Thursday, June 26, 2008

Repost: - Hip-hop, South Korea

A few weeks ago the R-16 b-boy dance competition happened in Suwon. I had a chance to go on Sunday. It was a lot of fun and I got to interview Jeff Chang who is a recognized hip-hop journalist and music critic. That interview is in the pipeline.

However, in the interim, Chang has written about R-16 for Check it out.

So you think they can break-dance?

Forget the Bronx and South Central. If you want to find the best hip-hop dancers in the world look farther east, to South Korea.

By Jeff Chang

Jun. 26, 2008 | This summer, the United States is reaching new heights of dance fever as TV shows like Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" and MTV's "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Top Dance Crew" have returned to the airwaves. MTV's runaway hit is considered especially cutting edge, showcasing hip-hop dance groups from across America. But if MTV really wants the best dance crew, it should be looking in South Korea.


Photo by Joe Conzo

B-boy Physicx of the Rivers crew does his trademark elbow spin at the R16 competition in Suwon, South Korea.

"Of the top six or seven crews in the world, I'd say half of them are from Korea," says Christopher "Cros One" Wright, 33, an American dance promoter and b-boy who was recently in Suwon, South Korea, to judge the second annual global invitational hip-hop dance competition, called R16, that was held at the end of May.

The development of South Koreans' hip-hop dancing could be seen a cultural parallel to their sharp global ascendance in electronics and automaking. A decade ago, Koreans were struggling to imitate the Bronx-style b-boy and West Coast funk styles that are the backbone of the genre. Now, a handful of these crews are the safest bets to win any competition anywhere.

Certainly no country takes its hip-hop dance more seriously. The Korean government -- through its tourism board and the city of Suwon -- invested nearly $2 million in this year's competition. Two of the most successful teams, Gamblers and Rivers, have been designated official ambassadors of Korean culture. Once considered outcasts, the b-boys now seem to embody precisely the kind of dynamic, dexterous and youthful excellence that the government wants to project.

Although hip-hop dance goes back at least 35 years, the top Korean b-boys trace their histories back just 11 years, to 1997, the Year Zero of Korean breaking. By 2001, the first year that a Korean crew entered the Battle of the Year -- the world's biggest b-boy contest -- they won "best show" honors and a fourth-place trophy. Every year since, a Korean crew has placed first or second. Says Battle of the Year founder Thomas Hergenrother, "Korea is on a different planet at the moment."

The R16 competition, held at the Olympic Sports Complex, is broadcast live in prime time in South Korea and dozens of other countries. The government expects to gross $35 million from advertising and TV rights this year. And it isn't the only one profiting: Gamblers Crew, formed in 2001, may now be one of the most world's most lucrative hip-hop dance groups. The members regularly tour Asia, have endorsement deals with Fila, Kookmin Bank and Enerzen energy drinks, and will star opposite American teen idol Omarion in the $25 million movie "Hype Nation," the latest in the Hollywood dance-ploitation genre, set to open next year.

While some fans on the message boards for "America's Best Dance Crew" still don't know what a "b-boy" is, the word in South Korea has become synonymous with national pride. B-boy contests around the world attract mostly young males, but the R16 Sports Complex is full of grandparents, high school couples and teenage girls in their school uniforms. When one holds up a sign that reads "I (Heart) Physics!" she isn't referring to her college-prep curriculum, but to the 24-year-old, Bogart-faced, elbow-spinning star of the Rivers crew, Kim "Physicx" Hyo-Geun.

In South Korea, b-boying rules. The question even Americans are asking is, "How did this happen?"

During the 1970s, an array of dances practiced by black and Latino kids sprang up in the inner cities of New York and California. The styles had a dizzying list of names: "uprock" in Brooklyn, "locking" in Los Angeles, "boogaloo" and "popping" in Fresno, and "strutting" in San Francisco and Oakland. When these dances gained notice in the mid-'80s outside of their geographic contexts, the diverse styles were lumped together under the tag "break dancing."

The most physically demanding style -- the Bronx dance called "breaking" or "b-boying"/"b-girling" -- fueled a global fascination. In the mid-'80s, b-boys could be found spinning at the Olympics or at President Reagan's inauguration and promoting consumer products. But after the explosion, the dancers were cast off, the detritus of an exhausted fad.

Still, the dances took root around the world. While South Koreans have often been hostile to American imports, from Hollywood films to Washington beef (massive street protests against the government's lifting of the ban on U.S. beef broke out in Seoul the day before R16), hip-hop dance has been welcomed.

That may be partly because of South Korea's history of cultural repression of youth countercultures. During the 1970s, young Koreans in Seoul were being exposed to "Soul Train" and funk music via the U.S. Armed Forces Korea Network. A club scene arose in Itaewon to service American G.I.s. But as early as the summer of 1971, U.S.-backed dictator Park Chung-hee ordered his police to round up longhaired Korean men and cut their hair.

As the decade wore on, he escalated his "social purification" campaign, detaining artists, intellectuals and church leaders. In the first six months of 1976 alone, police reported checking over 600,000 men on hair length and possession of "obscene" T-shirts. Park's censorship committee blocked hundreds of American songs, from "We Shall Overcome" to "Me and Mrs. Jones."

"Black music was considered illegal because it was not good for the youth. The only music allowed was folk music," said Lee "MC Meta" Jae-hyun of the influential Korean rap group Garion, through a translator. "The music scene itself died. Influential music makers left the country." When he and his peers became enthralled with images of b-boys at the 1984 Olympics, they had no outlet for their creativity.

It was not until opposition leader Kim Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian leader in 1992 that youth culture seemed to flower again. At first, dance-friendly pop imports like Bobby Brown and MC Hammer spawned a host of Korean copies. "Up until then, it was all ballads," said Choi "DJ Wrecks" Jae-hwa, a pioneering Korean DJ who now spins for the Rivers crew, through a translator. But, Lee added, "the curiosity began and people became hungry for the real thing."

In just five years, Koreans would have their own thing.

It's a cool evening in front of the Ibis Hotel, an imposing postmodern gray slab that commands the Suwon skyline. Dozens of b-boys from around the world gather in groups in the lobby, bolts of color and noise against the hotel's minimalist white marble.

The Dutch crew, Funky Dope Manouvres, looks as ethnically diverse as Supercrew, the American one (which will fly directly from R16 to tape "America's Top Dance Crew"). Drawing dancers not just from Holland but Scandinavia too, FDM includes second-generation kids whose parents come from Brazil, Indonesia, Poland, Ghana and Suriname. Iranian-Swede Mahan "King Foolish" Noubarzadeh, 21, talks about how b-boying has brought together Muslims and Christians. Then he scans the lobby and sizes up the competition: "The favorites here? Gamblers and Rivers."

The next day is the marquee event, head-to-head elimination battles that are the heart of b-boying. Two crews challenge each other with aggressive, stylized choreographed steps and freestyle solo and ensemble moves. Egos are on the line. Tempers sometimes flare. "America's Best Dance Crew" doesn't dare approach this kind of a format. But the heat of the battle often makes the dancing spectacular.

Outside the hotel entrance, a Belgian dancer is challenging Kim "Bang Rock" Hyun-jin, 24, a genial round-faced dancer from Rivers, the defending R16 champs. They don't speak each other's language, but the Belgian is calling out the Korean by pointing to the ground and staring out from a chin-up tilt. Kim won't step in the cipher, the space between the dancers surrounded by a circle of onlookers that forms the battleground. So the Belgian starts with a six-step, then drops to a flurry of footwork and ends with a shoulder roll.

Now Kim has to respond. He humiliates the Belgian by imitating the European's movements, and climaxes with a series of virtuoso body spins. When he comes to a stop, he is leaning upside down at an inverted angle, balanced on a shoulder and a hand. He grins up at his opponent. This encounter is over. The Belgian offers a congratulatory hand.

Later, sucking on an ice cream treat, Kim laughs. "I didn't want to battle. I keep asking, 'Why?'" Of course, he knows the answer. It's the reason Korean crews regularly practice five hours a day, seven days a week. "We know there's always somebody trying to catch up with us," says 27-year-old Gamblers crew spokesman Chung "B-Boy Sick" Hyung-sik through a translator. "We always have to be ahead."

R16 co-organizer Johnjay Chon says that a decade ago, there were just five crews in the whole country. This spring, more than 50 entered the country's qualifying competition for R16. At events or clubs in Seoul, Chon regularly spots unknown b-boys taking out experienced pros. "What happens is they practice on the lowdown until they're up at a level where they can actually come out and shock somebody," he says. "They practice in the shadow."

Cho "C4" Chung-woon of Rivers says through a translator, "We've been praised for our technical skills, but that's because we would practice head spinning all day long. That's what sets us apart."

Still, the old "Asian work ethic" explanation is just part of the story. When Koreans first emerged, Americans praised them for their power moves -- the highflying crowd-pleasing spins, freezes and gymnastics moves -- but criticized the Seoul b-boys for lacking soul. They were thought to be mechanical, unable to rock with the beat, and lacking in "foundation skills," such as the top-rock and footwork moves that form the historical roots of the dance.

"What the Americans said really influenced them," says Charlie Shin, Chon's business partner and a Korean b-boy advocate. "They went back in the lab. It changed them."

They mastered routines, the choreographed ensemble moves that are essential parts of a showdown. They immersed themselves in the music and the rhythms. They studied the history of b-boying and hip-hop culture. Three members of the Rivers crew -- Born, C4 and Red Foot -- are now affiliates of Mighty Zulu Kings, a crew whose lineage can be traced back to hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa's Bronx River Project dances in the early 1970s. Even their crew name, Rivers, was chosen to capture an aspect of the hip-hop aesthetic.

"You know how rivers flow? Rivers flow swiftly, and that's also how we move and how we think," C4 says. "B-boys in other countries do it as a hobby, but to the Korean b-boys, our life is b-boying."

R-16 organizers Shin, 31, and Chon, 32, are what Asian-Americans call one-point-fivers -- young people born in Asia but raised bilingual and bicultural in America. Shin's 15th birthday came days after riots erupted in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, after the Rodney King verdict, a traumatic period that Korean-Americans now simply call Sa-I-Gu or "4-2-9" the way one might refer to "9/11." Parts of Koreatown were still in flames and hundreds of Korean-American businesses had been reduced to ashes. The era had poisoned mainstream perceptions of Asian immigrants. White pundits used them to score rhetorical points against welfare and affirmative action, while black leaders boycotted their shops. But neither Shin or Chon was close enough to the fires to have been burned by them. You could call them members of the post-Sa-I-Gu generation.

Hip-hop formed a crucial part of their identity, and a source of redemption. "For me, growing up in the States, I had been called all kinds of names," Shin says. When he moved to Seoul eight years ago, supporting Korean b-boys became a cause. Seeing them win respect from others, he says, "kind of dissolved all that racial bullshit I grew up with." The Korean-Americans became exemplars of hip-hop culture at a moment when young South Koreans were trying to define a new national identity.

Chon was born in Japan and raised in Seattle. After forming and competing nationally with the multiracial Circle of Fire crew, he came to Seoul on a summer trip in 1997 to visit family. Armed with videos and DVDs of dozens of contests, Chon began scouring the clubs for b-boys to battle. He met the Expression crew -- now a hip-hop dance theater troupe -- and gave it a video of a legendary Los Angeles b-boy competition called Radiotron.

"A year later I came back and I just saw there were more b-boys. They were telling me, 'Oh you gotta see this footage,'" Chon says. "I'm watching it and it's the Radiotron [video] that I brought out a year ago. It's been dubbed so many times the screen is shaking."

During the year Chon was gone, teenagers such as the Gamblers' B-Boy Sick had caught religion after watching grainy videos like that one. Lively Internet groups brought hip-hop fans together. Japan's obsession with underground American hip-hop was at its peak, and CDs and videos found their way to South Korea through Tokyo. As South Korea's economy spiraled downward in 1997, a vibrant counterculture was emerging in Seoul.

At the Master Plan club in the Chungjeong neighborhood, rap groups like Garion, Artisan Beats & Keeproots and Drunken Tiger JK explored the rhythms of their native tongue and sometimes disclosed personal traumas or attacked social ills. In Taehongno, an area rich in college campuses, nightclubs, galleries and theaters, b-boys suddenly appeared. The Rivers crew and Expression crew, South Korea's first Battle of the Year winners, were among the b-boys who gathered there.

They battled all evening in front of the crowds at the popular Maronie Park, then moved to the clubs in the early morning hours. When dawn broke, they headed to school. Their intensity impressed Chon. "I'm like, 'OK how does this work?'" he says he asked the b-boys. "I just sleep in school" was their invariable reply.

These Korean hip-hop heads were the first generation to grow up after authoritarian rule. Those before them had come of age on the front lines of demonstrations against American-backed dictators. But these youths lived under relative, if yet unstable, democracy and prosperity.

They were also mostly working-class outsiders. "The minute you're born in Korea, depending on what your economic background is, or who your parents are, what network you're in, what neighborhood you're in, what high school you went to, what college you went to, your life is pretty much decided for you," Shin says. "The b-boys, it's not like they're the most highly educated kids, but they're good at what they do, and they put as much effort into practicing as the other kids do into the Korean SATs."

Because South Korea is still a country at war, looming over every young man's life is mandatory military service. For working-class b-boys, it acts as a passage into a bleak future. "If they're not in college, they have to do some kind of menial job," according to Shin. Many say that the prospect of military service is the main factor that has accelerated the Korean breaking scene's development. "You see that hunger and that drive," says Korean-American filmmaker Benson Lee, whose 2007 hit documentary "Planet B-Boy" featured a DMZ scene with members of Gamblers and Rivers as battling soldiers.

They know that the freedom of b-boying can't last. "The service will come up when you're 21, 22. But they can always extend that using some excuse," Chon says. "A lot of the b-boys -- now they're like 26, 27, they haven't gone. They have to go soon. They keep putting it off because the culture is kind of peaking now."

He estimates that four out of five b-boys currently competing in South Korea have postponed their service or have illegally evaded their conscription. Chon and Shin say they know many b-boys who have mutilated themselves to dodge the army. Kim "Bang Rock" Hyun-jin of the Rivers crew says through a translator, "Everyone tries to avoid the service." Then he switches to English for emphasis. "It's like going to hell."

On the final day of R16, there are more government officials in suits wandering around backstage, the crowd is thicker and louder, the TV crews are everywhere, and the energy is high.

Through the opening rounds of the crew-on-crew battles, the Gamblers and Rivers dispatch their rivals easily. In the semifinals, the Gamblers face the fluid and elegant Brasil All-Stars, whose moves vibrate with the traditions of capoeira. They win in a pleasingly close contest, three judges to two. But when the Rivers crew faces Russia's Top 9 crew from St. Petersburg in the other semifinal -- potentially a classic duel of power versus finesse -- tension builds.

On an arena stage, crews must face each other across the floor, as if across a DMZ turned battleground. This staging emphasizes the metaphor of the attack. By the rules, each crew must give the other its space on the floor while it is performing. They alternate their turns. No touching of opponents is allowed.

But minutes into the contest, Physicx begins dancing before Russia's tiny dynamo Flying Buddha has finished his solo. (See the battle here.) When Buddha moves over to stare down Physicx, who has begun a difficult flare sequence, a Rivers member pushes him away. Physicx backs out of the cipher, comes around to high-five Buddha and motions for him to retake the floor. Instead Top 9 starts a three-man routine. Physicx steps back in to disperse Top 9, then motions again to Flying Buddha. The Russian takes a wide berth, flings off his light blue shirt, does a six-step, then launches into a spectacular one-armed move known as an air chair. Now Top 9 is fired up.

B-boy Robin, Russia's assassin in a brown Yankees hat, oversize polo shirt and cargo slacks, circles the floor and then taunts the Koreans by pulling back his eyes. Some in the crowd gasp at Robin's slanted-eye dis. But his subsequent solo, featuring a Tony Hawk-style hand plant and surging rolls broken up with one-armed freezes, is flawless. In what b-boys call a "commando" attack -- a routine in which a run is begun by one or more b-boys but finished by another, named for the post-gang-era Bronx dancers who invented it as a tactic to prevent the other crew from immediately responding -- C4 dives through two Rivers members and leaps straight at Robin, pulling his own eyes back, then miming a castration of Robin. The crowd roars.

But as the battle continues, Rivers seems exhausted, while Top 9 gains momentum. In their final routine, the Top 9 b-boys do a number of clever duet Lindy Hop-style routines, jumping off each other, flipping each other into spins and forming circles for crewmates to leap through. When Top 9 wins 5-0, some in the crowd boo. But this won't be Rivers' day. It finishes fourth behind the Brasil All-Stars.

In the finals, South Korea's Gamblers crew counters Top 9's routines with elaborate commandos and ample personality. (See the battle here.) As the clock ticks down, the dancers play "pass the hat." B-boy Pop handstands across the stage and balances on his left hand. Then he arches his body into the heart of the Top 9 line and passes a white baseball cap to a hand-spinning Soul Soy. On the Gamblers' last run, b-boy Sick chases Robin and Top 9 out of the cipher, drops down for some fleet footwork, then quickly contorts himself through a set of wire-doll freezes that wouldn't look out of place on a Cirque du Soleil stage.

When the Gamblers are announced as the champions, Pop flings his shirt into the crowd and strikes a kung-fu matinee idol pose at the edge of the stage. Cameras and cellphones flash. Soul Soy announces to the media that it is donating its R16 winnings to victims of the earthquakes in China and Myanmar. It's an audacious statement. The $15,000 first-place prize is the largest that has ever been offered at any b-boy event in the world.

Later, Sick signs autographs and takes pictures with two stricken schoolgirls. As he waves and disappears into the bus, they clutch their autographed programs and continue blushing and bowing. There are few big-name b-girls now in South Korea, but who knows? Perhaps those girls will form the next generation of champion dance crews.

"The world is a big place, man, and there's another hungry competitor stepping up," R-16 judge and legendary Rock Steady crew b-boy Ken Swift says. "It's a cycle, and the cycle is based upon crews like these Korean crews who go out and inspire these new fans. And then five years from now, those new people are going to be saying, 'OK we're the shit now.'"


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Repost: AC360 - The fallacy of colorblind post-raciality

Carmen Van Kerckhove, founder of New Demographic and the Racialicious blog, breaks it down on the AC360 blog (and, y'all know I've got a crush on Anderson, right? Yeah, yeah...I know the rumors, screw y'all!!! I'm in denial on that.)

Anyway, she talks about this post-racial b.s. that people bandy around. I'm going to turn comments off here because there are comments there. Plus, I don't want to get stuck in a debate on it when it's not a piece that I wrote. However, I do strongly agree with her.

Great post Carmen.

The fallacy of colorblind post-raciality
Posted: 08:15 AM ET

Carmen Van Kerckhove
Co-founder, New Demographic, a consulting firm that addresses race and racism

It has become increasingly fashionable to bandy about the words “post-racial” and “colorblind” when discussing race in America.

Apparently, many Americans have convinced themselves that they even if racism does still exist, they are not part of the problem. When asked the question “If you honestly assessed yourself, would you say that you have at least some feelings of racial prejudice?” in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, only three in ten respondents answered yes.

The other seven must be afflicted by “colorblindness,” that odd phenomenon that drives people to insist that they “just don’t notice race” and claim that they don’t care whether people are “black, brown, green, or purple.”

Of course, colorblindness and post-raciality are both mythical constructs.

All of us notice variations in skintone, facial features, hair texture, eye color, and the myriad of other phenotypic factors that cause us to draw conclusions as to what race a person is.

Then why do people insist on claiming that they don’t notice color? Often, it’s because they are scared to death of being labeled a racist.

But here’s the thing. Noticing a person’s race doesn’t make you racist. What does make you racist is if you make assumptions about that person’s intellectual, physical, or emotional characteristics based on the race you think the person is.

And unfortunately, too many of us do make those assumptions. We’ve all internalized racist ideas – consciously or subconsciously – from our families, our environments, our media consumption, and more. Until we can understand that and begin to de-program ourselves, we cannot be truly “post-racial.”

Even more importantly, when people proclaim that they’re colorblind, what they’re really implying is that race no longer matters in America. While it’s true that race is not a biological reality, it is a very real social construct that has a profound impact on our lives. Race still matters because racism is alive and well. Pretending otherwise negates the everyday experiences of millions of people of color in this country.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said it best when he stated that colorblindness means being “blind to the consequences of being the wrong color in America today.”


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Fan Death!!!??? It's real!!!

Some friends' and their spoof of the belief in fan death by many Koreans...LOL.


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George Carlin, RIP

When I read that George Carlin had passed away this morning I was sad.

Why? Because he was a unique comic and I grew up sneaking listens to him when I wasn't supposed to.

Carlin, along with other comics like Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman and shows like Saturday Night Live, Fridays and SCTV helped shape what is my very weird sense of humor and horrible propensity to swear like a sailor (and to a certain not-so-gentle man who judged me for that, f**k you...)

Plus, his Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television is simply classic comedy. You can't not laugh and if you don't laugh you're way too uptight for my tastes.

Here it is on YouTube and, if you can't figure out there is a lot of swearing, then you're an idiot.

The Intro:

The Rest:

Here is another one on language:

"...smug, greedy, well-fed white people..."

Hahahahaha ...great stuff.

I was going to write in more detail, but that John f**king Mayer guy beat me to it. However, what he has to say is pretty good, so I'll just repost it here and get back to the stacks of tests I have to grade.

George Carlin, Rest in Peace.

George Carlin

George Carlin was my favorite comic.
He had what a virtuoso must: control.
Virtuosos take away the fear in you that they will drop the ball,
because they never do.

He would ease you into generally agreeing with his world view and then sneak in the oddest statement he could come up with, like "You ever get hit in the head with an axe?"

One time he told this joke about his grandfather retiring for the evening, telling him "I'm gonna go upstairs and f**k your grandma for a while."

His telling of the Aristocrats joke is by far the most vulgar and graphic.

He was also one of those entertainers whom you "share custody" with someone you love.
My brother Carl and I would recite Carlin lines all the time...

He was known as a "counter-cultural" comedian.
And it's a shame he's gone, because these days there's a hell of a lot of culture to be countered. Photos: In Memoriam: George Carlin


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Brava!!! Italian Vogue - All Black Model Feature, July 2008

Note: I've shifted updates to the bottom.

Brava! (Okay, I know Steven Meisel is a man so it ought to be "bravo", but it's a magazine targeting women.)

Conspicuous by Their Presence

RACIAL prejudice in the fashion industry has long persisted because of tokenism and lookism. “We already have our black girl,” says a designer to a fashion-show casting agent, declining to see others. Or: “She doesn’t have the right look.” Laziness, paranoia and pedantry may also have something to do with the failure to hire black models for shows and magazine features in any meaningful number, but, hey, that’s just a guess.

A decade ago the thing to deplore was the stereotyping of black models by dressing them in African-inspired clothes (or the Asian girls in kimonos). This at least gave work to minority models, but it also encouraged a Western view of African culture of the many-bangles-many-beads variety.

O.K., so fashion ain’t deep. It looks into a mirror and sees ... itself. The irony in fashion is that it loves change but it can’t actually change anything. It can only reflect a change in the air. But what changes fashion? What would finally move American designers to include more black models on their runways? That 30 percent of the country is nonwhite? That black women spend $20 billion a year on clothes? That an African-American is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party?

The answer is the individual eye.

In fashion, one of the most influential eyes belongs to the photographer Steven Meisel. His pictures have caught an America basking in the earnest, self-reflected glow of celebrity and money. He has taken innumerable risks, especially with “Sex,” the 1992 volume he did with Madonna, that have paid off with a career that allows him to do whatever he wants.

And he has almost lovingly photographed some of the world’s beautiful women, tapping into their psyches, connecting with them on a human level, while transforming them into fashion deities.

As the model Veronica Webb, who first worked with Mr. Meisel 20 years ago, said: “Steven knows every single tic, every talent that every girl has. He just pulls it out of them.”

For the July issue of Italian Vogue, Mr. Meisel has photographed only black models. In a reverse of the general pattern of fashion magazines, all the faces are black, and all the feature topics are related to black women in the arts and entertainment. Mr. Meisel was given roughly 100 pages for his pictures. The issue will be on European newsstands next Thursday and in the United States soon after.

Under its editor, Franca Sozzani, Italian Vogue has gained a reputation for being more about art and ideas than commerce. Ms. Sozzani also doesn’t mind controversy.

She said that, as an Italian, she has been intrigued by the American presidential race and Mr. Obama, which was one source of inspiration when she and Mr. Meisel began discussing, in February, the idea of an all-black issue. Also, she was aware of the lack of diversity on the runways in recent years and the debate it fueled last fall in New York, where Bethann Hardison, a former model who ran a successful agency, held two panel discussions on the topic.

Ms. Sozzani said the issue was not a response to criticism that she, too, has under-represented blacks or portrayed them as stereotypes.

“Mine is not a magazine that can be accused of not using black girls,” said Ms. Sozzani, noting that Naomi Campbell has had several covers, and that Liya Kebede and Alek Wek have also had covers.

Having worked at one time with nearly all the models he chose for the black issue — Iman, Ms. Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jourdan Dunn, Ms. Kebede, Ms. Wek, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander — Mr. Meisel had his own feelings. “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination,” said Mr. Meisel, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race — every kind of prejudice.”

He began casting in March. “I love the history of fashion, obviously, and I love old, and I tried to get as many of the older girls as I could,” he said. Over Ms. Sozzani’s initial objections, he also hired Toccara Jones, a full-figure model, who became known from “America’s Next Top Model.” “I wanted to say something about weight, and I’m never allowed to do that,” he said. “I met Toccara and thought, she’s beautiful. What’s the deal with her? She’s great and she’s sexy.”

If these pictures have a heightened sense of glamour, it probably has something to do with the atmosphere of a Meisel shoot. According to Ms. Webb, “it’s the darkest studio, like a studio at MGM.”

There are fans and reflectors; many assistants. An area is marked “Hair” and another “Makeup.” (Pat McGrath did all the makeup for the issue, and Guido Palau did the hair.) A mirror is placed behind Mr. Meisel, so the model can see herself.

“It’s a dark world,” Ms. Webb said, “and you’re in the spotlight.”

The four pictures that Ms. Campbell was supposed to make turned into 20. She also appears on the fold-out cover, along with Ms. Kebede, Sessilee Lopez and Ms. Dunn. “Franca doesn’t realize what she’s done for people of color,” Ms. Campbell said the other day. “It reminds me of Yves using all the black models.” She was referring to Yves Saint Laurent, who, like Gianni Versace and a handful of other designers, routinely cast minorities.

Mr. Meisel has his own theories about why black models, save for the token few, have disappeared from runways. “Perhaps the designers, perhaps the magazine editors,” he said. “They are the powerful people. And the advertisers. I have asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no.” The concern is that consumers will resist the product, he said. “It all comes down to money.”

Ashley Brokaw, an independent casting agent in New York, believes that designers want more diversity in their casts but, she said, “what they want and what the reality is are two different things.” She thinks that agencies don’t spend enough time to groom new models for the catwalk, making it easy for designers to reject them, and then the cycle of new faces is spinning faster and faster.

But it’s also true that designers, in spite of their creative powers, yearn for the approval of insiders. “They are looking around, over their shoulders, asking, ‘Is that cool?’ ” Mr. Meisel said. He agreed that it’s a crazy kind of paranoia. Whether it’s a new model or hip style, he said with a laugh, “It can only be stated by a certain five people and then they go with it.”

What is striking about Mr. Meisel’s pictures, especially a portrait of Ms. Banks in a soft head-wrap and one of Ms. Lopez in a neat brocade turban, is how much beauty and life he was able to extract from them, so that you almost feel you are seeing these women for the first time.

Ms. Hardison hopes that the Italian Vogue issue (to which she contributed) will open people’s eyes in the industry. “They need to see what they’re missing out there,” she said. This week, in its July issue, American Vogue will have an article about the dearth of black models.

Perhaps no individual, though, will know what it means to be included more than Ms. Lopez. Last year, she barely worked. Ms. Brokaw predicts that after insiders see Mr. Meisel’s pictures, she will have a terrific season.

This kind of perplexes and delights Mr. Meisel.

“Here’s this exquisite girl,” he said, addressing no one in particular. “What don’t you get? She’s a beautiful woman. There was no trick to it.”


Update 1: July 16, 2008 @ 8:42pm

Well, the Italian Vogue finally made it to my favorite bookstore here, Kyobo Bookstore. And, being VERY happy about this issue I bought every different cover ;) However, the cover with Naomi Campbell was MIA. I have a feeling that those got bought up or given away before they made it to the magazine rack. I'll keep searching though.

Here is a wonderful byline from the NYTimes:
Beautiful Is Beautiful (click the link for a great pictorial)

For the July issue of Italian Vogue, Steven Meisel, one of the most influential photographers in fashion, has photographed only black models.
I will be getting an over priced copy of this edition for sure (maybe two). Foreign mags are sold at bookstores in Seoul wrapped so tightly in plastic that you wonder if they ever want you to read the magazine and the foreign mags are so grossly over-priced it's shocking. However, for this edition, I'm giving up the cash. It's worth it just to show my support for Italian Vogue doing that.

Update 2: August 28, 2008 @ 10:20am

For all the haters that read much more into this Italian Vogue issue than I think was necessary, I learned about a magazine called Trace Magazine that does a "Black Girls Rule" edition once a year.

So, now I want you all to click over, read the post: Trace Magazine - Black Girls Rule and then subscribe to Trace Magazine. If you don't, you're just a negative "can't see anything positive" hypocrite.

Yes, I said it. And have I contacted them to start my subscription? Yes, I have...


Update 3: September 5, 2008 @ 7:12am

I have no idea but, for some reason, people are searching for information on the All Black Model Italian Vogue issue. Maybe some TV show talked about it.

Anyway, I doubled back to the Google link leading people to me and found another good blog post on it at Make Fetch Happen. So, I'm sharing the love.

Here is a great slideshow of some of the photos from the issue I saw at that blog: Vogue Italia July 2008. However, I'm really hoping that issue sold out and most who wanted to see it, bought it.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] Exclusive with 'DMC' McDaniels

This was an interview I was really excited to get because this is DMC!!! DMC of Run-DMC!!! Wow!

He's performing tomorrow night, June 18th, so if you're in Seoul, you should really make the effort to be there.


[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] Exclusive with 'DMC' McDaniels

Darryl McDaniels, better known as DMC, is one third of the legendary rap group Run-DMC. Run-DMC pioneered many firsts for hip-hop artists. The most important first was being the first rap group to make it to superstar status, forever changing how both the world and the music industry viewed hip-hop. Run-DMC sold out international tours, went platinum many times over and changed the face of the genre. DMC will perform at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seoul tomorrow at 11 p.m. I have been given the chance to ask him a few questions to share with Expat Living readers.

Expat Living: After going through both personal and professional challenges and changes, you're in a new phase of your career and working as a solo artist. How are things different for you in this phase of your career?

DMC: At this point in my career I can be as creative as I want. I don't have a position on a team (or) with a group. Now I'm free to (discuss) what Darryl wants to talk about - and musically I'm not limited.

Darryl McDaniels, better known as DMC, will perform tomorrow night at The Hard Rock Cafe in Itaewon, Seoul. [Photo courtesy Hard Rock Cafe, Seoul]

Expat Living: In 2006 you released your first solo CD "Checks, Thugs and Rock n' Roll." On that CD you collaborated with Sarah McLachlan on a track named "Just Like Me," which is a remake of Harry Chapin's classic "Cat's in the Cradle." What is the story behind that collaboration?

DMC: I found out at 35 that I was adopted. I didn't know my whole life. Prior to that, I was going through a period of alcohol abuse and depression with thoughts of suicide. Sarah's record "Angel" saved my life. I had a chance to meet her. I thought of making a record to touch lives the way hers touched mine. I reached out to her and when we finished making the song, she revealed to me that she was adopted too. I did not know that when I first heard her music. It was destined for us to hook up for this purpose.

Expat Living: Another question about "Checks, Thugs & Rock n' Roll" - I read some of the reviews. Years after Run-DMC were trail blazers in sampling rock and single-handedly revived Aerosmith's profile by remaking their song "Walk This Way" into a Top 10 hit, people still express a sense of shock over who you choose to work with. You've been in this industry for a long time now. Why do you think people still want to express shock over who you choose to collaborate with? I ask this because I don't see it happening as much with artists in other music genres.

DMC: I don't think of myself as just a rapper. Rap is one what I do, (but) not what I'm limited to. I write, compose and create just like any other musician or lyricist. I can rap over any type of music I please. I go with real musicians and songwriters because I love creating new music.

Expat Living: With Jam Master Jay gone, my condolences, you say that Run-DMC is officially retired. However, you worked with Rev. Run on your last CD. Both you and Run are very busy, I'm sure, but how often are you two in touch?

DMC: I don't speak with Run, only for Run-DMC merchandise deals. Mostly, communication is done through our management. He's a reverend and I'm a rocker, but, technically, we (are) still doing the same things we've always done. We've done what was supposed to be done together.

Expat Living: In a 2005 Rolling Stone article you wrote "(In) the early days of rap, conventional wisdom was that only black people were supposed to like hip-hop and only white people were supposed to like rock." However, we all know that rap is loved worldwide. Last year a Korean team won the international b-boy dance competition. The love of hip-hop culture is pretty clear when you see achievement on that level. That's just one example of how hip-hop music and culture has spread worldwide. As someone who is still at the forefront of hip-hop culture, how does that make you feel?

DMC: Hip-hop is the most powerful force on earth - stronger than politics and religion combined. Those two things divide. True and real hip-hop brings people together. Hip-hop and rock n' roll are brothers - just two expressions of the same feelings.

Expat Living: What do you say to critics who claim that Koreans, or people from other cultures are capturing only the superficial aspects of hip-hop, but that these kids do not understand the deeper issues that flow from hip-hop?

DMC: Tell them (to) shut up. Hip-hop is a universal medium for communication to all races, creeds, colors and nations. It's universal in its flavor and appeal.

Expat Living: This is going to be your first time performing in Seoul. What have you heard from other artists about performing in Seoul?

DMC: It's all good. It (doesn't) matter to me - five or 5,000. I'm going to give them something they've never seen. Not the corny stuff you get on radio or MTV.

Expat Living: Will you have some time to explore Seoul? If so, is there anything you would like to see or experience here?

DMC: I never have time to sightsee, but talking, meeting and seeing the people makes me feel good. I love meeting new people and representing hip-hop culture.

Expat Living: In a Vibe magazine interview you said that Chuck D told you that "the most powerful thing is the power of communication." You have a huge amount of communication power. What do you want to communicate to your Korean fans?

DMC: I want them to know we're all in this world together even though I'm from Hollis, Queens, New York. You can check my music back in the day and my new stuff getting ready to come out and you'll see and feel everything I do, I do for you. Hip-hop is not about me. It's about we or us!

For more information on DMC you can go to his MySpace page,, or his website,

Here is an Adobe Acrobat version of the page:

Read this document on Scribd: KH06172008


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Friday, June 13, 2008

Repost: Racialicious - Whose Feminism?

This one is GOOD.

Since I've been spread too thin to get into essay mode, I'll turn you on to this one from Racialicious. Thea Lim hits the tension between feminism and race head on.

No comments here people. It's just a repost, so take them to

Whose Feminism?

by Guest Contributor Thea Lim

For the past few months, I’ve felt agitated and short-tempered most of the time. Taking the afternoon off, watching all three of the Bourne movies in a row, unplugging for a long weekend – even the dreaded Talking About My Feelings hasn’t made a dent in the ball of rage that’s been growing steadily in my lungs, my solar plexus and my belly. The rage creates even more rage – and I find myself wondering, why can’t I just freakin’ calm down?

And then I got this note last week from Carmen through the New Demographic newsletter:

A couple of weeks ago I found myself feeling really angry and rundown, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was causing these emotions…This has been a grueling year for people like you and me — folks who are passionate about fighting racism and creating social change. While this election has given many of us cause for hope, it has also brought out a lot of ugliness around us.

I’m a Canadian living in Canada, and due to a hangover from a very short affair with anarchy, I’m fairly suspicious of electoral politics, and sometimes don’t even vote. So when trying to unravel the roots of this ball of rage, the Democratic Primary Race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was not the first place I looked.

But you see, I’m starting to understand what my problem is: I identify as a feminist. And I don’t just mean I read bell hooks from time to time and appreciate the equity undertones of Gilmore Girls. I mean, I really live feminism. I work for an overtly feminist women’s health organisation, my first novel was a work of feminist fiction, and I helped put together the Shameless Magazine blog – online companion to Canada’s only feminist print magazine for teenagers.

I’m also an anti-racist woman of colour.

Last week as I waded through Geraldine Ferraro’s horrible op-ed and yet another listserv conversation about how feminists must support Clinton, I realised that, Canadian or not, for the past few months being an anti-racist person of colour AND a feminist has become a source of heartache, deep sorrow, and yes, pure, seething, rage. Because it feels like feminism, a cause that I have defended and supported for four years, has turned its back on me.

What has hurt me about this far-removed, distant and abstract primary race, is not what Clinton has done – though the racism that marred the end of her campaign sure stings. It is what’s happening at the grassroots level, not at the level of Chris Matthews and CNN, that hurts me. What’s truly gut-wrenching is the message the feminist blogosphere, feminist journalists, and feminist politicians have broadcast, bull-horned and sky-written in response to Clinton’s candidacy.

It’s the assumption that if you are a woman, Hillary speaks for you. It is the assumption that if you are a feminist, you will vote for a woman, no matter who she is, and no matter how little she may represent your experience. It is the assumption that if you are a woman, if you are a feminist, you will agree that gender is the greatest barrier to success in (North) America.

It is the assumption, in short, that if you are a woman, you are a straight, white, middle-class woman.

It is painful enough to be told that race and class don’t matter. It is far more painful to be told that race and class don’t matter by a movement, that by its very definition, knows that gender matters – but today won’t admit that anything else does. At the risk of being dramatic, for the past few months, living as a woman of colour who is also a working feminist – which means every day trudging through emails, blog posts, reports, listservs and conversations that imply (or exply!) that only gender matters – has been a bit like having my extremities cut off one by one.

The primary race brought the divisions between anti-racist feminists and non-anti-racist feminists* to the surface, but the worst thing about this ugly reveal, is that being forced to face a schism that feminism has been unable to brook over and over, could’ve been a chance to work through some of those rifts. Instead it just revealed exactly how unequipped feminism is to deal with race.

As our friend Latoya has mentioned on this here blog many times, white American feminists were shockingly silent on the racism in Clinton’s campaign.**

In her letter “Addressing the wounds between White feminists and feminists of Color,” activist Aishah Shahidah Simmons outlines the grief and anger she felt when White, third wave feminists did not critique the racism in Clinton’s campaign:

The concern for me is that I longed to hear from progressive, anti-racist White feminists who publicly supported Clinton but also publicly took stands against her and her campaign’s racism. I felt and feel many of her supporters (who know the vicious hertories and contemporary realities of the intersections of race and gender in this country) were complicit as she and her campaign fanned the fires of racism, which like sexism, is deeply entrenched into the very fibers of the founding of this country.

My beef with non-anti-racists feminists came from a different angle: when it became clear, after the backlash that met Gloria Steinem’s famous op-ed, that it was not ok to pit gender against race, instead of trying to understand why it was not ok, non-anti-racist feminists simply continued to make the same ridiculous statements that pit gender against race; except added in meaningless disclaimers.

For example, the point that Obama did not have to face racism in the same amounts as Clinton had to face sexism, continued to be made – this time though, it was preceded by “Not that I want to get into whether or not race or gender are bigger barriers.” Listen, if you don’t want to get into whether or not race or gender are bigger barriers, then don’t talk about how gender is a bigger barrier than race.

Come on now, it’s not that complicated.

What I am utterly baffled by, is why a discussion that Clinton has had to deal with distressing amounts of sexism has to be followed by the argument that Obama has not faced racism. Or that racism has actually benefited Obama, because people will vote for him because it’s hip to support black people.

Hillary has been treated badly because she is a woman, period. Why does that fact have to be followed by a snipe about how racism doesn’t really exist anymore? I don’t feel the need to discount the ways Hillary has had a hard time due to sexism, or deny that sexism exists, in order to make a case for the fact that racism exists. It actually makes me physically ill to have to continuously listen to this argument.

Newsflash: an environment that allows sexism to flourish is usually an environment that allows racism to flourish. Feminists, anti-racists – heck, anyone who cares about creating a culture that has less hate – should bolster the argument that sexism exists in our countries WITH the argument that racism exists here too, NOT deny the existence of one or the other – because sexism and racism so often go hand in hand (along with classism, homophobia, ableism…). As a woman of colour, the existence of sexism for me fuels my awareness of racism.

This may seem like an obvious point, but I feel depressingly driven to spell it out: I’m not a woman and a person of colour – I’m simultaneously both. Usually when people are being sexist towards me, they’re also being racist. I would like to fight both racism and sexism. So why is feminism asking me to choose?

It’s not like I’ve never heard anti-racist women of colour say that while they are womanists or mujeristas, they are not feminists, because feminism doesn’t speak for women of colour. It was just that I thought – no, believed!1! – that my feminism, my third-wave-fourth-wave-no-wave feminism was for me and people like me.

I also continue to believe, very deeply, that the revolution ain’t gonna come until we recognise that struggles against sexism, racism, ableism, poverty, homophobia, heteronormativity, classism, consumerism, (etc) are all, at their root, the same struggle. So why shouldn’t anti-racist women of colour also fight for feminism?

Well, the answer turns out, because it hurts too much.

This is not to say that the whole feminist movement is rotten. All over the same blogosphere that posted so much of the racist schlock that made me lose my cookies, feminists – Hey! Feminists who happen to be white! – like Megan Carpentier and Jill at Feministe have written sharp, incredibly clever and fantastic critiques of non-racist feminism. In my non-virtual life, I work alongside many feminists who care about race and class. And I don’t plan to quit my job or distance myself from the feminist projects I helped to create, which I’m still proud of. But as a whole, the loudest incarnation of grassroots feminism today is one that is really starting to hurt my feelings, and that’s making it harder and harder for me to proudly call myself a feminist; or to call myself a feminist at all.

Denial is a common survival tactic. We hold certain truths of our existence at arms’ length for as long as possible, because if we were to truly grasp them, the pain would consume us. This technique doesn’t just apply to physical pain or extreme pain; i.e. to soldiers undergoing torture, to parents who have lost small children, to women whose partners abuse them. It’s a technique that many of us employ to get through our daily lives, because – as Carmen so eloquently noted – sometimes our daily lives can be a little battleground-ish.

For many months I denied, ignored and distanced myself from the fact that something as abstract as a US primary election – and what it revealed about my movement – could be the cause of my angst. The comments sections from feminist blogs I once loved seem like a funny thing to grieve over.

It’s hard to forgive and then move past an Ideology. But that’s what I have to do if I want to turf this ball of rage. And if that doesn’t work, please send donations: I’m gonna need a good therapist.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hip-Hop Fans? DMC at the Hard Rock Cafe, Seoul

Photo courtesy of Michael Hurt aka FeetManSeoul

I wanted to spread the word that one-third of the legendary hip-hop group Run-DMC will perform in Seoul next Wednesday, June 18th. DMC, Darryl McDaniels, is scheduled to perform at 11pm. According to an email I got from the Hard Rock, the party will start at 10pm.
ROCK THIS WAY with Darryl McDaniels of Run - DMC live on stage 18th June 2008, 2300hr onwards.

Party starts from 10pm

Ticket fee

Online - 30,000 won

Offline Presales - 30,000 won, Door - 35,000 won
Here is an article I found on the even in the Korea Times: Original Run-D.M.C. Member to Perform at Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Cafe, Seoul website

D.M.C.'s MySpace
D.M.C.'s website

Darryl McDaniels ft. Sarah McLachlan
Just Like Me

A bit of context. DMC discovered that he was adopted when he was doing research to write his first biography. Sarah McLachlan is also an adoptee. So, from that perspective, it makes sense they've collaborated on this song and have a video with this sort of story. (BTW, I'm an adoptee too, so seeing two very successful brethren working together actually warms my heart.) Sarah's song "Angel" also helped him get through a rough spot when he was close to taking his own life and he's taken inspiration from her.


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Racing Model Billard?

This is hilarious. It's not a new story, but it's a new story to me ;)

I got both some great news and bad news last night. The energy the news stirred up in me kept me up late.

I was channel surfing last night and saw a pool tournament. I stopped because that can be interesting and, let's be honest, at 3am you don't have much choice.

However, I noticed the woman playing pool had a scanty tube top on and hot pants or some micro mini skirt. I was confused because her opponent had essentially the same outfit on. In Korea, they have the name of the program in the upper left hand corner, so I read it and it says "Racing Model Billiard". Huh? I didn't stay tuned long. Instead, I changed to the news and then Googled the show.

It's just hilarious because, yeah, we all know the soft porn and risqué programs come on in the wee hours of the night but racing models playing a bad game of pool? It's just too funny.

What's disturbing is how interchangeable these girls look. Plastic surgery in Korea is as common as having rice as part of your meal. I guess what prompts me to post about this was this link from the Metropolitician's blog about the pressure on women here to all look essentially the same. Now some manage to look good, but I can't see much beauty where it's plastic and exactly the same. However, they're not going through all this to impress me, so I get it.

Here are some comparision shots of Korean actresses before and after going under the knife. Some had issues but some looked more than fine before getting plastic surgery.

Better them than me. It's just very sad and funny to see.

More links:
Chosun Ilbo: Half of Korean Women Have Had Cosmetic Surgery (that's damn scary - natural beauty ain't in fashion here) and Lifestyle Addictions on the Rise
The Party Pooper: Racing Model Billiard Championship
London Korean Links: Banish Your Monday Blues


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Completely Off My Game

I've not really posted much about me or what I've been up to here in Seoul for a bit of time.


I've been busy as all get out. I'm working, but, class is wrapping up this week. I have a summer job lined up but I'll be off with nothing to do but catch up with the rest of my life in week or two.

My visa conundrum is basically resolved. I finally went in yesterday to apply for my new alien registration card. I will sit down soon and write a detailed post about what it was like to work through the new E-2 requirements. For those with local police stations in the States who issue criminal checks, I can tell you step-by-step how to get through the criminal check with the least headache. That's assuming their process is like the city of San Francisco's which is the last place in the States I lived before coming to Korea.

I'm still doing voter registration with Democrats Abroad - Korea, but I've rolled back on other activities with them. One big reason was it was getting to be way too much and putting me behind on other stuff.

I had a chance to make it down to the R-16 bboy dance competition in Suwon a couple of weeks ago and got a chance to interview Jeff Chang. That interview will find its way to the Korea Herald and when it does, I'll post it here, as I always do.

I also got a chance to attend show by Kim Bada's new group, the Ratios, at Club Answer. (More info on them here and a CyWorld Review - all in Korean.) I also have an interview with them coming up. The Dynamic Duo, a Korean rap duo, and a British electro-pop group called Psych or Psyche also performed at the Club Answer show.

I'm taking a writing class but have managed to get behind in my work for that. Being a perfectionist, I'm beating myself up for that and blogging rather than getting my past due assignments done. Heh...

I've also got a couple of pieces to write up for the Look to the Stars website.

In addition to all that, I've been trying to keep a semi-decent social life.

So basically, what that means is I've run out of dry cat food for my cat and I've got tons to do. I just wanted to put up a post to let you all know I'm still out there, but I'm just a bit flustered with so much to do. However, maybe now I should walk over to Lotte Mart and get a bag of cat food because I know when I get close to home I won't want to bother with it. (Don't worry, if I flake Miss Kitty has a supply of wet food to last her a bit of time.)

Life is very, very full even if my cat food supplies aren't.


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Monday, June 9, 2008

[Regina Walton`s Expat Interviews] Kolinka`s art lights up Seoul

When asked to describe his art, Parisian artist Alexandre Kolinka said it`s "immersive and interactive video art." Kolinka explains that he got his start as a video performance artist. "I`m coming from parties and real-time creations, so what I`m used to is a lot of real-time creations. What I`m doing now is video installations that stay longer in time, so that people can enjoy them longer. But I still want to bring my past experience from parties and make these (new) kinds of installations exciting."

His experience includes exhibits from Paris to Monaco, Oman, Beijing and now Seoul.

The art he`s doing now is new because he has struck out on his own. He`s going from creating designs in front of the public to events where images last longer than six hours. When he heard that Seoul City was seeking an artist to light up Seoul Tower he jumped on a flight to take pictures of the city, Seoul Tower and Namsan Park.

He did this because, he admits, in Paris when people think about Seoul, they think mobile phones and computers but they don`t know much about the city or its culture.

Kolinka says when government officials heard he had come here on his own to research the project, "they were completely crazy because they didn`t invite me, so they wanted to know more about me."

He got to meet with them and to learn more specifics about what they were expecting. He made a few sketches and computer designs of what he wanted to do. Based on those discussions, they gave him the okay to compete for the project.

One week later Kolinka was told he had been chosen to do the project.

He said he was very surprised because he was competing against some very big Korean companies, like Samsung and LG, but he believed that he had the best project. His concept was to have video of fire on the tower. Because he was not Korean, he had to work closely with a Korean company to help him with details when he did the project.

Kolinka believes that Korea is growing in terms of appreciation of art - and that involves compromise. The city officials wanted certain symbols that Koreans like to use when promoting tourism to Korea, like images of the four seasons. He realized that the city government wanted something to market Seoul while he wanted something more artistic. To that end, he was able to incorporate aspects of both into the project.

Currently, Kolinka said he is working on two other projects that will be bigger than the Namsan Park installation. Because Namdaemun had been burnt down at the time we spoke, he realized there was a heighten sensitivity to fire imagery. But Kolinka said he would like to do electronic fire again "because I think this kind of immersive video installation is really cool."

He is currently scouting out possible locations in Korea for his work and is planning China and Kazakhstan trips. "I`m moving on my own trying to meet city officials of big cities around the world."

When asked if he had any Korean exhibits scheduled, he said that he`s working on a big video project slated for sometime this year with his Korean producer.

Kolinka believes that the art scene in Korea is still developing. "I was here for two months making my installation and not once was I invited to gallery openings or other artistic events. I made my own moves to see various galleries and they`re just really quite young, I think. We have Korean artists abroad right now. In France, we have Lee Bul who is an amazing artist, but if you talk about Korean artists, we talk about Paik Nam-Jun from the 80s. Right now the most dynamic artists from Asia are coming from China.

"Koreans right now are stronger in electronic designs, video games and animation. Maybe I`m wrong, but Korea is really young ... now they have the time and money to think about art. You can feel it here. It`s exciting. There are so many young people - seems like there are young guys and girls running around," Kolinka said.

His assessment makes sense considering that Korea has been primarily concerned with economic development. Now that they`ve reached a certain economic level, Koreans have become more concerned with the arts.

When asked to sum up his feelings on working in Korea he said, "I`m really happy to be in Korea. I love Korea. It`s not easy, but I`m pleased to be here because there is a lot of energy here."

For more information on the Namsan Project see

The Adobe Acrobat version of the column:
Read this document on Scribd: kh06102008


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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Are you serious?!!! Hillary To Run As An Independent?

Update: June 7, 2008 @ 2:12am KST

Okay, picture changed ;)

I'm watching her speech where she's announced her exit from the primary race.

What's most important is that's she's unequivocally endorsed Obama and, furthermore, has encouraged her supporters to shift their support to Obama.

I hope her supporters follow her advice. Cease and desist on this petition and unify the Democratic party. This is going to be a tough campaign. It's time to stick together.

I logged into my MySpace and looked at my bulletins and saw this:

Want To See Hillary Run As An Independent?

www. HillaryGrassrootsCampaign. com

Want To See Hillary Run As An Independent?

Let's explore this possibility of a Hillary Clinton run as an independent candidate this year. It may not be as outlandish as first thought by most. Look at the electoral map. She would have a very good chance of winning or at the least being extremely competitive in NY, CA, MA, NJ, FL, PA, WV (and if she took General Clark as a running mate) AR. That is 172 electoral votes that she could legitimately pick up. That is more than 1/3 of all total electoral votes and 64% of the total needed to win the presidency. In this scenario she would insure that neither McCain or Obama win the presidency. More than likely she would be the electoral vote leader and Congress would have to settle the presidency. If she was the electoral leader and not chosen, that would be the end of the two-party stranglehold on power. If she was chosen, it would still be a huge nail in the two-party coffin.

The more we consider this, the more we are in favor of her making an independent run!
Hillary Clinton is our candidate and she can win without the Democratic Party. Can the Democratic Party win without her? Help make a statement to the DNC.

Petition Hillary to run as an Independent for President.

Let's show Hillary that we support her all the way!

5 Million Signatures by August 15th

Now I would just delete them from my friends for this, but I really want to see what other crap comes up now that Obama has cinched the Democratic nomination.


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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NYTimes: Obama Claims Nomination

Onward to November!!!

Obama Claims Nomination; First Black Candidate to Lead a Major Party Ticket

Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night, prevailing through an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in Washington.

A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as split results from the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, pushed Mr. Obama over the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s convention in Denver in August. The victory for Mr. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansan mother, broke racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just four years ago served in the Illinois State Senate.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” Mr. Obama told supporters at a rally in St. Paul. “Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

Mrs. Clinton paid tribute to Mr. Obama, but she did not leave the race. “This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decisions tonight," Mrs. Clinton told supporters in New York. She said she would be speaking with party officials about her next move.

In a combative speech, she again presented her case that she was the stronger candidate and argued that she had won the popular vote, a notion disputed by the Obama campaign.

“I want the 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected,” she said in New York to loud cheers.

But she paid homage to Mr. Obama’s accomplishments, saying, “It has been an honor to contest the primaries with him, just as it has been an honor to call him my friend.”

Mr. Obama’s victory moved the presidential campaign to a new phase as he tangled with Senator John McCain of Arizona in televised addresses Tuesday night over Mr. Obama’s assertion that Mr. McCain would continue President Bush’s policies. Mr. McCain vigorously rebuffed that criticism in a speech in Kenner, La., in which he distanced himself from the outgoing president while contrasting his own breadth of experience with Mr. Obama’s record.

“The American people didn’t get to know me yesterday, as they are just getting to know Senator Obama,” Mr. McCain told supporters. Mr. Obama’s victory capped a marathon nominating contest that broke records on several fronts: the number of voters who participated, the amount of money raised and spent, and the sheer length of a grueling battle. The campaign, infused by tensions over race and sex, provided unexpected twists to the bitter end as Mr. Obama ultimately prevailed over Mrs. Clinton, who just a year ago appeared headed toward becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major party. The last two contests reflected the party’s continuing divisions, as Mrs. Clinton won the South Dakota primary and Mr. Obama won Montana.

The race drew to its final hours with a burst of announcements — delegate-by-delegate — of Democrats stepping forward to declare their support for Mr. Obama. The Democratic establishment, from former President Jimmy Carter to rank-and-file local officials who make up the ranks of the party’s superdelegates, rallied behind Mr. Obama as the day wore on.

When the day began, Mr. Obama needed 41 delegates to effectively claim the nomination. Just as the polls began to close in Montana and South Dakota, Mr. Obama secured the delegates he needed to end his duel with Mrs. Clinton, which wound through every state and territory in an unprecedented 57 contests over five months.

Every time a new endorsement was announced at the Obama headquarters in Chicago, campaign workers interrupted with a booming round of applause. They are members of Mr. Obama’s team — a political start up — that is responsible for defeating one of the most tried and tested operations in Democratic politics.

While the Democratic race may have ended, a new chapter began in the complicated tensions that have defined the relationship with Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

On a conference call with members of the New York Congressional delegation on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton was asked whether she would be open to joining a ticket with Mr. Obama. She replied that she would do whatever she could — including a vice presidential bid — to help Democrats win the White House.

In his speech on Tuesday evening, Mr. Obama paid respect to his rival.

“Our party and our country are better off because of her,” Mr. Obama said, “and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Before she arrived at her rally on Tuesday in New York City, Mrs. Clinton and a few close advisers huddled at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., to discuss the timing of her departure from the race. In the afternoon conference call she conducted with fellow New York lawmakers, she asked their patience as she decides upon her next move.

Representative Nydia M. Velásquez, Democrat of New York, asked Mrs. Clinton whether she would consider teaming up with Mr. Obama. “She said that if it’s offered, she would take it,” Ms. Velásquez said.

Mrs. Clinton said she would do “anything to make sure a Democrat would win,” according to several participants on the call. While her advisers played down the remark’s significance, the Democrats on the call said that by not demurring or saying she would simply think about it, they said they were left with the impression that it was an offer that she wanted to at least consider.

“If Senator Obama asked her to be the V.P., she certainly would accept that,” said Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York. “She has obviously given some thought to this.”

Neither Mr. Obama nor his associates commented on the speculation, and he made no reference to it in his speech on Tuesday evening in Minnesota, which was delivered at the same arena in which Mr. McCain is expected to accept the Republican nomination at the party’s convention in September.

“You can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory,” Mr. Obama said. “When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen.”

The competition between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama has been sharpening for weeks, but the close of the Democratic primary formally raised the curtain to a five-month general election contest. The race, as their respective speeches foreshadowed on Tuesday evening, will unfold against a backdrop of an electorate that is restless about soaring gas prices, mortgage foreclosures and the Iraq war.

It is also a generational battle of personalities and contrasting styles. Mr. McCain staged an evening event in Louisiana, so he would be included in the evening’s television narrative that otherwise belonged to Democrats.

About two hours later, Mr. Obama responded in a speech before a thousands of supporters.

“There are many words to describe John McCain’s attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush’s policies as bipartisan and new,” Mr. Obama said. “But change is not one of them.”


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