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Norking To Worry About

June 5, 2013

Gadzooks and gosh-darn! A truly shameful 5-month gap in what was already a floundering blogging habit. I have a litany of excuses, I always do, but there’s no need to indulge in such tedious piffle here for it would bore all you hypersensitive internet kids to self-harm. The drought endeth now!

The plan here was to have written about the most recent crisis with the DPRK when it was actually at its peak, some two months ago, and myself and many people I knew living in the Republic of (South) Korea were having to deal with phone calls and other anxious enquiries from friends and loved ones in our respective home countries. However, I procrastinated like a slovenly fiend whilst the whole overblown affair quickly wilted and faded from the headlines. I had wanted to answer the concerns of my family and chums by pointing them in the direction of several North Korea analysts and experts whose views on the crisis showed a reassuring convergence, i.e. they all stressed that the outbreak of war, particularly one launched by the DPRK, was highly unlikely.

The North Korean regime is not suicidal, and has zero interest in initiating a full-on conflict that it could not possibly win and which would likely end in its complete destruction. They’re quite content with the status quo, but that status quo as it is requires regular bouts of nutty Nork brinkmanship on their part to, paradoxically, keep things running smoothly for them. The threats issued by the North Korean leadership in March and April, therefore, were simply the latest in a longstanding pattern of sabre-rattling bullshit that South Koreans in particular have become accustomed to and tend not to entertain as a serious menace. The only difference, as I saw it, was that the particular proclamations being delivered this time were of a significantly loud and colorful nature; declaring a state of war, threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes, etc. that they made for excellent copy and were thus widely and prominently reported in the western media. Read the rest of this entry »

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Merry Christmas! (And thoughts on the year)

December 24, 2012

In accordance with Mayan prophecy, we are privileged to witness the beginning of the Age of the Fifth Sun, the previous Fourth Sun having completed its great cycle of 26,000 years. It is now an age of expanded consciousness, and of a new emergent human living in harmony with both the earth and the wider cosmic order. It was never foretold to be an apocalypse. That widespread misconception was likely the result of remnants of excitable Judaeo-Christian morbidity lurking in the cluttered parts of the western mind whereby the interpretation of any grand prophecy, even one from well outside the canon of Biblical mythology, was seen only as being the fulfillment of the cataclysmic shitstorm of doom promised by the raging and demented desert god of Testaments old and new.

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Christmas Prez

December 19, 2012

Park Geun-hye & Moon Jae-in

The good people of the Republic of Korea will go to the polls later today* to elect themselves a new President. As well as being a national holiday to facilitate voter turnout, it will also be my birthday and my thoughts aren’t likely to be all that focused on the results of the two-horse race for high office but I offer a few thoughts here nonetheless.

I’m aiming for the polite neutrality that I feel is appropriate for a foreign guest worker. I have no vote, no say, and thus should have no dog in the fight, as it were. However, although I would welcome the election of Korea’s first female elected leader, in a country that could do with a few bold strides toward greater gender equality, I personally don’t believe the daughter of a dictator should be pursuing the highest office in what is after all a nascent democracy with a few too many lingering habits from its authoritarian past. For those unaware, Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the Korean army general who seized power in a coup d’état in 1961 and oversaw the miraculous economic growth and rapid industrialization of the time, ruling via widespread political repression and human rights abuses, before being assassinated in 1979. The man’s legacy now remains a profoundly ambiguous one in the collective Korean consciousness. Many older, more conservative, Koreans especially view Park as a great man who transformed South Korea from  the decimated ruins of the post-Korean War period into the rich, developed nation it is today. As one said to me recently with a smile, “when I was 14-years-old President Park said that in ten years time all Koreans would have a home, drive a car and own a refrigerator. I didn’t believe him.” On the other hand, younger Koreans, and middle-aged Koreans on the left who were involved in the political struggle for democracy in the 1980s, remain indignant at the memory of the dictatorships that afflicted Korea for decades and are, of course, hostile to the conservative political entities of today, including the current administration of President Lee Myung-bak and his “Saenuri” (“New Frontier”) Party, of which Park Geun-hye was herself formerly a leader. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beyond The Black Rainbow

November 2, 2012

I had intended to write about this film months ago but failed to for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I recently became a father for the first time and now intend to channel my creative energies toward shaping and nurturing the wee spongy mind of my infant son. However, I will try to rectify this hideous blog dormancy as best I can.

Made in 2010 but shown in a limited capacity in various festivals prior to its home release, Beyond the Black Rainbow is the debut feature from the superbly named Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos. It was made for very little money, and seems to have made a whole lot less in turn, which is unfortunate given that there aren’t very many films at all that bother to look or sound this good in any given year. It is not for everyone*, and will likely prove an infuriating film to those for whom the all-pervasive aesthetic on display is neither seductive nor engaging, but for the appropriate audience (in which I enthusiastically place myself) it is a gorgeous and visionary cinematic delight.

Beyond the Black Rainbow opens as a promotional video for the Arboria Institute, as Dr. Mercurio Arboria introduces himself and the institution in which the film is set. The doctor is styled as a guru of yesteryear, deliberately reminiscent of such New Age scientist figures as Timothy Leary, albeit here with the darker edge of a cult leader. Before long, we are shown the institute itself and its head researcher and erstwhile Arboria disciple, Dr. Barry Nyle. The sinister Nyle is studying or treating what appears to be a patient at the institute, the near-catatonic Elena, a silent anguished girl who refuses to communicate with Nyle and who seems to be sadistically tormented by him. It is hinted that Elena possesses some kind of psychic, telekinetic power that is somehow kept subdued by means of a glowing tetrahedron pyramid in another level of Arboria, the corridors and rooms of which are also frequently roamed by silent “Sentionauts” (comparisons to Daft Punk characters is both unavoidable and fair), amongst other unusual features and oddities. Dark secrets are revealed pertaining to Dr. Nyle’s past and the precise nature of his work with the largely absent Dr. Arboria as Elena steadily prepares to escape the insidious institute in which she is held prisoner, with an increasingly unhinged Nyle in pursuit. Read the rest of this entry »

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CiF Sokaled?

September 5, 2012

Around six weeks ago, this preposterous article appeared on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free‘ online site.

South Korea good, North Korea bad? Not a very useful outlook

Some choice excerpts -

The lack of western sources in North Korea has allowed the media to conjure up fantastic stories that enthrall readers but aren’t grounded in hard fact. No attempt is made to see both sides of the Korean conflict: it is much easier and more palatable to a western audience to pigeonhole the DPRK as a dangerous maverick state ruled by a capricious dictator and South Korea as its long-suffering, patient neighbour.

Whatever your view on the actions of North and South Korea’s governments, the hypocrisy of using one-sided journalism to label North Korea a rogue, propaganda-led state is surely self-evident and fans the fire of intolerance and animosity.

I was initially tempted to post a detailed line-by-line rebuttal here in order to eviscerate the utter nonsense that this man has produced until it occurred to me, and several like-minded individuals I encountered in online comments discussing it, that the article was likely a hoax, quite possibly in the manner of the notable Sokal affair of 1996.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Dark Knight Rises & Batshit Politicking

August 24, 2012

Gadzooks, dear readers, almost two months without a single post! These once-mighty blog muscles risk atrophy! Mewling self-pity aside, I fancy the best way to return to fighting shape would be to launch into a rant about a popular movie forthwith. And so…

I’m late to the party in discussing The Dark Knight Rises (quick review: it was entertaining, but a goddamn mess overall) but the hugely anticipated event movie has nonetheless provided an amusing side distraction in the weeks following its release. It seems various commentators and critics have come to the conclusion that there is some kind of noteworthy political subtext to the most recent Batflick and have been churning out column inches in response, the rough consensus being that The Dark Knight Rises is an indictment of the Occupy movement group against income inequality and an unabashed exultation of extrajudicial vigilantism to defend capitalist values. Here are a pair of examples (admittedly soft targets) arriving at the same conclusions from markedly different parts of the political spectrum.

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Total Pisstake

June 29, 2012

A new trailer for the execrable Total Recall remake has been released and some excited commentary surrounds the appearance of that fan-favourite from the original film, the mutant hooker with three tits.

News of a remake of the classic Paul Verhoeven directed sci-fi action flick from 1990, starring Arnie in what can now be considered the last of his hardcore violent 80s roles, was greeted with much disdain. The original is the epitome of the kind of film they simply do not make anymore, i.e. an over-the-top, ultraviolent science fiction film for an adult audience (from the filmmaker who also gave the world Robocop, no less). That it was being remade with a modern mega-budget could mean only one thing, that the new one would likely be a watered-down, Disneyfied turd of a film pitched at family audiences and likely carrying a PG-13 age rating. When it transpired that this remake would be directed by Len Wiseman, and written by Kurt Wimmer, my own sense of disgust and outrage was palatable, to say the least. Wiseman is behind the terrible Underworld films, and delivered the single worst of the four Die Hard films. Wimmer is the writer/director of such films as Equilibrium (it’s shite outside of Bale’s performance, you know it) and the disastrous Ultraviolet. Make no mistake about it; this remake will be a thoroughly worthless piece of shit.

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