Sunday, September 19, 2010

Singing Room Sparkle

Hello, readers.

It's the tenth anniversary month of Strange Horizons. Presently, they're celebrating ten years of speculative non-fiction articles and interviews which have covered a gamut of speculativeness, from interviews with the likes of Kelly Link or Terry Brooks, to articles about elven power chords and rational magic.

They are also collecting donations, so that such and future wonders shall not perish from the earth.

And, if you didn't know, Neil Gaiman has written an episode for next season's Doctor Who. Originally, it was to be for this year, but then they ran out of money, so they scheduled it to run next season. And then they asked him to rewrite it so that it wouldn't cause them to run out of money for next season, since they planned, for some reason, on having other episodes besides his. A table reading has recently occurred, though, of Neil Gaiman's now, possibly finished Dr. Who episode, so maybe it really will exist one day.

In other news, yesterday a group of people, of which I was a person, visited a singing room. In Korea, these rooms are called Noraebang. In Japan, they are called karaoke. I understand, from people experienced as Koreans, that these words mean different things. And, in fact, in Korea I have seen rooms called Karaoke. I do not know what the difference is. I could google it, but sometimes mystery is nice.

What a singing room is, is  a round room with an arc-couch along the back wall and a circular table in the middle. There is a large TV at the front and tamborines on the couch. The room also comes with two very big books of both Korean and English songs, and something like a large, old calculator,  which sits on the table and allows you to punch in the code for the song you want to sing.

Having punched in the code for a song, say Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or "My Heart Will Go On," the regular room lights dim and then sparklier lights begin to flash. A video plays on the large TV. The words you are to sing will show up on this video. The video itself, from my one night of experience, will almost certainly be a Korean video that more or less doesn't not exactly fit the song. For "My Heart Will Go On", there was a video of a futuristic war involving Koreans, a jungle, and what looked a lot like lasers. In the end, someone did drown, though.

Other things I discovered during this experience are:

1) It's better if the room is less hot.
2) Duets are best if both people know the words, or at least the language, of the song chosen for a duet.
3) Unless said song consists of a lot of La, La, La, or Ha, Ha Ha, Ha, kind of words. Those are universally easy, not to mention awesome, to sing.
4) Tamborines are fun.
5) Calculators are simple.
6) Things that look kind of like calculators but have many more buttons than calculators are usually not.
7) Some of the people I know can sing.

In future news, next week is a holiday in Korea called Chuseok. It is a harvest holiday that Koreans tell me is like Thanksgiving, presumably so that I understand it involves family reunions and generous amounts of food, and not that it involves turkeys, football, awkward historical truths, awkward contemporary truths, and Christmas shopping.

During said holiday week, I will spend some time catching up on writing and reading, and some time visiting a co-teacher and previously mentioned people who live in places south of Seoul.

Hopefully these visits involve the generous amounts of food hinted at. If not, I will settle for an awkward truth or two, historical or contemporary. Either of these can be surprisingly filling.

Happy holidays, readers.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wonderlands, Part Two

Hello, readers.

At the Sungkok Art Museum, from now until September 26th (or November 11th), there is an exhibition called, "Over the Rainbow, Parts One and Two." It is a celebration of multiculturalism by way of industrial pipes, black lights, spice labs, waltz rooms, white blobs named Amu (which means anybody in Korean), henna, and much more!

Well, maybe not that much. But it was cool.

Click the clicky thing for pictures and comments.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wonderlands, Part One

Hello, readers.

Spent the night meeting new writer people. New in the sense that I had not met them, not in the sense that they were new to writing or to being people. Both, in fact, seemed more or less comfortable with being human*, and were graduates of Clarion, that purportedly mad wonderful six-week spec fic workshop that happens in San Diego and Seattle and usually, at some point, features water balloons.

Talk was had in Hongdae--at Cafe aA, and then Zen Hideway, and then Queen's Head. Zen Hideaway is a restaurant next to aA. It features very comfortable chairs, a terrace with fish, and food which is made, and served, with care. Queen's head is a micro-brewery that has decent beer (according to the new writer people who had it) and not bad coffee (according to me). There's also a room, of small and dusty circumstance, which, as was noted, inspires in one the feeling that plots ought to be hatched. It seemed appropriate.

The talk centered mostly on fiction and Korea. Authors and shows were bandied about and judged and wondered over. Unknown names were explained. The identity of M. Night Shymalan's last good film was debated. At one point, we toasted science.

It was one of those nights.

Alas, I took no pictures.

Instead, I've included unrelated pictures of art things.  The preceeding came from Insa Art Center in Insadong, a touristy, not so uncool, neighborhood of Seoul. After the break, there are a few more art things from an exhibition called Wonderland. The artist's name is An Eun Mi. Here work was shown, for a time, at Gallery Is in Insadong. It was strange.


Friday, September 10, 2010


Hello, readers.

If you ever find yourself in Seoul, eat at Zelen in Itaewon. It's run by Bulgarian brothers of such attractiveness that things are said about it. The restaurant is also a very nice green with green walls and green leafy bits and a statue of a mermaid in the center which is not green.

They serve food which also is pretty.

It tastes good, too.

They've opened another branch in Hannam-dong because of their being too awesome.

One of the brothers took our orders and was very thoughtful about whether any wheat might be in anything. We talked about this. In English. It was nice. Here's what the vegeterian moussaka looks like.

For more, go here or here.

Happy eating, readers.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Because My Sister Asked Me To

Hello, readers.

A review I wrote about a book called Stories is up at Strange Horizons.

Also, my sister asked me this weekend, "Why don't you post pictures of the cafes you're always at?"

So, the rest of this post, after the break, is for you, sister. The rest of you may look, too, if you'd like. Later, perhaps, I'll write up bits about each place. Until then, check out Alien's Day Out (a vegan in Seoul) for many and varied cafe postings. Her blog has been quite helpful in finding many places. That and this list.

On with the pictures...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chungmuro Film Festival

Hello, readers.

Am currently, as often I am on Sunday, in aA cafe, cozily typing away while, across from me, a friend cozily types away on her own things. It's a kind of double coziness. Perhaps coziness squared. Nothing like cozies, though, which, frankly speaking, I don't really know what are except that they have something to do with tea.

Also, am currently regularly attending the Chungmuro Independent Film Festival in Seoul (Chiffs). It's a week-long festival spread across two theaters, Myeongdong CGV and the Lotte Cinema at AvenueL. The theaters are across the street from each other.  There are places in Seoul where theaters began to resemble Starbucks in that they are everywhere and serve under-sized, but not terribly over-priced, iced lattes.

The festival movies are divided into several sections, including, among others, Panorama (films from everywhere), Chungmuro Now (contemporary films from Korea), Cine Asia in Love (Wong-Kar Wai's first, As Tears Go By, is here. That should give you an idea), Cine Classics (the Alien series is the main focus), and the Creators (looks at architects, designers, and so forth).