Friday, October 26, 2012

Gangnam Style

What does the UN Secretary General, US Navy Robot, Wolverine, and Britney Spears have in common?
They all did the Horse dance moves of The Gangnam Style video by PSY.

So what is this Gangnam Style Music Video and how popular is it?
  • Gangnam Style is a K(Korean)-Pop song by the Korean Artist who calls himself Psy, which was released on Youtube in July of this year. The tune, being catchy and the dance moves being unorthodox (inspired by a horse), the video went viral and got world wide attention in the past few months.   
  • A few weeks ago, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said that the Gangnam Style was a force for world peace. 
  • Gangnam Style became no.1 at the official UK charts. "This is the first time in the Asian Music History" says Psy.
  • 531,984,265 views for the you tube music video.
  • Most liked video in the history of Youtube. Around 4,461,862 likes. 
  • Gangnam Style is no.2 on the Billboard hot 100.
  • Top music video in itunes.
  • The first Korean to get such world wide recognition for a music video. 
  • There have been so many famous people doing the horse moves too. Ryan Seacrest, Eric Schmidt (of Google), all the good people from The View, Today's Show and many more.
  • There are so many variations of this music video including the clones in the Star Wars dancing to its beat, Mitt Romney style, Gandalf style, basket ball version, eye lash moving version, Spanish version, Bhangra version .... to name a few!

    So, who is this guy, PSY?

    Psy's actual name is Park Jae-Sung and he is 34 years old. He has been making K-pop music videos for 12 years. His first video was called the Psycho World (2001) from which he derives his new  name PSY, which was fined for inappropriate content! He went to Berklee, a music school in the United States and is fluent in English. His favorite actor is Tom Cruise and favorite icecream flavor is mint Choco chip. He goes by his famous motto "Dress Classy, Dance Cheesy"!

    So, What is Gangnam and what is its Style?

    Gangnam is an affluent district in Seoul which is touted as the Beverly hills of Korea with all the top designer labels from all around the world! Upscale boutiques to dress up classy to high end salons to coif up dandy. And of course, restaurants serving cuisines from every part of the world. Nothing is cheap in Gangnam. Not even coffee :)

    Gangnam is Korea's Tech giant with the headquarters of the biggest tech companies in the world established there. Samsung, LG, Hyundai. Samsung D'light in Gangnam is a delightful store encompassing three storeys of electronic haven. Latest 3D TVs and remotes that control the social media, top of the line cellphones which can control the dish washers,  appliances that dry wash and iron the clothes, as per their requirements. Love it yet?

    Gangnam is a cultural heavy weight too. The Bonguensa Temple located in Gangnam was founded in 794 AD and now flourishes as a center for Seon (Zen) Buddhism.

    Gangnam also houses the Asia's largest underground mall, the COEX mall (managed by the Hyundai departmental store), which houses an aquarium, gaming arcade consisting of atleast a 100 latest games and gaming devices, a multiplex movie theater and even a Kimchi Museum! Impressed yet?

    To take the cake, Gangnam, which encompasses a mere 15 square miles holds 7% of South Korea's GDP.
    Gangnam's got Style, uh?

    Gangnam Style by CHARLI-2 Robot of the US Navy
    Gangnam Style Infographic by Mashable
    Gangnam Style English Lyrics

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Fall colors

    Beautiful fall colors we noticed on our trek to the top of the Great wall of Seoul.

    fall colors at a poets home in Seoul
    Beautiful fall colors on a poet's home in Seoul.

    Red fall leaves
    Pretty red colors of the fall leaves among the greens

    Thursday challenge- Fall colors
    Color Connection 
    Skywatch Friday

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    Gwang Hae - Korean Movie

    Hwang Hae, The man who made king

    To replace the bitter taste of movie watching experience in Korea  (where we saw Madagascar 3 in Korean, Blah!), I wanted to see the  movie MASQUERADE- 15 days lost to History (Korean Name is Gwang Hae- The man who made king) that is running successfully in Seoul since September. I was hoping to brave through the movie with my knowledge of Korean (equal to that of a three year old -as my Korean teacher carefully put it) when i found that Yongsan CGV runs subtitles in English for Korean movies on Thursday at 7PM and Sunday at 5PM. Yay!

    The movie starts with off with intrigue. During the reign of the King Gwang Hae of the Joseon dynasty in Korea, there is an entry as told by the king- "Do not put on record, what is to be hidden" followed by 2 weeks' worth of records missing from the royal journals. The movie tries to fill in what could have happened during that time.

    Masquerade- 15 days lost in History

    As the kingdom is at unrest due to corruption, upheaval in the court along with the menaces from the Ming empire, the king is constantly under the threat of assassination. The king orders to find a look-alike to double up like him. The look-alike, though a commoner and a low-life, shows his love for his kingdom and ends up making radical changes that the real king was unable to accomplish.

    The storyline -though not very new to us- was pleasing and fresh when seen from the Korean royal setting. The luxurious life of the King of Korea, the insignificance of the Queen and the extraordinarily lowly duties of the maids in the palace and corruption in the court along with their fear of the Ming dynasty in China during the Joseon period were also apparent. There were some well woven comedy scenes which added color but did not affect the serious tone of the movie and matched the storyline quite well. My only regret was that the chubby, cute little 15 year maid, Sa-wol, whom you know is going to be sacrificed, but cant help praying that the king would somehow revive her, gets killed just like in Tamil movies :( I was cruelly reminded that the story was made to fit a real life incident when the real king orders the fake one dead along with the royal secretary, to keep things under wraps. Tragic end to an otherwise wonderful movie.

    I think it is an amazing experience to see the movie in its native tongue (with the subtitles, of course) for people to enjoy the it to the full. I especially loved the scene when the fake guy is ready to quit the masquerade but bounces back with an inspirational monologue to the court to rise up to the enemies and protect and defend its people than to be living in fear of the Ming dynasty. Though i did not understand a word of what he said, the emotion he displayed, the passion conveyed was extraordinary, bringing tears to my eyes. I have become a fan of that guy- Lee Byung Hun. He made me enjoy the funny antics when he was training to be king, made me feel compassionate when he consoles the Sa-wol, the teenaged maid, enraged when he was a reckless king and filled me with fervent ardor when he calls up to unite to protect the country and fight against the enemy!

    The Hwang Hae king's robes
    King Gwang Hae's gold and red robes in the movie

    Hwang Hae queen's robes
    Queen's embroidered silk hanbok

    Hwang Hae queen's matching slippers
    And the matching slippers :)

    This movie is now available to see in Youtube with English subtitles here. Sorry, the link no longer exists :( It was removed.

    ABC Wednesday: G for Gwang Hae
    Thursday Challenge: Red

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Great wall of Seoul

    Yes! Seoul has a fortress and a great wall which snakes around the Northern part of Seoul for about 18kms. It was built in 1396 by King Tajeo of the Joseon dynasty to keep the Mongol and Chinese invaders at bay. Though this wall was torn down, it was rebuilt and fortified during the reign of King Sejong. It was again reinforced during King Sukjong's period when precise-cut rectangular slabs were used. It is said that the wall was so perfect that even a piece of paper couldnot fit through the stones. Then again, it was demolished and the wall has been restored by the Korean Government. Korea too suffers a long a tough history of struggle for Independence.

    Our aim was to trek from the Eastern gate of Donuimun, up North to Changuimun Gate. It is a 2 hour climb on Mount Ingwangsan. On that beautiful Sunday morning, i could see droves of people taking up the difficult climb with such vigor and enthusiasm, including a 3 year old, accompanied by her parents, dawdling happily up the steps and also really old people, adroitly climbing up the umpteen number of steps and rocks! Walking seems to be Korea's National pastime!
    The great wall of Seoul
    The Great Wall of Seoul on top of Mount Ingwangsan

    Seoul wall showing the entire city of Seoul
    Fortress wall winding through the city

    Recontructed Seoul wall
    Well laid tracks, beautiful climate and the promise of wonderful views
    Gwanghwamun Palace as seen from the Mount Inwangsan
    Few acres of free space in Seoul is in the Gwanghwamun Palace
    President's Blue house in Seoul
    Blue House of the Korean President nestled under the mountain
    Machine Gun and security on Mount Inwangsan
    Machine guns and a lot of casual-attired-but-vigilant military personnel are constant companions throughout the trek
    Han river from Mount Inwangsan
    Han River from the Mountain
    Seoul wall
    The all important Patel photo on reaching the top point in the trek
    On the top of top of the mountain
    On top of the top of the mountain!

    Seoul wall
    You better believe it, we were there, i have the coordinates to prove it ;)

    Skywatch Friday

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Beach Feet

    Beach is always a fun place to be. And touching the East Sea was a bit of a thrill :) We made towards the coast from Gyeongju (a mere 40 minute ride in the taxi) in South Korea on the pretext of seeing the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu. Now this King is said to have been cremated in the islet on the Sea from where he promised to become a dragon and protect Korea from invaders.

    Underwater Tomb of King Munmu in the East Japan Sea near Gyeongju
    Turquoise waters of the East Japan Sea and the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu who promised to guard Korea from the invaders even after his death, by turning into a dragon.

    Feet at the East Japan Sea
    Black pebbly beach of the East Sea
    East Japan sea touching the feet in Gyeongju
    Thrill on touching the East Sea :)

    Receding waters of East Japan Sea in Gyeongju

    Turquoise blue waters of East Japan Sea in Gyeongju

    Feet Feet Feet!
    Feet at the Pacific Ocean
    Feet at the Marina Beach
    Feelings of the Feet at the Marina Beach, Bay of Bengal
    Thursday Challenge- Feelings - At the Beach
    Skywatch Friday

    Fall flowers

    The latest of my drawings

    Black and white flowers in fall
    Cant seem to let go of my passion for black and white even when i wanted to incorporate the fall colors.

    Fall flowers in black and white

    BWS tips button

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    The hike up the Museum

    A not to be missed place in South Korea is Gyeongju which is located at the South Eastern part of Korea. It is the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty- which successfully ruled and defended Korea to prosperity. Gyeongju is a very popular destination during all seasons and can be reached in 5hrs from Seoul by buses and by regular trains by 4 hrs. The express trains with their speed of 333kmph and on the dot accuracy, reach the city in 2 hours flat.

    It was a cool, ear popping journey through tunnels after tunnels into the mountains to Gyeongju. We decided to tackle the Open Air Museum of Mount Namsan to start our exploration of this beautiful city. The mountain itself is a historical relic owing to the number of Buddha statues and carvings on it and is a wonderful but rugged climb.

    Mount Namsan, the open air museum in Gyeongju, Korea

    The base of the mountain is filled with fruit trees laden with ripe fruits which was so pleasant for the eye and the nose! Sweet red and orange persimmons were just strutting their stuff and alluring us with their looks but incidentally, there seemed to be nobody else even interested in those yummy fruits and most of it were lying on the ground squashed!

    Persimmon tree in Korea
    Persimmon tree

    Persimmon fruits in golden yellow in Korea
    Juicy, golden, yellow Persimmon fruit
    Apple trees laden with fruit in Gyeongju, Korea
    Apple trees laden with fruit
     The other trees at the base of the mountain were kind of weird and were growing crooked competing for sunlight but formed a good subject for a snap.
    Weird looking trees at the base of the mountain
    Pine trees growing crooked looking eerie and weird
    Crooked trees at the base of the mountain in Korea
    Trees grow crooked competing for sunlight
    Tomb mounds at the Namsan Mountain
    Tomb mounds of Royalty
    We had just walked around the base to the trail leading to the top when my elder one was phasing out into his iphone and i had to start my lecture on how this family time was important and how we should all be a part of it and enjoy it. His answer was straight forward and instant. "I get bored when I don't have an aim. Tell me what we are aiming for and i will not be distracted". Mmmmpf. Kids these days are far too goal oriented and extremely articulate. Ahha! Jumps the fitness freak of a husband  and they set the Hermitage 2.25km from the bottom as the target, much to my chagrin. Me and my big mouth!

    But the day was just perfect and we had all the supplies we needed for a good hike and i had no excuses left but to try it out. I am so glad to have tried it out, though the trail was very tough and rocky, the small, dwindling stream bubbling along kept us company and the surroundings were just too delightful and serene.

    Headless statue of Buddha in Mount Namsan, in Gyeongju, Korea
    Headless Buddha Statue

    Carving of Buddha in Gyeongju, Korea
    Carving of Buddha on rock

    Carvings of Buddha in Korea
    Three Buddha Carvings

    Trickling stream on the way
    The trickling stream which kept us company almost until the top.

    Tough climb up the mount Namsan in Gyeongju, Korea
    Tough climb even for the panther

    Capturing the sounds of water
    Capturing the sounds of water on the iphone to be used later for relaxation purposes (*rolling eyes*)

    Serene Buddha on a lotus in Mount Namsan, Gyeongju, Korea
    Tranquil Buddha seated on the Lotus, my absolute favorite of all.
    Climbing upi Mount Namsan
    Few places where the trail was visible

    Hermitage at Mount Namsan, Gyeongju, Seoul
    The first view of the Hermitage

    Buddha inside the Hermitage on top of Mount Namsan in Gyeongju
    Glorious Golden Buddha inside the Hermitage on Chuseok Day

    View of the valley below the mountains
    Pacific view of the Valley below

    Rays breaking through the clouds, as seen from top of mount Namsan, Gyeongju, Korea
    Rays breaking the cloud cover
    Skywatch Friday
    Color Connection
    ABC Wednesday -M for Museum Mountain

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    How we pray!

    I have seen lot of yellow and red threads on trees,  little notes hanging from the branches, small cradles offered to God in Temples in India as a gentle nudge to the Almighty to consider the case.

    Curious little pagoda-like structures which is made by stacking stones of bigger sizes in the bottom is a way of worshiping or praying by Buddhists in Korea. Each stone represents a wish to be fulfilled for the stacker or may also represent a person for whom prosperity is wished for. 

    These little structures where made in Mount Namsan in Gyeongju in the South Eastern part of Korea. The Mountain itself is an extraordinary Buddhist Relic consisting of hundreds of statues and carvings of Buddha. It also has a beautiful hermitage at 2.5km from the base.

    Pagoda-like stacking stones found on Namsan mountain in Gyeongju

    Stacking stones found in Mount Namsan in Korea
    Stacking Stones in Mount Namsan

    Stacking stones in Bulgoksa Temple in Gyeongju in Korea
    Precariously Stacked stones at the Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju

    Lots of stacking stones
    More stacking stones... Pretty ones and precise ones :)

    Thursday Challenge- Culture- Praying by Stacking stones in Korea
    ABC Wednesday- Q for Quaint practices from Korea
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