Archive for February, 2014

 

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Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good. – Soren Kierkegaard

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. – Virginia Woolf 

 

I’ve already written one post today so I’m pretty tired. I remember some time ago making a photo essay about being idle. I used the verb ‘making’ because ‘shooting’ would have been incorrect. I didn’t have the idea then decide to go out and take pictures. On the contrary, I had the idea after looking at pictures. This was a great idea and really fits into my theme because I didn’t have to do anything. In fact, as I type I have just realised that I am going to just recycle some old pictures from Facebook and re-post them on here. The reason I want to write about idleness is because I am particularly tired after recently working quite hard. I realise that in my day-to-day life I may have the time to ‘blog’ but I don’t necessarily have the will. I believe this lack of will stems from some part of my brain or soul being spent.

I believe quite passionately in a particular kind of ‘creative idleness’. I use this  term to make a distinction between simple laziness or idleness. When you are tired after working a long day you may want to lie down on the sofa, ottoman, or some other type of comfortable furniture. If your brain is spent, like mine often is, you may resort to watching a conventional soap opera or drama. Let’s take Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale and any other type of soap. People watch them because they are shit. After a hard day’s work these types of soaps act like a kind of anaesthetic to dull our creative impulses. This is the reason I have not written a blog post for so long. Even if I have a good idea it cannot swim to the surface because of extreme apathy. By the way, I don’t watch any of those soaps. I have thought about watching them, but only if they were animated with more cartoonish violence.

I have come to understand the lack of creative idleness on an almost spiritual level whilst living in Korea. Koreans work the longest hours in the OECD yet have the lowest productivity. The lack of holidays and the culture of working ‘hard’ instead of working ‘smart’, means that the highly intelligent workers returning home on the subway only have the cerebral potential to play phone games. Everyday I see the empty gazes of Seoul’s workforce as they stare blankly into whatever trivial game or social media they are looking at. I’m not saying that  salarymen should be composing sonnets or contemplating the Hegelian Dialectic, but simply acknowledging another human or appreciating something outside their smart phone would help. I wish I could show people the infinite ways of passing idle time.

I consider myself very lucky indeed to come from a country where I could save up money then travel for a year, in trying to enjoy idle bliss. Ironically I spent most of this year working, but that ties into the ‘idler’s paradox’ – more of that later. On my journey to various parts of the World, the biggest gift I got was perspective. To see the World objectively and to question common ways of doing things. After seeing that some Samoans only work for 3 months in a year, and that Australians often go for month-long fishing trips, I was intrigued to know why this didn’t really happen much in the fast paced ‘real World’. After returning to the UK after my trip I became obsessed with productivity and the use of time. I had a time-consuming job in the back office of an academic booksellers. I was never much into counting things, so the idea of making reading lists and counting money seemed abhorrent to me. However, what I found was that I really enjoyed finding ways of saving time and saving man hours. Many of the practices I tried to fold into everyday life were not necessarily ‘good practice’, but the combination of various useful time-saving tips really helped cut the amount of time counting money. This extra time could then be used for creative idleness.

This is the paradox which I mentioned earlier. Being extremely well-organized and efficient ultimately leads to the creation of idle time. If your brain is not spent you can use idle time to do more worthwhile things than making money for the ‘man’ or chasing the Yankee dollar. Most of the great ideas in the world have appeared out of context. We are at our creative best when we daydream, when we swap ideas over coffee and draw on napkins. Most conventionally bad ideas come when we are sitting in a ‘study’ or sitting at our desk. Unfortunately we have inherited an industrialized world in which we generally have to conform to set shift patterns and gruelling hours per week measurements. Most people, given the opportunity could easily condense their week down drastically leaving free time to do creative things, or to be with their friends and family. The biggest fears of course are money and public perception. Nobody wants to be seen as a slacker, and money is a drug in the sense that the more we get the more we spend, and the more we spend the more we want. I wonder how much time at work is spent doing almost nothing? Hopefully, as we enter an era of post industrialization work practices will become more flexible and allow us to do things which make us human. There are some new cultural trends which will really make life much better. The ‘mini retirement’ is one of the best. Stopping work to do other things actually makes us more productive and focussed in the long run. many companies and industries are not set up for this yet, and of course it relies on reasonably well paid jobs where paying the rent isn’t a constant worry.

Now I find my photographs which I hope will illustrate how being idle can ultimately lead to increased happiness, longevity, and a sense of self.

Befriend foreign nationals to see if they have any tips on finding time to be idle. If they don't have any revolutionary ways then you could always help them into an idle lifestyle. Yasu and Kohei come from a land which is known for it's low tolerance for slackers, however as you can see, they have no problems leading an idle life

Befriend foreign nationals to see if they have any tips on finding time to be idle. If they don’t have any revolutionary ways then you could always help them into an idle lifestyle. Yasu and Kohei come from a land which is known for it’s low tolerance for slackers, however as you can see, they have no problems leading an idle life

Make time to make music. The guy on the right got up at 4 am to play his dig at sunrise. The Digeridoo also vibrates your body on a sub atomic level which helps to relax.

Make time to make music. The guy on the right got up at 4 am to play his dig at sunrise. The Digeridoo also vibrates your body on a sub atomic level which helps to relax.

Be sure to take a holiday and don't be bashful about telling others. You may lose some business in the short term but a well rested individual is far more productive in the workplace.

Be sure to take a holiday and don’t be bashful about telling others. You may lose some business in the short term but a well rested individual is far more productive in the workplace.

Be open mided about other cultures and habits which you may have overlooed in your daily regime.

Be open mided about other cultures and habits which you may have overlooed in your daily regime.

Iberia (41)

Make and take time to appreciate your surroundings instead of walking in straight lines to your office. Old businessman = hunched , fat and depressed/ Artists = slim, flexible and happy

ital 091

Too much to explain so just go here instead –
http://www.slowfood.com/

no 193

Set aside a place for relaxation.

nzn092

Time spent cooking and eating is always time well spent. Generally the longer something takes to cook the better it is to eat.

KK (31)

A hot tub, sauna and plunge pool rotation is always good for the idler. Saunas are especially good because you have a rare window to do nothing at all. In case you are confused, sauna sweat is good sweat, gym sweat is bad sweat.

nyc005

Learn from you ancestors. Life was tough for my Armenian family so they moved to New York to make enough money to do less work.

par009

Allow time for play, in this case third world pool (less balls more insects)

peru006

Take a hint from your environment

sk050

Getting perspective. I find that a good view of things helps me to realise how trivial most worries are. I used to ascend this hill to escape studying in Barcelona.

Take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. In this case a sunset. I myself like watching people who watch sunsets, I believe calmness is contagious.

Take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. In this case a sunset. I myself like watching people who watch sunsets, I believe calmness is contagious.

You don't always need to sit in a lotus position to meditate.

You don’t always need to sit in a lotus position to meditate.

Avoiding clutter and mess helps the mind and body achieve true idleness.

Avoiding clutter and mess helps the mind and body achieve true idleness.

Be prepared on excursions. Hunting round for food at lunch time infringes on time in the park. Most food groups are represented in this simple pack lunch combo.

Be prepared on excursions. Hunting round for food at lunch time infringes on time in the park. Most food groups are represented in this simple pack lunch combo.

Choice is generally bad for the true idler, imagine how much easier this decision would have been if there were only one shot of liquer.

Choice is generally bad for the true idler, imagine how much easier this decision would have been if there were only one shot of liquer.

Herbs and spices are full of wonder. Look at the ingredients on everything in the supermarket on your next visit, you will soon realise that making things for yourself is more fun and healthier. Spices used to be essential for medicinal purposes and wellbeing but Victorian protestants attached a stigma to them as they probably hampered the 'work ethic'.

Herbs and spices are full of wonder. Look at the ingredients on everything in the supermarket on your next visit, you will soon realise that making things for yourself is more fun and healthier. Spices used to be essential for medicinal purposes and wellbeing but Victorian protestants attached a stigma to them as they probably hampered the ‘work ethic’.

Why work 9 to 5 when you can work whenever you want?

Why work 9 to 5 when you can work whenever you want?

 

Further reading:

http://idler.co.uk/ – This is a great magazine site made by Tom Hodgkinson. If you like the site then there are also some books published on the same theme.

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/ – Tim Ferris has become famous by trying to do things really quickly and easily. I question some of the content but the overall message is one of working less and enjoying life. There are many interesting ideas in the various books. e.g – only responding to e-mails at certain times each week, deleting all facebook friends and having people ‘follow you’, taking mini retirements.

http://www.ted.com/playlists/60/work_smarter.html

 

 

This is  along overdue post, mainly because the more I read about it, the more I taste it, and the more I try to understand it, the more confused I become. I will try to break it down into smaller sections so as not to confuse myself.

What is it?

Kimchi  is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made from various types of vegetables.  Most of the Kimchi you will find in restaurants in the little dish next to your main meal will be cabbage or radish. You could liken it to the German and east European sauerkraut, which is also pickled cabbage. However, kimchi also comes with a variety of seasonings, the most common being chilli which gives it the notable deep red colour. The mixture of its fermentation and seasoning gives it a characteristic spicy or sour taste. Despite being a side dish, there are many main dishes in which kimchi is used. It is also considered as Korea’s national dish. The English word for kimchi is kimchi. 

What is made from?

According to the Kimchi Field Museum there are 187 varieties which can be made from the following main vegetable ingredients:

Napa cabbage, radish (sliced in various ways), green onion, cucumber, green pepper, sesame leaf, mustard leaf, turnip, gourd, aubergine and so on…The other ingredients used for the fermentation process and flavour are:brine, scallions, spices, ginger, chopped radish, garlic,shrimp sauce, and fish sauce.

 

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Why is it made?

Most civilizations had some processes for fermenting food. The prime reason being for times of shortage. This is especially true in the Korean peninsula which has a particularly harsh winter. The preservation of vegetables in earthenware pots allowed people to consume vegetables for 3 to 4 months over winter. Korea has four distinct seasons and the cultivation of vegetables is too difficult after November. Despite this fact, kimchi has evolved to be eaten at different times of the year. Many different types of kimchi are suited to the four seasons. Before the age of refrigeration kimchi was stored in the giant earthenware pots which you can still see to this day. The same type of pots are also used to make various other types of fermented pastes. Modern Korea has now has kimchi fridges which can separate the rather pungent odours from the rest of the items in your fridge.

When was it first made?

To trace the history of kimchi would involve tracing the history of cabbage. Cabbages travelled from the Indian subcontinent via the south of China to what is now Korea, this happened around 4000 years ago. It’s difficult to say whether kimchi was made at this time, but it is likely that the first agricultural societies were at least storing vegetables. The first mention in written accounts is by a famous writer called Yi, Kyu-bo(1164 – 1241 AD).  In  the History of the Koryeo Dynasty one of his verses includes the line: ‘the leaves of white radish dipped in paste are good to eat during three months in Summer and the salted ones are endurable during Winter.’ Yi, Kyu-bo’s obvious problem was that the Spanish had not yet colonized the Americas. It wasn’t until after the Japanese invasion (1592–1598) that kimchi began to take on its distinctive red colour and spicy taste. Although before this time there may have been other spices added to the dish.

 

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How is it made?

The damaged outer leaves are removed from the cabbages, they are then are cut in half and left to soak overnight in salt.

After soaking they are rinsed and drained.

Garlic and ginger are minced and the red pepper powder is mixed with the other seasoning.

The various vegetables are sliced.

The seasoning mix is stuffed between the layers of cabbage.

The cabbage is then securely wrapped with the outermost leaf and left to ferment.

KimchiStages

Is it healthy?

A quick look at the list of ingredients used for kimchi will no doubt assure you of the health benefits. A serving of kimchi can provide Vitamin C, carotene, vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron. It is usually considered one of the World’s superfoods, especially after outbreaks of avian flu and Sars. After much speculation and research, immunity to both these diseases, and many others, is increased by kimchi consumption. The magic is said to be in the bacteria from the fermentation process. I’m not sure about the overall health benefits but I can testify personally that my last three occasions without kimchi have been difficult. The main benefits I have seen first hand have been a general speeding up of the metabolism and as a source of fibre. After brief periods spend outside of Korea I have struggled with digestion. I don’t even eat kimchi everyday but I think my system now needs it.

Where can I get it?

I have seen it in most Asian supermarkets in the UK, although it is a mass-produced variety. It is also made in China and Japan. The best kimchi is of course from ‘someone’s mum or grandma.’ If you live in Korea there is almost no need to ever buy it because someone you work with will have access to it. Much of the kimchi used in restaurants may be mass-produced in China, but I’m sure any neighbourhood store will be able to get it for you. These days there are many workshops in Korea where you can make your own too.

What do I do with it?

The main use of kimchi is to be eaten with your rice, but this is not the only use! As it is nearly always a side dish you can use it in your ssam wraps with meat, in a big stew like kimchi jjigae, in soup, in a Korean pancake, and my favourite – with fried rice. I have experimented with almost every type of food, especially Western dishes. My personal favourite is a bacon and cheese sandwich with kimchi. You can put the kimchi on a baguette under the grill then melt cheese on top. Another good one is on hot dogs, beef burgers, and inside wraps or burritos. It goes especially well with pork sausages inside lettuce leaves. The only two combinations I cannot get my palette around are kimchi with any type of pasta or pizza, and also with wine. It’s really difficult to appreciate wine after eating any type of kimchi; soju is a much better combination.

KimchijeonFinal note!

Most of the best things in life take a while to enjoy. Most people don’t like their first beer or glass of wine. I never used to like blue cheese. Sushi seems repulsive at first. If you are living in Korea or visiting Korea, I cannot stress enough that you should try to get used to the taste of kimchi. If you do, you will be rewarded with the myriad types and I also believe it will develop your taste by pushing the limits of sourness and spiciness. I have met many young Koreans who don’t enjoy the taste of kimchi, they  prefer instead the bland or sugary tastes of modern fast food. I hope the younger generation and foreigners alike can learn to enjoy one of the World’s greatest foods – kimchi.