Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dino Spotlight: Tsintaosaurus Sketch

Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus was a 10 meter-long Chinese lambeosaurid hardosaur (duck-billed dino) which lived in the late Cretaceous. It displayed a unicorn-like crest at the top of it's head and probably lived in herds eating vegetation.

The sketch above was created using pen and ink on white paper, while waisting time at work waiting for students to not show up... I love the detail on it and it's skin texture. I also really like the pose of it's neck - curved and foreshortened!

In other news, Iron Man opens here in Seoul tomorrow. I'm checking out the 12 noon showing!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Evil Dead sucks Korea's Soul

One of the best horror films of all time, Evil Dead - the 1981 movie directed by Sam Raimi (Spiderman) - has been transformed into a musical, in all it's bloody and gory glory!

Evil Dead: The Musical (by Canadians George Reinblatt and Christopher Bond - no relation!) opened to rave reviews in Toronto and then moved to New York.

One of the things that really sets Evil Dead: The Musical apart from your average run-of-the-mill musical is the "Splatter Zone," where the audience gets covered in "blood" that is sprayed on them from the shot and chainsawed zombies! Ponchos are provided.

But now, the musical has been translated in Korean, and Evil Dead: The Musical has come to South Korea!

Grand open indeed!

I had to go. I couldn't let this opportunity slip! I met my friends at the theater and with our $50 ticket in hand, we took our seats. I wore my whitest shirt to get myself a "bloody" souvenir.

Soon the show began and it was much funnier and sexier than I had thought for a Korean show. The special effects and make-up were fantastic, as were the wonderful set and props. The zombies sang and danced great, with a nod to Micheal Jackson's Thriller.

When it came time for blood-letting, the zombies not only bled on the willing audience, but they fell into it and rolled around, gushing blood. The surprisingly 90% female audience squirmed in delight and horror! The show was hilarious, even without understanding a word.

Unfortunately, I missed the spatter and my shirt is still white.

Asian Ash vs The Cast of Darkness

Check out this video of Evil Dead Musical writer George Reinblatt visiting Seoul and meeting the Korean cast! It is hilarious when they all drink soju at the end!!!!

Here are some more clips from the Korean version of Evil Dead: The Musical:

Gimme some sugar, baby!

Come get some!

For the uninitiated, here is a brief synopsis of the Evil Dead story:

The timeless story of a group of teenagers having a sexy weekend in a cabin in the woods and finding the Book of the Dead which when read summons the Evil Spirits which one-by-one possess each of the teenagers until one is left (Ash) who also gets possessed but comes back but with a possessed hand which he cuts off and replaces it with a chainsaw but the hand attacks him and his girlfriend gets possessed and he has to cut off her head but she's undead and the deadites urge Ash to "join us" but he fights on using his chainsaw and boomstick/shotgun until the new girl reads the missing Evil Book pages and the Evil Dead goes away and Ash resumes work at S-Mart...

I loved the show (even though I couldn't understand a word of it) and highly recommend you see it - either here in Seoul (March 18th - June 18th 2008) or in Toronto while it is still playing!

See it before they suck your Seoul!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gyeongju - Korea's Cultural Capital


Leaving Seoul for the first time, I sit back in the huge comfortable bus seats and listen to my MP3 player. I take shots out the window on the 4 hour ride through the rolling Korean countryside. I am the only foreigner on the $26 express bus, Seoul - Gyeounju. Traveling south, it takes almost an hour to leave Seoul and one-third of Korea's population behind.

Once in the countryside, I marvel at the hills and villages....

Welcome to Gyeongju - population 160,000 plus me. In 668 AD, the Three Kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula were unified under (conquered by) the Silla Kingdom, which brought 250 years of peace and prosperity. Gyeoungju was the capital of Silla, a creative, wealthy, and vibrant city with a population of one million.

By the 920's, Silla was dying. In the 1590s, the city was ravaged by the Japanese and its treasures plundered. Everything was razed except for the tombs of the Silla kings - large mounds of earth which held the body of the king and artifacts he will need in the afterlife.

In 1979, Gyeoungju was named a protected UNESCO cultural heritage site - one of the world's 10 most important ancient cultural cities. What is left from the Silla period are burial mounds, stone pagodas, and royal palaces. Join me on a short jaunt through this ancient city.

This is the symbol of the city: Cheomseongdae or the Star Observation Tower. This unique bottle-shaped stone tower is one of the oldest structures in Korea. Historians believe it also to be the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia. 12 large stones surround its square base (one for each month) and it is 30 stone levels high (one for each day in a lunar month).

This stone pagoda marks the edge of the Gyeongju National Museum, one of the best collections of ancient Korean artifacts (especially from the Silla Dynasty.) One of the most impressive artifact is the Emille Bell, Korea's largest and most beloved bell.

Made in 771 AD, this huge bell weighs over 23,000 kg and can be heard 40 km away when it is struck with a log. Legend has it that, to appease the fire spirit dragon, a young girl had to be thrown into the molten metal when the bell was cast. When the bell was rung for the first time, apparently it rang with the sound of a child crying for her mother - "emi" in Silla. This is why it is called the Emille Bell...

The Symbol of the Fire Spirit Dragon on the Bell

Stone Carvings

View from Outside...

...View from Inside.

Cast Metal Buddha

Stone Carving

Stone Corner of a Temple Roof

Close-up of a Dragon Handle on a Bell

Gold Crown with Admirer

Walking back to town from the National Museum, I stumble upon the Anapji Pond and Pleasure Garden. A relaxing spot fit for a king - King Munmu in fact, built the garden in 674 to commemorate the unification of the peninsula under Silla.

I managed to explore the garden before the rain exploded, and the overcast clouds gave an eerie lighting to my photos.

Birds Nests and Babboo


Water Cascades through Channels
down Waterfalls into the Pond

After visiting the exploring the city, visiting the museum and relaxing in the pleasure garden, I came to a realization. Gyeongju feels dead. Beautiful and interesting, but still dead. An ancient dead culture leaves behind artifacts, stone buildings and legends, and not much more.

I was heading back to the bus station, ponding this though, when I heard cries behind me and the sound of hoofs coming closer. What was going on?

For a split second, dead Gyeongju came alive. I imagined Silla soldiers on horseback riding through the palaces and tombs of ancient Korea. I imagined the glint off the soldier's armor, the hot breath of the horses and the brilliant red cloth billowing around them...

I then turned around and saw just that.

Gyeongju had come to life.

And as the horses trotted off through the tombs, I know that this city is not dead. It is a living breathing museum, a monument to the past and the future of Korea. On the express bus home, I close my eyes and travel back to the future...

It's no wonder every single Korean child has gone on school field trips to this city. If you want to join them in tasting Korea's past, follow me and visit Gyeongju, the cultural capital of Korea.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Leaving Seoul...

Life's been chugging along nicely here in Korea. I have been here 4.5 months with 7.5 left and have been trying to experience as much as I can while here. When I'm not teaching English, I'm either drinking in Sinchon, dancing in Hongdae, or eating in Gangnam...

You've been reading about my explorations in Seoul, but I have had yet to visit any other places in my new country.

That was until two weeks ago!

Coming soon to Bond's Blog are my explorations of Kyoungju and Busan - Korea's cultural-capital and it's second-largest city, respectively. Stay tuned to leave the capital and delve into Kimchi Country...

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Trip to the War Memorial and Museum

The War Memorial and Museum - Seoul, Korea

Last month, I visited the War Memorial and Museum, a huge museum that documents the history of war in Korea, including a large focus on the Korean War (1950-53). Being on a peninsula surrounded by China, Russia and Japan, Korea has seen it's fair share of battles. This modern museum is also a memorial to those who fought and died in the Korean War, including Koreans and UN soldiers.

21 countries took part in the UN operation to save South Korea after North Korea attacked suddenly at 4am and pushed the South to Busan. The UN forces pushed back and up the peninsula into the North, until a Chinese attack in 1950. Following two years of fierce fighting and unsuccessful victories on either side, an armistice was called in 1953. In the end, over three million soldiers and civilians on both sides were killed. The Republic of Korea lost 152,279 soldiers in action, America 33,642, UK 1086, and Canada 516.

The War Museum contains thousands of artifacts from the many wars Korea has been involved in: uniforms, guns, ammunition, documents, video footage, and vehicles - Russian tanks, Cobra helicopters, B52 bomers, and missiles. Huge missiles.

Take a look at a few pictures I took at the museum. It was a moving and informative experience, that is a must for anyone visiting Seoul!

Planes, tanks and military hardware outside the museum.
(Click to Enlarge)

More Planes

Wing of a B52. Huge.

Tanks and more tanks

Innocence of War
Cobra Helicopter


Children playing on military equipment...

War Monument at the center of the museum

Reflection on Warfare

Stark passages in the modern museum

The huge lobby of the Seoul War Memorial and Museum

Every Korean male must spend two years in the Army.

As my students have been telling me, every Korean male spends two years in the Korean Army in their 20s. What happens is that guys graduate high school and go to college. They "study" (drink, party and gain "life-experiences") for two years, and then go into the Army for two years. They come out more mature and disciplined, and then finish their studies.

People in relationships before the man enters the Army tend not to last. There is a Korean saying: When a man comes back from the Army, his girl will be gone. If she waited for him, the man will soon leave her. Not romantic, but quite realistic! Two years is a long time!