Saturday, August 04, 2007

Uljin’s Countryside – A Photo Journal

On my bike trek this afternoon, I took some photos of the surrounding UlJin countryside.

(Buddhist Temple)

(Budhist Temple 2)

Family worship is still common in Korea, and this practice can be linked to Korean Confucian principles. Confucianism is small in terms of self-declared adherents, but the great majority of South Koreans, irrespective of their formal religious affiliation, are strongly influenced by Confucian values, which continue to permeate Korean society. I have been told that Koreans have traditionally been eclectic rather than exclusive in their religious commitments. Their religious outlook has not been conditioned by a single, exclusive faith but by a combination of indigenous beliefs and creeds imported into Korea. Respect for the past, elders, and previous family ancestors are still common, even amongst those who claim to be Christian or secular. Hence, the importance of these family burial grounds.

Nowadays, most Koreans are not buried in designated family plots like they were in the past, and grave sites like these are not built as often as they were 50 years ago. But if you take a ride around the Korean countryside, you will see the hills littered with this small plots and grave stones marking a specific families burial ground. (Or so I have been told; I should say upfront that I am not Korean and everything I know about such things has been professed to me by Korean co-workers or from personal research.)

It seems that Koreans don’t have "suburbs" like we do in the States. In the city of Uljin, they have an estimated population of about 60,000, and yet I can walk from one side of the city to the other in less than 20 minutes. In Calexico, where I lived previously in California, it would take me hours to walk the entire city, even if its population was significantly less. High rises are the norm, and populations live in close quarters.

What makes Korea so interesting is the clear distinction between the nation’s past and its present. Folks living in the city live modern post-industrial lives, while those living 20 km out of the city may very well live the way people have 150 years ago. Small farms dot the countryside, and are a welcome site to cyclists such as myself passing by. Situated beneath misty mountains, they are truly a site to see.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Classic Popeye, at Long Last!

Heads up to Dean at Dean’s World for breaking the news (to me at least), that the greatest era of Popeye cartoons has been released on DVD. This is the set that Popeye fans everywhere have been waiting for. Finally, we are getting the original Fleischer Studio cuts, done in as high a definition as possible, and in chronological order. Who could ask for more?

Fleischer Studios was run by Max and Dave Fleischer until they were fired by their parent company Paramount in 1942. But before their release, the studio put out some of the best animation of the day and was a direct competitor with Disney Studios.

The reason these classic episodes have taken so long to be released has to do with all kinds of copyright law that escapes me, but would fit right in at Ron Coleman’s blog Likelihood of Confusion. All I know is that copyright disputes forced these classic episodes to some vault for the last 60 years, only to be released in incomplete and heavily cut copies.

This is from a reviewer named “A.Gamill” at

“There has been, as long as I can recall, a misconception about Popeye cartoons. I recently had this discussion with a good friend, who could not understand why I was so excited about this release. She, like so many people, was raised on the color Popeye cartoons made in the 1960's. "They're all the same," she complained. "Popeye and Bluto fight over Olive Oyl, and Popeye eats spinach and beats up his rival. Big deal." And you know something? Based solely on the cartoons my friend had seen, she was right. She knew nothing of these original black & white gems made by the Fleischers beginning in the early 1930's. And while the voice of Popeye in most of those shorts is the same (Jack Mercer) as the later ones, that's where the similarities end. The early 'toons are full of creative gags, ad-libs and boundless energy. Plus, they have the inimitable Fleischer style, which can also be found in Betty Boop and, later, the first Superman cartoons.

I hope that those of you who only know Popeye from the later, bland incarnations will check out this set. Forget Poopdeck Pappy or Popeye's nephews (those these will eventually surface in the Fleischer versions); this is the REAL POPEYE in all his elastic, mumbling glory.”

I couldn’t have said it better. This is the Popeye to watch, even if you hate the Popeye cartoons you have seen thus far.

(Max Fleischer)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Obama: Forget Iraq, I Have Other Countries to Invade

“Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama warned Pakistan Wednesday that he would use military force if necessary to root out terrorists, the second time in two weeks that he's staked out a dramatically different road for U.S. foreign policy.”

While I have to give the guy some respect for staying that, I have a hard time believing the anti-War crowd that has backed his campaign so far is going to look kindly upon this.

You also have to wonder: what kind of situation does he think will be created from invading this fractured and divided Muslim country? How can he be so opposed to the War in Iraq, and then offer up another war that would surely have similar results?

Barak said:
“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.”

Nice talk and maybe he is right. But isn’t that the same type of action that got us into trouble in Iraq in the first place? His whole argument just sounds a bit hollow to me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Korean Summer Schools

(UlJin Main Elementary School)

You really have to feel for Korean school children. I arrived here in Uljin during the last week of school for this school year, right before they went on their 3 week vacation. 3 weeks! In the States, we take a good 2-3 months between school years!

Not only that, but most students take part in different types of academic "camps" during their 3 week vacation! In fact, for the next 2 weeks I will be taking part in two English Language camps in the Uljin area. The camps I have worked with thus far have been enjoyable and enlightening, and I am continually surprised how well Korean student’s work and study during their brief and rare downtime. You have to give it to the Koreans: they don’t mess around when it comes to education.

No wonder Korean folks are so dedicated to online role playing games; it is the only time they can get out of town and away from their school work!

Now, if I could only get groups of school children to stop following me around wherever I go in town. Don’t they know it is hard to get pornography and booze when you are followed by cute Korean schoolchildren?