I’m back.  And I’m exercising again, practicing the traditional martial arts known as Son Gwan Mu, which originally came from Thailand if I’m not mistaken.  It was originally a Buddhist martial arts– the stretches and positions were created to help the body breathe, therefore allowing meditation to become a fuller, deeper experience.  According to the beliefs of Buddhists, breathing correctly is mandatory for one to maintain a healthy and spiritual existence.  That means keeping the back straight (which I’m directly violating at this moment as I have to bend in a most unnatural way to type on my computer since my table is much lower than my chair… hold on…………………………… ok, i’m sitting on the floor now, much better.)

Life has been stress and worry free, except for the constant need to create which I don’t always satisfy.  I’m thinking about how to make my first feature these days, and also about what I should write about next.  It would be great if I could be a filmmaker like Woody Allen who seems to make a movie every year.  I don’t care if they’re really any good, I just want to be prolific.  Create and never look back.

Anyway, hope everyone’s well.  I’ll see some of you in a couple of months.

I hardly ever write film reviews (except for paragraph summaries in my movie journal) and NEVER do I talk about the conditions in which I saw the film (go to Aint It Cool News if that’s your thing). But I will break both of these rules to talk about the finest movie I’ve seen in quite some time: Ratatouille.

I had wanted to go see this movie on Saturday, and Yena and I had vaguely made plans. Therefore, I was rather miffed when Yena did not answer her phone all morning and afternoon as I frantically tried to call her. Finally I decided to go alone. As I was out the door, Yena called. She had just woken up, she’s lazy like that. I couldn’t quell my anger, even when she said that she’d had to work at her new job until 3 A.M. the previous night. I told her, very moodily, that I was going to see the movie alone and I would call her when it was over.

When I arrived at the theatre, I realized I had read the times wrong on the internet: The show was at 4:30, not 3:30. Feeling guilty about my anger towards my girlfriend, I quickly called Yena up and asked her if she could make it to the 4:30 show? She said it would be tight, but that she would try. I bought two tickets. I fully realized at that time that she might be late. If she is, I thought, we’ll exchange the tickets for a later show.

Yena showed up at 4:45 and, being my nitpicky self, I decided I wanted to see the whole movie, I didn’t want to miss a beat. We stood in line for 5 minutes and then asked the girl at the counter to exchange our tickets. She said she could not because the show had already started. That made me angry. We went inside to talk to a manager. The manager was similarly stubborn: They would NOT exchange tickets once a show has already started. I explained that I didn’t know my girlfriend was going to be late, I could not read Korean, and I had no way of knowing this rule. (I used to work at a movie theatre, and the place I worked was comparatively lax. You could exchange a ticket within the first hour of the film if you didn’t like it!) They didn’t budge. I was stunned by the lack of sympathy or understanding a company could have for its customers.

After talking with both of these suits, the time was 5:00. There was no way I was going into the movie now. Yena and I went outside and slipped into an ally and I cursed. A lot. 16 bucks down the drain. I was mad at the theatre, I was mad at my girlfriend, and I realized I was just mad in general. I’ve been pretty angry lately, and I’m not exactly sure of the cause, but for some reason, I’m all bottled up.

After I cooled down, we went to my apartment and just hung out. But I could not get that 16 bucks out of my mind. Wasted, I thought. I tried to turn it into a positive experience: Hey, It’s just money… or… Maybe we just need to lose sometimes to keep ourselves modest…. or…. at least I never go to a casino… or… dammit, that was 16 dollars! Couldn’t shake it.

So today, I was pretty reluctant to try to see the movie again. I mean, could I really go to the same theatre that took my money and ask the same girl who gave me my first ticket for another? Could I really bow down to an establishment or another person, sacrifice my pride, my.. my… soul?

“One for Ratatouille, please.” Yes, I said please.

That was officially 24 dollars that I was paying to see this movie since, today, I went alone. Even as I sat down in those really ugly light blue seats, surrounded by a thousand couples and one family with a hyper-active child, all I could think was, “24 dollars. No, it doesn’t matter. 24. It’s only money… but, 24! This better be a good movie.”

Then the lights went down. And for the next 2 hours, I was transported to a place where I forgot all my worries. At the halfway mark, I had tears in my eyes. It’s not even that the emotions on the screen were inducing me to weep, but that I realized I was experiencing a movie of such beauty and perfection… the look of the thing is incredible. And the simple fact that we’re following a rat who is different– he wants to be a cook, not just eat garbage the rest of his life– and a boy who is hopeless and in need of a friend, was enough to set off my inner affection for the underdogs, the small and fragile things of this world. Movies like this, movies that inspire, allow us to see the kindness and the beauty and love that exists in this universe, even when most of the time, hard lines and worn-down faces and dollar signs are the symbols that define our lives. I was a bit surprised when the lights came up, that I was the only one crying, albeit silently and as sparingly as possible. How could a movie that had such touching moments and tender feelings not inspire others to feel like I did? I don’t have an answer for that.

Anyway, as I was walking out of the theatre, I was happy that I had spent 24 dollars on that movie. I wanted, at that moment, to have spent 50. It’s not every day that you experience beauty, and when you do, it’s invaluable. It always reminds me why I want to make movies: to inspire. And to be inspired. And to try to see the beauty in life not just once in a while, but every day… in the faces of people who work hard to serve me my jiggae, in the old inscriptions on the wall of an ancient temple, in trees and small animals, in memories of people I love, in my girlfriend, in everything that was here before tall buildings. The underdogs.

It’s easy to get caught up in things like money and image and desire and judgement and negative thoughts. But to witness beauty is a transcending experience, one that can temporarily remind us what living is for.

Ratatouille was such an experience.

Oh, what a lovely visit it was! Except that I was sneezy and grumpy and sleepy and dopey and we spent most of Sunday looking for a hospital to give me a prescription for drugs. But finally we found it, and I found my second wind, and everybody returned to their good-spirited selves after a rough, hot, long day… just look at the smiles!

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First objective: Find Mom new sunglasses!

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What do you think, Mr. Man?

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My thoughts exactly. Let’s try another pair. Yena’s an expert, let her have a go.

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So many choices, so many… but I think these will do.

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Next objective: Chocolate!

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Hats!

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Clothes!

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Fake Flowers!

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Street Food! And… horns…

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oh, Happy Day! Good luck in China, Mom and Sis..

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Yena, by the way, was a terrific guide. Much appreciated, girlfriend.

is a place about 3 to 4 hours outside of Seoul, depending on traffic (and boy, is there traffic here)… It’s a cool place, famous for its doenjong jiggae (soybean soup, a Korean favorite), jimduk (spicy chicken), and soju. I went with my student EQ and his two friends.

We actually left at 11 P.M. and arrived at 3 A.M. We slept in the parking lot under the stars for a couple of hours before setting out on our journey.

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Our purpose for getting there so early was to catch the sun rise over a lake, which is a popular lake (for crazy people who like to get up early and take pictures of sunrises over lakes.) I forget its name.

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Next we went to go eat some of Andong’s famous Doenjong Jiggae and encountered some strange, traditional phallic statues and an actor who said he would appear in a show later that day.

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It was about noon by the time we got to Ha Hwe village, a traditional village where many people still live off the land and stay in old straw houses. It has become a huge tourist attraction as well.

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After an exhausting tour through Ha Hwe, we decided to chill at the temple where Confucious studied when he was a young man.  All in all, it was a very cathartic day.
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But here are a couple of pics I took at one of Yena’s art exhibitions

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This weekend, but I forgot to tell you about the first time I left Seoul and traveled to another city in Korea. It was sadly 7 and a half months after I had been here, but better late than never.

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Busan is a beach town kinda like San Francisco to Seoul’s NY… which means they’re not at all similar. But I went with Yena and my friends Woody and Kat, who are friends I have made through an online foreigner site in Korea.

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Anyway, we didn’t have any plans for a hotel when we got there, but Kat had typed up a list of nearby hotels and we called the one that looked the most interesting: The Galaxy. Which turned out to be a “love motel” as they call them here, a place for lovers to go since everybody who’s young in Korea lives with their parents. It had a very 70s Vegas feel (from what I imagine 70s Vegas must have been like), or rather, a very cheap 70s Vegas… round bed that sadly didn’t revolve, painted stars on the ceilings, a very diverse and free video selection…. classy is all I can say.

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That day we went to an aquarium, walked along the beach, shopped a bit, and just had a good time.

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Hopefully I’ll have some more pics soon, this time of Andong, a traditional village about 4 hours away from Seoul. Until then…

of Korea’s democracy. The history goes something like this: Before 1987, Korea was ruled by a dictatorship. When college students protested and a couple were killed by police, the Korean people overthrew the government and it became a democracy.

I’m not sure about details, but the festival was very very cool. The woman in white on stage listed off names of the dead in a very emotional throaty growl, and then performed a traditional Korean dance.

The girl in the photos is my friend, Kim.


You’ve never met my girlfriend?

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Or her Rabbit, Poachie?

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is a little creek that runs through my neighborhood. It was built two years ago by the mayor of Seoul who wanted to clean up this part of town since it used to be dirty and full of homeless people. It’s about as nature as you can get in my neck of the woods, but it serves its purpose. It’s amazing how just a little grass and some running water is enough to remind you of the natural beauty of things….

I went strolling with one of my favorite students, Miya, and took some photos.

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