Sunday, October 12, 2003

O Corea!

The more I think about it, the more I think the Marmot is right: South Korean president Noh Mu Hyon would like to leave his job. The referendum talk is heating up now, as this article shows. Interesting quote:

"If a president is sacrificed in the middle of his term and if that serves to straighten out South Korean politics, I think that is a bigger stride forward for the development of South Korean politics than a case in which the president simply completes his five-year term," Roh said at a news conference.

I'm not all that sympathetic. Noh has shown nothing but weakness as his public face. From any perspective, that's bad news, but from the Korean perspective, which still retains a certain machismo, it's the kiss of death. Whether Noh should resign, however, is a deeper issue than "face." As someone in the blogosphere pointed out, you can't have too short of a feedback loop or all you get is oscillation without progress. If Koreans replace Noh after he's barely begun his term, will this really improve the efficiency of the South Korean political machine? I wonder. How many presidents actually have presidential experience when elected? Almost none, I'd venture-- unless they're being reelected!

On a personal note...

I visited the tail-end of the Hongik University "Free Market" today (Saturday). It goes from about 10 or 11AM to about 6 or 7PM (technically, 6PM). Any schmo can come to the market in the morning, pay a fee of around 10,000 won, spread out a blanket or set up a table, and sell their wares. It's a Saturday market only, however. On Sunday, there's another, similar market at the same spot called a "Huimang Shijang" (Hope Market), which runs about the same hours. I'm going to attempt to sell my calligraphy and Bodhidharma art there.

I'm working on some other calligraphic pieces, all in Chinese. Notamment:

Shin Mu Sang Ya: God is formless.
This is something Zen Master Shin at the Korean temple Hanguk-sa in Germantown, MD said during a dharma talk, and also during a visit to my Presbyterian church in Northern Virginia.

Shin Ae Ya: God is love.
Mainly to please the Christian crowd, but why not? I may not believe in a literal God, but I still think this sentiment is correct.

Bul Un Shi Dae Nam Gyeong Mu So Yong: When your luck runs out, a big dick is useless.
I'm also working on a "vertical" version of the Roman proverb, to be made into a huge-ass scroll. To be honest, I expect this to sell better among Americans than among Koreans, who might be too timid to put it up on their walls, where disapproving parents will demand the proverb's immediate removal. This piece is a single column of 9 Chinese characters. We're talking TALL. A finished scroll might be at least 6 feet high (and I'll have to sell it for a bit more than other calligraphy, obviously). The frameable version of 3 x 3 characters will be close to a square shape and much smaller.

I'm also working on "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form," and "The Tao that can be talked about is not the eternal Tao." I may do some "list"-format calligraphic pieces-- e.g., the Saseongjae (Four Noble Truths), the Six Paramitas (6 perfections), the three Pauline virtues (faith, hope, love), etc.


While walking around Insa-dong on Friday, I finally-- finally-- had the chance to talk with an artist at whose work I'd been staring for months. Mr. Shin is a friendly 72-year-old with a thick white beard and mustache. He's been all over the world and rakes in the dough with his beautiful artwork. Unlike yours truly, Mr. Shin is a seasoned pro, especially when it comes to the sheer speed with which he can produce a piece. He works on what appears to be silk, and his tools vary from brushes to sponges. He can make graceful Chinese (or Japanese, or Korean) calligraphy; he can also draw your name in rainbow colors (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or romaja-- Roman letters). These pieces generally take less than a minute to produce, and they're not small: many are more than 15-20 inches high. Mr. Shin also produces colorful, detailed dragons. He told me this takes him around 20 minutes, which floored me. I looked at one of his dragons in amazement: the same piece, were I to attempt it, would probably take me a couple hours. As things stand, I can produce a single B&W Bodhidharma in under 30 minutes.

Mr. Shin also practices taekwondo. He showed me his callused palms, which he smashes against some hard surface every day. As if this weren't enough, he's also a magician and-- get this-- is available for parties. I'd like to think that, if I make it to 72, I'll be as happy, healthy, and young-thinking. Mr. Shin has a lot in common with my father, who looks pretty darn white but has a Korean heart-- a comment I mean in the best way, pace the cynics.

The upshot of yesterday's quite-impromptu sit-down with Mr. Shin is that he wants a look at my artwork. I'm going to bring him some this coming week and see what he thinks. Meantime, I've got the Huimang Shijang to worry about tomorrow, where we'll see what the market thinks. Will report on that experience Sunday evening, then get back to the NK question on Monday. Think tanks... that's right... I'm working on think tanks next.

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