Monday, January 31, 2011

The Evening Show Fun, plus: Korean Soccer

Yes, readers, I finished one week at The Evening Show.  Every night, I do a segment that's about 15 minutes long, and it's called "The Bigger Picture."

It's a call-in show where listeners call and share their opinions.  Last week went really well, but because it's a call-in show, the show's only as good as the callers.  So, readers, follow me on Twitter, and friend me on Facebook (yep, it's a verb now) and follow my tweets and status updates.

Question of the day today: how will Team Korea do now that Park Jisung has retired from international play?  He'll no longer be representing Korea in competitions like the Asia Cup, or World Cup qualifiers...

on the other hand, he's had a pretty good run, with he and Lee Young-pyo being the only remaining players who were part of the 2002 World Cup team that went to the semi-finals.

Are you a soccer fan?  Are you a Team Korea fan?  Who's going to take Park Jisung's place, are there young guns ready to fill his shoes?

Leave a comment, or shoot me an e-mail if you want to call into the show.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Greetings from... BE?

I got a message on Twitter saying "Greetings from BE" but I'm not entirely sure what BE stands for...

The Acronym finder is helping me, but I'm still not sure:

My top prospects are...
British Empire
Battlefield Earth
Barium Enema
Bachelor of Engineering
Blizzard Entertainment (makers of Warcraft and Starcraft... why not name your next game "Awesomecraft" or get meta, and make a videogame design simulator called "Craftcraft")
Breast Expansion
Bachelor of Education
British English
Back End

any other suggestions?

funniest one wins.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm sold! Boa's Dance Movie Will Have a Plot!

I liked this post from PopSeoul about Boa's upcoming dance movie.

The real kicker: according to reports, this movie will not only have dancing, but also a plot, which will differentiate it from all those other dance movies.

The film directed by “Step Up” Duane Adler hopes to spice up things up, compared to “other” dance moves by focusing on both plot and choreography, instead of a plot that doesn’t end working.

Fair enough...

a plot would also set it apart from other Korean filmmakers' and Korean stars' forays into Hollywood.

Eventually one of Korea's talented people will turn this trend around... there are tons of Koreans doing well in television (unfortunately, other than Kim Yunjin, I couldn't tell you who those are, because I don't watch much TV)...

Though I think it's awesome that one of the top Korean-American actors is John Cho, because the movie that made his name (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) was all about weed, which means that, unlike most cases, where Koreans are happy to claim anyone with a tenuous connection to Korea as their own, there's very little talk of John Cho as one of Hollywood's top (Korean) stars, outside of KO-Am circles. I have never heard "Do you know John Cho?" as a conversation opener.

[and as a side note, I love that the one Nobel-Prize-Winning author who wrote about Korea, also has a name that's REALLY hard for Koreans to pronounce. "Teacher? Do you know Fall S. Fuck?" "Huh?" "The Good Earth." "Oh. Do you mean Pearl S. Buck?" "Yes. Fall S. Fuck." that actually happened.]

Also... it's a testament to just how bad a movie Blood: The Last Vampire was, that even in Korea, where some people will even defend The Last Godfather and D-Wars, Blood: The Last Vampire came and went without mention, and nobody will defend it, or talk about it at all.

(By the way: my favorite evisceration of The Last Godfather so far is this one, which, among other things, gives us a new one to add to Brian's list of "Korea's X" equivalents:

Shim Hyung-rae is Korea's Uwe Boll)

... and stop the presses: this old release, from back when The Last Godfather got the greenlight, says that originally, they were planning on digitally re-animating the late Marlon Brando's Don Corleone, to play the Godfather, before Harvey Keitel signed on.  I'm partly relieved they didn't do that... but then, what a lost opportunity to absolutely shatter the scale of unintentional comedy!  If they'd tried it, they might have even topped William Shatner's Rocketman on the "So bad it's awesome" scale.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is Divorce in Korea finally Socially Acceptable?

Update:  The show went well... apologies to James from The Grand Narrative, who was supposed to be on the show, but who we missed because of a miscommunication.  Fortunately for you, readers, he's written some of what he would have said, over on his blog.  Awesome.  I hope I'll have a chance to invite you on the show later, James.
Also, thanks to Jennifer, facebook pals Hyunsoo, Sun Heo, and twitter pals @aaronnamba @Ben_Kwon and @TWolfejr, Wet Casements and 3Gyupsal, and everybody who listens, calls, or comments.

In my first year in Korea, I met a woman, the mother of one of my students, who lied to her family for two years, rather than admit that she had divorced her abusive husband.

Today, Yonhap News reports the launching of a magazine specifically targeted at divorcees.

So the question we're discussing tonight on "Argue with Roboseyo" or "The Bigger Picture" at TBS eFM radio is whether the launch of this magazine is an indication that divorce has finally become socially acceptable in Korea.

What do you think?  Write your thoughts in the comments, and I'll try to read them on air during the segment, from 7:40-7:55 tonight on 101.3 TBS eFM's evening show.  Or phone in at 02-778-1013.


1. What are the gender issues and social issues at play?  In Choseon Korea, men could have concubines, and women had very few rights.  The danger of destitution and discrimination were the main disincentives for divorce in the past.  What about now?  Have women's rights improved enough that divorce no longer guarantees poverty?

2. Is it a sign of social progress, if women feel independent and liberated enough to get a divorce, rather than feeling trapped in a bad marriage?

3. Is this a sign that Korea's vaunted "family values" are disintegrating?  Maybe people just don't care as much as they used to about bringing shame on their family?

4. Other than family pressures, what were the obstacles to getting a divorce in the past?

Put your comments below, and if you have a strong opinion, or if you have experience with divorce in Korea, let drop me a line at roboseyo at gmail: the show's always looking for callers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Argue with Roboseyo: Jeju Island's Dialect is in Danger... So What?

It was a good show, with a bunch of callers, including a professor from Jeju University, who's studied the Jeju Dialect, and assures us it's a language of its own.
Thank you to Mike Hurt and Rachel for calling, and on Twitter, thanks to @Cocoinkorea, @rjmlee, @DGFEZ, @HJKomo @chrisinseoulsk, and @aaronnamba for their opinions on Twitter, Bora, Charles, Rachel, Danielle and Soyeon for their opinions on Facebook.]

For more information about endangered languages, check out this AMAZING TED Talk by Wade Davis:

And check out the UNESCO "Endangered Languages" map.

Last night, we talked on TBS eFM's evening show about Korea's "Mart Kids" - it was an awesome show, with tons of callers!  (Callers are fun.)

Tonight, we're discussing the Jeju Island Dialect: UNESCO has named the Jeju Island dialect (satturi) a critically endangered language.

If you're a linguist, a heritage lover, or if you have connections to Jeju Island (lived there, taught there, speak the dialect yourself), shoot me an e-mail, because we'd love to talk to you on the show!

These are the issues that come up:

1. When hanok buildings are being bulldozed, and archaeological sites are getting converted into apartment complexes, what's the big deal about a language?  Which aspects of a culture do you think need to be made a priority, in terms of preservation?

2. Why is this dialect disappearing?  

3. With English mania in Korea, should we be concerned that sometime in the future, the Korean language as a whole will be in danger, crowded out by English or some other "global language"? 

4. Is it the cost of progress to lose these kinds of local varieties?  Supermarket culture has led to the disappearance of regional breeds of tomatoes... but if the supermarket variety grows and ships and stores better, 

5. Is it possible to preserve a language?  Languages constantly change, adding new words, ceasing to use old ones -- if the language is falling out of use, that means it is no longer serving a purpose, so why preserve it?

6. Are Korea's other local dialects next?  Everybody's moving to Seoul and watching Seoul-made dramas and movies.  Will the Daegu, Busan or Gwangju dialects be next to go?

7. What steps should be made to preserve it, if it's worth preserving?

Did you learn your parents' mother tongue or not?  (I know I didn't); are regional accents where you're from disappearing?  Write in!

Thanks, Readers, and Third in Popular K-blog Poll

I got third place in the "Favorite K-blog" poll that HiExpat just ran, which means I'll be winning a big heaping plate of ribs from memphis bar.  Yaaay!

I'm a fan of Hi Expat: I think it's a really good site that's trying hard to become a more positive and useful place for expats to hang out.  The job board is surprisingly active.  I met Dan, one of the people running the site last year, when I won an iPod touch for a restaurant review contest they had... I'm still using it, more and more.

So Thanks guys.

And seriously, add HiExpat to your bookmarks.  They're pretty good people, trying to add something positive to the Korea internets.

Well done, folks!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Harry Potter 7: More Stupid Wizard Duels

OK.  So I saw the first part of Harry Potter 7 the other day.

Not sure what I think about the increasing trend of filming multiple film/sequels in one shoot... but I'll save that for another day.

I'm also glad this one wasn't in 3D.  I'm not impressed by 3D... but I'll save THAT for another day, too.

Actually, it was a pretty good movie, all told.  I've never believed novels translate well into movies, because there's just too much in a novel.  Short fiction? Yeah. Graphic novel? Heck yeah.  Novel?  It's hard.  And with Harry Potter, especially as the books got longer, it got harder and harder to fit all that junk into a movie, and some of the movies barely tried.  The best Harry Potter movie was the third one, before the books got bloated.  The worst one was movie 5, where they tried to fit almost 900 freaking pages into a two hour movie.  They'd have had to make a miniseries to do all the plot points justice.  Book five was a good read, in my opinion (despite it being the first step into Harry becoming a somewhat unlikeable protagonist: too sulky and Holden Caulfieldy for a fantasy book), but the movie was awful: it was like a rushed series of sketches meant to evoke the story, and had no room to fit in the little bits of color and fun that made the first three movies cool.  The minor characters are part of the charm with HP - people like Neville Longbottom - but with so much plot, him, and Moaning Myrtle, and even Hagrid got short shrift.

That is why I think it was not just a cash grab, but good for the storytelling, to split book 7 into two movies.  The story finally has time to breathe again... and while in the book, I thought it was poor storytelling the way the first two thirds of the book are a bunch of wandering in the woods and re-visiting all JK Rowlings' favorite characters and locations, the movie evokes the frustrated stagnation of that part of the book very well.

However, there's just one thing... and this is something that, the more I see it, the more I think is just a lame, lazy cliche: 

The superpower battle.  Let me explain. (with apologies to Alice and the Mental Poo blog, where I got the inspiration to use illustrations I drew myself.)

It seems that wizards like nothing more than to give their enemies magic high-fives.  Especially if their magics are different colors.  I think that if your magic is the same color as another wizard's, you have to be friends.

And if you're the opposite (fire and water, for example, or oranges and toothpaste)?  Enemies for sure!

Also, it's not only hands that can magic up a wizard fight:

It's seen most often in fantasy and science fiction.  Especially anime.  It happens so often I can't even begin to list them.  

From Harry Potter alone (screenshots: these images don't belong to me, but to their respective copyright holders - JK Rowling and Warner Brothers film studio):

Movie 4: Goblet of Fire
Movie 7, part 1: Deathly Hallows
 Movie 5: Order of the Phoenix Harry's magic is the same color (red) as Dumbledore's.  That's why they're friends.  (for the record: AFTER the dumb wizard cliche fight, Dumbly and Moldy do some cool magic-ing.)

I wonder how many superpower/magic duels there will be in movie 7-1.

This is one area where George Lucas went really, really right: his Bright Side Jedi can't shoot magic hand beams, so even though the bad ones can, most Jedi battle is done with lightsaber duels -- the other absolute coolest feature of the Star Wars universe, because sword fighting is the awesomest kind of combat (with the possible exception of really good, Tony Jaa storming the castle/Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris level hand combat), and there are no hand-beam battles in the Star Wars movies.

This is as close as they get: (screenshot from a youtube version of the battle between Emporor Palpatine and Mace Windu.  Property of George Lucas: Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith)

Oh yeah.  Superhero and comic book stories also like having their cliche fights.

(X-Men 3: The Last Stand screenshot: property of Stan Lee, Marvel Comics and 20th century Fox.)

These silly cliche battles are everywhere.

So, readers, what's your favorite superpower/magic power-beam duel?  Let me know in the comments.

Also: what are some magic fights/superpower battles that have COOL effects, instead of just lame power-beam showdowns?  Tell me in the comments.

Argue with Roboseyo: Feral Kids/Latch-Key Kids

Update: the show went great!  We had more callers than we knew what to do with, and that's always the way to have the most fun on the radio.  Thanks to everybody who called.
Also, thanks for the awesome comments here; to get your comments read on air (we won't always have time to get to every one of them), following the patterns of Marc Hogi, and Dan, in the comments to this point, is great: concise, specific responses, with concrete experiences or points.  I especially like how Dan did one or two sentence point-by-point comments.  Thanks a lot.  Well done, readers!  See you tomorrow!
Well, folks, I'm hosting a part of The Evening Show on TBS E FM, one of Korea's English radio stations now.  It's a call-in show, where you can phone the station and voice your opinion about different topics, and the more callers we get, the more fun it is.  You'll see previews about the topics here, and any comment you leave here might get read on air, and if you really have something to say, drop your e-mail address in here and I'll write you about calling into the show: it's more fun with callers than with me reading comments on air.

The topic today is "Mart Kids" - this really sad article in the Korea Times looks at kids whose parents are working long hours, who aren't signed up for hagwons (the way most kids fill their hours until mom and dad get home), so they hang out in shopping malls killing time until the folks get home.

Questions that I'd love you to have an opinion about:

1. Is this any different from the latch-key kids of double-income families in North America?

2. Whose responsibility is it to make sure these kids have safe places to pass their time (the government? schools? charities? parents?)

3. What are their parents thinking?  Where's the disconnect, where these kids fall through the gaps?

4. The idea of free-range parenting: giving kids enough freedom to develop a sense of independence - is good, but it should be age-appropriate, right?  What age do you think is an OK age for a kid to hang out alone, or with two or three other classmates, at the mall all afternoon?

5. Is it so bad for kids to have minimal parental supervision?  When I was a kid, my brother biked all around the city, as long as he was home by dark.  Why are people so freaked out now by unsupervised kids?

6. After talking about "Tiger Moms" who fill their kids' entire days with study and lessons, and "Mart Kids" who don't have any structure at all, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems?

7. If you were a latch-key kid, or grew up without much supervision, and turned out really well, or had a rough time, share your experience.  If you knew a kid who grew up without much supervision, share what you saw with them.  If you're a parent, what's your policy, and why?

Write in, folks.  The show's at 7:30: the more opinions we have, the more fun it is!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's the point of kimchi? What's the point of ignorance?

So I just caught wind, through Mike, from TBS radio's twitter account @mikeontbs, of an article in the Guardian by a lady named Rachel Cooke, titled "What's the point of Kimchi"

Go read it.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of the boosterism thing, and I don't necessarily think that kimchi should be the main focus of attempts to promote Korean food abroad, because it isn't the most accessible of Korean foods (bulgogi is, and bibimbap's up there, as is chapchae, and those awesome fish-bread things you can buy on the street in the winter).  I don't believe Kimchi cures cancer, H1N1, bird flu, prolongs erections,  makes children learn to read faster, heightens spatial reasoning, improves TOEIC scores, increases resistance to the HIV virus, or does any of the other things Tom Waits claims it does in Step Right Up.

On the other hand, I'd also prefer if people writing about Kimchi around the world at least knew a damn thing about it.  Rachel Cooke tried Korean food a few times, didn't like kimchi the first time she tried it, because it reminded her of foul sauerkraut she once had, visited the Kimchi Field Museum in COEX's website, and wrote her article.  (I've been to the museum itself: it's no great shakes, frankly, but at least I've actually been there, eaten a whack of varieties of kimchi, and know enough about Kimchi to know a good kimchi from a bad one, and I didn't just find the Kimchi Museum's website through its wikipedia page after googling "Kimchi Information" and looking all the way to the second result.)

Now, if somebody walked into a newsroom, and said "Hey!  We need an article on Italian food!" and I was a member of that newsroom, I'd say "Gee. I have allergies to cheese and cream, and the strongest memory I have of Italian food is the smell of the burnt spaghetti sauce that got left on the stove while we were calling the ambulance after my father had that heart attack.  Since then I've avoided Italian food, so I'm not the best guy to write about it.  Find someone who actually knows about Italian."

I wouldn't have said "Hey!  I'll use those six hundred words to shit on Italian food without really knowing anything about it, and make my ignorance and avoidance of it a point of pride!"

Which is pretty much what Ms. Cooke did here.

I don't think netizens should publish her address on the internet and encourage Korean-English citizens who live near her to leave flaming bags of poop on her doorstep, I don't think VANK should engineer a DDOS attack on The Guardian's website, and I have no idea if Ms. Cooke is normally a very fair, well-informed and even-handed writer in the rest of her articles... but she sure ain't in this one.  And if she can dismiss the entirety of kimchi because of her few experiences with it, maybe I'll turn that same ignorance on her, and dismiss her entirety upon a tiny, ill-informed slice of information, and encourage her to piss up a rope.

Ms. Cooke: if you don't know anything about something, rather than flaunting your ignorance of it, next time I recommend you pass on the opportunity to make yourself look like an ignoramus, and let somebody else do the piece on Kimchi.

If the article is a troll to prompt "outrage hits" for The Guardian's website, shame on you and your editor for being so trashy.  If it isn't, shame on you and your editor for not seeing a problem with being so willfully ignorant of a national cuisine's signature dish.

And to The Guardian: if you want an article about Kimchi, I'll write one for you, or I'll recommend some people to you who actually know about Kimchi, and have strong opinions on it that are born of knowledge and fondness for Korean cuisine, instead of ignorance.

(by the way: the Urban Dictionary page for Kimchi is pretty funny, just because it's so easy to pick out which definitions were submitted by expats, and which were submitted by Koreans.)

Rant over.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Talking with a foreigner...

This cute video is a pretty funny take on that "Oh crap... a foreigner.  What am I going to say..." thing.  I've always enjoyed the face people make when I walk into a shop and they assume I can't speak Korean, and will have to speak English to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weddings, K-Pop, Korean Food & Purity: Who Owns a Culture? Part 3

Janelle Monae, an African-American, stole this song from the white, British composer Charlie Chaplin, and white, british lyricists John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, who originally had their song stolen from white brits by Nat King Cole.

See how ridiculous it starts to get when we talk about people stealing cultures?  It's just a great song, isn't it?

So the final point on the topic is the question, what happens here in Korea, when expats living here see something that vaguely resembles their culture back home, but it's been changed in unexpected ways.  It's analogous to the question of what Koreans do, or ought to do, when they see artifacts from their culture being co-opted by other cultures - Hollywood remakes (my sassy girl), Japanese repackagings (kimuchi) and even Korean-engineered revisions aimed at a new audience (Wondergirls).  I step into a Korean wedding hall, and I see an aisle, candles, a white gown, I hear Mendelssohn's march, and a bouquet being tossed... yet it's all two steps sideways from the weddings I saw back home.

This can be quite off-putting, even to me, and I've been here relatively forever.

The topic is interesting because familiar touchstones take on different meanings, or are used differently, in different cultures.  Not all of these differences are obvious, or jarring - more people here use Starbucks’ for studying than back home, and it’s firmly entrenched in youth culture (the older folks just can’t stomach six bucks for a coffee: it’s 100 won at the gogijip!)  The absence of middle-aged Starbucks-goers, particularly older males, and especially groups of them, barely hints at the way Starbucks occupies a different place in culture here than back home, and I didn’t notice that until five old men parked at a table near me in a starbucks once, and started the usual “loud ajosshi table” routine that one usually finds in a BBQ meat house, and I realized it was the first time I’d ever seen a group of older men in a Starbucks.  Back in Canada, that's a lot more common.

A few more: library means "place to study" here, where back home, it was "place to get books and then leave"; non-Korean restaurants serve a dish of sweet pickles with the meal, almost down to the last one (a friend of girlfriendoseyo once went to a little restaurant in Tuscany, and asked where the pickles were).  Other differences affect our lives more - any foreigner can point out to you the bars in their neighborhood which DON'T require you to buy side dishes with your drink (more and more these days).  Korean girls can have skirts right up to their uteruses (uteri?) and it's OK, but cleavage brands them “that kind of girl”; in America, it's vice versa.

(illustration from ROKetship: you should check out this comic!)
(click for full post)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Must have been really good Bibim Kalguksu!

Spotted this restaurant near Gyeongbokgung Station.

What does that say on the sign?
So... turns out Jesus likes Korean food, and this restaurant in particular.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

PSY, Attaboy, Hyun-Bin 현빈, and The Ultimate Korean Star Taboo

Soundtrack: PSY: "Right Now" - a K-pop (or thereabouts) song that actually kind of rocks.  I like it.  Hit play and start reading; more about PSY later.

One of the conversation topics I like to bring into my discussion classes is this: what's the worst sin a Korean celebrity can commit?

I usually lead in by referencing a few Korean celebrity scandals - including my all-time favorite celebrity scandal anywhere, EVER: the Na Hoon-a scandal (I wrote about it here) - rumor had it that he'd had his manhood cut off by gangsters for getting involved with a starlet who had been "claimed" by a Korean gang leader.

Repudiating those claims led to what I still believe is the greatest celebrity scandal moment, maybe ever, when Na Hoona held a press conference where he stood up on the press conference table, unbuttoned his pants, threatened/offered to give proof positive his piece was pristine, and then stared around the press room with an "I fucking dare you to ask another question" face until all reporters had snapped their pictures, and had begun, presumably, to cower in fear.  After the press conference finished, I imagine he slew a wild boar with his bare hands, battled an army of ninjas with lightning from his eyes, and tore out the viscera of the reporter who'd first concocted the story, tied a gold bauble to it, and worn it around his neck.  That press conference video: truly epic.

Anyway, the question I bring into class is, "What's the one thing a Korean star must not do?"  (I teach the phrase "career suicide")

In America, it's racism.  And if you don't believe me, kindly let me know if Michael Richards has been getting any work lately.  Even a megasuperduperstar like Mel Gibson was out after two strikes - being shunned from Hangover 2 is a pretty good definition of rock bottom, if you ask me.

Some of the other sins worth comment:

these days, a lot of people in my classes didn't have a problem with stars who were gay (though some would prefer if one kept it to onesself)
domestic violence was seen as pretty unforgivable
alcohol problems were OK as long as they didn't disrupt one's career
drug issues, no surprise, were a much bigger deal here than back home
a surprising amount of resentment for stars who used their fame to get into a good university
plastic surgery?  a great deal of ambivalence, both for males and females

But this was agreed upon almost across the board, and emphatically with my male students: the number one taboo for Korean (male) stars is:

Don't you DARE try to skip your military service.

MC Mong (a singer I liked) saw his career vanish like a puff of breath on a cold day, when allegations surfaced that he had teeth pulled to dodge his military service.  And then, instead of just doing his service (the only way to recover), he stuck to his guns, and kept trying to dodge.  His music was (is) fun.  But he's been erased completely: TV shows where he used to be a featured member edit out any mention of him.

PSY (see the video at the top) was a reasonably successful hip hop star, but when he tried to skip his military service, he ended up, "serving it twice," in wifeoseyo's words.  Since he paid his dues, all is forgiven (not quite forgotten though), and he can now release a song like "Right Now" and run a comeback.  As I said: I like the song.  I also like that he looks like a total ajosshi, that he's so totally out of the K-pop mold, yet he's got a hip-hop career.

but if you don't serve... well, first of all, you can't work any kind of job in Korea without doing your military service... but also, buddy, you're the object of contempt for anyone around you who hears about it.  Ask Korean men around age 30 to 40 (that is, old enough to remember) about Steve (Seungjun) Yoo, a Korean rapper who was really popular until 2002, when, and after spending lots of press time talking about how he'd happily do his military service when the time came, he instead became a naturalized US citizen, and got deported.  He walked away from his music career, and lives in LA.  Even today, Wifeoseyo and the men in my class talk about him with a kind of contempt that's usually saved for Judas, Brutus, Japan collaborators, and Jim Hewish.

And in light of this, there's a fella named Hyun-Bin.   (image)

He's been a popular Korean actor for a while, and his drama, "Secret Garden" is having its series finale right about now.  Not only is he famous for his acting, the song he recorded for "Secret Garden"'s soundtrack is currently number one: this is about the Korean equivalent of being Whitney Houston in 1992, with the number one song and the number one movie at the same time.  He's the buzz buzzy buzzmaster all around the Korean internets and he's twittertastic as well.

Here's "That Man" - his #1 song right now, from his #1 TV show OST.

The time has come for him to serve in the military, and rather than go for some patsy desk job, or work in military propaganda videos like a lot of stars do, he's applying to join the marines: one of the grittiest, dirtiest, frontlineiest, right-up-in-the-shit jobs the Korean military has to offer.  (Article: English Chosun)

The Marines is known to be dangerous, and Korea is known to love celebrities who seem unpretentious - ones who give to charity anonymously, who choose not to use their fame to get into famous universities, who make TV appearances without makeup, and act the fool at a noraebang for cameras, so that people know they're just ordinary folks too.  That Hyun-bin wants to eschew the privileges his fame could earn him, and serve the military the best he can, is admirable.  (Korea Herald reports: since the North Korean shelling of Yongpyeong Island, men signing up for the marines has taking a huge jump.  Attaboys!)

And readers, I guarantee you: when he does finish his service, he will have a couple of years where he can do no wrong, for approaching his military service this way, and if he plays it right, he might stretch the cachet he's earned here even longer.  If you think people love him now, just wait a couple of years until he gets out.

Good for him.  That's all.  Good for him.  And good luck serving your country, sir.

Cold PSA

First: go vote for me on the "Best English Language K-Blogger" poll over at HiExpat: there are a few days left, and I'm within striking distance of fourth place... Roboseyites, Represent!

Second: It's BLOODY COLD!  I don't think I've ever seen it this cold in Seoul before.

And here's the PSA: Until it gets a little less frigid, don't forget to run your taps for a while, and flush your toilets once or twice, at night before you go to bed, so your water pipes don't freeze and explode overnight.  The older and smaller the building you live in, the more this applies to you.

In tribute to the cold, here's a song with "cold" in the title: "Cold War," by Janelle Monae, one of the hyper-talented young artists making music today.  Remember in 2000 when Alicia Keys had her song "Fallin'" out and everybody's ears were pooping with excitement at what had just come across the airwaves?  That's how stoked I am for Janelle Monae's career.  More about her later, or at least more videos of hers.

This one's a good one, too: the whole video is done in extreme closeup on her face, which makes the performance really intimate.  Plus, she can sing like a house on fire.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who Owns A Culture: What do you Mean When you Say Korean Culture is Under Attack?

(all images from the first page of google image results for "Korean culture")

Now, the last time I talked about Korean culture, I crossed swords comments with a commenter...

On "Lee Hyori Gets It" we argued a bit about the one blood thing, and I'd like to address a few points raised there.

First, I've figured out why one of my commenters and I have been disagreeing so strongly, and it's a simple reason: our definitions of culture are different.  One of my favorite topics to bring into my old conversation classes was this handout of four opinions, each suggesting a different view on the cultural changes that have come through Korea lately.

For this series, and in general, as I stated in part two: I'm talking about popular culture: culture as a living, organic thing, Korean culture as a description of what and how Koreans produce and consume, not as a set of rules for what and how Koreans SHOULD produce or consume, in order to be "authentic" -- the definition of culture that defines Korea's culture only, or primarily by looking at the past?  That's for archivists and historians.  I'm not talking about Goguryeo, Lee Sunshin, or what kind of kimchi they ate in Gwangju in 2000 BC.  I'm talking about what Korean young people have on their mp3 players, and where they choose to meet their friends.

If the opinion you agree with the most on this handout is #1, we probably aren't going to agree on most points... because our definitions of "culture" are fundamentally different.
How Korean is Korea is Korea Losing Its Culture

Personally, I hold with #3 mostly: culture is a way of describing what people actually do, not outlining what they must do to be "real" Koreans.  Young ladies dying their hair pink is Korean culture, because young Korean ladies are doing it.  Yeah, I cast a wide net... but the net must be cast wide to catch the really interesting and powerful stuff, which always starts on the fringes before it goes mainstream.

Second:  To those who would suggest that Korean culture is under attack, and that this is cause for alarm... basically, chill out.

Is Korean culture under attack?  Here are the instances where it seems that idea comes up (let me know if I'm missing something):
(Korean culture club)

1. Items, artifacts, or pieces of Korean heritage have been plundered or claimed by others.  China claims Goguryeo; France took a bunch of historical Korean documents; Dokdo is OURS, dammit!

2. Foreign elements are invading Korean culture and making Korean culture some weird mix of foreign cultures that is no longer really Korean.  Young ladies are dying their hair pink, Korean singers are imitating American hip-hop, and everybody's wearing blue jeans and mini-skirts and FUBU.

3. People are criticizing or saying bad things about Korea, or Korean cultural items, artifacts, or producers.  Stephen Colbert is making fun of Rain, movie critics are crapping on "The Last Godfather."

4. Korean cultural things are being taken into other countries and changed, so that they are no longer authentically Korean.

Briefly, then:

1. Honestly, historical periods and historical artifacts aren't really my area of specialty, or knowledge.  I don't know the details of Goguryeo, or how China is allegedly "stealing" Goguryeo, or trying to erase it from the history books.  Honestly, I'm not a historian, and I'm not very interested in it, either, because history is dead, unless it's affecting the present.  History is relevant to historians, but other than when historians and demagogues get together to have some textbook protests outside the Japanese or Chinese embassy, it doesn't have much influence on culture the way I defined it above: nobody rearranges the playlist on their ipods, or changes their TV viewing or internet surfing habits, because of it.  If they did, I'd be interested in it again.  I hope France and Japan return those books and documents, but if they don't, the Hallyu doesn't magically vanish: culture doesn't begin and end in a bunch of historical documents, and in my opinion, the greatest relevance that old history has is in explaining phenomena that still happens now. Korea's heritage is not the sum total of Korea's culture, as defined above.  Korea's heritage may well be under attack... a lot of people say it is... but Korea's culture is in no danger at all.  In fact, Korea is now exporting its culture all across Asia, in Hallyu films, dramas, and more recently, music. For the rest, heritage is outside the scope of this series, and outside the scope of my interest, frankly.


2. Foreign elements are invading Korea. I addressed this at more length in another post, and I'd like to refer you to that.  Basically: complaints about cultural change are usually either coming out of historians who have a backward-looking (past-focused) view of what culture should be, or it's generational, coming from older people who remember how things used to be.  This often boils down to the fact as people age, they miss being the ones who set the culture's agenda, the way they did when they were younger (and their parents complained about them not respecting 'the old way' in the same way they now complain about their kids).  The problem with this one is simply: when do you draw the line of "this is authentic Korea, and this isn't" -- spicy peppers are from the New World, so if we really go back and get historical, spicy food CAN'T be part of Korean culture, because it hasn't been - CAN'T have been part of Korean culture for the entire (5000 year) history of Korea.  Defining "authentic Korea" is just as slippery and problematic as defining Korean culture in all its iterations right now, and "authentic" Korea from the past is either an idealized version of the past (go watch "Welcome to Dongmakgeol), or an idealized version of what one's grandparents remember, even though at that time, culture was changing, fluid, unstable, and affected by other countries' influence too.  All cultures are always changing, just because grandpa doesn't remember it that way doesn't mean it wasn't true back then, too.

3. Critics are saying bad things about Korea.  I discuss this one more in my post "In Which Roboseyo Exhorts Seoul City Not to Get in a Snit About Lonely Planet"  Basically... haters gotta hate, and playas gotta play, and haters gonna hate playas, and when haters hate the playas, that doesn't make the playa stop being a playa: it's actually a validation that the playa's a true playa.  Celebrities know that ANY buzz is good buzz, ANY publicity is good publicity, and Seoul getting named in a list of "Five worst cities" is better than Seoul being ignored.  The biggest players are targets most often, and criticism is actually validation.  If Roger Ebert rips a movie to shreds, it means he at least admired it enough to consider it deserving of an 800 word evisceration: he could have just ignored it, and that would be a real problem, because it would mean the movie wasn't bad, but irrelevant.  Stephen Colbert made fun of Rain... and Rain became more famous.  Wanting Korea to be more famous, but wanting to control HOW people talk about Korea, is wanting to have one's cake and eat it too, and it smacks of inferiority crisis, and the people who crashed Stephen Colbert's website miss the point.

(image - they sing in English. Are they Korean culture or American culture? What about Far East Movement?)

4. Korean things are being stolen and altered, so that they are no longer Korean.  I covered this at length in the last post (a long time ago) in this series, basically coming to the point that nobody owns a culture.  People can produce and consume artifacts in a culture, but nobody can own it.  Historians and archivists can lay a claim on a heritage, and maybe even define it, if they narrow their definition enough, but living culture - culture as it is, and is becoming, is far too slippery and unstable to define, much less to claim.  If Japan is exporting Kimuchi, that means that somebody likes Kimuchi, or it wouldn't be selling.  If Koreans don't like that Japan is exporting Kimuchi, complaining does nothing.  Writing hundreds of e-mails a day "correcting" people doesn't help much either.  What would help is exporting a kimchi that people want to buy more than kimuchi.  Buyers don't care who's right and who's wrong, or who originally invented.  They care about which one fits their personal taste better, or which is cheaper, or which is available at their local supermarket.  Koreans didn't invent cars, cellphones, or TVs, but make some of the world's best of each.  Is America bitching that Korea stole their inventions?  Nah.  (They're worried that foreign students and workforces are outperforming America in some arenas, but upset about stealing inventions? No.  Did India complain when Korea registered Seokguram Grotto as a Unesco World Heritage Site, because the Buddha is from India?  Not that I know of.  Nobody owns the Buddha, cars, cellphones, or rock music.)

As cultural claims go, cultural materials don't observe national borders.  Korea pissed off the Chinese and Taiwanese on a few internet comment boards by trying to register Dragon Boat Racing as a Korean traditional heritage.  [update: this assertion has been well-corrected by Gomushin Girl in the comments]  Korea has a enough of a reputation for claiming that not-Korean things are Korean, that they were even at the butt of a joke about it during the 2008 Olympics.

In the end, there are two sides: there's the emotional side, and the intellectual side, to the issue of cultural ownership and authenticity.  When I brought the article above into my discussion classes, I was startled at how visceral the resentment was, that Japan had tried to steal kimchi from Korea.  It's just a food, right?  Korea's stolen stuff from other cultures and made it their own (read the Metropolitician's take on "Black culture without black people")
(image from the post linked above)

but, again, as when people criticize stuff about Korea, I've got to say that in the big picture of Korea's ascent to becoming a cultural force, the fact people are stealing things from Korean culture (cf: south-asian imitation K-pop groups) doesn't mean Korea needs to get up in arms about copyright infringement (USA didn't get huffy about Korean hembeogeos, did they?  Why would they? The popularity of hembeogeos here is proof positive of USA's cultural reach.)  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: it means Korean culture is having the kind of influence all those promoters and boosters and kimcheerleaders dreamed it would have.

Awesome!  No, Kogi tacos aren't authentic Korean food: stuff always gets changed in translation... but then, given how slippery and changeable culture is, how could we expect anything else?

So, now that we're back up to speed, I'll be finishing off this series by talking about what should be done with the situation where expats living in Korea come across artifacts of their own home cultures, reinterpreted by Koreans, for Korea.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Vote for me at HiExpat!

Hi Expat, a relatively new Korea-site, which is well on its way to becoming more useful than Dave's for the info, the active job board, and especially the tone, is having a "Best K-Blog" vote.

And I was totally nominated.

So get on over there, readers, and vote for me!  (Only once, though.  Cheaters get disqualified.)

Go to this link.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ten Things About The Last Godfather: An Expat in Korea's Movie Review

So, after ripping director Shim Hyung-rae's last major feature-film, D-Wars, or Dragon Wars, on my blog, and taking another shot this week, it's fair to give him a shot at redemption.

Disclosure: I didn't pay for these tickets: I got them through Cynthia, the head don of She's awesome. She has a small face.

Now, Shim Hyung-rae cut his teeth in the comedy genre, which might partly explain why D-Wars was so bad. Maybe. Then again, if D-wars becomes a cult classic - a Plan 9 from Outer Space with high production values, maybe it deserves it, in the "so bad it's good" way. never been a fan of that myself.  Wait  minute... I like zombie movies.  Sure I am! - but usually not with comedies.

So Mr. Shim has made "The Last Godfather" - a gangster flick about Harvey Keitel doing an impression of Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone trying to hand his mob family over to a fat, Korean version of Lloyd Christmas.

(image source)

The character is named Yonggu, who was a popular comical character on Korean television back when people my age were kids.  That, of course, will be lost on non-Korean audiences -- think of him as Korea's Mr. Bean.  Broad, physical comedy, kind of dumb - the premise of this movie, to Koreans, would be about like a movie called "Mr. Bean Joins the Mafia" to Brits (but in a language other than English, because The Last Godfather isn't in the native language of most of Yonggu's fans).

Here's Yonggu in a TV commercial, from back when he was popular in Korea, I guess.

I watched Dragon Wars, and as I said, it kinda sucked.  Frankly, it was a great method of expectation management: my expectations were about as low as they are when I head into a Nicolas Cage movie I've heard nothing about (funny video about that).

Rather than give you a full-on 4000 word prose-down, as I am wont to do, here are ten things about Shim Hyung-rae's The Last Godfather.  Spoilers ahead.

1. It's not a movie for people like me  I wasn't the movie's main audience.  If you're a fan of Gangster movies by way of Goodfellas, The Godfather, and Donnie Brasco, don't see this movie.  If you're a fan of screwball comedies, and like stuff like stinky feet jokes, some bits about baseball bats, and people doing funny walks; if you believe bird noises is a perfectly good sound effect for demonstrating just how hard somebody got hit on the head, you might like this movie. More on the movie's audience later.

2. It's not two hours of kimcheerleading  To the movie's, and Mr. Shim's credit, this movie didn't come across at all as another attempt to win the world over to Korean culture.  It wasn't draped in a Korean flag the way Dragon Wars was, Arirang didn't play at the end, nor did a paragraph about how great Mr. Shim is (as did at the end of D-wars, in Korea) and that's good: the naked ambition of D-Wars, given how bad as it was, raised it from simply a poor movie to a vainglorious farce.  Yeah, the Wonder Girls appear in one scene of this film, but the whole movie doesn't come across as a miscalculated attempt to win the world (and especially america) over to Korean culture.  They weren't sneaking Janggu's into scenes for the sake of promoting "Brand Korea:" Mr. Shim is just trying to make a movie; not to promote Korea to us under the guise of presenting us with a movie.

3. Good thing it isn't, because that would reflect poorly on Korea It's a good thing this movie wasn't another attempt to introduce Korea and Korean culture to the world, because the only Korean character in the movie was a buffoon of the highest order, and if he were presented as a representative of the culture, it would have been extremely insulting and trivializing to Korea; it would also have shattered the suspension of disbelief required to believe a guy could grow to the age of "Yonggu" and still be so dumb and unreflective.  It's good the movie didn't go there.

4. There're a lot of cliches, stereotypes and silliness to wade through The best way to enjoy this movie is by doing these two things:  1. count the cliches - particularly those common to gangster movies (fugeddaboutit; people carrying baguettes in paper grocery bags; tommy guns; pinstripe suits and wide-brimmed hats; very fat people with Italian accents; New York Italian stereotypes).  and slapstick comedy tropes  (things falling on people's heads, farts, round cartoon bombs with sparking fuses, people who get blown up appearing in the next scene with their clothes and faces blackened, but no injuries to their bodies, fat people using belly bumps during fights).  2.  Imagine it's animated by Warner Brothers (the people who did Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Daffy Duck et. al.) - the way the action is done and the gags are delivered is more reminiscent of these cartoons, or the old silent films, than the kind of comedy you see in movies today.  Or imagine it in black and white: during one of the closing scenes, Mr. Shim is seen wearing short pants and oversized shoes, carrying suitcases in a side-to-side walk that's reminiscent of the little tramp.  Taken as an homage to the little tramp and his kind, the movie makes a little more sense.

5. Spot the Expat Easter Eggs There are a few easter eggs (maybe not intentionally put in, but there nonetheless) that expats living in Korea would appreciate: 1. there's a ddongchim, which anyone who's taught kids in Korea (or reads my blog) will recognize. 2. The Wonder Girls show up, performing in a building that, from the outside, seems like it generally stages more, um, adult shows.  3. There's a cute segment that will bring a smile to the face of anyone who's had a conversation with one of their Kimcheerleading friends about how Koreans invented everything before anybody else (for examples of this phenomenon: sarcastic; in earnest, and another) -- "Yonggu" (Shim Hyung-rae's character) accidentally invents the beehive hairstyle, the miniskirt, and the Big Mac in a single afternoon.  Maybe he's Forrest Gump rather than Lloyd Christmas.  [Update: I forgot one: I smiled during the dinner scene, and thought of Mr. Pizza's mayonnaise, honey-mustard, sweet-potato, shrimp tempura and ketchup pizzas, when Yonggu ruined his pizza slice with about a pint of ketchup, to the disgust of the Italians at the table.]

6. This is a children's movie.  The take on gangsters is mostly innocent (when a bomb goes off, we see the characters standing next to it, in the next scene, with soot on their faces and their suits torn.  Nobody dies, except a few faceless wide-brim-hatted mobsters in shootouts, who might have just lost their balance and taken headers off fire-escapes, and in moments where a real gangster would probably end somebody, these gangsters flee the scene.  The type of comedy, the type of story, the way the characters are presented, show that this is a children's movie.  If it's marketed as anything else, it's not aware of what it is, and if it's pretending to be a comedy for adults, or a straight-up gangster movie, it's insulting its audience.

7. It's a kid's movie, but... But for a children's movie, there are some reasons I wouldn't want to bring my kid to it, or put it on the children's shelf at the rental store, beside Cars and Monsters Inc..  1. waaaay too much gunplay.  If the movie were about ten minutes shorter, and those ten minutes they took out were all the parts referring to deadly violence, death, assassination, and one patch with a joke about simulated sex that fits better in a movie like American Pie than this movie, as well as the climactic gunfight, it would be a much better fit for the audience that will enjoy it.  2. The jokes and storytelling are for kids, but the gangster talk would lead to my kids asking me some uncomfortable questions. I DON'T want to bring my kids to see a movie where a character tells the hero to whack someone... several people, and several times, or where I have to explain what extortion is, after my kids ask "Why were the people giving him money when he went to their store?"  If they'd made it two shades lighter again, than it already was, it would have been a fantastic kids' film, instead of a children's movie with a caveat.

And that's to say nothing of the moral confusion of yonggu's intentions during the movie: he wants to make his father proud, by becoming a coldhearted mobster.  He tries to impress his father by shaking down local shopkeepers, and by climbing a fire escape with a rifle to assassinate a rival mobster.  Throwing my kids into a world of such ambiguity is not my idea of a fun family afternoon.

8. Jay, from Jay and Silent Bob, (yep: this guy) plays one of the bad guys.  The fat mobster looks like a cartoon character... in fact, he reminds me of Big Boy (from Big Boy Burgers)

 and below, John Pinette (the actor) for your comparison (image source).

9. Harvey Keitel :(... dear Harvey... you are, far and away, the most watchable actor involved in this project.  But why are you involved in this project?  Why not any old extra from Sopranos who needs work?  Are you trying to get on this kind of list (seriously)?  Why not someone who's already kind of a self-parody, and a comedian anyway, like Danny Devito or somebody, anybody, that won't make me think "what a waste of talent"

I want to see you kick ass, Mr. Keitel.  I want to see Harvey Keitel the Wolf (see below).  I don't want to see you lying on your back and kicking your feet when you think your half-wit son, whom you've never met until two weeks ago, but have decided to make new don of your mafia family, is dead.  I really don't.

That's right.  Lying on his back.

Mr. Keitel, give me this:

Not this.

10. Shim Hyung-rae gets the girl? Really I suppose it's director's prerogative to do this, if he's starring in his own movie, but Shim Hyung-rae has reached an age where he should no longer be casting himself in roles where he gets the girl.  Much like Woody Allen in the 1990s, it strains credibility to think that the movie's token hottie would be hankering for some simpleton ajosshi.  Maybe he didn't trust any other actor to deliver the jokes he'd imagined, and yeah, he IS Yonggu, but still...

Anyway, the movie is what it is: not really a movie for my demographic, but a reasonably entertaining film for someone with kids about between age five and ten.  Unfortunately, the gangster content and gunplay makes it less family-friendly, but that's the only audience I think this movie will really resonate with.  The jokes are mostly a throwback to the silent era of slapstick, which is generally delivered well, and occasionally made me guffaw, but some of which I saw coming from a mile away.  Somebody go see it and count for me how many times somebody walks into a tree or a light pole.

It ends up neither here nor there... it's miles better than D-wars on almost every level, and it's been clipped of the kind of ego-tripping and flag-waving that made D-wars so ripe for ridicule; on the other hand, most of my readers probably won't jump out of their chairs to go see it, and it shoots itself in the foot (see what I did there?) as a kids' film.  As for Korean filmmakers bringing Korean film to the world?  Well, Shim Hyung-rae made an OK kids' film, but he shouldn't be the one carrying the flag of Korean cinema to the world. Let's see Park Chan-wook take a movie - the kind of movie David Fincher or Cronenberg, or Darren Aronofsky would make, and hit it out of the park with Hollywood backing.  Or Bong Joon-ho.  You know.  Somebody who deserves to be the poster-boy/girl.

I'm happy to hear, in the comments to my last post about Shim Hyung-rae, that other, (sorry to say, but...) more talented Korean directors (Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, and Kim Ji-woon were mentioned by commenters) are getting opportunities to helm western-made films now, too; I hope they deliver something really interesting to movie screens in the US, and I hope that they give American audiences a better inkling of just how excellent, varied, and original (a word that never crossed my mind during this film) Korean cinema really can be.

Monday, January 03, 2011

What have you been up to, Roboseyo? Wonju!

So blogging has been sparse, but it's good to fill y'all in on some of the stuff I've been doing.

Among other things...

I took a short trip out to Gangwon province with Chris in South Korea, who is a fine human being...

We went to Gossi Cave (you can read Chris's post about it here - my pictures didn't turn out as well, though I think I gave my helmet a few more nicks than him) and you can read more about the trip here.

We hit up Wonju Wife, one of my two favorite Danielles on the entire Korean peninsula (I heard there are some awesome ones in North Korea, but I bet none of them hold a candle to my two) and had some beers, and some amazing food with them in Wonju... Danielle is hella smart, and Danielle's husband Kenny is an absolute, stellar, class act of a human being too, and he's one of the sweetest husbands I've ever seen.

We also headed up to Chiak Mountain, and encountered this scene:

But we also saw this:

Chiak Mountain

Funny, obscene statues near Wonju Wife's favorite coffee shop.  No, that's not a flower vase he's holding.  It's a dick.
 And she's... yeah.
A roadside:

 At Jangneung, I took this striking of Chris Backe trying to blend into the surrounding fall colors.  He nearly matched the colors of the leaves with that shirt.

English Chosun Has Some Soft Kid Gloves.

So... Shim Hyung-rae directed another movie, called "The Last Godfather" with Harvey Keitel.  I'm thinking about seeing it just so I can give you the play-by-play.

looks like... quite a movie.  Mr. Shim seems to be pulling a Woody Allen, and starring in the film as well.

You might remember him from Dragon Wars, or D-Wars, a monstrousity of a movie that generated a lot of buzz in Korea because he wrapped it in the Korean flag and played "Arirang" at the end.

I wrote about that patriotism run amok - and how it nearly worked, at least on the homefront, where for a week or two, his movie was above critical reproach, before people finally nodded at each other and admitted, "yah, that actually was a bad movie" -- the same way Star Wars fans spent a short few days in "New Star Wars Movie!" bliss before collectively admitting that The Phantom Menace sucked, too.

(by the way: "Star Wars Episode 1.1 The Phantom Edit" Also known as the Corrector's Edition" - a fan re-editing of The Phantom Menace, is actually a much better movie.)

You can read that post here: "Irony and Uber-Nationalism" - it also features a youtube video at the beginning that was my first introduction to the singer Jang Sa-ik, now one of my favorite Korean artists.

Anyway, the Chosun English is covering Shim Hyung-Rae's latest foray into making movies, "The Last Godfather," and they dropped this doozy of a line, "Although "Dragons Wars" set a record for a Korean film of being released in 2,277 theaters in the U.S., rumor has it that it failed to make a profit."

Which, if you're keeping count, might be the most artful use of mitigating language I've ever encountered.  Mitigating language is, of course, the art of saying things more nicely: instead of "No." We say "Sorry, I can't." because it's nicer.  Instead of "Give!" we say "Sorry to bother; if you don't mind, could I just use that for a mo'?"

Well, I can't think of a nicer, gentler way to say "Ya tried hard, buddy, but it sucked, and it tanked." than "Although "Dragons Wars" set a record for a Korean film of being released in 2,277 theaters in the U.S., rumor has it that it failed to make a profit." (italics mine)

On the other hand, if somebody handed Shim Hyung-rae the keys to another film, after the monstrosity that was D-wars (and I saw it, in the theater no less: I paid my 8000 won, spent my two hours, so that I have earned the right to say it sucked the big one), at least M. Night Shyamalan can take heart, knowing that he'll probably find work again, too.

(the last airbender was a crime against art and storytelling: as a fan of the cartoon series, I might write about it sometime, but let's just say that "it was a letdown" is about tantamount to saying, "rumor has it that it failed to make a profit")

Oh by the way: happy new year!