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Gooooooooooood morning Vietnam! I was recommended to watch
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this movie by my Uncle Derek recently during my visit to Ontario. Besides it being a great movie, it made me reflect on both myself and greater western society.

The movie depicted Williams' character as an atypical soldier who doesn't follow the rules, doesn't view people by their ethnicity and has a great appreciation for reality. Despite the massive conflict going on about him, his main focus is on the simple pleasures in life: laughter, playing, flirting and overall social enjoyment.

However, his happy-go-lucky life as a comedy radio broadcaster during wartime eventually hits a brick wall as he starts to realize that not everyone follows the same ideals as he does. Despite the fact that he shows no ill-will or racism towards the local Vietnamese, he encounters discrimination when he tries to woo a local girl. This is no surprise, particularly when in both this movie and in "Memoirs of a Geisha" the American military is portrayed as brash, crude, violent and uncouth. If I was a foreign national and I saw the American miliary during wartime ( in fact I get to see that first-hand here in Seoul all the time), I would probably not want my daughter/sister spending time with any of those soldiers either.

The sad side to this, which I can unfortunately relate to, is that many people in countries inhabited by the American military widely discriminate against all Caucasian men despite the fact that they may be kind, and more to the fact may not even be American, let alone a soldier. There have been so many situations where I, like Williams' character, fall in love with a girl, but can hardly get past a greeting due to deep-seated stereotypes about Caucasian men. In the very end of the movie, when Williams' character had proved himself trustworthy, kind and noble, it was already too late-- he was being shipped out the next day leaving no hope for him to pursue the girl of his dreams. Ironically, the steps he took to prove his trustworthyness and respect for the local culture was the very reason he found himself on the bad side of the American forces and was made to leave.

This highlights another unique paradigm of 'side-taking.' During my time in Korea, I found that the best way to immerse myself in Korean culture was not only to learn the language, but to think, talk and act like a Korean man. I learned quickly that that did not only include adopting different eating/chronic drinking habits, but also stereotypes and ways of thinking. The moment when people started saying that I was acting like a 'true Korean' was when I successfully followed after my seniors and called Japanese and Chinese by their derogatory slang words in Korean, 'Jjokbali' and 'Jjanggae' respectively.

To the contrary, I recall a very similar situation in which I spent time educating some Americans about Korea, only to have them try to make me follow them in their derogatory orientalism-based descriptions of Asians and foreigners. They would often say things like 'I can't believe everything is so cheap here, but you know these 'g---s' smell so bad, right?' In the exact same way as my Korean seniors did to me, the Americans wanted to make sure I was on 'their side,' not the 'other side.'

In other words, in order to get trust, respect and acceptance... I mean real, true acceptance... and in order to woo the fair lady on the other side of the fence, in many cases there is no other choice than to take sides. That's the gift of Nationalism, the great defender of cultural superiority and great enemy of globalisation. That is the takeaway from "Good Morning Vietnam." In that respect I have to say that it was a very well written movie and quite enjoyable to watch.

A few days ago I turned 29... and not too long ago I renounced my Canadian residency status~ this all made me think deeply about where my allegiances lay. My life has been quite complex with such a strong Chinese influence from my youth, to a strong Japanese influence throughout my teens, to the strong Korean influence in my early adulthood. Every time I go to a different country and meet different people, I am always met with choruses of 'our country is the best, isn't it?' And when I really get into a culture deeply and start speaking in a foreign language with other people, I can feel that part of my brain becoming deeply nationalistic. While I speak in Korean, the sentences that are formed within my brain and come out my mouth are strangely tainted with anti-Japanese and Chinese sentiment, despite the fact that I love both of those countries. I have melded with each culture so much that each language that I speak has its own personality, voice tone and set of expressions. Some days after an entire day of speaking in on language, i'll lay down in bed and my English brain will turn on and all of a sudden I find myself asking... myself... "who am I?"

Looking back, however, I realize that the fact that I let myself be taken into each culture and each language has been the best decision that I have ever made. Sitting down with certain people and being able to listen to their words on their terms and in their culture and language is absolutely priceless. Speaking with a Korean who has lived through the 70's and not only understanding their history but also understanding who they are merely by thinking not only in Korean but also with a cultural Korean mind has been a constant source of englightenment for me as a researcher. In that sense I have no regrets.

So... who am I? I'm a man living in the 'floating world' (Ukiyo, 浮世) depicted by Murasaki Shikibu in Genji Monogatari and found throughout the Edo period of Japan. I live for love, I live for fun, I live for pleasure, I live for entertainment. Every step of my life has been towards fun and happiness... it's not easy living in the floating world because despite the fact that it's not hard to find happiness, it is hard to keep happiness. So the real question for me now is not 'who am I?' but rather 'who do I need to be and where do I need to be to keep my happiness'... I have a strange feeling that the answer lies in the place from where I learned of the floating world...

Murasaki-chan~

I'm coming home...
2013/08/06 12:05 2013/08/06 12:05
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Today I'm going to be taking a look at another sociological paradigm that has been on my mind as of late. However, today with the strange twist I will the be subject as I describe how the evolution of girl groups and the ideal female figure has affected me personally as a young male adult living in South Korea.

As I rode the subway this morning at 6AM being squashed in on all sides by various other Seoulites heading begrudgingly to work, I thought back to one of the happiest times of my life which was when I just graduated high school and was living with my Mom in Vancouver. During that time I was translating Japanese anime and manga, watching anime, playing fun games, hanging out with friends, and working at a Chinese fruit store. It doesn't sound lik
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e much, but to an extent it was heaven for me. During that time, one of my alltime favourite girl groups was called 'Morning Musume,' or 'Morning Daughter,' a popular girl-group in Japan at the time (2003'ish) who are showcased here on the left.

In light of this nostalgic moment I went and searched for one of my favourite music video's called 'Kashigashi Monogatari,' which then led me to one of my other old favourites called 'Do it now.' Upon watching 'Do it now' I had a sudden string of thoughts which really made me rethink the way I have started to view women in Korea.

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The first two images like this one on the left and the one following it show the girls not 'getting prepared' for a show, but rather 'being prepared' like some kind of doll. The part that really caught me was how they both look absolutely devoid of emotion, as if they are totally helpless in their current situation.


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In the last picture shown below, they are given a set of clothes to wear. If you view the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HkgrsV6q6c
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From my point of view, the whole situation strikes me as some kind of assembly line where girls are being prepared for commercial consumption.

This was the train of thought that really led me to think more deeply about my current conceptions of girls. I realized that when I was younger I really focused on each girl's individual personalities and characteristics. However, after living in Korea for four years, I am unconsciously throwing aside these values and focusing more on the superficial outer layer.

The first thing I asked myself was 'Is this because i'm getting old, or because i'm living in Korea?'

At first I wanted to believe the former as I had heard of some research done ages ago that concluded that psychologically men are attracted to a mate who is in the optimal physical condition for reproduction, in addition to the other research that states that both males are females unconsciously choose mates in accordance with their desire to sire aesthetically pleasing offspring.

*Edit, I saw this in some journals but it was also pointed out to me in an earlier article by Erwin*

That being considered, I then considered the latter which would posit that in some way modern South Korean culture is purposefully 'preparing' females for 'commercial' consumption. I realize that commercial sounds crass... however I have a few reasons for saying this:

First, the plastic surgery industry here which is one of, as far as I know, the largest in the world, is thriving like crazy. Why? Girls want to look beautiful to get a guy and show off to their friends. It is an economic benefit to be beautiful~ free drinks, free clothes, free rides, free services, first choice in men and becoming the envy of all one's friends.

The second way that girls can be classified as a 'commercial commodity' is quite literally the sale of their bodies. These days the newspapers are filled with countless scandals and incidences that all can be traced back to female body pandering.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/03/116_132649.html

In this case a politician enlisted wives, businesswomen and female students among others to 'service' high-level politicians and construction conglomerate owners.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/03/511_132473.html

In this case brothel owners were caught using female models' photographs to attract customers to their 'love hotels.'

Finally, today upon coming to my University to do research, I find a group of my colleagues sitting around watching something on one guy's phone with some 'club music' playing in the background. When I got around to see, it was some young girl who apparently 'had received a lot of plastic surgery' doing strip shows on her webcam and distributing the video for free around the net. In broad daylight a bunch of guys were sitting around together just oggling her as she girated naked at home in her bedroom. I realize that this isn't just something that happens in Korea, however I was shocked both by how non-chalent these guys were looking at a strip show in the middle of the day and talking about how perfect her body is. According to one of them 'if you pay money to her account she will do whatever you ask her to do on her next livestream.'

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I'm starting to realize that from pop videos, to the news (which on every station features one old guy and one beautiful young girl like the image on the left), to the korean pop-up adds (about 60% of them are selling either plastic surgery or sex services- I can't fathom why these adds are allowed to exist since i'm sure underaged children view these normal websites too) to every girl who walks up and down the street with fake eyes, fake noses, fake breasts and revealing clothing~ that not only are girls being commercially commodified, but I am becoming an unconscious consumer. I never even realized it until today, but whether I like it or not, the constant unconscious consumption of the commodified female image is changing the very way I view women in general. Originally, I was revolted by the mere thought that a women that I am talking to or spending time with is in some way 'fake,' but nowadays even I feel indescriminate and drawn to the homogeneous faces and bodies of pop stars, and even the 'plastic girl' stripping in her bedroom for the whole world to see. What am I becoming?

I digress...

Not only as a sociologist, but as a man i'm left to ponder these questions:

How does female commercial consumption affect the way I treat/judge girls?
Is there a limit to how much the female image can be commodified?
Is this mass commercial commodification of the female image detrimental to the development of women's status and rights? Or, in the same stride as the backlash to second wave feminisim, can this commodification of the female image be seen as empowering?

Recently I dated a wonderful girl as I mentioned sometime before. In every way she was perfect~ she was kind, had similar goals, hobbies, dreams and passions as me. She was everything that I had ever wanted... But... despite all that I wasn't attracted to her. Could it be that I am only starting to like the generic commodified female image that Korean society has consistantly spoon-fed me for the past four years? I sincerely hope not.
2013/03/25 14:50 2013/03/25 14:50
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Time truly flies more than I could have anticipated. It feels like it was just yesterday that I set out from my homeland to pursue my grand dream of becoming a professor. I've always been quite independent so leaving behind everything I had known wasn't too difficult. Heck, even living here in South Korea for these past 3 years hasn't been too difficult. However, upon getting close to my thirtieth year, I have started to feel what might be considered to be somewhat of a pyschological breakdown.

The source of this 'breakdown' is rather simple. Throughout my life I was raised on books, TV shows and movies that depicted romantic stories. In a great deal of these stories, boy meets girl when he is young, they both struggle through their post-secondary studies together, fighting together, crying together... then after they graduate they both get a job, get married, have children. Originally my plan was to get married with the girl of my dreams by the time I was twenty, have my first child by the time I was 21, second child at 22 etc. However as time went on, I realized that this wasn't going to happen. Every girl that I dated subsequent to the first I could feel myself compromising more and more with the image of marriage and children superceding the amount of happiness I felt with that girl as well as compatability.

The last girl that I dated was to the contrary quite amazing. She was everything that I could have hoped for... but by some twist of irony I wasn't attracted to her at all. I continued to date her despite the fact that I wasn't that into her for the mere fact that I was so focused on marriage and children. However, last week I realized that it wasn't fair to neither her nor me to continue the relationship... in addition to the fact that I need to stop compromising and wait out for the real thing, to wait for that 'the one.'

I'm not going to lie though, it is tough... it's really tough. It's tough that because i'm not through my PhD yet that I can't actually start a family... It's tough that even though having a wife who is my best friend by my side would make my life a million times better that I still haven't been able to meet her. It's tough working all day, helping everyone else live on their lives happily, turning the gears of society, and then coming home to an empty house, to eat alone in front of my computer late at night, only to fall asleep alone and wake up alone to start the next day.

I am grateful every single day for all of the friends who are by my side. I know that I am never truly alone. But... evenso I wish she was here... I know she is out there somewhere and that I need her as much as she needs me. Please hurry...
2013/03/10 01:06 2013/03/10 01:06
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I love how I always have so much stuff to put up on this blog, but I always end up being too busy to get it up there~ then, on occasions such as this at the most ridiculous times in the morning my brain gets hung up over some new concept or theory that came to mind. I'm always thinking about something about some culture, trying to make sense of everything in the broader sense of the world... it's hard... but forever interesting. All I know is that this seems to drive me every day to learn more about the sociology of this world.

Among one of my gambles through the internet searching for knowledge on obscure government policies in East Asian countries, I somehow got off track and started looking up the backgrounds of the members of the popular Korean pop group Girls Generation... most likely after getting hooked on their new song called 'the boys'~ and while searching I came across a new video by a fairly new group called 'LED apple,' which comes off as either some kind of advertisement (as in AMOLED) or a well-thought out pun. In any case the music video, while being in a similar man-loves-smokin' hot cyborg girl that has surfaced in numerous movies, music videos and the like, watching it seemed to draw a new connection for me between human relationships in evolving capitalist society and our increasing dependence on technology and machines. First, the story:

1. Super androgynous boy finds hot inactive cyborg girl abandoned in a box covered by a thin white sheet.
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2. Boy busts out the instruction manual and figure out how to get this hot piece of machinery up and running. It's just priceless how she comes out of the box fully make-up-upped and ready to go.
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3. I know what you're all thinking... why does nothing ever come out of the box with batteries/fully charged? Well... apparently cyborg girls are no different... please plus in adapter and charge for 5 hours before use.
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4. Boy innocently falls for her silent, inanimate, perfectly proportioned body and proceeds to caress her softly. Uhh... how sweet? **fun factoid... his caressing hand continues down her neck and further downwards... well it kind of skips the next part but I think the next 30 seconds or so of what happened would be pretty self-explanitory ~_~
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5. Uh... obviously all android girls come with built in high-heels, comon~
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6. dun-dun-dun~~ enter the naturally jealous human girl who has just realized that she is being replaced by the latest barbie doll- it's like the asian girls taking all the white guys away from the white girls crisis all over again~ But the best part is she catches her boy...
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7. ...dressing up his new cyborg girl in a cute innocent looking white sundress! Take that you see-through-black-net-material-shirt-wearing-human-hussie!
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8. Ah, and now the young cyborg, a true virgin in every possible way, learns of the wonders of the world~ basic movement, music, colors, shapes and...
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9. ...the touch of a man. Well, i'm getting a little ahead of myself here, I should first point out that it is her innocent curiousity (curiousity killed the cat) that leads her finger to track the white lines coming from his pen (I'm not going to elaborate further on this but I think it speaks for itself)- which leads her to look at his face, which leads him to caress the glass display with her face behind it... This played out much like the famous scene from 'Lady and the Tramp' where the two of them eat spagetti and inadvertantly kiss~
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10. I will admit that I am being a little overly sarcastic in my analysis here because, quite honestly, the social stereotypes at work here amuse me to no end. But in all honesty one of the reasons I am doing a write-up on this is that I truly do think this video was well made, and the story and concept are, despite being somewhat unoriginal, quite beautifully done. This following is one of my favourite scenes.
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11. Step two, cut a hole in the glass... okay maybe that was a bit far, but things are definately progressing nicely for our two lovers! Our cyborg girl has already managed to develop emotional awareness and fallen deeply in love with the guy with the magic pen.
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12. dun-nun, dun-nun, enter evil human hussie girls jaws-style from the back. "Alright perfectly proportioned man-stealing cyborg biyatch, you gots tah go"
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13. You know... for assasinating a cyborg, I would have to say poisoning her like this would have been the last thing that crossed my mind. I mean, you could give her a virus, electroshock her, reset her hard drive, remove her circuits... or just toss her out of the ship to float in cold space for all eternity... well at least that's what I thought, until the next scene...
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14. ... she starts crying, bleeding oil and her skin and body parts just start falling off like she just escaped a Hawaiian leper colony and managed to contract a ridiculously horrible case of gangrene at the same time... all right in front of her would-be boyfriend! Okay i'll hand it to hussie human girl, that was pretty sick. In retrospect, after looking at the contents of that bottle, I swear that she must have given her Pocari Sweat. It's fine if you consume it right after opening the bottle, but leave that stuff out for a while and it goes rancid like nothing else... Nothing says brutal and painful death better than a healthy dose of aged Sweat beverate!
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15. So... dream cyborg girl lies in oily pieces scattered on the floor... what to do what to do... why not just make another one? how hard can it be? Young Einstein gets to work right away designing her replacement~ I'm pretty sure this guy will be getting nods of approval all 'round from MIT and all the top tech schools on his awesome design process "Hmm, first i'll design the body, then I will label her head, upper body, and lower body... ALRIGHT ALL DONE! Lets start putting this shizzle together!" Of course designing a robot is that easy? I mean, really, all the electronic junk on the inside is totally overrated! Clearly the extra effort he spent shading her breasts clearly compensated for the total lack of internal schematics, right?
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16. A streetcar named cyborg... this just reminds me of the romantic scene from a streetcar named desire where they engage in 'couple pottery,' of course, minus the girl and plus the creepy caressing he does with the clay as he makes her face while thinking about all of the ways that he touched her.
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17. A slice here, a smooth there~ hmm~ this is such a beautiful representation of plastic surgery in South Korea. It truly is this easy to mold your body into whatever shape you want. It never ceases to surprise me when one of my friends gets something done and I see them next time like 'uhh... did you change your... hair...?'

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18. So here we have Mark 2~ created after he lovingly molded her body from the way that he remembered by touching her~ so romantic! Or is it?

Basically the purpose of this whole article is to demonstrate about one of the flaws in Korean relationship methodology. These days, it is so easy for people to say 'this person is tiring' and start to look for a new boyfriend/girlfriend. Even all of the popular music these days is ripe with 지겨워 지겨워 'i'm so tired of you.' It is such a horrible habit when you think about it~ and it explains a great deal about the extremely low divorce rate here.

The way I think about it, if you truly love someone, there must be some reason behind it. If there is a reason to love someone, one shouldn't be pressed to find reasons not to love that person or feel like one is getting tired of that person. Like this video shows, as easy as it is to quit and start all over, one must go through the whole process of getting to know another person again- and if it is one's habit to get tired of people easily, one will just fall out of love as quickly as one fell in love. If you really love someone, you must embrace all that you love about that person, and make that love the focus of your relationship. Constantly finding the errors in eachother and focusing only on the negative only yields negative. Focusing on the positive and recognizing that if two people fall in love, they obviously care about eachother, the relationship is bound to be a success, no matter what challenges they face, or what footsteps lay behind them.
2011/11/12 02:44 2011/11/12 02:44
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Since my arrival in Korea I've been taking every effort to find and participate in as many traditional dances as I can find. I have to say, though, that finding places to learn and practice traditional dance has been far from easy. These days the prominence of pop culture, in combination with long work days and busy schedules make the practice and preservation of traditional dance a near lost-cause in Korea.

Fortunately for me, there are two places that I have found to learn traditional dance. First is a club that has formed on the Yonsei University Campus composed of about 5 or so members who gather once a week to practice. This group is actually quite impressive as despite the fact that their size does not merit them an area on campus to practice, they gather in the front atrium of the club building every week in the coldest bitterest days of winter, or in the parking-lot next to the student union building in the most sweltering hot days of summer. Not too long ago on a day where the torrential downpour of the rainy season was at its height, we danced outside in the rain, pounding the drums with the rhythm of the falling raindrops. I have since learned the synergy and symbiotic relationship of traditional Korean mask dance and nature. I say symbiotic as a reference to something I heard from an old Korean Mask Dance master that I learned from "The dance is alive, it draws from nature. To dance is to draw from nature, to give to nature, to feel nature in all it's greatness."

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Professor Jin-wook Kim and I.



The second place, where I subsequently met my Korean dance mentor Jin-wook Kim, was in a formally organized Mask Dance class offered at Yonsei University. I am actually both relieved and encouraged knowing that the Korean government is actually making an effort to have classes offered in both elementary/middle/high school and Universities. Without this kind of major support Korean traditional dances would have already died off long ago. Professor Kim is currently teaching anthropology and is one of the most zealous lovers of Korean dance and culture that I have ever met. More than raw knowledge and intellectual knowledge pursuits, Professor Kim always speaks with such passion about learning culture through experiencing and feeling it. The way he talks about feeling the great energy of nature flowing through your body, guiding your movements as you dance in harmony with the sound of the rain, the rustle of leaves, the sway of the trees and the beat of the drum, all moving together hearts as one is mesmerizing. When he talks with his students, more than lecturing students about the way things should be, he has a special a gift of influencing his students to realize the potential and capability within themselves, so that they may forge their own path. This is espiecially evident in his teachings of traditional Korean dance when he embraced the students dancing in their own personal style, giving their own flavour to a dance passed on for thousands of years. This strikes a sharp comparison with the impression that I got from some other teachers that these kinds of dances are to be danced in an particular way, every movement set in stone, allowing no room for error. Professor Kim, on the other hand, emancipated students through traditional dance.
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The blue wind bright moon acreage.


During the summer after courses ended, Professor Kim invited all those that were interested in continuing their pursuit of Korean Traditional Dance to a special property in Chunju ( A city about 2 hours south of Seoul) bought by one of the last groups of Korean traditional dance enthusiasts in Korea. The above stone is the property marker, which also shows the name of the property. In English, the name of this land is "Blue wind bright moon."

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The traditional dance enthusiasts refuge.

To most onlookers this was just a normal property out in the forest. The house was nothing more than a two bedroom, renovated farmhouse with a makeshift washroom and kitchen, ridden with insects and mold. However, to those that still embraced and loved traditional Korean dance, this was a safehaven and a freedom that could not be expressed by words. Surrounding the house was a beautiful field of wild-flowers. Next to the house was a garden full of potatoes, lettuce and herbs that we picked and ate while we stayed there. Running along the side of the house was a creek with fresh running water, snakes, spiders and snails. To my great surprise we picked a bowlfull of snails, boiled them and ate them for supper. Up the hill there was a bee farm that also belonged to the property, where an old man who was allowed to live on the property in exchange for labor, tended to the bees and waved at us as we passed by.

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Freshly caught creek snails to be boiled and eaten. They were trying to escape the bowl with all their might!



Professor Kim led us through all of these places, playfully initiating a waterfight in the creek, leading us through the wilderness showing us the edible plants and herbs which we all cautiously ate only after seeing the professor take a bite first, and teaching us, many of us for the first time, how to harvest fruits and vegetables. He spoke of the plants and animals and their historical significance, and how many of them were linked with the songs and legends that many traditional Korean dances are based on.

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Exploring the creek, picking snails and waterfighting with Professor Kim.


In the midst of rainy season on a warm afternoon, we went outside and got into a circle to learn and practice traditional Korean mask dance. Regrettably I did not get much chance to record as I was eager to participate in the dancing myself. That being said there are not any instructional videos on how to do many traditional Korean dances. Furthermore I believe while doing so would be a great step towards the preservation of the traditional dances, however at the same time it feels almost as if recording them is also a kind of crime against the traditional nature of the dances and their being handed down through the generations. For thousands of years these dances have been passed down from elders to children. Our teachers shown here were both similarly taught from their elders, who were in turn taught by their elders, this knowledge of traditional dances and their feelings have been passed down for generations. I was so fortunate to be among the group of students to receive the great gift of dance, their legends, feelings and meanings from these teachers.

The following day we indulged in playing a variety of traditional Korean instruments. Primarily we had a series of jam sessions with the famous "Samulnori." The following is a link from wikipedia which I found explains samulnori quite nicely.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samul_nori

Samul nori is a genre of traditional percussion music originating in Korea. The word samul means "four objects" and nori means "play"; samul nori is performed with four traditional Korean musical instruments:


I currently don't have any pictures or videos of this as I was avidly participating, however I am trying to find if some of the other students might have something.

Samulnori, as I learned, was incredibally relevant for the particular rainy season weather that we faced on that day. Each instrument was traditionally crafted to imitate the sounds of the weather. When all played together these instruments symbolize nature in all its harmony, power, and balance. The Kkwaenggwari represents thunder, The Jing represents wind, The buk represents the clouds and the Janggu represents the rain. We were told that as we played we are to feel one with the element symbolized by each instrument, playing the instrument as if we were creating the very rains, winds, clouds and thunder that, at that time, was truly all around us. While on one hand playing the instruments was incredibally empowering, it also gave one the feeling of how small we are as humans in the face of nature.

Through the stories and music, I came to learn how intricately Korean traditional culture is tied with nature. Koreans not only live in harmony with nature, but also revere it. Despite the surge in Western religion and culture in Korea, Korea's spiritual world was traditionally dominated by Shamanism. It is thanks to this shamanism that Koreans have such a deep relationship with nature, and furthermore that many of the dances and music came into existence. However i'll save this story for another time.


One of the last instruments we played was actually a traditional instrument picked up by Professor Kim in Tibet. He rougly described it as a singing bowl. The sound that it emits by a skilled musician is strangely soothing, yet at the same time eery and mysterious. The sound it makes is heavy, it radiates outwards like an energy. It is truly unlike anything I have ever heard before in my life. This instrument bears a close resemblence to Korean traditional culture. The sound it makes is pure and ripply like a pond that just had a stone thrown in it, soft and yet powerful, gentle and yet unyielding. It is truly a magnificent example of balance.

There is much more to be learned and many more places to go. Until then! Annyeong!

2011/07/08 11:12 2011/07/08 11:12
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Earlier while responding to bombardments of tags, messages and whatnot on facebook, I came across an extremely amusing video about the extreme excess of Asian students at Canadian Universities. The creator of the video, a friend of one of my good buds, Phil, proceeds to check out a frathouse on the UBC campus looking for some "white people" in a desperate attempt to escape the dominant asian population which, according to Macleans, is infecting the Canadian education system like a virus making the lives of poor underachieving, snivling white students a living hell.

It seems like only yesterday when 10 years ago in highschool (my god 10 years has already passed ~_~) I lived in the predominantly white-populated town of Tsawassen, about 30 minutes south of Vancouver. My best friend, one of the few Asians in the school at the time, was a great guy, and fit most of the asian stereotypes that were floating around: Namely he did martial arts, was extremely diligent at school and can't... I mean couldn't (just kidding ;-) ) drive... (sort of XD). My closest friends since childhood had been asian, so while I was used to the culture, I could always sense a racial barrier that stood between my asian friends and I, and the rest of the white people around us. While in general I ignored the ignorance and racism that my asian friends endured directly and indirectly, it still bothered me a lot-- and over the years it has lead to me having a deeply rooted prejudice against my own people, and mentally abandoning my roots. As most of my friends know, I identify with mostly asian culture- the way I think, the way I act, is mostly due to the asian influences around me. It's quite amusing to me because I feel so awkward riding a skytrain full of white people, but I feel at home surrounded by 100 Koreans tightly squeezed into a subway car.

In any case, when I went and found out that the Macleans article denoting that there are too many Asian students in Canadian Universities was true, I couldn't help but shake my head at the thought that there are still people in Canada who still see only colors. When I was running for an executive position for the UBC Dance club, one person asked me "Does it bother you that you are the only white person here?"-- at that moment I realized that I didn't even notice... I just honestly responded "You know... honestly I don't see any differences here. In this room I don't see any Asians, Africans, Europeans... I only see people. I see Zach, Monica (etc)... We are all friends here, gathered together, living together, having fun together... who cares where our ancestors are from or what color our skin is?"

A few particularly fun parts of the aforementioned article:

When Alexandra and her friend Rachel, both graduates of Toronto’s Havergal College, an all-girls private school, were deciding which university to go to, they didn’t even bother considering the University of Toronto. “The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian,” explains Alexandra, a second-year student who looks like a girl from an Aritzia billboard. “All the white kids,” she says, “go to Queen’s, Western and McGill.”

The reason that (some) white kids go to "predominantly white Universities" is:

Many white students simply believe that competing with Asians—both Asian Canadians and international students—requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make. They complain that they can’t compete for spots in the best schools and can’t party as much as they’d like (too bad for them, most will say).

Excuse me? Okay first off, I would say Asian students party just as much, if not more than the white kids. So many of the clubbing events in Vancouver these days are either organized by, or mostly attended by Asians. Furthermore, saying Asians do not know how to party is an awful big statement for a group of people whos idea of partying is stuffing them
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selves with hotwings, drinking beer till they puke and singing at crappy cowboy themed karaoke rooms (which, for the record, Asian people can do too! (for the double record Asian Karaoke places are also way nicer ~_~)) Second, am I reading this wrong or are white kids complaining because they aren't getting by by just sitting on their asses and expecting handouts? For many white kids, our parents worked their asses off working, paying for their own education, breaking their backs to give many of us white kids a much more comfortable life than they had. What do white kids do with it? Some of them work hard and do something meaningful with their lives, the rest just sit back and coast-- and quite honestly, it is extremely easy to coast through the Canadian Education system without lifting as much as a finger. Now lets take Asian families on the other had. Similar to my parents generation, the Asian parents worked their asses off to give their children a good life, many of them in a new land like Canada-- with their traditional family education a large amount of these Asian students work diligently ( it would seem far more so than their white counterparts) and reap huge successes academically. GUESS WHAT ALEXANDRA AND RACHEL, if you want to do anything with your life, you have to sacrifice time and freedom! People aren't just going to hand-feet you for the rest of your slacker lives!

Which brings us to the next amusing point in this article:

Asian kids, meanwhile, say they are resented for taking the spots of white kids. “At graduation a Canadian—i.e. ‘white’—mother told me that I’m the reason her son didn’t get a space in university and that all the immigrants in the country are taking up university spots,” says Frankie Mao, a 22-year-old arts student at the University of British Columbia. “I knew it was wrong, being generalized in this category,” says Mao, “but f–k, I worked hard for it.”

Okay, honestly now, are we living in the 1920's complaining about foreigners stealing white-peoples' jobs? Normally I would treat this with a grain of salt, since this, along with a lot of the information in this Macleans article doesn't have much backing or proof, but I have actually seen this first-hand. First off, this white mother needs to realize that the reason that her son didn't get in is not because of Asian students, but because her son is a lazy dolt who clearly didn't put enough effort in to get into University! Second, the fact that she bases her claim on stereotypes is just plain racist, get the hell out of my country you cow. It is people like this that make me subconsciously repress my racial identity!

It is not only Asians, but all of the foreign immigrants that have made Canada such a great place to live. It is, up until this day, one of the only places you can go and meet people from different backgrounds and cultures, and experience different cultures in an open, non-threatening environment. Vancouver to me will always be the place I can go to experience all the worlds festivals, foods, clothing and culture and still be back at Pauls place in time for rock-band and board games!

As a closing note: I think that if Asian people are indeed raising the bar and making things more competitive, good on them. It's this kind of thing that will make all other Canadians strive to work that much harder, and make Canada that much more of a powerful country. That being said, I hope that in the future more people can adopt the racial and cultural equilibriam that Canada has so that we can all live happily without racism or bigotry.


The video that I referred to is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDMUNypqnSY&feature=player_embedded

and the Macleans article can be found here:
http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/11/10/too-asian/

Enjoy!

Edit:

One last awesome comment made by an anonymous student about this article:
This article is garbage. White Canadian students do not think like this. Besides the obvious racist undertone of the entire article, the most annoying thing to me is the way it represents "white Canadians" First of all, on a side note, referring to a demographic of people as White (who could be from Eastern Europe or South Africa, etc.) is no more right than referring to one as Asian (who could be from China, Kazakhstan, or Kuwait. However, I'm assuming that the article generalizes Asian to mean people from the Eastern part of the continent. Anyway, the racist and lazy attitudes presented in the article are representative of only one demographic of people in Canada: the upper middle class to rich kids. It's not a secret that the wealthier kids prefer to go to Queen's, McGill, and Western because of their predominantly white populations, and good reputations without a huge workload. There is a reason why certain other highly reputable schools were not mentioned in the article even though their "Asian populations" aren't particularly high. The reason is that they're not safehouses for lazy rich kids who are going to ride their parents wealth through life.
2010/12/01 01:41 2010/12/01 01:41
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I rest my case...

South Korea/Culture 2010/11/21 03:45 adam
A while back I talked about plastic surgury and how important it is that people focus on inner charm and beauty~ particularly as plastic surgury is becoming so ridiculously standard these days.

The following article confirms a horror that i've had since I talked with one of my friends' younger cousins about 4 years back. When visited my friends cousins house with her, I was introduced to the whole family. My friend's uncle is a Harvard graduate, so he is kind of a big man on campus everywhere he goes. That being said, his family will settle for nothing but the best... including the best plastics and implants for upgrading his daughter like a barbie doll!

This daughter started telling us how well she was doing in school and how much she liked studying~ She was actually quite a pleasure to talk with! Then she followed up saying "...and Daddy says if I get straght A's on my next report card he will pay for me to get my breasts done! yay!"... Of course I'm sitting there like ". . . where on earth did that come from?"~ then she goes on to explain how she's been doing so well in school that Daddy already got her double-eyelids done, nose etc...
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Okay seriously, she's 12... she hadn't even fully developed yet and shes already getting major plastic surgury done... and she did actually get it done too ~_~

It's not my place to criticize, so I will refrain from doing so, but in all honesty this kind of scares me! In any event here's the article:

(Reuters) - With gruelling university entrance exams finally behind them, exhausted South Korean students are now choosing their reward -- plastic surgery.

A number of plastic surgery hospitals have taken advantage of a recent trend by some parents to reward their children for years of hard study with plastic surgery, offering substantial discounts for eye and nose operations.

Popular surgeries include "Westernising" the nose to give it an upward tilt and double-eyelid surgery to make eyes look bigger, which is especially popular with young women.

"We already had a long reservation list with names of students even before they took the test," the manager of one hospital told the JoongAng Daily.

At that hospital, the two surgeries -- one for the eyes and one for the nose -- would normally go for 3.7 million won if done separately. The special package, though, offers a discount of 900,000 won for those having both.

Another hospital took a different tack, aiming at the students' long-suffering mothers, who offer food and support through the hard years of study and worry along with their offspring until the dreaded tests are past.

"If a student has two plastic surgeries for eyes and nose at the same time, we will provide a free Botox shot for the mother's wrinkles," it said in an advertisement on its website, the JoongAng Daily said.

Competition is fierce for places in education-obsessed South Korea's universities, and government data earlier this year showed that parents in South Korea spend nearly $20 billion a year, or about two percent of the country's GDP, on private education and cram schools to help students prepare.

2010/11/21 03:45 2010/11/21 03:45
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Back in the 90's there was a movie starring Jim Carrey called the Truman Sho
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w. Basically, Jim Carrey played the part of Truman, an 'actor' whose whole life is the basis for a reality TV show, who is unaware both that he is both an actor and being filmed 24/7. He is essentially trapped in a biodome-like stage, and told that his Father died in a boating accident and that travel is dangerous, so that he never dares to venture outside the bounds of his stage.

It is actually fascinating if you think about it. The Truman show, filmed more than 10 years ago, gave us a foreshadowing glimpse of the future which is now coming to be. Viewers all over North America tune in every day to shows like Big Brother and Survivor etc, peering into the lives of others, just like the viewers of the Truman Show.

However, lets be honest, North American reality TV shows aren't quite at the point yet where they follow every step of peoples lives for years like the Truman Show. However, the same can not be said for South Korea. Unlike Western reality shows like the Osbournes who are recorded for a predetermined amount of hours at a scheduled time every day, or survivor where a group of people are filmed 24/7 for a few weeks/months, there are a series of TV shows in South Korea that have been following the lives of many celebrities for years, and are still ongoing.

As mentioned previously, in South Korea there is a core group of celebrities, and a passing 15-minutes of fame group. A lot o
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f the stars in the core group have been nearly constantly on the air since variety shows and reality show hit popularity in Korea sometime within the last 10 years. Once these core stars start signing contracts, their life ceases to be their own. A few great examples of this would be some of the members of the "Infinity Challenge" group, girls generation, 2ne1, and far more than I can list from the top accolades of Koreas most loved celebrities.

For a great deal of these stars, their daily life (including weekends) is wake up (sometimes filmed), go to reality show #1 until the early afternoon, go to reality show #2 until evening, then go to be part of the celebrity audience in one of Koreas multitude of evening talk shows until later at night. In some cases, such as the members of the infinity challenge as shown above, they often stay out or go to a camp/outdoors reality show for the night. Did I mention that their commutes between these venues is also recorded? I'd say that one of the most interesting/disturbing things about having access to Korean cable is I can pick out a particular star, and literally follow him/her throughout their daily life throughout the day, sometimes from the moment they wake up until the moment they wash up (also recorded ~_~) and go to sleep.

From the stars point of view I tried to imagine how one would go about their life knowing that thousands of people are watching their every move. From some interv
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iews and conversations, for example, from the show Star King, some celebrities like Son Dambi said that it was exhilirating to be watched when she temporarily had their life recorded while being featured on a few shows including "We just got Married," a show where 2 celebrities are made to live together and treat eachother like newlyweds for a couple of months. Other stars, on the other hand, like Girls Generation's Yuri found it overwhelming and stressful and ended up dropping out of some of the programs she was contracted in.

Now for the viewers point of view. This is pretty much the reason I am writing this~ it actually disturbed me quite a bit. As many people know, Korea is an extremely hard-working and diligent country, sometimes too hard working. There are constantly people overworking to the point of
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nervous breakdowns, divorces, suicides, gaming addictions ( as a form of escapism to distract them from their lives) out here. It is to the point where, as far as I have heard from friends (which, by no means is a majority so please take this with a grain of salt), friends families and colleagues, people end up developing a strong urge to give up on their own life and live a new fantasy life. This can take the form of online games (playing a fictional character), and more often than not, living vicariously through the aforementioned reality TV show stars' lives. The stars have talent, fame, -supposed- freedom, and fun lives (the celebrities on reality shows are often made to do extreme sports, contests, games, travel etc)--- everything that this working class so desperately craves.

As i'm sure you can see where this is going, many people will choose one or a few celebrities, and follow them throughout the day while tending to their other regular work. For those of you who don't know, Korea has something called DMB, or Digital Media Broadcasting, which allows everyone to view Korean cable on their cell-phones, MP3 players, portable media devices, laptops etc. Living in Korea is kind of amazing because it kind of shows you what the people on the other side of the glass in the Truman Show were like. In fact, it's almost like
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watching a scene out of the matrix. Picture early morning, getting on the subway, the train is packed with hundreds (literally) of people, everyone silent, focused on their DMB device, watching their favourite celebrity get up, wash their face, make breakfast and go fishing/or do whatever competition it is that they have to complete to get their food. Then they go to work. Lunch-time break (assuming they get one, more often then not people work through mealtimes), they are back on their DMB device, watching their guy/girl travel somewhere, take on another challenge. On the way home, the same thing. Then, they get home, turn on the TV, and a variety/talk show/concert with that very same celebrity wraps up the night. If your celebrity is really popular, you might even catch an after show! Then watch them wash up and go to sleep in a preprepared dorm packed with other celebrities from their groups/reality shows etc.

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In the matrix there was that one scene with millions of human bodies lifeless, plugged into the matrix. It almost seems that way out here sometimes, with the millions of people riding that train, their mind is far, far away. I wonder how long it will be until the rest of the world is plugged in?

One of the things I forgot to mention previously is one of the main reasons i'm writing this article. Upon going out with some Korean friends, I would ask them about what foods they like, hobbies they pass their time with etc. A lot of them surprisingly would be unclear or say they don't really know "But, I really like *insert celebrity name here*, and he/she likes *blahblah* and she often goes to *blah blah*". It was shocking to know that some of these people knew the celebrities they admired more than they knew themselves!

Low an behold, I too have my digital devices and follow this trend. I claim that it is for my Korean language developement, which it definately helps, but I won't deny that I too am living in the matrix. It's too beautiful of a fantasy to resist...
2010/11/21 01:26 2010/11/21 01:26
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As somewhat of a follow-up to the previous article about Aegyo vs Sexy behavi
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or, I was trying to identify one of the girls from T-ara~ the one who I thought was the cutest. So here I go to various Korean websites finding out all of the girls' names and looking at pictures on the Korean search engine Naver, and low and behold I swear I could not find this girl for the life of me. The worst part of it was, I think that I found her, but when I looked up pictures of her, she looked different every time, and it as only partly due to plastic surgury!

The girl in question's name is Boram Jeon. In the music video she looks absolutely adorable~ something like this on the right:

The most adorable part was, of course, the constant show of aegyo that she displays throughout the music video. It is quite evident that the producers found that she was particularly charming, as she is shown more than any other girl in the entire video. Not only that, she gets her own camera time, unlike he other girls who have to share the spotlight!
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Now finding out who she was... that is where this gets interesting. Upon searching for her, the first picture that I found of Boram (not yet knowing that this was indeed her) and came across the above pictures...

The left picture was taken apparently within a couple of years that the pictures on the far right were taken. At this point, as you can imagine, I was starting to wonder whether this was really the right girl or not... then I came across another picture taken slightly after, the one in the middle.

I'm still not sure if I can see the transition here~ but I think it would be safe to gather that she got something done to her nose at some point- it would appear though that the pictures on the right are moreso the effect of make-up and possibly photoshop and a bright camera lense.

Okay but seriously, to me this is watching a mission impossible movie where at any moment this girl is going to rip off her face and revealing that she was Tom Cruise all along... XD I think finding out who this girl was has been one of the hardest visual things i've tried doing since I tried at those crazy 3D pictures that you have to let your eyes blur out to see (which i've still never managed to do!)

I must say I feel almost betrayed by this~ I am now at mixed emotions as to how I can react to her... And as many of you might be thinking "she's a singer/actor, why bother with emotions?" Honestly, this is my reality out here in Korea. Seoul is one of the only cities that I know of that has an entire town about the size of Vancouver dedicated to plastic surgury clinics. Exiting the subway station at any exit in Apgujeong, this is what you see:
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A great deal of girls aren't happy with the way their body looks and find themselves here on this street. It is almost humorous walking down the street and seeing all the ads in the windows "Bring a friend to get their nose done, and get one nose-job half price" or my personal favourite "Buy one boob-job and get one free"... I always contemplated whether it was a 'get your left one done and the right one is free' or if it applied to 2 different sets of breasts ~_~

That being said, i'm constantly with girls who have either had plastic surgury done, or have a high chance of doing it in the future (not by choice, mind you), and am strange
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ly often asked by female friends if they should change a part of their body, what should it be. On one hand, scolding plastic surgury means that I am against women having the freedom to do what they want with their bodies~ but on the other hand condoning it means that I am recognizing girls for what they look like and not who they are on the inside. Therefore I have chosen to stay neutral on this topic, and avoid it like the plague.

On that note, It looks like I will continue being enchanted by Boram and her nice voice and cute aegyo. A while back, knowing that a girl had plastic surgury or wore heavy makeup was a huge turn-off for me, and was grounds for immediate ceasing of relations for me. However, I am slowly starting to realize that make-up, plastic surgury, all of these things change people's appearance, but that just means that we have to look that much harder to see the people on the inside- because i'm pretty sure that underneath all that plastic and their insecurities, there are still beautiful people who want to be loved for who they are!

I was quite shocked about how much make-up can change the way a person looks, below is a crazy video of Boram getting her face done! The end product is unbelievably different than how she started!



2010/11/18 02:50 2010/11/18 02:50
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The following was written by Erwin, one of my Rockband enthusiast, board-game expert, godly ballroom dancer, unparalleled diety of ballroom shoe maintenance, and all around great friend! Since the comments section on this page is in Korean (at least on my browser) I thought it would go to waste if noone saw his response so i'm posting it on the main page!

Erwin 2010/11/17 12:45  댓글주소  수정/삭제  댓글쓰기

Here I go again: my evolutionary theory on attractiveness (not mine, but I took parts from what I heard all over biology/nursing)
(Right now Erwin is doing nursing~ I think that's totally awesome and I really hope he's there for me when I have a heart-attack/hernia trying to keep up my current dating half my age plus 7 lifestyle XD)

Female attractiveness to males boils down to two factors:
1) Appealing to their physical fitness, and ultimately their ability to successfully raise young.
2) Appealing to their youth and dependence on others, ultimately playing on natural instinct to protect our young.
3) One other one that comes to mind for me is everyone's psychological desire to return to childhood.

examples:
1)
- Obviously having a healthy body, but not TOO slim, with appropriate waist/hip ratio and mature developed breasts and hips. Men evolved to seek out potential mothers for their children that can stably carry a baby, then provide ample milk to the young they produce. Are you a breast or ass man? Apparently we are primally both.
(But you can only ever choose one, according to the experts in my grade-12 highschool basketball team ~_~)
- Use of blush to simulate flushing face when physically attracted to someone. Women also subconsiously dress more provocatively when their cycle is more primed for conception (kind of a substitute for plumage). Longer hair holds more natural pheremones from their sweat oils.
- Dancing in unison invokes more physical fitness, as well as the ability to coordinate to music. We all (men and women) are attracted to because we are instinctively look to patterns and rhythm in colour, sound, movement, and shape. It helps us deal with the world and makes us superior hunters and protectors of the young. Because the third from the left is SUPER hot, but they are all moving and look the same/similar, we instinctively perceive them all as just as hot (*or at least hotter than each dancing alone). Ever notice how MJ zombie Thriller dance isn't nearly as cool if only one person does it, even if he's really awesome at it?
(Totally true, I believe that Barney Stinson in "How I Met Your Mother" coined it the "Cheerleader effect." The cheerleader effect makes girls in a group seem far more attractive than those going solo. I can personally vouch for this with my recent comeback to clubbing XD- you see a girl in a group and think that she is hot, but once you get her alone you realized that you just got with what appears to be one of the zombies from the Thriller MV ~_~)

2)
- not to sound like we are pedophiles, but everyone (yup men and women) are triggered to be more attracted to and sensitive to characteristics of young (especially very young children and babies) Anyway, this is the basis of aegyo/moe/cute attraction...
... anime/cartoon eyes, mouth and general proportion of body parts (which is why eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick work... exaggerates proportion to look more juvenile)
... energetic and youthful spirit and actions. Although armpit, leg, and facial hair are pheremone resevoirs, they also are signs of aging, so women remove them to look younger. For some women hairy men is attractive (RIGHT ADAM? ahahaha)
( I'm going to write an article about this later, but hairy men are definately not winning out here in Asia~ However there are some that really go for it... who just happen to not be the ones that I'm going for X.X)
... higher voice register than conversational speech (human ears are tuned to be more sensitive to baby cries, which is why they sound louder and more annoying/startling than most other noises at the same dB level)

3. I think i'm presenting this point mainly because some people (namely Gu XD) think that the desire for young-acting/looking mates is purely pedophilical behavior. If we think deeply about it, the child represents a world from which we have been forever exiled. Once we become adults we get so used to following rules, repeating the daily doldrums that define our life, that our childhood turns into a kind of golden age. In the presence of a child we can remember our own golden past, and the qualities we have lost and wish we had back. From a seduction point of view, this can be used as a weapon to allure the opposite sex. On the surface, Aegyo and young cute charm is, and much like the charm of all children, very innocent and effortless, it makes the purveyor become at ease. In the hands of a young girl like the ones in the music video who can approach the male audience as completely unthreatening, human and natural, they can become dangerously seductive by mixing this innocent cuteness with their adult female charms. Therefore a man, or even a women for that matter (taking into account the unreal mobs of women who chase after young aegyo-using boygroup boys), who become the victims of the seduction are not merely falling for "young ho's," but are unconsciously pursuing that lost golden childhood that they can never get back.

====
Now WHY a particular culture AND individual chooses attractiveness 1) or 2) depends if the focus is more on:
1) finding a mate (power/individuality) vs.
2) protecting their young (social/familial)
*hint: all societies do both, but the balance varies

I can go on and on, these are just examples. I didn't even get into what women look for in men, or how to explain "deviant" sexualities (nor am I an expert in either) Give me a few beers and a few hours. Most everything humans do (including the confusing stuff) can be explained with a need for sex and making your babies.
(I will definately have to buy you those few beers and get the latter half of this XD)

Thanks Erwin! ^_^

2010/11/18 01:53 2010/11/18 01:53
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