Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Doll Blog - Alternative Metaverse

Besides my original doll site 'seoulsuzy' (previously angmasuzy), I've opened a new blog at Tistory, for all my non-Blythe dolls and toys. Very few photos up at the moment, hopefully I'll be updating regularly by late October. (I have a editing job deadline before then.)

Alternative Metaverse (dolly geeks need ultra geeky blog titles!)

Kim Tae Woo - Love Rain

What I've been listening to on autoplay for the past week.

Kim Tae Woo is a member of the former boyband g.o.d., and the strongest vocalist they had. This song is from his mini album T-Virus, which was released this year right after he finished his military duties.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coffee in Heaven M

My friends and I were walking in a familiar neighborhood when we discovered a previous pub (or restaurant, couldn't remember properly) had transformed into a café. The front looked inviting so we hopped in.

Lovely lighting, lovely wall moldings. I didn't have a drawing on me - otherwise I would've taken a pic for my Napzzak Project using them as a frame.

Word hasn't gone around yet; there were very few customers and the employees were chatting among themselves behind the counter. The staff were very friendly and polite.

The whole café's interior had a "natural" theme to it, I'm pretty sure the lighting was chosen to emulate soft morning sunlight.

I loved their plants (all real). This area being closed off we assumed it was the smoking area but it wasn't. A cozy nook to read magazines while sipping espresso.

They offered us complimentary sweet toast saying that the full version was available on the menu.
I had it with a strong cup of triple-shot Americano. The coffee was thick and earthy, the way I like it.
And of course, the obligatory toy geek shot. Junko Mizuno Qee (again) amongst the orchids.

Unless it's swamped with obnoxiously loud trend-seeking poseurs the next time I'm in the neighborhood, I'm definitely going to drop by again.
They're so new their website isn't complete, but you get their contact info and address.

Long Live the Queen (Seonduk)

Did you know that K-dramas are addictive? Did you know that not all K-dramas are those tearjerkers with poor frail girls dying from a terminal illness breaking the hearts of their rich, Ivy league educated suitors who have tried their best to convince their relentless socialite mothers to accept their marriage to no avail and/but/or discovering that in fact they may or may not be siblings? Did you know that I had a lot of fun writing that last question?

To be honest, I don't follow K-dramas that closely. I didn't even see ratings killer Boys Over Flowers which created a whole new wave of squeeing hallyu fans. I think the last K-drama that I earnestly watched was Something Happened in Bali. That was in 2004, so it's a pretty long time ago.

The reason why I'm not an avid K-drama viewer is mostly because they are so addictive*. Once you start watching you just can't stop and you find yourself stuck to the screen twice a week for an indefinite number of months. (K-dramas broadcast twice a week.) You can't make plans and of course you're not going to catch up later because everyone will be talking about the previous episode already and you'll be spoiled like rotten tofu.

I really don't want to make a commitment to something that can't talk back.

* Why are K-dramas so addictive?
First, the soap-opera aspect. (See first paragraph.) Soap operas are the best cheesy entertainment there is.
Second, the non-soap-opera aspect. No matter how ridiculous the story is, there is always something totally relatable and probable that you find yourself identifying yourself with someone in it.
Third, no commercial breaks. Unless it's a show made directly for cable, the script is written with no commerical breaks in mind (unlike American series) so the flow is a well thought out curve of emotional submersion, with peaks and valleys all coming to a preordained conclusion at the episode's end. With the exception of cable stations, there are no commerical breaks in the middle of TV programs, regardless of genre. Thus a commercial break can last up to 15 minutes and can be more interesting than the actual program at times.

Although I don't go for K-dramas with the passion I do for K-pop, there are times when I start watching extremely late into the series and get completely caught up in it unawares. This happened with Jumong (May 2006 ~ March 2007), which I watched with about four months left in the series and the latest is Queen Seonduk, which I've only started watching about a month ago.

Both are period dramas. Period dramas attract me easily because of their visuals - the costumes, scenery, backdrops and settings are just so beautiful. Whatever the country, most period dramas have lush cinematography to match and it's always a pleasure to see.
The acting in period dramas are another important factor. They never cast mediocre actors in period dramas. You have to know how to convincingly convey emotion and character in the dialect of that era, which calls for veteran or proved actors, which in turn is a blessing for the viewer - no need to cringe at lisps or weird accents, bad enunciation or overacting.**

** Which reminds me of Kevin Costner's Robin Hood and Keanu Reeves trying to do Shakespeare in 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

To the main topic:
Bidam, Lady Misil, Queen Seonduk, Kim Yushin, Princess Chunmyeong, Kim Chunchu

Korea is an ancient land with a 4,000 year-plus history of kingdoms, dynasties and empires, but only three queens in the whole mix. Three! That's like one every millenium! It's not even spaced out that way; all the three queens ruled during the Silla dynasty (57 BC – 935 AD), an era when the Confucian female subordinance creed had yet to invade the Korean peninsula and when women were viewed in high regard.

Queen Seonduk was the first ever queen to rule as her father King Jinpyeong had no sons. She went through a tumultous reign but is credited to have set the foundation for later monarchs to establish a unified nation on the Korean peninsula (Unified Silla). Although the drama is based on historical fact, some aspects have been highly exaggerated and fictionalized with dramatic license for TV.

Having been born as twins, which was considered as a bad omen, Princess Deokman (Queen Seonduk's childhood name) is raised by a maid in faraway China, unknowing of her background. Her sister Princess Chunmyeong is raised alone in the palace, also unknowing of her twin's existence. Later on, their lives intertwine in a tragic fate.

Park Ye Jin as Princess Chunmyeong

Ko Hyeon Jeong as Lady Misil & Lee Yowon as Queen Seonduk

Lady Misil is the Catherine de' Medici of Silla, whose ambition to become empress has been thwarted on numerous occasions and Princess Deokman's main opposition in becoming queen. The charisma of Ko Hyeon Jeong is absolutely fascinating to watch as she takes on the 'sweeter than honey' evil role of Lady Misil with relish.

Hwarangs, the 'Flower Knights' of Silla, gather at the round table for serious discussion. Trained in every discipline, they were the top elite group of Silla's youth and were included in major decisions regarding the state.

Kim Yushin, the future general who would be crucial in unifying the nation, as a young Hwarang (left) in serious talk with the Hwarangs' mentor. He is portrayed as a possible love interest for Princess Deokman in the beginning of the series but decides to serves her as his future Queen instead. Honorable decisions in favor of a greater cause are favorite themes in Korean period dramas.

Yoo Seung-Ho as Kim Chunchu

Kim Chunchu is the son of Princess Chunmyeong and future King Taejong Muyeol, who is the king that unified the Korean peninsula. Having been sent away to China as a child, he returns to Silla as an odd teenager with disregard for his aunt Princess Deokman and is the catalyst character that makes things start churning in her bid to become queen.

Kim Nam Gil as Bidam

Bidam is the abandoned child of Lady Misil, a secret which he discovers and does not disclose to anyone. An almost genius in martial arts, he is taught by the Hwarang's mentor during his vagabond days. Originally a close friend and ally of Princess Deokman, his keen ambition for power and his new sense of idendity clouds his character and makes him turn to other paths.

The drama still has a way to go. Queen Seonduk is still Princess Deokman, Bidam is still her ally, Lady Misil still has influential power, Kim Chunchu is still a seemingly clueless teenager. How Lady Misil meets her fall, how and why Bidam revolts, how Kim Chunchu shows his true observant and sharp character and how the princess finally becomes a queen will be extremely interesting to watch.

Hope this drama manages to get exported overseas with subtitles; if anything else it's just worth watching for the costumes alone.

Queen Seonduk airs 10:00 pm Mondays and Tuesdays on MBC.
(Korea Time)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Heart of Five Poems - Café 5cijung

Café 5cijung is a quaint and dainty gallery café in Garosugil ("Tree lined Road"), Shinsa-dong. Once a seedy ajusshi drinking hole, the area has seen renovations the past couple of years and has been reborn with chic trendy cafés and chef-owned restaurants. It is now one of the favorite neighborhoods for Vogue-y women and GQesque men. Style is carried in a friendly and casual manner and is distinctive to Garosugil, unlike some other uber-trendy spots that can be regarded as intimidating.

Café 5cijung represents five (5) + ci (or si, poem) + jung (heart, affection) and when you enter the café you can immediately recognize why. When you walk into Café 5cijung the first impression you get is 'cozy'. The café itself isn't that large and I've been told that many customers ask if there is a second floor. (There isn't.) The warm ivory walls, soft wood chairs and tables, small details in nooks create an intimate ambiance. The small kitchenette is visibly open and you can smell scones being baked and salads being tossed.

Unsurprisingly, the ambiance being as such, the clientele were mostly women when I visited. The owner, who is as lovely as the place itself, remarked that there were days when not a single male customer would visit. Apparently Korean men aren't that comfortable being in a completely open space, especially if that space blooms with femininity and if mostly occupied by women. (Probable typical inner reaction : "Too much estrogen! Arrrgh! Panic!")

The café is well known for its light menu. The most popular seemed to be 'soft persimmon', a persimmon sorbet - we were the only table that hadn't ordered it. (None of us were keen on persimmon.) Scones with perfect texture are provided with every drink you order and can also be bought separately. Ginseng milk is another unique seller.
They have a short but effective wine list; the selection being the owner's preference and mostly chosen to be accompaniment for the dishes on the menu.
We ordered a lot of salads. There was a cheese platter and we also had the scones but no photos of those. I think I was busy eating.

A light crisp pizza. As you might notice, the portions are extremely girl-friendly. Not meant to be a dining place for guys, unless said guy is on a super-diet.

Took a picture of my Junko Mizuno Qee (I don't have to mention that I'm a doll and toy geek every single time, do I?) with the vase of flowers that was on the table. Perfect color match, don't ya think?
Café 5cijung's site :

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Of Dessert and Rabbits

Finally caught up with RJ this month. I think we see one another about twice a year. Considering that there are "close" friends of mine whom I haven't seen in years, I think that's a quite good average.
I'm one of those people who firmly believe that 'no news is good news' and if I know a person is doing fine, I'm pretty okay with that. Besides, what with the interwebs and mobile phones and extra application paraphenalia, you are constantly communicating with people anyway.

Japanese ramen for lunch (which I neglected to take a picture of) and dessert at Cafe aA in Hongdae. We weren't planning on dessert but the picture in the menu looked so scrumptious we decided to share.

Wonder Molly was impressed with its grandeur.

Since it wouldn't be normal without a goofy picture of me, here I am posing in prop "bug eyes" sunglasses (aka Nicole Richie sunglasses) with one of RJ's rabbits. Why he has rabbits, I didn't ask.

RJ's radio show 'On the Pulse' is on the air weekdays. It's in English and you can listen on the internet. Check it out~!

Life is a Blur

I remember being startled by the calendar declaring September. Now September is slipping away and if I hadn't been a diligent (i.e. OCD) diarykeeper I would have no idea what I have done the past several weeks. My memory is a complete blur.

Although I don't announce it here, I've been keeping up with my Napzzak Project and posting quite regularly. The latest batch was taken on Namsan (South Mountain) on a cloudy drizzling day.

Girl with Seoul Tower in background
Seoul is surrounded by hills and mountains. Namsan sits right in the middle of the city, though. Despite all the urban growth crowding in, it has held to its nature, both figuratively and literally.
Look at all the wildlife you can encounter!

The pheasants are slow, so they're easier to spot. (Hee hee hee.)

You can either walk up by the hiking trail through the pines and breathe in their scent while lounging in the rest areas...

...or you can walk up alongside the paved roadway and rest in more conventional benches.

I hiked the first half and switched to the pavement the latter half. Took a self portrait on the way. I love how goofy I look in these things.

At the top is Seoul Tower. Didn't take a picture of it (like all those years in Paris I never took a photo of the Eiffel Tower) but there was a floating wire man waiting in the plaza just dying to be photographed. See?

There was another man further on, who appeared to be flying in an elegant swan pose.
The floating sculptures are part of French artist Cedric Le Borgne's Travellers series. They will be installed there until the end of 2010. I plan to go again at night to take a picture with the spotlights shining.

Resto with a View - Cafe IOU

I call some restaurants 'SAP's. SAP standing for 'Such A Pity'. Unfortunately, Cafe IOU falls into that category. In fact, it can be filed under SABP - Such A Bloody Pity.
I mean, look at that view! Look at that fabulous view! And that was taken through glass with my point-and-shoot so you can be sure that the real thing is far more breathtaking. The sunset glow on the River Han, lights slowing blinking in the city night, trails of carlights lining the riveredge highway, the shadows of the hills and mountains in the background; it's just beautiful.
It wasn't only in that room of ours, either. The restaurant itself is situated on top of a hill with floor to ceiling full glass windows, so wherever you may be seated the view is there.

The restaurant is very much the ideal place to view the Seoul International Fireworks Festival which is held right across the river; that side being completely mobbed during the festival. (FYI, the festival is held every year but is being cancelled this year due to the swine flu epidemic.)

My wine group gathered for our monthly tasting (er, in August) and the table setting was fine.

So what's the SAP part? Well, unfortunately, the food.

Cafe IOU serves fusion cuisine.
I'm not that fond of fusion. I've come to believe that most fusion food is actually confusion food, neither this nor that, and not in a good way. Of course, there are restaurants that do serve excellent fusion dishes but I've discovered that most of those restaurants are firmly identified as Korean, French, Italian, Chinese and such with fusion dishes compromising just a small portion of their menus.
When a restaurant emphasizes fusion cuisine forefront, well, that spells trouble. Or, in my case, a high possibility of being SAP.

Anyhow. The dishes we ordered looked good to the eye; the presentation wasn't that bad. The flavors however, were quite lacking. I wanted to dunk everything in either soy or gochujang or mayonnaise or whatever condiment that would fit.

Maybe the view raised my expectations. Maybe the cozy atmosphere clouded my taste buds. Maybe the chef wasn't in top notch condition that evening. Maybe the food was just simply bland.
To make matters worse, the kitchen closed without any last order warning and our group was left still hungry. (As you can see, the portions aren't that large either.)
Because of the view, a couple of cute cozy rooms (they have a "proposal room" with a skylight), a beautiful terrace and lawn, it should be an ideal place for a romantic date. But only if you're either on a diet and plan on eating salads, or if you're going on a special events night where they set up a buffet table. I haven't tried the buffet but I'm assuming it can't be as bad as the à la carte menu.
WARNING: The last time I visited their website my computer got infected with the Trojan virus, so if your vaccine program isn't up to date I advise you not to click.
P.S. They say there's a new chef at the restaurant since the last time our group visited. I will post a new review should I visit again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Bumpy Arm

A very hungry mosquito (or mosquitoes) had a feast on my being the other night. I'm a light sleeper so usually the annoying whizzing sound would have woken me up, but I was so dead tired that night I didn't notice until morning.

I also have a bite on my forehead right between my eyebrows (no, I'm not posting a photo of that), and a couple on my other arm. My legs weren't savaged because they were thankfully under blankets but the swelling on my left arm is more than enough to cover for the missed spots.

I mean, really. If you take a picture of my arm sideways there are angry red hills standing up! I'm convinced a gigantic mountain mosquito somehow managed its way in because I honestly can't believe a wimpy city mosquito did this.

Hope they don't scar too badly. (You know you're not as young as you used to be when bug bites leave scars.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I've been up to

There's a saying that time flies at the speed of your age times three. So the older you get, the faster time whizzes by. Which, I think, is quite an accurate assessment. Where did summer go?

Have a new project up and going. Mostly an effort to get my drawing hands back, it's basically a documentation of the progress of my drawing skills.
I draw characters, cut them out, place them in real life settings and take pictures of them. Not a big deal, but a big help to me, because it also forces me to get out of the house for much needed sunshine (and vitamin D) and prevents me from falling into the stuck-in-room-pseudoartist-depression trap.

Posting depends heavily not on how fast I draw but how fast I manage to edit the photos so inevitably it's going to be pretty sporadic, with batches going up in heavy loads.

The first batch is up at my project blog at Naver.

My favorite of that batch "Boy with Umbrella"