Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hollywood, we have a problem!

Alas and alack, my "winter break" is now coming to a grinding halt. It has been a glorious four days of relaxing, eating cheese fries, seeing movies, wandering through Confucian and Buddhist enclaves nestled in the hills, and not having to go to work.

I was also pleased to read a little, write a lot, and ring in the New Year. Here's to 2006!

On Friday I visited Andong Folk Village. The small city of Andong is about an hour and a half by bus from Daegu, and outside the city in the hills the folk village lies in a beautiful riverside setting. There is a museum telling about Confucian-era life and I enjoyed wandering, looking at the buildings, and climbing to the top of the hill. I guess the big claim to fame is that it's been used as the set for some KBS (a big network here) television dramas.

On Saturday I mostly hung out in Junangno, the central Daegu shopping/nightlife/restaurants district. I relaxed, had coffee, saw the movie Big White, browsed my bookstore, and had some more coffee while I wrote for hours. Quite frankly, it was a wonderful way to spend the day. That bookstore/Starbucks is a grand place to hang out, and then I pop over next door to see a movie. The movie experience here is slightly problematic, but I'll get to that in a second.

I wasn't feeling inspired to do any particular thing for the New Year, but you know, you feel the pressure to ring it in one way or another, so I strolled down to commune's lonely hearts club bar and parked myself on a bar stool right around 9:45 p.m. At that point the place was far from crowded, and I was glad to stake out my spot early. I decided to sit right there until midnight, and whoever else came to sit at the bar would be the people I talked to, and whoever was far across the room would be the people I waved to, and I would have a seat of my own once it became standing room only. And that is in fact how it came to pass.

I met a few Americans, saw some other foreigners I'd met there before, and talked for a while to a very well-traveled Korean guy (he's been to among other places, Boston, the Grand Canyon, Brazil, Cuba). Some of the other people on barstools and I discussed our resolutions. When asked, I opened my mouth and "finish my novel" came out. So, I guess that's my resolution. I enjoyed the music, the beer, and the countdown to midnight. Shortly thereafter I headed home and had a fabulous taxi driver, my best yet in Korea. He was friendly and fun and we chatted even though neither of us could speak much of the other's language. He also gave in to my pleas that he make an illegal U-turn to get us out of the crush of people and cars spilling out of the bars just after midnight. Later he enthusiastically said, "U-turn very good!" I told you so, man.

On Sunday I visited Donghwasa, a significant Buddhist temple just a half hour or so north of Daegu in Palgong Provincial Park. This is the same park where you find Gatbawi, the Buddha sculpture I climbed to weeks ago (see Got Bawi? from October 29). But today I wandered around different peaks and the huge Donghwasa area. Its big highlight is a rather large Buddha statue called the Tong-il Daebul statue. It was definitely big. It stands in a stone plaza at the top of a lot of steps, with a semi-circle wall of carved Buddha, bodhisattva, and warrior images circling behind it. And, of course many people were doing their bows, spread out on the stone in front of the statue. I actually saw a few other non-Korean tourists, a trio from perhaps Pakistan? or Indonesia? it was hard to say for sure, but somewhere closer to central Asia or the Middle East than here. It's so rare to see foreigners, and when I do they are usually English teachers downtown, so I like to spot tourists from other lands.

While I stood near the Tong-il Daebul main hall, I gazed to my left at the statue and to my right at the beautiful sea of coniferous trees spilling across the ring of surrouding mountains. It struck me how nicely parallel those two vistas were: a masterpiece statue created in reverence by mortals to show respect and love for deity, and the majestic mountains that are perhaps an equally reverent masterpiece, created out of respect and love for the mortals placed there.

Some Catholic nuns sat by me on the bus on the way back into town.

And the movie I went to tonight was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That shows how desperately I wanted to see a movie. Scraping the bottom of the barrel. It's the first time I've watched an HP flick in the theater, and only the second one I've seen at all -- I capitulated last year and rented HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban because I'd seen ALL the other Oscar multiple nominees, and most of the single nominees, and I'd simply run out of options. I'd even watched Spider-Man 2 already, so I broke down and watched my first HP tale. Now, this makes two.

Well, I certainly remember why it's a bad idea to watch it in the theater: annoying children make up far too much of the audience. The movie was all right, a little boring at times, but nothing a little absent-minded hair-braiding couldn't get me through. I just don't have the Harry Potter gene. And next time I will definitely start in on the Korean movies before watching a movie with that many kids in the audience.

But the real problem with going to the movies here that I've discovered over the last few days has to do with one of my little quirks with which many of you are undoubtedly familiar. No, not the one about having to have the cap on the end of the pen for me to be able to write with it -- I refer here to my movie theater quirk. That's right: I NEED TO STAY TO WATCH THE CREDITS. And I can't here.

I have gone to four movies in the last five days (Narnia, King Kong, Big White, and Harry Potter) and in four out of four, I tried to watch the credits. First, I got dirty looks tempered only by utter curiosity from the staff cleaning up popcorn trash. But then, they actually TURN OFF THE PROJECTOR and pipe up the music and send you on your merry way. I am truly prevented from watching the credits.

This is not good.

This will in fact make me very sad over the next few months.

They have turned off the projector at various points, depending on the day. Sometimes I get to see a fair amount, but most of the time they snatch them away not much past the cast, if even that far. When I watched Elizabethtown with my Dunkin' Donuts friends in November, I stayed to watch the credits and they thought I was crazy, and that day we made it all the way to the songs and "soundtrack available on..." I wonder if it helped that there were three of us in there? There is definitely no sympathy for me as I sit in these theaters alone.

I have not yet actually tried asking them to leave the credits rolling for me. It's an interesting concept. Will I be able to find a manager who speaks English? Will they think I'm insane? Will they find me oddly charming, or just ridiculous?

It hurts me when the screen suddenly goes white and the music is yanked. On Saturday after Big White, which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way, I gathered up my bag, scarf, and jacket very slowly in protest. "Sure you can take away my credits but you can't force me to leave any more quickly! Oh wait, yes you can. OK, I'm going, take your hands off of me, I don't need an escort...!"

This could be a motivating factor for me to get the VCR working in our apartment after all.

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