Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: August 2014


It’s Friday evening, and I’m sitting in the dark, 20 storeys high, looking out on western Seoul just watching a lightning storm roll in. Sleeping in my lap is my 6-day-old son. Django Reinhardt is playing in the background and there might be a glass of Portuguese wine on my desk.  I think this is just about perfection.

Wherever you are, I hope you are similarly happy.

Science Fiction Festival in Korea

The “SF2014 Science & Future” Festival (launched in 2010 as the Gwacheon International Science-fiction Festival, with the name changing nearly every year since then) is coming this fall, Sept. 26-Oct. 5. The festival is based in Gwacheon, just south of Seoul, and features a pretty interesting lineup of movies and events related to science-fiction.

There festival’s English website still isn’t functional, but looking at the Korean, there are several things worth checking out, imho. Among the movies being screened are 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, UNDER THE SKIN, and the Korean animated film THE SATELLITE GIRL AND THE MILK COW, as well as the 2010 Tamil science-fiction extravaganza ENTHIRAN (aka, “The Robot”) (no word yet whether the non-English films will have English subtitles).

And astrophysicist Yannick Mellier will apparently be there on Sept. 26, introducing a documentary about dark matter.

Anyhow, once the English website is up and running, I’ll link to it. And hopefully they will have a press conference in the next couple of weeks to better explain about the festival. Also, Gord Sellar talks a bit about the festival here.


Dongdaemun Wandering

The middle of August is the height of vacation season in Korea, so plenty of shops are closed at the moment — kind of like in Europe, but instead of a month off, in Korea its just a week. Or often just 2-3 days.

The weather has been quite pleasant lately, so I’ve been walking around Dongdaemun a bit. Here are a couple of shopping alleys that are usually full of shoe stores, but this week were pretty dead:

However, there are still a fair number of places open, including the book stores. Today was a good day for browsing and I ended up buying these art books:

Tiger and Sanshin!

In case you are wondering where I bought these books, here’s a map:

New book on the way …

So, I have a new book coming reasonably soon — a novel actually (my first). I’m quite excited about it, to finally be doing something in fiction. The book is all done, at least on my end: written, re-written, edited and re-written once more. But publishing being what it is, the book will not be on shelves until next year.

However, what is making me excited now is that I just found the first signs of the novel online. No, it’s not in a catalog or on yet, but there was a mention of it at my publisher’s website. And I saw that my publisher is aiming for a May 2015 release.

That inspired some emails and my editor says that it might actually become available in April. But regardless, very fun news. Hopefully we will have an page before much longer. Or at least a final cover I can tease. Something like…

Beastro — A big step up in Hongdae’s restaurant scene

Last night the wife and I ate at the new-ish Hongdae restaurant Beastro, and I must say that place is just excellent. The food was superb — the cocktails and menu were both playful and extremely tasty — but even more than that, the ambience was just right, the prices were extremely reasonable, and the service was excellent.

I mention the ambiance because, while Hongdae has a lot of great places, they often have a bit of an amateurish or shabby-chic vibe. This place felt grown-up. For the quality of the food, prices were probably about half of what you might pay in Itaewon or Cheongdam-dong.

But I was especially happy with the service. Because, let’s face it, service is often the weak link at even the nicer restaurants in the fancy parts of Seoul. Not at Beastro, though. Great attitudes, very attentive, very knowledgeable about the food and friendly.

Plus Beastro is a very good size (two levels inside and a roof), so you can usually get a seat.

Actually, it has been a good spell for food in general in Hongdae, with plenty of good new places opening up all the time. Maybe I’ll write about more of them from time to time. But for now, Beastro is definitely at the top of the list, as least in my part of Seoul.

Piqued by ‘Non Summit’

Nearly a decade after KBS tortured us with “Misuda”, or “Chattering Beauties,” a show featuring foreign women talking about Korea (and perhaps being objectified a bit), JTBC gives us “Non Summit,” a rather similar show featuring young men from around the world who speak Korean.

I recall a lot of foreigners complaining about “Misuda” back when it was on the air, claiming that Koreans would never do a similar show with men. But now here we are, with foreign men being treated just as ridiculously as foreign women were way back when.

I just wonder if one of the guys will open a good makgeolli bar near my apartment, like Taru from “Misuda” did. (Information about Taru Jumak is here. Very good place).

Here’s a story talking a bit more about “Non Summit” and what they are aiming for.

If you want to get a sense of what the show is like, you can see it here with English subtitles. More subtitled episodes are linked here.

Anyhow, I know I’m complaining too much. But it is genuinely interesting to see a show like this on the air now. It’s amazing how much Korea keeps changing — both in terms of how well people around the world are learning Korea, and how much better Korea is becoming at dealing with the rest of the world.


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