Tag Archives: impolite

Software before Hardware

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The great writer of Japanese modern literature, Natsume Souseki, once commented on Meiji Isshin (massive westernization and industrialization) after he came back from UK: “What we are doing now is merely copying west’s looks and appearance.  This will not work in long-term.  Rather, Japan should first start from learning and imitating their thoughts, such as healthy individualism and citizenship.  That will mark the true, productive and healthy westernization of Japan.”

I am not trying to say “OMG he made a prophesy of busted bubble economy and gloom future of Japan!”  (Kind of, maybe?)  But the situation I had today made me think about the abovewritten quotation.

I went to a special docent art tour with my mom.  Though I appreciated her invitation and thinking of me, I was not that excited initially (turned out better later on).  If it wasn’t the exhibition of Park Su-geun‘s work, I would be much less excited.  But I went anyway – it’s better than sitting around in my room (especially when I have nothing to do) and I know my mom really wanted to go.  She could not find someone to go with her.

There were loads of people in the gallery, and I was totally fine with it.  I understand Park and his works are very popular in Korea.   His works are considered as one of the most “Korean” paintings.  His painting is on Korean art textbook.  You can not not know him if you went proper public education in Korea.  ‘Nuff said.   Of course everyone wants to see his work, especially his paintings don’t do justice on digital copies or photo.  I also do not mind random people trying to join this customized docent tour.  It’s an open space.  Moreover, it is always helpful to have a guide who can explain the artwork and provide some background stories, so the viewers can have better understanding of the work.  I have been in that position, too.

However, I do mind – VERY – some things in museum or art gallery: talking in loud voice, talking on the phone, and not silencing damn cell. Unfortunately, there are just so many of these people in Korea.  Last time I visited the National Museum at Yongsan,  I was stunned for several minutes.  People were talking so loudly in every single exhibition room.  I couldn’t tell whether I’m in a shopping mall or museum.  It was my day off but I couldn’t enjoy my time off.  Since everyone was talking so loudly, I just wanted to finish up looking at the exhibitions and leave, so I can take my quality time.  Same thing happened in last year’s South American art exhibition.  Everyone was talking.  The gallery was old colonial building with high ceiling, making it even louder.  Steve McCurry‘s photo exhibition was same.  First 30 minute was okay.  Then everyone was talking again.  About 4 old men are talking loudly whether McCurry used digital color adjustment or not, and on the other side two young people are (again) talking loudly, asking “hey, do you want to check out that documentary film?”  On my way to exit,  I saw two girls actually pressing their fingers on the glass frame.  I saw at least two people who are talking on the phone.  Let’s not forget the gallery space was full of human voices.  George Rouault‘s was alright.  Everyone was quiet, except a kid who would scream his questions to his parents with audio explanation on and one old lady answering her phone pretty loudly.  Andy Warhol exhibition was pretty bad – since there were so many people already (talking), the docent was using a loudspeaker in the gallery.  All of sudden, the gallery was turned into seafood market.

Today’s Park exhibition was no better.  I saw at least two girls who would casually flip open their cell and talk.  An old man in our tour group did not silenced his phone nor turned it off.  So in the middle of gallery, his phone was ringing loudly.  Twice.  And that many people were all talking in open space, in their normal voice, where the sound is amplified.  Our docent had quiet voice, but I bet it could have been audible if the gallery was as quiet as MoMA.  But it’s not MoMA.  We both gave up listening to her explanation.  We were so tired after the tour – all that people AND noise.

It’s good that people are eager to analyze the art and exchange each other’s opinion on it.  But please, take your passion outside.  You don’t have to talk about it now, with your normal talking voice, in the gallery.  If you have to, then just turn down your voice volume.  And, if you have to answer your phone, take it outside or answer it later.  Give some space to others to observe, digest and wrap it up in relaxation!  I like going art exhibitions because its quietness give me a mental/physical space to be myself, think and forget all bs.  I still go to exhibitions in Korea, but I am much more hesitant than before due to the people noise and population.  Usually I get annoyed, or feel pressure to finish up my viewing as soon as possible and leave.

Few years ago, several news articles started to lament how Korean are living “uncultured life” – like going to art exhibitions, classical music concerts, etc.  Then there was sudden boom of living the “cultured life.”  The exhibitions of big-name artists opened in Korea.  The schools now require students to go to museums or art galleries, and write a short paper on it.  So now it is easy to see loads of youngsters in artsy events, unlike past.  Sure, they are much more exposed to great artworks.  But as I see many of these kids are just busy copying off little facts for their homework rather than what they appreciated and what they felt, kids running and screaming around, and parents doing the same thing, I can’t help thinking of Natsume’s quote.  What is more important?  Sending the kids to the big-name art exhibitions and making sure they bring a “proof” of their visit, or educate them how to behave and what to appreciate, even though not all students can go to exhibition or even lie about their visit?  I don’t know.  But I think there are still plenty of viewers coming to the exhibition just so they can take lots of pics, upload it on blog, say they went to Warhol exhibition – and therefore presenting themselves as a cool. cultured person.

Georges Rouault

A Lightening Moment of Enlightment

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We all have a very sudden moment of enlightenment in our daily lives.  To others, it might be a negligible thing.  But to oneself, it’s the moment when everything makes sense to you, out of blue, and then you are bummed because you realized the hints of truth was all over the place, so visible, yet you have not noticed any of it.

I had that moment about 2-3 weeks ago.  It was really nothing.  As always, I was walking down the street to my evening postwork Yoga class. I had no thoughts at all – just mindlessly doing my every day routine.  Without any thoughts, I looked around.  Since my office is located in college town, you see a lot of screens, flyers and placards all over the place.  Apparently the sides of street was full of signs opposing the recent increase of student tuition – “Yo President, we gotta meet right now!” “Even the government is asking to not to raise tuition,” “Where does our money go? To our president’s investment game?” Okay, these are rough translations from Korean to English, but in Korean it sounded meaner and more emotional; a lot of them were parodying popular song lyrics or adopted slang, written in non-honorifics.

All of sudden, it made so much sense why many Koreans cannot have a decent discussion on anything – including figuring out a solution.  Everything on the signboard was “tuition down, or nothing.” Yeah, black or white, nothing else.  We are right and you are wrong.

So the tuition is putting a lot of burden on students and it is continuously rising.  Can the student body and school government can talk and sort this out? I think this kind of issue can be settled rather peacefully with much dialogue.  Our-way-or-death really doesn’t make any party happy.  But, then, I realized another thing: No one was asking what’s the reason of continuous increase of tuition.  Likewise, the school government was giving their students no explanation or communication channel.  To be fair, maybe I am a bit biased on these matters because I grew up in a fairly conservative environment, and American culture where open communication is highly encouraged.  While looking at those signs and placards, I was uncomfortable.  It’s good to make funny, catchy phrases.  I like some politically incorrect humors, too.  But that does not mean you can be mean, nor okay to post up mean stuff in public places.  I don’t think it helps the situation, except letting people know that you are not happy with the situation.

In States, going emotional and showing it to public is often considered as immature.  At least that’s how I remember it.  What if there is a same issue rising in States or Japan?  I bet both party would agree to open a discussion or information seminar before posting up the angry placards.  Or do the placards and talking simultaneously.  Anger is the very last part of flowchart.  Here, anger is the beginning of flowchart.

I am not saying Japanese/Americans are better than Koreans.  I am just saying that for that short moment – where I saw the signs and realized how everything is connected starting from that signboards – something sparked and I understood why Koreans are so bad at open communication.  It made much more sense to me than before.  These people are not brought up in that way.  From the home, many children are scolded when they express their opinion, or ask questions.  Now they go on to elementary school.  You are not allowed to ask questions to teachers – well, technically you can, but more than half of teachers will probably scold the students, saying they are not being quiet.  That pretty much continues all the way to high school.   The obedience to parents is now mixed with teacher-authority: the students just memorize what they are told to memorize, take exam, do well on it, and back to the square one.  In college, the kids have a bit more freedom.  But they are not trained in how to effectively set up their opinion or even compromise their stance.  They think just spreading your voice and pump the volume up as much as possible is the meaning of “discussion.”  All they know is that they have to win.  They were born and nurtured in it for 20 years.  If you are not with me, you are wrong.  If you are not with the mainstream, you have to be fixed.

It made sense to me. Well I hope this posting made sense to the readers (though I think I failed on it…).

So here’s why I got so philosophical.

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This question rose after I saw a quiet ugly fight over one of my LinkedIn groups’ discussion board.  Ben (all names are in alias) uploaded a recent Lonely Planet’s voting result on Top 10 Most Hated City.  Seoul made it to #3, with the following comment: It’s an appallingly repetitive sprawl of freeways and Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings, horribly polluted, with no heart or spirit to it. So oppressively bland that the populace is driven to alcoholism.  Ben commented, “I absolutely love this city, but I guess some people see it differently.”

The board was flowing in a good wind.   Then a Korean professional, “Doug” joined the discussion…and he ended the party.  I’ll just say that he got very emotional, used a ton of exclamation marks and question marks, and all of sudden jumped to blaming everything on “unqualified English teachers in South Korea.”  Of course some got very irritated and decided to strike back explain: chill out, it’s a mere opinion poll from one of the million travel media, and there’s no need to spread your anger all over the board.  Let’s keep this board civil.

Doug’s response was: even more exclamation marks, question marks, and terms like “are you out of your mind?” “don’t worry, I already sent the letter to the Lonely Planet” “you are just funny, I don’t trust you.”  Even more unbelievably, he apologized for Sarah, but not Young Hee.  Instead of apology, he sounded like he is the true patriot who loves his city and she is not and she should be embarrassed.  At that point, I was almost screaming – what kind of moron is this?  Apology to a white woman, but not to someone of Korean influence?  Just because she is Korean?  Now you call this a racist.  Throughout the board, it was so hard to just figure out what he wants – I had no other ways but to conclude that he just does not want a single negative reaction to his beloved country, thought it is embarrassing to have all this “foreigners” reading and commenting on it (despite the fact most people there are familiar with Seoul), yet another Korean on a mission.

Apparently, he is a student at University of Chicago’s MBA program and holds a manager at a German company’s Korean branch.  I have to say my opinion on U of Chicago’s MBA program and business school in general has fallen down.  After all, it’s business school, not Arts & Letters MA program – as long as you have some nice recommendations, some nice sounding career history and financing source, you’re in.  But to be honest, it makes me so sick to my stomach – I can just see him, bragging around his Chicago MBA diploma saying “I got the Chicago MBA degree, man.  I am so global and internationalized, sophisticated.”  I almost wanted to screencap and e-mail the Booth School of Business.   I see a lot of this kind of people.  Yes, it’s good that you earned a presitigious degree from US and worked hard for it.  But don’t swagger with it saying you are the most internationalized man in this little peninsular country, when you do not have a single local friend there and your little social circle was full of Koreans like you and you bash-talked about fellow Koreans who is out of your norm.

But thinking about it, there were plenty of pricks who are just not happy about the world and sending so many anger-infused articles to the school newspaper back in my college, too.