Modern and Drab Seoul

I recently completed my goal to visit the triumvirate of northeast Asian Mega-cities: Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul.

Seoul lights in Gangnam.

Seoul lights in Gangnam.

All of these cities are massive. But they are also unique.

Beijing, where I live, is gritty and brutish.

Tokyo is dazzling and unique.

Seoul is…

Seoul is modern.

I knew that it was technologically advanced, but I didn’t expect so many free internet access points and for everything to be so clean. That’s a big plus, especially when you are coming from China’s tight internet restrictions and less than ideal sanitation.

It’s geography is also quite nice. It’s hilly and that gives it some character. Maybe I’m partial because Beijing is so flat.

And while Seoul is ideal for tech and cleanliness, it is also a bit bland. In terms of architecture, at least. The buildings are all pretty similar and leave something to be desired.

(I would also comment on their music/movie scene, but I feel it’s too early for that. They might have something unique there, but it still needs time. I will give them the benefit of the doubt- even though Gangnam Style is a little… OK moving on.)

On the whole, I think it’s not quite a bad place at all. Safe, clean, and technologically advanced. In terms of style it’s no NYC or Tokyo, but that’s OK. I suppose that may be a title not everyone actually wants. 

It’s nice to finally visit all three cities. It took four years and I feel like I now have a really strong breadth of this area. 

Funny that even though I have noticed many unique characteristics, I have found that these three places actually have far more similarities than differences. The food, family values, and culture of face all seem ubiquitous.

While I feel like this trip definitely closes a chapter in my traveling career, I also look forward to visiting these places again someday. Each has a very youthful vibe and it’s almost like you can taste the change in the air.

I like that. I like when people push the status quo.

 

Go Make Something

We…

We read too many books.

We call a friend and ask for help with a problem that we don’t have, yet.

We surf the internet to look up the prices of homes in the areas which have the highest salaries for the jobs that we think we might want.

We worry about balancing the responsibilities of being a husband and a father before hearing her say yes.

We sit around and wonder how to deal with the trappings of fame before we become famous.

We lose the faith before anything ever happens.

We cannot be the victims of analysis paralysis anymore.

Good Art Is like a Good Haiku

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Yangshuo, Guanxi

A summer river being crossed
how pleasing
with sandals in my hands!
– Yosa Buson

Haiku poems are short, orderly pieces created in the Japanese tradition. The most common form has 5 syllables on the first line, seven on the second, and five again on the last.

Haikus are very closely related to Japanese culture and Zen Buddhism.

The goal of a haiku is to capture a moment. It does not seek to explain or analyze, but simply strives to present the moment clearly. If the composer is very good, then a certain shade of emotion will also be present in the words.

Good art is often like a good haiku. It clearly presents a moment and emotion without explanation.

 

Reflection on a Fake Japanese Internet Quote

I was browsing reddit earlier today, when I came upon a quote.

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends, and your family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

This is slightly oversimplified, yet still true. The concept of putting on a “front” for strangers is nothing new, to me anyways. I see people doing it all the time. I do it myself. It’s just part of human nature.

Whatever the case, I thought about it on my run today.

When I am running, and deep in my element, I feel my third face comes out. My true, wild nature. Swashbuckling and brash.

Maybe that’s why running is so amazing. 

Sidenote: I can’t find the source of this quote anywhere. Perhaps I am just circulating more fictional Japanese proverbs. Oh well.

Ghost in the Shell- Review

This past weekend I watched the remake of Ghost in the Shell with my girlfriend. IMDB gave it a rating of 6.8 out of 10. Fair enough, but I would probably give it at least a point higher, maybe even two.

(Full disclosure- I have been an anime fan since forever. I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Gundam Wing, etc.. So, I am partial to stories being told in this format.)

Why did I like it?

Well, visually it was phenomenal. You can really see how far Hollywood has come these days with movies like GITS. It’s setting was portrayed very tastefully. (But caution- I am not sure it would be as cool in your living room. Definitely recommend going to see it.)

Acting wise, it was pretty good. The lead, Scarlet Johansson, did a good job of playing a stoic, if not slightly psychotic Major. None of the supporting roles stole the show, but they certainly didn’t hinder it either.

Story wise it worked. Good sci-fi themes of technology, evolution, A.I., etc. The growth of Major was strong enough to carry the viewers interest, although it wasn’t the coolest part. As I have said, that was it’s setting.

The villain, Kuze, was very evil and I loved it.

If you like action, sci-fi, or anime, definitely check it out. If you are reading this and you saw it, what did you think? Unfortunately there appears to be some hate going around the internet about this movie. I think it deserves a least over a 7 on the IMDB.

The Importance of Stories

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Sihui parking garage.

This past week I have been reading the classic A Hero With A Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell. Although it is quite academic, it is also an incredibly powerful book. (Hey- people are still reading it past the turn of the century- do you need more proof?)

The book is all about heroes and mythology. The journey a hero must go through, and how these patterns are played out time and time again.

The forward to the 2004 edition (I couldn’t find the author- sorry! – I believe it was Phil Cousineau) talks about how children in the Hungarian countryside were traditionally expected to learn 12 stories by the time they were twelve years old.

Here is the quote-

There was a serious piece of advice given by the very old people in our family. It was that every child ought to know twelve complete stories before that child was twelve years old. Those twelve tales were to be a group of heroic stories that covered a spectrum—of both the beautiful and the hellacious—from lifelong loves and loyalties, to descents, threats, and deaths, with rebirth ever affirmed. No matter how much “much” a person might otherwise possess, they were seen as poor—and worse, as imperiled—if they did not know stories they could turn to for advice, throughout and till the very end of life.

What are we without our stories? How can we live a decent live without this knowledge?

Evolution

Time and money.

We always want more. And when we get more, it’s never enough.

“Wow! How did you do that? How did I ever live without…

a food delivery service app,

a ride sharing service,

coupons?”

But what happens when we give people too much time? Too much money? We have to change and adapt.

We have to take more responsibility and evolve.