Archive for July, 2009

Begin the begin

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Personal, Travel, USA on July 29, 2009 by Elephant Talk

San Francisco is full of crazy people. My hotel in North Beach is more like an apartment complex for people in transit, some in body, others in mind. With my window open I can hear a guy in an apartment across the way. He’s spent the past two days yelling. I assume he’s yelling at someone on the phone because no one else is audibly responsive. Maybe there’s no particular object of his anger. Maybe the intended receiver is simply the world at large. Clearly he’s insane, plus probably drunk. Someone owes him money. And the government isn’t to be trusted.

My arrival in the U.S. was mostly uneventful, except for some money troubles. I had forgotten my Wells Fargo debit card had expired. So I spent far too much time knifing my way through a haze of sleeplessness and 15 hours of travel to figure out how to bulk up the seven measly dollars I had in my wallet. I cashed in my leftover won for $39, and took the BART to Montgomery Street, knowing that Wells Fargo HQ was there to help me out.

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Friday film links

Posted in Academics, Culture, Film & TV, Korea, Personal, Technology on July 17, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Just a brief post here to highlight some interesting websites. I’ve been blogging quite a bit about movies lately, something I hope to do more of in the future. I’ve been particularly obsessed with Korean movies. They have the dual effect of giving me interesting stories about the country I live in while also giving me a hint of how well my language studies are progressing. (The answer to that second part: not very fast.)

I’ve also been looking at more film blogs lately. A while back I was nudged in the direction of this blog, which I finally spent some time perusing today. Her site is very nice on its own, but it also took me to some other excellent places, such as the now defunct Film Studies Journal, which has a collection of downloadable articles. I’m in research mode these days, so I’m looking forward to digging into that. Her site also led me to, of all things, the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies—specifically, an excellent article on my favorite Korean movie, A Tale of Two Sisters. And something I can’t believe I haven’t come across before: (While I’m at it, I should point out one more I came across by accident a few weeks back, The Foreigner’s Guide to Film Culture in Korea.) in particular is outstanding, with a ton of good content. Just like that, I spent the next three hours reading essays, reading reviews, researching films, and getting completely lost.

And now I see that the day’s over. Time for dinner. And then, probably, watch another Korean movie.

Acupuncture v2

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Personal, Sound on July 14, 2009 by Elephant Talk

My shoulder is turning into an ongoing medical experiment. There are too many previous blog posts to link to, so I won’t do that. I’ve been pretty open about how the damn thing is rotting to the core and nothing shows any hope of saving it. I did a round of physical therapy at one hospital (limited success), another round of physical therapy at another hospital (less success). I’ve taken meds (against my wishes), gotten two x-rays, diligently done exercises, stopped playing music, and tried my best to sleep only on my right side. Evil is winning over good so far.

I’ve stopped short of doing some things my doctors have recommended. I don’t want to do the cortisone injection, because it sounds like it’s more about pain relief than a cure. I don’t want to get an MRI because it’s expensive. So I haven’t gotten a conclusive diagnosis. Rotator cuff strain seems the most likely, as three different doctors have mentioned it. Bursitis is also a likely cause. The pain has shifted and evolved somewhat. The epicenter remains at a small, tender point on the front of my left shoulder. But I’ve got a host of other ailments: muscle strain from compensating, neck pain, nerve problems in the left elbow, and occasional tingling in the last two fingers of that hand. Most of the doctors and therapists say most of these things are probably not related. My body gives me a different message. I can feel something shifting around in there—muscles or tendons or whatever, swimming around, clicking, fighting for space. When I feel that, I feel it in my fingers, and I feel it in my neck. I’m not paranoid; it’s all connected.

So the new adventure in treatments is acupuncture. I’ve done a bizarre version of it before, but nothing happened. This time I wanted to go someplace with some reputation. Dong-eui Hospital has an Oriental Medicine center, which is offered with English translation. So I decided to give this a shot today. I got my blood pressure tested (110/70), met with the doctor, and then sat on a table. He showed me the needles. I, being a wimp, asked if it hurts. “Oh yes,” he said, “we have at least two or three deaths a day.” Ha ha, I laughed. Very funny.

He walked around to my left side, talking to me, and tapped my shoulder casually with the first needle. No pain, no problem. Then he did another, and I’m thinking, this is easy. Then he went in with a third, at a spot far down on the back of my shoulder, near the shoulder blade. A jolt went through me like nothing I’ve felt before. The weird thing that came to mind is that it felt like a sound reverberating around my body, but if the sound were a form of pissed off electrical energy out for revenge. It was as if this jolt, at light speed, hit my right side, then settled somewhere in my midsection. Something shuddered, my lungs or my heart, I’m not sure. I gasped from the shock and felt for a moment like I was going to fall over. He did this weird kind of vocal “coo” like I was a baby who just spit up some milk. And then he drove the damned thing further in, sending these waves of… something… inside my body.

This interplay of benign pokes with the occasional shocking one went on for the next 10 minutes or so. Then his nurse hooked the needles up to a machine and sent some voltage into me. My upper shoulder twitched aggressively. “Is this normal?” I asked. He told me it should feel weird but not hurt. I told him that this was the case. Then he left me and my quivering body alone for the next 15 minutes. A nurse came, detached the metal and electronics from my body and that was that.

The doctor gave me an exercise to try and then asked me: “Do you still feel the pain?” I thought about it. “Well, the pain seems to be better (I thought, unsure), but I feel a little stiff.” He told me to do the exercises and come back Thursday for my next session.

So here we are, in the next round of treatment. The thing I like about the idea of acupuncture is that it’s not a cure, but it helps the body cure itself. In theory, anyway. If it works, great. If not, I’m on to harder drugs, an MRI, and possibly, last on the list, surgery. I’ll give nature a shot at redemption, and save the magnetic resonance and scalpels for when I’m truly desperate.

Scotch Korean

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, Korea, USA on July 13, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I don’t watch TV, so I don’t know how saturated this is. But I found this commercial on…

That’s funny. Stupid. But funny.

Ten cinematic observations

Posted in Culture, Film & TV, Korea, Music, USA on July 6, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I’ve been watching a lot of Korean movies these days. I’ve seen a dozen or so over the past couple years, but lately I’ve been watching them in bunches.

Korean movies are big on melodrama and heartbreak. Filmmakers want to take you to the heights of joy and the depths of grief all in under two hours.

If a culture can be observed, at least tangentially, through its filmmaking, then Korean cinema reveals a series of distinct and interesting patterns. These observations are based on all the movies I’ve seen, but primarily those those that I’ve watched within the past 10 days or so — A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim Ji-woon), Time (Kim Ki-duk), My Little Bride (Kim Ho Jun), My Sassy Girl (Kwak Jae-yong), and Happy End (Jung Ji-woo).

So here they are: my 10 themes of Korean culture as depicted in film:
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Busan online

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Technology, Travel on July 3, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Here it is, Busan expatriate, your new website.

It’s a brand new government-sponsored website designed to help foreigners. I spent about 15 minutes looking through it, hoping I might find some nugget of cynicism to spice up this post. But nope, nothin’. Looks like a pretty good site that does a good job covering the basics. The searchable FAQ section is excellent.

I guess my one beef with it is the same as with all Korean websites — you can’t link to individual pages. But I’m happy to see that it works in Firefox, on my Macintosh. Most sites in Korea are Windows-IE only.