Jules Does

Archive for November 2014

All of the homework options this week were so much fun, I could hardly choose between them. In the end, I went with picking 10 of my favourite K-Pop songs to take with me to a desert island. I’ve seen several other lists by my fellow students – it’s always interesting to see what people would take if they’re only allowed a few things.

Watch the slideshow below to find out my picks! Make it full screen for greatest effect.

If you’d like to check out any of these tracks (and you should, because they’re awesome), here are the YouTube links:

2NE1 – I am the Best

Super Junior M – Swing

Exo – Overdose

D.O. & Baekhyun – What Is Love

Infinite – Last Romeo

TVXQ – Something

GI – Beatles

Super Junior – This is Love

BTS – Danger

Big Bang – Fantastic Baby

Bigbang Fantastic Baby Gif 10 by SMoran

What tracks would you take?



Sometimes growing up is hard. You learn new things about yourself and the world, things that mean you often have to revise what you thought was ok or good in the light of new information. This can be a good thing, a pleasant thing which makes you appreciate the things you’ve loved better. Alternatively, as so often happens, we find out something unpleasant that makes us reconsider our fave. We can behave in several ways here.

1. Reject the new, unpleasant information and go about your day, believing what you’ve always believed in an unproblematised way.

2. Absorb the unpleasant information and reject everything you liked about the thing you loved.

3. Find a way to reconcile the two.

In some cases, Number 3 isn’t possible. However, we must do our very best not to let scrupulousness stain our enjoyment of things that gave us pleasure – it is still possible to believe certain things deeply while also loving things that might conflict with that belief. This cognitive dissonance is how many of us get through our daily lives with anything like enjoyment.

Case in point: The Princess Bride. If you haven’t seen this movie, I am basically begging you to find a copy and watch it. It is maybe the best movie ever, and it’s family friendly (with the exception of one word towards the end) and generally utterly beautiful and thrilling – swordfights! giants! true love! Come back when you’ve seen it and we can talk.

The plot of The Princess Bride revolves around Buttercup (played by Robin Wright, the best actress ever), a beautiful girl living on a farm in the country of Florin, and Westley (Cary Elwes), a farm boy who works on her farm and loves her, always saying ‘As you wish’ to her requests, while secretly meaning ‘I love you’. *Siiiiiiiigh* However, the lovers’ relationship is complicated when Westley goes to sea to seek his fortune and is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves captives alive. Buttercup then becomes engaged to the loathsome Prince Humperdinck, but who are these strange people trying to stop the wedding? And who is that man in black? The plot is related by a grandfather, who is reading the story as a book to his poorly grandson (don’t worry, it’s just run-of-the-mill illness, not some horrible disease).

First things first: I adore this movie. I genuinely believe it might be one of the most perfect films ever made. Much of that is down to the fact that The Princess Bride, along with Beauty and the Beast and My Fair Lady, formed a cornerstone of my childhood film consumption,  and why not? Beautiful people, dashing men, swordplay, a great deal of humour and some really excellent lines combine to create a gorgeous story about love, and who wouldn’t love that? Westley may also have been my first crush, although I earnestly believed that he wasn’t actually a real person, but a Disney Prince come to life (I still kind of stand by this).

Tell me I’m wrong.

However, from a feminist standpoint, the film is far from perfect. Much of this is, predictably, connected with the portrayal of its titular character, Buttercup. Read the rest of this entry »

Hollywood has two fairly straightforward ways of presenting movies set in mental institutions. We experience the setting through the eyes of a new patient, one who seems relatively “normal”, who has been admitted for reasons which seem more to do with their status as a social misfit than any mental problem. Through this character’s intervention, the other patients begin to enjoy their lives, casting off many of the more debilitating aspects of their conditions in the name of acceptance, while the hospital bureaucracy strives to shut down the protagonist’s joyful forms of intervention and management. We thus see that it is not the patients who are mad, but society etc etc etc. (Girl, Interrupted; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Alternatively, we travel with an outsider (a relative, a health worker) into a mental health institution to meet an intriguing patient who is making strange claims or who appears to have strange abilities. The protagonist’s interaction with this person ultimately changes their life even as it leaves the original patient relatively unchanged from their status at the beginning of the film. (Rain Man, K-Pax)

Park Chan-Wook’s I’m a Cyborg (But It’s OK) is thankfully like neither of those two possibilities outlined above. The protagonist is a young woman named Young-Goon who has a bizarre, near-fatal ‘accident’ in the radio factory where she works, which is interpreted as a suicide attempt. What appears at first to be schizophrenia is revealed to be something a little more strange: Young-Goon believes she is a cyborg, albeit one without a clear purpose, and her gruesome “suicide attempt” was actually to recharge her failing power supply.

More (and spoilers) under the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ahhh, only one more session to go before graduation! How has the time gone so quickly?

Team 4!

This week’s class was much more informal than the previous ones, in that we didn’t have a guest lecturer or go anywhere in particular or learn how to make anything. Instead we had an awesome time singing K-Pop songs like we were born to do.

The table of pain.

Of course there was a challenge element involved. We were divided into teams of 6 or 7 people to sing a song, Orange Caramel’s ‘Catallena’. Each of us would sing one section of the song in turn. In Korean. Without notes. If someone on the team made a mistake, we would be punished by the other teams, who had spray bottles full of water.  The team would then have to begin the song again from the beginning – you had three chances to get it right. If you wanted you could pick a Chance card, which would allow you to swap a member of your team for a member of staff or watch the video again. The winning team would receive signed copies of Super Junior’s latest album, so the stakes were HIGH.

As you can see, the song is *not* especially slow or easy. There’s very little English to cling to, meaning we were kind of adrift in a sea of Korean. I felt so sorry for the KCC staff – nearly thirty young people butchering their language!

Read the rest of this entry »

The 2010 Arirang Festival in North Korea. The large Korean words in yellow spell ‘Arirang’.


Today, I’m really excited to be writing about ‘Arirang’, perhaps the most famous Korean folk song ever, because in discussing it I can also talk about a great number of aspects of Korean traditional music but also Korean life more broadly. In the years following the Korean War, Arirang has become something of an unofficial national anthem for South Korea. The word itself is also everywhere – there’s the Arirang TV network, Arirang rice, and the Arirang games in North Korea (see above), to name just a few. It’s also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list for Intangible Cultural Properties.

On its surface, Arirang is a fairly straightforward folk song about the loss of a lover. The singer wishes that the lost lover will not be able to walk very far before their feet start to hurt. That’s the content of the chorus; the verses deal with largely unrelated observations and metaphors about flowers blooming in the winter on Mount Baekdu (which is currently located in North Korea). The verses and the tune vary from region to region, which might seem odd for an unofficial national anthem, but I think it preserves the regional feeling of the people of Korea while also being part of a nation-wide identity.  Various translations of the words can be found on the very detailed Wikipedia page for the song, so I won’t post them here. The song is not nationalist in itself, which might help to explain why it has transcended political divisions to unite Koreans everywhere, including in the North.

The word ‘Arirang’ doesn’t mean anything exactly, although in the context of the song it could refer to a particular mountain pass (indeed a pass in the vicinity of Seoul was re-named ‘Arirang Pass’ in the 1920s after the film Arirang).

But enough talk! Listen to one version of the song here:

Read the rest of this entry »

This week, we had an interesting glimpse into the world of Korean traditional music, specifically samulnori. Samulnori literally means ‘play of four things’ and is performed on four instruments: two drums and two gongs.

Our instructor this week was Nami Morris, a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS and long-time player of the changgo, one of the drums used in samulnori. She was very patient with us and showed us lots of cool rhythms even though we couldn’t actually make that much noise – turns out that loud percussion instruments and interviews with famous actors do not mix so well!

Read the rest of this entry »

Korean-Canadian actress Sandra Oh modelling modern hanbok by designer Kim Me Hee for Nuvo magazine, Spring 2008.

After the thrill of trying on hanbok last Saturday, we had a range of homework options, each of which involved looking at Korean fashion. I chose to design a K-Pop Academy hanbok, despite the fact that I am not so hot at the art (see earlier homework posts), and although some of the other options looked a little more essay-based (and therefore much more my style) I thought it would be good to push my boundaries a little.

So, what should a K-Pop Academy hanbok look like? Based on what we had learned on Saturday, I knew that there were several key features I needed to include:

  • Ritually significant colours and colour combinations.
  • Traditional shapes.
  • Fastenings on the right-hand side.
  • Chima and jeoguri for women (as well as possibly a dang-ui), and baji, jeoguri and durumagi for men.

From my experience of the K-Pop Academy itself, I wanted to include:

  • Colours fitting with the K-Pop Academy colour scheme.
  • A sense of British-Korean fusion.

Read the rest of this entry »