Thursday, August 13, 2009

SICAF and SCLF 2009 - Part 3

There is a section for independent artists hidden away in the huge convention space and frankly it is one of the most inspiring. The handmade items and art pieces are refreshingly human in the midst of the sea of mass produced paraphehalia.

This particular artist, RipinAlice, caught my eye right away. Not only because her main theme was a favorite of mine but also because her work was cute and intricate at the same time. I conversed with her shortly and she was as sweet as her work.
Besides her official site, she has a blog.

Another artist that I was already familiar with was Drinky Doll. I have a thing for rabbits (another influence from Alice in Wonderland) and this artist has a very distinct and original main character rabbit.
I didn't have the chance to talk to the artist, unfortunately. His/her (don't know) work comprises mostly of carved wood sculptures and illustrations. More art on the artist's blog.
And now the geeky/dorky/goofy part. I couldn't have gone to a cartoon/animation convention and just took pictures like a reporter, could I? Geeky girls just wanna have fun!

In Asia, the "V" sign - f0r victory, not the rude British interpretation for this gesture - is obligatory when taking photos. Double V! Notice my convention-appropriate Candy Candy shirt!

Forgot who I was supposed to be. I think I got the expression right, though.

Hello, Mashimaro! He was damn terrified of me, I wonder why. (Tried to run away but I caught him!)
I had another uber-dorky photo of myself in a pink wig and mad scientist glasses but friends, after seeing it, advised me not to upload it anywhere else because they said people who don't know me would judge me and I would never ever, ever ever ever, have new friends whatsoever in the future.
I'm willing to bet most people's imagination are far worse than the actual thing so it's probably better to post it anyways but since my friends are so adamant about it... Imagine away. ;P

SICAF and SCLF 2009 - Part 2

...continued. A hodgepodge of photos. Total jambalaya.

K-pop group Big Bang have created character goods and their section was one of the most popular in the convention. I, myself, got the poster. (You know already I'm a K-pop fangirl, right?)

SICAF and SCLF 2009

I'm a geek. I have no qualms about being a geek. As long as I'm not talking the ears off of people who are completely uninterested in what I'm raving about and as long as I have a grip on reality and don't let my geekdom seep into it, I figure I'm fine.
(I don't quite understand the "deep" geeks; the sci-fi fans who greet others with their particular fandom's greetings, for example. Too much, my dears.)

The Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival was held last month with the Seoul Character & Licensing Fair at COEX. It's an annual event that I rarely miss.
I usually don't have enough time to check out the animation films but like to meander through the exhibits and booths. SICAF is the exhibition part of the convention, where the focus is on original art and history of Korean cartoons and animation.

The SCLF section focuses more on merchandise. There's a humunguous amount and variety of character goods available. Korean, Japanese, and other international brands have booths showing off goods that you really don't need but somehow just want and can't pass by.
It's simply an explosion of cute. Bread keychains, anyone?

And of course no cartoon/animation convention wouldn't be complete without characters (Power Rangers!) running about. I couldn't help but think how stuffy and hot they must have been in costume, even with the air-conditioning on full force.

I got tired taking photos after a while.
The final day of the convention is full of cosplayers and it's quite the spectacle to see, but I haven't cosplayed in years (yes, I did once upon a time) so I just went on a weekday to avoid being squashed in the crowd.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Chinese Bistro - Baljae Banjum

Q: How do you know if a restaurant is popular in Seoul?
A: Almost everyone has their camera out.

I prefer friendly Mom & Pop Korean restaurants when eating out but I hardly take any photos when eating at one. Traditional Korean cuisine, with the exception of royal cuisine, usually presents the meal in one setting; rice, soup, kimchi, meat dishes and various banchan (side dishes) all together. I find it pretty difficult to capture all that abundance with casual clicks of the camera so I hardly ever bother.

On the other hand, quite a lot of non-Korean cuisine comes in courses. There is a break in between - perfect camera opp and I usually take advantage.

It was a muggy day and someone wanted Chinese, so for dinner Chinese it was.

Chinese cuisine in Korea is very Koreanized. I usually compare it to Italian in the States. Unless you go to a traditional Chinese restaurant that blatantly advertises as such, you won't find certain Chinese dishes that are available in Chinese restaurants in other countries. There are also dishes that are unique to Korea; dishes you usually won't find in a true Chinese restaurant, jajangmyeon and jjampong are main examples.

Baljae Banjum is a Chinese Bistro in Cheongdam-dong, famous for its fried dumplings and jjampong. It has a solid reputation so we went to check it out.

I liked the high ceilinged entrance, the lanterns were welcoming. (I was suffering from shaky-hands-when-trying-to-capture-lights-with-point and shoot syndrome, so please excuse the quality.)

We started with a cold dish assortment - jellyfish and cucumbers, abalone, shrimp, meat slices. The seasoning was en pointe.

We had to try the famous dumplings. They came in an attached circle. You could tell right away they were in a different league than the greasy, fatty dumplings ordered from a Chinese delivery. They were as light as they looked, but the stuffing held its own with a lot of flavor.

Instead of simple soy sauce with vinegar, the dumplings came with a selection of condiments. Along with the standard soy, vinegar, hot chili paste and garlic, there was also balsamic vinegar and fermented tofu.
The dumplings were quite savory on their own, so after trying out the sauces I just ignored them.

I'm not that fond of shrimp. I like them in soups when they are used to create flavor in stock, but as a meat? There's something about the texture that doesn't suit my palate.
I haven't yet met anyone who shares this opinion, though. Even people who don't like seafood seem to like shrimp. Knowing this, and knowing that hot chili shrimp is one of the most popular dishes in a Korean Chinese restaurant I knew that this would be ordered.
The shrimp was fresh and well cooked, the sauce not too heavy. (Yes, I ate my share. "Not too fond" doesn't necessarily mean "I won't eat it, ever.")

Instead of the famous jjampong, we opted for Korean Chinese style naengmyeon (cold noodles) because it was such a hot evening. (Someone else ate the shrimp.)
The broth isn't that dark, don't know why my camera went wonky.

If you're not at a western cuisine restaurant where the dessert has to be baked, dessert in Korean restaurants - which is mostly fruit - usually isn't charged. We got frozen watermelon. A perfect natural sherbet.

I think I'd go again. After tasting the naengmyeon I would like to try their jjampong and the dumplings are definitely worth another try.

Date with Renoir in the Heart of Seoul

The 'Promise of Happiness' Renoir exhibition is currently taking place at the Seoul Museum of Art. The SeMa is a light walk away from Deoksu Palace; the rock walls of the palace grounds will lead you towards the museum into a path, away from the city's busy pace.

The path itself is famous on its own, the main subject of an urban legend claiming that lovers who walk the path together will eventually break up. There are many hypotheses of how this legend came to be. The most probable theory : the Seoul Family Court once resided at the end of the alley (it has relocated quite a while back) and couples filing for divorce unavoidably had to walk the path together. Divorce was not a subject to be brought up lightly in conversation so the euphemism "we walked the Deoksugung rock wall path together" was created. Thus, the legend.

However, not many take urban legends seriously. The path is always full of loving couples on a date, families strolling leisurely, friends enjoying the quaint ambiance in old downtown Seoul. (The district that I always call the 'heart of Seoul'.)

An elderly gentleman was painting with a display of his work leaning against the wall on the opposite side of the road.

The museum shows up on the left when the path ends in a small plaza.

Across the museum are bronze sculptures of squashed people. I posed in front of them because if you see them in picture only, you'd absolutely think that the photo was manipulated. I put on a grumpy face and crossed my arms to blend in.

Being a hot day, kids were playing in the plaza fountain. I wished I were reckless enough to join them, but alas, I'm a sensible adult. I regret not taking a video clip of this, the kids were having so much fun.

Photography isn't allowed in the exhibit itself, but there is always a photo-op zone available for the camera happy public in the main foyer. I liked the view from the third floor.

The exhibit was okay. Although many of Renoir's most famous works remained in their regular domain overseas, there were many other works displayed to give you ample insight of Renoir as an artist.

I was surprised to see that English descriptions of each section were omitted for this exhibit (most exhibits at the SeMA usually have full English explanations) but for those who want to take art as art is and not cloud their minds with facts beforehand, it won't pose that much of a problem.

Word of advice : avoid the weekends if possible. Since school is out there were already way too many kids during the week but I was told it was far worse during the weekends. No matter how well behaved a kid may be - when you put a gaggle of them into an art museum, they cannot help but get bored and start whining and creating a ruckus.

The exhibit runs until Sept. 13th, 2009.