Thursday, January 31, 2013

Eunsuh Choi exhibition "Consciousness" at Pittsburgh Glass Center in Garfield, Feb 1 - Jun 16.

House Barrier IV

Eunsuh Choi's exhibition "Consciousness" opens at Garfield's Pittsburgh Glass Center (map) tomorrow and runs through June 16. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a lengthy preview on the 30th.
Her work is about aspiration and the symbolism that permeates her sculptures attests to that. Trees, for example, reach upward, as do ladders. Trees also symbolize human beings. The reaching limbs, as graceful as a ballerina's arms, end in small rounded buds at the ready to blossom into fulfillment. "Humans also kind of have seasons," Ms. Choi noted, cycling the relationship back. And, unlike ladders, she writes in an artist statement, "this is an object that lives and breathes, has the capability of growing and is equally capable of dying."

The confining spaces of the boxes reflect "how I feel about living in a foreign country," Ms. Choi said.
More about her is on her official website,
I’m interested in portraying the human aspiration in life with organic forms from the new perspective I had about myself within a foreign country. Originally from Korea, I relocated to the United States and my Korean heritage tends to make me ask about myself in terms of my direction as an artist and an individual especially after I came to the USA. What are my ambitions, how can I achieve these, and what is the personal significance?
and the Pittsburgh Glass Center Facebook page has a lot of neat photos of, among other things, the pre-exhibition exhibition.

Pittsburgh Quarterly on Teppanyaki Kyoto.

By Laura Petrilla for Pittsburgh Quarterly.

Highland Park's Teppanyaki Kyoto has been open for a year, and has been reviewed a few times by the local papers (1, 2, 3). This month it's Pittsburgh Quarterly's turn, and this time they took some good photos. And like the other reviewers, this one understands there is more to Japanese food than sushi and a hibachi:
Very few people view Japanese food as comfort food — but in the dead of winter, Teppanyaki Kyoto is a great spot to eat a warm meal in a peaceful setting. It joined the expanding Bryant Street restaurant district in Highland Park last January and serves authentic Japanese food grilled (yaki) on an iron griddle (teppan).

Here, sushi isn’t on the menu; instead, there are meats, seafood and noodles.
They also talked with the restaurant's owner, who moved here from Taiwan and is married to a Japanese woman:
Why did you choose to set up on Bryant Street?
It’s quiet — the right atmosphere for a Japanese restaurant. I feel like Shadyside and downtown are too busy, whereas Bryant Street has just the right number of restaurants. We live close by and my family likes the neighborhood. In addition, my restaurant is popular with younger people, and it’s easy for them to get here by bus or car.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Akira at Pittsburgh Anime Film Series, February 5.


The first selection in this February's Pittsburgh Anime Film Series will be Akira (アキラ), February 5th at Toonseum downtown in the Cultural District (map). Wikipedia tells us about the film:
The film depicts a dystopian version of the city of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki) and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata). Kaneda tries to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira. While most of the character designs and settings were adapted from the original 2182-page manga epic, the restructured plot of the movie differs considerably from the print version, pruning much of the last half of the manga. The film became a hugely popular cult film and is widely considered to be a landmark in Japanese animation.
The movie starts at 7:00 pm and is free with Toonseum admission ($5 for adults). About the screening:
The film is being screened in conjunction with a special exhibition of original production art from the film, running throughout February at the ToonSeum. The screening will be followed by a lecture on Akira by film writer Joe Peacock, owner of a number of the pieces on display in the exhibition.
The other movies in the series are: 5 Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru, 秒速5センチメートル) on February 11, Memories on February 18, and Summer Wars (Samā Wōzu, サマーウォーズ) on February 25. They're free, and they're held on the campuses of Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University. More details available at the series' official website.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

As an aside: New Orientalism.

One of the hallmarks of American media coverage of East Asia over the past decade has been a new sort of Orientalism, a patronizing look at its development that preserves audiences' sense of superiority by marveling at its rapid progress, questioning implicitly how those people could do it, and comforting readers that "we" are still ahead. It's hard to watch anything about Asia on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, or even Animal Planet without repeatedly hearing how "exotic" the cultures are, while the contrast is deliberately underscored through a shamisen, erhu, or other traditional stringed-instrument in the background. It's also apparently an unwritten rule to frequently return to that theme of contrast throughout the article or video report: old versus new, tradition versus Western influence, and the stories of those left behind in the countries whose economic developments have been unparalleled this century.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Japanese film After Life (ワンダフルライフ) at Pitt, January 31.

After Life Japanese film

The University of Pittsburgh's undergraduate Linguistics club Yinzling will show the Japanese movie After Life (Wonderful Life, ワンダフルライフ, in Japan[ese]) on January 31. Wikipedia says:
The movie is set in a building resembling a decrepit travel lodge or social services institution. Every Monday, a new group of recently deceased people check in, and the "social workers" in the lodge explain to each guest their situation. The newly-dead have until Wednesday to identify the single happiest memory. For the rest of the week, the workers at the institution work to design and replicate each person's chosen memory, thereby replicating the single happiest moment of that person's life, and it is filmed.

At the end of the week, the recently deceased watch the films of their recreated happiest memories in a screening room. As soon as each person sees his or her own memory, he or she vanishes to whatever unknown state of existence lies beyond and takes only that single memory with them, to live and relive for eternity.
It starts at 8:30 pm in room 324 of the Cathedral of Learning. Those interested should RSVP on the event's Facebook page.

Philadelphia cherry blossom festival postcard.

The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia recently released a couple of postcards to promote its 2013 event, held from April 1 through 26 this year. Here's the best of the bunch:

2013 Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival Philadelphia

And since we're looking at that side of the state, here are a few pictures of a frozen Shofuso Japanese House and Garden.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When Kimchi Bus came to Pittsburgh (and took a nice picture).

Kimchi Bus Pittsburgh

Back when it was nice out, the Kimchi Bus visited Pittsburgh.

The Kimchi Bus is, um, a bus that was on a mission to introduce Korean kimchi by touring around the world. It found Pittsburgh back in September. Unfortunately, it didn't tell anyone, so just a few people happened across it by accident. It did give us this nice picture, though, which should hold us over until the weather gets better and until we have interesting things to write about later.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Local student earns gold medal at World Traditional Wushu Championships.

Last week the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review---and the month before---wrote about Gina Bao, a North Allegheny Intermediate High School student who earned a gold medal in her age group for taijijian at the World Traditional Wushu Championships in Huangshan City, China back in November.
Bao, 15, traveled with the U.S. Traditional Wushu Team to participate in the Fifth World Traditional Wushu Championships from Nov. 5 to 11, when she competed with and defeated contestants from several other countries to win the gold medal in her age group, 14 to 18.

. . .

She also won the bronze medal for females in her age group for taijiquan, or tai chi hand form, in the competition.
Both articles have decent write-ups of her training and upbringing in kung fu and other activities.
Originally a ballet dancer, Bao gave up that activity when her family recognized her talent in martial arts.

“That was really hard for me because I didn‘t like martial arts, but we (she and her father) both knew I was better,” Bao said. “I liked dance a lot more, but I was better at martial arts. In the end I chose martial arts. I love tai chi because it‘s like dance. I like to compete, and I like to win because I like to make my parents proud.”
She has won 25 domestic and international medals, according to the Tribune-Review, and will perform at the OCA Pittsburgh Lunar New Year Banquet on February 23.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pittsburgh Taiko beginner lesson, January 19.

Pittsburgh Taiko, a local Japanese drumming group, will offer a free "crash course" for beginners tomorrow, January 19, from 2 to 5 pm at Shadyside's Winchester Thurston School (map).
During this session, you’ll be learning basic warm-ups and exercises, the proper form and technique, and then diving into your first two kumidaiko songs!
You can see and hear Pittsburgh Taiko on YouTube.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ramen a "dining-out specialty", writes Tribune-Review.

Gone are the days when Pittsburghers had to make a field trip to Morgantown to get Japanese ramen. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looked yesterday at several local restaurants that have recently started serving variations of the dish.

"Ai Weiwei: Activist and Visionary" movie and potluck dinner at Thomas Merton Center, January 28.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry Pittsburgh

GlobalPittsburgh's twitter tells us the Thomas Merton Center will show the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry as part of a potluck-dinner-and-a-movie on January 28th. The official website describes the film and subject:
Ai Weiwei is China's most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.
The film was last in Pittsburgh in September, and the Pittsburgh City Paper wrote about the subject:
Weiwei enjoys fawning attention in the West, particularly for his pointed critiques of his homeland's government, while in Beijing, his celebrity and influence is constantly checked by the authorities.
The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 and "guests should bring food and drink to share". The Thomas Merton Center is located at 5129 Penn Avenue in Friendship (map), and
works to build a consciousness of values and to raise the moral questions involved in the issues of war, poverty, racism, classism, economic justice, oppression and environmental justice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pirates prospect to pitch for Taiwan in 2013 World Baseball Classic.

On the 14th we learned Taiwan's (Chinese Taipei) team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic will feature Pittsburgh pitching prospect Wei-Chung Wang (王維中) as one of the 13 pitchers on the roster. Wang is twenty years old was one of two Taiwanese players signed by Pittsburgh in 2011. Like most Pirates signings, he was already injured, and underwent Tommy John surgery. Little has been written about Wang vis-a-vis the Pirates because he hasn't pitched recently, and it is impossible to speculate where he might project.

The second player signed in 2011 was catcher Chin-De Chang (張進德, written elsewhere as Jin-De Jhang), a 19-year-old who last week was ranked the #20 prospect by Because he is not a 34-year-old backup, it isn't clear where he figures into Pittsburgh's long-term plans. Pittsburgh's Major League roster has been relatively Asian-free, with three Japanese players and a Korean playing in the regular season, but this list from shows five other Taiwanese players who have been in the system the last few years.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Progress on Everyday Noodles in Squirrel Hill.

In October "coming soon" signage went up for Everyday Noodles on 5875 in Squirrel Hill. An awning and an exterior sign went up a little later, and the paper recently came off the windows.

Everyday Noodles Exterior 011313

There's still a lot of work to be done on what used to be an art gallery, and the interior is still in some disarray.

Everyday Noodles Interior Long 011313

But it looks like there's at least one encouraging development: there's a counter against the window providing a view of the preparation area from the street and the dining room. If you're going to tout handmade noodles and dumplings, that's what your restaurant needs.

Everyday Noodles Interior 011313

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Glyn Davies talk at Pitt on "North Korea: Diplomatic Prospects in the Coming Year", January 16.

If you miss Ambassador Glyn T. Davies' January 16 talk at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh on "Bridging the Parallel: Prospects for Peace in the Korean Peninsula", you will have a chance at a similar presentation at the University of Pittsburgh later in the day. "North Korea: Diplomatic Prospects in the Coming Year" will be held from 3 to 4 pm in room 3911 of Posvar Hall. From the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs:
The Matthew B. Ridgway Center will host guest lecturer Ambassador Glyn Davies at 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 16 in room 3911 Posvar Hall. Ambassador Glyn Davies is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and was appointed by Secretary of State Clinton as Special Representative for North Korea Policy in November 2011.

A yearlong U.S. effort to engage nuclear-armed North Korea culminated in the announcements by Washington and Pyongyang of the so-called “Leap Day” understanding on February 29. A fortnight later, North Korea announced it would launch a multi-stage rocket carrying what the reclusive state said was a civilian satellite. After an intensive four weeks of public and private calls on Pyongyang from the other five members of the Six-Party Talks not to proceed, the April 13 launch failed, but triggered unanimous censure from the 16-member UN Security Council. Ambassador Davies will describe the talks leading to the Leap Day understanding, the fallout from North Korea’s aborted launch, and where this leaves our efforts to hold Pyongyang to its denuclearization and other promises. He will also discuss Washington’s views of new leader Kim Jong Un, the likelihood of change in North Korea, and diplomatic prospects in this season of political transition in key Six Party states.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pittsburgh Anime Film Series coming in February.

Pittsburgh Anime Film Series 2013

The Pittsburgh Anime Film Series was announced today by, among others, the Deparmtent of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Pitt.
The University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Toonseum are collaborating to bring an anime film festival to Pittsburgh! Join us for film showings, art exhibits, and lectures on the history and influence of Japanese animation. All films presented in Japanese with English subtitles. All films are free and open to the public!
The films playing are: Akira (アキラ) on February 5th, 5 Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru, 秒速5センチメートル) on February 11, Memories on February 18, and Summer Wars (Samā Wōzu, サマーウォーズ) on February 25. Most are free---all except Akira, which is free with Toonseum admission on February 5th---and all but Akira are held on the campuses of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. A lot more details available on the series' official website.

Post-Gazette likes Ramen Bar; other reviews mixed.

hakata yatai
Not Ramen Bar. Ramen stalls in Hakata, Japan.

The Post-Gazette's "Brunch" column wrote about "Ramen Bar" today and gave it a good review in an overall painful-to-read write-up.
As the days grow colder, we often turn to liquid meals for convenience and comfort. But the ones at Ramen Bar won't induce you to call up any exes or give you a raging hangover. No, they might just be good for you.
There are several reviews of Ramen Bar up on Yelp, which had a soft-opening in Squirrel Hill in November and had its proper opening last week. The thirteen reviews are mixed so far, and the restaurant has earned three out of five stars overall. For Pittsburgh I'd rate it an A-, as it's the only place in the city devoted to ramen. If it were in a larger city, though, it would earn a C and wouldn't be anything special. We're not diverse enough yet to be discerning, and we get fired up about small movements in the generally-right direction. It's still rather new, and is soliciting advice for improvements on its Facebook page, but the glaring omission of "tonkotsu ramen"---left off the menu because the pork-bone soup is cumbersome and was preemptively deemed unpopular in the Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill---nearly defeats the restaurant's purpose. People may be short on patience, though, because they're writing on the internet it opened with some fanfare in a high-traffic area; diners were more forgiving of Teppanyaki Kyoto and its extended soft-opening in Highland Park in 2012.

Setsucon in State College, January 26 - 27.

For the seventh year, State College will host the Setsucon anime convention on January 26th and 27th. More information available on its website and Facebook page.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"MEPPI Japan Lecture Series: Sake-Tasting" in Cranberry, January 24.

The Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania will host a free sake-tasting event on January 24 at the Residence Inn in Cranberry township (map). From the JASP website:
Join us with Michael John Simkin, Sake Sommelier, as we learn about sake. A discussion and casual tasting with follow the lecture.

Michael has spent many years in Japan-some in residence and the rest in travel, traveling extensively through Japan’s sake landscape, interning at many breweries working to learn the intricacies of how sake is made. Mr. Simkin is also the most favored sake expert used by the Washington D.C. Japan-America Society, as well as the San Diego Japan Society.
The event runs from 5:30 to 7 pm, and registration is required.

The JASP recently announced other upcoming events for the first few months of 2013, including: the film The Power of Two at Sewickley Academy on January 12; "Counter-Culture in Japan", a February 21 lecture by Dr. Gabbi Lukacs that will cover similar ground as her October 2012 talk at Pitt on net idols and the culture of cute; the lecture "The Political Economy of Japan in the Wake of a Growing China" in March; and an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art from March 30 through July 21 titled "“Japan is the key…” Asian Art / Modern Pittsburgh, 1900-1920".

Pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin to make his debut against Pirates, possibly.

The 한국일보 looks ahead to the 2013 Major League Baseball season and predicts that pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu---a prized Korean free-agent signed to a big contract this off-season by the Los Angeles Dodgers---will make his Major League debut against the Pirates on April 6th or 7th. Ryu signed a 6-year US$36-million contract with Los Angeles in December, and is one of about eight starting pitchers in their rotation. The 26-year-old was scouted by practically every team, including the Pirates, but the large posting fee commanded by Ryu and his agent made him prohibitively expensive to the league's worst team.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Bridging the Parallel: Prospects for Peace in the Korean Peninsula" public policy discussion, January 16.

Glyn Davies Pittsburgh
The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh will host U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Ambassador Glyn T. Davies and his public policy discussion "Bridging the Parallel: Prospects for Peace in the Korean Peninsula" on Wednesday, January 16. The flyer over there has a summary; an excerpt:
As the Korean peninsula enters its seventh decade of conflict, are there prospects for peace — or renewed conflict? How is an increasingly isolated North Korea balancing itself after a major transition in leadership? Will the rise of China push South Korea into closer relationships with the U.S. and other regional powers? Join the Council as one of America’s leading North Korean negotiators examines the path for reconciliation and cooperation in one of most highly-contested areas in the world.
The talk and luncheon run from 12:00 to 1:45 pm at The Duquesne Club downtown (map). Registration is required and the cost is $65 for those not members of the World Affairs Council and who don't have to work Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Free Japanese, Chinese, Korean classes at Carnegie Library.

A reminder from the Carnegie Library in Oakland (map) that it offers free Chinese, Japanese, and Korean classes for beginner and intermediate levels. Here's what's resuming this month:
* Chinese Conversation Club - January 10 and 24 at 6 pm in the Large Print Room, for intermediate learners
* Japanese for Beginners - January 14 and 28 at 6:30 pm in Classroom A
* Japanese II - January 8 and 22 at 6:30 pm in Classroom A
* Japanese Conversation Club - January 15 at 6 pm in the Large Print Room, for intermediate and advanced learners
* Korean for Beginners - January 12, 19, and 26 at 1 pm in the Large Print Room
* Korean II - January 12, 19, and 26 at 11 am in the Large Print Room
On the "Learn" page atop the website is a list of other resources for language-learning and cultural exchange in the Pittsburgh area, including additional Chinese and Japanese classes and conversation partner programs.

White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes at Carnegie Museum of Art through January 13.

"The Oval" by Tadao Ando
Ando's "The Oval" on Naoshima. Image by Telstar Logistics.

Old news, but the exhibit White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes will be at the Carnegie Museum of Art (map) through January 13. A summary from the museum:
Today a new type of museum is emerging—one that fuses inventive architecture and landscape design with radical conceptual and installation art. These sites typically mix old and new, featuring collaborative plans by several designers and encouraging exploration outdoors.
The exhibit features such work by three Japanese artists: Ryue Nishizawa, Hiroshi Sambuichi, and Tadao Ando, the latter's installations on the island of Naoshima drawing special attention here.

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