You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.

My pendulum of hope for Korea is back on the upswing – God, that was a terrible phrase. I need to stop blogging at 2.00 am.

Anyway, applying to a bunch of different recruiters has paid off, because I now have two companies talking to me, which is more than can be said for my original recruiter. One is Touch 4 Teaching, which yields precisely 4 Google results, and has been ringing me every single day with information they could easily email – which would also remove the problem of trying to decipher the Korean accent over an atrocious international phone connection. The other is EA & Partners, run by a Korean guy called Mike Jang, who’s been very friendly and helpful – but then, so were the folks at ASK Now, before they hung me out to dry. I’ve also received an email from a teacher at a school in a place called Dongtan, a “new city” (read: sandy construction-site wasteland, like a miniature Dubai minus the glitz). That out-of-the-blue approach puzzled me at first before I remembered that one of the recruiters I went through simply posted my image and resume on their website, for any Korean school to come along and take a squiz at.

My ideal job would be in central Seoul (because I like big cities) teaching younger children like kindergartners and primary school kids (because they’re less likely to catch on that I have no idea what I’m doing). I’d also prefer to teach in a hagwon (private school) over a public school, because public schools generally have much larger classes and provide you with a Korean co-teacher, and as I just said, I’d like my teaching audience to be as small and oblivious as possible to my complete ineptitude and, most likely, paralysing fear. Besides which, Touch 4 Teaching sent me an example of a standard public school contract which was very… restrictive. Government services and complicated bureaucracy go hand in hand, after all.

All of the schools I’ve been offered so far have been in the satellite cities that dot the circumference of Seoul like, well, satellites. I’m keen to hold out for something more central. But at the same time, I don’t want to price myself right out of a job. It is a delicate balancing act, one which my years of being handed whatever job I wanted during Western Australia’s economic boom have left me hilariously unqualified for. But not as unqualified as I am for teaching, SNAP!

Ideally Mike Jang, who is still processing my details, will come through for me like a glittering paladin on a white horse and secure me my dream contract so that I can then be placed under quarantine or lost in the sea of civilian casualties in a vast war. Failing that, I’ll just keep working in the deli at Coles, which I think is the most horrific of the three options.

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I haven’t heard from my recruiter in about two weeks, since I told them I had all my documents in hand (you know, the ones I invested a significant amount of time and money into obtaining). No doubt I have actually been suckered into an elaborate ponzi scheme, and the company staff are now in the Bahamas riding jetskis paid for with all that money I gave them.

It’s raining.

I’m sad. I’m really sad that there’s only one more season left of the best TV show ever.

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– Loved the opening scene. Apparently the statue was still standing when the Black Rock showed up, though presumably the cargo of dynamite will have something to say about that. But this scene also had a problem that has become frequent on Lost, which is the soundtrack giving us a sharp orchestral jump to say THIS IS A HUGE REVELATION whenever something happens that we’d already guessed. (The biggest offender so far was Richard emerging from the tent in the 1950s – we realised he was immortal two years ago, guys.) In this case it was “Always nice talking to you… Jacob.” In my mind, Jacob replied, “And you too… Hurley!”

– Jacob showing up at various points in the Lostie’s past was kinda neat, although the parts I liked best had nothing to do with Jacob at all, but rather were scenes we already knew about, but had never seen: Sawyer writing his letter, and Jack counting to five. Although what was up with Juliet’s completely superfluous, non-Jacob flashback where her parents are splitting up, shoved in just to be juxtaposed with her dilemmas on the island? That was some Season 1 shit right there.

– It was nice to see Bernard and Rose still alive, living with Vincent, and their weary eye-rolling about the young folks’ antics was amusing. I still think killing off the rest of the Oceanic 815 survivors was gay.

– I was astonished, but pleased, that somebody finally found the DS ring Charlie left in Aaron’s crib, two fucking seasons after he put it there. Desmond never did give Claire the “Greatest Hits” note. Way to go, Desmond.

– “Sayid, are you sure you know what you’re doing?” / “Of course, Jack, my years in the Republican Guard trained me well in the art of DISMANTLING 50’S-ERA NUCLEAR WARHEADS.”

– Continued to love the teamwork between Jack and Sayid. Sayid getting shot in the gut was really shocking, and I thought for a minute that throughout the episode we were going to see every character die only to eventually have the timeline be changed, brining them back to life. That would have made for a pretty morbid episode. Speaking of death, Jack finally killed someone – a pair of innocent DHARMA stooges!

– When Sawyer asked Jack why he was so determined to change the past, I thought he was going to reply, “To save the three hundred people on that plane.” That’s what Jack is all about – saving people! Instead he said, “Because I had her,” and went ON AND ON about Kate. When Sawyer asked Juliet why she’d suddenly changed her mind, I thought she was going to say “Because Sayid just died;” instead, she said “Because if I never meet you, I’ll never have to lose you.” Why is every character such a self-centred cunt? Literally hundreds of lives are hanging in the balance and they’re harping on about their stupid melodramatic high-school relationship dramas.

– It was oddly satisfying to see Jack and Sawyer have a punch-up. I’ve always wanted to see a fight between Jack and Locke – a proper fight, not the merciless beatdown Jack gives him in the Season 4 opener – but I think that ship has sailed.

– By far the best part of this episode was the steel crate Ilana and co were lugging around turning out to contain the real John Locke’s corpse. And this brings us to the Man in Black, who apparently has the power to take on the form of the dead. Is he Smokey? Is he the one who has been appearing as Christian, as Charlie, as Libby and Ana-Lucia and Eko? In retrospect, I am staggered at how far this show has come, from a character drama about plane crash survivors, through to a mysterious struggle between Ben and Widmore, and now into an ancient battle between two incomprehensible powers.

– Loved seeing Ben, the master manipulator, finally getting manipulated himself. He stabbed Jacob pretty lamely, though. If you’re going to murder someone like that you should place your other hand on their shoulder and stare angrily into their eyes as you stab them underhanded in the abdomen. It just seems right that way. Is that from a Shakespeare play?

– Juliet hitting the bomb at the end to set it off? Kinda… stupid. Unneccesary and unrealistic. And I’m really uncertain why they chose her character to do it: a late addition to the show, someone who was interesting in Season 3 when the dynamic was between the survivors and the Others, but who hasn’t really seemed to have a purpose for the last two seasons. It was a pretty pivotal moment, and it would have made a lot more sense if it had been Kate.

– I absolutely loved the white title card.

I thought I was positive as to how this season would play out: it would be an on-island/off-island split, following the adventures of the Oceanic Six as they tried to figure out how to get back, and the adventures of the Left Behinders as they survived on the island for three years. The season finale would culminate with Locke leaving the island, and the Oceanic Six returning to it.

The fifth episode blew that out of the water, and for the rest of the season I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Season six? Season six could be motherfucking anything, and I can’t wait to see it. I absolutely love this show, and I’m so happy that it exists, and that I’ve grown up with it. I’m going to remember it for a long time. I’m going to remember watching the pilot episode on videotape at Chris’ house after school, seeing Jack run around pulling people out of burning plane wreckage, and being instantly hooked. I’m going to remember renting out the entire third season on DVD in December 2007, coming home from terrible, stressful days at the deli in the Christmas rush, and watching brilliant episodes like “Par Avion” and “Through The Looking Glass.” I’m going to remember downloading the fourth and fifth seasons through this primitive tool we had back in my day called “bittorrent,” bootlegged .avi files ripped from Tivo with Italian subtitles. I’m going to remember watching “The Shape of Things To Come,” late at night in my bedroom with rain drumming down on the roof, when Lost was my regular dose of fantasy escapism during a very bad time in my life. I’m going to remember watching episodes on my laptop on a bus winding through the mountain roads of snowy Hokkaido, or at 1:00 AM on a silent, dark plane over the Java Sea.

I can’t fucking wait for the last season.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001) 629 p.

I’ve followed Neil Gaiman’s blog for a long time, finding it interesting to peer into the life of a fairly well-known author, despite the fact that until now I’d never read anything of his except for a handful of Sandman comics (illegally downloaded, no less). I bought American Gods sometime last year, but it kept getting pushed further down my to-be-read pile for various reasons.

And the problem with having a book staring down at you from the shelf for so long is that you develop certain expectations, which are invariably wrong. American Gods wasn’t precisely the kind of book I thought it would be, nor was it quite as good as I thought it would be. I thought it would be a little more… epic, but instead it had quite a casual feel to it, like a run-of-the-mill Stephen King novel from the 90’s.

A few days before his three-year prison sentence is up, Shadow’s wife is killed in a car accident, and he is released early. On the plane on the way home he meets the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. It soon becomes clear that Wednesday is an old and ancient god, trying to assemble the many other ancient gods, the immigrant gods, against the homegrown American deities representing television, the internet, the media, drugs, cars, shady government agents and every other element of modern American mythology. A battle is coming, and Wednesday wants to win.

The fundamental idea is that gods run on belief – that they need us, not the other way around. If people stop believing in them, they’ll grow weak and eventually cease to exist. It’s a common theme in Terry Pratchett’s work, an author Gaiman has worked with closely in the past, but I don’t know which (if either) of them came up with it. It’s also clearly about immigration – that America is a land of immigrants, from the Muslims and Asians of the 20th century, back through the Eastern Europeans in the 19th, and the African slaves in the 18th, right down to the prehistoric nomads who crossed the Bering Strait, all of them bringing their gods with them. America is a melting pot, and thus we have Norse gods mixing with Hindu gods, Anansi hanging out with Czernobog, Eostre working with Horus.

On the flipside of the coin we have the idea of modern America as a legendary, fantastic place. Neil Gaiman is British, not American, and as such he grew up in a world bombarded with American media and culture, and his ideas about America being a wholly unreal, mythical place struck a chord with my own. There’s a certain power to names like “California” and “Las Vegas” and “New York.” To a foreigner like myself, they’re powerful icons, symbols of something huge and vast and powerful. And that, too, is what American Gods is about: symbols and metaphors and imagery. Because that’s all that religion is, as Shadow says at one point, and if the book wasn’t more than 600 pages long I’d flip through it trying to find the verbatim quote. But this idea felt under-developed; Shadow spends most of the book around Minnesota and Illinois and Wisconsin, that blurry part of the Midwest that is actually the least legendary part of America, the most unknown, the most humdrum and ordinary.

Or maybe that’s just my unfair expectations again.

This is a pretty rambling review; it’s two in the morning and I’m out of practice. Is it a good book? Yes, it is, although not a great book, and I expected it to be. It wasn’t as good as it could have been, given the very interesting ideas it was forged on, but the majority of it was entertaining, albeit it slowly-paced, and the conclusion was wholly unexpected and very satisfying. I also feel like there were a lot of things that weren’t hidden away, not quite obvious, as one would expect from a book about symbols and allegories; my opinion may very well improve after another read. But it’s a thick book, and that to-be-read pile is awfully tall…

I put up the free map that came with my gap year travel book and have started throwing darts at it. I have no intention of going to Greenland, but it’s fun to do.

Last night I went to Mike’s house and helped him plan out what he’s going to do on the way home from his stint at Camp Schodack. We hooked his laptop up to the projector and, in MS Paint, put red dots and lines all over the CIA World Factbook Map that was now emblazoned across his entire living room wall. New York, Orlando, London, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Cairo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the myriad air routes in between.

I wonder how many thousands of commercial aircraft there are in the sky at any given moment. I wonder how many ferries and trains and buses, how many millions of people in transit.

There’s in island in the Andamans, an Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, called North Sentinel Island. Anyone can find it on a map. It’s inhabited by a tribe of uncontacted people, who are hostile to the outside world, who still hunt with spears and bows and arrows. In the 1980s a container ship washed up on their shores after a storm, and helicopters had to be dispatched to rescue the crew because the Sentinelese were attacking them. After the tsunami in 2004, the Indian government sent a chopper to see if they were still there, and the pilot responded in the affirmitive, because wooden arrows were bouncing off the undercarriage.

My cousin Georgie is a flight attendant for Qantas, based out of London. I was taking to her on Facebook at 1 am the other night, and announced that if I decide I hate Korea, then I’m taking a ferry from Incheon to Tianjin, a train to Beijing, the Trans-Siberian across Mongolia and Russia, and then a plane from Moscow to London, where I will sleep on her couch until Mike shows up and we can all bum around Europe together. I did the calculations this morning, and taking the Tran-Siberian would only cost about fifty or a hundred dollars less than a direct Seoul-London ticket. But then, it’s not really about saving money.

The longest non-stop flight in the world is Singapore Airlines Flight 21, an eighteen hour haul from Singapore to Newark. Because of the curvature of the globe it doesn’t cross the Pacific, but goes north/south, directly up over Asia and the Arctic Ocean and then down across Canada. Imagine being a pilot on that flight. You get up, shave, have breakfast, go to work, and ten hours later you’re above an iceberg choked sea with the rainbow colours of the Northern Lights playing across your cockpit windshield.

After playing around with the map, Mike and I went to Ranger Camping and Anaconda to look at backpacks. I need a good solid one for Korea and whatever comes after. I’ve sworn off Denali after the duffel bag I bought for Japan split open on the last day of the trip and ejected my possessions across the train station in Hiroshima. Right now I’m eyeing off a Black Wolf Cuba, for around $220.

There are cruise ships to Antarctica. Package tours to Mt. Everest. You can get dunked into the water with great white sharks in South Africa, swim with humpback whales in Tonga, hike into the mountains to see silverback gorillas in Uganda.

Chris has made it through the wall of adjustment up in the Kimberley, and is starting to enjoy himself. He sent me a photo of him sitting in a tree that was leaning out over a pool in a rocky red gorge, that classic Australian outback image. We’re spinning out wild ideas about travelling overland from Cape Froward to Murchison Promonotory. Via Central America or the Caribbean? There isn’t an unbroken chain of ferry services across the archipelago arc, but someone with enough time, money and determination could hang out in the ports waiting to hitch a ride on a private yacht or freighter. We’d have two of things. Central America has its own problems: the Darien Gap, a vast swathe of undeveloped jungle and swampland connecting Panama and Colombia, no roads or railways, inhabited by several different groups of guerilla fighters with a penchant for taking Western hostages.

There’s a guy called Karl Bushby who is walking overland from Cape Horn back to his house in England, an enterprise he calls “The Goliath Expedition.” He started in 1998 and he’s currently in Russia. He walked across the frozen Bering Strait.

By the end of this year I will be a dual citizen of Australia and Ireland. The way things are going, I’ll soon be able to live and work anywhere in the European Union.

The fabled snows of Kilimanjaro are shrinking, and in twenty years they’ll be gone. The islands of the South Pacific are slowly sinking beneath the waves. Cuba can’t stay a stronghold of socialism forever, and when the embargo goes, so will all the vintage cars. Last year the King of Nepal was forced to abdicate the throne, and one day there will be no more kings and queens and emperors, just bland presidencies and parliaments.

Zanzibar and Timbuktu and Xanadu are real places.

There are 203 sovereign nations in the world. I can name all of them, even the obscure ones – Bhutan, Burundi, Cape Verde, Nauru, Kiribati, Moldova, Azerbaijan – and I can place them on a map. But I’ve only been to three of them. I don’t know shit.

I still haven’t swum with whale sharks. I’ve never crossed the equator while awake. I’ve never set foot on the mainland of any continent except Australia.

I’m really tired of Perth. I’m tired of these endless suburbs, of the same people, of the same places, of the thousand kilometres of concrete curbs and roads and footpaths, of the eucalyptus trees and the shopping centres. I’m tired of my routine. I’m tired of having nothing to challenge me. I’m tired of the feeling that my life is being stripped away, second by second.

If everything goes well, then in a month I’ll be sitting in the departure lounge of Changi Airport as a stopover enroute to Seoul. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to teach kids, or live alone in a foreign country. But I’m damn well going to give it a shot. And if it doesn’t work out, then I’ll fling myself on my cousin’s mercy. You don’t have to stay anywhere forever.

I like this stage in my life. I like the fact that the people closest to me are scattered across the globe – in the outback, in London, in America. I like the fact that we are at a stage in our lives where we’re travelling wherever we want, doing whatever we want, broadening our horizons and seeing as much as we can of this enormous, incomprehensible world. You can tell when you’re entering a new stage in your life: I knew I was when I started uni, and I know I am now. It’ll certainly last for five years. It might last for ten years. It could last the rest of my life.

“We all live in cages. We don’t want to admit it, but a lot of us walk in there voluntarily, cause the stuff outside can be really scary. We have these reasons why we can’t do stuff and they limit our options until we’re forced into whatever’s left. So we sit in there complaining about what we ended up with, and eventually we forget that there’s no lock on the door.

Well I figured out about the lock. I went outside and nothing bad happened. I got some weird looks from people, but no one tried to stop me and I’m still prancing around outside the cage. I don’t want to get back in.

Planet Earth is a hoot. It’s not all hidden lagoons and virgin rainforests; there’s lots of awful shit to deal with. But that can be fun too.”

– Matt Harding
www.wherethehellismatt.com

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for some reason i've expected to see an underwater tunnel scenario since season 3

– Locke was being a smug jerk most of this episode. I’ve never really liked him, although sometimes I’ve pitied him, and I don’t like the way the writers are clearly setting him up to be the Ultimate Messiah. I also don’t like the New Jack, tainted and corrupted as he is by Locke’s mysticism, although at least he seems to have shed his stoner-like placidity and is taking an active role in making things happen again.

– Predicting that “killing Jacob” is what Locke needs to do to “help” him and that it will free him some way. Hate Locke I might, but I think he’s right when he implies that Ben and Richard have been exploiting Jacob as a God-like figure to manipulate the Others.

– Richard claims he saw everyone die in the past. I’m willing to bet he only saw them in a distant explosion or some such, and he simply assumes they’re dead.

– When Chang said “Let’s hope he knows what he’s doing” I thought please cut to Faraday’s corpse please cut to Faraday’s corpse please cut to Faraday’s corpse yesssssssssssss

– Chang questioning a clueless Hurley to determine he was a time traveller was probably the most I’ve ever laughed at Lost.

– What was the point in having Jin learn English if you’re only going to give him approx. one line of dialogue every six episodes?

– Sayid shooting a Dickhead Other was FUCK YEAH AWESOME. So was Sayid following the group into the underwater tunnels (and I loved Jack’s smile when he did). Not to mention his usual intelligent reasoning about Eloise’s motives. Basically Sayid is an awesome character, the only crash survivor with a goddamn brain in his head, and a 4 episode gap without him is way too long.

– Cover-my-bases prediction: we’ve had plenty of flashbacks this season, but not a single flashforward, and as viewers we’ve been conditioned into thinking that the show is done with them. They could very easily pull another surprise one on us, just like in “Through The Looking Glass.” It would be a cheap shot, but if I was one of the writers I’d find it irresistable.

– As with all good penultimate episodes (think “Greatest Hits” and “Cabin Fever”), this one gave a brilliant impression of, well, penultimate-ness: an excellent introduction to an awesome finale.

– I’m also predicting that the Ack’s season finale rule will hold true for the fifth season in a row:

“Look, Juliet. You seem like a nice woman. But as you are a new kid on the block, let me just explain: Every finale, we let Jack think he’s off saving everyone, but while he goes off and fraks everything up, I actually come in and get it done. Big Time.”

I’ve gone through my Japan travel posts and added photos, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Now, by clicking on the “Works” tab above, you can access my fascinating travelogue with the added benefit of VISUAL STIMULATION. Go on – live the dream!

My police clearance from the AFP finally arrived in the mail today, three weeks after I applied for it. An awful lot of effort to get a piece of paper saying “dude’s got a clean slate!”

I hauled it all the way into the DFAT office in the city to get an apostille on it, an international seal of recognition. The guy standing in line beside me was also going to Korea to teach, oddly enough, and I talked to him for a while about the whole application process. He already had a working visa and was going in about a week. Before that I’d sort of completely forgotten about the visa process. I hope it’s not too much of a hassle. And I really hope that I don’t have to go for an actual, in-person interview at the Korean consulate, as I’ve heard Canadians and Americans have to. There’s only one Korean consulate in Australia, in Sydney. Going there would be a major hassle, cost me hundreds of dollars and make the paperwork process so far like like a pleasant day at the beach.

Went to Borders and to buy a Lonely Planet Korea. I have a touchingly naive faith in the LP brand. In a ten-metre long wall of bookshelves devoted entirely to travel, I was able to find only a single, tattered copy of LP Korea – and that was the only guidebook for Korea. Frommers and Moons nowhere to be seen. Irritating.

Chris has been gone for nearly a week now, and has sent me a few emails along the lines of “im lonely,” which bothers me, because if he can’t handle living up north for five months I don’t see how I’ll handle living in Korea for twelve. You hear that, Chris? ROLE-MODEL BETTER.

That’s about it, except I went to the river yesterday with the Hills, and while I sustained either a fractured rib or severe chest infection – not entirely sure which, the pain changes – it was worth it to accomplish this:

RIDING MITCH AND DENNIS LIKE DOLPHINS - DOIN' IT FOR CHRIS

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TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS OR I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL KILL YOU

– Daniel really deserved to get shot acting the way he did. Walking into the Others’ camp waving a gun around? Locke proved that all you need to do to get their attention is shout around for Richard, the only one of them who’s not a complete psycho.

– Kate is such an idiot. “These people are not gonna be happy to see us… might be a good idea to bring some guns.” SOUNDS LIKE A BANG-UP PLAN YOU FUCKING MORON. You went and saw them less than two days ago and they were fine with it, plus you are now seeing them with the intent of peacefully talking to the mother of a member of your party. This was obviously forced just so that Daniel would be holding a gun and justify Eloise shooting him. The entire scene was terribly contrived, and the whole episode revolved around it.

– The shootout with Radzinsky also served little purpose, except to further illustrate the point that he’s a total asshole. Plus for a moment I thought that Jack, after 100 episodes, was finally about to kill someone (and it would have been a DHARMA hippy). Claire and Walt are the only other members of the original cast without blood on their hands. Even Hurley ran a guy down in his van.

– I generally don’t worry about the plot holes inevitable in any story about time travel, but if Eloise really believes that “whatever happened, happened,” then why did she go to so much effort to make sure Daniel went back to the island?

– Daniel’s conversation with young Charlotte was simultaneously touching, and hilariously creepy.

The best part of the episode by far was Daniel’s revelation that he intends to try to change the future: to prevent the Incident from happening, thus preventing the button-situation at the Swan, thus preventing the crash of Oceanic 815, thus preventing the arrival of the freighter and the island’s moving through time. I’m only just realising now that his desire to do so is to prevent them from being thrown back in time, and he only wanted to see Eloise because she knew where the hydrogen bomb was buried (wouldn’t detonating that obliterate the entire island, though?)

Kate’s reponse to Daniel’s declaration of his plan was “and how exactly do you plan on destroying this energy?” which again proves what an idiot she is. The correct response is “WHAT THE FUCK WILL HAPPEN TO US, NAY, TO THE UNIVERSE?” Even if you accept that dicking around with time like that won’t cause the world to crumple up like a paper cup, both Jack and Kate benefited from the crash: Kate escaped prison, and Jack found a purpose in his fucked-up life. All the crash survivors benefited, in fact – except for Sayid, who got caught up in a vast conflict that killed his wife and turned him into a pawn. Both Jack and Kate have a vested interest in ensuring the future remains the same, so I’m not sure why they kept on just following Daniel. Oh, Kate made a minor complaint to Jack, who has become the most passive character on the show, but honestly. Shoot the mad scientist. Oh, never mind, Eloise did it for you.

I still expect to see some attempt to be made to change the future, which should be cool and interesting. There would be something bittersweet about it; watching the characters do the right thing (i.e. save the lives of everyone on the plane – including their friends who died on the island, like Boone and Shannon and Charlie), but have nobody even realise it, and be robbed of their status as heroes as well as eliminating the most defining event in their otherwise mundane lives, a la John Connor successfully preventing the machine uprising in Terminator 2. And if we hadn’t already seen it in “316,” I wouldn’t be surprised if time ended up being cyclical somehow, and the final scene of the show mirrored the first:


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