Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 7 Korean TV

I thought about writing this blog on my feelings about Lucasfilm being sold to Disney for a measly (ha) 4 billion dollars. But I've decided to hold that rant for another day- maybe a day in 2015, when the (first...) movie comes out, and I can offer a perhaps more solid opinion with yet more evidence of how George Lucas has truly gone to the dark side.

Instead, I will write a little about Korean television. For some reason I have been super tired today and haven't gotten much done. In a futile attempt to make up for it I'm currently working on watching some Korean TV for a research project. This project is probably one of the things I have been spending the most time on this semester, so if anyone wants to know what I do with a good chunk of my days (I often wonder where most of my days go myself) then this is probably a big factor.

Broadly, I am looking at television as a microcosm of culture at large. That is obviously too large to make into a semester long research project, so I've scaled it down to a comparative study (for my comparative methods class) comparing US and Korean shows. I'm working on creating a database and coding for certain characteristics. Luckily I do have two undergrads helping me, but it still take a long time, because it does "require" watching every episode of each show. I am hoping to be able to do a kind of survival analysis, looking at shows that are currently running and shows that are now extinct and see if that shows anything interesting.

Even if it doesn't, I still feel like (or am just really hopeful, considering how much work I have already done on this) I could get a little baby publishable paper out of it. This department really focuses on getting some publishable material out ASAP, which is great, but also really makes you want to not be wasting your time on something that might not be publishable. It might just be a general proposal paper noting the methodology and why I think television could be useful in comparative anthropological or cultural studies.

Of course, people have studied TV before. Everything has been studied to some degree. But I'm hoping this is new in that it is a collection of a variety of different TV programs from two different cultures. The more programs and cultures you add, the more interesting things that might come out of it. What themes are present in which cultures? How do the themes differ across cultures? What about types of main characters, story lines, gender and minority representation? Really, anything you might be interested in about a culture you can get a first glance at through television.

The world is highly globalized and that is particularly evident when watching television. I notice they often use random English words ("Fighting!"), play English music (The Killers, the Beatles, you name it) and wear a lot of clothes in English (like "My Girlfriend is Sick in Bed 24-7" or a just a sweatshirt with a US cartoon character). But you can still pick up on interesting and unique cultural traits just by watching enough TV. Aside from picking up choice Korean words (like jaebol- honey- a very important term for husbands and wives) I've also noticed other interesting aspects that I am sure are indicative of something. They drink a lot in their shows- particularly, or, rather, almost always when they are upset (every episode). There seems to be a predominance of female characters, in spite of the typical ideas we have of Korean women being "subservient" to Korean men. Though often women have to make sacrifices for or because of their relationships with men or other family members. Men are remarkably persistent, even when a woman tells him she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. Status certainly plays a big role, and for some reason hotel presidents are particularly popular.

Right now I am watching a show called Little Mom Scandal. It has four women as its main characters. Two of them are high school students. One of these students gets pregnant and against all advice decides to keep the baby. The scene where her father is actually hitting her in the head when he finds out was...interesting. In fact, family members in this show are often beating each other up- to the point of actually drawing blood or bruising their younger sibling or children. The other high school student is dealing with the death of her father and the remarriage of her mother, and ends up dating a much older man because he reminds her of her dad. This show sucks me in something terrible.

I am also watching/coding US shows for this project. Of course it is more difficult to notice odd bits and pieces about your own culture (which is why we have to code for all of the same characteristics in each show). But I do notice that in American shows, characters tend to show their emotion a great deal less than in Korean shows. US culture definitely seems to be more of a bottle-it-up-men-don't-cry kind of culture. Men cry plenty in Korean television. Also- too many cop dramas, not enough awesome personal life dramas like in Korean TV. Cop dramas all are pretty much the same after a while (except for the few really unique takes on it- like Life on Mars!).

Oh and a great thing about Korean TV- the series always finishes! Even if there is only one "season" (seasons are structured a little differently) that season typically completes a story. No cliffhangers (after watching The Nine Lives of Chloe King for this project, I wanted to punch someone, anyone, related to that show in the face) and a complete wrap up. I LOVE that.

One of the major issues in looking at television though, is if it is actually an accurate portrayal of a nation's culture. Certainly I Love Lucy might not have been directly translatable into most people's real lives during its run (much less the real life of the people in it). However, I think it is inarguable that TV is a representation of a culture- even if it hides or alters some things. The fact that something might be hidden in itself represents something, doesn't it? A culture whose television show strictly avoids sexual topics for example would likely find sex to be a taboo topic...

It is not exactly taboo in Korean culture...but this is interesting. In Little Mom Scandal two of the women work at a type of...brothel? It is not really a brothel, because the women do not have sex with their clients...yet it has been raided by the police and is considered a taboo job. They dress up in particular costumes and the men certainly do seem to get off in one way or another. But I can't quite figure out what's going on there. When one of the women transfers to a different "brothel" (definitely not the right word) to make more money (she is paying for her mother's hospital bills) and the man starts groping her, she completely freaks. The new places seems to require more from their girls than the other place, but I still haven't figured out exactly what. These places seem fairly common though, as similar locations have appeared in other shows, but I have yet to figure out exactly what they are.

If this has in any way made you itch to watch some Korean TV there are quite a few shows on Netflix, but you can also watch for free on this great site- DramaFever. After a few episodes I have been able to get into pretty much any Korean show I've watched so far, but I'm one of those people who can watch anything, so the same might not be true for you. I am not ashamed though- I freakin' love Little Mom Scandal. This show keeps me up at night- because once I start I can't stop watching it!

Well I still need to leave you with some photos, so here are a few. I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

The dead. 

 Vietnamese food in my favorite restaurant in Columbia so far.

Here's the outside.

Since my hair is long enough now, I've been straightening it...

The Missouri sky and moon do strange things...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Week 6 Fall Looks the Same Everywhere

This week I have a lot of things bubbling around in my brain. The semester has gone beyond the halfway mark, and final projects and deadlines are looming overhead. It is strange to think that we've been here for almost three months now. Lucky enough our three month mark lands on a Wednesday. Expect a big blog update for November 7.

So all the things bubbling in my head at the moment do not put me in the most "sharing" mood- I feel more introspective right now. I don't feel like talking or typing, I feel like thinking, reflecting. 

In other words, I do not have a lot to share this week...

Except maybe one thing I noticed today. Have you ever witnessed someone outside of yourself in the process of having a wonderful day? Of course we have all experienced hearing about someone's awesome day after they have had it, but have you actually seen someone beginning to have that day that turns out to be so awesome? I met with someone today and I witnessed two really awesome things happen to him just during our half hour meeting. By the end of the meeting he was grinning ear to ear and talking about what a great day today was turning out to be. This was at 9:30 in the morning and it was such a refreshing thing to witness. I hope his day ended just as well as it began. 

Though I do not have a lot to talk about this week, I do have plenty of visuals to share! I took a ton of photos today in the hopes of sharing with people back home what Fall looks like in Missouri. It looks a lot like it does back home...

Most of these are on campus. In the above you can see Swallow Hall, the anthropology building. 

This one and the next are behind Jesse Hall.

The front of Jesse Hall. Good luck getting a photo with no people in it during the semester.

This is a view from the parking deck.

It was a gorgeous day for a walk.

I was the only one home at one point today. And for some reason my trunk kept popping open by itself...
This is the Baked Eyeball Casserole I made for dinner. It was really good! But as you can see I couldn't find cheese balls so I cut the cheese into chunks.

These sunset photos I didn't take today, but still wanted to share...

Mr. Kitty says "Sup?"

And to finish, a photo I took today that makes me giggle every time...

Until next time! <3

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Week 5 "Profile" Pictures and other Updates

It's 11:51 pm on Wednesday- I still have time to make my Wednesday deadline! I have one super exciting thing to share...a charged camera! My new charger came in the mail yesterday so I have been having fun taking pictures. We were going to go to the park today (I wanted some good Fall photos!) but it ended up raining. So after class and lunch Dominic and I went to the library and then to a coffee shop downtown (Kaldi's). I have been really, really good about reducing my caffeine intake- in fact I have limited myself to 1-2 cups of tea a day. But today I really wanted coffee. I got a turtle flavored (not turtle as in the fun four-legged creature with the shell, turtle as in the wonderful chocolate sweet!) and it was divine:

It was fantastic, but specialty coffees are way too pricey for anything more frequent than, say, a once a month treat. I will have to try the suggestion Yvonne sent (thanks for passing it along!) of putting hot chocolate mix in regular coffee the next time I get an irresistible craving.

I've skipped ahead though. Let's rewind. Friday night Dominic and I went out for Korean food (all the Korean shows I've been watching for a project I’m working on got me wanting to try it) and it was pretty fantastic! Of course I got a soup that was a little more spicy than I am used to, but the flavor was great and the burn didn't linger. Dominic really seemed to enjoy it as well. I tried beef intestines for the first time in my entrĂ©e. They actually had a really good flavor- a very slight taste of liver, perhaps?- but very chewy. I will admit, the look of them wasn't super appetizing (just a reminder of how American I am). The Korean guy working there was surprised an American ordered intestines. Hey, I will try anything once.

After the Korean restaurant we tried to go to the library but it was closed early. So we wandered around downtown and happened upon the grand opening of a hookah bar. We haven’t had hookah in a while and decided to try it- the hookahs were so big they had to set them on the floor; they were taller than the tables. Afterwards we walked home just as the Nationals lost to the Cardinals…annnnd sometimes I forget I’m not in Virginia anymore. That definitely reminded me…people were so excited for the Cardinals they were taking their shirts off and running down the street. The middle of the street. Like crazy people. Sometimes I really do not understand sports culture…

The other exciting event of the weekend was participating in a BodyAttack class taught by a fellow anthro student, Jeremy. He is soon going to be a certified BodyAttack instructor. Super awesome! The class was a great workout and A LOT of fun but I’m still sore! I’m looking forward to doing it again this Saturday.

One funny thing to mention is how many Virginians I've been running into on the street. Literally. When Dominic and I were walking to the Lindsey Stirling concert last week I heard a guy sitting at an outside table talking about where he grew up in Virginia. I told him we were from Virginia too and he got super excited. He was from Alexandria. Then I was walking with Heather and Jeremy on Monday and we were talking about Virginia versus Missouri weather (no big difference so far). I noticed there was a guy walking right next to me very awkwardly. Finally he said something like “I don’t want to seem weird but I couldn't help but over hear…where in Virginia are you from? I’m from Chesapeake.” Then while I was talking to him, another guy, walking behind us, said he used to live in Goochland! It was totally bizarre. It’s nice in a strange way though, even though I don’t know those people and probably won’t see them again…it’s just nice to know that there are pieces of Virginia everywhere.

I close with profile pictures! I was so excited about my camera today that I decided everyone needed a new "profile" picture. Yeah, Dominic has been shaking his head at me all day for all my picture taking, but I have to make up for lost time. So here's our happy bunch! 

It's the man of the house!

It's the other man of the house ;) 

The crazy camera lady of the house.

And the house guard- she really knows how to work the camera.

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Week 4 Concert etc

I said last week that I was hoping to be able to start posting weekly photos. Unfortunately, I currently have no way to charge my camera (am going to look into ordering a new charger). I miss being able to take photos quite a bit, particularly during my first couple of months in Missouri! I am afraid that by the time I get it charged the novelty of a new town will have worn off and it won't be as fun to photograph mundane things like frat houses. And I have to take pictures of Fall! The leaves are already changing here, and it is absolutely gorgeous. My favorite time of year.

That being said, I refuse to fail my weekly photo goal (at least for this week)! Thus I stole a photo (shhh) from Lindsey Stirling!

During the concert on Monday she got her band members to take this photo for her Instagram:

Do you see us?! If you do you should probably get your eyes checked. We are there- towards the back all the way to the left. There were a lot of tall people up front so we were standing on the side where the floor is slightly tilted. I had hoped that would help me see. It didn't. One bone I have to pick with almost every concert I've ever been to (with the exception of those where everyone sits nicely) is that I just can't see. This was an even more disappointing issue during Lindsey's concert because she dances a lot and I really couldn't see her. On the plus side, they had a big screen above the stage where they showed videos of various things, so I could look at that if I got tired of looking at the back of people's heads. The music was fantastic and the opening act was decent and short (normally I hate opening acts). Unfortunately the main show was also pretty short; Lindsey only played for about an hour. It was still a great show though! And I liked the venue- small with a unique look inside (this was at The Blue Note).

Other than that, the main event this week was waking up yesterday morning to a dog with a face swollen to almost twice its normal size! She acted like nothing was wrong at all, but she looked...well, hilarious really. But I took her to the vet to make sure the reaction wasn't worse than it looked. She is doing a-okay, just allergic to some bitin' bug around here.

So it seems as if Missouri isn't agreeing with our animals quite as well as it's agreeing with us (or me at least, I guess I shouldn't speak for the both of us!). Hopefully no vet trip next Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Week 3- FLUTD etc

Let me share something this week that I've learned. No, it doesn't have to do with anthropology. It has to do with cats. Mr. Kitty started acting out of character yesterday. Dominic and I both noticed that he was in the litter box a lot on Monday. Yesterday, Dominic caught him trying to pee on the bed- which he has never done before- but instead of urine drops of blood were coming out. I took him to the litter box and he struggled for minutes to pee. I did some quick searches and decided that it was urgent enough to take him to the vet.

I took him to the University of Missouri veterinary teaching hospital. They are excellent there, extremely friendly, and were willing to keep him for testing (instead of making me wait) while I went to class.

It turns out that he probably (unless he doesn't improve, but I think he is) has Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This is relatively common in male cats and can be serious if full blockage of the urinary tract occurs. This can be caused by diet (we are switching him to a wet food), age (middle kitty age), obesity (he is just big-boned!), and stress. And we all thought Mr. Kitty was chill! But the move has been generally stressful for him.

Right now though, he is a super happy kitty. He's on some pretty awesome pain meds along with his anti-inflammatory pills. AND he gets fancy wet food. He seems like a much happier kitty.

Okay, well, maybe that wasn't all that interesting to anyone else, but cat owners be on the lookout! The symptoms are easy to see and if left unchecked it could be pretty serious. I had no idea this was something I should be looking for or how common it is, so just an FYI for cat owners.

Other than that, it's been a pretty typical week in grad school life. I had a great time Friday night hanging out with some of the other first year anthropology graduate students. Today I went to Student Health to try and fix my weird sinus problem again and will be back to see her in a week. She was a great doctor and very friendly. But everyone here has been friendly so far!

I've also tried two new restaurants this week- both Vietnamese restaurants. Both were excellent, though one was more of a take-out place and the other a very nice sit-down restaurant. It had very attractive furniture.

Oh ho, and the doctor said that I should cut back on CAFFEINE to help my indigestion. That's gonna be a preeetttty tough one, considering coffee is one of my favorite things, period. Plus I'm tired all the time! I will have to find another way to get that kick. One of which I am hoping will be exercise (I've been thinking about this lately, but Anna mentioned it again tonight). I finally got my bike fixed so I think I'm going to start biking! Yeah, I haven't really done it much since childhood, but I enjoyed it then, and this is a super bike friendly town. I will just have to work on getting confident in it again. Perhaps if I mention my hope to start biking here, I will follow through...besides my car hasn't been doing so hot lately...there may be a day when I will have to rely on my bike to get across town!

I am super excited for the Lindsey Stirling concert on Monday (here comes Ripley crawling in my lap- done with playing with Dominic) and so I need to get tons done in the next four days to make myself feel like I deserve a night out.

So, paragraphs later, we realize there is nothing much interesting to report this week. But I did it! My weekly blog. If I figure out a way to charge my camera I will start uploading weekly photos too.

Until next Hump Day...have a great week!