Friday, November 22, 2013

A Thesis= a crazily exhausting but fulfilling project near completion!

So many of you have expressed interest in my thesis! I was actually pleasantly surprised by this curiosity, because whenever I've brought it up in conversation, it seems like people don't really want to hear about it. So I'm happy that at least a select few of you ROCKIN intellectual-types would like to know about my big project!

You could say this has been 'the year of the thesis' for me. Well actually, I started gathering sources in 2012, but since the writing and research began in 2013, we'll just say it has been a project for this year. I had a wide open field for selecting a topic: Art History. Anything I wanted to do, so long as I got approval and found a professor willing to mentor the topic. Knowing my passion for Asia, and Korea in particular, it was not a hard choice to narrow it down to Korean art. And since, comparatively, very few publications are available on Korean art, I had many options here too. I eventually selected the topic of pungsokhwa (풍속화) (trans. genre painting) for completely self-interested reasons: I like the art and I knew I wouldn't get tired of it even if I spent countless hours looking at it. Plus, I wanted to know more! After months of initial research, I finally selected a more focused perspective for the 60-page Thesis (which actually ended up being an 84-page Thesis in the end, but who's counting? :) Are you ready? Want to know? Here it is:


Basically, one chapter breaks down the disparity between the idealized depictions of traditional women and the struggles they faced in reality. Another chapter does the same thing for idealized depictions of kisaeng (courtesans), and then the final chapter delves into what the two kinds of idealizations reveal about shifting values in late 18th century Joseon society. Intriguing, right? 
Just to share some of my favorite lines (and to give an idea of the content of the arguments contained in the thesis):

"by idealizing women the lack of ideal in the juxtaposed yangban stands out with greater clarity...The contrast of innocent women with indecency of the yangban amplifies the impropriety of the voyeur, chafing against Confucian ideals"
"I would argue that Shin Yun-bok is not critical of the moral lifestyle of the yangban, only of their hypocrisy in condemning what they clearly indulge. There is a difference between criticizing yangban for their decadence and criticizing them for their duplicity. While both imply corruption, one assumes that the behavior is inherently immoral while the other assumes the double standard is immoral." 
"In art, traditional women are revered as ideals of virtue, honor, and sacrifice while kisaeng women are desired as ideals of talent, beauty, and sensuality, each woman receiving merit according to her ability to fulfill the feminine ideal determined by her role." 
"...the manner in which these ideals were applied differently to indict the perceived wrongs in society...highlights shifting demonstrating the widening chasm between the entrenched Confucian government struggling to maintain its hegemony and the world of materialism increasingly finding a foothold in Joseon society."

Here is just a sampling of the images I used (because I'm feeling 'lazy' today, I'm not going to include the full reference data here, just the title):

 Yun Yong, Namul kaeneun anak (Woman Harvesting Herbs).

Shin Yun-bok. Aeigi Oebneun Oemma (Mother Carrying Child)

 Kim Hong-do, Bballaeteo (Washing by a Stream)

 Shin Yun-bok, Juyu cheonggang (A Barge Scene on a River)

 Shin Yun-bok. Nyeonso Dapcheong (Amorous Youths on a Picnic)

Shin Yun-bok, Miindo (Beauty)

Kim Hong-do, Oomulga (The Well)
Translating Korean research into English was daunting in most cases, but honestly enjoyable for the above painting! It was fun and funny to read what had been written about the "depraved" and "crazy" yangban with his robes unfastened!

The exciting thing is that I really enjoyed the topic and never grew tired of learning about it. The less-than-exciting thing is that it was really hard work, time consuming, physically and mentally exhausting (to make adequate time for the research and writing, I used nap time for working on my thesis instead of exercising. The lack of exercise has taken its toll-- not least among the fallout results are the muscle aches and back pain from sitting and typing so much. And talk about insomnia flare-ups!), and I even wondered if it was really worth it to me. Credit goes to Eric for not letting me quit so near the finish line!

The most recent exciting thing is that I've officially submitted it to the program office for circulation in committee! Mailed it in today! Which means it is in their hands for a little while until I get revision suggestions from all the committee members. I'm really close to being finished, though the end goal is still months away. Too early to celebrate (we're saving the big celebration for when it is fully approved, submitted to the University library for publishing and binding, and I am awarded my Master's degree), but I'm truly happy to be finished with the bulk of the work. What's left is basically minor editing. I'm feeling pretty confident that the committee will fully approve of the content--which may be a hasty assumption!--but I really think it is quality work and I don't anticipate any huge revision requests. My mentor said it was fantastic, so I'm hoping the entire committee agrees!

And for those of you that have helped me over the past 5 years of getting my Master's... you're probably mentioned in my acknowledgements page! Hooray for being so close to completion!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Ocean Birthday

Is anyone surprised that this 'shark' wanted to have an ocean-themed birthday? :) 
Gwen loves being 5!
A close up of the candy sea turtle on top of her 'personal' cake. I loved the blue chocolate pearls...
Gwen helped me bake the blue cupcakes with blueberries in them (her specific request), and she helped make the icing. She was tired of helping by the time we got to the 'putting the critters on top' phase, but she was willing to taste test all the candy to make sure it was edible. :)
I was very happy with the cupcakes-- you could say proud-- and was a little sad to see so many partially eaten cupcakes left on plates of little friends at the party. They really were tasty. I think there was just too much food in general. Next time fewer snacks, I think. It was just hard to decide what to leave out! When I get going on a theme... :)

ps. carving the watermelon was pretty fun and not too hard. I used toothpicks to 'hold in' the teeth that I accidentally removed from his gums by my too assertive knifing... :)

I enjoyed how simple and inexpensive the decorations were. Over the summer I found a big bag of blue and green streamers for 50 cents at a garage sale. Knowing that blue and green are Gwen's favorite colors, I snatched it up. It turns out those were the perfect items for her party! I used the blue to make these simple jellyfish, and the green for seaweed. 
 I think the jellyfish were one my favorite parts. :)

 the homemade treasure chest held the goody bags for our party guests! So fun!
The kids also made these easy fish tanks to hang in their rooms-- the glitter was very popular with the girls! ;)
 We played games too, but there are no pics because I was leading the gaming and Eric was wrestling Caroline (she did NOT enjoy the party with its accompanying friend "invasion" of her things). We did actual 'fishing' (the fish had ocean life actions on them. Very funny to watch the kids try out being jellyfish, dolphins, and eels!), played 'belly of the whale' (basically reverse musical chairs with a box for a whale that the kids crawled through while music played), and 'jellyfish jump' (hoola hoops layed out across the room--can't touch the tentacles!).

It was a wonderful party! Gwen LOVED being the center of attention!

About the birthday girl... where can I even begin? 

She is a bright, kind, eager to please child! She is healthy and strong, with an even temperament (though she is showing signs of entering a new and unique phase of testing limits). She is a very smart girl. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but well, I'm gonna go ahead and say I'm bragging. She can read very well, even books that she has never had read to her. She is the only child in her preschool class who already reads-- the teachers actually giver her opportunities to read to her class. She is the "model" to help encourage everyone else. Honestly, the positive peer admiration has proven to be a greater motivation than me. Her voluntary reading has increased by leaps and bounds in the past 2 months! She also counts to 100 and remembers advanced vocabulary for specific topics. I know she is intelligent and I LOVE it! I hope she continues to enjoy learning as much as she does right now! Her current favorite things: bugs and creepy crawlies (same as last year), oceans, and astronomy. She loves the planet mercury because it is so fast. :) She loves the Gospel of Jesus Christ-- she not only possesses a mature understanding of the gospel, but she tries very hard to follow Jesus. She is very sensitive to what it right and wrong. With the exception of her sister, she is also very compassionate and accommodating. We're still working on the sibling relationship. :) We are very proud of Gwen and love her very much! Happy birthday darling girl!

October Festivities

Well, as promised, I'm updating. October went by in a blur. I'm not even documenting the family trip out to Idaho (because family who would really like to look at pictures... already HAVE those pictures! :)), but we did that too! So a brief look at a full month, in pictures. Ready, go!
carving pumpkins
 Caroline preferred to mummify herself in the curtain rather than participate in the carving
 Our awesome shrunken heads! Really easy and fun to make. Gwen reminded Caroline daily that they needed to check on their little heads. She insisted that hers was always cute, never scary, even when old and wrinkly. 
 We (okay, I) really enjoy themed food, on a simple level. Those crazy Bento box moms put me to complete and utter shame, but I do enjoy easy fun snacks. Every day Gwen and Caroline got to choose a shape for their lunch sandwich. I thought is was fun and not time-consuming to use my seasonal and holiday cookie cutters to oblige their little dreams. I just love holidays and themes!
  Gwen loved banana ghosts and requested them pretty much every day! Caroline liked the jack-o-lantern mandarin oranges best. Both girls liked the cheese ghosts with faced drawn on them in edible food-writer ink. Gotta love fun snacks!

 Gwen lost her first tooth (the dentist says she has 3 more loose ones-- ahead of average) and the tooth fairy brought her a Brazilian coin!

 Pumpkin Festival (or Show, if you prefer the "official" title of the event) in Circleville is a yearly tradition. This year the gals had a great time and I was glad we got there early to beat the crowds! 
Posing in front of the world's largest pumpkin pie.
 last year's gignormous pumpkins were bigger, but the girls didn't care. They definitely liked the "big...big...big...BIG pum-kins!" (how Caroline said it)
 And we went with a friend who treated us to a petting zoo extravaganza! The lighting was bad under there, so most of my pics didn't turn out. But it was pretty awesome to get to pet camels, kangaroos, emus, etc. Thanks Kasia!
and of course, the to-die-for pumpkin donuts! This year we got the sugar sprinkled mini kind instead of the larger glazed ones. I think I prefer these! A-maz-ing. And the line to get them was ridiculous, so I know I wasn't the only one who thought so!

Gwen's preschool had a field trip to a local farm. We went along. Caroline was NOT keen on the 'educational' or even the 'social' part. This is her reaction when a friend got to close to her. :)
 So we ended up heading out on our own while Gwen enjoyed the time with her class. 
 playing in the corn box...and why does it always have to go on her head?
 and then the hay bale maze with the awesome slides and secret tunnels...
 Gwen's class joined us and I got some pics of her... at which point Caroline disappeared into the maze and craziness ensued bc she thought it was fun playing hide and seek. That girl needs a homing beacon. As soon as I successfully tracked her down, we headed home to take naps. 

While the weather was still nice, we enjoyed doing garden harvesting and looking for bugs. I love it when I find some cool ones! the day of these pics was particularly fruitful, as we found a very pregnant preying mantis (which Gwen promptly dubbed "Gwen"... until I suggested we pick a more fitting name. Then she chose "Mantia") and 3 very fat and fuzzy caterpillars!
 I told them we couldn't pet Mantia. So we just watched her. 

Caroline is singing and signing "Caterpillar Dreams" from Signing Time... see the little guy climbing up her sleeve on her right arm?
 Gwen loved the way they tickled on her hands!
 The expression on Caroline's face is too cute!

Preschool Halloween Costume Parade
Gwen's school has an annual costume parade so parents can take pics and kids can show off their costumes. 
 Gwen loved another opportunity to wear her shark costume. I don't think she even noticed that all the other girls were dressed up in fancy dresses as princesses. That's my girl! :)

 Caroline got to participate. This is her "cheese" face. :)
She insisted on holding the teacher's hand for the parade. You'd think she ran the place. :P