Author Archives: Jacqueline Mendez

Korean Thanksgiving

My informant is born and raised in Korea. She just moved to Los Angeles about 6 years ago.  When I ask her what she misses most about home she replies with a smile, “Thanksgiving!”.  She notices that I am confused and clarifies her answer.  “Korean Thanksgiving I mean”. She goes on to explain what “korean Thanksgiving” is. She tells me that Chuseok is like the Korean Thanksgiving. It’s celebrated in the span of three days sometime in September usually and is more like a harvest festival celebration. Korean persons must return to their child hood homes, or their parents’ homes. She says one must either go to their parents and/or cousins homes; someone who is immediate or very close family.  This is a way to pay respect to their ancestors. After, they can visit family friends and so on. For Chuseok, women, men and chidren dress in traditional formal Korean dress, called Hanbok. “It is like the Japanese Kimono, but not,” my informant explains. Upon arriving, one must formally greet the elders as a sign of respect. However on this day it is not the usual everyday bow greeting. One must crouch and bow touching their hands to the ground. Once greeting are done, they proceed to other traditional activities.

For Chuseok, a lot of food is prepared. Aside from a traditional dish, a rice cake soup, there is Korean BBQ rice dumplings kimchi, etc.. “Some are very traditional with their food.  They even set the table in certain ways. But mine isn’t too traditional, we just have A LOT of food”.  The moon shaped rice cakes are called Songpyeon and have a great significance in the Korean culture (see Half-moon Songpyeon Legend). “It is like our turkey”. Alcohol is also included in this festivity. My informant stresses that’s everyone drinks soju- a kind of rice vodka. Instead of watching football, my informant says they watch a movie perhaps. But on Chuseok, there are television “entertainment” specials like game shows or variety shows. The family will sit and watch these shows together.

Not only has Chuseok become a traditional family dinner, but the continuation of small customs are passed along from generation to generation. There is meaning and significance in every thing they do or even eat.

El Nino del Tierra

“When I was younger like 6 or 7, I used to hang out with a neighborhood boy. I was a tomboy and we would just go around the neighborhood and get dirty. My grandma was always telling me to clean up and act like a proper little girl, but that was never fun. We would have digging excavations in a neighbor’s empty garden and pretend we were looking for treasure. We would usually just find bugs. One of the grossest bugs I would find was called potato bugs. I think they are called potato bugs because they can grow as big as a potato or eat a whole potato- something like that. They look like giant ants that were under the dirt. My friend and I would always get so excited and curious about these huge ants. Their faces looked like baby faces, which would freak me out. They were pretty gnarly. My grandma would scold me, warning me to stay away from ‘el Niño del Tierra’ – Child of the earth”.

These bugs were called El Niño del Tierra because of their baby like faces and because they lived in the moist dirt. These large insects are wingless and have antennae. My informants’ grandmother would warn her about the bugs saying they were the devil’s children. She warned against trying to kill one f the bugs because then you would be sent to hell. This obviously was a ploy to keep children away from the dirt and from playing with the bugs. If a potato bug was killed it made a sound like a baby or child screaming, supposedly. This complimented the idea if devils children and added a stranger element to the story. The only sound that is recorded of a potato bug is more of a hissing sound.

Weed Day

“4/20 is kind of like a holiday.”  My informant is referring to a “holiday” widely known in the cannabis culture where one smoke marijuana on April 20th . “Its common for people to smoke at 4:20 pm but on 4/20 you smoke basically all day. Its a day that people come together, hang out and enjoy a bowl or blunt.” My informant refers to a pipe bowl, a small amount of cannabis that is smoked and passed along thorough a smoking pipe. A blunt refers to a rolled up cigar-like way of smoking the cannabis. When asked if he knew where 4/20 originated from, he takes awhile to respond. “There are a couple of stories I’ve heard.” He lists off a few- the number of chemicals in the plant, Hitler’s birthday, the police code for marijuana smoking in progress.


But the most reliable story is that 4/20 originated in San Raphael, California in the 1970s. “A group of five friends at San Raphael High School called themselves the Waldos because their usual hang out spot was by some wall. They had heard about a lost cannabis plant somewhere in the woods or a park or something, so they planned to meet everyday at 4:20, after practice, to look for the plant. They never found it but they blazed the whole time while they looked for it. So they just started saying 420 to set up a smoke sesh”.  This is a widely known story, but no one really is sure if it is true or how it spread all over the world. My informants suggests that the spreading of the term could be from music, a “universal language’. 420 has been referenced in all types of music from reggae, to hip-hop/rap, to rock and roll. So music being the catalyst for popularity of this counterculture “holiday” is plausible. Which ever way this has grown to be a phenomena, mostly by word of mouth and a tradition among cannabis enthusiasts alike.

Dark Side of the Rainbow

“Have you ever played Dark Side of the Moon while watching the Wizard of Oz?” According to my informant, this is a widely known pairing of the 1939 movie and 1973 Pink Floyd album. “If you watch the movie while playing the whole album, they like, flow together. Its crazy.” I had never heard this before, so of course my curiosity was aroused. I then proceeded to watch the Wizard of Oz dubbed by the album. I started the album right as the credits roll after the last roar of the MGM lion.  I was shocked at how many eerie similarities occurred between the film and album. I took note of some notable coincidences;

  •  As Dorothy balances on the fence during , “Breathe’, the line “balanced on the biggest wave, race toward an early grave” is the background and Dorothy falls as the song changes.
  • The sound of an airplane speeding by is heard just as Dorothy looks from side of the sky to the other as she sings “Over the Rainbow”.
  • When Dorothy and her home are taken up by the tornado, “Great Gig in the Sky” plays, which is very suiting.
  • The song “Brain Damage” corresponds perfectly with the scarecrow scene.
  • A heartbeat is heard when Dorothy taps on the Tinmans hollow chest.

There are much deeper interpretations in listening to the lyrics as well. I don’t think I could catch many of them, but my informant did point some out to me. For example, once Dorothy arrives in Munchkin land, a line from “Money” is heard, “get a job with more pay and you’re okay” which could be interpreted as foreshadowing of Dorothy’s “promotion” to slaying the Wicked Witch of the West. Some of the coincidences my informant showed me were far-fetched, but I must admit thought provoking. The album can be put on repeat, as the film is longer but even when repeating the album similarities continue to occur. I ask my informant where she heard this from, and she says that her friends brother  had told her and she too was compelled to try it. Her “mind was blown” after seeing that it actually worked. Know one can really know how this syncing came about or who first thought about it.“Dark Side of the Rainbow” is a good time when you have nothing else to do or just can’t fight your curiosity, and I’m sure that is the main reason why so many know about this strange pairing.

Chinese and Ghosts

“When I was younger I was obsessed with a Hong Kong soap opera actress, Barbara Yung Mei Ling. Barbara committed suicide when she was 26, because she was depressed about a break-up allegedly. In the Hong Kong studio system, costumes from shows were recycled, especially from old time period pieces. So several years after Barbara’s death, another actress put on one of Barbara’s costumes for a new show. And all of sudden some weird shit went down. They would hear things between the walls of the set or a woman wailing and crying. They couldn’t explain what was going on. After this unexplained haunting, the wardrobe policy was changed. Any costumes or wardrobe used previously by an actor that had passed way was gotten rid of. They didn’t want to encounter any of the bad energy.”

According to my informant, the Chinese culture is very superstitious and mindful of the spirit world. This respect towards the spirits is not only seen in traditional settings but even the entertainment industry in Hong Kong. It is very much a part of culture as a whole.