Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Copyright Infringement Wednesday (New Year's Eve Edition)

New Year's Eve, looking forward to sitting in front of the television, wanting something decent to snooze in front of; I perused my DVD collection looking for the very best film my shelves had to offer. The Dark Knight? Sweeney Todd? Truck? No, these were not good enough..... then I saw it, the film I had to see this afternoon:

Terminator Dog
T-D: Terminator Dog (터미네이터 독)

A dog that's a terminator? A sequel, a prequel, a spin-off from the James Cameron classic? Not exactly. A quick search on google revealed nothing except a link to the Brian Yuzna classic "Rottweiler".... A closer examination of the DVD and I saw that the original title was indeed included though not in the most obvious of ways:

Terminator Dog

Bottom right hand corner, just after the heart warming statement that T-D: Terminator Dog had been shown at the Ninth Puchon Fantastic Film Festival (Pifan), is the original title of the film "ROTTWEILER". Even on the Pifan website, the film is listed as "로트와일러 Rottweiler", so the distributors have deliberately altered the name of the movie after its original festival presentation.

But what of the cover picture? That shot of the robotic dog is not exactly what I would call a rottweiler (looks a little bit like a wolf to me) and is more than a little reminiscent of the dvd cover for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Has somebody been to the plagiarist school of cover art? The original image for "Rottweiler" is much less copyright infringing, so why not use that instead? Probably because it's not very good, but that is beside the point.

Well for 3,000 won, you get what you pay for... a crap Brian Yuzna film about a naked convict being chased by a cyborg dog with blue eyes.

I leave you now with the inspiring spanish language trailer for "Rottweiler" so that you too may share in the joy of the Terminator Dog:

Friday, December 26, 2008

How I Spent My Christmas Day....

It's Christmas Day, what better way to spend it than to dress up as a Minotaur and scare children...

A happy, happy Christmas!

Death at Christmas

Sad news: Harold Pinter died on Christmas Eve.

One of the greatest writers in modern theatre, Pinter was a hero of mine and his plays have had a great influence on me. A great loss. Michael Billington's tribute to him can be found here.

Here's Pinter's Nobel Lecture from 2005:

And the video:

Rest in Peace Harold.

Christmas Lunch

Nothing says Christmas more than a big steaming plastic bowl of 설농탕 (Beef Soup)....

Christmas Lunch

Lunch in a bag.

Christmas Lunch

Before the soup.

Christmas Lunch

After the soup.

The Christmas lunch of champions; well, those champions who have to work.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow on Christmas Eve eve

The Itaewon Orange Pig says Merry Christmas.


And at Passion 5 Bakery....


Real snow on a fake plastic tree. Beautiful kitsch.



Copyright Infringement Tuesday

Where does the incredibly tense superhero go to unwind? Where can Kal-El find sanctuary in this hurly-burly whirlwind life of ours? Well, search no more son of Krypton, just around the corned from Baeng-baeng sagori in Gangnam is your personal fortress of solitude:

Superman Massage

A place where the mighty may be massaged...

Superman Massage

DC Comics must be proud that their favourite son's logo is emblazoned on the side of this wonderous massage parlour. The only question that remains is whether "Superman Massage" is a legitimate venue for relief from the aches and pains of every day muscle strain or whether it is a seedy hangout for unsavoury business men in search of a happy ending. Unfortunately, if you live in Seoul you probably already know what the answer is...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Photos of 2008

Coming to the end of the year we find ourselves in a time of reflection.... blah blah blah.....

Here are some incredible photos collected by the Boston Globe looking back on the past twelve months:

Friday, December 19, 2008


With time to kill and an urge to see something on the silver screen, I headed off with a few friends to Yongsan to see Baz Luhrmann's latest cinematic offering - Australia.

It was good, surprisingly good. I love his other films (in fact Romeo and Juliet is the only film I've ever seen twice in the cinema in the same week) and was worried that after his seven year absence from the screen he might not be able to pull off an almost three hour long romantic epic. Reviews from Australia and the U.S. had been mixed, but I had faith in Baz, if he could make a film about ballroom dancing exciting then there was every possibility that he could give us Gone with the Wind Aussie style. And he did...

Nicole Kidman is watchable, Hugh Jackman has turned into a 1940's heartthrob and David Wenham is perfect as the treacherous villain of the piece. The real stars though are Jack Thompson as Kipling Flynn the drunken accountant with a secret stash of "Poor Fella Rum" and Brandon Walters as Nullah the half white, half Aboriginal boy who Nicole learns to love. Walters also appears in Luhrmann's rather cheesey adverts for Australia (the country, not the film):

The film is not very subtle, fails to delve deeply into Australian history ( See Germaine Greer's fascinating attack in The Guardian and imdb goofs page for historical inaccuracies) and really overuses the word "crikey", but does entertain for the full 165 minutes, showing us amazing images of the Australian landscape as well as giving us the feeling that we are watching a 1940s Hollywood epic.

The use of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" throughout the film worked for me, but I can understand that some may find it overly sentimental or cliched. From the ukulele strumming and the snatches we hear in the film it seems as if Baz may have been influenced by the late great Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version.

Overall a fun and entertaining epic, but nowhere near the dizzying heights of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet or Moulin Rouge. It does make me want to visit Australia though.....

P.S. For extra reading check out Hitsville's analysis of the film. Jack Thompson is the Cowardly Lion! Here's to the Gentleman!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why I like Buddhists...

Monks at Jogye Temple in Seoul are getting into the Christmas groove according to the JoongAng Daily:

아기예수님 탄생을 축하합니다 - Celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus

Can't wait to see the Christians holding up the banners for Buddha's birthday...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Copyright Infringement Tuesday

With the possible death of Batman on the horizon, I felt it was only fitting to pay tribute in a truly Korean way. For a few years now, as I've walked up to Shinsa station from Gangnam, I've passed this beautiful and quite possibly copyright infringing homage to the caped crusader.

Soju Batman

Paying tribute to the Batman of the nineties...

Soju Batman

소주 가라오케- Soju Karaoke, the caped crusader's favourite night out.

Soju Batman

And finally a classy little logo at the top of the stairs that probably lead to a wonderfully charming Karaoke bar filled with the hippest superheros in Seoul... Then again it could just be another sleazy excuse for alcohol, singing and other related activities.

I prefer to think positively and hope that they keep to Bruce Wayne's strict moral code. Pity they haven't updated their sign for the release of The Dark Knight, not everybody wants to be reminded of the Joel Schumacher Batman years.

If you wish to pay your respects, you can find it just past the Kyobo building crossroads in Gangnam next to the Pho Hoa restaurant.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington...

Note to self - Always check your props...

An actor slit his throat on stage when the prop knife for his suicide scene turned out to be a real one.

Daniel Hoevels, 30, slumped over with blood pouring from his neck while the audience broke into applause at the "special effect". Police are investigating whether the knife was a mistake or a murder plot. They are questioning the rest of the cast, and backstage hands with access to props; they will also carry out DNA tests.

Macaroni Market

The latest restaurant to join the bustle throng of upscale eateries in Itaewon is Macaroni Market. Just three days after its doors opened I ventured inside for a quick bite to eat.

Macaroni Market

The name "Macaroni Market" conjures up a cheap and cheerful bistro in my mind, a place to pop in for some pasta or a quick bite to eat, but the owners seem to be aiming for something a little more classy. The menu is simple offering soup of the day, a range of bruschettas, salads, a few main courses and a wide variety of pricey sandwiches.

Macaroni MarketMacaroni Market

After perusing the menu I settled upon the soup of the day (pumpkin) and the goat's cheese and dry fig compote bruschetta.

Macaroni Market

I sat in front of the kitchen and watched the waitress deliver the order to the head chef, who seemed quite bemused at me wanting all four bruschetta to be topped with goat's cheese and figs. The waitress came back and explained that the chef thought that the cheese and fig combo might be too sweet and urged me to try some of the others. I settled on two humous and two cheese and fig, in the hope that I might sate my craving for some salty creamy goaty goodness.

Macaroni MarketMacaroni Market

The soup and bruschetta arrived promptly and looked wonderful. A lot of care had been taken over the presentation of the dishes and both looked absolutely delectable. The pumpkin soup was rich and creamy, delicious save for the sweet white foam that topped it. The foam looked pretty, but did nothing to enhance the flavour of the dish, in fact at times its cloying sweetness overpowered the pumpkin, leaving me feeling like I was sipping on dessert.

Macaroni Market

The humous bruschetta was far better - a mountainous blob of oily cold chickpea paste on hot toasted baguette. Very tasty.

Macaroni Market

Moving on to the goat's cheese and fig I was a little apprehensive, I worried about the sweetness and the fact that there were only three lonely little pieces of cheese on the bread. Far too many figs for my liking.... The cheese was wonderful, but drowned in the sweetness of too many figs. No wonder I had been warned off by the chef...

At this point I realised that the toasted foccacia promised on the menu as a side to my soup had not found it's way to my table. I spoke to the waitress (who was very apologetic) and soon got the extra bread, unfortunately they had been a little over zealous with the grill and the toast was charred beyond the point of pleasantness.

As I scraped the remains of the soup from the bowl with my blackened foccacia, the waitress came over again, this time with a complimentary glass of juice. A very pleasant surprise after a small mishap. The service was very good as was the quality of the food, however, sweet pumpkin soup and an over abundance of figs left me slightly dissapointed.

Macaroni Market

On paying my bill they did hand over two free coffee coupons and they seemed to being trying their best. I just hope that they get better over the coming weeks and that they can improve their cheese to fig ratio.

Leonidas in Korea

Over recent years it has become easier and easier to find creature comforts from home here in Seoul, but there have always been a few items that are impossible to get. A lack of Jaffa cakes can send a man crazy, as will the absence of a crumbly wensleydale.

However today is a day of celebration as I've found that a Leonidas chocolate shop has opened in Myeong-dong! The best chocolates in the world have come to Korea! I just hope they stock the white chocolates filled with coffee cream and hazelnuts...

Friday, December 5, 2008

I love the British postal service!

Picture the scene -

Early December. Bitter winds howling through the streets of Seoul. Tucked up in your cosy little apartment you eagerly await the arrival of a replacement debit card. My oh my! What wondrous gifts I'll be able to buy my family online. I'll hop on down to Amazon and purchase half the store for them once my new card arrives! Oh such innocence... Waiting and waiting for the card that never comes...

Guess what? The British bastions of the postal service, Royal Mail, have decided that despite a neatly typed address and extra payment for tracking that your card should not bother with little old South Korea, but in fact make an epic journey to the home of Nelson Mandela. That's right, my debit card is in South Africa.

Merry Christmas everyone, thanks to Royal Mail no one is getting presents this year!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fusion Bibimbap

Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥)

One of Korea's most famous dishes is 비빔밥 (Bibimbap), it's name means mixed rice and that's exactly what it is. There are many variations (See Zen Kimchi's love letter for more info), but the constant is always rice plus a selection of seasoned vegetables and meats. Sesame oil and chili paste and almost always welcome guests in the bowl and a fried or raw egg is more than likely to make an appearance.

I decided to have a go at making my own version, putting my own stamp on the dish. No egg, no chili paste and a little bit of a european twist - instead of chili paste I made a tomato, garlic and chili reduction to stir into the dish.

Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥)

I finely chopped two cloves of garlic and two hot green chilies, fried them off in olive oil and added a good glug of tomato passata and let it reduce until thick and sloppy. I left that to cool and got on with preparing the other ingredients.

Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥)

I chose ten ingredients for my bibimbap:

Thinly sliced raw cucmber.
Thinly sliced carrot sauteed until a little soft in olive oil.
Minced beef, finely chopped green pepper and two cloves of garlic fried and mixed with a couple of spoonfuls of 황매원 (a kind of sour plum juice, though all sorts of juices and alcohols could be substituted.
Thinly sliced aubergine sauteed until a little soft in olive oil.
Chopped garlic shoots quickly sauteed.
Thinly sliced raw red and yellow peppers.
Thinly sliced pyogo mushrooms fried in olive oil and tossed with dark sesame oil.
Sliced oily salty dried seaweed.
Lightly boiled beansprouts.
A variety of tiny sprouts.

After preparation it was time for assembly:

Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥) Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥) Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥) Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥)

Then the necessary mixing:

Fusion Bibimbap (비빔밥)

Finally... consumption. Honestly speaking it was very tasty, I think as long as the rice is properly cooked then it's quite difficult to mess up. The tomato chili sauce gave a fresh spicy tomato flavour to the dish without overwhelming the other ingredients and the sour plum juice added an extra piquancy.

Though preparation of the ingredients may take a little time, the whole process is relatively easy and can be approached at whatever speed you want. Plus with a little ingenuity and inspiration you can turn what's left in the fridge into something delicious

Chalk Portrait Redux

Chalk Portrait Redux
종행, after seeing his drawing online, decided there was room for improvement and so once again attempted to capture the hairy magnificence of Maxwell the Minotaur.

Points should also be given for his Paul acrostic that is made up of the words pizza, asia, uk, like. I feel it to be a fairly accurate assessment.

New English Radio Station in Seoul

From today english speakers and learners have their own english language radio station in Seoul and on the internet. tbs eFM started broadcasting today at 10.01 and 3 seconds (they broadcast on 101.3 FM). The only reason I knew it was going on was Brian in Jeollanam-do's post yesterday, otherwise I would have had no idea (Way to go tbs pr reps!).

I listened to the first half hour and wasn't impressed. It seemed all too similar to the cheesy saccharine foreign aimed content that the Korean government and Arirang broadcasting have given us before. However tuning in again to the Soul of Asia program hosted by Sara Kim, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Michael Hurt of Scribblings of the Metropolitician, Feetmanseoul and Bombenglish talking about his experiences in Korea.

tbs eFM could turn out to be a complete flop, but I'm willing to give it a few more tries.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chalk Portrait

Chalk Portrait
Drawn by costume designer and artist extraordinaire 이종행.

This is me in costume as Maxwell the Minotaur. Artistic license may have been taken on limb and body size...

Cranes in Shinsa

Flying Cranes HDR

Fly away from the rubbish my pretties... fly away!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Club U.N. classiest joint in Itaewon

On the way home today I noticed that Club U.N. (a delightful "foreigners" club in Itaewon) had adorned their entrance with some colourful posters designed to attract the more discerning of Itaewon's drinkers:

Fucked-up Party in Club UN

It's good to know that whoever runs Club U.N. has customers' best interests at heart and is willing to offer reasonably priced cocktails as well as free drinks for the ladies.

A closer look at the cut-price beverages on offer:


A Tequila Cuevo is very reasonably priced at 2000 won, but even more intriguing are the "Adios M. F***er" and "Adios Biatch" concoctions at only 5000 won apiece.

A quick google search brings up a number of recipes for Adios M. F***er, but nothing for Adios Biatch. I feel like I'm somehow missing out.

If you interested in recreating the Club U.N. experience at home then try the following:
Adios M. F***er Recipe

3 Parts Vodka
1 Splash Grenadine
3 Parts Triple Sec
0.5 Part Grand Marnier
3 Parts 151 Proof Rum
Mixing Instruction
Mix everything in a tumbler with a bit of seltzer, then pour into shot glasses., May sound kinda hairy, but they are surprisingly easy to drink and can instantly get a party rolling!

Guaranteed to give you a wonderful experience. Try one today!

(Disclaimer: Paul Ajosshi in no way, shape or form recommends you even go near this behemoth of a cocktail. Do so at your own risk and if possible send me pictures...)

Brian Lee and the lost royal family

Brian Lee reporter for the JoongAng Daily writes about the Korean royal family in today's paper. Focusing on Lee Won, a descendant of Lee Kang, the article sheds a very bleak light on the treatment of the royal family by the Korean government:

Considering how the country proudly advertises a history of 5,000 years and despite the fact that a tenth of that history belongs to the Joseon Dynasty, those who dream of restoring at least a fraction of the past glory are surprised by how little interest the government has shown for such efforts. “There are royal descendants still alive but nobody cares,” complained Koh Min-hui, an official of the Imperial House Culture Foundation. Lee Won said that he has been contacting government officials at the Culture Ministry but the reception his idea has received has been lukewarm at best.

What one Culture Ministry official said reflects the harsh reality that royal descendants are facing: “It would take a lot of time and money to establish some sort of centralized body. I don’t see that happening with so much other work at hand,” said the official, declining to be named.
Lee Won is trying to set up a "formal body under which the cultural contents of the royal house are preserved so that they can be passed down to other generations", but he seems to be fighting a one man battle with no help from the government. It is incredible that a country which uses its royal heritage to promote tourism, snubs royal descendants willing to offer their services.

Surely a meeting with a member of the royal family would brighten any foreign visitor's day and it would allow for some fantastic photo opportunities to improve Korea's tourism reputation. What other country offers a photo with royalty service? None, I tell you! None! I have a feeling that this could be the boost that Korea's economy needs in these dark days of depression.....

On a more serious note, Brian Lee delves into the Syngman Rhee goverment's treatment of the royal family in the 1950's:

In the 1950s, the Rhee administration attached possessions of the royal house to the National Treasury. Rhee, the first president of the republic, had ample time to cement power and viewed the royal house as a threat to such efforts. A special committee in charge of royal assets, which included vast swaths of real estate, sold the possessions under the pretext of securing funds to protect cultural assets. Scholars say that the government’s systematic approach left nothing.

“Land was very cheaply sold to people close to President Syngman Rhee and the following administrations were afraid that digging up such shady deals would open a Pandora’s box,” said Ahn Cheon, a history professor at Seoul National University of Education. A suspicious fire in 1960 at Changgyeong Palace, home of the special committee, erased all records of the royal assets, making it impossible to trace anything that still might be out there. The police failed to catch anyone connected to the fire.
And then goes on to describe the devastating blow that Chun Doo-hwan dealt in 1979:

For some time, royal descendants lived on government-provided stipends. Until the administration of Park Chung Hee, some descendants were even allowed to live in parts of the royal palace. However, in 1979, Chun Doo-hwan forced out all royals still living in the palaces after seizing power in a coup d’etat. It is thought that many moved abroad to the United States or South America, where they still live today.

“The military police came and shipped us out in trucks. Our last shred of dignity was taken away,” said Lee Seok, who still remembers that day vividly.

As a British citizen, I may not agree with how our royal family behaves or how much money they receive and what they choose to do with it, but I recognize their importance to our nation in terms of tourism and tabloid headlines. Without our beloved Queen and her curious offspring we would be a sadder, smaller country with less interesting markings on our currency. Just think, when the Queen dies (which she will at some point... though judging by the lifespan of the Queen Mother we may have to wait another twenty years...) all the pounds and pennies in circulation could be withdrawn and we would wind up with brand spanking new cash to wave around (or we just switch over to euros like everybody else). It's sad to think that Korea will never share the joys of monarchy again, the ups and downs, the affairs, scandals, racist comments and sham marriages that bring us all such delight.

On a more positive note, Lee Seok, who is only briefly mentioned in the article has a much more colourful career as a royal descendant. According to an International Herald Tribune article from May 2006:

After majoring in Spanish in college, Yi earned a living by singing. He became known as the Singing Prince, performing such songs as "Tonight" from "West Side Story" on U.S. military bases. He went to South Vietnam to entertain South Korean troops and suffered a shoulder injury, he said, when his convoy was attacked. Back home, his singing career reached its peak in 1967 with "Nest of Doves," a song about domestic bliss: "If you're as intimate as doves, then build the kind of home where you'll be entwined in love."

Known to this day by every South Korean, the song became a staple at weddings. Yi boasts that he has performed at 7,000 of them, though his success displeased his family. "A prince has become a clown," an aunt told Yi, who then gave up performing.

There's actually a video of Lee Seok performing "Nest of Doves online. You can find it here.
The article then goes onto mention Lee's short sojourn in California:

In Los Angeles, Yi Seok lived the ups and downs of an immigrant with few marketable skills. He worked as a gardener. He cleaned pools in Beverly Hills. In a marriage of convenience, he paid $15,000, he said, to a Korean-American woman for a Las Vegas wedding and a green card.

Together, they ran Eddy's Liquor Store, where Yi greeted customers with, "Gimme five, man!"

Lee returned to Korea in 1989 and moved around living in a temple, his car and various bath houses until 2003 when after a rather embarrasing article in The Weekly Chosun titled "Last Prince Yi Seok Sojourning in Chimchil-Bang", the city of Jeonju contacted him and has since employed him as a University lecturer. Lee Seok has gone on to publish a book about his family's ceremonial rites and has agreed to host a tv series on Korean royal history called "A personal view of Korea" (source). A slightly happier ending for one of the royal family. Hopefully the Korean government will come to its senses and realise how profitable cooperation with the remaining members of the royal family could be.