Thursday, September 30, 2010

Worm Rescue Update

Rescued another worm today! The very one shown below. In the same area and at the same time of the morning as the last (double) worm rescue.

This makes me think I should never, ever skip that morning walk -- who knows how many more worms I may be able to save in the future?

Location, Location, Location

I was driving home yesterevening in some pretty unusual weather -- hot yet cloudy through most of the day, partly dry and partly humid -- when I noticed, some distance ahead, what looked like extremely localized pockets of rain. The sinking sun was selectively lighting up the clouds in the northwestern sky and making the precipitation stand out. The rest of the sky was mostly clear, though. Odd.

When rain fell from a clear sky I understand people in parts of the western world used to say the Devil was beating his wife, and the rain was her tears.

I recently learned that in Korea, people used to say of the same phenomenon that a magical creature, the fabled nine-tailed fox of folklore, must be crying. How do I know? I've been watching the K-drama, 'My Girlfriend, the Nine-Tailed Fox' 내여자친구는 구미호-- a fantasy about a likable slacker dude who acquires a beautiful girlfriend, unaware that she is in reality a 500-year old magic fox. With nine tails. Which she keeps hidden when in human form.

On the show, whenever she feels sad and cries (mostly due to the guy's thoughtless behavior -- it seems that, despite being so old and powerful, she's an amateur when it comes to the emotional complexities of life as a human), it begins to rain, no matter that the sky was perfectly clear a moment before.

Anyway, as I neared the glowing columns, some drops of rain did hit the windshield, so I guess I was right about the localized rain. But as I continued driving along the 101 freeway and neared the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral (which occupies a commanding position overlooking the freeway), I noticed something which quite stood out, and made me stare:

O.K., I didn't exactly break out in a cold sweat, but really, with its elongate shape it was pretty striking -- it almost looked like a soaring lick of flame in the sky. And not only that, with a little imagination you can see a standing female figure there, clad in a robe/veil(/burqa?^), above (perhaps standing /riding on) whatever the other thing is (which looks to me like a dove!). There is even a faint hint of a nimbus behind 'her' head. And considering the proximity of the cathedral, I daresay there are people who would not hesitate to say that, that column of floating waters/fox tears/mystical flame, was actually the sign of a 'presence' hovering over the cathedral. I love it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Synchronistic Event (#3)

I was composing an e-mail message(in Korean) to my aunt in Seoul just now, while simultaneously listening to K-pop, as I so often am these days (could you tell?). I'd just begun to type the word *kadeuk, when Jisun, the singer I was listening to at the moment (formerly of the band Loveholic), reached the same word in the **song she was singing. That's the second such synchronistic event in one day -- and that's a first.

*가득, meaning full
**'Echo' from the soundtrack of the TV drama 'The Snow Queen', starring Hyun Bin and Sung Yuri, and the line was 내안에 가득한, "filling me up".

Synchronistic Event (#2)

10 minutes ago, there was another one of those odd little synchronistic convergences. I was going over a list of East Asian book titles while listening to K-pop girl group 'Girls' Generation' singing 'Fairy Tale', and just as the girls reached the word *sesang, my eyes alighted on **Sesang on the page.

From now on I will record every such occurrence, just to see... I don't know if anyone has ever done anything like this.

*From the lyrics "neomuna neolbko neolbeun sesang-eseo" 너무나 넓고넓은 세상에서

**From the book title Sesang-eseo Kajang Himsen Shillang-eul Chasseumsnida 세상에서 가장 힘센 신랑을 찿습니다

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Memorable Trip To The Beach


So far I've alluded a number of times to a trip I took to South Korea a couple of years back. Here's an account of another aspect of that trip that was of particular interest to me, both as an artist and as a lover of movies.

A few years ago I saw this movie called 'Time'/시간(2006) by South Korean director Kim Kiduk/김기덕. It's an interesting movie and you all should run out and rent it today -- but I digress; there is a scene in the movie that takes place in a sculpture park by the sea, and one of the sculptures there was used to memorable effect, as seen here in this publicity photo:

I was watching the movie with my friend Ev, and as we both were intrigued by the scene with the unusual sculpture, I half-seriously vowed then and there that if I ever were to go to South Korea I would find out where that sculpture park is and have a picture of myself taken in the same setting.

Well, as fate would have it, the very next year my mother and I did have occasion to go to SK, to see her sister, her brother and their families.  It was my first trip back to the land of my birth since I left it all those years ago, and I didn't know what to plan for the trip -- except that I had to fulfill my vow to find that sculpture by the sea.

So I did some research online, and managed to find out not only where that sculpture was, but scored detailed directions for getting there from Seoul/서울, where the whole meshpoche lives. Turns out the place is something of a landmark.

So anyway, we go to Seoul... and it was like a whole different country (I mean from what I remembered). Granted, I was just a child when I left, but I didn't recognize anything at all, and all the new stuff like the designy buildings and the giant display screens everywhere was really disorienting. Incheon airport itself didn't exist then. Unsurprisingly, our mission to locate our old house ended in complete failure. Not only was the whole neighborhood changed, we were lucky to find the neighborhood at all.

Amazingly though, the old house my mom lived in when she was a girl still existed, but it was now a restaurant. The new owners had knocked out some internal walls and opened up the whole space, and turned it into a traditional-themed eatery with old-fashioned floor seating.

So we see the sights, sample the local cuisine, tour some temples and palaces, get grabbed and pulled by the merchants at Namdaemun outdoor market/남대문 시장 who kept talking to us in Japanese because they thought we were Japanese tourists (some middle-school girls we ran across at one of the palaces also did this, to practice their Japanese), take a side trip to Jeju Island/제주도..,

and when I got a day to myself I at last set out to find the fabled Baemikkumi Sculpture Park/배미꾸미 조각공원, on the island of Modo/모도 off the west coast. I took the subway to the train station, took the train to the port city of Incheon/인천, took a bus into the city, then transferred to another bus to get to the dock, from which I took a ferry to the island of Shindo/신도, and finally, took a ride on a rickety country bus to the island of Modo (there are three islands connected by bridges; Modo is the smallest and farthest one out).

The directions turned out to be slightly outdated, and I had to rely on the kindness of strangers to help me find my way around Incheon (good thing I still speak the language).

Once on Modo, the one paved road ended partway across the island; off the bus I got and from there I hiked the rest of the way on foot to the other side of the island; I guess it really wasn't that far, but it became a longish trek because I kept pausing to take photos.

So I finally got to the sculpture park, and I have to say it really was pretty awesome, well worth the complicated trip. Amazingly, the whole place is a showcase for the work of one man. I didn't know anything about the sculptor Lee Ilho/이일호 (I've since learned that he is a well-known figure in SK's art scene), but just creating the park itself must have taken a lot of time, money and effort. As for the artwork, while it's very different from anything I would do, nevertheless I could totally get into the mindset that created it.

An obsessive, sensual streak, often informed by an eros/thanatos juxtaposition, runs through pretty much everything in the park; however, it's more explicitely and literally stated in some pieces than in others.

And, of course, there was this piece, with yours truly feeling pretty proud of himself:

One thing -- it hadn't even occurred to me to check the tide schedule, but maybe I should have; later I came across this photo on the internet:

I don't know if that's a Photoshopped image or if it was taken during a rare monsoon or what, but if anything even close to that actually happens when the sea rolls in, it's a dang lucky thing I got there during ebb tide. And it was also by luck that clueless Mr. Landlubber made it back to the dock on Shindo (via the very same bus -- for all I know it's the only bus serving Modo; I heard there's just one village on the island, so there can't be all that much of a demand for public transportation; in fact, the driver seemed to know all his passengers personally -- during the return trip he stopped at some random spot by a field; I was wondering what could be the matter when a farmwife jogged up to the window and the driver handed her the purse she'd left behind!) with just minutes to spare before the last ferry departure of the day. If I had dawdled to take a few more photos on the hike back I would have had to find lodgings for the night on the island (EDIT: and if I had brought a female guest with me I would have been living a K-drama cliché in the flesh -- where the nice guy and cute girl get adorably stranded together in a remote locale and have to devise a way to spend a night together-but-decently-apart^^ -- I've seen this happen in 'Spring Waltz', 'My Girl', and most recently in 'You're the Best, Lee Soon-Shin').

While waiting for the bus to take me back to the train station at Incheon, I noticed something I missed earlier; there was an electronic bulletin board at the bus stop that kept track of the buses on that route and showed in real time when the next several were expected to arrive, which was cool. I wish we had this in Los Angeles:

What wasn't so cool was that while waiting for the bus I happened to check out the cut-out plastic gas can this old man had with him. Evidently he had been fishing and was now on his way home with his catch of the day. When I looked down into the can there was this little octopus looking right up at me... Poor thing, I hope he was delicious and the old man derived much pleasure from eating him. Then his death would at least have served a good purpose.

And checking out Seoul's streets at night, I learned something else that's cool. In Korea, McDonald's/맥도날드 delivers! You don't need to lift a finger to get your fast food fix -- just punch in that number on the left, and minutes later your Big Mac/빅맥 is at your door. I've read that more and more Korean kids are growing up overweight, and no wonder.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Random Cloud Photo

I really like clouds. I'm also a little afraid of them. Sometimes, when I look straight up into a cloud overhead, I feel the irrational fear that at any moment gravity will reverse itself and I'll fall straight up into the sky.

If God existed, clouds would be the perfect medium of communication between Him and us. He would have the entire sky as His drawing pad, and clouds as the medium to draw with. God could then write out His will in the sky for everyone to see (in the appropriate languages to suit local audiences, of course), or if He preferred to remain mysterious and cryptic, He could put up suggestive images to indicate to us what was on His mind.

I wonder what God was thinking of, on this day -- hairy caterpillars, perhaps... or a bridge to the Moon (you can just make out a tiny, faint Moon in the lower right quadrant, between the cloud/contrail and the building).

Monday, September 20, 2010

And Still More Good Eats

Couple of slices of pig heaven.

Probably sounds weird, but I got used to thinking of chicharrones as a kind of diet food. On certain days I would get a real hankering for the crunchy, delectable snack -- I would pick some up on the way home from work, and by the time I got home I would be positively slavering with anticipation. I'd sprinkle some chili powder on it and dive straight into a dishful, wash it down with a mug of ice-cold beer -- and that would be my dinner. Since I'm usually iffy about the other two meals, on these days the pork cracklin's and the liquid bread would be my only meal of the day. I totally recommend this diet to anyone who wants to lose weight eating and drinking like a fun-loving pirate (albeit one with scurvy -- to keep that unpleasant condition at bay one should eat lots of fresh, homemade salsa, as in the second photo).

One More 'Just Because' Photo

The bulletin board that used to hang in my old apartment. Blow it up and you'll see pieces of my life/brain (and some soft-soft-core pornography).

I love this photo -- it's like one of those children's picture books where you look for certain items; however, I had to block out some phone numbers and embarrassing candid photos, lest I get sued (seriously -- one of the people in these photos is now a lawyer)...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Ewokuxiba Are Coming! (Part 2)

The bad guys included the (again, shifting one letter over) Ewokuxiba, a parasitic alien species that uses their razor-edged tails to slice open a person, crawl inside and take over the hosts' bodies. Needless to say, I had fun designing these guys!

Since they were internal parasites that needed to connect their own nervous systems with those of the host bodies -- like an unholy kind of puppeteer manipulating a hand puppet -- I decided it would make sense (and make for good, icky video game visuals) for the Ewokuxiba to look like incomplete, partial animals; their limbs and appendages would end in stumps resembling raw organs, ready to instantly join up with the hosts' innards.

I really got into this part of the assignment, and I figured it would be fun (and impress Mr. X) to build a macquette (small 3D model) instead of drawing the Ewokuxiba. And so, here is the result.

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find this ugly mug crawling toward your face:

The Ewokuxiba Are Coming! (Part 1)

A couple of years back, through my friend Ev's connections, I was tapped by a certain Hollywood Personage (henceforth he shall be referred to as Mr. X -- but he bears a surname that is legend in American animation) to design some characters for a new video game. Some of the characters were human, others were 'creatures' -- one 'good monster' and a whole slew of evil ones.

As far as I know the project never made it beyond the planning stage, at least in the incarnation with which I was familiar (perhaps it was revamped and successfully sold in a different form, who knows), and my involvement with it came to an end after the initial character design.

Anyway, here are two of the human characters I visualized for Mr. X (as it turned out, due to a bit of miscommunication the character descriptions I was given were not quite what Mr. X had meant, and consequently these character designs were not quite what he was expecting -- but aren't they cute). They were supposed to be teenage misfits, part of a gang of young heroes fighting the good fight for the preservation of mankind, under the tutelage of a wise old space being called Ybuxieb (that is not the actual name of the entity -- I don't know if it's all right for me to use the actual names of the characters here, so whenever I type a name from the project I will 'scramble' it by shifting one place over on the keyboard; hope that makes it O.K.).

The evil monsters follow, in the next post.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Double Earthworm Rescue

Just now, while taking my morning walk as usual, I came across two earthworms within yards of each other on the sidewalk. The ground being perfectly dry, it was rather mysterious how they had ended up on the pavement far from the soil -- probably the gardener had sprayed the area earlier, and the water having evaporated quickly, the worms that had crawled out were left to suffer a slow, torturous death.

To my surprise they reacted to my touch by wildly writhing and flailing. No stranger to earthworm rescue that I am, I’d never encountered such vigorous defense before – perhaps the other worms had been too weak to put up much resistance. So I guess that means these two worms stood a good chance of making a full recovery once I placed them back in the soil.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Still More Old Art

This one's REALLY old. It's the very first one I did in this style or format or whatever you'd call it. Everything else I've done since then, I consider to be an evolved form of this.

When I started grad school as a painting major, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I pretty much wasted most of the first year, trying this and that different way of painting but sticking with nothing, in the search for my 'true style'. It was a dismal and panic-filled time.

I was near the end of my rope when, very fortunately, I found a studio space to share -- with one of my professors.

As we only used the back door of the building, in order to get to her workroom my professor had to go through my space, and in so doing she would see all the little odds and ends that kept appearing on my work table -- small found objects and bits of debris that I found interesting and brought in, or simply never bothered to throw out. Some I would absently modify in some way, literally doodling in 3-D.

And finally, she made a suggestion one day that changed my life as an artist. She remarked, perhaps half in jest, that she actually found those trivial objects more interesting than my 'serious' work -- and obviously I found them more congenial -- perhaps I could use them in my paintings somehow?

I took to it like a duck to water. It feels so natural to me now that it's rather surprising that I had to be prompted by someone else; I think what I lacked was the validation that an explicit suggestion from an authoritative source represented. In fact, in hindsight it's clear that I had already taken some tentative steps in this direction, needing mainly to be freed from: #1. the grip of certain fundamental, almost unconscious presumptions about what constituted 'serious' art; and #2. the idea that I was a painter and a painter I would stay, that painting was painting and sculpture was sculpture, and never the twain shall meet. Thank you, Anne-Marie -- for finding a way for me to cross that mental gulf in a surreptitious, non-traumatic way.

Anyway, this is the very first piece I did, explicitly following her suggestion. It incorporates a vertebra (actually two vertebrae, but one fell off -- you can see clearly where it used to be, at the top), as well as plant parts painted in 'faux-trompe-l'oeil', and uses a much looser, freer visual language than before. And at the same time, I stopped thinking of myself as a painter.

Second Story Windows

Reflections in the upper level windows of the building where I work. Me stumbling around the parking lot with my camera stuck to my face.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Blood!

All of these were taken pre-digital, hence the scratchy paper prints.