Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Author: askpang (page 2 of 524)

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

Dogs are lovely, not because their special connections with us or the fact that evolved from mysteries, but because they can sleep wherever they want, yes dogs have the ability to 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. If I could sleep like him I wouldn’t have to take sleep medication every day before going to bed.

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

“With a lot of these philanthropists, you don’t know what the motives are or whether they’re going to be indicted in the next week“

I admit I don’t usually keep up with the philanthropy world, but this New York Times profile of Agnes Gund, an art collector and philanthropist, is really interesting:

Three years ago, Ms. Gund went to see Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th.” She was so disturbed by its message about America’s racist system of mass incarceration that she went home, removed her most prized painting by Roy Lichtenstein from the walls, and sold it to Steven Cohen, a hedge fund investor, to the tune of $165 million.

Then, she took her money from that and — with her friend Darren Walker at the Ford Foundation — started “Art for Justice” that would serve as a bank and provide funds for artists in prison and for organizations working in the arena of criminal justice reform. (She has already funded it in excess of $100 million.)

Then there’s this classic line:

“With a lot of these philanthropists, you don’t know what the motives are or whether they’re going to be indicted in the next week,” said James Reginato, a writer at large at Vanity Fair. “Aggie personifies class in the old sense of the word. She’s unbesmirched by any kind of taint like so many of them. She’s universally adored.”

Dogs with jobs

When I was on my travels, I met several dogs who were helping people I interviewed. There was this dog doing graphic design:

Normally, with dog

Then there was this very good dog who joined us for a meeting.

Meeting the team members.

I was thinking about these dogs yesterday morning when I got up early to write, and had to deal with this:

Not a productivity enhancement.

There are worse problems to have. Still, it does make typing a challenge!

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