units of reflection

today is new year’s eve and it’s a rather obvious opportunity to look backwards at the previous year and see what happened; what went well, what went not so well, where we went, who we met, etc., etc., etc. but, how is it possible to reflect on the entirety of what happened in a year, how can we wrap our heads around a passage of time in which so much or so little has happened?

well, it comes down to a matter of the units of reflection that we invoke, and what vehicle we use to stir up the memories.

if we look at a day, it can hold so many events, a wide variety of thoughts and emotions, discoveries and losses. writing about a day as it comes to an end lets us capture all the sublet nuances as they change from minute to minute, and hour to hour. sometimes, maybe too many nuances.

stepping back, a week beings to bring us some perspective and inconsequential happenings start to recede, become fragments of our memories, and the important moments start to shine through the kerfuffle. alas, there are 52 weeks in a year and finding 52 summaries is a daunting task when you’re due to a friend’s place in just two hours. so as a matter of practicality, we can’t do that.

which brings us to the month. that medium sized unit of measurement that we use to plan our lives (unless you live in sweden, where they have invoked weeks as a standard unit of planning. still makes me feel all ‘wtf?!!’). not too big, not too small. not so grandiose that we lose track of the details, and not so small as to get us side tracked into a land of tangential rambling. those things that take forever to pass when we’re anxiously waiting and fly by in an instant when we’re absorbed in living life. a month seems kind of perfect. you know, it forces you to cut the crap but not so much crap that you can’t see the forest because there are no trees.

now how do we locate the moments that resonate, that are worthy of telling the story of an entire month? maybe with photos. with imagery. with moments that have been captured on film or in pixels and that bring with them recorded light and memories of the people, places, and circumstances on those very days. let’s do that. twelve photos, twelve months. 365 days. one year: 2012.

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january 2012 / traveling from gothenburg to san francisco. started the month in berlin, ended in san francisco. in between: helsinki + gothenburg.

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february 2012 / ming at the sink. officially moved and settled into cabbage patch, ming’s apartment. explored san francisco a lot, worked on degree project (ass savers), started a major freelance project.

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march 2012 / staffan at ass savers gbg hq. changed degree project, made first of four trips to sweden for school, visited helsinki for the second time this year and took a day trip to estonia, got entrenched with tons of work, finally returned to san francisco.

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april 2012 / late night work on degree project. had a cat try to adopt ming and i at cabbage patch, finally finished freelance work, put pedal to the metal on degree project, took second trip to sweden.

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may 2012 / solar eclipse through leaves on dearborn street. made final degree project presentation in sweden, returned to san francisco after forming ass savers as a swedish company. started to do fun things: watched super moon from marin headlands, met yoda with ming, drank hot chocolate in half moon bay, had business lunches with sophy. finalized degree project, went to sweden for the last time for exhibition.

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june 2012 / eva, head of hdk talks at graduation exhibition opening. had degree project exhibition at hdk, made public presentation of project, decided to join group exhibition during october in tokyo, ming came to sweden, geocached in gothenburg and helsinki, saw satu and tony for third time this year in finland, made final trip back to san francisco from europe, started work at adobe.

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july 2012 / office at adobe. went to korea for summer shutdown (seoul + jeju), settled in san francisco as a working person, started taking frequent trips to nature to technology detox on weekends, continued work on ass savers, seoulist, and preparation for tokyo exhibition.

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august 2012 / rocks and ocean near stinson beach. started getting coffee at papa november, continued escapes to nature on weekends, became more busy with work at the office and other projects.

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september 2012 / view from adobe times square office, new york. went camping with friends and given the nickname ‘lonelyman14′, saw a double rainbow in the city, went to friend’s wedding in philadelphia, visited home in maryland, took business trip to new york, began extreme preparation for tokyo exhibition.

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october 2012 / ming on the rainy streets of horie in osaka. took trip to asia with ming: visited friends in seoul, saw formula one in yeongam (korea), spent a week in busan while working, took an overnight cruise to osaka (japan), stayed in osaka for a week while working and visited naoshima, kyoto, and nara, went to tokyo for group exhibition and showed ass savers.

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november 2012 / ‘three gems’ skyspace by james turrell at de young museum in san francisco. returned from trip to japan, many life changes and realizations, stopped drinking coffee, effectively quit side projects (seoulist, ass savers, china exhibition planning), restarted daily meditation, spent time with friends, had thanksgiving with extended east bay family.

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december 2012 / my feet in my apartment. hung out with sean a lot, started going to nature again on weekends to enjoy life, regained appreciation for all things, visited home in maryland, saw space shuttle discovery at dulles, took business trip to new york, started drinking decaf coffee, returned to drinking real coffee, moved into new apartment, had many christmas activities with extended east bay family (christmas party in lafayette, christmas day in napa), went camping at steep ravine, spent much time with kim and sophy, started cooking at home, found new perspective.

christmas

christmas is a funny time of year, and christmas day can be quite an emotionally charged one.

it is a day that can leave you with both an overwhelming sense of fullness in your life and at the same time, a feeling of great emptiness. perhaps it is the nature of the beast – this time of year we take the initiative to think about loved ones; family, friends, a significant other or special someone. with those thoughts come numerous memories, and things aren’t ever the same from one year to the next.

this difference – the life delta – brings with it joy and grief, excitement and stress, hope and regret. it highlights the dual nature of all existence and shows us that though there have been here’s and there’s in life, in the end there is just being – and being is never the same, except for being the same.

so where does that leave one?

conflicted. confused. content? certainly there are many ‘c’ words that i could come up with, but finding the answer isn’t all that important. the point is that christmas is a funny time of year, where people reconnect their present and their past by partaking in their own funny traditions or making new ones. and after it is all said and done, they come out the other end feeling… a little bit funny. not really a big surprise, right?

so, to a funny holiday that i never really knew what to do with, here’s to seeing you again next year for another funny time.

what it… is?

when entering into the mindset of “what it is”, what exactly is it that you are doing when you let it be what it is?

granting permission for something to exist and at the same time, by acknowledging its presence, moving beyond? foregoing a more complex definition because trying to define some things only makes them more complex and/or abstract? not putting up resistance to the present and living in reality?

my original introduction to this odd phrase by my friend jonnie [http://destroytoday.com/] left me bewildered in regards of when and how exactly to use it. the off-canter timing he seemed to use fell beyond my comprehension and a hilarious and somewhat embarrassing couple of weeks passed before i was able to drop the “what it is” card at the appropriate time.

dog shit on brannan?
“what it is!”
no.

discarded boxers with shit on them on brannan?
“what it is.”
yup.

(and yes, that’s been seen before.)

but what is more interesting to me these days is how the concept of “what it is” channels some parts of the tao te ching, especially the idea of accepting the ebb and flow of life and of letting being be born from non-being.

it’s a funny comparison to make and maybe even quite a lengthy stretch, yet it is also a worthy notion to contemplate. the more we adopt the “what it is” approach to life, the more likely we are to remain in the moment, and who wouldn’t like that?

Snow Day

The last time I was in Sweden over the dark months there was an abundance of snow and temperatures that made it the coldest winter in over 50 years. Occasionally mixing with rain it left the city of Gothenburg covered in a nasty blanket of icy sludge, and my feet freezing in a pair of Reebok sneakers that were unqualified for the winter onslaught. Heavy cloud cover typical for the western region of Sweden made the weeks immediately preceeding and following the solstice an extremely unpleasant time.

But it wasn’t typical by any measure. Normalality calls for a deluge of rain that will keep your feet perpetually soaked (that is, unless you have a proper pair of winter boots) and temperatures hovering just enough above freezing to stick a cold knife through your clothing. If that sounds unpleasant, let me confirm for you that it is.

For most of the past five weeks rain and wind have been around in copious amounts and the glimpse of a soggy and chilly winter that I first saw when visiting here in 2007 has been made very real — until yesterday when I awoke to a curtain of white descending from the sky. Granted, the snow was very wet, the sun covered by clouds, and my jeans did end up totally soaked after a venture out on the bike but for an afternoon it felt like true winter had really come.

Now today, the day after the snowfall, the sun is shining on the rooftops and the idea has creeped into my head that the possibility of a pleasant winter in Sweden could actually exist. The melting snow will inevitably turn into ice over night and I’ll probably curse it as I slip and slide on the roads as I stubbornly refuse to ride the trams (after getting a 1200 kronor ticket for not understanding how to use the new SMS ticketing system… fuckers.) but for the foreseeable future the rain is gone, the skies will be clear, and the moment exists to seize and enjoy. And that’s nice.

Snowfall yesterday morning pulled the dreariness out of your typical Saturday AM.

Still not so much light, but the excitement of playing in the snow more than made up for it.

Staffan basking in this afternoon’s golden rays.

Rooftops lit up but the sun, snow patches slowly disappearing during the day, and a truly pleasurable moment.

An Open Letter to Everyone

Hi,

I’m Jungho. Though you may have known me for just a few months, a couple years, or even a quarter-century plus by another name, I’d like to explain a bit about why I’ve made this change.

In 2006 I embarked on what I thought was a 5-month trip to study abroad in Japan… as it turns out, it was the beginning of a long-term journey in search of my own self-identity; the search for answers to questions like “How is that I can be comfortable with who I am but not how I fit in with the rest of the world?” or “What is this significance of origin?”, even “How does the way that other perceive me affect my own understanding of myself?”

In my temporary exodus from America on that fabled trip to the land of the Rising Sun I unexpectedly discovered that when the known world is pulled out from beneath your feet all you are left with is you. That’s an uncomfortable situation by most measures, but for me the real struggle stemmed from instinctively grasping for the life I had back in the states and coming up empty handed while realizing that the nugget I wanted to help define who I was had gone missing, or perhaps it had never even been there.

The past couple years living abroad have only help strengthen this sentiment. Despite a few visits back stateside for several months at a time during that period, I’ve only found myself relating less and less to what I grew up with in America and gravitating heavily towards Korea as a logical starting ground for my own personal quest. Interestingly, when in Korea I’ve found even more out of place but somehow more comfortable.

So what does this even mean? To me it says that I’ve got an inherent level of discomfort in distilling my being down into one pot or the other. In other words, I’ve got a squirrely identity. My prediction would be that this will be a case of evolution by experience and that I’m in this state of being for the long run. I’m okay with that.

What has had me chomping at the proverbial bit is that my unknown future is, to me, quite disconnected from my past in ways that are both tangible and intangible.

I want to be able to navigate freely through the future with my own personal knowledge of my upbringing in my back pocket, but have a new way for me to present myself to the world. If this seems superficial, that’s because it is. The name you present to other people immediately forms certain prejudices, expectations, and presumptions in their minds. It’s something you have to work to defy since it is rare that we are as simple as who (or what) we at first appear to be.

My choice is simply to swing the odds towards what I consider my favor, a name that is undeniably my own (by birth) but in most ways truly fails to describe who I am. It’s my blank slate.

/Jungho

p.s. — Yes, this means that I’m requesting everybody call me by my name, Jungho, from here on out.

Valkommen

After a journey that spanned 44.5 hours, three continents, 4.5 flights, one mid-air medical emergency over the Pacific, a damaged bike bag, half-day excursion into Amsterdam, 50+ knot winds, aborted landing and diversion to Malmö with 1.5 hour wait on the tarmac, and a delayed bag… I’ve finally arrived in Gothenburg, again.

It’s time to finish what was started nearly two and a half years ago, my master degree at The School of Design and Crafts (Högskolan för Design och Konsthantverk) or as it is better known here, HDK.

Back to the Studio

Last time I was in Seoul, the group of friends I made at Studio Floating became the center of my social world. I don’t think I could ever get back the amazing time I spent there or with those people, so it’s a bit awkward now that I’ve setup shop back in the same studio and with a totally different crowd.

To be fair, I can’t say that I don’t like it… but it’s not the same and it’s really impossible to try to not make comparisons. The dents in the metal door are still there, the walls are still blue, the bathroom is still cold, and the same music comes through the floor from the live club in the basement. But the people… are shy (just like me).

Despite a couple days of coming and going without saying more than “hello” and “goodbye”, I’ve managed to make friends with our new manager (정인) via the last surviving member of the studio from when I was here before, Dajung. Today, 정인 took me to see one of her friends perform at the “playground” in front of Hongik University—I’ve walked by many times, but never spent a lot of time hanging out there before.

Afterwards we hung out with her friend who bought us bubble tea (!!!) at Quickly (?!?) and then showed us his studio nearby. It’s nice to know that there are independent designers in Seoul, though to be honest, this is the first one that I think I’ve met.

Here’s to hoping that more fun with new studio mates is in store, or at least that the awkwardness will vanish!

Music at 홍대 놀이터.

Getting Out

In a city full of 10+ million people it’s all to easy for me to muster the motivation to venture out on my own. But on occasion, it’s a nice breath of (not so) fresh air to step outside of my ‘hood in Hongdae.

November. Fall. Ginko leaves. Shoes. Reminds me of my friend Satu.

Labor of Love

Korea is like a second home… or maybe that’s a first home, actually. To me.

Having a lull in my whirlwind life between San Francisco and Gothenburg, I’ve made it part of my duty to return to the city I only this past year fell in love with. To be honest, if it were just the friends, food, and fun to be had here, I still would’ve come. But the honest truth is, after working like a mad man (and woman, with a nod to my favorite boss lady) this past February to launch Seoulist, I’ve found myself wanting to give it as much love as I can. Maybe this is also how parents feel about their children.

So, here I find myself once again, ready to slog it out for five weeks Seoulisting in the flesh.

First stop: meeting with Yaeri and Sonja for our first (and last?) group meeting.

Sonja and boss lady.

Experienced on November 1, 2011.
Written on December 22, 2011.

The Exotic Side of Things

Where you seek adventure, you will find it. If perhaps you wanted to turn an indulgent ritual into an epic tale, then you need do no more than put your mind to it.

It’s no secret that I’m a great consumer (but not connoisseur) of ice cream and I’m glad that my friend, Ming, is a willing accomplice in the consumption of the most delicious offerings at Bi-Rite Creamery on a semi-regular basis.

Taking decadence for a walk, we made our way along poorly lit sidewalks while avoiding the steepest of hilly inclines on a rather balmy (for this city’s standards) evening.

On a street of what seemed like no particular significance was a wooden, plus sized port-a-potty in the shape and color of a pagoda—an oddity even in this eclectic neighborhood. Across the street was a retired DPT vehicle (a kind of tiny, one-person, three-wheeled contraption that transit officers ride in while handing out parking citations) painted with polka dots and stripes. A large red circle proudly lay claim to the front wall of a lavender house. The unassuming street quickly became a world of strangeness, where every oddity was a conspicuous indicator of a world hell bent on playing an awkward and bewildering game with us.

It dawned on me that the more idiosyncrasies we spotted, the more appeared in front of our eyes. The stained glass window resembled a spiderweb, and how curious it was that one house seemed so much larger and grander than the others (did a Silicon Valley Millionaire reside inside, or a drug kingpin?). Was it really the world gone mad for a single block, or our minds working overdrive to build the grandeur of a miniature fantasy world block by block?

Knowing that our conscience could skew our perceptions, we decided to put this theory to the test—if we sought out the exotic, would we be rewarded with glorious finds or become disappointed by our foolishly set expectations? The answer soon became aparent as a walk to the less frequented back side of Dolores Park set a memorable set of events into action.

A decision to trek over the back side of the park was driven more by desire to exercise the guilt of ice cream away sooner than later. The glimpse of a staircase was enough to taunt us and we obliged it by clambering to the top where we were greeted by an breathtaking view of the city; fog obscuring the tops of skyscrapers downtown, the Mission sprawled out in front of us, bleeding into the various other neighborhoods with the faint glow of ugly yellow city lights all around.

Adjacent to us a yellow road sign simply read, “END”. Well that’s a pretty bold proclamation to make. After several moments of contemplation we concluded that it certainly was *an* END (and probably one of many, at that) which signaled our passing into an alternate reality where a house can dawn a glowing green light in front like it is The Great Gatsby and miniature palm trees make regular sized folk look like giants.

Our escape further into unreality came via questing for a geocache. On the street an eery jingle arrived like a wave out of a still sea, it’s source impossible to pin point. Slowly appeared a white dog followed, and then a second. Finally, after several suspense filled seconds the owner appearered and everything quickly returned to normalcy—well, not quite really.

Next to the road, perched 10m on top of a telephone pole sat a large bird cage. A human sized bird cage. Fortunately, there was no gigantic bird or human to be seen. Just the lingering question of “What the fuck is this doing here?”

As we reached our destination it became clear that was no choice but to engage in a furious search through brush and vines to find the sought after cache. Looking under rocks and leaves, peeling back branches, digging in dirt and ultimately coming up empty handed after 15 minutes wasn’t the rush we were looking for, but that’s what we got.

Rejecting dejection, we stopped to observe TV commercials through a strangers window, though apparently just too long as a scowling woman appeared just before we turned down hill towards the Mission.

Walking the J MUNI tracks back to our origin on the edge of Dolores Park elicited a feeling of being on no mans land, and rightfully so because we missed an oncoming train by just minutes. As we meandered through the park, I stopped for a moment to adjust my glasses and rub my eyes. *Little did I know* that the sap from a branch at the geocache was toxic and would almost immediately cause my left eye to wet itself in an attempt to rid itself of the irritant.

By the time we were at the foot of the park my entire cheek was covered in tears and my nose was running. With one eye closed, blinking repeatedly and feeling pain as my eye was exposed to air, we hastily scuttled back to Ming’s apartment to figure out the severity of the situation.

The next two hours were spent trying to clense my eye with various methods. I stook my eye under a running faucet, but to no avail. Sitting in silence with a slowly swelling eye was a futile attempt at trying to will my way into a miraculous cure, though I did realize once again that I can exercise calm in what would seem to be a distressful situation.

Ming, out of concern, sought medical goods from a corner store while I found comfort in keeping my eyes closed while sprawled out on the floor and then couch. Wouldn’t you believe that it wasn’t any of the saline solution or eye drops that brought me relief (in fact, we never got to the point where I used them), but advice scoured from the internet.

In fact, dunking my head in a giant glass bowl of water repeatedly and viewing the world from my goldfish-esque perspective was a huge success. Within an hour my pain level had receded from 6 to 1, red bean popsicles had been consumed, and I had been served tea in the most amazing, most Asian of Asian tea cups.

This was an event of epic proportions, the evening in that we challenged the universe and received a profane answer; you can see the world as you want to, you just have to be willing to accept the weird ways in which it may make itself known.

A fucking crazy night to remember.

Experienced on 1 October, 2011