guitar playing

20 Apr

Martin_DR-Rosewood-fronti play my guitar often. it’s a habit, years in the making. i play when i’m stressed. i play when i’m bored. i play when it’s just sitting around. i play it a lot. this has gone on, off and on, for about 14 years now.

i have 3 guitars, but one of them i rarely play. it is new. it is a mini. but it sounds like crap, unfortunately. actually, it sounds okay for hand picking, but strumming with a pick, not so good. so in a way, i still feel like i have only 2 guitars.

they both have distinct personalities and distinct sounds. one has a warmer tone that really sings when strumming hard. the other is slightly more metallic, and tends to play better with finger picking.

i genuinely love both. one i bought with the help of my dad (actually, all the help of my dad) back when i was a freshmen in college. after hearing a fellow dorm-mate doodling around on his guitar in the hallways, i decided i also wanted to learn. a few months later, my dad–the generous dad that he is–bought me a wonderful new rosewood martin. it sounds better as the years go by.

one thing i still don’t understand is why the strings get out of tune SOMETIMES while other times, they don’t. opening my case and taking out my guitar is always an experience in surprises. will it sound the same? will i have to tune it? which strings will i have to twist and turn to adjust? they say humidity and temperature affects the sound. still, i wonder what particular conditions for a particular day make my guitar tune in or out in this or that particular way.

music is an interesting thing. more often than not i feel like i’m never truly improving, even if i play a single song everyday for months. rhythm is still the hardest thing to maintain. that was the first and only thing that mattered according to my ex-violin teacher. get rhythm right, first. then pitch, intonation – all that other stuff – comes after. i still believe he was right. but staying ON TIME is still a challenge. wonder if staying ON TIME, on the beat “equaling” “good music” is a social construct or something innate? do baby humans find music OUT OF TUNE or OFF BEAT any less enjoyable than the most polished musical performances? i wonder.

for now, i’m inspired by the smooth, seemingly flawless playing of artists like FINK:

sometimes i fantasize if i had ever pursued music as a “real” profession. couldn’t have been any less difficult than the grad thing. then you get slotted as THIS genre or that. i like folk and acoustic. but i also like everything else i can get my hands (and ears) on. does this make me some sort of greedy, musical imperialist? out to “try” new sounds, new “cultures,” yum yum?

or just another wannabee erudite type who spouts how much esoteric music he knows. this band, that band you’ve never heard of but i’ve known since i was little. those types bug me. but i suppose i’m sort of like that myself. need to keep that in check.

anyway, i still love my guitars.


9 Feb




order a meal

and it tastes good

robert irvine on restaurant impossible tells restaurant owners their dishes should cost them only

one third of what they sell it for

so if it costs them $1 to make a salad

they should charge $3 to the customer

makes you think

if i buy a burrito that costs me 6 bucks

it costs them only 2 dollars to make it

the 4 dollars extra is paying for their labor and overhead

labor and overhead are expensive

i need to cook more at home

save money on my labor and overhead.

shit hits the fan

9 Feb


so it’s that time in the graduate school cycle where they push you to the wall. you have to produce (grant apps in massive volume), read (more books in one sitting than you’ve ever done in your life), and sleep (as randomly and as unsatisfactorily as you can remember).

a lot of this is also just whining over a situation that could have been made less painful with more organization, better prep, and more consistent work in the previous semesters. alas, it is NOW and you can’t revisit the past. besides, “there is no perfect bus,” so just deal with the one that’s arrived. stop the self-loathing, the doubt, and the inner “how did we end up here, i told you sos” and just freaking read/study/write like the maniac that chose to apply (and accept) to this kind of life 4 years ago that you are.

thought i’d return to this blog  after a semester of non-writing. found an interesting blog entry on racialicious–a site i read time to time.

apparently it’s about some korean american dude(?) is in korea exploring his roots and complaining about the korea-blogosphere being dominated by wannabe anthropologists. funny, i thought. i’m actually one of those “anthropologists”–legitimate–now. well, minus the ABD status for now. but however way you slice it, i’m being groomed to enter the ranks of officialness.

so what separates me or all those other once-traveled/taught in korea or some other 2nd world country to find myself/make money/”explore” and exploit my global privilege (or realize how little i actually had for you korean american women out there) FROM the same “anthro hacks” this “dude” talks about their blog? i don’t know for sure. but certainly it has to do something with “training?” being challenged to no end by the books i read, the profs i fear, the colleagues i both respect and sometimes dislike. is the real defining factor between “amateur” social analysts and so-called professional ones (in training) like me all about being put to the fire, being grilled, having to pay our dues? the ones writing for the marmots hole certainly seem indifferent to this point.

i’m mostly talking about the privileged amateur anthropologists out there loving the sound of their online voices as they wax lyrically about some theory about korea-this or that. and then reading the comments that declare their “amateur” insights so INSIGHTFUL! (of course, i can’t see how the “trained” professional anthropologist oftentimes isn’t guilty of the same–particularly if they aren’t up front about their privilege (i.e., they’re white, native english speaking, male, blah blah. indeed, they’re often much worse–although certainly less prevalent than the annoying non-academic online blog-types).

this begs the question: what of the less privileged amateur anthropologist–the everyday person–usually of poorer socio-economic background, probably working some historically demeaning job, probably a “migrant” of some kind… but also like the rich english teaching amateur anthropologist in seoul or tokyo, or rio possessing equally valid opinions about the world around them–one they’re arguably tied closer to, their faces forced to the concrete by the demands of a global economic capitalistic system that continues to shit nonchalantly on their “kind.” they work and clean after us rich “theorists” (professional academic and amateur anthropologists alike) and no doubt possess theories as valid as ours–although sadly still deemed less “sophisticated.”

i don’t want to romanticize this group either though. how many hardworking, “exploited” poor amateur theorists (e.g., migrants) are still the worst racists, sexists, xenophobes out there? many, no doubt. then again, the same could be said of the privileged theorist (professional and amateur alike) with the same self-righteous prejudices. at the end of the day, though, whose theorizations about the world make print? whose get heard and followed? is it too much to ask for a blog about korea written by those most marginalized, migrants, non-korean women, the like? where are the marmot’s holes of the “oppressed”?

then again, there probably are and i’m probably unaware of them. so there, i might be part of the problem as well, yet another self-righteous heterosexual korean american hegemonic dude thinking he’s the only one to point out this shit, to say i have to be the savior to free the blogosphere from the neo-colonial wrath of other “less enlightened” anthropologists ignorantly defining a place and people they don’t “truly know.” healthy (and routinely performed) self-loathing should be a pre-requisite of anbody who claims to be a “social theorist” – silly blog-type or uppity academic type alike.

this rambling piece is probably about the politics of knowledge production, in retrospect. who writes what. who gets it published. whose word is taken more seriously than that of others. i’m just one voice in all of that–even as i sit here in a library after hour 5 or 6 (lost count) trying to ask myself what i’m doing all of this for ultimately.

and the realization–again–that things certain people write about online, particularly about korea, still annoy me. 😉

back after a hiatus

23 Aug

a lot has happened since i wrote. and yet not so much.

what does travel really do to “change” people? or time for that matter? we like to think that the experience of either is so formative, and yet i wonder. case in point, during my summer i met plenty of flight attendants who had traveled the world 3x over. they talked of all the “worldly” things they had seen. how their minds had expanded. and yet, here they were, still spewing the same this and that about “those poor africans,” “prague is so beautiful,” “the food in x, y, z is so great” – and here is another facebook pic of me in this cool outfit i bought in paris. yay paris. couldn’t they have done or thought the same without having ever left? and yet we say travel is so formative.

cue requisite anthropological reflexive guilt. how am i so different? with my pictures of this and that from this place and that. yay, i traveled and you didn’t. i saw where egyptians died in tahrir square. i saw where indians toil in god-awful heat in the deserts of dubai while the rich people drink their martinis in air conditioned ignorant bliss. and yet i criticize those who aren’t so different than me, albeit less racked with political guilt. or is this all too harsh? i wonder.

my dad says it’s all “invevitable.” nothing you can do about it. “that’s just capitalism” – as though it’s just some omnipotent force that you couldn’t stop even if you had your hand on the lever. aiwha ong writes against such universalizing grand narratives. says things are more complicated than that. and they probably are. but things still seem awful simple when you’re on top making +100K, driving two cars, and lamenting about the poor people begging for change on the streets. “here’s a dollar…” god bless. and we move on with our lives.

met two interesting people today. “fairies” who work in disneyland. perfectly nice women. and yet, the conversation sort of stopped short of job hours, creepy guests, and how good jack daniels “honey” flavor is. am i too cynical and thinktastic for my own good? why do i feel the disconnect with such people?

meanwhile, people i’ve “friended” still living in dubai comment on each others posts. guys flirting here and there aimlessly with the girls. “ooh i ate this.” “i ate that.”

my sister has lost faith in the human race, save a double or triple handful of her friends and family. i don’t necessarily blame her given the crap logic you see spewing from the ignorant lot on tv – made all the more glaringly, painfully visible/audible during the election year wars. if academia truly is the last ivory tower bastion for high, critical thought for high, critical thoughts sake… i worry about the fate of the planet when palins, romneys, and their young, suburban, hipster cronies touring silverlake or downtown l.a. come of age – happy in their privileged sense of “pain.” woe is me.


16 Jun

it’s been a busy week. about a week ago i woke up early in the morning, having slept maybe only two hours the moments before. i had to wake up before my flight around 5 a.m. packing that early in the morning, so tired, is not easy.

then it was off to the airport in dubai. check-in. security. on a plane for a few hours. i find myself in istanbul. layover for a few hours. the tiredness creeping again in my bones.

then i end up in paris. i have to take the metro to the hostel. a transfer between the way.

ethics of fieldwork

6 Jun

My “ride” came to pick me up early this afternoon. I thought this entire time I was heading to the church for a service. Better that it be a big congregation so that I could just hide in the background. Instead, it was much more than that. The two people greeted me the same warm smiles and cheer they had shown me a week earlier. The minister, in particular, had the same charming, boyish style that left such an impression on me from before. Despite my stuttering Korean, these two, I recalled still were incredibly friendly and understanding. The Korean Church abroad: friendliness just a phone call a way. But wait, I soon discovered we weren’t going to the church. Instead, we headed straight back to my guest house. “Is the owner a believer?” they both asked me, their tone becoming suddenly, and unexpectedly, serious. “Um… I think she said she didn’t really go but I’m not entirely sure.” “We could go in, but then it might be awkward,” the minister who was driving told his “partner” behind me quietly. The two deliberated some more as I wondered… What situation am I in right now?


New folks have arrived. It appears to be a short stay, maybe only a day or so for each of the three. And yet, I’m happy just to have company. Been alone too long with the old fogie guesthouse owners. The ahjuma (older woman) is a sweetheart with her constant chattiness, smile, and general concern for my well-being. It’s enough, almost, for me to see past the unabashedly racist and “classist” things she tends to say about “dirty Chinese,” “low-class Indians,” and the like. However, as a reluctant “social scientist” I’m learning to take such comments in stride. It should always be less about having an “my god!” reaction than it is sincerely asking (only to oneself more often than not) WHY and HOW they came to feel that way. That is how change occurs, after all, doesn’t it? But I digress.


The man of the house, however, is a figure in gruffness.

it’s june and i’m blue

2 Jun

found something of a routine here finally. it’s been an intense week and a half throughout. i’m realizing i’ve been here only since last wednesday and yet i’ve already done so much. and yet i feel there is still so much i need to do. for refuge: