An Earthquake and Another Awesome Movie

I felt my first earthquake this last sunday, or so I am told. You may have heard about the 7.0 quake that hit southern Japan this weekend, injuring some (I don't think anyone died) and doing some property damage. Apparently, in a very minor way, it's effects extended to Daejeon and beyond.

Sunday morning I was sitting on this very computer, checking my email I think, when I felt the apartment swaying slightly. I recognized the feeling immediately, having worked on a tenting crew, in positions with much more sway than this apartment could ever give without falling down.

At the same time, someone was moving in (or out) a floor or two above us. Out here, since everything is apartments, they have designed these machines that raise a platform up to your door, or balcony, to ease the moving process. You can load your furniture and appliances on this platform, and it takes them down for you.

I mentioned that the earthquake was slight didn't I? I assumed that the apartment swaying was simply this machine hooking up and tightening its grip, and instead of marveling at the disapointing nature of my first earthquake, I was slightly perturbed that these moving machines exerted enough force to cause the apartment to sway.

Now I just wonder if that makes me really naive or not.

Meanwhile I watched my second Korean movie, entitled "Natural City" which I thouroughly enjoyed, though in a completely different way than the movie I mentioned in the previous blog.

This movie is a post-apocalyptic, cyborg, martial arts, romance film. From its odd, and seemingly inconsequential, symmetries to the inevitability of the main character awaking from his daze to save the day at the last minute, this movie does an excellent job of taking elements which are usually poorly done and weaving them together into an enthralling film.

How's that for a review?

Seriously though, the music was awesome, the fight scenes were sweet, and despite being a robot/fighting movie it actually had a good story line. To top it all of, the ending was very well done. The actual ending, i.e. story wise, was good, but what got me even more was the final artsy ending fade out scene. The girl who survives is standing on top of a ruined builing, leaning on a half crumbled statue of a goddess, in the midst of a flower bed she planted despite the fact that nothing grows in the dead cities. The flowers did grow, the final line "It is said that there used to be two goddesses here who sent the prayers of the lonely up in flower petals" (or something like that). A spaceship, the luxury liner which takes those able to afford it to the 'planet of rebirth', flies overhead drawing flower petals and dust in amidst the roar from its engine, turning the dust into glowing embers. The scene slowly turns towards the new and thriving city as the sky fills with the sparkling mixture from the roof of the ruin. Cue the fadeout and ending music.

Good stuff.


One of the Funniest Movies Ever

Today Kristina and I watched one of the funniest movies we have ever seen. It was our first Korean movie, "Saving my Hubby". I couldn't believe how hard we laughed. It's about a husband and wife who have a young baby and are very tired and stressed out, as new parents often are. The husband goes to his first day at a new job, and reluctantly ends up going out drinking with the guys from work. He ends up drugged and in a scam to take his money, but he has no credit cards, so the scammers take his cellphone and call his wife so she can come pay. Now its up to her to save her husband. Naturally, things don't go very well. Her mother and father and law are visiting the next morning at 5 a.m, and she has to make a good impression; meanwhile in trying to find her husband, let alone save him, she nearly starts a gang war.

Most people, if they watch asian movies, watch martial arts or anime. I like both of those a lot, and I have watched my share of them. But, I have to say, there is much to be said for some of the comedy. I remember the first one I watched, Shaolin Soccer.... not so good. It was good to watch and make fun of, the humor is ridiculous and over the top, but in that particular movie, it was just too much. "Saving My Hubby" had some ridiculous scenes, but not too much. It also helps that everything looks so familar, having been in Korea for nearly 7 months now.

In conclusion, if you ever get a chance to watch some comedy from Korea DO IT!


Disappointed by Crichton

I have long been a fan of Michael Crichton. His books number among my favorite fiction novel's. I have a cynical streak, and so I quite enjoy reading about futuristic technologies going terribly wrong due to lack of wisdom on the part of humans. I had been under the impression that, while still fictional, they were generally well researched. Well, they are better researched than most fictions, or I think so, but his newest book "State of Fear" was disappointing.

It's a decent fiction, I read it fast and it held my attention, but the characters were far from beleivable. The plot was interesting, took quite a twist on the usual: a supersmart intellectual turned government agent travels the world thwarting environmental terrorists (who plot strikes which would, or it seems to me, have a negative effect on the environment... but then these environmentalists only care about money, not trees) while debunking the idea of global warming to anyone who will listen.

What was really disappointing was the science and assumptions. This book does to climate science what "Da Vinci Code" does to Christian history (by the way, I really enjoyed the Da Vinci code). I mean, its ok to have opinions, and there are "global warming skeptics", some of them noted scientists, but some of the arguements brought up in "State of Fear" rely on such tactis as the straw man, misquoting and/or misunderstanding data, and simple logical fallacies (we don't know as much as we should, or we don't know very much, therefor we know nothing... ummm, no. Or how about confusing local and global conditions?).

I won't go into any real details, you can go here to read a discussion of the fallacies, and you can read his book to see what you think of it. I enjoyed the book, but compared to Crichton's usual writing it was definitely lacking. If your going to read Crichton, and haven't read every other science fiction book he has written, don't start with "State of Fear."


Sickness and Following Jesus

Since coming to Korea both Kristina and I have been sick quite frequently. Much more than at home. I think I have mentioned this before. It's fairly common for foreigners to repeatedly get cold's, flu's, and various kinds of sinus infections. So this is not surprising. I have to say though, it sucks.

Nevertheless, I can't say nothing good has come of it. Kristina has been sick more than I, and more often. One of the side effects of this is that I have to take care of her a lot. I love doing this, no hardship there. One of the other side effects is that I have to do basically all the household chores. You would think that if taking care of her is no problem, this would the same, but its not. I have discovered I very easily get frustrated and selfish; I strongly desire a certain amount of 'me' time, relaxing time, stuff like that. I don't like doing housework. I recently read an article, an interview with Eugene Peterson, in which he responds to the question "Pastor, how can I be spiritual?" with "Forget about being spiritual. How about loving your husband?" He's absolutely right. Being forced to do things like this has really made me face more of my bad side, made me pray more, and is helping me to be more loving (in a paradoxical way).

Check out the article. It's worth a read.


A Picture Held Us...

"A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably."
---- Ludwig Wittgenstein 'Philosophical Investigations'

This quote, given in a very different context from the one in which I am going to use it, definitely applies to me. I get pictures in my head. I imagine certain things happening, ideal images, snapshots of a life, and once they come into my mind I am very often driven to carry them out. The picture is repeated again and again everytime I revisit the context in which it was created.

Let me explain by example. A few weeks ago Kristina's brother visited. Among other things, he brough us English tea. Something Kristina and I both enjoy, but have discovered it is impossible to buy in Korea. Very shortly after we had this tea, I got a picture in my mind: There I was, relaxing in the lounge chair in our living room, wrapped in silence and a warm blanket. Resting on my lap was a very good book, and sitting next to me was a hot cup of tea. I would sip this tea as I read; peaceful, relaxing, tranquil, and so many of my favorite things wrapped into one. I call it: Scholar and his book. A good title really adds to the ego boosting effect of such things. It wasn't long before I had the perfect opportunity to make this snapshot a reality. And so I did. What I didn't think about was the incredibly strong effect caffeine has on me, that it was 11:00pm, and that I had to get up the next morning at 7:00. None of that ever crossed my mind. The image was to strong. Having found opportunity, I also found I had no choice but to take it. I was up very late that night... 3:30 I believe.

Recently, something similar has happened. We live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, and the view off of our balcony is not bad. At least, it fits perfectly into another picture I have of myself... Teacher, thinker, theologian, and family man Andrew stands at his balcony window, over looking the neon lights of a city that never sleeps. His wife sleeps fitfully in the next room, and Andrew ponders important things while sipping on scotch. This ones called "Sophisticated man, deep thoughts, late at night." I recently got a small 12 year old bottle of scotch, kind of as a gift (don't ask). Once again, it wasn't long before I had a chance to make this vision a reality. Tonight in fact. And these are my deep thoughts :)

But wait, it doesn't end here, there's more!!! I have been reading through Kings and Chronicles with Kristina, doing a bible study. We have just reached the end of the life of Hezekiah, and I have to wonder if he to was controlled by a picture. Recently saved from a fatal illness, as well as from the invasion of an Assyrian king, and most likely exile following suit of his norther brothers, King Hezekiah recieves an envoy from Babylon. After they depart, Isaiah comes to the king and gives him, what seems to me to be, very bad news:

"Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."
2 Kings 20:16-18

But Hezekiah does not see it the same way I do. Instead he replies: "The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good." And why? "For he thought, "Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?" (2 Kings 20:19) It seems to me he had a picture, a strong desire that maybe he envisioned and maybe he didn't. But this picture allowed him to accept the future destruction of his country and enslavement of his descendants. All for peace and security in his own days.

What do we sacrifice for the pictures we chase? What dreams do we chase which are not worth chasing? The two dreams I mentioned we small, literal picture moments. They involved a certain degree of ego and arrogance, naturally I suppose, but as far as long term consequences of those pictures themselves (ignore the, perhaps larger, psychological issues which they may reveal and which I don't want to hear about thank you very much :) there is little to say. The same cannot be said for Hezekiah. I have to wonder if I do the same thing in other ways.