Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Monday ups and downs

Before I begin-- check out the Party Pooper's great post on rising anti-Chinese sentiment in South Korea. This is an angle I know next to nothing about, so I'm hoping to receive a true education at the hands of the Pooper.

And visit Conrad for an equally great post about pro-independence demonstrators in Taiwan. The Big Ho applauds. The comments thread appended to this post also goes over some military conflict scenarios; interesting reading.

Kicked ass in Insa-dong today, having set up my little illegal shop-- which occupied about one square meter, most of which was covered by my prodigious and awe-inspiring byoo-tocks-- and sold FOUR pieces (in the space of two hours) to a bunch of passersby-- both Dalma-daesa drawings went (I had two medium-sized ones with me), bought by two possibly-drunk gents; a young man came by with someone I assume was his mother, and they bought one of the scary go haeng sang pictures (starving Buddha during his six-year period of austerity) after some indecision about which picture to buy; and finally, a mustachioed gent took some time to talk with me about my art in general (HA! "my art"-- forsooth), and about that fucked-up God drawing in particular, the one showing the shouting/screaming mouth surrounded by fingers. He bought the God art.

This last guy was a riddle. He refused to talk about himself, evading questions about job and artistic experience, but it was obvious he knew a hell of a lot about art in general. He denied he was an artist, and when I pressed him about whether he'd done any kind of artwork, he insisted he'd done nothing. He was very complimentary about my wares, even showing appreciation for the ch'u-sang seo-yae (abstract calligraphy), and we had a good laugh as I explained the weird history behind the God drawing, which I've renamed ch'eot kihap, or "First Kiai," as if God had shouted the universe into existence. Oh, yeah-- he did mention he'd been to the US a few times, even driving to Atlanta from DC once. Before we went our separate ways, he said it was a pleasure talking with me; normally he gets a "slick" feeling from other sellers. I neglected to mention that I don't have the faintest fucking idea how to sell stuff, which explains my honesty/ingenuousness-by-default.

Three other gentlemen came by just to talk (note to the Good Lord: WHY WON'T THE BEAUTIFUL WOMEN DO THIS?); the first was a certain Mr. Ham, who'd studied Oriental medicine (as he called it; you're doubtless aware that the descriptor "Oriental" has been largely rejected in favor of "Asian" in the ongoing fight against Eurocentric terms) in Canada, had visited places all over the world, and currently has an office near Insa-dong. He spoke English pretty well, but we carried on in Korean. The second gent was Christian and never gave me his name. Like many Korean Christians who've stared at my work, he had to know what a Christian like me was doing studying Buddhism and drawing Buddhist art. He listened quietly to my broken-Korean spiel about the need for interreligious dialogue, nodding the whole time. Finally he said that Korea has a definite interreligious problem, not just on the Christian end, but on the Buddhist one as well. I agreed, and not just pro forma; it's the truth. We had a very warm conversation; alas, in the end, he didn't buy anything. The third gent, a Mr. Jang Ho-in, was Buddhist, but laughingly told me he didn't know that much about Buddhism or about famous folks like Seung Sahn dae seonsa-nim and Hyon Gak sunim. Mr. Jang told me I should set up on the weekend in Insa-dong, since there'd be more people. I might try that on Saturday, assuming the cops won't be numerous. A couple other people stopped by briefly, mainly to talk and flip through my works, but not to buy. I guess that's to be expected.

[NB: type "Frank Tedesco" into Google and you'll get a wealth of info about Korean Christian offenses against Buddhists and Buddhism, including temple arson, vandalism, and theft of religious articles.]

I was flying high by the end of my three hours in Insa-dong. To have sold four pieces within the first two hours was nothing short of amazing compared to the slow agony of the Hope Market, where onlookers were plentiful but buyers were almost nonexistent, being more keen to try on hats or fondle jewelry. I did take Jang Woong's advice and reduced prices; I think this was a definite factor in tonight's sales. The mustachioed gent suggested I should make some sangjing haeseol, i.e. cards or sheets of paper offering explanations of the symbols in my work. I think this is a great idea; it's actually something I've been wanting to do, but now I have to learn the Korean term for "card stock" to describe the kind of paper on which I want to print such a card. I may make a bundle of these while at home in Virginia, where I still have tons of card stock (that reminds me... I need to make greeting cards and get those puppies online).

Upon my arrival at this PC-bahng, I opened my email as I always do, and read the terrible news that the School of Religious Studies' Dean Happel had died of a massive heart attack, which is shocking. Father Happel couldn't have been older than his late 50s-- early 60s, tops. He simply wasn't that old, nor was he in poor health, to my knowledge. He was always energetic, very upbeat, and even though I never took a class with him, he somehow always remembered my name after a five-minute conversation in 1999. While I can't say I knew him well, I knew him well enough to be taken aback by this somber news. What makes matters worse is that the SRS is in the process of a very controversial restructuring (to make it more Rome-conformist, some say... and I agree, but we'll save that bitter question for later), and Fr. Happel had been shepherding the process. A new dean has been appointed since his passing, but the whole affair has rocked the school, from what I hear. I'll definitely have to visit CUA while I'm home. What a mess.

And what a day, eh? Yeah, I know, it's not like reading about sexual exploits on Gweilo Diaries, but here's hoping that, someday soon, a gorgeous Korean lady in a greatcoat will walk up to my little market, fix me with a hungry stare, then whip open her coat to reveal nothing on beneath it. Then she will command, "Draw me."

And I will.

And my brain will be shouting all the while, "BLOG THIS. The people have the right to know."

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