Much About 2014


The end of the year is all about looking back on what happened, what was said, who did this, and other stuff. As a blogger I like to look back at what I wrote, but also what was read. It certainly hasn’t been my most productive year, with a few long gaps in between writing, and while of course it has been a memorable year, it has equally been a notable year.

A few bloggins milestones for me to brag about:

  • I had the single highest monthly visits to this blog in April with 3065 hits.
  • The same can be said for the average daily visits, with 102 being the average for April also.
  • There were 63 posts in 2014
  • As of 3.30pm on December 31, 2014 there have 28,231 visits this year – I know some blogs get that in a day, but this is my blog and this figure is an improvement of 4,000 visits on last year.

Here are some of the moments which mattered for me in 2014.

  • We moved back to Ireland in July.
  • We left Korea after four and half fantastic years.
  • I got paid for writing a poem (still haven’t cashed the cheque).
  • We spent two and bit great, warm months in Thailand, and learned a valuable lesson in the importance of travel insurance.
  • Myself and Herself found out we’d be having another baby in the middle of next year.
  • I got an commendation from the Irish Association of Korea and from the Embassy of Ireland in Korea for my services promoting Irish culture in Korea.
  • I signed on the dole a few months after coming back to Ireland.
  • I lost my camera somewhere just before Christmas.
  • I got accepted into an EdD course in the University of Glasgow.
  • I read a couple of poems at an official PEN Korea event
  • and other stuff…

Here are a few photographs which mattered to me in 2014

Christmas is brewing Dublin

Early morning prayer

I'm not scared

East Sea Rising

Port Corners

April Highrise

Spring, Korea

Decisions

Teaching

This is Chiang Mai

Lost in the Night Bazaar

Sunday Market, Chiang Mai

Moving country left me without my (good) computer for over four months so I was without a satisfactory way of editing and uploading shots from July through to almost late November, so there’s a bit of a gap in the timeline. I did get a new phone however, and that seems to be doing a really nice job of taking and sharing photos online.

And of course before I forget, this is a blog, and it is one on which I write on. So without getting bogged down in too much fanfare here are the five most read posts written and shared in 2014:

  1. I Just Want to Scream 
  2. Nimmanhaemin
  3. Saint Patrick’s Day in Seoul, 2014
  4. 10 Things About Korea
  5. People Have Their Own Problems To Worry About. You Don’t Need to Hear About Mine

So that’s it. The end of 2014, and next up we have 2015. I hope to keep battling away here at the keys for the forseeable future. Thanks for your comments, contributions, and readership. Oh, and happy new year to you and all those special to you!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Photographers in Korea


If you are into photography and you are into Korea, a fine combination of the two can be found in [ P I K ], a new enough free online magazine which uses the accronym of its description Photographers in Korea, as its name.

More specifically:

PIK is an online photography magazine featuring contemporary photography from established and emerging photographers living in Korea. One of the aims of PIK , is to contribute to the development of the scene in Korea and help connect local and international talent within and outside the peninsula.

[ P I K ] May issue cover

[ P I K ] May issue cover / image courtesy of [ P I K ]

I’ve been taking photographs for years, of course, but only of late have I started to pay more attention to the actual process. This process lies between a better understanding of how my actual camera looks and trying to develop my own distinctive style. The learning how to use the camera aspect seems to be the easy part, but publications like [ P I K ] allow for the other important part of learning how to perfect (yes, a bit rich a term but allow me this one) any art form.

Take writing for instance, to become a better writer you need to write as much as possible whilst experimenting with different structure, content, style, and of course material. All of this may remain in your notebook as you busy yourself producing more refined written pieces built around your perceived writing identity. And while you’re doing this it’s imperative that you read.

Smartphones, despite their crticisms, are great ways of utilising two elements of this practive – their relatively decent camera functions and highly usable editing apps make them the ideal piece photography kit, whilst their internet function allows you to connect to pretty much every printed word posted online. That’s a fairly resourceful device, especially for reading. You can even carry around your entire kindle library, notes on dropbox, or if you’re so inclined you can source it from free from sites such as twitter, which if you curate your followings properly can even be used as mean stream of photographic content also.

Back to [ P I K ].

Monthly submissions from around Korea / image courtesy of [ P I K ] facebook account

The magazine started out in October 2013, and has steadily been building and impressive following. Content is made up of, obviously, photographs by Korea based photographers of varying notoriety, accompanied by essays about the particular photographers. There’s also a useful page or two about new gear and online resources. It was in [ P I K ] where I actually came across some really good Facebook groups for Korea based photographers, Seoulighters and FIS. Both are very active in the non-internet world and are well worth joining if you’re into Korean based photography.

[ P I K ], however, serves a much more important function. Magazines on life and living come and go in Korea, and they have their purpose there is no doubt, but for publicity and sharing the variety of not only talent but also perspectives on Korea, they are limited. [ P I K ] does this. Each photographer looks at this country differently, and their photographs come from every corner, and indeed many of the islands, allowing for that wonderful aspect of photography, its presentation of another part of the immediately inaccessible world presented with the skill of a craftsman.

Now that I have finished lauding the magazine I should add that I’ve been fortunate enough to have a photograph featured in their February ‘Love’ issue.

My photograph from the February Love issue. Image courtesy of [ P I K ]

My photograph from the February Love issue / Image courtesy of [ P I K ]

[ P I K ] also allows for monthly Facebook submissions, and are well worth a look. You can find May’s here, also with a shot of mine in it. Make sure to check out the other months and albums too.

[ P I K ] can be found at http://www.photographersinkorea.com or on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/PhotogsInKorea. To download all previous issues of the magazine, check out their issu accout!

 

Reading the Korean War


I don’t profess to be an expert on much, such is my modesty. Even though I’ve lived in Korea for over nine years now and am invested in the country through family, I can’t really attest an authority on much of the country’s history. This is certainly an embarrassment as I’m supposed to be a history graduate.

When I first arrived in Korea I read Michael Breen’s The Koreans, and it was the kind of book that just seemed to give enough of everything so that, if you were curious about some other aspect of the country, you could easily be wise enough to make the wise decision on some follow up reading. I think I finished that book in 2006, if not 2005, when I first arrived here.

That’s quite a long time to spend learning about a country without reading much on it. This indeed may be a problem which much of Korea’s expatriate experts, in that we spend a lot of time here and profess to be armchair experts on the condition of being in Korea, yet we hold very little knowledge beyond a decent gogi jib and our opinions on ActiveX and Internet Explorer. I say this because this is basically me, and while I know there are plenty who know more than most, I can imagine there are plenty who know less than me.

It was in some respects an accident that I picked up Andrew Salmon’s books on the British, Australian, and indeed Scottish and Irish involvement in the Korean War. Around this time last year I was very fortunate to represent the Irish community in Korea when I laid a wreath at the unveiling of a memorial for Irish people who fell in the Korean War. Throughout the process of arranging the memorial, Andrew Salmon was a constant figure advising on the experiences of the Irish in the war, specifically the Royal Ulster Rifles, who suffered some of the highest casualties of the British and commonwealth units in the war. Throughout the process and after his first book To the Last Round was lauded as a must read.

Reading about the British involvement for me, while being Irish, brings it a little closer to home. While we are at all attempts proclaiming ourselves radically different, a commonality exists in many respects. Maybe this stems from a certain familiarity with our neighbours, one that is more realistic than a television impressed notion of Ameicanism.

I went online to check the books out, and here I found a second book of his Scorched Earth, Black Snow which I saw was from earlier in the year. So being a history graduate and knowing the importance of the period before the period we’re talking about, I decided I’d give that a read first. So I tapped away at the screen of my iPad, and before I knew it I had a digital copy downloading away.

That being said, I didn’t actually get around to reading the actual book until I was in Thailand this winter, about eight months later. So shoot me, but I’m a distracted soul, and admittedly one who really hadn’t been reading as much as I would have liked. But I think I’ve been doing better of late. Good books have helped.

After reading both of his books I contacted Andrew himself and asked him a few questions about the writing of the books. I has always interested me how authors who work full time as writers fit in the time to write a non-ficition book, and especially one on history which requires extreme levels of not only dedication but beyond meticulous research. Pick up either of his books and you will understand what I am talking about.

In an email Andrew explained that most of these books were written ‘after midnight’, and that the writing was ‘personally and professionally satisfying, but financially non-remunerative’. This is probably something that scares many away from writing books, this constraint on our time is not recuperated in our wallets – not that I’d know, I’m just saying.

Throughout both books there is extensive first hand reports from those who fought in the battles and slit trenches. From the Busan Perimeter to the heroic holding action at Pakchon in North Korea, relieving the 1st US Marine Division in Chongsin Resevoir, and the of course the slaughter and defiance from the battles along the Imjin River just to the north of Seoul, so much of these books comes from first-hand experience you cannot discount their authority. It seems at times that it’s unfortunate that there weren’t more pages in the books.

‘I started with the regimental and veteran associations’, Andrew Salmon explained of how he made this possible, ‘the nature of these groups is that, if they trust you or like you, once you speak to Chap A, he recommends Chap B, and so on ad infinitum. I was surprised at how open most of these guys were. I think 99 percent of them had never had anyone ask them about their experiences in the “Forgotten War” and as they are now in their twilight years, they wanted to speak, to get their war on the record for posterity. Many of them volunteered material that I was initially hesitant to ask about. For example, the account of one atrocity – the murder of a Korean civilian by a soldier who simply wanted to test his rifle (told in To the Last Stand) – was told to me, without prompting, in the back of a bus, in the company of several other veterans. None of them contradicted him.  I am pretty sure these kinds of incidents stuck in their minds, and they wanted some kind of release’.

Like these couple of incidents, there are so many images and memories specific to individuals which not one person who would there would attest against. I wouldn’t say you get numbed to atrocity, but after some time you kind of stop being amazed and just accept it as a circumstance.

Of all these incidents though two much discussed ones come to mind which I couldn’t help but be frustrated or shocked by – the first was the accidental napalming of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, or Jocks, which was perhaps as brutal and unfortunate an incident of friendly fire as you’ll come across, and the action of the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars as 29 Brigade withdrew from their Imjin defensive positions – not only was it the first time these newly touted tanks had a chance to really operate, but it was in such desperate circumstances that you had to wish they could have done more.

Of course throughout these books, it must be expressed, there is descriptions of rampant slaughter described and it is hard at times to remember that the Chinese who were mown down could have been as desperate as the men whose experiences I was reading about were. It was a time that we can be grateful to have lived after.

With more and more devices providing reading experiences, writers are being coerced into providing a more diverse package. I read my copy of Scorched Earth, Black Snow on my iPad, and as I read I followed 27 Brigade north with Google Maps. I tried and failed to find their positions on the Naktong bridgehead, but as they moved on to Seoul, and then North Korea and along the main highway through Sariwon, Pyongnyang, Sukchon, Anju, and of course Pakchon and on to Chongju, feeling eternally like this was going to lead to one great bloody Borodino – if only it was so glorious. You knew something was going to happen but you couldn’t really tell how or when it would, but when they captured that Chinese soldier while on patrol you knew that something was about to happen that they would have little control over.

‘I wish my publisher had added film of one of those as part of the eBook package’ Andrew said, ‘that would have given the reader a huge amount more visual material to look at, but I don’t think technology has been well-leveraged or well-deployed by traditional media managers’. For the digital age, this is the advantage that eBooks have, and it is one being leveraged by the media, just not publishing. ‘As a print journalist, I am being asked to become a photographer, a film recorder, a presenter, a film editor as well as my core task’ Andrew continued. ‘The upside is that one has to upskill. The downside is that I am not being paid more’. If we expect so much of the media, perhaps publishing will follow soon, but we shall see how high the quality will be.

And perhaps it is our expectations that are dragging so much for nothing from everything. With the internet, nobody expects to pay, and this is where our problems start. ‘The Internet is killing journalism and publishing’ Andrew continued, ‘though it has to be said, the blame for this long, slow, death really lies at the hands of the management of the newspaper and publishing industries, who have failed to come up with financial models that will guarantee the future of traditional media’. This is something that is happening, but it is slow, and expensive, and a learning process. ‘In the future, when online media has matured, we will look back on the first two decades of the 21st century as the critical, transformative period. Alas, it has been bloody; the number of working journalists has fallen horrifically. This is not good for media but – without wishing to sound alarmist – it is not good for democratic governance either.’ A stern warning indeed.

In terms of the books, I’d recommend them to anyone. Enthusiast or casual interest, these books should be read, not only because of what I have said above, but also because they have kindled an understanding and gratitude for our present situation, and made me appreciate my extended family further.

What struck me more than anything in these books was not the descriptions of war and sacrifice by foreign troops, but the images of a poor and agricultural society made destitute by the destruction wrought from the international deliberations over its territory. The people who lowered themselves so dejectedly, who fought their own demons, who fled, who stayed, who starved, but who stuck around and dug in sacrificing more to build up what is truly a remarkable miracle, 21st Century Korea.

*

On the reception his books have received Andrew Salmon told me this:

‘[The responses have been] universally positive: Mainstream media – including The Times, The Daily Mail, and BBC History Magazine  – have been kind. I’d add that “To the Last Round” has 130 five-star reviews on Amazon UK, which is an unusual number for a non-fiction book, and which I am particularly pleased about. The only negative review I suffered was from the writer of an expatriate magazine here in Seoul. What is most gratifying is the response from veterans, who have said: “You have captured it – this is what it was like!” One, the late Colonel Mervyn McCord, said in an Amazon review, “Anyone suffering from PTSD should not read this book – they would have a relapse.” I have also had endorsements from two “true” heroes – Derek Kinne, George Cross and Bill Speakman, Victoria Cross. That kind of response is deeply gratifying’.

 

Andrew Salmon’s personal blog/website is tothelastround.wordpress.com (this particular page on the site is worth particular attention in my view)

The books can be purchased online here

Images all courtesy of Andrew Salmon via flickr.

Blogging: 2013 in Review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Year in Instagram


Here is my Year in Instagram. 508 Images, I believe, and over 9 minutes of wonderful filtered goodness.

Just in time for the new year I’ve come across a neat little app for the iphone called Flipagram. Essentially it collects all your photographs and allows you to organise them into a very simple slideshow, which you can then share across your various social networks, or whatever.

I had been looking for something like this to share my past year of photographs taken on Instagram, an app I’ve a lot of time for and one I enjoy not only posting but also looking at other people’s photographs. Of course it has it’s critics, but it also has its avid users (such as myself) who have taken amatuer mobile photography to a different level. For me, I use it as a photo-blogging or daily-photo tool (not that I post every day), as well as a convenient way of sharing photographs across multiple platforms.  I’ve spoken about Instagram a bit before so I’ll try and break new ground here.

You can read other Instagram related pieces here:

Instagramming My Environment October 2013
Italian Students Speak August 2013
In the Evening on the Twentieth Floor September 2012

What I’ve managed, eventually it has to be said, is to put together a slideshow of every instagram shot I’ve taken over the past twelve months, totalling over 500. I say eventually because this only came about after a number of mishaps which can probably be blamed on my slowly aging iphone 4, my dodgy internet connection, and faults with the app itself. I know there are faults because the person who made me wise to this app also expressed frustration with the actual processing.

It turns out that you can’t leave the app during the creating process, so I had to keep tapping the screen and to watch the percentage dial gradually progress towards 100%.  On more than one occasion my vigilance failed me and it was back to the start with my slideshow creation game, and by back to the start I mean all the way back.

That being said, both of us have created an almost 10 minute long slideshow with over 500 hundred shots, so perhaps it isn’t easy to actually develop an app capable of doing this fluidly. I think sometimes with the over propenderence of new tech and apps we just expect outright for things to work to our incredibily far reaching and rigid expectations. Nothing is ever really perfect, is it? But the more we see new things our expectations seem to spiral further beyond a reasonable level.

I could go about doing it the way I was actually considering doing which is to go through my folders on my computer and copy and paste all my backed-up instagram shots from the past twelve months. This would not only be frustrating, but undoubtedly one hundred times more tedious and prone to mistakes than this newer means of accomplishing the task at hand. Equally handy is the ability to go through Facebook albums to create a similar experience, and it is something I might do next.

The Flipagram app just about to process another slideshow,

The Flipagram app just about to process another slideshow,

In the end the final product came out rather well, and if I had some nice long piano concertos uploaded onto my iphone it would have been ideal. As it turned out I had no music at all. So once the slideshow was finished processing I had to save it onto dropbox, and from my laptop upload it to youtube where I used some of their ad supported music – the only free music they had was the Funeral March, which was not what I was looking for.

Do you use Instagram? Why not make your own Year in Instagram and share a link in the comments. 

Also, a big happy new year to all my readers!