Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Freelance Photojournalism

June 16, 2016

One of the best landscape photos I ever took was purchased by the Encyclopedia Britannica. Impressive, huh? I think I made $0.50.

Freelance photojournalism is a rough road. I’ve been flipping the “career” concept like an omelet in my mind lately, trying to figure out how to improve corrections education without shooting myself in the foot. Every now and then I mentally wander down paths other than teaching, but I love teaching, and, well, freelance photojournalism just ain’t gonna cut it.



Impressions of Beijing

March 6, 2009
  • Grey. Air-pollution, anti-trendy (“proletariat”) clothing, monolithic cement buildings.
  • Beautiful. The ancient temples and dynastic grounds are magnificent.
  • Indifferent. It reminds me more of New York than Seoul.
  • Uncommercial (relative to Korea and the West). But, does it count when it’s a product of tyranny?
  • Stories. Lots and lots of stories in the faces of the old.
  • Libertarian. The free-market distribution of smoking and non-smoking bars is accepted as a just distribution. They’re not Communist like America.
  • OK, not really. Amusing (sadly so) factoid: The Lonely Planet guides for China are banned because China and Taiwan are different colors on the map.



Forbidden Palace



Women dancing outside the Temple of Heaven



Temple of Heaven

My last hike in Korea…

February 22, 2009

…as lovely as the first.


World’s Best Cities–the US Misses the Cut

February 3, 2009

I like lists. Here’s Mercer’s top 5 cities, ranked by stuff like personal safety and quality of life:

World, overall:
Zurich, Switzerland (1st)
Vienna, Austria (tied for 2nd)
Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 2nd )
Vancouver, Canada (4th)
Auckland, New Zealand (5th)

World, personal safety:
Luxembourg (1st)
Bern, Switzerland (tied for 2nd)
Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 2nd)
Helsinki, Finland (tied for 2nd)
Zurich, Switzerland (tied for 2nd)

Americas, overall:
Vancouver, Canada (4th)
Toronto, Canada (15th)
Ottawa, Canada (19th)
Montreal, Canada (22nd)
Calgary, Canada (25th)

Americas for personal safety:
Calary, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Montreal, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Ottawa, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Toronto, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Vancouver, Canada (tied for 22nd)

The best American city hardly even counts–Honolulu.

What’s interesting about this is that the best cities are in countries with strong welfare systems, yet welfare isn’t a factor in the ratings. These ratings are intended for expatriates and the multi-national corporations that employ them; Mercer, the source, is an expat-management service.

If welfare is an economic drag on a society, one would expect strong welfare states to score poorly in a rating system that ignores life for people on welfare. In contrast, a country–especially a rich one like the U.S.–that spends less on social services should look better in such a system.   Instead we see the opposite. The largest developed nation in the world doesn’t have a best or safest city at any level. A  plausible explanation is that a dollar spent on welfare does more to reduce crime than a dollar spent on law enforcement.

It’s also worth noting that Switzerland is the only country  in the world that makes heroin available by prescription. It provides the drug to addicts. Yet, that tiny country has 3 of the 5 safest cities in the world.


January 23, 2008


Big plans. Go to traditional, historic site (one hour by subway) with good hiking, do good hiking, see important, traditional site, go home, relax at the Manhattan Bar.

Did it happen? Of course! (More or less.)

Slept late. Read about stocks crashing. Worried. Yawned. Wet, grimy snow was falling outside. Crawled back to the womb (under the blankets).

I think I got myself to the “porridge” bar around 10:00, where I had pumpkin porridge. Yum. On the way to Starbucks, I pulled out my camera hoping to catch some Korean women wearing miniskirts in the snow. Oh those crazy Koreans! There was a great opportunity too, as a flock of young ladies popped out a doorway, almost all in minis, with some nice fat snowflakes falling through the air, but I couldn’t get a picture. I wonder who the first Korean to climb Everest in a miniskirt will be.

Onward to Starbucks, where I contemplated being lazy and going home (it was getting late, the weather…). But, no, no; courageous, intrepid me pressed onward (ever onward).

Read the pink Korean Herald on the train. Stock markets crashing, president-elect of Korea under investigation. Presidential candidates in the US accusing each other of being bad people. Giant, Patriots in the Super Bowl (finally, some real news). I wish I had shorted stocks super-aggressively, or at least sold everything. Oh well.

On the way to Namhanseong-san I got mildly lost, couldn’t figure out the difference between the park and the historic site, thought I got off at the wrong station, got frustrated and started getting mad at myself. Getting mad at myself is something I practice often. Or do I do it for real? I’m not sure.

Finally I tried to ask directions from two old Korean men on the street.

* Me: 어디 남한산성?

* Old men: Eh?

I figured my grammar was bad, but if they could understand my pronunciation they would understand my question. So I tried to be really clear…

* Me: (very slowly): 어 디  남 한 산 성 ?

* Old men: (looking at each other) Eh?

Maybe the problem was my grammar. I tried to remember the right endings…

* Me: 남한산성은 어디에 입닉가?

* Old men: Eh?

* Me: 남한산성가 어디에 입닉가?

* Old men: Eh?

Finally I gave up on the idea of making a complete sentence, and just said “남한산성?” while shrugging and looking hopeful. I pronounced it at a normal speed, trying to maintain the unstressed Korean pronunciation. They immediately understood and pointed me in the right direction! Moral of the story: it is better to say one word clearly than three words badly.

My labyrinthitis was a bit of a bleary nuisance while walking back to the subway. Oh well.


Magically, when I got to the mountain, the snow was clean and fluffy and beautiful. No at all like that nasty city snow down the hill. There were lovely spots: bare trees with clean snow lining their branches, snowy rocky hillsides, misty views of nearby snowy peaks.

Back in Ansan: Starbucks, home, snacks for dinner, consideration of being lazy (always!) instead of following the plan to go to the Manhattan Bar (where my plan is to journal the day’s events) , awe-inspiring surmounting of the temptation of laziness, trudge to bar (no more snow), discover they make manhattans with Jack Daniels (gross), pay more for something nicer, and here I am writing this!

Lunch today

January 5, 2008

Squidburger and fries.


September 5, 2007

It’s all about the ancestors. The most Korean of Korean holidays (I think), Chuseok is when Koreans return to their hometowns to reunite with family. They often describe it as a “Korean Thanksgiving.” However, feasting seems to be a small part. The only traditional food is songpyun, a kind of rice cake.

Saturday I went to Yeouido island, in the Han river in southwest Seoul. Saw a nice riverside park with bike/jogging path and great river-view of the city. After it started raining, I wandered over to the underside of a bridge, where a social scene was happenin’. A group of young dudes strumming their guitars gave it a nice atmosphere. As I was watching the dudes, a small, friendly old man walked up to me a started talking in passable English. He gave the impression of possibly being crazy or homeless–or maybe just old and lonely. Why did he pick me? His clothes were a little raggedy and his teeth were orange; his glasses were crooked and not too clean. He did not appear to be hearing voices. I snapped a picture of him in which he is laughing because I had pointed my camera at him; he was embarrassed.


Friendly man

Seoul has some nice scenic spots: buttes, the river, parks, etc. On the other side of the island is an ecological park, which looked good for bird watches (considering it is the middle of a major world city).

Monday I went to Chagdeok-gung, a well-preserved palace compound near Anguk station. Lots of fat camera-lugging Western tourists and traditional Korean buildings. Whatever. There is a large forested area with a lotus pond and a pavilion. I want a large forested area with a lotus pond and a pavilion.

In front of the main entrance, I photographed a “pretty young thing” in a fancy, colorful hanbok, and she chastised me for not asking first. I say “pretty young thing” with just the right blend of sarcasm and sincerity (you can trust me on this).


She is about to scold me for taking her picture without asking first.

Wandering toward Seoul Station to catch the subway home, I stumbled into Seoul Plaza. A performance with an ensemble of traditional Korean drums was pending, so I sat on the grass and waited. It was great! Really positive, physical energy. Lots of musical and physical joy in the performers. It was primal and sophisticated and a lot of fun. I don’t think it was traditional Korean music, it had an almost rock’n’roll spirit and was not at all stately or folksy. Within five minutes I thought “These guys would be good for Renn Fayre,” which shows what aspects of Reed linger with me the most.


July 22, 2007



May 5, 2007

…tends to be excessively poppy. It also tends to imitate Western styles, which isn’t very interesting for me (a Westerner). However, that doesn’t stop it from being fun at times. There is a Web site with many streams of older Korean rock. The stuff from the 60’s is often really good. Here is a song by a woman named Yun Sin-ae that I like. She has a great guttural growl. My Korean co-teacher says she single-handedly popularized the mini-skirt in South Korea. That makes her one of the major cultural influences of the society–Korean women wear mini-skirts in the dead of winter. And given how conservative Korea is in general, I can imagine there was a lot of attitude about a woman going mini in 70’s Korean society.
You can explore the site more by clicking on the calendar. There is some fun music in there.

Here’s a punkish video. I like the music and the video:

Here’s a another rock video. I like the video more than the music.

Koreans, Old & Young

April 30, 2007