Stare.
 
2005 Notebook: Weak XXV
 
   
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18 June 2005
No. 147 (cartoon)
I wish I was inside you.

You are.

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19 June 2005
Conceptual Bangudae Petroglyph
Dang, I’m having more fun in Korea than any worthless artist like myself deserves. After going from National Treasure Three Hundred and Sixty-Nine, the Suknam-sa Temple, I went to National Treasure Two Hundred and Eighty-Five, the Bangudae Petroglyph. After a long walk through the forest, I finally saw the petroglyph. Or rather, I saw a large rock wall on the other side of a wide river. I could barely make out the scratches of the ancient petroglyph through the summer haze.

Thoughtful park officials had foreseen my disappointment, and had mounted a huge photograph of the petroglyph. Even better, the photograph was made on a sunny day, so the features of the carvings were distinct.

I quite liked the experience. I really didn’t care about some crude prehistoric drawings, but I enjoyed the concept of traveling some distance to see a photograph of something all but invisible to the naked eye. I could have seen the images even more clearly had I stayed in town and looked them up on the Internet, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed experiencing the nice little conceptual art piece.

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20 June 2005
More Bad Whale Poetry
A so-called friend attending the International Whaling Commission meeting here in Ulsan gave me a copy of the book, A Galaxy of Whale Poems: Poems by Fifty Korean Poets. The volume is yet another of those vanity press exercises in which desperate poets inflict their misery on the unsuspecting masses, e.g., hundreds of delegates to the fifty-seventh annual meeting of the international body.

Ulsan Writers Assembly president Chung Il-keun wrote a bizarre introduction, referring to a carving of of a mother whale and her calf in the Bangudae Petroglyph.

“Even prehistoric men must have been attracted by the strong maternal love of the female gray whales,” Il-keun speculates, adding, “Like the prehistoric engravings in Ulsan [National Treasure Two Hundred and Eighty-Five], this book of whale poems will engrave the Korean people’s everlasting love for whales on the heart [sic] of all the people in this world.”

Hold it! Isn’t engraving on human hearts what the monstrously sadistic Japanese invaders did to innocent Koreans on the most recent of their many invasions? Yet another example of why one should never trust a poet.

I suppose this is another case of cross-culture miscommunications, but I’m not sure why the Koreans are expressing their everlasting love for whales by asking International Whaling Commission bureaucrats for permission to blast the whales’ brains out with explosive harpoons. I hoped Kim Su-wu’s provocatively-titled poem, Hump Whales, might provide an insight to Korean whale love, but it turned out to be just another regrettable and forgettable whale poem.

And so, even though I am about as unKorean as one can be, I decided to write the definitive Korean whale poem.

Whales aren’t merely
just big meaty fishes;
when barbecued properly
they taste quite delicious!

Et voilà! Number fifty-one!

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21 June 2005
The Go Channel
There’s no television in my laboratory, and that’s fine, since there’s nothing worth watching that’s not available in a prerecorded version. On the other hand, I love watching television in languages other than English.

In Korea, the first televised image I saw was from a documentary on a kimchi factory. A smiling woman pointed to a fifty-liter bag of kimchi, then the producer cut to a shot of a guy driving a forklift with enough cases of kimchi to feed an army. And since I don’t know any Korean, the announcers could very well have been describing the preparation of an order for the Korean army.

For the last few days, I’ve kept the television tuned to channel fourteen, which, as far as I can figure out, broadcasts nothing but go games. I play go extremely poorly; I’m not even sure if I know all the rules. Still, I’m delighted by the sheer tedium of watching a game that’s even more boring than baseball.

Go, go channel, go!

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22 June 2005
Korean Surreality
Although I try to be one of those enlightened guys who doesn’t objectify women or judge them on their appearance, I can’t help but notice that Korean women are rather attractive.

And so it was that I was surprised to discover a two-and-a-half meter tall bas relief representation of an alleged woman popping out of the white stucco wall on the side of a bar. (I use the word alleged because the creature looks more like a guy who underwent a poorly-engineered sex change operation.)

The woman is wearing an ancient red bathing suit with “inter tong” written in script across the chest and holding a frothy mug of beer. I couldn’t figure out her appearance until I realized she looked like a pinup from the 1950s. The figure wasn’t that old, but the style of the bathing suit and shoes was. I hypothesized that the last time there were a significant number of westerners here in Ulsan was when American troops were at war over half a half century ago.

As I was pondering whether I was in some sort of time warp, Sang-Hoon Lee approached me. The gregarious Hundai project engineer introduced himself, gave me his business card, and encouraged me to contact him regarding any industrial and/or shipbuilding needs I might have. I promised him that I would, and, as with any promise, I meant it.

I’m enjoying the Korean surreality immensely!

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23 June 2005
Barbecue at the Temple
I was walking by the cinderblock fence surrounding an urban Ulsan temple when I spotted a miserable-looking dog panting in the summer heat. The forlorn critter was tethered to a plastic dog house on a quiet street beside cases of empty beer bottles. Although I’m not particularly fond of most canines, I find something endearingly pathetic about pitiable dogs in distant countries.

As I prepared to take a snapshot, an old man came up and tried to explain what was going on. This proved very difficult in that his English was minimal and my Korean all but nonexistent. As far as I could understand, we were standing at a spot near the temple’s service entrance where members of the community offered material support. The monks had consumed beer they’d been given and left the empty bottles to be recycled.

And, if I understood correctly, tomorrow the dog would be dinner.

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24 June 2005
Korean Warrior Kitty
I’ve been emailing my friends a photograph I made of a Korean Warrior Kitty. I’ve been getting a lot of nice compliments on the image, with a few correspondents expressing their regret that they weren’t able to join me on my adventures.

I may or may not tell them that I made the photograph in the lobby of my hotel.

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25 June 2005
Seeing Sun Young Again
I didn’t remember the date, but my my computer did: I met Sun Young Am on a flight from Adelaide to Sydney on 7 July 2000. I certainly remembered her; we had a lovely predawn chat.

We stayed in touch over the years, and finally rendezvoused again today. She showed me parts of Seoul that were conceptually inaccessible to me; we had a delightful reunion.

When I showed Dr. Palmer my snapshot of Sun Young that I took at a bar earlier tonight, he wasn’t impressed.

“You’re a better photographer that I thought,” Dr. Palmer opined, “you managed to make a boring photograph of the person you described as the most beautiful woman on the Korean peninsula.”

“It’s an excellent photograph,” I declared, “you just need to know how to deconstruct it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dr. Palmer inquired.

I resisted the weak temptation to tell him the truth: deconstruction is just one of those nonsensical phrases academics use to make enjoying art a masochistic experience.

“First, Sun Young’s more than superficially attractive, and I couldn’t really make a good photograph of her without interrupting a wonderful conversation,” I explained. “That’s why I didn’t pull out my camera until she was distracted by a phone call. I chose to obscure her face in order to prevent my memory of her from being reduced to two static dimensions. It’s exactly what I was after.”

“I see,” Dr. Palmer replied skeptically.

It is, in fact, a lousy photograph. I would have made a better one, except that we were having too much fun to bother with photography.

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©2005 David Glenn Rinehart