Gooooooooooood morning Vietnam! I was recommended to watch
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this movie by my Uncle Derek recently during my visit to Ontario. Besides it being a great movie, it made me reflect on both myself and greater western society.

The movie depicted Williams' character as an atypical soldier who doesn't follow the rules, doesn't view people by their ethnicity and has a great appreciation for reality. Despite the massive conflict going on about him, his main focus is on the simple pleasures in life: laughter, playing, flirting and overall social enjoyment.

However, his happy-go-lucky life as a comedy radio broadcaster during wartime eventually hits a brick wall as he starts to realize that not everyone follows the same ideals as he does. Despite the fact that he shows no ill-will or racism towards the local Vietnamese, he encounters discrimination when he tries to woo a local girl. This is no surprise, particularly when in both this movie and in "Memoirs of a Geisha" the American military is portrayed as brash, crude, violent and uncouth. If I was a foreign national and I saw the American miliary during wartime ( in fact I get to see that first-hand here in Seoul all the time), I would probably not want my daughter/sister spending time with any of those soldiers either.

The sad side to this, which I can unfortunately relate to, is that many people in countries inhabited by the American military widely discriminate against all Caucasian men despite the fact that they may be kind, and more to the fact may not even be American, let alone a soldier. There have been so many situations where I, like Williams' character, fall in love with a girl, but can hardly get past a greeting due to deep-seated stereotypes about Caucasian men. In the very end of the movie, when Williams' character had proved himself trustworthy, kind and noble, it was already too late-- he was being shipped out the next day leaving no hope for him to pursue the girl of his dreams. Ironically, the steps he took to prove his trustworthyness and respect for the local culture was the very reason he found himself on the bad side of the American forces and was made to leave.

This highlights another unique paradigm of 'side-taking.' During my time in Korea, I found that the best way to immerse myself in Korean culture was not only to learn the language, but to think, talk and act like a Korean man. I learned quickly that that did not only include adopting different eating/chronic drinking habits, but also stereotypes and ways of thinking. The moment when people started saying that I was acting like a 'true Korean' was when I successfully followed after my seniors and called Japanese and Chinese by their derogatory slang words in Korean, 'Jjokbali' and 'Jjanggae' respectively.

To the contrary, I recall a very similar situation in which I spent time educating some Americans about Korea, only to have them try to make me follow them in their derogatory orientalism-based descriptions of Asians and foreigners. They would often say things like 'I can't believe everything is so cheap here, but you know these 'g---s' smell so bad, right?' In the exact same way as my Korean seniors did to me, the Americans wanted to make sure I was on 'their side,' not the 'other side.'

In other words, in order to get trust, respect and acceptance... I mean real, true acceptance... and in order to woo the fair lady on the other side of the fence, in many cases there is no other choice than to take sides. That's the gift of Nationalism, the great defender of cultural superiority and great enemy of globalisation. That is the takeaway from "Good Morning Vietnam." In that respect I have to say that it was a very well written movie and quite enjoyable to watch.

A few days ago I turned 29... and not too long ago I renounced my Canadian residency status~ this all made me think deeply about where my allegiances lay. My life has been quite complex with such a strong Chinese influence from my youth, to a strong Japanese influence throughout my teens, to the strong Korean influence in my early adulthood. Every time I go to a different country and meet different people, I am always met with choruses of 'our country is the best, isn't it?' And when I really get into a culture deeply and start speaking in a foreign language with other people, I can feel that part of my brain becoming deeply nationalistic. While I speak in Korean, the sentences that are formed within my brain and come out my mouth are strangely tainted with anti-Japanese and Chinese sentiment, despite the fact that I love both of those countries. I have melded with each culture so much that each language that I speak has its own personality, voice tone and set of expressions. Some days after an entire day of speaking in on language, i'll lay down in bed and my English brain will turn on and all of a sudden I find myself asking... myself... "who am I?"

Looking back, however, I realize that the fact that I let myself be taken into each culture and each language has been the best decision that I have ever made. Sitting down with certain people and being able to listen to their words on their terms and in their culture and language is absolutely priceless. Speaking with a Korean who has lived through the 70's and not only understanding their history but also understanding who they are merely by thinking not only in Korean but also with a cultural Korean mind has been a constant source of englightenment for me as a researcher. In that sense I have no regrets.

So... who am I? I'm a man living in the 'floating world' (Ukiyo, 浮世) depicted by Murasaki Shikibu in Genji Monogatari and found throughout the Edo period of Japan. I live for love, I live for fun, I live for pleasure, I live for entertainment. Every step of my life has been towards fun and happiness... it's not easy living in the floating world because despite the fact that it's not hard to find happiness, it is hard to keep happiness. So the real question for me now is not 'who am I?' but rather 'who do I need to be and where do I need to be to keep my happiness'... I have a strange feeling that the answer lies in the place from where I learned of the floating world...

Murasaki-chan~

I'm coming home...
2013/08/06 12:05 2013/08/06 12:05
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Time truly flies more than I could have anticipated. It feels like it was just yesterday that I set out from my homeland to pursue my grand dream of becoming a professor. I've always been quite independent so leaving behind everything I had known wasn't too difficult. Heck, even living here in South Korea for these past 3 years hasn't been too difficult. However, upon getting close to my thirtieth year, I have started to feel what might be considered to be somewhat of a pyschological breakdown.

The source of this 'breakdown' is rather simple. Throughout my life I was raised on books, TV shows and movies that depicted romantic stories. In a great deal of these stories, boy meets girl when he is young, they both struggle through their post-secondary studies together, fighting together, crying together... then after they graduate they both get a job, get married, have children. Originally my plan was to get married with the girl of my dreams by the time I was twenty, have my first child by the time I was 21, second child at 22 etc. However as time went on, I realized that this wasn't going to happen. Every girl that I dated subsequent to the first I could feel myself compromising more and more with the image of marriage and children superceding the amount of happiness I felt with that girl as well as compatability.

The last girl that I dated was to the contrary quite amazing. She was everything that I could have hoped for... but by some twist of irony I wasn't attracted to her at all. I continued to date her despite the fact that I wasn't that into her for the mere fact that I was so focused on marriage and children. However, last week I realized that it wasn't fair to neither her nor me to continue the relationship... in addition to the fact that I need to stop compromising and wait out for the real thing, to wait for that 'the one.'

I'm not going to lie though, it is tough... it's really tough. It's tough that because i'm not through my PhD yet that I can't actually start a family... It's tough that even though having a wife who is my best friend by my side would make my life a million times better that I still haven't been able to meet her. It's tough working all day, helping everyone else live on their lives happily, turning the gears of society, and then coming home to an empty house, to eat alone in front of my computer late at night, only to fall asleep alone and wake up alone to start the next day.

I am grateful every single day for all of the friends who are by my side. I know that I am never truly alone. But... evenso I wish she was here... I know she is out there somewhere and that I need her as much as she needs me. Please hurry...
2013/03/10 01:06 2013/03/10 01:06
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Earlier while responding to bombardments of tags, messages and whatnot on facebook, I came across an extremely amusing video about the extreme excess of Asian students at Canadian Universities. The creator of the video, a friend of one of my good buds, Phil, proceeds to check out a frathouse on the UBC campus looking for some "white people" in a desperate attempt to escape the dominant asian population which, according to Macleans, is infecting the Canadian education system like a virus making the lives of poor underachieving, snivling white students a living hell.

It seems like only yesterday when 10 years ago in highschool (my god 10 years has already passed ~_~) I lived in the predominantly white-populated town of Tsawassen, about 30 minutes south of Vancouver. My best friend, one of the few Asians in the school at the time, was a great guy, and fit most of the asian stereotypes that were floating around: Namely he did martial arts, was extremely diligent at school and can't... I mean couldn't (just kidding ;-) ) drive... (sort of XD). My closest friends since childhood had been asian, so while I was used to the culture, I could always sense a racial barrier that stood between my asian friends and I, and the rest of the white people around us. While in general I ignored the ignorance and racism that my asian friends endured directly and indirectly, it still bothered me a lot-- and over the years it has lead to me having a deeply rooted prejudice against my own people, and mentally abandoning my roots. As most of my friends know, I identify with mostly asian culture- the way I think, the way I act, is mostly due to the asian influences around me. It's quite amusing to me because I feel so awkward riding a skytrain full of white people, but I feel at home surrounded by 100 Koreans tightly squeezed into a subway car.

In any case, when I went and found out that the Macleans article denoting that there are too many Asian students in Canadian Universities was true, I couldn't help but shake my head at the thought that there are still people in Canada who still see only colors. When I was running for an executive position for the UBC Dance club, one person asked me "Does it bother you that you are the only white person here?"-- at that moment I realized that I didn't even notice... I just honestly responded "You know... honestly I don't see any differences here. In this room I don't see any Asians, Africans, Europeans... I only see people. I see Zach, Monica (etc)... We are all friends here, gathered together, living together, having fun together... who cares where our ancestors are from or what color our skin is?"

A few particularly fun parts of the aforementioned article:

When Alexandra and her friend Rachel, both graduates of Toronto’s Havergal College, an all-girls private school, were deciding which university to go to, they didn’t even bother considering the University of Toronto. “The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian,” explains Alexandra, a second-year student who looks like a girl from an Aritzia billboard. “All the white kids,” she says, “go to Queen’s, Western and McGill.”

The reason that (some) white kids go to "predominantly white Universities" is:

Many white students simply believe that competing with Asians—both Asian Canadians and international students—requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make. They complain that they can’t compete for spots in the best schools and can’t party as much as they’d like (too bad for them, most will say).

Excuse me? Okay first off, I would say Asian students party just as much, if not more than the white kids. So many of the clubbing events in Vancouver these days are either organized by, or mostly attended by Asians. Furthermore, saying Asians do not know how to party is an awful big statement for a group of people whos idea of partying is stuffing them
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selves with hotwings, drinking beer till they puke and singing at crappy cowboy themed karaoke rooms (which, for the record, Asian people can do too! (for the double record Asian Karaoke places are also way nicer ~_~)) Second, am I reading this wrong or are white kids complaining because they aren't getting by by just sitting on their asses and expecting handouts? For many white kids, our parents worked their asses off working, paying for their own education, breaking their backs to give many of us white kids a much more comfortable life than they had. What do white kids do with it? Some of them work hard and do something meaningful with their lives, the rest just sit back and coast-- and quite honestly, it is extremely easy to coast through the Canadian Education system without lifting as much as a finger. Now lets take Asian families on the other had. Similar to my parents generation, the Asian parents worked their asses off to give their children a good life, many of them in a new land like Canada-- with their traditional family education a large amount of these Asian students work diligently ( it would seem far more so than their white counterparts) and reap huge successes academically. GUESS WHAT ALEXANDRA AND RACHEL, if you want to do anything with your life, you have to sacrifice time and freedom! People aren't just going to hand-feet you for the rest of your slacker lives!

Which brings us to the next amusing point in this article:

Asian kids, meanwhile, say they are resented for taking the spots of white kids. “At graduation a Canadian—i.e. ‘white’—mother told me that I’m the reason her son didn’t get a space in university and that all the immigrants in the country are taking up university spots,” says Frankie Mao, a 22-year-old arts student at the University of British Columbia. “I knew it was wrong, being generalized in this category,” says Mao, “but f–k, I worked hard for it.”

Okay, honestly now, are we living in the 1920's complaining about foreigners stealing white-peoples' jobs? Normally I would treat this with a grain of salt, since this, along with a lot of the information in this Macleans article doesn't have much backing or proof, but I have actually seen this first-hand. First off, this white mother needs to realize that the reason that her son didn't get in is not because of Asian students, but because her son is a lazy dolt who clearly didn't put enough effort in to get into University! Second, the fact that she bases her claim on stereotypes is just plain racist, get the hell out of my country you cow. It is people like this that make me subconsciously repress my racial identity!

It is not only Asians, but all of the foreign immigrants that have made Canada such a great place to live. It is, up until this day, one of the only places you can go and meet people from different backgrounds and cultures, and experience different cultures in an open, non-threatening environment. Vancouver to me will always be the place I can go to experience all the worlds festivals, foods, clothing and culture and still be back at Pauls place in time for rock-band and board games!

As a closing note: I think that if Asian people are indeed raising the bar and making things more competitive, good on them. It's this kind of thing that will make all other Canadians strive to work that much harder, and make Canada that much more of a powerful country. That being said, I hope that in the future more people can adopt the racial and cultural equilibriam that Canada has so that we can all live happily without racism or bigotry.


The video that I referred to is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDMUNypqnSY&feature=player_embedded

and the Macleans article can be found here:
http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/11/10/too-asian/

Enjoy!

Edit:

One last awesome comment made by an anonymous student about this article:
This article is garbage. White Canadian students do not think like this. Besides the obvious racist undertone of the entire article, the most annoying thing to me is the way it represents "white Canadians" First of all, on a side note, referring to a demographic of people as White (who could be from Eastern Europe or South Africa, etc.) is no more right than referring to one as Asian (who could be from China, Kazakhstan, or Kuwait. However, I'm assuming that the article generalizes Asian to mean people from the Eastern part of the continent. Anyway, the racist and lazy attitudes presented in the article are representative of only one demographic of people in Canada: the upper middle class to rich kids. It's not a secret that the wealthier kids prefer to go to Queen's, McGill, and Western because of their predominantly white populations, and good reputations without a huge workload. There is a reason why certain other highly reputable schools were not mentioned in the article even though their "Asian populations" aren't particularly high. The reason is that they're not safehouses for lazy rich kids who are going to ride their parents wealth through life.
2010/12/01 01:41 2010/12/01 01:41
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Moving out of home and starting up a new life full of independence, new responsibilities and a handful of self-realization of just how much your parents did for you while you lived with them for the first quarter of your life~ is one thing... but packing up and going to a completely different country miles away from your friends, family, hobbies and old spice deodorant is a totally different story altogether.

To be quite honest, despite the fact that I have friends out here and I knew that I could adapt fairly easily to strange and unusual environments, there was a slight bit of worry in th back of my head. That biggest worry was that I would never be able to find friends like the amazing ones that I have back in Vancouver. Just knowing that on any winter day when the powder fell fresh on the mountains, David, Andrew and Laurence were just a phonecall away. On rainy days when the clouds hung low and moods were dim, Finn, Sonya and Jong would always be there in Dalaran up for another raid or battle, despite Finn always falling off cliffs when noone was looking ~_~. On hot summer days, Erwin, Royal, Shrikant, Paul~ all of the Green Mild Bell Peppers would get together inside the even hotter Paul's livingroom and rockband until the sun came up, or Paul kicked us out, whichever came first. Or the nights when I could gather with all of you underneath chandeliers and dance the nights away, whilst Shrikant would krank out mad tunes.
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But alas, more of those days are sure to come. In the meantime, I have been fortunate enough to meet up with another group of amazing friends. Amonst all of my new Yonsei Ballroom Dance Club members, school friends and co-workers, all of these friends came together to celebrate my birthday with me, giving me one of the most memorable parties that I have ever had.

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It started out with us meeting in front of U-plex, a large fashionable shopping outlet~ In true dance-club fashion, everyone came late. But it was all good. I was overjoyed with the numbers of friends that ended up coming. In the beginning I had planned to go out to some Izakaya to partake in what is as close to late-night Tomokazu sushi as you can find in Seoul. However, I ended up working late so most people who had came had already eaten ( It was about 9PM). So instead of going for Japanese, for the first time since I came to Korea, we went to a western place! (Oh god Erwin don't even start =-P). The place, I found out a little while back, was actually run by the guy who I replaced when I took the job teaching translation methodology in Vancouver. In true Vancouver fashion, this place was called 'Yaletown' after the very same place in Vancouver. We ended up eating hamburgers and fries (definately the opposite of what I expected, as I sure you all can imagine =P)
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As we ate and the guests poured in, including Hachi who brought me a rose for my birthday~ what a sweet guy! haha~ ^_^ Tomo and Ran came in the door with a cheesecake alit with candles~ That moment really felt like a million bucks. It was then that I realized "I have truly found good friends... perhaps life here won't be so bad after all."

That night we ended late, and the last subway had already departed~ meaning that I had no way of getting home. However! Thanks to the miracle of millions of Korean people staying out too late drinking to go home, there were countless bathhouses in the area. In actuality, I went to a Jjimjjilbang, which is more like a sauna-house~ but it also has a bathhouse inside ^_^ So I went in, had a nice soak, got in the sauna-clothes they provided, found myself a nice low-heat comfortable sauna room, found a pillow, stretched out across the matted wooden floor and slept~

The next day, after school and work, I returned home to find he present from Mom waiting~ a new pair of shoes. Oh my god! there are no places that sell my monstrous shoe size out here! So putting on those new shoes was one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life.

Thank you everyone! ^_^

In any case that was that~ enjoy the gallery below ^_^



2010/08/08 23:24 2010/08/08 23:24
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As some of you may know, during my time in Vancouver I got started with my Masters degree at UBC before I even finished graduating from my BA. In fact I got quite a decent way through it including the completion of two major thesis papers before I ended up coming out here.

Basically one of my main plans while I am here is to continue studying and eventually get my Ph.D, possibly/hopefully in Japan.

In any case, I seem to be continuing on a strange streak of fortune that i've been on since i've arrived here and happened to run into a few professors who are very interested in supervising my MA studies while i'm here.
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Above from left to right is Professor Cheong, Me, Professor Won, and Professor Seligson.

The following is mainly for my own purposes than anything else, but I seem to write a little more freely here so I am going to briefly go over my goals for this program.

Over the past 5 years or so, I have been researching about traditional folk/mainstream art and its evolution to what we can see today. In particular, I have been trying to uncover how these art forms have influenced the societies and cultures of East-Asian countries.

Influenced by my passion for modern dance, namely International Ballroom latin and standard dancing styles, I have developed a passion for all types of traditional and modern dances around the world.
 
During my Masters degree research in Korea I aim to accomplish two things. First, I want to deeply explore the roots of Korean folk dances, and discover how they have changed over time, how they affect and influence the society and culture that they are an essential part of, and what kind of social/cultural trends we can track/predict from them. Second, I wish to establish a rubric with which I can use to analyze the dances of other cultures from around the world.

In regards to Korean folk dances, one of the main areas that I will be focusing on will be 'Mudang', or Korean Shamanism. According to some professors that I have talked with thus far, one would be hard-pressed to find a traditional folk dance whose roots were not intertwined with the Shamanism culture that has existed in Korea since the countries origination. It is also clear via a comparison of the stories portrayed by traditional Korean folk dances and the majority of stories that the ancient Shamans told the people back in the day that there is a clear connection between the two.

In regards to the rubric that I am working on. One of my concerns, a concern shared by many social historians and scholars, is that a great majority of traditional dances are fading away as time passes due to the constant change in youth-values and lifestyles across the world. It is no longer standard for children to learn about their culture from their elders, and to similarly pass on the stories of yore to their children etc. Nowadays, in my opinion, a vast majority of traditional cultures are being replaced by TV, movies, video games and other sources of quick amusement. It is with that in mind that I plan on putting together an international database of dances, available in many languages, that will document and describe the many traditional and modern dances of the world, their meanings, stories, and feelings to those who dance them.

I hope that by providing video and easy access to this kind of database might spark an interest in traditional arts in the youth of today.

Wish me luck~
2010/06/28 22:12 2010/06/28 22:12
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