Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chicken, Chicken MUSEUM

More pictures of chickens here
We got up very early this morning and went to Anjuk, for a walk from the guidebook that promised to take us to the Owl Museum of Seoul. It had been a most unsatisfactory guidebook throughout our stay in Seoul, and it did not fail to disappoint once again.

The maps in the guidebook omit most street names, the hangol is only written on the key to each map, rather than the map itself, and all the descriptions of the areas the maps pertain to are in three different places across the guidebook, rather than there being a simple correspondence between the area and the section of the book about that area.

To be fair, the Koreans aren't exactly big on street names, but it would be nice if there were a few more landmarks and a bit less gray space on the map where there might or might not be a street.

Fairly quickly, we got lost, and began to ascend a traditional Korean hill, as traditionally designed by M C Escher, and full of traditional old buildings and traditional piles of Starbucks coffee cups, being picked up by traditionally dressed old women with traditional plastic bags filled with roadside detritus. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it was all very traditional. And steep.

However, there was no sight of an owl museum. We trudged ever onwards and ever upwards, but we were close to admitting defeat. We'd seen the Vietnamese Embassy, but they're not famous for their collections of owls, so we'd pressed on as far as the summit of the hill, but once again, no owls. There was a sign for the Chicken Museum pointing down the hill though, so we followed that. If it was a museum that it was worth putting up a sign for, it was probably a museum worth visiting.

As it turned out, there were several signs for the Chicken Museum, and so I have to admit I was brought down a little when we arrived there, and found it was only three rooms of chicken-related art, and not fifteen floors displaying the chicken's every contribution to world history. But three rooms was probably enough. Downstairs there were chicken sculpture from every country on earth; French chickens, Mexican chickens, German chickens, British chickens. Much of the sculpture was in the form of small glass chickens, and the cumulative effect of this was to make me think that I'd travelled back in time to my granny's home in the early 1980s, except that she'd had a bigger budget to accumulate chicken related artwork with. Which is to say, it didn't remind me much of my granny's home at all. I guess I fowled that description up.

Upstairs concentrated much more on traditional Korean depictions of the chicken. The chicken is alone in the Chinese zodiac, insofar as it is the only feathered creature, and thus is the animal responsible for travelling between worlds. So there are huge chicken warriors, and chicken head-dresses, and mighty ghost-ogre-chickens. I find this all a bit bizarre; after all, the chicken may be the only feathered animal, but I don't see how feathers will help it to travel through the cold airless void between worlds. It's not as if its greater aerodynamics over, say, the pig, with its superior stores of subcutaneous fat, will really prove such an advantage. In fact, if I were to choose an animal to travel between planets with messages, I'd probably go for the crab. It has its own exoskeleton, it has a slow enough metabolism not to be unduly perturbed by the long wait involved in interplanetary travel, and it has large claws. These are bound to prove a godsend in the case of any fight with alien banditry.

Against this, crabs aren't known for their ability to commit complicated messages to memory, and nor are they likely to be able to talk to the recipient at the other end. What's more, although the crab is a member of the Western zodiac, it has no place in the Chinese one, so it will probably fail to obtain the necessary work visas required for the job. I don't support this – I feel that trade is likely to be better if restrictions like the regulation against non-native zodiac workers acting as messengers were to be repealed, but you have to be pragmatic and work in the framework that exists, rather than try to change it all at once. Otherwise you risk playing into the hands of the right-wing, nationalist fanatics, paranoid that crabs are coming over to steal the jobs of hard-working poultry up and down the land.

Obviously, I was feeling quite depressed after we'd seen the sad story of chicken's inhumanity to crab, so I had to cheer myself up with a pomegranete and blueberry doughnut, before taking the subway back to the hotel. As we left the subway station, we saw crowds of policemen. We were confused – was there about to be a riot?

It was much worse. There were at least three people in wheelchairs, one of whom was holding a banner that was more than a foot long, and at least nine inches tall. My natural terror of people who have to rely on wheels for locomotion began to rise up, and I felt sure that I was about to have some sort of anxiety attack. Luckily, the police had corralled the two most belligerent wheelchairists, by blocking them on on three sides with riot shields. You had to admire their bravery. There's not much that fifteen policemen with riot shields and guns could have done against an old lady and a twenty-something girl armed with wheelchairs, after all, but they were prepared to lay down their lives for the security of the country. Or to stop the wheelchairs from getting in the way of pedestrians on the pavement.

Although come to think of it, fifteen men huddled round in a big circle is probably a larger impediment to pedestrians than three people in wheelchairs. And on an area of pavement that's wide enough to park a couple of buses, you're not going to be too concerned about space. So it's a bit odd what was going on.

I reckon it was those nasty wheelchair-riders, doing their best to try to make the police look bad. Typical. You give them reduced price public transportation, and the next thing, they're out kicking up a fuss about wanting equality, or ramps, or some such madness. Mark my words, wheelchairs one day, and it'll be free canes for blind people the next. It's political correctness gone mad.


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