February 20, 2013

Observations of Korean culture based on Korean Dramas

My sister emailed this and I'm publishing it here with her permission. I think she's brilliant, but I'm prejudiced. While some of this is more true of the drama world than the Korean one, there are some truths that do seem to play out in my experience.


So since I'm on my Korean drama kick, I thought I would try and write down some repeated themes. I realize that these observations do not necessarily correspond to real life, just like American television shows don't really represent us.

The similarities to regency novels: The male hero(s) are usually very handsome and very wealthy. This sometimes translates to also being spoiled or workaholics (depending on how they got their wealth). The girls are usually poor, sometimes ordinary looking, but tend to have lots of personality (e.g., quirky, self-reliant, feisty). Through the process of the show, the guys become more humble and realize the importance of the people around them. The women become more mellow, learn to trust, and also have more confidence in themselves.

Korean actors are masters of subtle non-verbal communication. And as you know well, silence is always an answer. It doesn't always mean no, it tends to mean whatever is the more difficult or hurtful choice.

All Korean actors, male and female, seem to be able to cry at the drop of a hat. It's actually pretty amazing. It must be a requirement during auditions.

Flirting tends to take the form of insulting each other. One of my favorite expressions is "Do you want to die?"

Dating is never straight-forward. It's a power struggle of who is needier than the other. The one who confesses first 'loses'.

When a couple or family members really fight, it quickly goes to hyperbole (e.g., I wish you never existed! or I hate you, you're the worst daughter ever!) These usually take the form of screaming matches.

Actually hyperbole and exaggeration are used quite often in all sorts of communication. Similarly to sarcasm to East-coasters.

Female villains are WAY scarier than male ones. They can skin you alive with their words and manipulate the hell out of other characters. The male bad guys tend to be gruff and bark and yell but ultimately aren't as effective.

Telling someone you like them is a big deal. 'I like you' often is the equivalent of saying 'I love you'. In direct contrast, Korean songs are the sappiest, most verbally affectionate songs I've ever heard.

Touching someone, even on the shoulder or hand, is crossing a boundary.

Historical dramas tend to have more of an emphasis on bromances. There isn't as much opportunity for the different genders to relate so the strong relationships are often between men.

Homosexuality comes up more as a topic in recent dramas, including gay characters. The portrayal is usually positive, but the language used is pretty brutal. For example, the word for gay translates as "not a man."

In three separate shows sons have referred to their Moms as girlfriends, lovers or pretended to date them. It is a teasing, affectionate, flirty relationship (they aren't actually lovers). In all three instances the Moms were widows. Since most of these shows are watched by women it makes me wonder if this is the sort of love and affection Moms wish they got from their adult sons.

Eating and food is a big deal. You show your love to someone by cooking for them and feeding them. In one scene a Mom is dying and desperately needs to go to the hospital. But she's just discovered her long lost son and insists on making him a meal for the first time instead. Affection and respect is shown by putting food in someone's rice bowl. Intimacy is putting food in their mouth.

I'm understanding more the emphasis on blood and bloodline that you've talked about. Well, I don't understand it, but I can see it's an important concept. When a child fails, the whole family fails because all of the blood is inter-connected and therefore failure was there in the parents and grandparents. Conversely, if a parent is a criminal or murderer the child's life is ruined because being a murderer is in their blood. Rich and successful people are inherently more brilliant, they are a better class of people because of their genetics. Granted, these sentiments are usually held by the villains but they are widespread and prevalent.

Anyway, I'm having fun. Here's a youtube video from one of my favorite dramas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCI4L1ZScZ0. I think one of the main reasons I like it is that the two main characters are so supportive of each other, they don't do the push/pull of a relationship that so many of the dramas do. For example, there is one episode where she gets engaged to someone else. I thought, okay, they're going to have an episode or two where he gets upset and misunderstands. Instead, the next time he sees her he says, you did it to save my life, didn't you? I like it when plot lines surprise me.

Pretty interesting, huh?

February 15, 2013

Second career

A friend of ours is considering buying a house. She sent over the listing and photos. As much as I love our house (and despite all my complaints, it really is perfect for us right now), I got really excited looking at the listing. It's in another city, has nothing to do with my life, but I just love looking at houses.

If I ever retire as a designer, I think I'd make a great realtor. I'd get to spend all day helping people find their dream house. Heck, I'd get PAID to be the nosy neighbor going to all the open houses.

Of course, the other things on my life list include traveling around the world, running an orphanage in a foreign country, editing and publishing a book my Grandpa wrote (great plot and characters, non-empathetic writing style), getting back into an art studio or being a full-time foster mom. None of them are particularly compatible with the others, huh?

All that is to say, if I could, I'd spend today scrolling MLS listings...

February 8, 2013

Ideas shmideas

For my job, we often do creative brainstorms. I find that I usually assume that the big idea will come from someone else. I often dismiss my ideas as not being BIG enough.

We've been tasked with updating the office decor. We found out a week ago that our general manager, Boss Lady, wants everything done for a potential internal event in March. One of my coworkers is affectionately known as Eeyore (truly), the other is called T1gger. Gentle Man doesn't have a nickname, nor do I, since we're somewhere in the middle of their two extremes.

In the absence of a Studio Lead/Creative Director, we've been meeting weekly via phone with Enthusiastic Creative Exec out of our Bost0n office. He suggested we take the decor cue from our location overlooking a regional airport. So we went away and started mulling around the idea of an Aviat1on theme for the office.

When we had our brainstorm conversation on Monday, T1gger had some very specific ideas. I'd been up in the middle of the night thanks to Brex on Friday and had written down concepts for an hour and a half. I let T1gger take the lead but nothing was sparking. Then I mentioned my ideas as well as wanting to show three mood boards to our internal people. I've learned the hard way that it never pays to shortcut the 'client' process just because we're doing something internal.

Eeyore and Gentle Man both started saying things like, "Well, we don't want to rush this just because she has a deadline." And, "We need to make sure that it's innovative and not just decor based."

Right. If I let them go on and on around those themes, as they are prone to do, we'd have squat for actionable items. So I jumped in, "I completely agree. Give me some tangible ideas for what innovation looks like."

Eeyore started generating (great) ideas instead of just shooting everything down. I'd found a couple key photos that I shared and we all loved the ideas and started building off of them.

After that call I got really excited and dived into creating mockups and gathering assets. Eeyore kept telling me that it was too soon for mockups, but I kept going.

Yesterday we did a conference call with Enthusiastic Creative Exec. Eeyore went through the three mood boards and ECE was really excited about one of them and pulled elements from the other two. I ended up showing him the mockups as well as some of the jpgs I'd found. He loved where we were going and added in some other ideas that were great additions.

The thing is, as I did the mockups, I felt like all I was doing was the decor based solution that Eeyore wanted to avoid. It's another level where I'm a very pragmatic designer. I felt like our main mission by March is to get rid of white walls and gray cubicle surfaces. I don't think my solutions were/are ground shattering, but they'll change the feel of the office. I also found a site that sells furniture made from airplane parts. NOT cheap, but changing the desk in the reception area and the table in our main conference room would be worthwhile hero pieces. What was affirming was how much ECE liked my mockups.

I guess I shouldn't dismiss myself so readily.

February 5, 2013

Packin' 'em in!

On Friday afternoon, the doorbell rang. Muttola lost her mind, Brex was upstairs sleeping (home sick from daycare). I opened to door and got hugs from Aunt Trust and Aunt Ruby. My Cousin Long Blonde Hair and her three kids peeled themselves from the van and stumbled in half asleep. The youngest, Lady of the Lake was excited to meet the baby and disappointed to hear he was sleeping.

Our office has a daybed that pulls out to make a king sized bed. I figured Long Blonde and her two girls could share that bed. Apparently Long Blond and the kids usually all end up in the same room, so I grabbed a camp mattress and sleeping bag so that X-man could sleep on the floor in Jrex's side of the office. We have curtains that pull across the archway so the office feels somewhat private.

Aunt Trust and Aunt Ruby were happy to share the guest room's queen bed and we set up an air mattress in Brex's room for Cousin JR. We tucked Brex into our master closet in his pack n play. During our Christmas vacation, he woke up a few times each night. One of my theories was that the mattress in his Traveler bed was too hard (it's essentially a thin blow up camp mattress). For his nap, I had the Traveler sitting on top of his crib mattress.

As we were all visiting in the kitchen, Aunt Ruby tilted her head, "I think I hear little feet upstairs?" I listened, sure enough, someone was walking around. Uh oh!! I ran upstairs and opened the closet door. Brex looked up from playing with a couple of my shoes and happily trotted towards me. Behind him, a trail of mayhem led to the Traveler laying on it's side next to the mattress. Ah well. I picked him up and gave him a hug. Then put the mattress back in his crib. He ended up sleeping just fine in the Traveler without waking up either night.

I brought him downstairs to say hi to everyone. Lady of the Lake wanted to hold him right away. I suggested she wait until first, he let go of me and got down, second, he wandered around and then third, came up to her. THEN she could pick him up. She's nine years old, very precise, and happy when there's a system in place. With a decisive nod, she began to watch for each stage to be achieved. In the end, she was an attentive attendant and Prince Brex graciously accepted her adulation. I found out from Long Blonde that it's the first time that Lady of the Lake has ever taken to a baby.

With help from many willing hands, we threw together tacos for dinner. Halfway through, Cousin JR showed up and was greeted with much joy and chatter. A while after that, Jrex got home from work and quietly grabbed a chair near Brex. Once people realized he was there, he also got hugs and hellos.

Saturday, first the aunts, and then Aunt Trust and her son JR took advantage of the porch swing. Peace Corps cousin arrived mid-morning. Aunt Trust helped me throw together chili in the crockpot. Then after a buffet lunch of sandwiches, we managed to fit in two cars and get to the zoo for a couple hours.

Back at the house, we fed Brex a quick dinner, then I put him to bed while the garlic bread and brownies baked in the oven.

After dinner, JR, X-man, Aunt Trust and I played bare-knuckle Scrabble while Jrex began a rousing game of Go Fish with Lady of the Lake. The middle girl, Beautiful Queen, soon left our boring (to her) game of Scrabble and joined in the fun. Even X-man was eventually lured to the madness. The Go Fishers were in the kitchen while the Scrabblers sat at the dining room table. Hearing Jrex laughing loudly, JR asked, "How often does he cut loose like this?" I smiled, "Often if it's just us at home, rarely in company."

Sunday morning, the van load piled in and pulled out by 8:30 AM leaving Cousin JR alone to join our traditional Sunday brunch. The only time JR and I had ever met each other before was at a family reunion when we were eight years old. We chatted about family history, found a lot of parallels between him and my brother, a lot of parallels between the two of us. He had a flair for music and art, but didn't get a chance to really pursue it. Now it comes out in his construction projects and tattoo art.

Peace Corps Cousin is having a big birthday bash in April, so it looks like we get to repeat the house party! Cousin JR is planning to come up early so that we can pay him to finish the brick pathway that I started a while ago. He's a meticulous craftsman, so I'm excited to get the work done right.

It's fun to get to know a side of the family that I didn't see as often when we were kids. If we were in Portland, I'd certainly be seeing my immediate family more often, but I'm really happy that we're still getting lots of extended family time.

February 1, 2013

The Granties are coming!

Aunt Trust and Aunt Ruby are on their way to our house. My cousin JR, living in  San Antonio, son of Aunt Trust, is also making his way here. Accompanying Aunt Trust is another cousin and her three kids. Plus tomorrow, Peace Corp Cousin will join us for the day.

I've figured out where we'll tuck everyone for the 2 nights. I asked a friend who grew up with eight siblings what I should cook. He suggested chili and tacos. Sounded easy and plentiful, so that's in the works (thank you, Costco!).

Growing up, we mostly spent time with three aunts who live further north. One of the blessings in moving here is that I'm getting the chance to get to know the aunts from this area; of course "from" is in the midwestern sense that they are within a 10-hour drive.

Jrex earned major husband points when I told him we would be hosting an impromptu family reunion. He didn't blink. Didn't ask why I didn't say no. Instead, he calmly asked, "Where are we going to put them all?" Once I told him my plan, he nodded and said, "Sounds good."

I'm always intrigued by how deeply I need to have a plan, an outline, a structure from which details can hang loosely. Before I figure out that structure, an upcoming unknown feels like a huge blob that's going to roll around and destroy the world. The real truth is that I have no idea how this weekend is really going to work out (aside from lots of talking and laughing), but knowing the menus, having food in the house, having a couple things we can do tomorrow, knowing who is sleeping where, that's just enough so that I can relax and enjoy the visit. I've had friends chide me for being agenda driven, but having the agenda means I can relax. Contradictory? Me? Never!