Archive for April, 2009

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Farewell to Jim

April 20, 2009

Some rather sad news today.

J.G. Ballard has died at the age of 79.

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Mellow Drama

April 13, 2009

I recently discovered that my new school, Choong-Ang, is somewhat famous.

In 2002 the Korean TV network KBS broadcast a drama called Winter Sonata. It was the second installment in a four-part drama series that used the names of the seasons in each title. The series became unofficially known as “Endless Love” and is widely regarded as having been at the forefront of the Hallyu (“Korean Wave”).

Gyeul Yeonga (Winter Sonata)

Gyeul Yeonga ("Winter Sonata")

Winter Sonata was a huge hit across Asia, especially in Japan, and the two main actors, Bae Yong-jun and Choi Ji-woo, became successful screen stars. From what I understand, the story is a typical Korean melodrama in that it starts off twee and cheesy as all hell before plummeting into sudden and unexpected moments of utter grimness. The early part of the tale, when the two characters meet for the first time as school students, takes place in a high school and Choong-Ang school was used as the film location. My co-workers first brought this to my attention when they were explaining the conspicuous presence of Japanese tourists having their pictures taken at the school gates. Flanking these front gates are a stall and a small corner shop festooned with photographs, posters and other merchandise displaying Winter Sonata heart-throb, Bae Yong-jun’s, face. However, the tourists are not allowed past the gates during normal school hours for fear of distracting the students.

Choong-Ang School

Choong-Ang School

The reasons for choosing Choong-Ang school as a location are obvious. The institution itself is 101 years old this year and features some buildings with architecture quite atypical of Korean schools. It has an almost Gothic style more reminiscent of western universities, possessing a timeless quality perfectly befitting a television drama.

Disclaimer: I do not work in the building pictured above. That shows the main high school building whereas I work in the middle school building behind it. My school building is a modern design quite typical of other Korean schools.

I have not yet seen Winter Sonata and can offer nothing in the way of criticism on it. I did locate an essay, here, that explores the success of the film but it is rather sycophantic in tone and clearly written by someone for whom English is not a first language.

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Herro Again!

April 10, 2009

Well look who has put in an appearance.

Kim Jong-Il

Kim Jong-Il

Not so long ago, I did of course say this

Kim Jong-Il is dead. He died a few months ago, probably from a massive stroke, and this event is just a move by the military regime to attempt to offset the confusion caused by the sudden departure of ‘The Dear Leader’. Kim hasn’t been seen in public for months now and there have been many rumours surrounding his alleged poor health. The North Korean regime, however, insists that he is still alive and in complete control of the country and they’ve released some highly dubious pictures to prove it. I’m not buying it though. I hereby announce that I am officially behind the “Kim Jong-Il is dead” rumours. Now it’s all just a matter of waiting to see what happens next.

In order to counteract the bitter disappointment and frustration I feel at the little fellow’s seeming return to public life I’m going to have to stick to my guns and simply refuse to believe it’s actually him. He’s a ringer! That little dude there is a professional fucking ringer. He’s probably one of a dozen employed by the DPRK to hoodwink the North Korean people and the rest of the world.

Measure his head. It’s the only way to be sure. A few years ago I remember hearing about some expert that was analyzing TV images of Saddam Hussein and using computer programs to measure the size and shape of the head. That shit can’t lie; it’s like a fingerprint, apparently.  Dr. Dieter Buhmann concluded that the late Joerg Haider (gay, fascist Austrian politician), when he flew to Baghdad to meet the Iraqi dictator, had unknowingly met with one of Saddam’s doubles.

Before and after. Image on the right - June 2008. Left - April 2009

Before and after. Right - June 2008, Left - April 2009

On the other hand, the Kim Jong-Il seen in these photographs doesn’t look good. Surely they would have provided a “fresh” ringer, as it were. Instead, this looks like the same wee guy from last year’s photographs albeit now enfeebled by a rumored stroke sometime in the latter half of 2008. The only way to answer this is to conclude that he is, in fact, the same wee guy and also a double. He is a double that was actually deployed by the North Korean regime years ago when their figurehead, the real Kim Jong-Il, actually died. This position is not quite as outlandish as one might think.