Archive for March, 2009

Skype for iPod

Posted in Expat life, Korea, Technology, Travel, USA on March 31, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Well this is interesting. Skype is now available for the iPhone.

Skype is a godsend for expatriates, because you can do computer-to-computer calls for free, and make land line calls dirt cheap. To have it on an iPhone is pretty damned cool. I’d love to have an iPhone, but it’s worthless in Korea because of the cellular networks here. However, I did notice this juicy tidbit, buried at the very bottom of the article:

iPod Touch users will also be able to enjoy Skype, but this would require them to purchase a microphone, or headphones with built-in microphones (like the iPhone’s).

The iPod Touch is a different story. This means I could be sitting at a wireless network (ubiquitous in Korea) and make a Skype call to my family back home in America or to a friend’s computer anywhere. What’s better, I could use my iPod Touch as a kind of cell phone for when I go back to the States. If people need to reach me, they can “call” me on my iPod. It would be kind of like having an international cell phone, but without the contracts and charges.

Or am I missing something?


Hanguk mal

Posted in Academics, Culture, Expat life, Korea, Personal on March 25, 2009 by Elephant Talk

After two years of living in Korea, I’ve finally gotten serious about learning the language. Or at least trying to. Depending on whom you talk to, Korean is either a relatively easy language to learn or a impenetrable one. I can understand the views on both sides. Koreans like to break things down to the essentials and it can seem very economical (“university, go please”). And yet the details are maddening.

I’ve been going every Tuesday and Thursday night, for two hours each night, then spending a few additional hours studying. When I got back from vacation, I called the institute I wanted to attend near my neighborhood. I was given a test which revealed that my reading and pronunciation was good but my vocabulary was not. The problem was the institute didn’t have a  class at that time for my level. So I put up a Facebook message and got a few people at my level to commit and the school made a class for us. There are now about seven of us, all within a fairly wide radius of that upper-beginner status. I’m now a month in and it’s killing me.

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The Pope is a dope

Posted in News, Politics on March 18, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Add the Pope to the list of people — including Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh — who need to shut the fuck up.

By telling Africans that condom use exacerbates AIDS, the Pope is encouraging more people to die. It’s that simple. The head of the Catholic Church is advocating manslaughter. Here is a man and a religion so far removed from reality and simple common sense, so cloistered inside its own shell of dogma, that its time to finally render the whole thing irrelevant once and for all. Catholicism is just another of history’s failing power structures trying to hang on by using lies and other means to maintain its ideology. It appears the latest desperate move is to try and round up a new generation of suckers:

With the number of practicing Catholics dwindling in the developed world, Africa is seen as vital to the Church’s future.

In a big surprise, someone I don’t need to tell to shut up is George W. Bush. In a speech in Calgary (an area friendly to the former prez), Bush said:

I’m not going to spend my time criticizing (President Obama). There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence. … I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office.

Wow, maybe the Evildoer in the Bush presidency really was Dick Cheney after all. I wonder what would have happened if Bush had a mind of his own during those eight years.

Actually, I take that back. I don’t want to think about such things.

Non-ordinary reality

Posted in Academics, Culture, Expat life, Korea, Personal, Travel, USA on March 12, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Today is my birthday. This means I’ve been in Korea for exactly two years. I wrote a blog post a year ago marking my first anniversary here, so why not keep the tradition alive.

It was interesting re-reading that entry. Many of those feelings still apply (others now seem kind of silly), but the experience is now different. To start with, time no longer feels dilated. Days, weeks, and months pass as they should. My brain has fully acclimated to the experience of being here. The strange is still strange, but the new is not so new.

I also don’t feel so displaced. Yes, I miss my family, but that’s something that will never change no matter how long I’m here. The feeling now is that this is my world. It’s not a dream. It just is.

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Man on the street

Posted in Film & TV, Korea, News, Politics, USA on March 10, 2009 by Elephant Talk

For some reason this struck me as hilarious. UPI goes out on the street and asks a bunch of U.S. citizens what they think should be done about all the tough talk coming from North Korea.

I live in South Korea and I’m an American and I haven’t got a clue how to answer these questions. I like to think of myself as a) not that dumb and b) not that uninformed, so who the hell are these people? They’re talking with such conviction. They have no idea. No one does, except a bunch of people in the intelligence industry who are, at best, making somewhat informed guesses.

The news media can be so silly sometimes.

Lost time

Posted in Film & TV, Lost on March 6, 2009 by Elephant Talk

OK, I think I’ve got a full grasp of the different “times” happening on Lost. I’d better get this down before I forget. (Oh, and I shouldn’t have to say this but… spoilers most definitely ahead.)

The Oceanic Six left the island in 2006. They had a real-time, subjective experience of 3 years passing, bringing them presumably to 2009.

John Locke unskipped the record on the island in 2006.
When he did that, he sent himself 3 years into the future, to 2009.
When he did that, he also sent Jin, Juliette, Sawyer, Miles, and Daniel to 1974.

John went to an objective future that already happened. He didn’t experience time passing.
Jin, Juliett, Sawyer, Miles, and Daniel find themselves in 1974. Their passage of time was subjective, they experienced it, and wound up in 1977 by the time this latest episode ended.

Then there was the second plane crash, in 2009. Here time is also split.
At least three people — Kate, Jack, and Hurley — flashed back in time to 1977. The interesting thing is that this matched precisely the two subjective passages of time in order to match the characters up again.
The airplane itself just crashed. We don’t know what time that is, but I’m assuming it’s 2009. So we have John and Ben on the island in 2009. For some reason they didn’t go with the rest of them. Why? I figure this is a huge plot point, something having to do with their personal battle. We also know that Frank (the pilot) also crashed with them. We don’t yet know “when” Sayid and Sun are.


Van Sant sound

Posted in Academics, Film & TV, Music, Sound on March 4, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I’ve been on a Gus Van Sant kick lately. He’s one of those oddities who can do mainstream, then dip into arthouse, then re-emerge into the mainstream without skipping a beat. I watched Milk the other night, which was kind of an interesting intersection of the two. The content was arty and gutsy but the aesthetics, for the most part, were big Hollywood studio drama.

Last night I watched Elephant (hey, that oughta confuse the Google search bots!). This is the third time I’ve seen it and I always manage to fall right into it. One of the really interesting differences between his mainstream and alternative films is the way he handles sound and music. Milk, composed by Danny Elfman, is very Hollywood. Elephant, with its combination of natural sound, subjective ambience, and musique concrete, is not. This difference is magnified in the murder scenes. Elephant‘s violence is cold, dry, devoid of emotional guidance. Harvey Milk’s assassination is dramatic, sad, and has a grandiose quality. This difference in emotion is directed in large part by sound and music, or lack thereof.

I started scanning the internet, looking for interviews about Van Sant’s sound designer, Leslie Shatz. I found one of the best interviews about sound I’ve ever read. Here’s what he says about story, style, and the all-too-common ignorance many in the industry have about sound:

People in Hollywood, they’re just like everybody: they cling onto trends. After I did Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I would get these phone calls from people saying they wanted “a Dracula soundtrack.” … I didn’t want to say it, but if you want a Dracula soundtrack than you have to make a Dracula movie.


This is one of the suggestions I make to directors: if you think of sound when you’re writing the script, then you’ve really integrated it into your movie. It’s easy to do that since sound is so suggestive and so capable of creating imagery. … I think what happens with Gus’s films and other films we talked about is that you take a sound that’s a complete juxtaposition of what’s going on in the image and it forces you to listen — you have to look to the sound for the cues of what’s going on. Even if the sound doesn’t give you a specific direction, it gives you a sort of broader experience than if it was just the dialogue being repeated over and over again. I think that filmmakers are having trouble making this break. They think of film as a visual medium. I’ve worked with a director recently who said, “I want a soundtrack like Elephant.” I said, “Fine, but you gotta be ready for what that means.” This was a studio film, and I thought, the studio isn’t going to go for this. Sure enough, they didn’t.

Yep, nicely said.