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21 Oct 2015

Back to Korea – Happy Back to the Future Day! It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since the first Back to the Future Film came out, but it has. I’m not going to be writing about that today, but I can’t post on Back to the Future Day and not even mention it, can I? (One of the movie channels here was just showing the second film—the one in which Marty travels to today—and I learned that HJ has apparently never seen all of the films. This will have to be rectified soon.)

“Big conferences like this are a nice warm environment where the intellectual yeast can get to work fermenting new ideas.”

Instead of Back to the Future, though, I thought I’d briefly fill you in on my trip to the US, where I attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Long Beach, California. I arrived late last Tuesday afternoon—before I left Korea, in fact, thanks to time zones and the International Date Line—to a find a very warm California. I think the high temperature for Tuesday was over thirty degrees (Celsius), which is apparently pretty warm for October even in southern California. It did cool down a bit over the course of the week, though, and I think the high was around 26 on Saturday, when I left to return to Korea.

It’s hard to believe that I only spent four days there—it felt like a lot longer. And I mean that in a good way. It just feels like I did a lot, saw a lot, met a lot of people, heard a lot of papers, etc. That’s why I was there, so that’s a good thing. There was a tour on Wednesday that went up to Malibu and then back down the coast, which was nice, even if we did end up spending most of our time sitting on the bus in traffic. I hadn’t really slept on the plane over, so I slept for pretty much all of the time we were on the bus.

The opening ceremonies were Wednesday evening, and the conference began in earnest on Thursday, with sessions starting at 8:00 in the morning. Over the course of three days, I heard papers on legends, fairy tales, and the supernatural; humor; travelers as tricksters (yay!); the poetics of folklore; the digital humanities; and folklore encounters with popular media, among other topics. I’m not actively involved in research in a lot of these areas, but (or maybe “thus”?) I find it very rewarding to hear what other people are doing in them. Even if it’s an area that I’ve never even thought of getting into, I generally hear something that inspires me or excites me in some way.

That may sound a little nerdy—getting excited about hearing papers at a conference—and I guess it is nerdy. What can I say? I’m a folklorist. We’re all about getting together and sharing ideas. Of course, we don’t have a monopoly on that—I think most scholars get excited to meet with people in their field and catch up on what they’re doing. Big conferences like this—whether it’s AFS or SIEF (Société Internationale dą„Ethnologie et de Folklore, which I attended this summer)—are a nice warm environment where the intellectual yeast can get to work fermenting new ideas.

Of course, I also got the chance to present on my own research (which I won’t talk about in detail now) and receive some good comments from those who were in attendance. Presenting research is ostensibly the reason for attending—and why I can get funding for the trip from my school—but it’s only a small part of the whole experience. Still, I was glad that we had a good session and everything went well. We (the four of us on the panel) were a little worried at first, as there was only one other person sitting in the room when we started, but by the time we got around to my paper (I was the third presenter) there were a dozen or so people there. Considering the fact that we were in the very last time slot on Saturday and a lot of people had already left, that’s not too bad an audience.

In addition to the conference itself, I took advantage of whatever downtime I had to explore our little area of Long Beach. There were a lot of restaurants and bars I wanted to check out, and I think I managed to check just about every one off my list. Intellectual yeast was not the only kind of yeast that came into play; I also sampled quite a few different products of brewer’s yeast, including a lot of sour and wild ales. The place I ended up at the most was called Congregational Ales, where they had a good rotation of beers on tap—including a new favorite, Citra Sour from Almanac Beers. I visited Congregational Ales a total of three times over the course of the conference, and it was where I spent my final hours before getting on shuttle to the airport. I remember thinking that I wished I had a bar like that in Seoul, but to be honest it’s probably a good thing I don’t.

So, here I am, back in Seoul. I arrived around 5:00 on Monday morning (we were supposed to arrive earlier, but our departure was delayed for an hour), took the airport bus home, had a shower and some breakfast, and then went out to my office. I can’t say that it was a terribly productive day, but I did get some necessary things done. By yesterday, though, I was back to normal (one good thing about really short trips is you don’t have to worry about jet lag on the way back, since your body doesn’t have enough time to truly adjust to wherever you’re going, so there’s no adjustment to worry about at home).

I still have that really long entry I was working on before I left, and I will try to finish that up as well and post it soon, even though it will be even more out of date than it originally was (and it was pretty out of date then, too). But I’ve put a lot of work into it, so I might as well post it. Truth be told, there have been plenty of entries in the past that I’ve written out and ultimately decided not to post, but this time I think I’m going to fight through the temptation to just can it all. Whether this is a good decision remains to be seen.

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