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SEPTEMBER 30, 2008
Expat living is a page dedicated to the issues that affect expats' daily lives. It is your page, where you can share stories about your life in Korea. Send story ideas to Matthew Lamers at email@example.com
An exclusive with Death Cab for Cutie
Summertime in Seoul, as in most cities, is a great time for concerts and festivals. Seo Taeji’s 2008 ETP Festival didn’t disappoint; a wide range of rock acts were brought to Seoul. On the same day, there was Marilyn Manson, one of PETA’s 2008 Worst Dressed, on the same stage as the PETAfriendly band, Death Cab for Cutie. For this band, which has been on tour to promote their latest album, “Narrow Stairs,” such a study in contrasts isn’t new. They also played at this year’s Pemberton Festival in British Columbia, Canada, which featured acts from Coldplay to Jay-Z. After consistently recording and touring for over 10 years, Death Cab has finally reached rock-star status. Before their show in Korea, I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down and speak with two members of the band, Jason McGerr and Nick Harmer. The group took its name from a satirical song of the same name by the British Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Death Cab started in Seattle over 10 years ago. Because I’ve been abroad for most of that time, I missed their rise to fame, until I ran across a video of theirs on YouTube and put it on my blog. I also missed the OC phenomenon in which Seth Cohen, one of the main characters, named Death Cab for Cutie as his favorite band. The OC featured the band’s songs, and eventually the band appeared on the show. When I asked them to describe their music, Harmer said, “At the core of our music, I guess, we’re just kind of a rock band. We’re just playing melodic songs. There is really nothing too overtly aggressive about the music that we play. I think that the themes of our music tend to be around relationships and the interactions between people and the journey that happens as you get older and figure those things out. “I’d say that we’re a little bit more intellectual than not, at times. I guess the hardest thing is to capture what exactly you sound like. We’ve been really fortunate to see our audience grow over the years since we started 11 years ago.” McGerr added that he sees Death Cab as a career band. He explained that the guys in the band have known each other for 13 years. “And, as much as we’ve been placed with certain lifestyles or television shows, we’ve still been that career band that spans beyond those things. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and I think we’re going to continue to do it as long as it makes sense,” he said. Harmer and McGerr played together in a band for three years before joining Death Cab. McGerr mentioned how “the Pacific Northwest is, in general, is a very small music community. We would be in other projects, passing in the night, playing the same shows
Regina Walton’s Expat Interviews
and venues together, and it was only a matter of time before there was appropriate timing and our schedules lined up.” After their show in Seoul, the band immediately headed to Australia for a few concerts. While they were there, they also helped MySpace TV Australia launch their online TV channel by playing an online concert. Harmer explained: “It’s definitely for Australia. Australian MySpace is just getting started in a lot of ways, so our connection, and the reason we’re doing it, is mainly for the Australian fans. “It will probably be available on MySpace worldwide because that’s how MySpace is.” That led me to ask them a question about Death Cab telling their fans to download music when they signed with Atlantic Records in 2004. “I’ve always encouraged downloading. I’ve never encouraged stealing, and I think there is a difference. A label sells albums. We live in a world now where everyone is using the computer to discover music and to share music. That’s an integral part of any band’s career, any musician’s career or any entertainer’s career,” said Nick. “You can’t really ignore it. The internet has been invaluable in helping us grow and helping spread the word of our band.” The band also has blogs on their website, and both McGerr and Harmer admit that they’ve not really been able to keep them current. McGerr adds, “We’ve been fortunate enough to be savvy enough to understand how important it is. But, for us, we’re fortunate that we became a band before all that mattered. We actually had to work hard before anyone found out about who we were. We needed to physically drive across the country for someone to hear about the band. One writer called us a “pre-blog” band. I understand. I totally get that. You can have so much notoriety with a click of a button, but do you have staying power?” However, for their autumn tour, Harmer said he’ll use try to use Twitter for updates. “Twittering would be a lot easier because I can just do it when I can do it.” That way, fans can keep up with what this hardworking career band is up to next. You can find clips from Death Cab’s Australia concert at my blog: expatjane.blogspot. com For more information on Death Cab, see their website: deathcabforcutie.com, and their MySpace page: myspace. com/deathcabforcutie Regina can be reached through her blog at expatjane. blogspot.com — Ed.
Korean and expat volunteers help prepare a meal for the homeless at the Resurrection Center in central Seoul. They are, from the left, Danny Oh (Korean-American), Baek Matthew Lamers/The Korea Herald Geum-ja (supervisor) and Darryl Snook (Canadian).
Helping to feed Seoul’s homeless
By Rob York
Can one choose to volunteer for selfish reasons? American Danny Oh has been living in Korea since last May. He had begun volunteering before he left his home in Los Angeles, California, and by Chuseok 2007 he had started a volunteer organization, PLUR (short for Peace, Love, Unity, Respect), which visits orphanages, hosts charity fund-raising events and, on every other Friday feeds the homeless. Also, he has helped with an effort led by Korean citizens helping the poor who camp out in subways stations late at night. After so many years of volunteering, however, it’s still not easy for him to explain why he helps the needy.
“I just enjoy doing it,” he said after a long pause. “I just feel that it’s something we should be doing.” Oh can, however, cite a Biblical reason for his actions: Matthew 25, where the Son of Man praises those that have given food to the hungry, drinks to the thirsty and clothing to the naked, while condemning those who have not done so. “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” reads Matthew 25:40 (New Living Translation). He also feels that, through volunteer efforts, PLUR volunteers can see the peace, love, unity and respect the group was formed in order to spread. “That’s what we try to bring,” Oh said. Like him, a lot of the volunteers come to Korea as English teachers after complet-
ing their college-university degrees. “A lot of them have never volunteered before. I think within that group a lot of people come here to make money,” he said. “Once you explain about volunteering they come here with a changed attitude. It just brings a whole different perspective. It’s not just about making money; they feel like they’re giving back.” Justifiably or not, Oh calls these sentiments the “selfish reasons” that result from interacting with the grateful recipients. “They talk to us, they try to speak English,” he said. “And they smile. “A smile is really rewarding.” After a Korean friend researched where Oh and his PLUR friends could contribute their time and efforts, they set-
tled on the Resurrection Center, near Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul. There are usually between five and 10 foreigners who meet at the center on every other Friday at about 6 p.m. Serving begins at 6:40, with the volunteers dividing duties such as washing dishes, serving food and collecting trays. They only work for about an hour, but within that time, they can feed about 200 people. Because of space limitations, the number of volunteers is capped at 10 per night. On nights other than Friday, high school- and college-age Korean volunteers donate their time to the shelter. Being a Korean-American, Oh can communicate in Korean “a little,” he said, which is handy for the PLUR members looking to help out. Due to po-
tential communication problems, PLUR members are the shelter’s only non-Korean volunteers, and those who speak Korean are preferred. The expats who join him on Fridays are a fairly diverse group, however. They are mostly teachers, and mostly North American, but have had participants from places such as Africa. Their ages range from early-20s to 50s. Around 8 p.m., when the volunteers have cleaned up and changed out of the aprons and rubber shoes provided by the shelter, they often meet together in Itaewon for dinner and socializing. For more information on PLUR and how to contribute, contact Oh at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Volunteer for PLUR! page on Facebook. (email@example.com)
Depth of field
I’m having a lot of difficulty understanding depth of field. Can you explain it more clearly? — Peter, Seoul.
By David Smeaton
Depth of field is difficult to explain without diagrams and charts. It’s more about math and physics than it is about photography. However, I can give you some starting information, which is enough for most photographers. DoF, simply, is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects which appear to be in focus. This is quite a subjective concept, because it’s difficult to always define the focal range. Further, all photographers have different views regarding the use of DoF. However, DoF is extremely important to photography and film. Focal range is controlled by the camera’s aperture. A small aperture (e.g., f22) will have a very wide depth of field. A small DoF will result in large elements of the photograph appearing in focus. Conversely, a wide aperture (f2.8) will have a much smaller depth of field. As a result, the out of focus area will be quite big. Yes, it’s ironic that these concepts seem inverse (small aperture — wide DoF, wide aperture — small DoF). When it comes to understand-
ing what parts of the photo will be in focus, there’s a two-thirds rule applied to DoF. One-third of the area in front of the focal point will be in focus, but twothirds of the area behind the focal area will appear to be in focus. So it’s important to know that much more of the focal range is behind the focal point, not in front. It’s not evenly split (50/50) around the focal point. There are a few other factors which can make the focal range either larger or smaller. First, as stated, small apertures give wider DoF. Second, shorter lenses also create a wider DoF. A 50mm lens will give a much wider DoF than a 200mm lens, if the same aperture and settings are used. Finally, the greater the shooting distance, the greater the depth of field. This one is logical really. If photographing mountains, DoF can be read in kilometers. If photographing bugs (macro photography) DoF is mere millimeters. So the further away your subject, the longer the DoF. Generally, photographers have two approaches to controlling DoF. In most cases, photographers prefer short DoF and large areas which are out of fo-
PHOTO CHALLENGE — Open to all entries — The beautiful pavilion called Hyangwonjeong is reflectDavid Smeaton (davidsmeaton.com) ed in a pond at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul.
cus. This helps control the viewer’s attention by blurring the foreground and background elements, while keeping the subject in perfect focus. Portrait photography is a good example of this. Most portrait photographers use longer lenses and wide apertures. Small DoF also creates more “bokeh” which is one of photography’s most important attributes. However, there are many times when a wide DoF is desirable, such as in landscape pho-
tography. A good landscape photo should appear to have everything in focus, from mountains at the back to rocks in the foreground. This can be achieved with wide lenses, small apertures and focusing to infinity (which all cameras can do). Those are the basics to depth of field. The important thing to remember is that DoF is easy to control because the aperture, lens length and focal length all play a simple part. Combine them well and you can be a master of controling DoF, producing
great photos with very high impact. Happy shooting! Send David a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at davidsmeaton.com. If you want to be a part of the weekly Photo Challenge, join the “Seoul Photo Club” group at flickr (flickr.com/groups/seoulphotoclub) and for more information see Seoul Photo Club on Facebook. — Ed.
Death Cab for Cutie in Seoul
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