Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dance of the Dragon

dod “A young boy in Korea discovers a dream. A dream he would follow. A dream that would lead to love. Only one thing stands in his way; he must fight for what he loves. Dare to dream, dare to love, dare to fight…Dance of the Dragon.”

Dance of the Dragon starring Jason Scott Lee, Fann Wong and Jang Hyuk is the story of a poor Korean country boy Tae (Hyuk) who since childhood, dreams of becoming a ballroom dancer. Life circumstances all but crush this dream from Tae until he has an opportunity to go to Singapore to a dance school.

There, he meets Emi (Fann Wong), a once champion retired dancer who runs the school. She is romantically involved with Cheng (played by Jason Scott Lee), a former fighting champion who now runs a dojo. But it is apparent that she is restless in her life and very unhappy in her relationship with Cheng.

When an attraction grows between student and teacher, Cheng confronts Tae and challenges him to fight – fight to stay in the studio, fight to stay near Emi.

I enjoyed this movie – was prepared to like it simply because of Janghhyuk dod Hyuk ~ my favorite Korean actor hands down. He’s got a charming face and a smokin’ body, but beyond that, he’s an incredible actor. I’m familiar with Fann Wong from two Singapore series; “Heroes In Black”, and “Out to Win”.

The storyline unfortunately seemed one dimensional to me - after seeing Tae and Emi dance once Cheng (Jason Scott Lee) is absurdly jealous. Had we had more scenes of Emi teaching Tae and a gradual build up to their attraction to each other I could have bought the jealousy. The Tae and Emi thing had much more potential for development too, than it was given which was regrettable. There was so much heat between Jang Hyuk and Fann Wong that I would really have enjoyed watching that evolve. Would have been nice to give them scenes "after hours" where she's teaching him to refine his gift, we could have got some of her back story from her side.

Cheng’s anger – wish we could have gotten more on that too. I was confused – he seemed at once to be a brutish creep but then a sensitive guy just trying to keep his relationship intact. We are suddenly treated to him sitting at a diner table, with a dude we’d never seen before, paying Cheng to rough up a guy who owes him money. Since when did we know Cheng was a mob leg-breaker? When did that happen?

10fdm4 You know, there was beautiful chemistry between Tae and his father - their relationship was a complex one - as many father/son relationships are. The ball was dropped there – this should have been broadened to add more depth. I came away feeling like the "dare to love" tag line was more about Tae going against his father's wishes in learning to dance (his lifelong love) than it was about the hotness between Tae and Emi. Sigh*

Jang Hyuk was the stand out as far as I was concerned. His English was - I could understand him - so often I can't (coughTheLobbyistcough) and the guy can emote without needing to say a single line; such subtlety in his face! He's a child in the face of his father's disappointment, he's full of wonder looking out of the taxi in Singapore, gripping determination in his face as he tells Cheng he'll meet his challenge, intensely focused during the dance and fight scenes. I would have liked to see him smile more, to blossom in his love for Emi. But alas, the movie was too short and underdeveloped.

Overall, a nice movie ~ not one I would have cared about if Jang Hyuk had not been in it. I really hope that he finds another vehicle someday that will propel him into some international attention. He’s gifted and has a great deal of charisma. I’ve yet to see him in anything (post Army) that has been bad. Dance of the Dragon wasn’t bad, but Jang Hyuk was the only element that made it good.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kingdom of the Winds; Overall Impressions

I really wanted to like this series. As a big fan of Song Il Guk and having been very disappointed in his last effort, “The Lobbyist” I really wanted to like “Kingdom of the Wind”. Other than Song, I was unfamiliar with the other lead actors, but I was excited about the premise. The story followed King Daemushin, third ruler of Goguryeo and grandson of Jumong, the country’s founder. I had so enjoyed “The Book of Three Han; Chapter of Jumong” and we had several characters from that story that were followed through into this one, so as I said, I was excited.

There was so much potential from the word go, reuniting from one of my all time favorites: “Emperor of the Sea” the writing/directing team of Jung Jin-Ok and Kang Il-Soo. “Kingdom of the Wind” was loosely based on a manhwa (comic book) of the same name. I say loosely because it had similar character names and it was titled the same. Pretty much where the similarity ended.

The first episode met with my expectations – the look and feel of the series was more sophisticated than any I’d seen to date and the soundtrack was powerful. I strapped myself in for the ride.

The ride ended at that first episode. Daemushin – which means “God of War” is born as “Muhyul” to King Yuri but the baby is cursed by the gods, the prophecy stating that he will kill his mother, his father, his brothers, destroy his country, drown some cats, piss in the wind, spit in a cup and kick a dog. Better to just kill him now Yuri, he’s a bad seed.

Yuri doesn’t have it in him to kill the boy, so in good Moses-like fashion Yuri puts the baby in a little reed basket, plops him on a river, and hopes he floats. Big brother Haemyeong takes over, brings him to his banished girlfriend and we don’t see Muhyul for 20 years.

Blabbity blabbity, blippity bloppity boo blech.

I watched 10 episodes. Stopped caring. Other than a few sterling moments with Haemyeong, Yuri and Muhyul,the acting was substandard and the plot didn’t impress me. I was ready to walk away. But I felt like I should stick it out – I’ve said more than once that somehow I’m not able to invest in k-drama characters for a good 10 episodes. So I took a break, reluctantly coming back a few weeks later.

Sigh. It heated up to about lukewarm for me, but I was determined to make it through. Song Il Guk’s acting has matured and was consistent overall, without hitting the high notes he had hit in “Emperor of the Sea”. Jung Jin Young was moving as King Yuri, very deserving of his Supporting Actor award at the network awards show. Aside from their performances, nothing stood out for me.

I had a difficult time not comparing the series to “Emperor of the Sea” – some of the scenes were similar, some of the characters smelled the same – without the emotional punch. I don’t like to think the writers were a one-trick pony, but well, there you go. I started to feel like the writers, directors and producers were trying to create the darkness of EotS with the character affection of Jumong and it fell completely flat.

As I was trying to talk myself in to this being a good saeguk, glugging through, forcing myself to watch episode after painfully slow episode, I turned on “War of Flower/Tazza” and couldn’t tear myself away. If I didn’t have to go to mass and walk the dog, I likely would not have moved for all 21 hours. I was gripped, making me realize that KotW just wasn’t that good.

The last two episodes were a deliberate effort to make me cry – which served only to piss me off. One of the nicest characters, with a sweet side story line, was unnecessarily killed off in the 35th episode. It did not progress the story (though we’re supposed to think it was critical) and only embittered me. As if taking the one character I had grown to like a lot and burning him alive was supposed to provide that emotional punch and make me feel like this was a series of some import. It didn’t.

The series was not without its' moments; when Goeyu and Seryu consummated their relationship, Muhyul finding out who his father was, Yuri watching Haemyeong sacrifice himself, and especially the shout out directly to me as they gave me several full seconds of naked Song Il Guk foot.

It doesn’t make up for all of it, but it sure covered a host of sins.

Review up later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

70s E - Compare Donnys

I was never a fan of Donny Osmond; I left that to my cousin Jane. Not really sure who or what I really liked at 12 years old...except I was sadly crushing on Rock Hudson. We all know how that turned out.

But, a week or so ago, again with the facebook, some friends and I were chatting about who and what we liked in the 1970s. Thought it might be fun to compare Donnys. 1972 Donny to 1998 Donny. His 1998 voice -- better. Doesn't hurt that Mulan is one of my favorite Disney cartoons ever. But the 1972 Elvis Whites Osmond Tribal Gear? That hurts.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Alt E; Pork and Beans by Weezer

What a fun video and a triumph of youtube geekage! I'm pretty skewed too...must be why I like it. "I'm fine and dandy with the me inside."

"All your pork and beans are belong to us!"

Lyrics | Weezer lyrics - Pork And Beans lyrics

Friday, January 23, 2009

I Have to Stop

flex cuffs I must stop watching so much Forensic Files.  I am in all my macabre fascination, devoted to the CSI-type of show.  I watched an episode this morning where some guy got hold of the plastic "flex cuffs" cops to handcuff perps.  The perp in this particular episode attacked a female jogger from behind, used the flex cuffs to bind her, raped her, killed her and then tossed her.  Forensic experts eventually nabbed the guy by the metal "stop" used.

I came in this morning to some maintenance staff working on the air conditioning unit above the drop ceiling in my space.  On their little cart.... flex cuffs.

Can you imagine the creepy little melodrama that played in my mind?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


3:55 am. I woke up an hour early today, thinking that I would have to leave my house proportionately early for work due to the inauguration events. Even so, I figured I’d be hopelessly tied up in traffic. The news and water cooler gossip has been all about how awful the traffic will be, leave at 3am, oh, you have to work on Tuesday? We were all certain that Inauguration revelers would be marching in to DC on route 7 arm in arm making a mess of the commute.

I packed a lunch.

Took me 30 minutes. And that’s hitting traffic lights. I was in the office by 6:36 am and wanted to kill myself. Two hours early. I’m not a salaried employee either, so I don’t get paid to be here.

I was disappointed.

The good news is that I didn’t have to wait in line at the fancy schmancy coffee machine in our fancy schmancy “encounter” room for my daily shot of Starbucks half-caff. There was a little fella in there about to restock the beans, the likes of whom I considered shoving out of the way, but he smiled and let me have my coffee.

I also have to admit to being disappointed in “Kingdom of the Winds”. To the point that I haven’t watched the final two episodes. I need to, because it wouldn’t be right to post thoughts or a review without having seen the entire series.

I WAS disappointed in “Terroir” for ten episodes, having needed something light and romantic after that roller coaster that was “Tazza”. I wasn’t warming up to the leads; TaeMin’s stone cold face, Woo Joo; really over the top with the spunky poor maiden crap. But I’m no longer disappointed; it’s heating up, I’m becoming entranced and am eager for each new episode. I will be judging all k-drama by the Tazza-factor now though, and want to be taken in at episode 1.

More than likely will be disappointed there too.

Even then it’s not so bad – so maybe I didn’t get stuck in traffic this morning – I bet I will tonight! And so what if Kingdom of the Winds wasn’t the best drama yet…finish it up, move on! Next up series for Il-Guk is “Hero” or “Man Called God”. Something to look forward to.

If these are my disappointments, it’s not so bad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Love You Messages

I called my Mom this morning to tell her that I had had a curious visit by my Dad this week. This visit was made most curious by the fact that he’s dead and has been for 14 years. It wasn’t any sort of spooky apparition type thing; I may be an avid and devout Catholic, but I don’t see the Blessed Mother in the toasted cheese. Trust me, if I did see her I’d say, “Hey, Meg…look at that…CHOMP!” and enjoy a warm and crispy bite of her mantled head.

It’s how I roll.

Over the last 14 years, Dad has come in apparition form, or so I’ve been told. Recently, my daughter told me her “apparition story”. It was 1995 – Dad had passed in January. The month was August of the same year, and it was my sister’s wedding day. We all went back up to my Mom’s house for an after-reception reception. My daughter walked in to the kitchen and saw Dad leaning up against the table and he said, “Hi Meg!” She said “Hi!” and moved on. It hadn’t registered with her four year old brain that he wasn’t supposed to be there, being as he was dead and all. She had yet to really grasp the concept. See, I have never gotten those happy visits.

That’s apparently NOT how I roll.

I’ve talked before about how Dad manifests to me and he did it again this week. Reading the blogs, you see that I had gotten pretty nostalgic last week – (yeah, well, not the Korean stuff) the post about playing in the snow in particular. Facebook and my friends there were a wealth of opportunity to think about the 1970s and my then carefree life.

Driving in to work on Wednesday, I heard the song “The Last Farewell” by Roger Whittaker – one of Mom and Dad’s favorites.

the Last Farewell - Roger Whitaker

I hadn’t heard that song since June 9, 2007 – the day of my son’s wedding. At the time, I figured it was Dad saying he was around and that he loved us. I was moved Wednesday at hearing the song; and not a little concerned – my dramatic brain started working - what’s up Dad? Why you hanging out now? Who’s gonna die? What you prepping me for? But no call of dread came through all day and when I got back in the car after work, I had a long one-sided chat with Dad. It was nice, but not very fulfilling. You know how one-sided chats are.

That was nice, I figured. A lovely cap to a lovely week.

6:30 am this morning, the phone rings. Mind you, this is about the same time of day we got the phone call that Dad had passed. Well, here it was then, my black suit needed to be dry cleaned. Crap. It isn’t hard for you to imagine the four letter word that came unbidden to my lips. Braced for the worst I picked up the phone ~ and listened ~ school was delayed an hour due to inclement weather.

Oh for crying out loud (ha – yeah, like that’s what I thought – there were more four letter words).

Driving in to work it happened again. The other song that makes me think of Dad and cry whenever it comes on - “Like a Rock” by Bob Seger.

I called Mom. I told her I loved her.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Commute

trafficjam I want to apologize to all the commuters on the Greenway this morning. It seems that no matter what lane I moved to, the traffic slowed to a crawl. After several frustrated lane adjustments, I realized that I was the problem and stayed in one lane. The other three lanes moved well and I decided that that was my contribution to the commute for the day.

So really, 3/4 of you should be thanking me.

You may begin at any time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Waxing Nostalgic

Saturday was the 14th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. I didn’t write about it because the day was what every day has been since January 10, 1995 ~ without him. Since then I’ve been waxing a bit nostalgic, made easier by some darlings of the written blurt on Facebook.

th_houseinsnow2 It started easily enough by someone posting a picture of her home in upstate New York with the four foot high snow drifts plowed to perfection in front.

It recalled to mind my energetic youth. We lived on a higher elevation and the weather on the hill was always more dramatic than it was in town. As a matter of fact, the school used to call my Dad to ask if he thought the bus would make it up the hill. Dad would then ask us if we felt like going to school that day ~ to which we replied NO ~ and he would tell the Superintendent that the bus would never make it. Schools would close.

This wasn’t completely irresponsible on Dad’s part. He and neighboring farmers spent their share of hours towing a number of stricken buses out of a field or a ditch in the dead of winter. It was seriously a different world weather-wise.

Oh, but the fun we would have in the snow! We wouldtunnell dig tunnels at the end of which little huts would be carved that would include with windows peeking into each other’s minute abodes. I imagined sleeping in them, with a candle in each “window”. By the I got to that stage of the fantasy, the “huts” would cave in because one of the hated brat siblings would walk over the roof, unaware that the snow below was hollow.

If the weather was fine enough, we’d shout the quarter mile to our cousins up the road (we had developed a distinctive “call”), grab our sleds and meet in the field between the houses. It was a terrific hill, with ~ oh, the peril ~ barbed wire and a road at the bottom. The most skilled sledders forged a path that avoided both, but sometimes the smaller kids would fly through and we’d have to run down and carry them, snotty faces and all, back to the house.

Little kids were perpetually stupid.

The shale pit was the most fun, its sheer vertical drop in the middle and natural sled jumps that would injure my sister’s tail bone every single year. I think she was eleven when she stopped going and I think her tail bone still hurts.

Snowmobiling was a treat when Mary’s family ~ a farm over ~ invited us up. Of course when the pond froze solid (Dad would get out into the middle of it and jump up and down) we’d ice skate.

Hours and hours and hours spent in the frozen cold. But thatweb_Frozen_mittens_on_snow wasn’t even the best part. The best part was going inside with frozen noses, ice having formed on the cotton knit gloves that smelled like cold and snow and caked with junk from your face. We’d go inside, put on dry clothes and curl up with Dad who was laying on the floor watching football. He had the best spot – by the heat duct – so that warm air would blow up into the blanket warming numb purpled toes. We’d fall asleep and wake up to tomato soup or Spaghetti-Os and hot chocolate.

The we’d be ready to go outside again at the best time of the day – winter twilight.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Alt E: Let it Rain by Living Things

I know I posted a song already this week, but I've been waiting for this song to come out on imeem for over a month. Heard this song on Alt Nation. The video has an emo flavor I guess. I still like the song.

Let It Rain - Living Things

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old Lady Land

I smiled today.  A dear friend on Facebook recently shared her anxiety having joined the ranks of those who have let a child loose behind the wheel while clutching their license in their hands. My friend was feeling the incongruence between the joyful release from driving this child to and fro and the belly twisting fear that at any second, there would be a knock at the door behind which would stand a New York State Trooper and a cleric.

Having successfully delivered two sons into the asphalt jungle, I felt her pain. It really becomes an exercise in faith and trust, doesn’t it? If you believe in God or a higher power, you give yourself and your children into His hands. If you don’t claim such a belief, I imagine you let your children loose trusting them and keeping faith in all that you taught to keep them safe.

It’s also another meander down the road of your life. When you realize that you are old or at least oldering. The babies that came squalling out of your womb, that you nursed, changed, fed, bathed, nurtured, taught, cried for and wept with are now driving. They are big now. They can beat you up maybe; certainly they can run faster than you can, so it’s not like you can smack ‘em anymore. They duck and laugh. It’s humiliating really.

But now they are now seated behind a glass partition with bullets aimed directly at their little heads. We’ve put them in front of those bullets on purpose and they, in their turn, are thrilled at the prospect. Demand it really, the little sticks. It wasn’t that long ago that you too seized the feeling of freedom and you remember thrill that you got knowing you were untouchable.

Ahhh, but dame experience has taught that you really were pretty stupid at that age, that you most certainly aren’t untouchable, and that anything can happen.

That’s not what makes you feel old. Nooo. See, you still think you’ve got it going on, you have some influence, you’re hip and pretty freaking fabulous!  But then your daughter takes the keys one day and you hear your mother come out of your mouth (you can’t stop this, don’t even try).  Her eyes glaze over and she’s decided that you are just too old to live but she won't say it because what's the’re too old to hear her anyway.  You aren’t feeble yet, you see all this run through her face in a split second...and that’s when it happens.  You know that you're old. You feel it. It is at that second that all the calcium leaves your bones and your hip breaks.

Not long after that you get progressive lenses, take Geritol and secretly start to pay attention to ads for Depends. 

We all eventually embrace our inner old lady. She’s glorious. So are we.  We remember, that one day, the little buttholes will get old too.  And we smile.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The War of Flower / Tazza; High Rollers: Review

cast00tk6 The War of Flower (Hwatoo) is the story of two best friends and the depths each one descends through the art of being a tazza (sort of a finely honed card shark, who cheats for the beauty of the cheat. Other’s are just cheaters).

Playing the game “Go/Stop” (or Hwatoo) Goni, is passionate, could easily become addicted to the game – he’s the “Go” guy. The other friend, Young Min, is more calculating and has a better instinct for the cards. He knows when it’s time to quit. He’s the “Stop” guy.

Ponder Angst – 20. There was not a single moment in the series that I sat there and thought, “Oh for Pete’s sake, get on with it already!” This series was so fast paced and smart – we had moments of the ponder, but it was pointed, we got to see how a cheat was done, we got the Aha! moments and I enjoyed it. I may have to go back and check the ponder meter; I don’t know if any other series got all 20 points.

Love “ – “ Angles – It’s another 20. Goni loves NanSook. NanSook loves Goni. Young Min loves NanSook. Madam Jung loves Young Min. It was pretty clean as the angles go.

Sizzle – 25. The only place that Tazza would have lost sizzle points was in the relationship between Goni and NanSook. Romantically, these two never got out of high school (except at the end, you figure they’re hooking up). The kisses were modest and chaste, but I wanted a little more desperation. The sizzle we get comes from the separate character performances, the cheats and stings, the writing and the atmosphere of series. And woooof - Jang Hyuk and Kim Min Joon. Both hot with a smoldering sexiness that oozed off the screen.

Physical Intimacy – 5 – we had those chaste kisses I spoke of, and a little bit of couch time with Young Min and Madam Jung. I'm not looking for full frontal or anything – but the connect could have added another layer of punch to an already great series.

Tragic Heart wrenching Disease and/or Character Death from Same – 20 – We got a few murders and one Grandma death from natural causes that catapults our protagonists down this path of greed and twisted desires. It is to be expected in the life of the high roller. We did get sacrificial main character death which upped the pointage here. The heart wrenching part was watching Goni’s face as he deals with all of the pain. Jang Hyuk is exquisite.

Going to the Beach – 0 – there was no beach trip in Tazza. It’s ok. I loved the series without it.

I’ve already mentioned the really superb performances here with Kim Min Joon and Jang Hyuk; JH with his beautifully expressive face, KMJ with his wonderful Shakespearean neuroses. But the supporting cast was all top notch too. Madam Jung, Aghui, Aghui’s toady, Goni’s prison friends, his mentor Pyung Kyung Jang, the little guy I called Moe Howard since he looked like Moe from the three stooges. As with other k-dramas I’ve watched, the really good ones invest me in the characters – all of them, good and bad. Tazza, in only 21 episodes, did this for me beautifully.

I liked the ending and thought it was appropriate. Early on, Goni’s uncle (a tazza as well) could read him and he knew instinctively that Goni was a guy that wouldn't be able to stop, indeed, Aghui could read that too which is why he chooses Young Min to be his apprentice. That, and the fact that Young Min shows he can be ruthless if he has to. Goni shrunk at conning a palsied man. Young Min has no problem.

Eventually Goni breaks that ugly cycle of “revenge breeds revenge, cheats breed cheats”. Taunted throughout the series that he’ll never be able to give up the exciting and lucrative lifestyle, Goni understands better than anyone the excitement and the tingling that gambling offers. But in the end he says to a woman who is concerned with her son’s card playing; "If he can stop when he should stop, then nothing bad will ever happen to him." He has found peace and contentment.

Annoying tics? Throughout the whole series, Goni’s woman NanSook was not a favorite of some viewers. She didn't bother me. I was pretty apathetic really. That was until the last 10 minutes of the finale when she kept nagging at Goni not to shoot Aghui. Nag nag nag "don't do it Goni!" nag nag nag "Goni!" nag nag "Goni" NaGoniNaGoniNaGoni. I just wanted him to shoot her and shut her up and then shoot Aghui. That last ten minutes totally ruined the character for me and now I hate her. If I watch this again, I'm going to hate her through the whole thing and pretend he hooks up with someone at the fish market in the end.

So Tazza scores 90 out of 100 on the E-scale. This series should have gotten more kudos than it did. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seventies E

You old enough to remember this?

Heartbeat (Its A Lovebeat) - The DeFranco Family

Yeah. Then you'll remember Tiger Beat too. The lyrics sound like something I'd go to the doctor for:
Pictures pass before my eyes
Like a vision in disguise
Tryin' to explain the way I feel
And there's a movement in my mind
Like a rhythm counting time
Breakin' down all my defenses
Overcomin' all of my senses
But boy, sure takes me back. And still makes me tap my toes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Song Il Guk Hospitalized

It was reported that Song Il Gook fell off his horse yesterday morning (6th Jan) at around 10am (Korean time) while filming for drama “The Kingdom of the Winds“. He was unconscious after the fall and only regained conscious after being sent to a nearby hospital.

Through a thorough check-up using MRI, Song Il Gook was found to suffer only external injuries and no broken bones that is common for any injuries sustained after falling from a horse.

A crew member from the production team said: “Song Il Gook will rest for a day in the hospital and return to the team on the 7th. Song Il Gook can be considered the best horse rider among all the Korean actors, we didn’t think that this kind of accident would happen. We will take extra precautionary measures next time to prevent a similar accident from happening.”

Luckily it isn’t serious. Having already filmed countless number of period dramas, I do agree that he may be one of the best horse rider among the Korean actors.

Source: mydaily, picture credit

Friday, January 9, 2009

War of Flowers/Tazza: Overall Impressions

tazza hands

“Hwatoo is like life…you can’t take back your move during a game even if it was a mistake. It teaches how painful a moment's mistake can be.” – Kim Goni

Hwa – Fighting Too – Flowers - “The War of Flower”

A tazza (according to character Pyung Jung Kyang) is someone who appreciates the art of manipulation through the game. A tazza appreciates it as elegance: "That's why there are so many cheaters and so few tazzas."

Hwatoo is a Korean card game (the cards are called go-dori). There’s flowers and numbers and months and all sorts of analogies to life through hwatoo. Not a good life though. Nope. Not one little bit.

gostop_08I came in a Hwatoo virgin – not even knowing there had been a smash hit movie in 2006 or a series of manhwa (comics) from which the series had been based. I came in fresh and was entranced by the first episode. The cast was first rate, the chemistry was good, the energy level of each episode was high. The hour went by so quickly, I was surprised when it was over and couldn’t wait to watch the next.

prison goni Our main character is Kim Goni, played to perfection by Jang Hyuk. I simply cannot say enough about this man’s acting or his naked upper body. Both are absolutely thrilling; I could sit all day watching him do chin ups with the same enthusiasm as I could sit all day and watch him play in character. Any character. I just want to watch him emote. With no shirt on.

Sorry. No, not sorry. But if this is going to get written, I need to focus.

Goni and NanSook are in love, always have been. If you are ever confused over who truly loves who in a Korean drama, you have only to follow the pretty red thread back to the old necklace exchange when they are 11 years old (#55 on the list). It’s easy when you know how to read the signs.

cast Goni and Young Min (played by the very attractive and charismatic Kim Min Joon – third picture from the left) are best friends in high school. We know this after seeing them pull a con in a billiards hall together, run away, and gleefully jump off a bridge into the back of a garbage truck. Goni is fiercely loyal and would do anything for those he loves. Young Min seems a little proud, won’t take his share of the get from billiards, he’s a little stand offish.

Circumstances arrange themselves so that our friends become mortal enemies up against a slick backdrop of casinos, gambling dens, desperate addictions, and twisted passions. The series played on the success of one of the best buddy movies ever made - “The Sting” starring Robert Redford and the late Paul Newman. The plotting toward the end had a distinct “Ocean’s Eleven” flavor, though not as polished.

The series missed an opportunity there, I thought. There was tragedy, there had to be, but the end con could have been handled differently. The direction of the film was different, with a different message at the end, not one that glorifies gambling, not one that shoves the evil of addiction down your throat, but more about greed and it’s destruction.

The love affair between Goni and NanSook was lacking as well. We are meant to believe that it is genuine and powerful. For the most part, while it was sweet and endearing it lacked punch as our characters matured. Their first kiss, shared when in their twenties, was chaste and almost embarrassed. OK, I might buy that ~ this is Korean Drama afterall. But later on, our lovers should have poured a little bit of the desperation of their circumstances into subsequent meetings ~ I'm thinking specifically of when they meet after Goni escapes from the pen. If a hot Jang Hyuk, fresh out of prison risks discovery and an arm by forcing his way into my elevator, you can bet I'm going to be all over him like egg in a bowl of bibimbap. A naked egg in a hot HOT bowl of bibimbap.

But then THAT wouldn't be k-drama, would it?

Young Min throughout would appear to be driven by greed and power. I kept comparing Young Min to Yeom Moon in Emperor of the Sea. Another orphaned youth taken under an evil wing (amusingly enough, also played by Kim Kap Soo, Yeom's Moon's Master Yi in that series), Yeom Moon is fiercely loyal to his adoptive "father", desperately in love with the protagonist's woman Jung Hwa and smoking ruthless as played by the charismatic Song Il Guk. It was either the power of Song's performance or the gift of the writers that brought that dynamic to a weeping climax as the audience wanted Yeom Moon's redemption more than it wanted to see the hero Bogo win the day. And as much as I liked Young Min, I didn't get that same spine tingly feeling in the character.

I really enjoyed this series. There were some fine cons played with excellent twists. I bled with Jang Hyuk as he wrestled with his guilt and loss. I ached for Young Min each time he betrayed his friends, and kept hoping for his redemption. I delighted in all the side characters ~ and I enjoyed the bitch-play between Madam Jang (Kang Sung Yun) and Lee Nan Sook (Han Ye Seul).

Madam Jang by the way? Absolutely fabulous.

I’m irritated that this series didn’t get the recognition that it deserved. The acting was first rate and the storyline energetic. I haven’t been this enthusiastic in a while about a drama in some time and I think it deserved more kudos than it got.

Review will be up later.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


My new year was quiet, thanks for asking. Quiet commute, quiet at work, babysat my dog in case some revelers thought fire crackers were in order. My whole life in upstate New York, no one randomly shot fire crackers to usher in the new year. Shot guns, rifles sure, but not fire crackers.

Anyway, no one shot off fire crackers or lethal weaponry this year, so my new year was kindler and gentler than last year.

Some OCD items of note:

  • Miles Driven: 20,723 – 23% fewer than 2007
  • Annual MPG: 36.9558 – 1.39% improvement from 2007
  • $ Spent on Gasoline: $3,722.24 – whew – an 80% increase from 2007
  • Average Price Per Gallon: $3.27 – 18% increase from 2007
  • “…in Death” books read: 16 – 100% increase from 2007
  • Asian Dramas watched: 7 – a 36% decrease from 12 in 2007, damn AZN going off the air
  • # of times I read “Pride & Prejudice” – 1
  • Road Trips – 7
  • # of visits to the ER: 4
  • # of sisters who became engaged: 1
  • # of jobs from which I was laid off: 1
  • # of promotions at current employment: 1

I could bore you with all sorts of data. I can’t do math, but I love personal statistics. Like how many blogs I posted, how many of my friends had brain surgery, how many people were in the theatre watching the X-Files movie, how many days my cycle averaged and on which day of the week did it most frequently present, how many friends I have on Facebook or how many times the movie “The Green Mile” made me cry and my daughter laughed at me.

Boring for you, a data rich and thrilling snapshot of the year for me. All that is left now is to emotionally download the intelligence and come to personal conclusions about the year. What it all meant. How it shaped me and how I use that information going forward.

My first day into the office on January 2 – I hit one red light on the way in. Big deal you cruelly mock? 36 traffic lights between me and the office. 36. (You now that I’m OCD enough to count them. There were 71 traffic lights on my commute into Alexandria, as I boldly announce yet another silver lining in that cloud.) Anyway, 36 lights and I hit all of them green but one. Maybe it means that paths that were slowing me down in 2008 will open up for me in 2009. Maybe it means life will be easier, and my road will be less obstructed.

Eh. Maybe I just hit the traffic just right and I got lucky. Getting lucky. That would be nice too.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Book Order Rant

I placed an order with My daughter wanted to order a particular book as a joke for one of her very good friends. I will not embarrass either of them by telling you what the book was. Wish I could, because it’s pretty funny.

Amazon’s online order system was wigging out and though I changed the order to ship to my home it apparently didn’t take. You can imagine my confusion three minutes later when I saw an email from Amazon thanking me for my order to the Naval Base telling me how quick my order would get there with 2 day shipping.

Well, crap. I didn’t ask for 2 day shipping and I didn’t ask for the order to go to the Naval Base where my son no longer was and certainly NOT where Meg’s friend lives. Immediately upon seeing this, I went back to amazon, clicked on the order number and the option “I need to change this order” button.

After going through the steps to change the order – mind you, this was within 10 minutes of placing it – amazon’s website stated, “Due to an internal error, we are unable to process your changes. Please try again later.” Bullsh*t. I located the customer service number.

Rea in India answered the phone. I was required to give her my order #, and then verify my billing address. I explained the problem.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but we are unable to process the change at this time.”

“I just placed the order, how can you not be able to change it?”

“Because your order was placed as 2 day delivery, we cannot make a change. It is already prepared to ship. What has to happen is that the order will be delivered to the other address, they will not accept it and the order will be returned to us at Amazon. We will refund you your money once the order is returned. You may go ahead and place the order again so it ships today.”

As if their credibility wasn’t an issue.

“Rea, you can’t tell me that the order is on the truck. I just placed it. I just need the address changed.”

“We are sorry, but because of the volume of orders, we are not able to make a change like that.”

I was not pleasant. “Your website made the error in the first place. Then it gave me the option to make a change, but that didn’t work either. This is extraordinarily poor customer service. May I speak to your supervisor?”

“What? What? I can’t hear you.”

“You are telling me I have to place this order again and wait,…”

“What? What? I think we got cut off. I can’t hear you.”


“Yes, ma’am?”

“Let me talk to your supervisor.”

“I can’t hear you ma’am. Hello? Hello?”


I hung up and called again. I got someone else in India who gave me the same answer but without the fake “Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you.” line at the end. I was on hold for the supervisor, but decided that I didn’t have a lot of options, India was unwilling to help me and amazon had lousy customer service. I let it go.

Not the only pig in the pen guys. Barnes and Noble is just as good, and their shipping is less expensive. Later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kingdom of the Winds; Closing In

During my Christmas Road Trip I had an opportunity to catch up on Kingdom of the Winds, Song Il Guk’s latest saeguk. 

As Kingdom of the Winds closes in on it’s ending and as much as I groan thinking about the duration of some of the more lengthy serials, I’ve come to realize that those are the shows in which I really commit to the characters.  I’m on episode 32 now of 36 and have warmed up, but it’s very possible that I may not have the same feeling of affection that I had after “Jumong”’s 81 episodes or Dae Jang Geum”’s 50-something eps. 

Ep. 28

There is a lot going on.  Yeojin dies.  Yeonhwa, Yuri and the whole palace grieves.  Baegeuk gets restless and wants the Goguryeo crown for himself.  Muhyul sends in a double agent to find out what Fat Daeso and Buyeo are cooking up. 

Beeyotch Queen spies Yeon and Muhyul in a tender moment, consipires to get a moment of Yeon’s time alone and slaps her.  Ow. That’s gonna leave a mark.

Muhyul and Dojin face off at the end. 

Ep. 29

This ep starts with Muhyul kicking a little ass until Dojin runs away with his tail between his legs.  The episode starts with energy and just keeps delivering.

Yeon is imprisoned by Beeyotch Queen YiJi and we learn that Yeon is indeed pregnant with Muhyul’s baby.  YiJi finds this out too and sends Yeon back to Buyeo.  Dojin finds out that Yeon’s pregnant.  You can imagine how well that goes over. 

Muhyul devises a scheme to cleave in two the tenuous relationship between the Judas Baegeuk and Fat King Daeso.  Daeso, you see, is obsessed with possessing Jumong’s sword.  Muhyul manages to put Jumong’s sword in Baegeuk’s hands with the prophecy that whoever possesses the sword will rule the north.  Baegeuk goes a little nuts.  His tribal elder colleagues see this and work a side deal with Muhyul.

With the alliance between Baegeuk and Daeso broken and with the further degradation of Team Baegeuk, Muhyul and his bunch prepare for war.

Ep. 30

Baegeuk continues his spiral into madness by slicing anyone who doesn’t agree he’s the King of Goguryeo.  He extends this madness right into Yuri’s belly when challenged. 

Dojin, more than just a pretty face, realizes that Muhyul orchestrated the whole “let’s drive Baegeuk crazy” thing.  King Daeso promises Dojin the crown if he’s able to get his hands on Jumong’s sword. 

King Yuri returns in pretty rough shape. 

Ep. 31

King Yuri is dying and we get some very touching moments between Yuri and Muhyul.  Yuri talks again about his seeming abandonment when he was left behind in Buyeo by Jumong.  He regrets his poor handling of the situation when Muhyul was born.  Yuri is closing the loops and is achieving final peace.  Happy to finally rush toward his sons Dojeol, Haemyeong and Yeojin who beat him to the finish line. 

In the meantime, Yeon promises Dojin to forget Muhyul and Dojin promises to take care of Yeon and her baby.

Muhyul ascends the throne and appoints his closest companions as ministers. Maro later finds out that Yeon is pregnant with Muhyul’s baby (seems like everyone knows but Muhyul) but decides not to tell his friend. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

Being a Catholic

eucharist As I was driving in to work, I heard this on EWTN’s “Life is Worth Living” series hosted by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  He refers to the greatest expression of love between two people as “the two in one flesh”, and how we as Catholics believe that we have the opportunity of this greatest love in our reception of the Eucharist.

Let me tell you this; being a Catholic will never prevent you from sinning.  But I can tell you one thing; it will take all the fun out of it.  And the reason it will take all the fun out of it is because you once have loved.  You know what love is like no one else.

In scriptures, sin is always referred to as adultery; because it is a false love.  Oh, yes.  I know, you will find people who will cut corners and who will play loose, and cheat, commit adultery, avoid paying their taxes, ruin their neighbors’ reputations and the like.  And they do not seem to have any bump in their conscience.  But they have no peace.  No peace. 

So if we are really to love, we have to have a cross.  This is the cross of Christ.  We cannot escape it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas Road Trip – Part II

Day 2 and 3 of my trip to New York turned out to be visiting days.

xfclock I drove to see Little Lacie of the Enormous Brain Friday morning. We were able to spend a few hours laughing and enjoying each other’s company. You would never know she had her head opened up a spare 3 weeks ago.

She swears she has an amazing XFiles clock her husband John bought at a garage sale, but she could not produce it, so I am skeptical. I worried that her zipper head might bust open and urged her to stop looking for it. We are considering sharing custody of the clock and doing a whole “Sisterhood of the Traveling Scully and Mulder Clock”. It might have many adventures. You never know…could be a whole thing…

After that, I spent a few hours with my kids at a local mall. This was a mistake since 1) it was the day after Christmas and the mall was packed and 2) I hate shopping. I have deduced that the shopping gene skipped a generation and went directly into my daughter’s DNA because I hate it.

I then drove up to visit an old high school friend and was regaled with a host of marvelous tales. I am going to call my friend “Namid”, this is not her real name, but it’s very apropos – it means “Star Dancer” in Hopi. Nami (I’ve already shortened it) and her husband “Takoda”
(“Friend to Everyone” in Sioux) have met with dozens of celebrities – not just spotted, but the hand shaking, have a drink with me, “Hey Koda!! Come get a picture with us!” kind of meet that has a fabulous story every single time. Hopefully I will get to share some of them in the future.

Day 3 was icy. We stayed in and played Rock Band – I kicked some vocalist ass if I may say so and had a wonderful time. Went to mass, visited with the priest for a bit – very dear to us – he was really good to my kids while they were growing up. Went home, bed early, which was good because I was plenty tired.

Our final day started peacefully; the kids sat out in the kitchen talking and laughing while I caught up on my Korean Drama. My sister and her family came by and I enjoyed every minute. We visited for a few hours and then it was time to go.

The ride back was uneventful, save for some traffic in Pennsylvania. The trip was made pleasant by Kasey Kasem’s American Top 100 for the Year 1984 . We got home at 7:30 pm and I was in bed by 9pm.

It’s never enough time, but it’s always good getting home.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Congratulations Kingdom of the Winds!

Congratulations to Kingdom of the Winds, winning nearly all the awards for which it was nominated last night at the 2008 KBS Drama Awards:

Top Actor: Song Il Guk (Muhyul/King Damusin)

Excellence in a Mini-Drama Actor: Jung Jin-Young (King Yuri)

Well deserved. Though I would have been equally as happy if King Sejong took a few more home.

Excellence in a Mini-Drama Actress: Choi Jung Won (Cardboard Face Yeon) shared with Lee Ha Na
(from Woman of the Sun)

I'm personally delighted that The Great King Sejong took home Excellence in a Weekly Drama Actor (Lee Won-Jong, Sejong's trusted guard) and Actress (Lee Yoon-Ji, Sejong's wife). Song Il Guk and Chi Jung Won (little Munwha Face) shared best couple as well.

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