Archive for June, 2008

You can’t script this stuff

Posted in Culture, Korea, News, Politics, USA on June 25, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Liberals may not admit it now, but we are so going to miss this guy when he’s gone. Obama will be too intelligent, McCain dry as a bone. But Bush, oh the laughs we’ve had over the years…

“And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the — of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House.”
– President George W. Bush (From the Huffington Post.)

I’m glad he cancelled his trip to South Korea. In the current political-social climate, we really don’t need him fucking things up more than they already are.

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Transsiberian

Posted in Film & TV, Travel on June 24, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Don’t trust western foreigners teaching in Japan.

Dialogue, dualogue…

Posted in Expat life, Film & TV, Korea, Sound, USA on June 23, 2008 by Elephant Talk

We only get the major blockbuster US movies here in Busan, which means we get a lot of crap. But it also means we get all the big animated films, which are most definitely not crap. Kung-fu Panda, for example, was not only a laugh-out-loud riot, it was also beautifully made.

The new Pixar movie, Wall-E, sounds really interesting. In particular, I was intrigued by this little bit about the approach to dialogue:

Throughout the film, the lead characters, and most of the robots they encounter, utter not a single word of traditional dialogue. (There is ooooing, eeeping and beeping.) It’s yet another variation from previous Pixar films in which toys, rats, fish and bugs all have talked – and talked smart.

Still, Stanton says, “there’s dialogue from Frame One. It’s just unconventional dialogue.

“I knew this was a big bite to chew, and it had been a long, long time since someone tried to do a film with this unconventional dialogue in it. I kept saying, ‘It’s like I’m trying to do R2-D2 the Movie.’ I kept using that phrase so many times that one of my producers said, ‘Why don’t you just call Ben Burtt,’ ” the legendary audio and sound man who was the “voice” of R2-D2.

“So I called him and asked him if he could sign on early and help me with dialogue for these characters and grammar for each of the characters,” Stanton says.

“Now that I’m on the back end of working with him for two years, I realize that was the smartest move I ever made. I got 25 years of knowledge of how to do this stuff. He’s just the master of it, and I don’t think I could solved [sic] it without him.”

I’ve been waiting for something like this. Movies tend to “talk” very fast and too much, but I’m always fascinated by those that strip away the need to explain everything. A film like The New World, for example, is a great love story even though the main characters barely speak to each other. Another is Triplets of Belleville. What little language it has is unnecessary. This requires a filmmaker to be more creative in storytelling.

And of course, the other reason I like films without little or no dialogue is that I have more examples I can show in class.

Edit (June 24): Here’s the trailer… looks and sounds great!

We’ll always have Kandahar…

Posted in Film & TV, Images, News, Personal, Politics, USA on June 20, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I want to marry this woman. But me in Korea… her in Iraq… It probably wouldn’t work out.

If I were only a few pounds lighter

Posted in Korea, Personal on June 18, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Monsoon season has arrived. I know this because on my walk from Starbucks to my office I was nearly lifted off the ground from the wind. I’m now soaking wet (umbrellas are useless in these conditions), and I’m sweating from the heat and humidity.

This is how it works. You’re either wet from the rain outside or wet from sweating inside (at least until the aircon gets going). My office door is locked because I’m half naked waiting for my clothes to dry. More information than you really need, but there you have it.

Battlestar Galactica vs Star Trek vs Lost

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, Lost, Personal, Politics, Technology, USA on June 16, 2008 by Elephant Talk

OK, I’m going to dip into the geek pool — familiar waters for me, I should add — and give my opinion on the Star Trek versus Battlestar Galactica debate. Sam J. Miller wrote a very good analysis comparing the two shows, highlighting the optimism of the former and the bleakness of the latter, also pointing out how they reflect their respective cultural zeitgeists. As he writes:

“These days, Battlestar Galactica’s warning that technology and progress will bring us to the brink of total annihilation is far more resonant than Star Trek’s hope that technology and progress will solve all of our problems.”

I was never that into the original Star Trek series, but I am a huge fan of The Next Generation. That show was quintessential science fiction, with some brilliantly inventive stories. We got some real mind-benders that dealt with the nature of reality, death, time travel, dreams, free will, and other aspects of human nature. But we also got some intriguing cultural and political parallels of the time — gay rights, abuses of power, the individual versus the collective, war treaties, colonialism, terrorism, etc. Each episode seemed to be a sort of life lesson and a means toward inspiring our better nature. American culture was more positive then, not to mention more innocent.

Ronald D. Moore was one of the principle creative forces on the latter (better) half of the show’s seven-year run. He is also the lead creative force behind his more recent project, Battlestar Galactica. This show displays humanity in a different way. As Miller points out, unlike in TNG, humanity in the BSG future is still very, very flawed. The “heroes” of the show rig elections, assassinate enemies, make bad decisions, destroy themselves, and behave like depressed drunkards. Why shouldn’t they? Most of their species has been eradicated and hope is fading. They’re confused and afraid.

This is the fear that underlies modern society. The fear of today isn’t simply that the Soviets or the Americans will hit the red button at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons; it’s the feeling that this time, perhaps we deserve our own annihilation (again, paraphrasing Miller, but also reiterating my own opinion, which I expressed here a couple months back). It is our own mistakes, our own lack of foresight, our misunderstanding of our enemies, and an inability to change that gives us this feeling that we are unworthy of continuing. This is an oft-echoed theme of BSG, and it’s the reason the show works so well. It’s also the reason that the constructed world of BSG is far more compelling and complex than TNG.

But does that make it a better show? This is where I’m going to disagree with Miller, Moore, and perhaps every media critic out there who adores Battlestar Galactica.

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Korea protest 2.0

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Film & TV, Korea, News, Politics, Technology on June 13, 2008 by Elephant Talk

If you look at it bleakly, all the recent protests signal — at least in part — a new wave of anti-Americanism, and the Marmot’s Hole has been posting about this reality. At the same time, there’s a certain charm to the whole thing. This article made me laugh about a half dozen times. I could see a lot of the “good Korea” in it, because I see smaller versions of this in daily life all the time.

I particularly liked this middle section:

Besides the lack of violence, what is surprising – even to South Koreans – is that there is no organizer for the already weeks-long demonstration. People took to the streets and formed ad hoc protest groups, usually around 6pm or 7pm each day. This has been bewildering to South Korean civil society, labor unions and opposition politicians – the usual players in such public protests. Tuesday’s rally was the first officially organized protest and had the biggest turnout – police estimate 105,000 demonstrators, while the organizers said the number was closer to 500,000.

Still, one might think it was some kind of mass picnic, until you spot the riot police standing stiff, waiting for a crackdown order. Some people are holding impromptu concerts complete with guitars and violins, singing and dancing. In some cases, entire families have arrived to literally “camp out” in the middle of traffic. Of course they brought tents with them.

Other “protesters” have brought hot coffee to serve anyone who needs it. And high school students have given out roses to riot police, a move that definitely brings down the tension level. Some are distributing water bottles to the aggressive “frontliners” who usually shout more and work up a justified thirst. There are even volunteer medics walking around, shouting “Does anybody need help?”

Young couples use the protest for a romantic outing. They march with hands held tight, and the other hand holding a candle. Local TV footage has shown a man celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday with a protest-candle cake. Other “demonstrators” have brought an outdoor movie projector and are showing the US documentary Sicko.

With the party atmosphere in full swing, the street vendors are enjoying a heyday of extra money and unusual business hours. It’s 2am, and here they are selling kimbob (Korean sushi) or bundaegi (roasted silkworm larvae) right in the middle of roads that have been declared “no-traffic zones” by protesters who’re occupying them.

This is South Korea’s street protests 2.0. Or, perhaps, South Korea’s “postmodern” demonstrations. With some Koreans mistrustful of mainstream media reports on the demonstration, they’ve taken matters into their own hands by broadcasting and reporting themselves. Using high-speed wireless Internet, some “embedded” citizens are using their own laptops and camcorders to broadcast real-time events. There are “citizen reporters” conducting interviews and taking pictures and posting them on their personal blogs and Internet forums. In fact, these news hounds have been so effective that some established newspapers have begun quoting them.