Saturday, October 01, 2011

An Oriental afternoon

Written in Krakow airport on Thursday:

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Next week is going to be outrageously busy. I have three talks to write for an upcoming trip, two new project ideas which were sparked by conversations this week. A month's worth of restaurant food to work off in the gym, two important questions to answer about my last paper, and two current projects which need to be restarted. Apart from that I may attempt a couple of night's sleep and a day at the Oktoberfest!

I'll take the opportunity while waiting for my plane at Krakow international airport to put up another post from the California trip, though I fear that it may be several more weeks until we're up to date.

The last day in San Francisco before the Yosemite trip was wonderfully sunny (in general I was hugely lucky as San Francisco at this time of year is renowned for its cold, foggy days). I headed to Japan Town where a J-pop festival was on, not because I'm a fan of Japanese pop music, but because anything to do with Japanese fashion and style tends to be outrageous and amusing in equal measure. In fact there wasn't much J-pop in sight, or earshot. Arriving there at 11 in the morning we were greeted with a blast of the Japanese equivalent of Happy Hardcore, which took me right back to my early days of clubbing. Japan Town quickly filled with kids dressed in faux cos-play outfits, posing for the cameras, the lone non-Japanese guy standing by the side slightly awkwardly wearing his samurai costume, not drawing much attention from the photographers.
Cos player

The main event that I wanted to see was a Calligraphy display by San Francisco resident and Hokkaido born artist Aoi Yamaguchi. I've been interested in Chinese calligraphy for a while, mostly because it confuses me. I still find it hugely difficult to understand what makes good calligraphy different from bad calligraphy, but, like whiskey and many other acquired tastes, the more time you spend with it, the more you understand the subtleties and can tell a 16 year old Jura from a bottle of JD. I'm still at the very early stages of this quest (re. calligraphy, not whiskey - I'm some way into my whiskey quest), but some things are making sense. Like a good pianist, the use of hard and soft in the appropriate places in the calligraphy, even within an individual Chinese character are one of the signs of artistry. Although a piece may look messy to the untrained eye (which mine still is) there is an exactness within the apparent chaos, and a single flick of the brush at the end of the line can turn it from pedestrian to genius for an aficionado.

Aoi Yamaguchi, according to the compere has invented her own style of calligraphy, and while I don't understand much of the uniqueness of her work, watching her write was fascinating and the application of brush and ink to paper had some of the same, strange mix of looseness and exactitude as perhaps a Turner would to a Western art lover. I don't yet get the pleasure of this art-form as I do from much Western art, but I'm beginning to get the idea and hope to continue this study in the future.
Aoi Yamaguchi calligraphy
Aoi Yamaguchi calligraphy
Aoi Yamaguchi calligraphy 2
Aoi Yamaugichi name stamp
Aoi Yamaguchi calligraphy

From Japan town I headed to Union square, a few blocks down where a Korean festival was in full swing. Women dressed in traditional hanbok and some very peculiar headwear danced, in between modern ballet performances and drum orchestras.
hanbok parade
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I chatted with a group of Korean guys for a while who were in the US studying English and we exchanged stories of travel adventures and San-nak-ji experiences.

That evening I headed West to Ocean Beach to stay with a couchsurfer before leaving very early the next morning to meetup with the others on the Yosemite trip, but that will have to wait until next time.t

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