Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: August 2011

Struggling Writers

A generation ago, struggling writers who needed a bit of cash might try porn — fast, trashy writing that was generally artless, but it paid the bills. Today, they have news aggregators — pretty much the same thing.

Out on a Limb: LEAFIE and Animation in Korea

There’s a nice little story on the Wall Street Journal‘s Korea blog about the success of a new Korean animated film, LEAFIE, A HEN INTO THE WILD. While not a blockbuster, LEAFIE has managed to pull in nearly 900,000 admissions since it was released at the end of July, which I do believe makes it the most successful Korean animated film of the modern era.


For a bunch of reasons, Korean animation just has not done that well over the years, with a long, long list of failures over the past 20 years (I mentioned a few in this blog post a few years ago). Considering one of my first Newsweek stories was about WONDERFUL DAYS, one of the highest-profile failures in Korean animation, it is kind of cool seeing someone actually doing okay.

One note about the WSJ story, though — it apparently needs an editor, because LEAFIE has not made 2 billion won, and 2 billion won does not equal $1 million. KOBIS says that the film has made nearly 6 billion won so far, which is around $5.4 million.

Billboard Today

I forgot to mention in my last post that one thing that got me thinking about Billboard was Larry LeBlanc’s recent interview with Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard. It’s kind of neat because Werde talks about how the music industry is getting better these days, and many of the steps he mentions are things that Korea did years ago.

I love to see aggressive smart thinking. One thing that has happened over the past year—now that this industry has a slightly lighter step in a good way—is that people are experimenting more. People are acting again. There was such a pervasive sense of fear (before). Fear that “I’m going to lose my job.” Fear that “I’m going to make a decision that is going to set the wrong precedent.” Fear that “someone is going to judge me in the press.” There was a sense of fear that was paralyzing in the industry.

Whether it’s because “we can’t live in fear forever” or because things are getting a bit better on the margins, I see decisions that are being made that are not as fear driven as I once did which is so good for the business. It is such a relief to see that.

It should have been clear to the whole music industry years ago that its onerous business model was not going to survive the Internet age. But, as the saying going, never underestimate someone’s ability not to understand something when their paycheck requires them not to understand.

Creators Project – Korea

You know, if you want to get to know about some of Korea’s best up-and-coming/indie artists and designers, but you don’t speak Korean, one of the best sites I’ve seen is the Korean section of the Creators Project. With profiles and interviews with Chang Kiha, DJ Soulscape, EE and more, they really have done a good job at profiling some of the coolest names in Korea today.

The contrast to, say, Billboard magazine is quite striking. Emmanuel Legrand, former global editor of Billboard, wrote a not-so-fond farewell to Billboard last December, when the magazine was shutting its UK office and downsizing much of its international footprint. But the thing is, of all the trade publications I wrote for over the years, Billboard was probably the most frustrating, backwards, and parochial. Not terribly surprising, I guess, for a professional magazine to such a frustrating, backward, and parochial industry. Billboard never really got Korea, and they never really understood how technology was changing the Korean music industry (in much the same way it has since changed the West).

Which, if I may digress, is why it is so stunning to me, to see Lou Hau now one of the magazine’s top editors, with the Wondergirls getting serious attention on the Billboard website. Granted, I’m sure I was not Billboard’s favorite stringer either; but I bet I would have fit in with the current regime much better. Assuming they even pay stringers anymore.

Anyhow, point is, just as the music industry slowly seems to be coming to grips with how technology is changing the business, I think Billboard is coming to grips with its place in the future of music news.

But the folks at the Creators Project are even more on the ball. Great to see them showcasing so many interesting Korean artists.

Bye-Bye El Bulli Bulli

Sadly, the great restaurant El Bulli has served its last meal. And, no-so-surprisingly, I never got around to rustling up the 350 euros or so for a meal there. While I have enjoyed a lot of wonderful, and wonderfully odd, food in Spain, nothing quite compares to the original.

On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like being surrounded by a bunch of pretentious foodies to make one never want to eat again.

Ah, well, there is always Tickets

35 Years of Sanullim

With the 35th anniversary of Sanullim coming up next year, JR Media says it is coming out with two albums of Sanullim covers and mixes to celebrate. Called “Sanullim Reborn,” the first album will come out in November, and a second one next year. Among the bands included will be Crying Nut, Lee Juck, and Ali.


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