Union Jack

With the referendum for Scottish Independence happening as I type, my mind turned to flags. More specifically the Union Jack.

For those of you not in the know, it’s a combination of England’s St. George’s Cross,

Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Cross,

and Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Cross.

No love for Wales though.

I guess dragons are too pagan for national banners?

But should Scotland leave the Union, it would be dishonest to keep the Union Jack as is. Time to take out St. Andrew’s Cross. That would leave us with a much sadder looking Union Jack.



To make up for it, perhaps we could give Wales a little love. Throw the dragon and green field in there!



Hmmm, that makes the dragon look like it’s imprisoned or something.

Club Zion – Ethiopian Food and Coffee


A Shining Restaurant at the Foot of a Hill

I think I must have passed Club Zion dozens if not hundreds of times due solely to it’s name. I’m not a club person and could probably count the number of times I’ve been to a club on one hand, so it never crossed my mind to pop in.

Ah, but thanks to the power of the internet, I found out that this was much more a bar and restaurant than anything I would associate with a club. And while it is at the foot of ‘hooker hill’ in Itaewon, it wasn’t *that* sort of establishment. Well, at least not on the surface.

I went with three friends, three of us blatantly American and the fourth an older Korean friend of ours. We call him “Uncle Paul”. Because he asked us to. Since the establishment was new to us, we were initially a little hesitant, but we ducked inside and picked out a table. It was initially awkward as the restaurant was filled only with Africans who – for a brief moment – all seemed to look at us, as if surprised by our decision. I’m actually used to this with more backwater Korean establishments, but these folks lost interest pretty quickly and went back to their conversations and playing pool.

Oh, there’s a pool table there.

The menu is concise, which makes it great for those not knowing what they’re getting.

All the dishes here revolve around Injera – the Ethiopian flatbread. It’s spongy and soft to the touch and soaks up the sauces and juices really well. Fred initially thought it would be really light, but it soaks up the juices and fat really well. Turned out to be quite filling. Out of the four of us, I was the only one to finish their piece of bread! We had the following dishes:

Beye Ayenet


Beye Ayenet is the main vegetarian dish, providing a variety of things to eat. Some of which were identifiable! Some chick peas, cabbage, maybe some beets or egg plant. Oh! And some potatoes and carrots.


Awaze Tibs

Lamb sautéed with onions, green peppers, and other goodies. The injera really soaked up the sauce on this one.


Qey Wot


Almost a soup, it was a tad salty, but quite delicious. Similar spices to the Awaze Tibs, but unfortunately seemed to lack the onions and peppers. It’s served in a bowl rather than dumped on the bread like the other dishes. To end the meal, we enjoyed some…


Ethiopian Coffee


The cups are really tiny – like espresso. It’s strong, but smooth. But if you don’t like it bitter, you can always add some sugar. They conveniently serve the coffee with a comparatively large dish of sugar. For each cup ordered. I think there was as much sugar in the sugar dishes as coffee in the cups. I added a tiny spoon full of sugar, leaving me to wonder what they do with the rest of that sugar. Perhaps best not think about it too much.

They had some sort of advertisement for the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which looked interesting. They even had a table on display that looked like it was for that purpose, though why I didn’t take a photo of it is beyond me.

Getting There

Zion Club served some delicious dishes, so I’ll probably want to go back some time to try the others out! If you want to try out their Ethiopian cuisine, it’s easy to find the place. Take exit 3 from Itaewon station and hook a right at the first light. It’s on the left side of the road on the very first intersection. You can’t miss it!

Or you could punch any of these coordinates into your handy-dandy map app!

Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-dong 126-16

Usadan-ro 14 gil 3

Or in Korean:

용산구 이태원동 126-16


우사단로 14길 3

Enjoy! I know I’ll be back.

A Tiny Funeral


Chuseok is the Korean harvest festival. One of the most important aspects of this holiday is honoring of one’s ancestors. The family will visit the family tomb. There they will clean the tomb and prepare a meal on a stone table. For some this is an offering to the ancestor’s spirit to bring them luck, for others its a way to keep the memory alive. For others it is just a motion they have to go through to placate the familial or societal expectations.

The morning after the three day Chuseok celebration of 2014 I went for an early morning walk, going further out of my way for my morning coffee ritual. At the foot of the stone steps was a dead mouse, laid out as if for a funeral. Tiny flowers strewn in mourning; a used cigarette placed in memory. Poor mouse, it was your favorite brand, wasn’t it? I never knew you, I know not how you lived or died, but your funeral table reminds me of others.

How do we remember and honor those who passed on? What minutia will others remember about me?


Netherlandia and the Pheasant Dumplings


Coming up with a name for your restaurant is hard. A common method is to just name your restaurant by what it serves. In Korea this works really well when many restaurants have basically one item on their menu. But what if you want something more sophisticated, something with a bit of a panache? That’s when we name it after a place or person that sounds exotic. So what’s a great name for a restaurant that specialises in pheasant dumplings?

Netherlandia of course.


Some friends and I traveled down to Pyeongchang last week to enjoy the weather, bike, hike around to celebrate Jo-anna’s birthday. Along the way we stopped by a place for a late breakfast. The combination of the name and the fact I hadn’t yet had pheasant dumplings made this a clear choice.

Pheasant dumplings, or Gwong Mandu (꿩만두), are basically mandu made with minced pheasant meat.


It’s quite good, but not extraordinarily different or exceptional. If you’ve had Korean styled steamed dumplings you have the basics. That said, they were very good specimens of mandu, so I would still recommend it if you have the chance. Just don’t go out of your way for it.



Netherlandia also serves pheasant in fried dumplings (군만두) and my favorite, manduguk. Average dish cost is about 6,000 won.


The restaurant also sells homemade wine. Nothing sophisticated, but if you like home made wines, it’s nice and sweet.

You can find Netherlandia here:


410 Uhang-ri, Ucheon-myeon
Hoengseong-gun, Gangwon-do

Or in Korean:

강원 횡성군 우천면 우항리 410




One could compare the gentrification of low-laying neighbourhoods like Samcheongdong to the zombification of a populous, eager to sell their souls for the hip young generation to drop by and spend their – or their parent’s – hard earned moneys. In this destruction of the local to the infection of syphoning cash, one store owner realises that the only good name is an ironic name: I AM BAGEL

The Post Apocalyptic Bakery

To be fair, I’m not actually against gentrification, so long as it provides some level of diversity and doesn’t ultimately harm the less fortunate residence of the area. While Samcheongdong is oversaturated with expensive restaurants and over-priced cafes, the other side of Gyeongbok Palace is just starting down that path. Jihye and I decided to explore those various districts. Already there are a handful of cafes and restaurants sprouting up midst the small brick apartment blocks and town houses.

As we wandered up Okin-gil, in Nusang-dong, we came across I AM BAGEL and, being hungry, decided that it might just hit the spot.


While you could just order a fresh bagel and spread, we decided to have a open mushroom sandwich, a Cobb salad with an Americano and Grapefruit juice to wash it down. While not outrageous… it wasn’t cheap.

IMG_4031 I’m a sucker for a nice bagel and mushrooms. Smother it with melted cheese and I’m in heaven.


IMG_4029The Cobb salad was scrumptious. The wooden bowl complimented the meal.

IMG_4030The interior has an industrial look to it. It all works well together, but I do have one gripe about my whole experience.

The grapefruit juice was utterly terrible. I don’t know how you mess up grapefruit juice, but they managed to remove the essence of the grapefruit and left a watery, pulpy, disappointment. I can’t tell if this is due to the restaurant being cheap, the workers being inexperienced, or some other unknown factor, but the lack of the delicious sourness left a sour note in my experience.

Grapefruit disaster aside, everything else worked well. If I’m in the area for a hike up Inwangsan, I’ll probably drop by again.


And yes, they do serve pickles for those so inclined to cleanse their palette in this way.

If you want to check out I AM BAGEL, try meandering toward this address:

종로구 누상동 20-4


Jongno-gu Nusang-dong 20-4

I think we can improve the photo.

I AM BAGEL with zombies

Much better.

Rock Scissors Paper



The Eternal Struggle


The title and theme evoke the childhood wonder and simplicity found in a game that distills the complex struggles of the world into a ‘this beats that’ triumvirate. The playfulness of the theme pervaded the work, from the haunting to the light hearted. Thirteen artists put forward their contributions towards the vision, but unlike rock-scissors-paper and death matches, all thirteen may leave.


In this show, rock represents three-dimensional work, scissors anything that has been cut and paper two dimensional works. While this allows much overlap, as the assignment was not scientific in the first, I will not feel fully bound in my own categorisation. Instead, let’s bound around the gallery, and see what was!


Between a Rock and a Hard Place


When I walked through the gallery door, the masks hung on the opposite wall popped out. Steven White‘s homages to Predator have a twist of the nostalgic mixed with an ironic trophy-like presentation. All possible through the miracle of UPVC! Might have to try this stuff out myself.


On the other end of the gallery stood a mannequin, instructions from the artist, Adele Louise Pedulla, hanging from it’s outstretched hand:

You are invited to indicate your insecurities on the corresponding part of the mannequin. Show the insecurity in anyway you feel appropriate. 

A set of black markers was made available, and by the night of the reception, the once lifeless, blank, creepy simulacrum was marked and ascribed various faults or perceived faults all over.


Large freckled dots covered the arms, an outline with ‘chubby vag’ written on the crotch, crows feet drawn under the eyes, among others, all made the mannequin feel somehow more real.


While the rest of the work is of a more two dimensional nature, Jo Turner’s photographs are decidedly ‘rock’ for me. They depict derelict stone work from South East Asia as it is embraced by nature, providing wonderful colour palates of an almost ancient and mystical nature.

A Run of Scissors


On the North wall, next to the snacks at the reception, hung the collage work of Marli Janse Van Vuuren. Two of her works relied on beautiful photography, one architectural, the other natural, cut into squares, edges bent upwards. This created a somewhat three dimensional effect as you pass by.


On the same wall were the multilayered expressions of Casey Madigan. Each work is an event, which, like any real-life event, has many layers of location, movement and personal meanings. Each shape and cut is organic and filled with a lighthearted serendipity.


A feeling of the antiquated, sepia toned collages and a peek into something not quite forbidden but probably frowned upon by ‘polite society’ marks Christopher Kramer’s submissions to the show. A beautiful touch was a tiny book made with silver pages, perched just below the work. I was mildly disappointed when I found there weren’t any extra images inside, but was quite blank. The booklet was either for writing notes or a metaphor to provoke thought, and since no writing utensils was provided, my guess is probably both.


Celebrating comics, cosplaying and bending characters’ gender is the work of Corey Malcolm Lajeunesse. Working off the comic page, a cosplayed female version of the character is imposed over the page, the piece titled appropriately: Thora, Spiderwoman, etc. The costumes pop off the page and unite the works thematically. Together nostalgic, adaptive and questioning, these pieces put a smile on my face.


Straight across from childhood nostalgia comes the nightmares. Faces, barely recognised, are mutilated, eyes and mouths are torn. A collaborative entry by Sidney Scallan and Juanita Hong, was at once the most human, and the most dehumanising of the show.


Papering the Walls


Now, if psychedelic poetry of the mind is more your thing, Sentmode‘s triptych had you covered. The three pieces lay horizontally over each other, with an eye gazing out from the top, oddly reminiscent or Sauron’s tower. Or Sauron’s reverse pagoda if that’s how you roll.


On the other hand Emily Read‘s water colors were much calmer addition. Combining portraiture with arabesque organic forms, she anthropomorphizes the seasons.


Delightfully macabre, CRN presented prints of the writhing undercurrents of the human psyche. Filled with dark wings, confused flight and parables of the dark fear and fascination of death, the works jumped out at the viewers. Not quite literally, but perhaps in future iterations.


Staring across from the macabre hung the more humanistic works of Tessa Guze. Her paintings rely on a strong color scheme and balance of space and person to emphasize empathy in the viewer.



The curator of the show, Martyn Thompson, installed a conceptual piece based on QR codes just under the masks. In effect, he created a large, yet informationally small icon of 10 by 7 ‘pixels’. Each pixel was a QR code placed inside a name tag holder. If you had decided to follow the links, you would have found a ten minute video clip of browsing Facebook, overlaid with either white or blue. Connecting in one’s mind which QR code is ‘white’ and which is ‘blue’ allowed the viewer to make out a tiny, crude Facebook ‘f’.


And then…


The star of the reception though had to be the performance by Lilith from Unending.  Performed with herself, a rock, a sheet of paper, two scissors and a giant blanket, Lilith’s performance reenacted the concept of rock-scissor-paper as an emotional struggle of overcoming one’s problems.


RSP-Lilith3As rock got covered, scissors cut rock, and rock smashed the very thing that freed it, I couldn’t help but feel the sense that we sometimes harm and scare away the very people who try to help bring us to light. Almost as if in shame, Lilith then took the aspect of rock herself and wrapped herself in a giant blanket, almost cocoon like. Safe inside, an outsider, comes in and cuts her open, and she is reborn, stronger and without shame.



-John Shrader

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 @ http://www.helenchunglee.com/

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.