowded environment. Few rooms are separated by walls, most of the spaces, as in a shantytown, being partitioned by rugs, blankets or metal sheeting, and each being self-contained. There are no visible windows or open doors. Each doorway, although closed, seems to lead to an inner sanctum. One, surrounded by a giraffe hide, belongs to a sangoma, or South African witchdoctor. Another, with a picture of Mary and the infant Jesus, leads to a makeshift church. A third, more ominous doorway is the entrance to the Ghost Room, where long ago the managers of gold mines were reputed to have violently punished recalcitrant miners, sometimes even starving then to death. This lawless yet strangely enthralling location has served as the focus of Ballen’s photographic work over the last four years." --Richard Pinsent

There's a lot more of his photographs at his website.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oceanic frequency

Also, a side note I learned about the sound of ocean waves: they have a frequency of about 12 cycles per minute which is coincidentally about the same frequency of the sound of a sleeping human. So ocean waves have the undeniable resonance of rest. That's probably part of the reason it's so easy to be sucked into them, like a camp fire.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Casting the die down the coast

I played another aleatoric photographic game this past weekend. This time the rules were simple: drive in one direction (south), and roll a die to see how far you drive before stopping to make a photograph (each dot on the die stands for 3km). The element of chance defines the points of stillness carved out from the trajectory where light is recorded.

Lindsey and I rented a car and winded our way through the long narrow valley down the mountain, and then down the east coast with the ocean to our left. We drove through squid towns, where squid lined the sides of the road like fences, their drying bodies being hung up by the elderly and covering countless rows of metal bars. Squid was hanging on rooftops and on drying racks originally intended for the drying of clothes, and the sun was glinting through transluscent squid flesh so it appeared luminescent. We drove through crab towns, where restaurant after restaurant served nothing but crab, where overflowing aquarium tanks were bulging full of large crabs with their spiky bodies trapped together like jigsaw puzzles, and where restaurant owners physically jumped out in front of our car and shouted at us while gesturing with their white gloves to pull into their parking garages to eat their overpriced crabs. There was a crab bridge and crab cartoon mascots on the light posts and a small harbor side park with crab benches and crab statues.

We stopped for Chinese food and their kimchi tasted like apricots.

We drove inland, and got stuck in Daegu because cities aren't in grids here and roads align themselves devoutly on Nietzsche's writings on the concept of eternal return.

We stayed at a love motel in Changpyeong next to a freshly sliced half-mountain and a road that was less than 20 ft long and led to mounds of dirt and heavy machinery at it's unfinished end up a hill. The town seemed dreary and incomplete and slightly unwelcoming. All of the motel options had parking areas without lights and seemed set up for illicit transactions of money to occur within the rooms. We ate at a small gimbap restaurant where they gave me a plate of rice covered with ketchup. They asked me if it was delicious as we were leaving. When it became day again in the morning the town didn't look that bad. It was just the darkness and being lost for two hours in Daegu and hunger and fatigue that mostly led to our bad impression of the place.

Our final destination was the largest swamp in Korea. It seemed like we were spotted driving in, and the director appeared in the parking lot by the side of our car before we even had time to step outside(they don't see too many foreigners apparently). He gave us a short private guided tour of the wetlands information museum. He was a really nice person and showed us a TPR (total physical response) dance move for how we should remember that a wetland is classified as a large body of water less than 6 meters in depth. He showed us another dance move for remembering how the four seasons are "absolutely...DIFFERENT!" They gave us some malfuntioning 3D glasses and were told to watch a wetlands animation which was mostly incomprehensible because it was all in Korean without subtitles.

I noticed the water in the small fountain there was thinly iced over, and I could shatter it with my knuckle and watch beautiful formations of shadows develop underneath it across the dirty sky blue tiles as the light shined across the edges of the cracks I made in the ice.

The place was peaceful and there were large amounts of ducks and snowy white egrets and magpies and other migrating birds hanging out.

We ate a sweet and spicy Prussian carp stew that had the very slightly sour and tangy flavor of lemon grass. I'm not sure if it actually was lemon grass or just some fresh mountain herb they collected in the area, but it was delicious and reminded me of the flavors of Vietnamese food, which is awesome because Korean food never has those flavors. They threw in two whole fish (who were moments ago swimming around in an aquarium tank), heads and all, in the stew pan which was set on a portable butane burner in front of us on the table, which boiled with the broth and the onions and radish chunks and the greens, so the sharp tiny bones spread profusely throughout and gouged the roof of my mouth frequently and one got stuck in Lindsey's throat for maybe half the meal. I think there's something to be said for food that is dangerous, or food that you have to work for. But I could've handled the absence of those needle-like bones.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thomson, John

Get the flash player here:

John Thomson was a Scottish photographer who worked during the later 19th and early 20th century. He interests me a lot because he was one of the first photographers to live and travel in Southeast Asia and China. He's also considered to be one of the first social documentary photographers. I was thinking about his photographs a lot when I was travelling through the Cambodian countryside. I remember being struck with the realization that most of the houses and roads and landscapes look, today, exactly like they do in Thomson's photographs of that part of the world, which were made over a hundred years ago. The only difference was the occasional piece of delapidated farm equipment or motobike sitting around. Besides that, it was as deep and complete of a timewarp as I've ever experienced.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guatemala, Kenya, Colombia, Panama - It dawned on me the other day that every morning I drink a little bit of the third world out of my cup.

Monday, November 16, 2009

By the way: my dream is happening (at least a little bit)

Well, it's not exactly the same thing, but Nouvelle Vague made a cover of that Joy Division song Love Will Tear Us Apart with a Brazilian singer in a bossa nova vein.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is the new find for me: folk and pop music from Sumatra. Listen to the vocals and the reverb and how the sound overlaps and mashes into itself and floats beautiful. This music is crane.

I guess what grabs me about this type of music is that it breaks so many of the rules and formats and production sensibilities and scales and melodies and patterns and rhythms of contemporary music, but without being conscious of trying to do so. The music breaks the rules and sounds experimental only because it comes out of an entirely different tradition. No experimental music that consciously breaks all the rules can ever sound as experimental for that reason alone.

I put together a new mix yesterday. It's called THERE WILL BE DOING AND PEELS.


get it:
part 1
part 2

The title comes from an instant message I received on my computer from the vice principal of the elementary school I work for. Right after I arrived in Taebaek last year, the school put me up in a motel while they prepared my apartment. The day it was ready to move in, I received this bizarre instant message that I was convinced the vice principal had just inserted his Korean into babelfish and sent me exactly what came out. The beginning said "Korea does a moving in party" which made sense, but then the last part I'll never forget: "There will be doing and peels." I looked up after I read it, because the vice principal sits directly across the room from me in the staff room, but usually his face is hidden by the back of his computer monitor. When I looked up, I noticed he was peeking at me around the side of his monitor and nodding rapidly with the most beaming and excited expression, and it was so beaming and excited that I felt like I had to pretend I understood what was going to transpire that evening after work. I know we ate barbecued duck and the teachers brought me gifts for my new apartment, but I still don't have any idea what "doing and peels" was supposed to mean, and I think it's better that way. It's interesting that bizarre translations and things people say that I mishear stick out in my memory more than straight normal communication.

There are a bunch of highlights on this one, most of them, I have to say are tracks I pulled from various Sublime Frequencies compilations. I really have to give it up to those guys because they've been blowing my mind for a good while now. There's a couple of tracks from their compilations of folk and pop music from Sumatra, a track of slidy Bollywood steel guitar, some guitar music from the Western Sahara, and a song from Ethnic minority peoples of northeast Cambodia. There's also two really interesting cuts from one of John Zorn's Naked City albums. The thing I like most about them is that they are actually able to replicate, by playing live, the sound of turning the nob and switching stations on the radio -- short bursts of different types of songs and rhythms played in quick succession.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Here's a mini-mix which is a soundtrack to my dream. Here's a link to download it so that perhaps you will be listening to it at the same time I am, or even while I am dreaming it: LINK

I had the strangest dream last night that the metal band Slayer put out an album with an unmistakable tropicalia feel to it. They were able to seamlessly blend the sounds of speeed-thrash metal with mellowed out tropicalia and samba grooves from 1960's and 70's Brazil. In the dream I thought this was so brilliant that I was urged into action by moral pressure to catch a flight to see their latest live show in a different country. But then when I actually saw them playing the music, I was horrified and ashamed for them because their fashion sense and faces looked just as serious and demoniacal as when they were playing their hardcore speed-thrash metal music. It just made it too comical to be good, and I was a little sad about it, because during the dream, I was building up in my mind for the next big thing in music: a collective revival of hardcore metal bands from the late 80's and 90's shifting to tropicalia. I was initially so excited for a comeback of bands like Megadeth, Exodus, Anthrax, Kreator, Sepultura, Celtic Frost, or especially Exit 13, Primus, and Nocturnus, and they would all be bringing a new intensity to Brazilian jams and the tropicalia fad in indie rock. Now that I'm awake and thinking about it, it actually sounds like a pretty good idea. At least one album of metal bands playing tropicalia adaptations and covers is in order, I think. The song flow above mixes and matches these two styles of music, so you can hear their interplay. Oddly enough, some of the thrash metal tracks really seem to blend well amidst the tropicalia songs.

I guess the next step would be to figure out a way to convince these metal bands to do it, and then find a record label that's weird enough to fund the project.

Here's two videos back to back, one is the story of thrash metal and the other is a BBC documentary on the history of the tropicalia movement in Brazil. This is only the first of seven parts of the tropicalia documentary that you can see on youtube. Or better yet, you can just find the torrent and download the full thing, which I just did and plan to watch STAT.

AND: I left Lindsey's place this morning and it was cold and rainy. It was raining when I got on the bus and started listening to my audiobook of Cradle to Cradle. When I started getting depressed about society building a cancer in the world and all that, I decided to throw on my Lake Effect mix (a mix for when rain turns into snow).....I'm not even exaggerating, but the very moment the first song started playing, the rain turned into snow. A wild coincidence, I know.

AND #2: Check out this video. They're invention is beautiful. It almost makes up for the dude's hair. But making rhythm and music by human touch....amazing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I like to eat your heart

There's a Hungarian expression that translates to "I like to eat your heart." You say it to people who do something generous or selfless. That's beautiful.

The other night there was a discussion on the train happening between mostly Brian and Lindsey about lake effect. They've both lived in areas that brush up against the Great Lakes and have been subject to how those bodies of water affect the climate. Never having lived anywhere near a lake that large, lake effect is something I've never thought about in my lifetime until I was listening to that particular conversation. But it definitely sounds pretty awesome to me now.

I just finished a another mix influenced by the plummeting temperatures. Highlights on this mix are definitely a couple of tracks I pulled from a compilation of music from Ghana which was recorded between the 60's and early 80's. There's also a pretty cool Korean hip hop song that I found on a torrent of the top 100 K-pop songs right now. What's pretty funny about this song is that the chorus translates to "Because the rain falls down, I'm thinking about soju and sam gyeop sal." Depending on their character, some Koreans call soju "Korean water" while others call it "Korean whiskey", and I guess if you really think about it, soju is right in the middle of the two, if you add a load of chemical aftertaste. Sam gyeop sal is thickly sliced pork belly that you barbecue in front of you before usually dipping it in salted oil and then placing it in a lettuce or cabbage wrap with a chunk of raw garlic and fermented soybean paste mixed with hot chile pepper sauce (how can that NOT be incredible, really?). So basically the chorus of the song is "Because the rain falls down I think about Korean liquor and barbecued pork belly."

In any case, the mix is called:

The Lake Effect (a mix for when rain turns into snow)

giver a download:
part 1
part 2

*also: let me know if there's any problems with downloading the mixes or anything since this is only the third one I've upped. They're all perfect size for a packed to the max 700mb CDR, which is a temporal limitation I really like, and brings me back to one of the only good things about those long commutes in LA.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeling the deciduous vibe of late

The Green Oranges of Vietnam

Not having much experience with living in a place with actual seasons, I really can't get over all the transitions that trees go through during the course of a year.

When I was in Vietnam last winter there were a lot of green oranges being sold in the markets and on roadsides that were actually incredibly ripe beneath the surface. I didn't know why until recently, but apparently citrus fruits contain many of the same chemicals that cause deciduous leaves to become nuclear and piercing and explode in a spectrum of brilliant death colors in autumn (Their colors become most deep and beautiful right before their fall). So the citrus fruits, a late autumn and winter ripening fruit, respond to the lengthening of nights and chilling of the air by slowly cutting off the chlorophyll I.V. drip to their extremities (to shrivel and cringe away from the chill and protect themselves from freezing), allowing for the sugars and chemicals in the plant to crystallize and the dyes in certain chemicals to finally express themselves in a magnitude of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.

Going back to the green oranges of Vietnam, the tropical areas closer to the equator don't have a strong change of seasons, the nights don't shorten as much and the days don't become chill. So many species of citrus plants don't ever receive the signals from nature to necessitate cutting off the chlorophyll drip, and they stay green throughout the year, even as its fruit becomes ripe and delicious.

Also: a volleyball game over the unfinished wall across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The idea of an expensive and tall-walled, exorbitantly maintained land border stocked with searchlights and helicopters and weapons is so jenkem, and a game of volleyball being played across it just tips the scales. It says in the video that the dangers involved in hiking through the sometimes harsh wilderness to illegally cross into the U.S. illegally has been compared with scaling Mt. Everest.

There's a new special education teacher at my school who just finished his military service in town. He's pretty cool and was telling about the trekking he did in the Himalayas and the 5 months of backpacking he did across India, and how his dream is to work for an NGO, probably in Africa. He just walked into the staff room, though, and said "Shiksa ha say yo?" to whoever might be listening, which means "Did you eat a meal?" But if you don't raise your intonation at the end the words change into a demand: "Eat a meal!" I never thought about it before, but the formal polite verb-ending for a question (하세요, ha say yo) is identical to the imperative verb-ending for a polite demand. That means that polite questions in Korean are just a subtle intonation away from becoming a demand. Maybe this helps explain the underlying urgency that seems to permeate daily activities in this culture.

And in a Korean workplace, or just being in the presence of older Koreans, I will hear them ask each other or myself about whether meals have been eaten or not at least 6 to 10 times a day. It seems like eating food is what Koreans are most preoccupied with, almost all the time. My kind of culture, really. I had to actually stop eating dinner with Elvis' family after I finish the evening class I do there, primarily because his wife would just shove so much food in front of my face I didn't know what to do with it all, and I felt bad wasting any of it because of the thick and deep guilt she would lay on me. Both her son and daughter are pretty chubby for their age, and every dinner she would snap at them to eat their food, and whenever there was a lull in the pace of their consumption she would ask them why they weren't eating. Whenever I finished the rice in my bowl, her unease was tangible in the air, and without a doubt she would eventually either ask me if I wanted more rice or just scoop more food into my bowl against my will, as if her actions were entirely out of her control. And even now, before I leave her home, she always asks me worriedly if I plan to eat dinner after I finish teaching. And I don't mean that she asks me if I will eat there, she asks me as if she's nervous I'm just not planning on eating dinner at all, or if I will go hungry. I think it's basically confirmed at this point that her inescapable goal in life is to be surrounded by fat faces, preferably ones that are stuffing themselves. And if they're not fat faces, she'll see to it that they stuff themselves until they get that way. That's all she wants to see around her are fat faces.

Even when Lindsey arrived in town, I remember her telling me that the nice woman in charge of her apartment would always ask her about food and whether or not Lindsey was eating enough of it. And even once told Lindsey genuinely: "I worry you starve."

Speaking of verbs in foreign languages and also the Himalayas, Lindsey found this post on a forum she reads about the verb "to be" in the Tibetan language. I can't exactly vouch for the truth or correctness of this because the linguist studies student who wrote it exhibited that horrendous and stupefying false sense of expertness and authority that is no where more ridiculously displayed than in what people write in internet forums. Nonetheless, the idea here is fascinating.

Tibetan has six verbs 'to be' -
one, if you're equating something with something else and you're not involved.
two, if you are directly and/or heavily invested in something,
three, if something's surprising or you've just realised it,
four, if you're stating that something exists in a specific manner or place and it's a general fact,
five, if you've witnessed it, and
six, if you're personally invested in the existence of something.

I don't quite understand the distinction between number two and number six, but it's fascinating to me that Tibetans have to be continuously aware of how personally involved they are with anything they talk about, and how this degree of personal involvement will always be reflected by their verb choice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

style chaynjee

This is a picture of me right after I got a haircut at a Korean beauty salon. Besides the hair stylist not cutting off half as much hair as I wanted her to, everything was going fine, until she uttered the famous final words "style chaynjee", and started applying the gunk and swirling my hair around in bizarre ways. Afterwards I realized that I've never looked quite so Korean.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I just received a text from one of my Korean friends in town that read: "It snows heavily." I'm sure he either thought I might be indoors with the curtains drawn or he was just confirming with resoluteness the frozen white particles falling and swirling by outside by the millions.

So this is my mix for the now resolute transition of fall into winter. It's called "THE TASTE OF WIDE OPEN SPACES"

The author of the history of Citrus book I'm reading used these words to describe the flavor of a particular type of orange. I really liked it because it's a very synaesthetic idea. Also, I don't get the chance to visit that many wide open spaces in Korea. It's a mountainous country, most areas are encircled and closed off by mountains, especially in Gangwon province and especially where I live in Gangwon province. I miss feeling the vast expanses of the desert.

Here's the tracklisting, download links are below it.

get it:
part 1
part 2

Also, there was a CNN article by Bob Greene on the subject of time that I thought was really fascinating, specifically this part about how social networking sites have significantly altered the concept of time during actual non-virtual social events. What fascinates me most is how the way and rate in which we are compelled to document and share the visual residue of these social events in images has accelerated to some mind boggling degree. One of my friends who lives in a city about an hour north of me once told me over the phone, "I've seen that you've been hanging out with Lindsey and Pat a lot lately." Being new to facebook at the time, this really struck me as an odd thing to say, since in reality I hadn't seen him or anyone he was hanging out with, and I assumed he wasn't spying on me. In fact, just a few years ago, this would have been a completely impossible thing to say unless I was a public figure or celebrity where everything I did ended up in magazines and on TV, or he actually was stalking me.

It was then that it dawned on me that virtual online reality and tangible physical reality had started to irreversibly merge. While before, terms like actual reality or real reality would have been redundancies, I think now they are necessary as terms of contrast, since in actual reality my friend had not seen me, but because other people I know publish images on facebook, he had seen me in a reality that now includes this virtual online social realm.

Here's the part of the article that talks about it. I love the last sentence about "proactive nostalgia for something that hasn't finished taking place yet."

"'What's new?' has ceased to be a casual pleasantry, and has become an urgent demand. Indeed, the word "new" itself has lost its punch; in marketing campaigns, the adjective "new" has increasingly been tossed aside and replaced by the adjective "next." "New" now seems somehow old.

At family gatherings and get-togethers of friends, something is happening that would have seemed outlandish even a few years ago. People at the parties are posting photos and videos of the events on social networking sites even as the parties are still going on.

Thus, friends and acquaintances around the country and around the world are looking at the party pictures and videos and evaluating them before the party is even over. And people who are at the parties themselves, checking in on the same social network sites, are looking at the publicly posted pictures of the party they are still attending. It's like a bizarre form of proactive nostalgia for something that hasn't finished taking place yet."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Breaking symmetrical expectations and the history of nothing

So my school has been undergoing a massive restroom beautification program, which includes brand new doors, new stall doors and dividers with floral patterned wallpaper, some large fish and sea creatures stickers that appear to be swimming along the wall, nature photos with motivational quotes, some general rearrangements, and they even rigged up a speaker to pump in ultra-cheesy tranquil light classical music. The ultimate mind boggling aspect of this beautification project is that there's been a paper towel dispenser in the bathroom that has literally been empty for the past 15 months. And I don't mean it's usually empty, I mean, that, to my knowledge, there's never been one paper towel in there. And after all the work they've done in the bathroom, yesterday I still had to walk out of there to the light classical music with dripping wet hands. And today, in order to "fix" the problem, I found they just removed the towel dispenser all together and hung up some dirty mops in its place. The thing that I love about Korea is the same thing that I find most baffling about its building practices. At the outset, many structures and interior design appear to be organized and similar to buildings you'd find in the states, but then there is always one or two elements that completely destabilize this appearance.

All over this town there's these narrow, meandering dirt and rock paths running between buildings and gardens and fences. The paths look as if you're surely walking through someone's private property, but it's actually just a shortcut.

I really like this aspect of Korea's building practices, it just has so much more of an organic feel to it, as opposed to how master-planned everything has started feeling in the states. The structures here always seem to be incomplete in one manner or another. Our eyes always form expectations about the constructed spaces and natural spaces in our surroundings. We create a logic with which to anticipate visual patterns and the way we are supposed to move through the spaces, understand the intentions of the original builders, and grasp the area's various functionalities. In constructed spaces in Korea, so often all but one or two things support this equation. But there is always that one area that confuses my perception a bit. Something that doesn't quite add up and I can't quite understand the intentions that were behind it during the building process.

Speaking of the idea of the incomplete and way structures are built, this morning I was watching this TED talk lecture by Marcus Du Sautoy which was about symmetry in nature, design, art and architecture. As an artist, I think about symmetry a lot. Our minds and perceptions are designed to be attracted to symmetry. Whenever I look through the lens of my camera I always feel this pull to frame these really symmetrical compositions. It kind of sickens me actually, and it's something I fight with every time I'm making photographs. Because in many cases, something that's so symmetrical will become visually stale so fast. It just doesn't contain anything to keep you coming back to it.

Seeking out the symmetry is a completely natural thing to do, since apparently the more symmetrical an organism is, the higher its ability to reproduce. So people that are more symmetrical are usually seen as more attractive, and as more desirable mates. This is also the reason that viruses can spread so quickly and can be so dangerous: virus particles tend to be extremely symmetrical.

Marcus Du Sautoy said something I thought was really interesting which relates to that idea of artists fighting against symmetry: "Artists set up expectations for symmetry and then break them."

I can be down with that.

And another thing I've been pondering all day since I heard it this morning was what he quoted from these Japanese essays written by a monk in the 14th century called the "Essays in Idleness": "Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth. Even when building the imperial palace, they always leave one place unfinished."

I really have an affinity for that idea. Art that is too complete, symmetrical or slick and over-produced just gets tired so quickly. I want to look or listen to something that makes me feel like I need to keep coming back to it to fully grasp (I guess the only problem is that most people don't want to make half that effort, hence why the best art is left underappreciated).

Here's a link to his lecture if you're interested.

I learned about another thing that I've never really thought about before that is the origin of the number zero (coincidentally perhaps the most symmetrical of our number symbols). By that, I mean the concept of zero and nothingness in the collective consciousness. At least in recorded history the number zero never had a symbol until halfway through the 7th century. I guess no one really talked about nothing. When you think about it, zero and the idea of nothing is a really abstract concept, which is most useful only in terms of mathematics or philosophy. Many ancient civilizations only used numbers for counting and keeping track of their herds of food-animals and whatnot. Apparently, like many scientific and mathematical disciplines, zero was brought to Europe from the Arabs, who themselves learned it from people in India. "The history of nothing" has a nice ring to it. Here's a couple of links about the history of zero:

Furthermore: television snow. Rather than trying to explain it myself, here's three links which explain how about 1% of television white noise is actually the microwave radiation emanating through space from when the universe was created. After the big bang, there was energy expelled in the form of a microwave afterglow that is consistent everywhere and in every direction. Wow.
info 1
info 2
info 3

And lastly, a documentary about Tibetan Buddhism by Werner Herzog called "The Wheel of Time" got me thinking about what it would be like to measure the circumference of the world with my body. The film is about this huge Buddhist ceremony that hundreds of thousands of people make a pilgrimage to every few years when it takes place. Some extreme devotees walk hundreds or even thousands of miles there by praying and lying fully prostrate for every. single. step.

They attach wooden boards to their hands so they're not destroyed by the journey. This old monk from a remote area of China was interviewed who had travelled in this manner for 3000 miles. It took him somewhere around 3 years to make the entire journey. He said during the interview he didn't want to make a big thing about it, even though nodes had grown on the bones in his wrist from praying so much and lying prostrate across the ground. When they asked him about the distance being such an incredible feat, he just said yes, he knew how big the world was because he measured it with his arms, his legs, his head, and his body. He measured and felt every step. That's intense.

Here's the part of the documentary that shows their pilgrimage. This version is not in English though, but you can see what I'm talking about.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Allegience to the pickled cabbage

I swear sometimes I feel like I'm in some weird kimchi cult since I've moved to Korea. Kimchi is not just a food, but a religion. For most Koreans, a meal cannot even be considered a meal unless it includes rice and kimchi. And just like certain things that cults do in their eating habits or behaviors, it'll make the other members real nervous if you aren't participating. Today I was eating lunch at the teacher overflow table (where teachers sit when the main teacher table is full). It was just the school nurse and myself. There was a heaping bowl of kimchi in the middle of the table between us that I intentionally avoided helping myself to. There's a certain point in the year when they've just kept the kimchi in the fridge WAY too long. It just starts tasting stale. I love kimchi when it's fresh, or even sometimes when it's super fermented, but never when it has that stale flavor from having been trapped in sealed tupperware containers in a freezer for the past 6 months or so. I noticed immediately the nurse getting nervous because I didn't take any, so without saying anything she pushed the steel bowl closer to my tray. The comical thing about this impulsive gesture was that the bowl was already like 6 inches away from my tray, so cleary close enough for me to reach it; she pushed it to the point that had it been any closer it would have been touching my tray. Although, I still silently refrained from taking any kimchi out of the bowl. I could totally notice her eyes peering over at me throughout the meal nervously, agitated, every so often. It felt like the type of look you give someone, completely out of your control, that has their fly unzipped or some huge green vegetable fiber caught between their teeth, but you don't feel like you know them well enough to say anything.

Then after I was almost finished, perhaps as a desparate gesture to try and remind me that I STILL hadn't eaten any kimchi, the nurse made a soft grunt and placed more kimchi on her own tray, when it was obvious she still had a healthy pile she hadn't finished yet. What was funny was that she carefully placed the tongs back into the bowl so that they were obviously facing me and nudged the bowl even closer to my tray.

No matter how many days I don't eat the kimchi at school, this type of occurance is common. The older male staff like the ping pong coach, the groundskeeper and the principal will actually pick up the bowl and pass it to me saying "David-uh-kimchi!" in a sharp low voice. I love observing those inexplicable culturally driven impulses in behavior. I always wonder what odd cultural behavior we display when we're viewed by foreigners.

I suppose it makes sense, though, to think so highly of kimchi, as it did allow an entire country to continue eating vegetables during the cold winter months, before more advanced farming methods were invented. And kimchi contains enough vitamin-C to prevent scurvy, and enough other vitamins to prevent other illnesses that can occur from lack of vegetables in the diet.

My heart is chilled by your cold noodle

There's this song that's been going around for quite a while now. And in Korea pop music permeates so thoroughly. If a song is a hit, you will hear it sometimes 4 or 5 times a day, on TV, commercials, radio, EVERYWHERE. And just when you think it's finally over, burned out to the ground from tragically intense repetitive comprehensive media assault, it'll creep back again in the form of a remix or something. This song is called "Naeng Myeon," which means "cold noodle" in Korean. Naeng myeon is a bowl of very chewy, cold buckwheat noodles, either with soup broth or without, and sometimes with chunks of ice in with the mix to keep it at a near freezing temperature. Scissors are a must, because the noodles can be so chewy that they're tough to cut through with your teeth, and if they're not cut first, you can actually feel like you're choking at times while eating them. There's usually thinly sliced cucumber or pickled radish, a chunk or two of dried fish or beef, sesame seeds, and chile sauce. It can be pretty spicy, and you're encouraged to add a bit of vinegar, sugar, and chinese spicy mustard (the kind that gets up in your nose) to it, which really gives it a unique flavor: a mix of sweet, spicy, and sour.

Although the song is ultra-cheese, the lyrics are pure genius once they're translated into English. They even have this dance move that goes along with it that makes them look like they are eating out of a bowl of cold noodles. Check out the video it's so classic. Here's a translation of the chorus:

So cold, So chilling
My teeth are chattering
from your cold noodle, cold noodle, cold noodle
My heart is chilled
by your cold noodle, cold noodle, cold noodle
If I see you, it's too much. Even if I see you again, it's too much.
It's ice cold.
My body's trembling
from your cold cold noodle, cold noodle, cold noodle
It’s tough, it's too tough,
your cold noodle, cold noodle, cold noodle
Still I love you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Feeling up the page

A braille edition of Playboy magazine (photograph by artist Taryn Simon)
This edition features no advertisements or images.

There was actually a lawsuit in 1985 won by the blind about the braille version of Playboy. The government had banned the library of congress from printing further braille editions of Playboy, and a judge ruled that this was a violation of the first amendment. The baffling question that I am left with is why the braille edition disturbed the government more than the one with naked pictures in it.

It's also kind of odd to think about the idea of blind people using their sense of touch to bring erotic visual information into their minds.

Braille, in itself, has always fascinated me, because it involves a shifting of the senses normally used to intake written information. I've always wondered how some of the basic nature of language changes when words and books become purely tactile objects in space. For a reader of braille, every letter and every word has a distinct 3-dimensional shape and form.

In the case of porn, this shifting of the senses towards the tactile is an even stranger notion, because, usually, when people view porn images they are tempted to create a tactile/physical fantasy about them, as sex has so much to do with the sense of touch. But for the blind, they need to use the sense of touch to actually feel out this erotic information across the page.

Wow, that's actually kind of creepy to even think about.


Gotta love the incomprehensible text on Korean T-shirts. Here are some random ones I thought were worth looking at. It'll really be sad the day that the Korean government's English language learning initiative becomes successful and shirts become so much more grammatically correct and boring.

And she crushed her knees on the barnacles

So I think I finally figured out a way of posting my mixes up here without a tremendous amount of time being spent on my part, and so I can now post tracklistings especially for your tremendous music-devouring face-pieces, on your part. Wow, I have to say that upload speeds in Korea are insane and I must give thanks to the most wired country on the planet for assisting me in this process.

In any case, let me know if there's any problems since this is the first and latest mix that I'm posting.

mix title: And she crushed her knees on the barnacles

part 1
part 2

Because the post just before this was about the idea of places emitting memory and the music that comes out of struggles against oppression, this post will be about the idea of words being colored with memory and how certain South African music recorded during the 1960's and during full force apartheid blends so well with breakfast on Sunday mornings. I was watching a documentary a few weeks ago called Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony that illustrates how integral the use of song was for the South African Africans to begin taking their country back into their own hands. There were some older Dutch colonial police officers interviewed and they were saying that even loaded down with riot gear and weapons it could be incredibly terrifying to watch a huge group of African protesters coming towards them because they were all singing powerfully, in unison. And the Dutch cops couldn't help but remember the songs of protest -- because the music got under their skin.

Here's some songs off a compilation called: Mavuthela: The Sound of the Sixties
(The way the voices are used in the first song blows my mind)

(you can get it here)

As for words, I was listening to this podcast called Podictionary that can be pretty interesting. It covers word roots, and there was an episode on the word columbine. Pretty much whenever you hear the word columbine it's fair to say that the high school massacre will almost undoubtedly come into mind (or Michael Moore holding a bowling ball painted like the globe). It's a real trip if you go to and search the word columbine. On that site they surround the definition with twitter feeds that feature the word and also image results from Flickr. It becomes really twisted and fascinating when you consider that columbine is a flower (the state flower of Colorado) and its latin root means "dove." What's even more strange is that the title "columbine massacre" was used once before in Colorado during the year of 1927 when coal miners were on strike and authority figures somehow decided that machine guns would be the appropriate tool to gain control over the situation.

It mystifies me that a word that is the name of a flower and has a root meaning of a bird that symbolizes peace has been colored with the memories of a tragedy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Compelled to chill

Music: side one of an LP put out by Sublime Frequencies called Group Bombino, Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2
(Agadez is a city in northern Niger that is in midst of a violent struggle called the Tuareg rebellion. There is only one road that connects this city to the rest of Niger and land mines are strewn across it, thereby leaving it functionally isolated. This music comes out of this struggle and was recorded live in 2007, amidst the dunes and stars of the desert surrounding Agadez. I'm not sure what it is about music that forms directly out of the burning embers of violence and oppression, but it emanates such a heaviness to its sound, I might as well be submerged in a blanket of warm tropical waters when I hear it, or in this case, sliding down the side of a desert dune while my body is covered with sun-baked sand. It must be that when so many of the luxuries and basic necessities for life and freedom have been stripped away from people and yet they still create music to energize their spirits, this music necessarily has a quality carved out of the core of existence. Because when everything else is stripped away, bare existence is all we have, and the music that stems from this must contain a certain piercing quality, since it aims to inflame or calm the emotions caught in the fire of massive personal struggle or loss.
(you can get this music here)

Last weekend I went on a cultural field trip designed by the local education office for all of the foreign teachers in town. We visited two different Confucian academies, a soju and food museum, a traditional village where we slept (apparently in the same house that George Bush the 1st slept in when he visited there), a ginseng festival, and a temple stacked up a mountain that is the second oldest structure in Korea.

At the second Confucian academy (in images above and below) there were these beautiful trees plush with Chinese quinces and this wooden platform, raised on pillars, constructed for rest. While sitting and resting there, leaning my back against one of the wooden pillars, I became interested in the idea of whether a place can emit a memory. By this, I mean that for 400 years Confucian scholars et. al. have been chilling on this wooden resting platform, and, at least for me, the moment I shedded my shoes and stepped up onto it I seemed to feel the full weight of the deep history of relaxation that the place had. And I don't mean this in any supernatural sense, but in the natural process by which our minds interpret information we have about a place and then how that information helps us to behave in ways that befit those places. For instance, we behave one way at a library and an entirely different way at a house party because we know what type of behaviors are socially acceptable or expected because of our memories from past experiences at those places. And although I don't really have any memories from past experiences at Confucian academies, I felt sucked into the energy of the place so that, I too, like scores of Confucian students and scholars for 400 years previously, was compelled to chill.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"the lemon fell on the ground, the juice into my heart"

Music: Francis Bebey: Akwaaba (1985), from Camaroon
(Kalimbas are so beautifully simple and vanveen)

(you can get it here)

I've been reading this book on the history of Citrus by Pierre Laszlo and he includes a citrus-related quote at the beginning of each chapter. I'm gonna go ahead and list them here, because a lot of them are pretty rad. It seems like the Spanish had a preoccupation with citrus fruits and applied its metaphors to many folk songs, proverbs, prose and poetry, and other expressions of common wisdom.

"Sour and sweet like the orange is the taste of life."
--Spanish proverb

"The elements once out of it, it transmigrates."

"Love and the orange
resemble one another
however sweet
it always remains a little sour too."
--Folk song from Argentina

"I came by your house yesterday
you threw me a lemon
the lemon fell on the ground
the juice into my heart."
--Latin American folk song

"Garlic, onion, and lemon, and you can drop the injections." (their ingestion will keep you healthy)
--Spanish proverb

"A Persian Heaven is easily made;
'Tis but black eyes and lemonade."
--Thomas Moore

"From the orange and the woman, take what they have to give."
--Spanish proverb

"If God has given you lemons, apply yourself to making lemonade."
--Spanish proverb

"Conspicuous like and orange for display."
--A common phrase in Argentina

"The nun
sang from inside the grapefruit."
--Frederico Garcia Lorca

"Rare fruit of all draw from life."
--Joachim Von Sandrart

"An orange, in the morning, healthy, at noon, heavy, at night, 'tis a killer."
--Spanish proverb

"Lemon juice, juice of perdition."
--Spanish proverb

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love is Love and other matters

I just can't fit enough of these songs onto my mixes, so I felt like I should post the entire compilation here. It's called Love Is Love and the 12" is available on Dusty Groove. The music is from a wide variety of African countries, recorded at various times between the 50s and the early 70s. It's definitely up there with my desert island albums. THIS is the music. (and you can download it here)

In other news:
1. This is fairly amazing and conceptually mind blowing to me, but the president of the Maldives and 13 other politicians held a cabinet meeting 11.5 feet underwater, at the bottom of a lagoon in the Indian Ocean. They trained for two months and used hand signals and white boards as a means to communicate. Being the world's lowest-lying nation on the planet, they have day and night concerns about climate change. If the ocean rises a matter of inches their country will become uninhabitable and, hence, cease to exist. What interests me is that because the people of the Maldives don't have the riches or the global power to make their voices heard by conventional means, they have to rely on human ingenuinity and cleverness. What could easily otherwise be a conceptual art project is instead a practical means of gaining international acknowledgement of their country's situation.
more here

2. In France, the mayors of two towns in the suburbs of Paris helped make a road that leads only into itself. The mayor of one town is conservative and the mayor of the other town is Socialist. The mayor of one town decided that there was far too much traffic coming through his town because of commuters, so he made the road a one-way street pouring into the neighboring town. The neighboring town's mayor, being of a conflicting political ideology, made his part of the road another one way street, but going back the opposite direction. So while two politicians were battling and making decisions based on their intangible ideological conflicts, they were sending motorists on a dead on course towards very tangible, head on collisions. Why is it that real news is sounding more and more like cartoons?
more here

3. And lastly, my friend Kevin just turned me on to the idea of Jenkem. A few years ago there were several reports that children in an extremely impoverished area of Zambia, some of them AIDS orphans, collect raw sewage from the open sewers and let it ferment in bottles before inhaling its fumes for mind numbing, euphoric and hallucinatory effects. Apparently the idea of American teenagers huffing poop got over to Fox News et. al. The idea that this news segment not only exists but was actually aired on network television is so baffling by itself that I'm not sure I can even write anything about it. What I can say is that I think I'm going to start using Jenkem as a nice slang term to encompass things that occur that are so ridiculous and filled with obvious contradictions and fabrications. Like a large part of American politics: "That shit is so jenkem!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The next aleatoric photo session

I finally got around to editing and putting a grid together for the second photo game of chance: the color game. This time I rolled for the amount of time I'd walk around before making a photograph and then rolled two dice to decide what color would be the focus of that image.

Start: Taebaek market
End: Lindsey’s place

1=walk for 30 sec, then make a photograph
2=walk for 1 min, then make a photograph
3=walk for 1 min 30 sec
4=walk for 2 min
5=walk for 2 min 30 sec
6=walk for 3 min

Roll two dice for color

2=frame an image with as many different colors as possible
8=purple or pink
9=brown or tan
10=white or gray
12=frame an image with as many different colors as possible

Results & remarks: Last time I noticed myself being broken down a bit by paying attention to all the confused and suspicious looks I was getting. I knew that it had prevented me from making some photographs I had really wanted to, and I’m never quite sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to be that sensitive to my surroundings while I’m photographing. This time around, largely to avoid being deterred by the multitude of stares I know I’d receive, I went out with my ipod and walked around making photographs while listening to a rad mix. I was making an image of these beautiful colors the peeling cracking paint had made on a wooden door. This old man came out of nowhere and started asking me angrily and suspiciously in Korean what I was doing. The smell of soju on his breath was distinct. I told him I was making pictures, and that seemed to make him more upset. I could only understand a little of what he was saying, but he lived right next door, and it seemed he knew the owner of whoever lived behind the door I was photographing, and he kept trying to open it. At first I just kept telling him in Korean that I didn’t understand. This is one of the great fall-backs that I’m allowed by living in a foreign country: I can always pretend I don’t know what people are saying. This behavior has a great history of getting me out of a lot of trouble or awkward situations when people or authority figures just don’t feel like spending the time to deal with the language barrier. But this time, it just seemed to have the opposite effect, as it became apparent that he was undeterred. So I told him, in the best broken Korean I had, that Taebaek was where I lived, and I was making a photography book so my family and friends could see this place because they missed me. I told him that the door was beautiful. I started naming off all the colors on the door to fill in the gaps in my Korean, and told him that the pink and yellow and white were beautiful too. I told him that I thought this place was beautiful and all places around here were beautiful. At that point he cut me off, put his hand over his heart and told me he was deeply sorry in both Korean and English, over and over again. He grabbed my hand, and walked me over to his house. So then I was sitting on the floor with this old man in his kitchen, and I realized he lived in a Buddhist dwelling. There was the Buddhist sign on the front and a prayer room in the next room. We were sitting by the animal food. He said a lot, and I felt bad I could understand almost nothing, except that he wanted to know if I’d eaten lunch. And I had had cold buckwheat noodles an hour earlier, so I didn’t join him, even though I wanted to. But I would have been late for frisbee later.

I thought it was a total shift, where last time I was under the impression that photography had put a distance between me and the place I lived, this time it brought me closer. At least, if I hadn’t looked completely ridiculous to that old man by taking a picture of a disintegrating door, he probably would have never interacted with me.

Also, I kept rolling blue over and over again for a while.