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    Mieun in San Francisco (spring 2010)

    I miss the alleys in San Francisco… I took these photos last year, walking through the Mission district with my friend, Mieun — a lovely SF transplant & graphic designer, originally from Seoul.

    Me in 2010... seems like a really long time ago...

    This photo was taken at the Women's Building on 18th Street -- a "woman-owned and operated community center," founded in 1971 and *very San Francisco*

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    November 14th, 2010adminArt, Byzantines, Gypsies, History, Ottomans

    Last month, I visited the gorgeous Chora Monastery, nestled in the Edirnekapi district of Fatih. The walk to the monastery was very interesting: We got off MetroBus, followed the old Byzantine wall — and, sadly enough, passed a former gypsy neighborhood (it was recently evacuated by the city government to further sanitize the district).

    An expression somewhere between stern and empathetic.

    Shortly after, we reached the monastery — and, upon entrance, I was immediately struck by its beauty: Byzantine Jesus and Mary, gold-encrusted and imperial, the saints, maybe the apostles — things big and important, in some fashion or another. And everything with an air of untouchable time.

    I don’t quite how to articulate this feeling …but there was a sense of hallowed distance …things were farther away than they seemed.

    A struggle of the highest order.

    For two years now, I’ve wanted to visit the monastery. From a historical perspective, it’s undeniably appealing. In fact, the monastery was located outside the walls of Constantinople — yes, outside. For that reason, it was called “Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country.”

    The worst part of experiencing history, nowadays, is that you rarely do it alone. Tourists are unavoidable -- and, sometimes, I'm one of them too.

    Originally built in the 5th century, the old monastery stood outside the walls of Constantine the Great. However, when Theodosius built land walls, the monastery then became incorporated within city walls. But the name remained.

    For centuries, the monastery wasn’t really a big deal. But, in the 12th century, an earthquake destroyed much of the monastery — it partially collapsed. As a result, it needed to be rebuilt. There were two phases of this restoration — in the 12th and 14th century. And it was the second phase, in the early 14th century, that brought the beautiful frescoes and mosaics to full bloom.

    The monastery displays, arguably, some of the best preserved Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul. In particular, the style is known as “Palaeologian Renaissance,” named after the emperor Andronicus III Palaeologus. Interestingly, the emperor exiled Theodore — that is, until he returned to Constantinople two years later and lived his remaining years as a monk in Chora Monastery.

    In 1453, the Ottomans sacked Constantinople. During their last siege, the icon and protector of Constantinople (usually housed in the Haghia Sophia), was brought to Chora Monastery. Alas, however, the monastery was converted to a mosque fifty years later. Because Islam prohibited iconic imagery, the monastery’s icons were covered by a layer of plaster.

    Today, the monastery is a museum.

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    May 16th, 2010adminArt, Food, History, Los Angeles

    I have been in LA for just over a week now. Below, I just listed some things I have done (below), which may be of general interest.

    Things I have done in LA (so far):

    FRIDAY NIGHT – Went to the Venice Art Walk, a monthly art event. The Walk extends down Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which is  flooded with food trucks, including Korean-style burritos (!). My friend, Emily, commented that the food truck phenomenon is a copy-cat of the scene in Austin, TX.  Anyway, this was an outdoor, street event — always a good thing in my book. The crowd was more of a general, West LA hodge-podge than an elite entourage of art scenesters.

    SATURDAY – Visited the Getty, which has a fantastic panoramic view of LA, & saw the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. Loved da Vinci’s sketches — brilliant illustrations of profiles juxtaposed with undoubtedly prodigious inventions. Aphorisms scribbled on sheets & everything so lovely… How do/did people like this exist? Who is our da Vinci today?

    TUESDAY – Persian sandwiches & ash soup (divine!) at Attari Sandwich, the first Persian restaurant to open in Westwood, followed by a visit to the Hammer Museum for the Red Book of Carl Jung exhibit. The illustrations were truly beautiful; my friend, Saewon, took pictures.

    Jung, Red Book

    Jung, Red Book

    Also attended a talk with Bill Viola that evening at the Hammer, which was surprisingly calming. He talked with some New York psychologist/professor on the mind, symbolism, spirituality. I came to the “conversation” with no expectations &  found Viola to be very approachable and real.

    Demon, Aztec Pantheon

    Demon, Aztec Pantheon

    WEDNESDAY NIGHT – Upright Citizen’s Brigade — a nice, local comedy experience for only $5.

    FRIDAY — Visited the Getty Villa to see the Aztec Pantheon exhibit, which I recommend. Two highlights were the 1) the “tzitzimit1l” (demon) with his liver protruding from his ribcage (see below) and 2) the “cihuacoatl” goddess/serpent woman. It was also fascinating to see which Roman gods the Europeans pairs with which Aztec mythological figure. Some seemed wildly off, a product of Eurocentricism & the false assumption that Roman gods could serve as universal archetypes. But, on the other hand, there were some interesting comparisons, like placing Quetzalcoatl (the supreme god) with the god, Mercury, rather than the expected Jupiter (the Roman supreme god).

    SATURDAY (tonight) — Just got back from The Hollywood Forever Movie Screening & watched THE WIZARD OF OZ. As corny as it sounds, the movie made me emotional (!) — the whole idea of a new land, one that’s removed from “reality.”

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