The Origins of ‘Ye-ha’


Mothers don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys

This evocative vocalization is indicative of the American cowboy. It is often used to represent joy and the foolhardy gung-ho ambition of the Wild West.

But where did this phrase come from?

Ye is actually a misspelling, from when English still used the letter ‘thorn’, which is pronounced ‘th’. However continental printing presses did not have that character, so some printers just used a ‘y’ instead. This is why you often see ‘ye olde tavern’ or whatnot. It’s actually just a ‘the’ using the surrogate ‘y’.

Thorn was long a thorn in the side of printers

Ha is an abbreviation for ‘hectare’, a measurement of land.

Thus ye-ha is properly pronounced ‘the-hectare’, though shortened for easy pronunciation. It was used by cowboys to vocally ward off competing cowboys, much like song birds sing to let their presence be known in their territory.

The territorial marking of hectares is an ancient practice.



Exhibit Review – Beyond Impressionism

Beyond Impressionism

Masterpieces from the Musée d’ Orsay

May 3 – August 31, 2014

National Museum of Korea


The approach to the National Museum of Korea is currently guarded by a 50ft tall lady holding a parasol. Her flowing gown mocks the visitors who traverse the vast grounds as they swim through the muggy Seoul air. But eventually we find ourselves under the massive outdoor atrium waiting for tickets.

Henri Rousseau’s Snake Charmer… luring in a few extra patrons

The ticket box promises the erotic Primitivism of Henri Rousseau. There are little statues of the creatures and characters from his painting populating the grounds outside. Great for photo-ops. Unfortunately for fans of Rousseau’s Naïve stylings, there is but the one painting, and it is hung just before the point of no re-entry.

Parisian life is rich in poetic, marvelous subjects. We are surrounded by the marvelous, which sustains us like air itself, but which we do not perceive.
-Charles Baudelaire, Salon de 1846

Beyond Impressionism is not about any individual artist though, despite the expectations created by the pamphlets and posters. Rather it is much more about the co-development of modern Paris and the beginnings of modern art – how they shaped and were shaped by each other. The collection becomes a narrative of sorts, where the Narcissism of the Parisian world is not only the backdrop, but a character that the artists we view embrace or reject.

The boulevards are not only the heart and the head of Paris, but also the soul of the entire world.
-Alfred Delvau, Les plaisirs de Paris, 1867

The exhibit is divided into six themed rooms, each focusing on a group of artists, plus a ‘prologue’ to set the scene and two ‘intersections’ providing more Parisian backdrops.

This just screams grandeur and self-importance. I think I made a Minecraft palace like this once.

The ‘prologue’ room consists of architectural designs and drawings of Paris’ reconstruction. Much fun for those of us who drool over maps and schematics, though of less interest for those not so inclined. Either way, the boulevards, the neoclassical apartments and the magnificent balloons soaring over the reborn city of light prepare you for the impressionists, the masters of light.

London Monet
Nothing says Paris like the Parliament building in London
I want to paint the air in which the bridge, the house and the boat are to be found – the beauty of the air around them, and that is nothing less than the impossible.
-Claude Monet, In a letter to Alice, 1893

In the first four segments we are treated to the impressionists and their parting of styles as each artist focused on what they saw as most important for their artistic vision. Degas’ dancers express movement, Monet’s landscapes subtle changes of light and Renoir’s portraits a return to classical emphasis on form. The loose, impromptu strokes of the impressionists give way to the more static, almost sterile Neo-Impressionists, here represented by the pointillism of Georges-Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac.

I want to paint men and women with that something if the eternal which the halo used to symbolize and which we seek to confer by actual radiance and vibration of our colorings.
-Vincent van Gogh, In a letter to Theo van Gogh, 1888

The calm of the Pointillists is contrasted by the more spiritual and intuition driven pieces from the likes of Gaugin, Cezanne, and the obligatory Van Gogh. Like Rousseau, there is only one Gogh though. The placing of these painters of the human soul is made more ironic by the placement of the ‘intersections’ of the Eiffel Tower and Parisian street life. While the contrast is a tad jarring, these rooms provide almost a palette cleanser in preparation of the last third of the exhibit.

Portrait of Paul Ranson as a prophet cosplayer painted by Paul Sérusier.
We need publicity, broad daylight, the street, the cabaret, the café, the restaurant,
to testify favorably or unfavorably about ourselves, to chat, to be happy or unhappy,
to satisfy the needs of our vanity or our mind,
to laugh or cry
-Alfred Delvau, Les plaisirs de Paris, 1867

The exhibit finishes with another contrast, the exaltation of the opulent versus the exaltation of the mystic or symbolic. Quite fittingly, ‘Paris: La Belle Époque’s walls are a deep red, emphasizing the decadence, while the final stretch of the Symbolists is a dark, almost cave like experience.

We should remember that a picture – before a war horse, a nude woman, or telling some other story – is essentially a flat surface covered with colors arranged in a particular pattern.
-Maurice Denis, Definitions of Neo-Traditionalism, 1890
All right folks, the review is over. Make sure you take all your belongings with you.

Unless you are jaded or have been over-exposed to Impressionism, ‘Beyond Impressionism’ is a nice walk through the cultural exuberance and artistic dominance of late 19th France.

It’ll cost you 12,000w per adult, though various memberships could cut that down a bit.

You can get to the Museum easily by taking line 4 to Ichon station.

Or just punch this into your map of choice:

서울특별시 용산구 서빙고로 137

A Serendipity of Sight – Sentimental Scenery II

IMG_3770If you decide to casually stroll down Insadong on one of these fine, rainy days, perhaps you’ll come across a few posters for one show or another. And since this bank like place seems to also be a gallery, you figure you might as well step out of the rain for a moment. Check it out.


What do we have here?

Sentimental Scenery II

Helen Chung Lee

LeeSeoul Gallery 

2014.6.18(Wed) ~ 6.30 (Mon)

청춘 달동네 (Moon Village) Archival Pigment Print on Canvas 61×101.6cm 2014

To an untrained eye, Helen’s work might appear to be abstract landscape paintings. And that would be mostly correct. The undulating shapes certainly do invoke alien yet familiar scenery.

바람의 기억 (Memory of the Wind) Archival Pigment Print on Canvas 61×101.6cm 2014

The pieces are actually photographs of mother-of-pearl, the scenes picked out like a cloud-watcher creates scenes from the bounty of the sky. Helen tweaks the colors to satisfy the emotive qualities the scene suggests to her.

내 안에 너 있다 (You & I) Archival Pigment Print on Canvas 71.1×71.1cm 2013

An integral part of Sentimental Scenery are the picture-title relationships. While many artists prefer leaving such abstract work untitled to prevent undue influence on the viewer, Helen enjoys the naming process.

“You name your children, I name my paintings.”

Usually a name jumps out at her as she works. The titles range from the somewhat poetic to the prosaic, usually aimed at describing a key focal figure or feeling in each piece.

펭귄 트리오의 여행 (Traveling Penguin Trio) Archival Pigment Print on Canvas 71.1×71.1cm 2014

To get your fix of pareidolia, you can catch a glimpse of Sentimental Scenery II through June 30th, 2014 at the LeeSeoul Gallery in Insadong.

LeeSeoul Gallery is on the second floor, just above the MG cash office, just north of the umbrella street. The elevator is just inside the cash office main doors.

LeeSeoul Gallery
Seoul, Jongno-gu, Insadong 23-2
2nd floor


서울종로구인사동 23-2
새마을금고 2층


Or, for you couch bound, latecomers, and people just not in the vicinity of Seoul, you can check out Helen’s website @

푸른 너울 춤추다 (Dancing Blue Waves) Archival Pigment Print on Canvas 89.0×147.3cm (35″x58″) 2013



Drowning in Problems – A Game

Ready for a game? No skill needed, but if you are prone to existential crises, this might not be a good one to play. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.

The game is called ‘Drowning in Problems‘. Give it a shot and come back.

There is nothing. Solve.

Seriously, give it a go and collect your own thoughts first.

Some of you might be wondering what or why that was. Others of you might be like me and quite enjoyed it. But what was it?

Message or Rorschach Test?

Did the author intend a message, or was it a blank slate for you to insert your own message. My answer is: Who cares?

I’m not a fan of authorial intent. It’s interesting to know what they have to say, it’s interesting to guess what the author might have intended. But ultimately they are not their work. But when you play, think about what the author’s concept of existence might be. What assumptions and biases does the game present? More importantly, reflect on your own judgement. What does your reaction say about your assumptions and biases? I found this an interesting thought exercise, both for existential questions and for game design.


One of the things I noticed about the game play is that it generally lets you go at your own pace. There is no timer, no necessary goal. The game itself progresses when you want it to. You can go as fast, or as slow as you want. You can have multiple ‘solutions’ processing at the same time. Generally though, either curiosity will propel you to the next stage or boredom will compel you to find something more interesting. I enjoy the curiosity driven flow, but I felt like there weren’t enough variations to allow different paths. Is this a design flaw, or a reminder that our lives, while we feel are special, are pretty much like everybody else’s?

While I enjoyed the curiosity driven nature of the gameplay, one thing bugged me. You could easily stay in any stage of life. While this allows you to explore the possibilities in each stage, it also lessons the sense of urgency. The game only progresses when you’re ready. There is no inherent reason to stay or continue. The only time your choices seem to actually matter is in the extra time you might have to wait to build up points to progress.

Labels and Values

I found this an interesting aspect of the game. The labels and values assigned seem to suggest something is good or bad. But those are the values we put on it. This is where the game starts to break down at times. You have to bring value to the words, otherwise they are meaningless other than for progression. But there really are no repercussions, even minor, for choosing one way to play or another, other than perhaps extra clicks to get to the next stage. Worse, since there is only one way to progress from any given stage to the next, exploration within the stage is not needed. You might try out each thing to see where it goes or what options are made available, but you are directed one way and only one way. This has serious problems for re-playability.

Play wise, there is no reason to worry about stress. Sure, your character ‘has stress’ but this doesn’t seem to affect anything. You will still end up broken hearted, forgotten and dead. Which is fine! I’m all for that, but the quality of your job, how many lovers you’ve had, how much you’ve experienced or not experienced does nothing but change numbers on the side.


All of which might have been part of the point. It’s a tad too nihilistic for my own tastes. While one’s experiences and memories will fade and be forgotten, they have an effect here and now. This doesn’t reflect well in the game, because the character you create and move through life has no interactions or possible variations for his choices. This character you play must do these things and the options are always the same.

The cliche goes ‘variety is the spice of life’ – and I wish the game would had more variety to explore. That it all doesn’t matter in the end is fine. It’s the journey, not the destination. But here, the journey doesn’t seem to matter either.  But perhaps that’s part of the point. If you could relive your life over and over, perhaps all the variety would just blend together.

I guess if you wanted a game that has potential existential questions while providing variety, the Sims might be a better choice. But the Sims presentation is almost the opposite. They provide more variety to explore, but you have to provide the existential questions. Likewise, unlike the Sims, I would feel safe to say Drowning in Problems is non-addicting.

Meet Dokkaebi – 12

The Brothers Kim and the Dokkaebi

In the early days of the Shilla dynasty, there was a nobleman from one of the Kim families who went by the name Bangi. Bangi was good-natured and kind, but was quite poor. As it so happened, he had a younger brother who was quite rich, but was vicious and petty.

One year, Bangi acquired a small plot of land from the villagers, so he asked his younger brother to share some of his silk worms and grain-seed. His brother agreed, but he put the silk worms and grain in a cauldron and boiled them first. One worm, as big as a bull, survived, but even that one the petty sibling bit in half.

However heaven provided and soon Bangi’s home swarmed all over with silkworms. Rather than take advantage, Bangi let the villagers quibble amongst themselves who would be allowed to collect the silk.

As it so happened, one seed of barely also survived. It sprouted and started to grow quite large. But much bad comes with the good and a large bird uprooted the entire sprout and flew away with it.

Bangi pursued the bird, but lost sight of it when it hid in the crevice of a rock deep in the heart of the mountain. Disappointed, Bangi gave up hope when he got to the rock, when suddenly, a short distance away many tiny people dressed in red playfully gathered together. Bangi, recognizing they were dokkaebi, hid behind a rock to watch.


One of them drew a bright golden club from the crevice and, hitting the ground repeatedly, shouted “Alcohol come out! Appetizers come out!” The food and drink appeared and they drank and ate to their heart’s content, singing and dancing all night. When they had finished their party, they secretly stashed the magic club into the rock crevice and scattered every which way.

Bangi jumped up and retrieved the golden club. As he took it home, he thought how, in a very short time, he could increase the value of his estate to many times that of his brother’s.

As time went by, Bangi’s brother developed a stomachache he had no way of relieving. Being concerned for his brother, Bangi told him the way to find the dokkaebi to get his own magic club. So he planted a seed the same way his older brother did, and when the sprout was getting bigger, the same bird snapped it up, roots and all, and flew away.

Following behind the bird, he came upon the dokkaebi gathering as expected.

“Hey, it’s the guy who stole our club! We ought to beat him within an inch of his life!”

The dokkaebi quickly caught the younger brother and made him work for three long, hard, and hungry days building an embankment. When he finally finished, the dokkaebi replaced his nose with an elephant nose. Quite unexpectedly, they also gave him his own magic club and sent him on his way. But the strange glances and mockery people gave him were too much for him. Try as he might, he couldn’t remove the curse and eventually committed suicide.

But the misfortune didn’t stop there. When any of his descendants attempted to use the club, lightning would flash, an earth-shattering thunderclap would sound, and the poor soul would vanish into thin air.

Meet Dokkaebi – 11

A Dokkaebi’s Gratitude

A long time ago, in a certain town, there was a considerably poor man. Unable to stand his condition any longer, went beneath the bridge that was just outside of town and laid out some dog meat and a keg of wine, crying,

“Brother Dokkaebi! Uncle Dokkaebi! I have something good for you!”

Some dokkaebi appeared and when they had eaten everything up, he asked them for help. As expected, this caused the dokkaebi great fury, but because they had eaten well, they remembered their manners and replied quite seriously,

“Thank you. How do you want us to return the favor? If you have a wish, tell us.”

“I am beset with many troubles and as I was born with no money, I don’t even have one naked leaf to my name.”

The dokkaebi nodded quite seriously, “Yes, yes, in that case we’ll help you. Certainly we’ll help you.”

The pauper slept for many days. One extremely cold day, when he all but starved for dinner, there was a sound outside his hut.

“Good sir! Do you have a niece? I have a gift for her.”

When he went out, what should he see? Just outside his door herbs sprouted everywhere, but were all frozen dead. The poor man’s stomach twisted, but he was patient. The next night he heard the dokkaebi just outside his door.

“Put this on.”

When he went again, what should he see? Just outside his door, caught on a branch, was an old cotton skirt, trembling in the winter breeze.

Meet Dokkaebi – 10

The Dokkaebi’s Warning

A long time ago, in a village of Jeolla province, there lived a wealthy widower and his 13-year-old daughter. The rich man was exceedingly stingy, but his daughter was kind hearted and was well loved in town. One year there was a big drought and many people went hungry, but the only way the widower was willing to help was by lending his rice at exceedingly high interest rates. One day a beggar monk dressed in filthy rags visited the rich man’s house. The rich man, disgusted at the creature at his doorstep, sent him away with a bag of sand rather than rice.

The daughter, feeling terrible about her father’s trick, followed the priest and gave him a bag of grain, begging the monk’s forgiveness for her father’s cruelty. The priest thanked the young girl and as a favor, gave her some advice. He told her that there would be a large disaster that would destroy the town, but if she fled to the mountain, she would be safe. But he warned her not to answer or turn around if anyone calls to her, otherwise something terrible would happen. With that last bit of advice, the monk vanished into the air like mist. Certainly it was a dokkaebi she thought.

A few days later the drought ended with a heavy rain. But soon the local stream began to flood, and the girl realized she should flee, so she dropped everything and headed to the mountain. As she climbed the mountain, she heard her father calling to her. Despite the dokkaebi’s warnings, she didn’t want to make her father angry, so she turned around and called to him. As she shouted, she turned to stone.

A House Fit (for the Portrait of) a King


If you visit the perfected state, Jeonju, one of the places you are likely to visit is Gyeonggijeon, a palace shrine built for, not a king, but his portrait. More specifically, it was built for King Tae-jo’s portrait, the founder of the late Joseon Dynasty. Tae-jo, not his portrait. His portrait didn’t found anything.

Just wanted to clear that up.

The shrine is basically set up as a palace, complete not only with a throne room (where the painting is hung), but servants quarters, a library and various smaller shrines and monuments and a little bamboo grove! Let’s have a look!

It’s easy to find. It’s just across the street from the Jeonju Cathedral and all the buses and taxis going to the hanok village will drop you off nearby.


You can see the entrance on the left, right behind that crowd.

Once you enter, you have three choices: You can go left to the servant quarters (sans servants), you can take the middle to the enthroned portrait, or you can go right to adventure!

And a restroom should you need to use it. The only reason I mention it is because I can tell the contractor squeezed in an extra urinal, probably to sell an extra unit.


Seriously, how are we supposed to use this?

Anyway, head north from the restrooms and we find this little monument.


Yeah! Giant Turtle! This turtle guards another monument called a taesil. You can see it just behind the turtle.


What’s a taesil? Well, it holds the umbilical chord of a king. This one belongs to King Yejong. Why is it here? Good question.


You can find these in various places around Korea, and they’ll generally take the same shape.

Walking on, we come across a little bamboo grove…



…where almost every stalk has a name or love note carved on it.


On the left we have Jeon Changmin and on the right we have Saebom (heart) Minsu. How cute.

Past the bamboo stand we come across a library on stilts!



It’s on stilts to help regulate temperature and protect the library from vermin. Now its not actually a library, but a little gallery showing how the library used to work and the ceremonies involved with the maintenance. The reading would be fairly dry for most moderns as the contents were about the daily lives and records of kings past.

Turning back to the central path, we see the throne room.


But because this is a shrine, the main path is blocked and you have to walk around the sides. What does that sign say on the main path?



Literally the path for spirits, or as they so eloquently translated: “Road of God”. Only the spirits are supposed to use this main path as the king enthroned is a painting, a representation of the deceased king.

Along the sides we also see big pots. These are supposed to be filled with water for easy access in case of a fire. They’re pretty much just decorative now.

But what of the king? Where is the king?


The inner room of the throne room.



There he is, a painted king sitting on his painted throne. The table, now empty, will be filled with food and offerings during ceremonies. It only looks sad and lonely because we aren’t allowed inside. We can only peer in.

The library and throne are painted red for the royalty. But the last part, through this door, is all brown and white, the servants’ prep area.


In this last area, there are many small buildings with their own purpose. Some are for preparing food of one type or another, another for preparing cloth, etc.


Of course it was built for much smaller people. It’s easy for us to hit our heads on the beams. Behind me is a well, capped off for safety.



The backside of one of the servant buildings with a nice view of the Jeonju Cathedral.

It’s a nice little palace to visit if you find your way to Jeonju. The only advice I would have to give is don’t eat the bamboo.


It’s a little tough.

A Quick Trip to Jeonju (2014)

It’s been a while since Jihye and I traveled around, so in February, while she had a break between school years, we decided to visit Jeonju. Why Jeonju? My number one reason was hanji. Beautiful, beautiful hanji.

That’s mulberry bark paper, the traditional paper used in Korea, for those not in the know.

Oh, and it has some landmarks, history, a touristy hanok village, and is also known for its food. Plenty of reasons if you ask me! Let’s see what’s in Jeonju already!


One can get to Jeonju a number of ways depending on how much time and money you are willing to spend. We decided to take the slow train (Mugunghwa) and ended up here at Jeonju Station! Since Jeonju is all about longing for the past, it makes sense the train station would be reminiscent of traditional architecture.


Now, if you want to go about and see the sites, you could take almost any of the buses that stop by the station. Or you could just walk. We decided to walk.


While it was a nice walk, it took us an hour or two to actually get where we wanted to go. But the day was beautiful and we had fun talking, so walking we did! We walked through mostly residential areas and schools, the highlight of which was a wonderful little market. Which we forgot to take any pictures of. Ah well!

After a while we finally started approaching the tourist, er, I mean city center. Coming in from the North, we first stumbled across the Jeonju City Hall.


I’m a huge fan of this one. Often I dislike hackneyed attempts at merging modern with traditional, but here I feel it works. The base evokes the Pungnammun gate, mirrored above by another more modern squared ‘gate’ which overshadows the traditional gate roof.

We started feeling hungry so we dropped by Waengi Kongnamulgukbap!


While Jeonju is most famous for its Bibimbap, it is also famous for many other dishes as well. Kongnamulgukbap is one of those. For desert we dropped by one of the oldest bakeries in Korea: PNB! We had to pick up a choco-pie or two.


No really. We only had one each. The rest we brought back to Seoul. Now for the touristy stuff. We dropped by Pungnammun, the southern gate of old Jeonju. Now it’s surrounded by a small traffic circle.


There are tourist walks that go through this area, but one of the things that struck me was not a tourist spot, but rather an open area that served as a local park.

IMG_0464Funky sculpture, younguns skateboarding, and if you squint, plenty of old folk sitting, jabbering and enjoying the day. This was a small look at the locals. But soon we were to dive deeper into the tourist zone.

Guarding the tourist zone was a giant nose turtle!

Gaurding the Way to Taejo-ro

What sites can you see in Jeonju? Well, there’s the Jeonju Cathedral,


The first cathedral built in Korea. It’s actually called the Jeondong Cathedral, but call it the Jeonju Cathedral and I don’t think anyone will care.

This Romanesque structure is nice on the inside too!

IMG_0561Just across the street was Gyeonggijeon, a national shrine, a complex designed like a palace to enshrine a painting of the founder of the Joseon dynasty, Tae. You might ask why the shrine is here in Jeonju rather than Seoul, the capital. Well I would then answer that Jeonju was his birthplace, thus the shrine belongs there!

The heart of the complex honoring King Taejo

To my delight, on the palace grounds there was another giant turtle! This one was guarding something else…


What is that behind the turtle?


Okay, it’s the Taesil of King Yejong. What’s a taesil? It’s a stone structure that houses an urn which in turn houses King Yejong’s umbilical cord. Oh, right, that was a thing in Korea.

Back to the street we find… Oh my. Oh my.


WAY too many tourists. I kinda dropped the ball on taking photos at this point. We walked around, enjoyed the sites, went back to Jeonju Cathedral to see their mass and found ourselves hungry.

Well, all the famous places had lines. Crazy lines. One such place was Gilgeoria. It’s famous for its baguette burger.


Not interested in standing in line for that. We had some spicy pork hocks and ddeokgalbi instead.


We spent the night at a guest house named Doldamjip. The owner was quite kind and they had a large gathering of college freshmen enjoying their week before their first uni classes.


But finding it was terrible. If you’re in the vicinity there is a sign by the street implying where it is. But the actual place there was no sign. You would only know it is the proper house if you actually paid attention to the name. See it literally means ‘stone wall house’. And low and behold, it was the only residence on that street walled off with rough stone.

Ah, Jeonju, we hardly spent any time. We didn’t get to see even a third of what we wanted, but it was a nice relaxing walking sort of day and trip. Too bad I didn’t get to my hanji. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you up to date once I return!

Intermission – unstable internet and wordpress

Well, here is an unintended intermission. What I had wanted to do was upload my post on Jeonju. Unfortunately uploading pictures over a wifi network that is not always 100% leads to freezing and subsequent loss of all unsaved data.

I need to be pickier about my cafe choices or just upload all the pics before heading out.

So instead, enjoy a proverb I just learned:

호랑이에게 물려가도 정신만 차리면 된다

Rough translation:

Even when a tiger is biting, if you maintain awareness, you will be okay.

Or perhaps I could paraphrase it:

If you keep your wits about you, you will be fine, even in the jaws of a tiger.

I’ll chew on that one a bit more.