Monday, August 31, 2009

The Works of Tiny Daegu

Often, and I mean very often, I look for signs of life...of hope. In this world that aches and moans and groans about so many things...I look for the signs of happy. It is strange that some people only think that art must be dark in order to hold meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth. I find that a dark mind who only produces dark images, well, it begins to look all of the same. People trying to shock, when the world in its present state is shocking enough. It is easy to be dark in times of darkness. Is it true art? Does art have to be hell in order to transcend heaven? What does it take to lift oneself out of hopelessness? I have many friends who are artists with varying levels of achievement. It frankly doesn't matter about who is deemed great, mediocre, or unknown. What I find is that the experts, do not know a damn thing about art. Art is an individual experience, rendered from a soul of a person. That person shares their medium with the world. The individual taking in the art, be it a viewer, a reader is trying to understand what they are looking at. If there is a message. If something about that item, book, movie, touches an experience they, themselves can relate to OR what type of emotion does it raise within a person. Real art...dark, light, though the eyes of a child is the most telling. They reflect back to the adults how they perceive their world. Some are crudely drawn, others have magic in their fingers, and still others tell stories with their pictures. I happened to find these picture on the side of the building and they made me smile.

The lives of a lot of artists right now, throughout the world are going through a lot of challenges, because of many things. Many are storing their art, some destroying their art, and still others are wondering if they should give up being an artist. Is there ever a good time to be an artist? If you look at the lives of artists throughout, the ones that are elevated, are often done so after they die. Why is that? Perhaps, it is because there is really the desire to not know the artist, just the creation. There are those who say to not write, to not be an artist, to not be a photographer, to not fill in the blank. The reason is simple. People tie success with money. Many are eager to tell you what you shouldn't be. You have to know within yourself who you are.
My point is, BE. If it is within you to be whatever you have chosen to be, you must have the courage to live that life. Filmmaker, actors, writer, painter, photographer, have to find a way to continue to work and yes, a lot of people are struggling all over the place. So, it is about a new way of thinking for all of us, no matter what our passions are.
For the corporate set, teachers, leaders, followers....etc., etc., etc., so much fear about these changes have grounded a lot of people. People are told, "do what you love" and others are told "do what you can". It is not just words. The pain of growth is real. There are real growing pains. So many people are looking and there is panic, but the panic needs to stop. You can't grow in a state of fear. There are always things to be afraid of, the spiders and snakes of life. You can look at the spiders and snakes all you want. They will always be there. There will always be someone beating a drum that says, "Fear, Fear, Fear".

Whatever you have going on in your own life, I can bet most of you created your own path through your choices, and if the rug has been pulled up through life circumstances and you are crying for someone to fix it, and you take no action...well dear, this is a cash and carry world. Sometimes there is nobody to fix it...except you.

It sucks, but you roll up your sleeves because giving up on living is just not an option. Life IS wonderful. I would rather struggle than be planted in a cemetery. I would rather try to figure out how to make life better than to give up on it. We are a collection of excuses. I was reminded about that by looking at these pictures.
I saw the reflection I had been looking for...what HAPPY looks like. Too many people fill this world with dark formidable images...all of those seductive emotions, like an addiction to pain. When it comes down to is crap. There is nothing wonderful about darkness. You can't see a damn thing, and usually the things you fear in the dark, you laugh about when the light switch is turned on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Words are just words, perhaps...

It is at times amazing what you see when your eyes are open. There are a lot of people who wear t-shirts in other languages they don't speak, most of the t-shirts in Korea are riddled with misspellings, advertisements lifted off of web short they are walking billboards transmitting messages that are lost in translation. It is more compelling to me when the message is worn by someone that just appears lost in their own world. Somehow, this woman seemed to be the perfect person to wear this message to "Believe in Love".
The simple things in life, like watching a little girl cross the barriers to play in the fountain, not caring if she gets drenched in the process. Most of us want to be that little girl, straining to touch the water on a hot day. However, we sit on the bench and watch others get wet The laughter of this one child carried a pitch throughout the courtyard. A laugh that was just pure joy.
It is when you realize that half of the time most people walk around with blinders on their eyes, too busy to see something beautiful and rare as the blooms of a sunflower on an urban street...that make you stop and gaze. You know it won't last for seasons change, so the wise ones stop. Everyone else goes on in a hurry, because that is what life demands of us.
I decided to throw a video, up on the end of this post. It isn't the preferred version with Downey walking around the mansion just after going through his drug hell, but the words are what a lot of people feel after they have lived a while. People have to want love in order to have love and sometimes, wanting it is just isn't enough.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Story of "The Magic Book"

It was Friday, and on my way home I saw the a new coffee shop had opened, that is merely about two blocks from where I live. The day had me restless, as I foolishly do at times, spouting off preconceived notions, not realizing the severity of how words can be cutting and unforgiving. The human edit button doesn't always work. So my attention began to focus once again on all of these words flying at me in French, and images of the Eiffel tower...really just made me realize what an idiot I can be at times. The new coffee shop, with an Italian name Disorno (almost like my favorite Amaretto) had emblazoned on its apple green walls "une cafe sil vous plait". I saw the suggestion, but opted for the cafe au lait, and I began to place my order in English to a Korean, using French, forgetting the moment and laughing. She smiled and I offered congratulations on their opening. I began to look at the decor, and saw they had a reading area of Korean books, save this red book, "A Magic Book", a hardcover, hand sewn binding that had no country of origin. I loved it, and already I saw it was going to be mine.
I know, that as a writer, it just seemed to stir my imagination, because had I seen a book like this in the States, I just simply would smile at the novelty. However, I am not in the States, I am in Daegu, two blocks from home. The excitement about the book, was intensified when I looked on the spine, to see the reaffirmation that this is a magic book...I loved the spark of the feeling I had just holding it. "A magician can call many things his own", was both on the spine and the cover. I had to shake my head, even before I read those words, I had already known I was going to possess this book, and took it to the counter, and asked to buy it. She looked startled...and stammered, that it was worthless, just an art book, that it wasn't for sale. My face did not change, but my voice softened and I opened my wallet and slid the money on the counter and simply told the woman, I had to have it. She looked at the money thoughtfully and shook her head and slid the money in the till. I could have walked out the shop that very second, but I waited for my coffee and hurried home to examine this find. The back cover could have been any number of scenes throughout Europe, once again, 'Magic book" was imprinted, and the pseudo post mark of Boston, Mass, October of 1956 on the upper right hand corner. Yes, very well, it could just be an art book, a book that was once something else. An ordinary book, but extraordinary in my hands because of the value I gave it.
And then there was inside the front cover, which took me several tries to get the image just so. An old world map of the old world. This world that I had explored and still explore through literature and my travels. I couldn't stop with this odd find in South Korea.
With the blank pages telling me, we create our own magic in life, all of us do. That is why I had to have this book. Why it was already mine though it was not for sale. Not in a book shop, but a coffee house two blocks from home. A reminder, to choose and use my words with care.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wandering while mentally wondering...

I happened to snap this picture from across the street, not intending to capture the noise of the power line or the two words..."on" in the background. Now that I look at the picture, it seems perfect. Reality television, seems to be something that Koreans can't get enough of. Dating shows, where the audience texts in their comments and a group of young Koreans that seems to get their own safer versions of other shows that usually have them set in traditional Korean setting, pushing the envelope to their own social norms.
This staged event of one of the reality kind, have these guys dancing on stage and chugging beer to cheers here in downtown Daegu. As you can imagine, the guy with the shades and hat induced screams from the girls in the crowd. I was partial to his look as well.
However, to be fair, my journey of the day starting by going downtown, wondering what I would find, when I stopped and stared at these caged parakeets. I just wondered why they would be sitting in front of a clothing store. Oh these birds were smart, and not at all camera shy. Singing away happily as I snapped their pictures, I thought of it as just a kind of ordinary moment when two Korean girls decided to strike up a conversation with me.
All of a sudden I had two shadows who wanted a picture with me. Why? I honestly don't know, but I obliged them by hailing down an expat who happened to be walking down the street. I kind of laugh because I finally see how the oversized hat (I just can't find one in Korea to fit my head) and sunglasses obscures my face. We exchanged information and I went on my way, leaving these birds to fly to enjoy their freedom.
And then it came to pass, a shop that doesn't just sell panties, but the more erotic thong. The shopkeeper's face turned red and begged me not to photograph one shot was what had to do, at the very back of their store...not made in Korea, but made in the UK. God Save the Queen!

Friday, August 14, 2009

I can see clearly now...the rain is gone...

I am now typing my blog with a new set of stylish frames (that I would rather not be wearing at all) because my watch battery died. There have been things I have put off, because I do not want to deal with them, but one thing that is strangely important to me is keeping time. It is through this obsession with time that I came face to face with something I have made excuses for, my reading vision.

I have great vision....for seeing things off in the distance. I think this applies to my life as well. I don't mean to get philosophical about this detail, but when I have a thought, sometimes I chase it down and then beat it to a bloody pulp. However, when you actually go to a foreign country that actually had a person who spoke English that sat me down and confirmed, at last, that I needed glasses.

I could pacify myself, and tell myself, 'just for reading', but the truth was the gray cylinder was housing lens that did very little to really help me. All of the ocular exercises I was used to doing were not helping, and all of the carrots in Korea would now do little for me, perhaps change my tone of my skin to an orange kind of hue. It wasn't helping my vision.

I honestly don't care what the label says on my glasses. It is the other label, the unseen one of my damn pride that came roaring to the surface. In seven years I will be 50 years old, and I am bitching about reading glasses. I can still turn a mean cartwheel and there are a lot of other things I am still doing...but these damn glasses anger me.

They remind me that life is fragile.

I don't need a prop to 'look' intelligent. However, these damn things aren't a prop. They are an essential tool for the scribblings I compose on a daily basis...well, that I can finally get out of my head and on to some paper now that I can see again.

It isn't let go of the gray cylinder...'the once in a while and only if no one is looking' for these new frames, now posed on the end of my the end of this rainy season. I have to admire the optician, who smiled at me as he broke the news, "You still have great vision...these are just for reading...nothing more, nothing less."

I studied this new reflection and nodded. I pulled off the frames and sighed. Damn it! I can't read the price tag! That was all the confirmation I needed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coffee &....

I have a moment to breathe as I am brewing my coffee (OK that is a lie, I am a boiling the water for one of those coffee sticks that is supposed to be coffee) to go over some of the images from this past weekend. I really should sleep more, but I fear I am going to have to cut back on the coffee and tea I consume. That is another lie. I love coffee and as much as I appreciate tea, there is something about coffee, that being the high dose of caffeine that is supposed to be bad for me, that I just seem to say why the hell should I give it up? Which lead me to this not so unusual find. Really, it was never unusual to see in the past, an intersection with a Starbucks on each corner. I used to think it was an over saturated market, until I came to Daegu. I was used to seeing streets lined with coffee shops, and never really paid much attention until today. As I was sitting in the middle of a square I saw four coffee two floors high...not unusual, as I sat there sipping my coffee from another venue.

I wondered how many shots I could get without getting up...and then I looked closer and couldn't help but laugh...I found the "Coffee &...." corner. Coffee and donuts, Coffee and drink (well isn't that what you do to coffee...or maybe an added pinch of something?) and my favorite...

"Coffee and Coffee". In case you didn't get it the first time, but as you can guess...the smallest coffee shop, is Coffee and Coffee. For those who don't want to go inside the other two shops...essentially a coffee stand wedged in betwixt the two massive empires. Count on the person with little time to keep this business afloat in coffee.

I also located Super Korean No. 1. Which for some reason brought to mind the sudden influx of Pepsi products here in South Korea. I mean, now would Pepsi tie in the Korean flag to their own product??? Say it isn't so....but one thing I do notice is that South Korea seems to remind me more and more like the US was back in the 1980s....they are finding their inner material girl.

Damn shame.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

C'est la Coree du Sud, ne pas Paris...Petit name only

This is South Korea, not Paris, France. I was reminded today, as I found Petit France in Daegu. I was hoping for a surprise, for a menu that was more French than Italian. However, given the allowances for scarcity, it wasn't all bad. I try to be positive, however, I feel that a business should know a bit more about what they are trying to sell. This business needed a few lessons on French cuisine and the importance of a wine list. When I asked for a wine list, I tried to conceal my shock when handed a slip of paper that contained three choices. I did not see a single French wine on the list.

I still ordered a red wine....from Australia. However, there is one thing that must, and I mean must be told. In Korea, I have no idea why, but a majority of places will serve red wine chilled. I have only been to two places that know that red wine is served at room temperature. The waiter did not understand my disapproving look, when I saw the condensation on the bottle.
The menu is petite, like the name of the restaurant. However, the courses are laid out without the a la carte ordering. You have mini baguettes served with olives and balsamic vinegar. I have to admit, my hands where shocked by the heat of the bread...this was a surprise. Freshly baked bread in Korea is extremely rare.
Another plus, was the mozzarella cheese. I have tell you that cheese is so rare. The cheeses that are produced in Korea are of the lowest velveeta quality. It is possible that due to the absence of cheese and chocolate South Koreans will never know the obesity problems that plague the Western world. The main entree, a delightfully spicy Vongale...pasta, shellfish, and assorted vegetables that seemed to have more of an Italian flavour than French. This was a great dish, but I was trying to place this as a French dish, however it didn't seem to make it. A light lemon-lime sorbet followed to cleanse the palate, with you choice of coffee or tea.

I had to include a picture of the menu, just because I feel that my sanity needing checking. A French cafe, without French wine, and an attempt at French cuisine...without the menu to go with the name.

Wait. I just remembered something. I am in Daegu. I am in South Korea. This place would be torched in Paris, but I will be nice, and say gracefully pass on the wine.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cha-cha-change in South Korea

I actually went inside the store to shoot this window display, to the shock of the shopkeepers. I wanted no glare of the gawking passing traffic. This wouldn't be even a touch bit shocking in a shop in say London, Paris or Munich. However, this isn't any of those places...this is South Korea. This is in Daegu, where change is in the air.
I actually stood off to the side for a few moments to watch the reaction of the passing public. I saw people actually avert their eyes. There was one couple that walked by and the gentleman actually slowed down and stared. Without missing a beat, the girl friend slugged him. Lone women, stopped and looked, some with thoughtful gazes. After all, they were just mannequins...right? This is the image that most people have of South Korea. Deep traditions of hard work, steeped in denial and humility. Back breaking labor that is often remembered and glorified in figures throughout ceremonies and statues. The symbols of past generations that are shown to children, but those children are now looking at the rest of the world.
Enter stage left...the rise of the urban pop culture, South Korean rap and DJs. Western music is given a back seat to the crop of Korean pop groups that are young, hot, and all about the image. Enter, the superstar with the computer sweetened voice...and this one holds some traditions in place, only modestly claiming to be the number three "Super Corean". Never mind that the image contradicts the words.
Yes, in these waning days of summertime...the last summer of this decade, you often wonder what the future holds. Those that fight to hold on to a society of the past, when the younger generation that waits in the wings is hungry.
They are eager to replicate what the west puts out there...and yet, there is a part that seems to be a display...just for show. After all, when is an illusion just an illusion?
David Bowie said it best, "Time may change you, but you can't change time."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Have Some Cake....It's your Birthday...."

Go ahead, have some cake with me, it's my birthday. At the Cherbourg Live Cafe, with its red velvet booths, stage lights and distinct feeling of a disco I walked in, alone...don't ask me why, but birthdays are not something I party nor do I cry about. Still, I felt good as the server and I spoke about travels and adventures. He had lived in Poland for 4 years and had good command of the English language.
Before I arrived at Cherbourg, I found the oddest tiles. They were out of place and didn't seem to fit in with the surroundings. Like three little wall flowers on a wall by the lift.

The strange thing about these three darlings, is they didn't even fit with each other. It was strange enough to catch my eye and I dropped my bag and captured though they were a hidden message for something else. I smiled as though I found a trophy without the hunt, now it was time for a meal. And as I looked up at the Cherbourg Live Cafe, it was one of those times where I should have just went right in, instead of the two other places I went to. That is the strange thing about me, I will walk right into a place...look around, and if I don't like it...I just walk out.

I suppose most people are really that way, but still, it is like going into someone's home and walking right out. If the feeling isn't right, there really isn't much you can do about it. I honestly don't know what it was about the was a cross between disco and cheesy. The interior screamed out 1970s with a 1990s twist. In other words...a great set for a Quentin Tarantino movie. I could picture John Travolta in the place. That is just how wonderfully tacky it was. You just expect something to happen here.

Back to the server, who also motioned to a slip of paper where I could make a song request...anything I wanted he told me. "Anything?" I thought to myself how obscure could I make this? What three songs would you pick in South Korea? So I wrote down my list.
At Last, Etta James, My Man (Mon Homme) by Billie Holliday and an easy one...anything by Abba (don't give me grief folks...some 1970s disco music to go with the decor).

Within 3 seconds...I heard "Momma Mia" piping through. Yes, he smiled as if he had found the cure for cancer. Ah, the marvel of the is that easy to have whatever you want at your finger tips. In any event I sipped my drink with great appreciation and cheerfully listened to the songs play one after the other. God, I love Jazz, but the mood was erased when the oddly familiar sound of the Korean version of "Happy Birthday" came piping through. Good and just nod. Relief was about to come...judging by the looks of the lone guitar hero...I wasn't quite sure what I was going to hear. Close your eyes...remember there was this guy with dark sunglasses...Roy Orbison...who had a voice...well, if you don't remember or know of his music kiddies. For those of you who do remember....go one step further...picture him singing in Korean. Roy was not the glam kind of guy, but he had an amazing voice.

Korean Roy... had stage presence like you wouldn't believe. And I am thinking...I can't believe I am listening to this guy sing! And to finish...he pulled off a great rendition of The Beatles....'Let it Be' (In English).

No matter where in the world you are. Walk out the door and go do something. This was the best way to end my vacation...on my birthday.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Down Graphitti Alley...

One of the passions I have when I have travelled is to hunt graphitti. Oh, I had seen a little bit here and there that was incorporated in clubs like Club That and in Old Skool...but there is something about running into the scrawled messages. Art or angst...for years I photographed these images...because graphitti tells you what is brewing underneath the surface of any society. It is almost like truth serum. That everything isn't OK. Most people avoid these areas, they avoid the people associated with the areas. For some, a building is their canvas. The work for public viewing. I have written this posting for a friend, who I went to high school with, and had the pleasure of working with in radio (many, many years ago), Steve Rotman. He is honestly someone I had expected to conquer the world of journalism. Steve, true to form, followed his passions of jazz and photography in San Fransisco...rather than follow the expectations of others. Many in our group realized there was a great big world out there as we left the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Steve was just someone I admired. There was something that clashed with the button-up shirts that said "I am not what I appear to be."

There was a large pool of talent that I had the pleasure of growing up with. Steve was one of them. Steve Rotman, has just published his work on San Francisco Graphitti, *Bay Area Graphitti with Chris Brennan. This isn't just a plug for a book...if you are into exploring "graphing" Steve has captured some of the most incredible shots you will ever seen in the world of graphitti.
These images are the first finds for me in South Korea. I noticed the attempt, "Some were over the rainbow".
An obviously angered anti-police message. I can tell you, that with all of the cameras that are around in Daegu, I was honestly surprised to see this on a wall. Big brother is always watching.

So down this little alley, away from the cameras...a mini explosion of rebellion, and a plea to "Go and save your soul..."