13 October 2008


It's been almost a month since my arrival in Seoul, and Sarah refuses to let go of my consciousness. She comes back stronger than ever, in many of the things and people I see here. Here are some photos, previously uploaded to my main blog but not at this blog, that have some significance for Sarah.

Sarah's idol, Canada-based Sarah McLachlan, is one of the more beloved foreign popular music artists here in Seoul. Here is a good selection of Sarah McLachlan CDs, locally pressed and printed, for sale.

I went to another record store later on, and found even more Sarah McLachlan CDs there, as shown above, including Closer, her new Greatest Hits collection. Locally produced CDs are very nice in that they come with full lyrics (even for Greatest Hits), full translations, and brief synopsis of the artist and each track.

A Sony-BMG flier inside the CD also said that a week from today, I can expect a Mariah Carey compilation focused on ballads, with the same features. That's something sure to remind Sarah of her wife Kirsten, who is not only mixed-race like Mariah herself, but also a huge Mariah fan. In addition, Mariah Carey is probably the most popular foreign artist in South Korea.

Another idol (and fashion icon) for Sarah (and for me) is actress Jennifer Aniston. Aniston rose to fame by playing the ditsy, sexy Rachel Green in Friends, and this cafe, seen near a very conservative Confucian university (and certainly named after the show), will be a very pleasant reminder of that for Sarah.

Another favorite actress for Sarah (and me) is Calista Flockhart, of Ally McBeal and Brothers and Sisters fame. I couldn't find any direct reminders of Flockhart, but this car may come close.

The most conventional way to spell Calista ("most beautiful" in Greek) is "Kallista," and that's the name of this particular car. The Kallista was built in 1993 by South Korea's Ssangyong, a company better known for its odd SUVs than for classy sports cars. In the early 1990s, Ssangyong owned the British specialty sports car maker Panther, and the Kallista was a Panther model assembled by Ssangyong.

As only 78 Kallistas were ever built, Sarah will not find one on the streets; she will have to head out of town and visit a huge amusement park, named Everland, an hour away; that's where I found a car museum - and this car.

Seen near Olympic Park in the southeast of Seoul on a hot weekend day: this VW New Beetle. Sarah drives this exact model and color back in San Francisco.

Young, affluent South Korean women love their New Beetles as much as Sarah loves hers.

And here's one more mention of Calista Flockhart: when the New Beetle first came out, seeing one, for some reason, would make me think of Flockhart standing in front of the car, in a matching-colored Ally McBeal miniskirt suit that is her trademark. I think this is due to the round features of Flockhart's face (much like the New Beetle itself), as well as photos of New Beetle prototypes a few years earlier which indeed were presented by skinny models in matching-colored miniskirt suits. People accused me of having a fetish!

This boutique, named First Avenue on Myeong-dong, has many lightweight, slightly sheer floral minidresses, like the one on the right (paired with a cardigan in this case). These dresses work well as dresses AND as tops, as evidenced by the fashionistas passing by. Sarah will love this look, though Kirsten will be more likely to wear it. Sarah herself prefers tunic tops as dresses - or dresses that are styled like tunic tops, like the example on the left.

Myeong-dong, in downtown Seoul, is overrun with lots of fashionistas - including many foreign ones - so Sarah will not feel out of her element there. Though she may not understand why there are so many incomprehensible political demonstrations (as none are in English, and all deal with domestic politics - except for Falun Gong from China) and so many Christian doomsday missionaries on the streets.

Sarah will probably spend some time in the royal palaces. This gift shop at the most important palace, Gyeongbokgung, offers visitors a chance to dress like a king, a queen, an officer, a concubine, or whatever.

It is a little-known but interesting fact that the fourth king of Joseon dynasty, Sejong, best remembered for his scientific achievements including the invention of the Korean script, was also known for having a lesbian daughter-in-law. If Sarah ever found out about that (through Wikipedia, most likely), she would come here, and ask to be dressed like that daughter-in-law. Historians, take note: Sejong's daughter-in-law was not only a lesbian, but she was six feet tall, red-haired, green-eyed, and transgender!

Shamanism is another area in traditional Korean culture where transgenders had a key role. This is Guksadang, the main shaman shrine, located northwest of downtown Seoul. It really smells like garbage here, due to all the rotting food outside placed for the mountain spirits to eat; indeed, birds were feeding there.

Most people who look for Guksadang are foreigners, as most Koreans are rather embarrassed to share their shaman culture. In fact, I visited Guksadang after reading an Internet article, written by a flight attendant at Delta Air Lines, which resumed its Seoul service last year. Who knows, next time I fly United Airlines, I might find an article on Seoul (and Guksadang) in the inflight magazine Hemispheres, written by none other than Sarah!

These miniature masks were seen at Insadong, the antiques district, which will feature prominently in Perfect Girl. In addition, when I play The Sims 2, where I live with my wife but Sarah also lives with us as a roommate, our house can be decorated with lots of goods, including a Korean mask; I was surely reminded of that at this display. In addition, it's possible to buy a traditional Korean dress and designate it as my "formal" outfit; I've done that for myself.

Sarah loves flight simulators and airplanes. While Sarah will never get to play with a public flight simulator during her visits to Seoul (or anywhere else), if she ever got to do so, she may have found something like this - and loved it. This is a flight simulator, powered by Sony PlayStation 3 using a generic single-engine propeller plane, that allows me to explore Seoul, circa 2030, after the current city beautification projects are all completed. It was provided by the city government as part of its beautification showcase, at Seoul Design Olympiad taking place at the Olympic Stadium until October 30th.

As I flew around the future Seoul, I constantly thought of Sarah and her love of flying. And since this generic plane actually could fly at jetliner speeds, I was even wishing that I could actually fly a jetliner instead - specifically, one of Sarah's company planes that visit Incheon Airport every day.

As I continue to take photos of interest to Sarah and her story, I will upload them here too. And brainstorming continues as well.

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