For the past week I've been staying at the Arpina Youth Hostel in Busan (Less hostelly and more hotelly than you might think). This was my view from my balcony, a flawed effort using Panoramatic on my iPhone... More posts on Busan to come...
If all goes to plan then even though I'm presently in Busan filming a dvd of our show Five Fools, then this afternoon you should be able to hear me on The Steve Hatherly Show on TBS eFM. I was in the studio last week and recorded an interview with the man himself. So, this afternoon you can hear me witter on about projects past, present and future, including an exciting new show opening next month which I'm presently translating and creating English surtitles for (more details to come on this blog).
Tune in at 2.00 pm for Steve's show and as far as I know my interview will be in the second hour...
There is something so satisfying about digging my chopsticks into a bowl of 짜장면 (Black Bean Noodles). Fortunately the Chinese restaurant next to our theatre in Dogok-dong makes its own noodles fresh every day and serve quite possibly one of the finest bowls of black bean goodness south of the Han River.
Isabelle's Porterhouse is offering a new lunch set menu with a dry aged burger, soup/salad and fries for the rather hefty sum of 27,900 won.
After my last experience there, I don't think I'll be risking my hard earned won on what may well be the most expensive burger in Itaewon. Though if someone wants to buy this for me, I'd be very grateful...
I popped by the Itaewon Global Village Centre yesterday and picked up the latest issue of Roking (General Culture Magazine), a new addition to the English language magazine market. They're on their third issue and are committed to promoting Korean cultural awareness. It's not a bad read, but the English translations are still a little rough in places...
Though some of their misprints make me think they may have a wicked sense of humour!
Their English website will open in eight days, but in the meantime you can follow them on twitter or visit their Korean language site.
I've been a tad too busy to scout round the new restaurants in Itaewon over the past couple of months, but yesterday I had a little spare time and decided to investigate Panda King, a new place serving "Fresh American Chinese Cuisine".
They seem to be aiming at the budget market with their canteen style lunch specials. For just 5,900 plus tax you can get a choice of two dishes plus fried rice or noodles. For 7,900 plus tax a choice of three dishes... I went for the cheaper option and picked the Kung Pao Chicken and the Sweet and Sour Pork with Vegetable Lo Mein.
For the lunch special you queue up at the kitchen and then pick your dishes from their hot trays. I arrived just after 1.00 and most of the trays were less than half full and unfortunately my food was a little cooler in places than it should have been. Cold Chinese has never been a favourite of mine, but Panda King's product tastes ok. Nothing special, but for this price I wasn't expecting gourmet cuisine. It's a fast and cheap option for those without much cash to spare and they seemed to be doing pretty brisk business when I was there.
You can find Panda King behind the Hamilton Hotel opposite Chakraa and the Smokey Saloon. Call them on 02 794 6888 if you fancy a cheap taste of "Fresh American-Chinese Cuisine".
February is tour month in the Ajosshi household and last weekend I trekked off to Daegu to scare children at a local theatre. Thanks to my baggage being filled with a ukulele, a clarinet and various other theatrical paraphernalia, it seemed unwise to lug my DSLR along with me, so instead I've been using my iPhone to document my touring antics.
I've also been using Hipstamatic to play around with different styles and shots. Apologies if they're not to your taste and I promise that in March the DSLR will rear its large lensed head once more...
For now here are some shots of a small market in eastern Daegu...
Seen at Yeoido Station, this advert for Chevrolet seems a little misleading. A caucasian mouth telling us how to correctly pronounce the company's name... 쉐보레. Looks a little like an English lesson to me, the only problem being that it's teaching a rather different pronunciation to the accepted one.
I have no issue with companies changing their name or pronunciation when marketing overseas (after all the lovely Hyundai is day to some and die to others), but this advert doesn't sit well with me. Chevrolet - helping to encourage inaccurate pronunciation in the 21st Century...
Surely 쉐브롤레 would be an easily pronounceable alternative which might more accurately portray the international brand name?
As 2010 turned into 2011, I decided that I would dedicate a little more of my time to reading and confront the rather large piles of unread books scattered throughout my house. Tackling a mix of fiction, non-fiction and oddities that have been waiting on my shelves for months and years.
So here is January in all its glory:
Nine successful reads and one aborted attempt...
The Missing DoSAC Files Written by Armando Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong, Ian Martin, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche
First up, a rather light hearted tome from the creators of the British comedy series "The Thick Of It". I've been a huge fan of Armando Iannucci for years and "The Thick Of It"is one of the best comedies on British television at the moment. The Missing DoSAC Files is surprisingly good, managing to capture the tone of the TV series, without feeling like a piece of merchandise. It reminds me of the comedy books I used to read as a kid: when Monty Python, Alan B'stard or Not the Nine O'Clock News would fill page upon page with ridiculousness and keep me amused for hours.
The White Tiger
Written by Aravind Adiga
A bizarre fictional memoir of a Bangalore businessman who started off at the bottom of the caste system and has somehow made his way to the top. Very strange, sometimes funny and rather horrible in places, it was an enjoyable yet odd book.
Tokyo Year Zero
Written by David Peace
A gripping homage to Japanese detective fiction set in post-war Tokyo and following a detective as he investigates a series of murders. Absolutely stunning story, told superbly, David Peace uses language in some incredible and poetic ways. My father is bringing me over the sequel and I can't wait to read what comes next.
Written by Flann O'Brien
My one failure this month (I gave up after 100 pages or so). I have loved the work of Robert Rankin for many years and so wanted to see where he got some of his inspiration from. I was less than inspired. Completely chaotic, mixing many different narratives together; it never held me and I never laughed. Perhaps I'll try to go back to this some other time, but this was the one disappointment of the month for me.
Never Trust A Rabbit
Written by Jeremy Dyson
A collection of short stories from the only non-performing member of The League of Gentlemen. Very Roald Dahl, quite creepy in places and a pleasure to read.
The Meaning Of Everything
Written by Simon Winchester
The story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Filled with odd pieces of trivia and delightful descriptions of the bizarre group of ladies and gentlemen who created the dictionary over a period of seventy years. Fascinating if you care about language. I have a fair few more of Winchester's books waiting for me and I'm looking forward to them.
The Call Of The Weird
Encounters with Survivalists, Porn Stars, Alien Killers and Ike Turner
Written by Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux continues to make some of the best television documentaries around and this book finds him revisiting some of his early subjects from his Weird Weekends series. Definitely one for those who know his work, it's fascinating and also slightly depressing reading.
Written by Yang, Gui-ja
Translated by Ahn, Jung-hyo and Steven D. Capener
Two short stories from The Portable Library of Korean Literature. Both are a little underwhelming, though it has to be said that Ahn, Jung-hyo's translation flows much better than Steven D. Capener's. I'm still trying to find my way into Korean literature and would love any recommendations any of you, my dear readers, have.
Diverting Coin Magic
Written by Andrew Galloway
Given to me by a magician friend of mine a few years ago, this somehow got lost in the bookshelves and has finally been rediscovered. The explanations of the coin tricks themselves are diverting, but it is the detailed instructions for misdirecting the audience that make this book shine. Top tips for any performer (even those not interested in magic)
Out Of The South
Written by Neal Bowers
I don't know how this book got into my house. I have no recollection of buying, stealing or borrowing it at any point. Perhaps it was a gift, perhaps I picked it up on a whim, perhaps the library fairies brought it... A short collection of poems published by Louisiana State University. Held my interest, but I won't be chasing down any more of Neal Bowers' work.
February will be filled with a few trashy novels, at least one book on art and a couple of attempts into the world of the Korean novel and short story. Any thoughts, hints, tips and recommendations would, as always, be appreciated...
I've been a customer of Lanna Thai in Yangjae for the past few years. Popping in every now and then for a red curry or some fried rice. When I first visited, their food was great. Reasonably priced tasty Thai cuisine.
However, over the past year there has been a noticeable dip in quality. I think they have changed chefs and the impact on the food has concerned me.
Spring rolls are fairly difficult to get wrong, but these feel like your store bought flavourless packages of nothing, save for the taste of oil. Unless my memory deceives me, they used to be crispier, tastier and slightly less depressing.
The fried rice has undergone a more worrying transformation. When I first ordered it at Lanna Thai, it was a beautiful shade of brown, strongly flavoured and dotted with tender pieces of beef. Now, it comes to the table lacking in both colour and aroma. Large chunks of partially cooked spring onion offer the strongest taste, an slightly unpleasant one at that. A year ago the food here was filled with passion, now it feels devoid of love and care, and this restaurant is no longer a pleasure to eat at.
Once a bustling lunchtime hangout, Lanna Thai now seems to be rather empty whenever I pop in. The waiting staff have gone and now the cooks come out of the kitchen to clear the tables. Certainly my most depressing restaurant experience of this week and one which I am not keen to repeat.
To get to Lanna Thai take the subway to Yangjae station and use exit 3 or 4. You can call them on 02 577 0913 or visit their website here. I think I've made my last visit to this place and it saddens me to think that another decent restaurant in Seoul has lost its way.
It's good to see that old habits die hard and that the toothbrush moustache and underarm hair still hold a special place in the hearts of wall scrawlers in Korea. All she needs is a pair of spectacles, a goatee and some horns for the classic Defaced Level One French Text Book look.