Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Author: askpang (page 1 of 523)

Cat cafe and Namsan Park

After the Gongpyeong Historic Site Museum, I walked to Myeongdong. I needed lunch, and wanted to keep up my track record of only eating things cooked on a grill or wok by guys in parkas, and eaten standing. I was headed to Namsan Park, and it’s a short but uphill walk to the entrance to the park.

So to fortify myself, I had some bulgogi from one of the street vendors. I believe it was made using both a grill and a wok, so my criteria were satisfied.

B

I also stopped for coffee at the Myeongdong Cat Cafe.

C

Fortunately there’s a funicular that takes you up to the cable cars. From there, it’s a few minutes to the top of Namsan Mountain.

H

It was a very clear day, so while it was cold, the view was spectacular. I didn’t go up the N Seoul Tower; I’ll save that for a time when I’m here with my wife.

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You really get a sense of how vast the city is from up there. More than 10 million people live in Seoul, about a quarter of nation’s population.

V

I spent a while there, then took the cable car back down after sunset (the temperature was dropping quickly).

X

After one more bite of street food, it was back to the hotel, as I have a busy Monday promoting Rest, and Tuesday I’m doing my own interviews for the four-day week book. So if any more tourism happens it’ll be pretty much accidental.

The amazing Gongpyeong Historic Sites Museum

Under

About a mile from the Gyeongbokgung Palace, in the basement of a skyscraper, is one of the most remarkable museums I’ve ever visited: the Gongpyeong Historic Sites Museum. Gyeongbokgung and the National Museum get the attention, but if you want to see something really amazing, come here.

U

A few years ago, when work was starting on a new skyscraper, construction crews unearthed building foundations and materials from a 17th-century neighborhood. Archaeologists were able to use this to reconstruct a picture of daily life in this area, and incredibly, the building developers built a museum over the dig.

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They built a glass floor over some of the dig, installed catwalks over some other sections, and cleared a path through the site elsewhere; so you have the experience of first walking over the site, then descending into it.

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This being Korea, there are also giant screens everywhere, and a VR reconstruction of a building that you can explore (it’s not bad at all).

I’ve seen this kind of museum once before, over a Viking site in Turku, Finland, and each time I’m impressed by the idea of locating a museum right over a dig.

It’s rarely the case that the layout and architecture of a museum is just as interesting as the materials within it (and often museum designers strive to keep the space in the background of the visitor’s attention), but in this case, there’s no way not to admire the design. But for me at least, that didn’t detract from the historical material.

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And the museum is HUGE. When you first go into it you don’t get a sense of just how big it’s going to be, but it’s just massive.

Finally, it was surprisingly quiet there, and there were no huge crowds. Which was a nice change from, well, everywhere else in Seoul!

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Sunday morning I hopped on the metro and headed over to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the biggest of the several Joeson era palaces in Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

It’s a super-popular location for foreign visitors, and for local Koreans, and for good reason: it’s a terrifically well-maintained site despite having been burned to the ground a rebuilt a couple times (the plaques always note when the Japanese were involved in the destruction).

Palace

If memory serves, the architectural style is Classical Chinese, and comes from a period when the Korean elites were essentially trying to reconstruct a purer version of Chinese architecture and art than what they found at the time in China.

Taking pictures

However, it’s also where my dad says he went ice skating as a kid, so there’s that too.

From there, I walked down Gwanghwamun, stopping in a surprisingly cool underground museum devoted to the lives of King Sejong (who was like a cross between James I and Tony Stark, and is credited with the development of Hangul, a ton of scientific instruments, and a raft of modernization initiatives) and Admiral Yi (of the turtle ships).

A New Years Day Story

And lo, there was much backing up and file transferring in the land, and they awaited the new USB 3.1 gen 2 enclosure for the hard drive that will be popped out of the 10 year-old Macbook Pro that no longer can be updated and is too old to sync with iThings.

And besides, the trackpad has died, and replacing that would require disassembling the entire machine, and that is not worth the effort, even though I did RAM updgrades and swapped out the DVD player for a second hard drive myself.

Sous chef

Using the leftovers from yesterday’s New Year’s Day brunch, with a supervisor ready to deal with any dropped ham or cheese.

This dog can sleep anywhere

I was moving stuff into the couch so I could vacuum, and before I moved it off, Davis had decided to settle down for a nap.

Christmas was exhausting, it seems!

Whenever I make pancakes…

I have an audience.

This has been the scene for years!

The Women Who Made Male Astronomers’ Ambitions Possible

A nice, unexpected piece by Erin Blakemore in JSTOR Daily about “The Women Who Made Male Astronomers’ Ambitions Possible,” which talks about my research on Elizabeth Campbell and women’s work in astronomical expeditions:

They lived on mountains and watched the stars. They hiked through the jungle to observe eclipses. They were the women who helped late nineteenth-century astronomers on their expeditions. Historian Alex Soojung Kim-Pang writes about them in Osiris, raising important questions about how women’s labor has made it possible for men to do scientific research.

My scholarly history off science work feels both like it’s a long time ago, and still very close; it’s nice to see it still get read now and then.

American R&B songwriters are crafting K-pop hits

BTS in Shoreditch. (Usually there were KoreN tourists taking selfies in front of this!)

I discovered K-pop a couple years ago, and it’s slowly worked its way into my workout playlist, the music I listen to when I walk the dogs, etc. I don’t speak Korean (much to my grandmother’s disgust), but I’ve always appreciated the work that goes into the music.

Turns out, some of that work comes from American R&B writers who’be been pushed out of the US market: a decade ago,

paring down rapidly to keep pace with hip-hop, deemphasizing melodic complexity and embracing the austere loops and rhythmic cadences that often imbue rap with pummeling power. As a result, [writer Claude] Kelly remembers, “Suddenly, I didn’t have to write a bridge anymore.”

“People would say, leave that 16 bars, and we’ll get a rapper on it so we can make sure it gets on the radio,” continues Kelly. “Things that had a bridge, that were a little slower, that took more time to build and had more than two keyboard sounds, people got afraid of.”

Rap’s minimalist palette still rules much of American pop. But some writers with bridges to spare have found an unexpected – though not unwelcome – refuge in South Korea, where K-pop artists still treasure the songcraft that persisted in R&B’s mainstream until the early 2000s: Meaty chord changes, harmonic richness and a bridge that demands a singer demonstrate range and ad-libbing ability.

Another example of foreign companies taking our jobs, or appropriating African-American culture?

“Everyone is stealing from R&B; not everyone is giving credit to it,” says Kelly, who also wrote for Girls Generation. “I’m actually happy that the K-pop scene is so unapologetic about giving props to Nineties R&B for its influence – much more than our American pop does, much more than American hip-hop does, much more than American country music does.”

K-pop’s willingness to acknowledge its debts to R&B leads to an odd phenomenon for the genre’s ace writers – a feeling more familiar to American jazz musicians, who have long been valorized overseas and overlooked in their homeland. “It’s almost like you get more honor outside of your own country for what you do sometimes,” Kelly admits.

It’s also the case that, as is so often the case, the Korean product is more complicated than the thing that inspired it:

“Korean pop music likes differentiation and changes,” Bell continues. “The average American song is four melodies, maybe five. The average K-pop song is eight to 10. They are also very heavy in the harmonies.” “The one-loop beat doesn’t work over there,” adds [writer and producer Kevin] Randolph…. “You definitely get to stretch. No other style of music has that many parts in their songs.”

I also gotta check out songwriting camps, where people might generate a dozen demos in a week.

Monica Hesse on women voters

Great title:

Women are expected to swing this election — because, of course, we expect them to do everything

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