Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9.21.11 My New (Old) TV Boyfriend

Edit: We're further along in the series now, and my evaluation of Barnabas is steering away from "likeable" and closer to "crazy, creepy, control-freak d**k." He's still fun to watch, though!

My life is full of Remarkably Bad Timing. In this case, Linus and I have simultaneously started our new (good, but stressful!) curriculum at school, a demanding Korean language class, and getting serious about our theses again. So when do we get so obsessed with a new TV show that it actively interferes with us getting anything done? Right now, of course!

"New" is actually not a good way to describe this show. It's "Dark Shadows." No, not this one:
That one hasn't come out yet. No, we're talking old school:

For those of you who don't already know, "Dark Shadows" is a cheesy, melodramatic, poorly acted supernatural soap opera from the sixties. Like a lot of the things Linus and I watch (Flash Gordon, anyone?), part of the entertainment value is how bad it is, particularly at the beginning of the series, when there isn't a whole lot of plot to distract us from the high-school-play feeling of some of the performances. The music is pretty hilarious, too. As Linus puts it, "Roughing the theramin - five yard penalty!" Yet as we've continued to watch, we've slowly grown more and more fascinated. Forget being intellectually amused by the shoddy, yet adorably gothic product of a bygone era - this stuff is good.

The best part is trying to untangle the mythology of the "Dark Shadows" universe. The most famous character, and the one who popularized the show, is Barnabas Collins, a two hundred year-old vampire recently released from his coffin by general ne'er-do-well Willy Loomis. Much of Barnabas's story (so far) pulls heavily from the classic Dracula plot: vamp meets girl, vamp makes her sleepwalk, vamp repeatedly drains her blood, she dies and comes back as a vampire "bride," etc.

At the same time, "Dark Shadows" has a unique take on many aspects of vampirism. For example - Barnabas drinks from Willy at least once, and clearly has some sort of control over Willy's behavior, particularly at night. In addition, Willy is unable to eat or drink anything after his first encounter with Barnabas. So Willy appears to be well on the way to vampirism. Yet Willy recovers from his near-draining and regularly goes into sunlight. However, he still feels compelled to remain near Barnabas and work for him, while at the same time his free will remains quite strong, even to the point of his defying Barnabas on occasion.

Wait...what? we asked bemusedly as the series continued. What is up with Willy? Is he a World-of-Darkness-style ghoul? Does Barnabas actually control his movements, or is Willy just too frightened to run away? Barnabas keeps sending Willy out at night to do a "job" for him - so is Willy the one who's draining the local cattle of blood? If so, how, and how does he bring it back to Barnabas? And, and, and...

I apologize; this probably isn't too terribly interesting to most of our readers. But to a vampire lit. nerd like myself, it's fascinating. And the questions about Willy are only the tip of the fang, so to speak. There are so many interesting aspects of vampirism to be found here - everything from an induced aesthetic appreciation of night to heavy-duty brainwashing to the ability to control doors. For the life of me, I can't tell if one of the writers spent a long time considering vampirism, or if the show just keeps randomly throwing out ideas and Linus and I are the ones over-complicating things.

A lot of the fun is that Barnabas Collins makes such a likeable vampire. He's romantic, he's smooth, he seems genuinely interested in and fond of his descendants, and he has a touchingly vulnerable streak. True, he beats Willy with his cane and tries to turn a local girl into the living personification of his dead lover. But hey! For a vampire, that's really not that bad! I wouldn't bet on Barnabas Collins against any of Laurell K. Hamilton's or Anne Rice's far more terrifying vampires - but I absolutely would be rooting for him.

Monday, September 12, 2011

추석 잘 보내세요! (Happy Chuseok!)

Chuseok is the biggest holiday of the Korean calendar. It is a time when families gather to give thanks for an abundant harvest. As far as we can tell this involves offering food at the ancestor's graves, eating songpyeon (rice cakes) and fried foods, and wearing hanbok (traditional garb). This little lady is clearly ready to get started.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wait... What?

Once we moved to Korea, I put a picture folder on my desktop labeled, "Puzzling." Here are some of its contents.
One of these things is not like the other...
This a common issue for coffe shops. I have another picture (unfortunately too blurred to post) that offers "fresh wapples."

I love these examples of hybrid copyright infringement.

There is an AD&D joke here, but it's not funny enough to justify the several paragraphs that it would take to explain it for the RPG impaired.
Initially, I thought this was the biggest box of tampons I'd ever seen...
Two gaming jokes in one post? Yeah, I'm a dork.
Not just happy - mighty happy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Our Triumphant Return (you did notice we were gone, right?)

I realize that everyone's just frantic to know where we've been, but don't worry! North Korea hasn't invaded yet, and Linus and I already killed the half-dozen zombies staggering around our neighborhood.

Actually, Linus and I, along with The Indispensable Kate, have embarked upon an exciting project: the complete reformation of our small hogwan. We have the technology. We can make it better. Faster. Stronger.

Previously, the school's students rotated between one Korean teacher and one waygookin teacher. I had three classes that I saw on a daily basis, and the rest studied with me every other day. But now, we're moving to a four-day rotation. That means I'll see most of my classes once a week, and the rest every other day. Stay with me - it's not as stupid as it sounds. Before this schedule change, all of the teachers were trying to teach a little of everything - grammar, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary, etc. But now, each teacher is specializing in one subject. I teach Writing, Linus teaches Speech, and the two Korean teachers are in charge of Grammar and Reading. This way, we make sure all areas of English education are covered in depth. We're also coordinating all of our classes so that we're hitting on the same themes in different ways, instituting a huge end-of-the-month test, cracking down on homework, testing the students on twenty new vocabulary words each day, and starting a pen pal program with my old elementary school back in Fort Collins, Colorado. All of this fun starts after Chuseok -

Oh, what is Chuseok, you ask? Well, that really depends on who you ask. Some of my students will tell you that that Chuseok is a harvest festival during which one gathers with the family, visits the ancestors' tombs, bows to the grandparents, receives money from said grandparents, and plays with one's cousins. For others, Chuseok can be summarized in one word: PC bang. That means the "PC room," which is like an Internet cafe but darker, smokier, and for gamers only. Though when our students have time to game I don't know. Clearly, they require more homework.

But I can tell you what everyone is doing for Chuseok: eating. This is songpyeon, a rice cake dish that's a staple of Chuseok.

I've recently laid off the rice cakes, difficult though that is to believe. My loyalties have switched to dakgalbi (chicken, kimchi, rice cakes, chili AWESOMENESS) and shabu-shabu. Shabu-shabu is like a three course fondue meal that costs about ten dollars a person, and should be fed to me at least once a week. For health. Yours.

We also took pictures of my new necklace at this shabu restaurant. This was an incredible lucky find in Cheonbukdae, the university district. I was attracted to the skull on the front...

...but what sold this necklace was what it says on the back - which is, unfortunately, NSFW and also NSF for the kids reading this blog. Here's the link.

So, that's what we've been up to! Slaving away at our totally meaningful and fulfilling jobs, paying almost nothing to eat amazing food, and not playing with the dog enough to satisfy her.

I'm being summoned for walkies. However, regular posting will at last resume!