Friday 21 June 2024

dmz (11. 643)

Unnerved by just concluded two-state visit by the Russian president to strengthen alliances with North Korea and Vietnam and fears that the pact may see flows of munitions not only for Russia to continue to prosecute its invasion and occupation of Ukraine but also concerns that Seoul’s neighbour would be receiving technical assistance in developing its nuclear and aerospace programmes and emboldened border incursions, South Korea is considering augmenting its support to the beleaguered nation with lethal weapons, which it has so far not provided. As counter-programming to the recently held gathering in Switzerland of eighty nations reaffirming their commitment for Ukraine support and condemnation of Putin’s war, the Russian leader re-emphasised that materiel aid for Ukraine makes other countries direct belligerents and reserves the right to do the same against the West and its allies.


one year ago: the US supreme court sets benchmarks for obscenity (with synchronoptica) plus assorted links worth revisiting

six years ago: regional linguistic delicacies plus RIP Koko the Gorilla

seven years ago: soylent, structural fungi plus procrastination and motivation

eight years ago: Sigur Rรณs, neighbourhood archaeology, Wedgwood heels plus more on gun violence in America

nine years ago: Max Richter’s Sleep

Tuesday 27 February 2024

generally meant to be discarded (11. 385)

Via Colossal, we are introduced to the work of ceramicist Yoonmi Nam in her exhibit featuring pottery and architectural elements made on a substrate of single-use, disposable containers. Displayed on traditional soban (์†Œ๋ฐ˜, used as dining trays and general purpose tables) as pediments—Nam employs the green-grey hued glaze, which reminds us of Frankoma ware and also of the craft of kintsugi, both dating from the era of the Goryeo kingdom that once covered most of the peninsula. It is an interesting meditation on the nature of trash and consumption, encased forever as something beautiful and permanent.  Much more at the links above.


one year ago: Campbell’s cocktails plus the Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den

two years ago: assorted links to revisit plus the Peace of Stolbovo (1617)

three years ago: The Lady’s Mercury (1619), artist Carel Fabritius, most quoted and remixed works in the Anglophone literary canon, Walter Cronkite’s Report from Vietnam (1968), reanimating old photos plus the Conservative Political Action Conference

four years ago: more links to enjoy plus birthright citizenship in the US in jeopardy

five years ago: the Reichstag Fire (1933), the art of Alex Moy plus synthetic DNA

Wednesday 5 July 2023

7x7 (10. 859)

armada model zero: prototype flying, electric car cleared for takeoff 

๊ตญ๋ณด: ancient Corinthian helmet found in Olympia and awarded as a trophy in 1936 among South Korea’s National Treasures  

el niรฑo southern oscillation: combination of global warming and cyclical weather patterns have yielded the hottest day since record-keeping began  

๐Ÿงต: Meta to launch Twitter alternative in twenty-four hours  

cop27: UK to walk-back its climate pledge 

luteciam parisiorum: a virtual tour of Roman Paris  

astral projection: the brain’s precuneus seems to be responsible for grounding and for the sensation of out-of-body experiences

Thursday 8 December 2022

8x8 (10. 372)

low-poly: needlepoint designs based on vintage video games—see previously 

ghost mall: visiting a virtually abandoned yet very much open for business shopping centre in New Jersey 

zenosyne: from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (previously here and here)—that feeling that time is getting faster  

digichromatography: a survey of the seconds, the raw files, of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky’s documentation of the Russian Empire is a study in the development of colour photography—see also  

the pandoravirus: the melting Siberian permafrost is reviving long dormant but viable germs  

q-zone: a racing timeline of the most popular social media from 2003 to the present  

์‚ด: South Korea will abandon traditional age-reckoning in favour of an international recognised counting method beginning next year 

akka-arrh: Atari reprises a 1982 arcade game that was never released commercially as it proved too challenging for test-audiences

Friday 15 July 2022

psy and the family stone

Released on this day in 2012 as the lead single off South Korea rapper eponymous sixth studio album, “Gangnam Style” (๊ฐ•๋‚จ์Šคํƒ€์ผ, previously) refers to the class and sophistication associated with the posh district of the city of Seoul—flag pictured. The K-Pop song and video started going viral by the following month, charting in more than thirty countries and the most “liked” video on the internet, reaching a billion views by year’s end. Holding the title of most viewed Youtube clip, it was overtaken in July 2017 by Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again.” The refrain “Oppan Gangnam style” (in a lyrical eggcorn admission, I always heard it as Rope ’Em) means Big Brother is tragically hip, insinuating that the genuinely fashionable would never need to proclaim it and is poking fun at posers. During the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the song was temporarily restricted from being play in a gymnasium setting due to its beats per minute exceeding the one-twenty BPM ceiling health authorities introduced to discourage people from becoming too energzed by the music and breath and more intensely. Once it surpassed two billion one hundred forty seven million four hundred eighty three thousand six hundred forty-seven (231-1, a Mersenne prime number whereas Mn = 2n-1) views, Youtube realised it needed to upgrade to sixty-four bit integers to store those counts.

Sunday 1 May 2022

family federation for world peace and unification

Founded on this day in Seoul in 1954 by controversial entrepreneur and messianic claimant Reverend Sun Myung Moon (†1920 - *2012 and hence the colloquial name “Moonies”), the Unification Church has its origins with the family of ์ƒ์‚ฌ๋ฆฌ converting to Presbyterianism whilst under Japanese occupation around 1930 and mostly abandoning traditional Confucianist beliefs (though there is a degree of syncretism with the departure from Nicene teachings) and took up Sunday school education and later instruction. Then visited by Jesus Christ, according to church lore, on Easter 1936, Moon was personally tasked with finishing the work left undone by the crucifixion—a commission Moon accepted after a period of prayer and contemplation, evangelising after the war ended in 1945. Venturing north of the DMZ with his gospel got Moon arrested as a spy for South Korea in 1946 but was released as fighting between the northern and southern factions started in earnest and authored the movement’s scripture and theological basis, Divine Principle, which limned the church’s core beliefs of remission of debts and indemnities to restore balance with God. Though some see its publications, activism, subordinate businesses as a sort of prosperity gospel, the Unification Church’s network and holdings are minuscule in comparison with the Catholic Church or the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Thursday 11 February 2021

bird box

Via Waxy, not only do we learn that delightfully on classic Korean operating system and file storage utility, that a newly created folder was assigned the name of a type of bird (the Korean for “new” ์ƒˆ๋กœ์šด saelon being homonymous with bird, ์ƒˆ sae) and if one made too many folders (on the order of the hundreds) they would pled by starting to call them things like “I’ve run out of bird names,” “You’re still making folders” or “Please stop,” based on this Easter egg and programming artefact, there’s now an extension for Macintosh that draws on a list of over ten-thousand avian species at random and gives those names to new folders.

Saturday 14 November 2020


Held on this weekend in 2008 in host capital Washington, DC at the urging of EU and Australian leadership to expand the coordinated response and recovery for the 2008 financial crisis, the summit, inviting for the first time the twenty most powerful world economies to meet again a month after the G7 had convened at the same venue, achieved its stated goal to reform global financial institutions and articulate areas of contention as well as cooperation.

Framed as a Bretton Woods II—the system of monetary management created in the aftermath of World War II but seen as increasingly ineffective as signatories withdrew, it seemed like a hopeful and promising development with all parties agreeing on the causes and appointing a diverse troika of economies as a steering committee (South Korea, Brazil and the UK), it remains to be seen if world markets are more robust and adaptable for the measures instituted.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

corea: the hermit kingdom

This anthology of Korean folktales collected and retold by William Elliot Griffis from Public Domain Review is interesting in its own right for the well-intentioned desire (with notable shortcomings) to bring to a Western readership some of the country’s mythology and lore, but there’s a striking side note as well with earlier publication of the above entitled in 1882, a history of the Joseon dynasty that coined the moniker, applied to isolationist policies in general. Obviously now not new, the term gained traction and currency when invoked by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to describe North Korea.

Monday 29 June 2020


File under justice deferred—I suppose—and perhaps voter disenfranchisement made right but the South Korean branch of a cereal giant is releasing a green onion (์ชฝํŒŒ ) flavoured version of one of its signature brands in response to the results of an online “election” held back in 2004 in which breakfast fans held a run-off ballot between duelling candidates Chekkie and Chaka—with the former pledging to bring more chocolate to the cereal and the later added scallion.
Sixteen years ago, Chaka, according to exit-polls, pulled into an early and decisive lead, leading the cereal company, rather nonplussed with the prospect to purge over forty-thousand votes from the results, citing security reasons. The company (see previously) had committed similar election tampering in its Japanese market too by again siding with chocolate even though wasabi was the people’s choice by a landslide. Advance taste-testers of the limited edition that will be available in supermarkets from 1 July laud this small victory for democracy and a good idea (I wish we could annul this orange drink and I know where my partisan affiliations lie) but find that the cereal lacks the distinctive savouriness, umami (๊ฐ์น ๋ง›) that the real article conveys

Saturday 4 January 2020

happy little accidents

Messy Nessy Chic correspondent Francky Knapp stumbled across the vintage 2012 art lesson, Yellow Scream, from South Korean painter and instructor Kim Beom and shares her experience encountering the antithesis though no less effective and perhaps empathetic and approachable than Bob Ross’ method. Kim, a selection of his works exhibited at the MoMA and in other galleries, paints viscerally, the strokes evoking the spectrum of his cathartic cries but the technique, rather than alienating the audience with a tortured display of the misunderstood or unknowable artist, instead invites the student in with decorous abandon to consider how rage is best channeled through art therapy. Be sure and visit Messy Nessy Chic at the link up top to see and extended demonstration of Kim’s talent as an artist and a patient teacher.

Monday 30 April 2018

baby steps

One immediate outcome of the historic summit between the leadership of North and South Korea was to re-align Pyongyang’s and Seoul’s time-zones.
This disparity of half-an-hour having itself arose only three years ago under the direction of Kim Jong-un to mark the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the peninsula from occupying Japan as a reassertion of independence from colonial rule. The synchronisation will occur this Saturday (5 May) but there’s no word if the North will keep its Juche calendar, which numbers its years on the birth of founder Kim Il-Sung in 1912, though its not unusual to record time in eras and reigns as a supplement to civil time in many cultures, and many societies tend to use even our modern time-keeping conventions (abolishing day-light savings time, having a single, broad time zone irrespective of the sun) to present a united, national front.

Friday 27 April 2018


Friday 6 April 2018


A panel of judges in Seoul upheld the verdict of deposed former president Park Geun-hye, daughter of dictator of South Korea Park Chung-hee who seized power with a military coup in 1963 and suspended state elections until his assassination in 1979, which included wide-ranging charges of corruption, embezzlement, influence peddling and dereliction of duty and sentenced her to twenty-four years in prison.
Fraught with problems from the beginning, Park’s administration started in 2013 and lasted until 2016, propelled to office in part out of nostalgia for the reign of her father—seeing that we’ve become such poor stewards of democracy, we’re letting its institution become such shams and relieve them of their meaning and potency—and also a concerted social media campaign which the national intelligence service admitted to playing a part in. Park’s confidant Choi Soon-sil (who being the daughter of spiritual leader Choi Soon-sil has earned some Rasputin credentials) was also sentenced to twenty years in prison for extortion, abuse of power and unauthorised disclosure of classified materials who exercised great power and influence over Park and the South Korean government despite holding no official government office.

Wednesday 1 November 2017


Translated literally as “books and things,” the tradition of painting depictions of one’s possessions—real and aspirational—is called chaekgeori (์ฑ…๊ฑฐ๋ฆฌ) in Korean and reaches back to the Joeson dynasty.
These panels reflect near a one-to-one scale of the bookshelves that they portray and the items—symbols of status and education—are meticulously arranged. Despite the relative unknown status of the art form in Western traditions, it has nonetheless been influential, I believe, and also shows—counter to the notion that Asia society was insular and closed—that souvenirs and keepsakes from abroad were among the most treasured artefacts. Be sure to visit Hyperallergic at the link above for a whole gallery of chaekgeori screens and to learn more. 

Saturday 28 October 2017

thirty-eighth parallel

While menacing Asia next week, Dear Leader will visit South Korea, and while the agenda has not yet been released, I do hope his security detail and handlers can dissuade him from going to the Demilitarized Zone in person because I don’t think the dotard has the restraint to keep from petulantly dangling a foot over the border, like a tourist posed straddling at the Four Corners Monument, the quadripoint in the US southwest where four of the boxy states touch and is surprisingly under the administration of the Navajo Nation and Ute Tribe who probably found such a demarcation unwelcome and untoward, possibly like many on different sides of the peninsula. Perhaps he can be taken to a film-set or a holodeck instead—at least as a trial-run. I wonder if any of this stuff is rehearsed ahead of time.

Monday 22 May 2017

seoullo 7017

A Dutch architectural group (previously here and here) has recently completed a project undertaken in Seoul that’s given the city an elevated, tree-lined walkway above the street traffic. A disused highway overpass that stretches more than a kilometre across the metropolis and was slated for demolition but civil engineers envisioned other plans, similar to New York City’s High Line.

Friday 12 May 2017

munakata or men’s spaces

Similar to the monastic Greek island of Mount Athos, the Shinto maintain a remote and isolated brotherhood on an island in the East China Sea between Fukuoka and Busan, South Korea—which is strictly off-limits to women.
Since the fourth century, the waters where the group of islands which includes the sacred Okinoshima are found have been vital trade routes and the tradition of prayer for safe passage, invoking the three Munkata sea goddesses (the Virgin Mary is the only female that can be in the monks’ company on Mount Athos), and economic prosperity has continued unbroken since. Women are banned from the island at all times and under all conditions (though there’s no word if they have the same strictures for female farm animals, like Mount Athos), but even male outsiders are just barely tolerated, allowed to visit on one day in the year in remembrance of a tragic 1905 naval battle that took place nearby, and not allowed to talk of their experience. Since 2009, there has been discussion of inscribing Okinoshima into the UNESCO World Heritage registry and perhaps the island, with its ancient temples and vast collection of offerings ferried from passing ships on to its shores for a millennia and a half, will be so honoured but not without detractors for the place’s practises of exclusion, which some consider not in keeping with the principles of the United Nations. What do you think? Maybe boys should be allowed their clubs, but such traditions can also be used as leverage for institutionalising and justifying misogyny in other contexts.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

how about a nice game of chess?

Whilst Dear Leader says he will handle the other Dear Leader with or without China’s assistance—awkwardly ahead of the visit by the Chinese president, North Korea, Gizmodo speculates, may have inadvertently revealed its ability to upgrade a fission reaction into a hydrogen bomb.
Having the technical prowess to miniaturise a nuclear device to the extent it could be mounted on a ballistic missile is another question but the reality remains that the distance from Seoul to the Demilitarised Zone is less than that between Washington, DC and Baltimore and North Korea already has the ability to seriously damage the capital to the south with conventional weapons. What do you think? After witnessing how other dictatorships have been selectively toppled with the help of American statecraft, North Korea would never abandon—nor fully disclose (an alternative narrative to be sure) its nuclear programme not just for the destructive, retaliatory potential but because it is a bargaining chip—at least in the regime’s eyes as the revolutions that were suffered and permitted involved no burgeoning nuclear powers.

Friday 13 January 2017


The Russian Duma, championed by the same conservative politician that codified the county’s rules on gay propaganda, is poised to decriminalise domestic violence, upholding the traditions of the good old days when youths did not sass their elders.
Of course, this is not limited to empowering parents to smack an incorrigible child without fear of reprisal but also drives women who are victims of violence further into the background by legitimatising such behaviour, so long as it doesn’t leave a permanent mark. Elsewhere, we learn that Japan is recalling its diplomats from South Korea over a statute erected in Busan that commemorates the so called “comfort women,” victims of sex-slavery under Imperial Japanese Army.