SPOILER ALERT: THAT’S NOT NEO

Merry Christmas! Just wanted to say that to everyone, and also to share something I found interesting about the new Matrix movie:

You may or may not know this, but a few years ago, “redpilled” (a Matrix reference) was being used by online misogynists to indicate that they had figured out the “truth” about women.

9/11 truthers were “redpilled” when they decided to believe “inside job” theories, Flat Earthers might consider themselves “redpilled” when they start believing the Earth is flat, etc. And people who don’t believe those things are “bluepilled.”

This refers to a scene in the first Matrix movie, where Neo is told to choose between a red pill and a blue pill. If he takes the blue pill, nothing in his life will change, but if he takes the red pill, he will “wake up” from the simulated reality of the Matrix and see the real world for the first time. Of course, Neo takes the red pill in the first Matrix movie, and that’s where the internet got the “redpilled/bluepilled” thing.

Sorry for explaining what you probably already know, ha ha. But anyway, circa 2016 or so, online misogynists, pick up artists, etc. were using “redpilled” to indicate to each other that they “knew the truth” about women, this “truth” being bullshit like “all women are manipulative,” “Feminism castrates men,” etc.

At least one of the Wachowskis commented on that, I am pretty sure. And that community may have stopped using “redpilled” but who knows. I think the term has migrated back to non-misogynistic conspiracy theorists, but at one point it was being used by misogynists all the time. 

Anyway, getting to the point, early in the new Matrix movie, Keanu Reeves’ character is shown at least a few times as someone other than Keanu Reeves. A white haired bald man is shown as Keanu Reeves’ reflection at least once, when his character leaps off a roof in a flashback, it’s clearly not Keanu Reeves leaping off the roof, etc. 

This is explained away with convoluted nonsense in the film, as one might expect. And this “Keanu Reeves might not actually be Neo in this film” element is never explained or explored beyond showing a different person in the mirror a few times. 

I apologize if you haven’t watched it yet, but as you may have read or otherwise heard already, “rescuing Trinity” is the main plot point of the second half of the film. “Neo” wakes up again about halfway through and is told Trinity has been captured by the machines again, and is in one of those pod things.

I need to back up here: Carrie-Anne Moss appears in the first half of the film. But she isn’t “Trinity,” her name is “Tiffany” and she’s married to “Chad.”

“Chad” has been used on the internet a lot, to refer to some woman’s handsome boyfriend or husband. The same people who said “redpilled” to refer to becoming misogynist pickup artists would use “Chad” as an attempt at an insult, to the husbands, boyfriends, etc. of women they wanted to date. 

It’s often in the context of delusional “if she only knew the real me, she would dump Chad” fantasies.

And I apologize if I am spoiling anything, but in the new Matrix movie, Keanu Reeves’ character (ostensibly Neo, but with a different reflection at times) only knows Carrie-Anne Moss’s character because he has seen her in a coffee shop. 

Keanu Reeves’ character is basically stalking her character in the movie. But it’s presented as if he is “rescuing” her from a delusion where she loves her husband and children, a delusion where she doesn’t fully remember being Trinity. Keanu’s character also knows where she works, and he goes and visits her – uninvited – at her work in the movie. 

There are probably other instances of this sort of thing that I missed, but in short, Keanu Reeves’ character behaves like a “redpilled” misogynist stalker creep in the movie. And as you know, in the first movie, Neo takes the red pill and unwittingly started the whole “redpilled” internet thing. 

What I am saying is this: in the new Matrix movie, Keanu Reeves does not portray “Neo” at all, Keanu Reeves portrays someone else entirely, a “redpilled” stalker who has delusional fantasies about how he is a superhero and the woman he is stalking is secretly in love with him. 

The entire movie (including “Analyst” scenes with Neil Patrick Harris) is a fantasy concocted by Keanu Reeves’ character, a fantasy that internally justifies his stalking of Carrie-Anne Moss’s character in the film. 

“The Analyst” is not actually the entity running the Matrix, “The Analyst” is just an analyst, and when he attempts to break through all of Keanu’s character’s delusions, the character mentally transforms the analyst into a nemesis and incorporates him into the fantasy. Which of course, the fantasy ends with “The Analyst” being defeated and “Trinity” remembering who she is. 

Which would be just another dumb Hollywood ending, were it not for the fact that the “not Keanu” reflection stops appearing (and stops being mentioned) after Keanu’s character starts immersing himself in “Matrix” fantasies more fully.

At the end (SPOILER ALERT), Keanu Reeves’ character can’t fly because he isn’t actually Neo. At the end, he tries to fly, in order to escape police pursuit, but he can’t do it.

Trinity – the focal point of his fantasy, a wholly imaginary version of Tiffany – *can* fly, and she holds his hand and carries him through the sky, away from the police who are pursuing him.

Which Tiffany or Chad (or one of their children) may have called the police on Keanu Reeves’ character when he showed up uninvited at Tiffany’s workplace.

In short: Keanu Reeves’ character (I refuse to call him “Neo” because I don’t think he’s actually Neo) uses his fantasy version of Tiffany to escape from reality.

This angle may have been totally accidental, nonetheless, I find it interesting.

Anyways, just wanted to share that. Merry Christmas!

…and how much is the prophet shaping the future to fit the prophecy?

Prediction: within a month of this film (which looks badass) being released, there will be scads of blog posts and articles from people who watch this and then read the book, where they will discover that wherever the word “crusade” was used in this movie, the word “jihad” was used in the book.

The two words mean basically the same thing: “holy war.” It’s just that historically, holy wars associated with Christianity have been called “crusades” and holy wars associated with Islam have been called “jihad”.

I get why this change was made: to avoid association with terrorists who consider themselves jihadists.

But what’s gonna end up happening, I bet, is that there’s gonna be a lot more attention paid to the nomenclature used for holy wars in the Dune universe than there would have been if they’d just kept calling it “jihad.”

Which is probably good for marketing… no such thing as bad publicity and all.

Spoiler Alert (I Guess)

You know that song at the end of “Breaking Bad,” the one that plays while Walt’s lying on the ground at the end?

That’s by a group called Badfinger, and oddly enough, their real-world experience in the music industry was quite similar to what happened to Walt in the Breaking Bad backstory:

Walt was in some chemistry startup called “Gray Matter” with a couple of his friends from college (grad school?), a man and a woman, and it’s never really made clear what happened exactly, but Walt was romantically involved with the woman, who ended up hooking up with the other dude, and Walt accepted a buyout of I think $5k or something like that…

And then Gray Matter took off, and the other 2 became billionaires off of the company Walt helped found, while Walt struggled to make ends meet as a chemistry teacher.

I don’t know if this played into the song choice at the end… but Badfinger had a similar experience in the music industry. Long story short, they had hit records and made millions of dollars for record company crooks, meanwhile they were living on 7 pounds 10 a week (guessing that’s about $25-$30 American nowadays; not much money at all) and having to borrow shoes for gigs.

By the way, I watched that documentary after seeing the episode of Peep Show where Sophie Breaks up with Jeff, and Jeff comes over to get his stuff, and Sophie and Mark see Jeff crying in Sophie’s room, listening to the Badfinger song “Without You” as performed by Harry Nilsson.

This is the song, I couldn’t find a clip of Jeff crying:

…which is a shame, because it’s an hilarious scene. Which might sound strange if you aren’t familiar with Peep Show.

You… aren’t familiar with Peep Show? 😐

MEs5Qt2aPnK8

MORE X-FILES NONSENSE

I dunno why, but the song “Bleeding Love” popped into my head yesterday, so I found the chords on the internet and figured out the vocal melody.

And I thought it would be cool if I played it while video-ing my TV as I was watching Season 8, Episode 2 of “The X-Files,” an episode I had never seen before.

And the part of the vocal melody that corresponds to “you cut me open and I/keep bleeding, I keep keep bleeding love” ended up coming at just the right time.

I didn’t plan it that way, it just came out that way.

THE DOGGETT AND PONY SHOW

Alright, so I’ve been watching/re-watching “The X-Files” on Hulu off and on for the past few months.

“Watching/re-watching” because I think I had seen roughly half of the episodes already… maybe more like a third of them.

In case you don’t know, “The X-Files” consists of basically 2 types of episodes. One type of episode is “Monster Of The Week”. In these episodes, Mulder and Scully investigate some weird creature, or ghost, or alien, or whatever, and the story is resolved (more or less) in that self-contained episode. “Self-contained” because in the next episode, they would be going after some other monster, and the previous episode’s monster (or whatever) wouldn’t be mentioned.

Some of the more memorable “monsters of the week” came back from time to time, but most of them were one-offs.

That’s one type of X-Files episode. The other type are called “mytharc” episodes.

“Mytharc” is a term the show’s staff actually used (if Google is to be believed, “TRUST NO ONE” 🙂 ), and the word is a combination of “mythology” and “story arc.”

Which means, these episodes aren’t self-contained, they’re one long story. The X-Files mytharc was about the government covering up alien abductions, Mulder and Scully’s backstories, and so on.

As an aside, several years ago I got bored and decided to watch all the mytharc episodes up to I think season 5… because that’s all the seasons the local video rental place (since closed) had to rent.

I remember reading back then that many hardcore X-Files fans preferred “monster of the week” episodes. Regarding that, I can say with 100% certainty that if you only watch the mytharc episodes, you miss out on a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of what makes the X-Files a great show.

Actually my personal favorite X-Files episode – “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”; the episode where Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek make appearances as Men In Black – isn’t considered a mytharc episode, at least it wasn’t the last time I checked.

I am digressing like hell here, but if you’ve tried to get into The X-Files and couldn’t, watch that episode. Season 3, episode 20… it is (in my opinion) the quintessential X-Files episode. I didn’t really get the humor in the series until I saw that episode, and anyways it’s a good episode. 🙂

But getting back to the point, there are recurring characters in mytharc episodes, and one of them is the strong-jawed fellow you see in the picture.

alien_bounty_hunter

Well, it’s the same actor at least… there are several of these guys in the show. They are shape-shifting alien bounty hunters (the picture below is what they look like by default, I guess), and the only way to kill them is to stab (or shoot) them in the back of the neck. The dagger thing in the second pic is their weapon of choice, and they use it to kill various aliens disguised as humans, as well as probably a few humans, I honestly don’t remember. But anyways, when you stab (or shoot) one of these guys in the back of the neck, green stuff starts bubbling out, and they melt into a pile of green goop, basically.

x-files2

Early in the series, when these guys (or other aliens like them) get killed, the green goop is accompanied by a toxic gas that kills humans.
But later…

I am currently watching Season 8 for the first time. And in episode 2, Scully kills one of these guys by shooting him in the back of the neck. In the scene, she is down on the floor after a struggle, and she fires a single shot that pierces his neck, he falls to the floor a few feet away from her, and he turns into a pile of green goop, as expected.

But… there’s no poison gas. And my question to any other X-Files fans who may be on my friends list is… where’s the poison gas?

I have looked online for an explanation of this, but all I can find regarding season 8 are general reviews that talk about how bad it is. “Doggett and pony show” and whatnot. But nobody explained why Scully didn’t even bother to hold her breath when the toxic green goop started bubbling out of the alien’s neck when she shot him.

Maybe I missed something in an earlier episode that explained that (I did fall asleep watching some episodes, and sometimes I was half-watching, half-doing other stuff)… or maybe it was just lazy screenwriting.

Does anybody know?

YOUR THAI BRIDE IS NOT THE PROBLEM, YOU CLOYING, MELLIFLUOUS WANK

So I still haven’t finished my “Twin Peaks” blog post (and no, I’m not bothering with a hyperlink, it should be easy for you to find if you want to read it), and in lieu of finishing that right now, I am going to write another “Movies/TV” post about a short documentary I watched last night on Hulu.

How I ended up subscribing to Hulu is its own (boring) blog post; suffice it to say the local cable provider cut Comedy Central from its lineup a couple years back, and I have been suffering South Park withdrawals ever since.

When I find myself with nothing else to do, I sometimes get online and binge-watch South Park. Other times, I just hit the “watch a random episode” button at southpark.cc.com and see what pops up.

Anyways, last night, I was on the South Park website, perusing seasons I have not seen every episode of, and I noticed that a great many episodes were only available on Hulu, and that I had to pay $7.99 a month to see them. And long story short, after determining that every episode of The X-Files is also available on Hulu for 8 bucks a month, well, I went ahead and Paypal-ed my way right on through.

(I opted against the $11.99 a month deal that eliminated all ads, because four bucks is four bucks, and sometimes those ads are kinda entertaining, plus they give you a chance to go grab a Coke or a beer or what have you.)

Hulu also claimed to have a whole bunch of awesome movies, so I began perusing them. I didn’t see much of anything I wanted to watch, but I am sort of a snob when it comes to movies and I have never pretended otherwise. I am probably the least fun person in the world to go to the movies with, as I think I have mentioned here on this blog before, and anyways none of the movies caught my attention. I figured “hey, I can watch South Park and X-Files for 8 bucks a month and cancel whenever, so I’m happy.”

Still, having all those movies and TV shows available to me, regardless of the fact that 99% of them didn’t appeal to me, well, it inspired my wanderlust, at least within the confines of Hulu.com. I mean I didn’t actually get up off my fat ass and “wander” anywhere; I just felt compelled to explore my options.

So I moved on to the “documentary” section. And again, meh, but again, unlimited South Park and X-Files for 8 bucks, so no big deal.

And nestled in between a bunch of crap UFO documentaries and assorted documentaries that looked fake as all hell…

I found an hour-long documentary called “My Thai Bride” that looked mildly interesting, if only for the fact that it seemed to be based on real life, as opposed to Bigfoot or some crap.

Here’s the imdb page for it. I don’t feel like typing out <a href… and all that crap on the “text” page just to create a link nobody’s going to click anyway, so anyways here it is, take it or leave it:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2090573/

This movie is about a British fellow named Ted. Ted used to make a living by traveling from Britain to Thailand, buying a bunch of cheap but well-made knockoff clothing, then taking it back to Britain to sell at inflated prices.

That this practice is probably illegal (or at least would be here in the USA, if he were selling, say, fake Polo shirts as if they were legit Polo shirts or something, copyright infringement and whatnot) was never mentioned.

Nonetheless, this is how Ted made his living, and more power to him, I say.

Ted had been married and divorced in Britain. And he lamented that in Britain, he had a hard time meeting women, because women wanted younger men with money and blah blah blah cry me a river. Nonetheless, I won’t deny that I sympathized with Ted at this point in the film. I mean, yeah, it gets tougher to meet women who want to date you the older you get, but whatever, Ted, suck it up.

And to Ted’s credit, well, he kinda did… in a way.

He talked about how in Thailand, there were tons of beautiful women everywhere who wanted to hang out with him. He held no illusions about these women — “bar girls” — I mean he knew that they (at least most of them) only wanted him for his money, and so on and so forth.

But I mean think about a guy like Ted (look at his picture): he’s not all that handsome, he’s not some sort of hotshot businessman… but in Thailand, women were just hanging all over him.

And yeah, sure, “gross, that’s gross, Ted’s gross, and Michael, you’re gross for sympathizing with that gross, gross man,” but anyways the “cloying, mellifluous wank” mentioned in the title of this post is Ted himself, so I’m gonna give him what he’s got coming here in a minute.

Here’s another link about this movie, by the way: http://www.mythaibridefilm.com/story/

Anyways, Ted meets a bar girl named Tip, and he finds that he likes her. Like he really likes her, like as a person, not just as a “bar girl” or “prostitute” or whatever.

And if you thought I was going to give Ted a hard time about this part of the story, well, no, no I wasn’t. Bar girls and prostitutes and sex workers of all types are people, too, and I have no issue whatsoever with Ted or any other person falling in love with one of them. Put simply it isn’t my business who anybody falls in love with, and love is love is love is love and so on.

(And you’ve seen “Pretty Woman,” damn you, don’t act like you haven’t. 🙂 )

Ted and Tip started hanging around a lot, and they more or less moved in together. Ted talked about how he would leave money lying out in the room when he would leave, and when he came back it would still be there. Which given the circumstances, well, I guess that showed him that Tip liked him  too, maybe.

Anyways, after knowing each other about a month, Ted and Tip got married.

Before I go on, I need to back up and talk about Tip a little. I don’t remember specifics, but Tip grew up dirt poor. And she had worked in factories for next to nothing, and she had a child to support, and the only way she had to make any money was to move to Bangkok and be a bar girl.

So she tells about that, and friends she met who helped her out, and all of them didn’t make any bones about why they were bar girls: they needed money, foreign men had money, and they could make a lot of money being nice to foreign men.

Which, yes, I agree, it’s terrible that they don’t have any other way to make a living. Yes, everything about the whole situation is gross and awful and terrible… but if I were a pretty young Thai woman with absolutely no other way to make a living, well, I’d probably put on some tight pants and go flirt with foreigners, too.

I’m not judging Tip or any of the Thai bar girls featured in the film. Please don’t think I am. In fact, from where I was sitting — right here where I am now typing, actually, right here on my fat ass in front of my computer — Tip was by far the most sympathetic character in the film.

So Ted and Tip got married. And since Tip seemed to be better at managing money than Ted, and since he felt like he could trust her with his money, he ended up letting her manage his money.

She made pretty good use of his money, I’d say: they moved to the village in northern Thailand where she grew up and built a pig farm. Good, practical use: a pig farm could provide them with enough money to live and with food to eat. If we’re talking about using funds accrued from hawking knockoff Polo shirts and whatnot, well, “steady stream of income and sustenance that doesn’t require international travel or violating any copyright laws” sounds pretty gosh-darn sensible.

But Ted didn’t see it like that. And before I really give Ted the business, I will also say that the film featured a few other foreign (read: “white”) dudes who had been in Thailand for quite a long time. These fellows also had homes in Thailand and (presumably) Thai wives, and they noted that lots of people (read: “white men”) moved to Thailand with what seemed like a lot of money, and they lived like kings… until the money ran out.

One of these fellows said his house in Thailand cost about $20 grand to build, but it would be worth about $300 grand in the US or anywhere in the west.

Another fellow (or maybe the same fellow, I don’t remember) said that it was impossible for a foreigner to own land in Thailand, so everything was always in the wife’s name, in cases where white dudes marry Thai women and build houses over there and whatnot.

A local myth or legend of some kind was also mentioned: this legend was about a beautiful queen who ruled over part of Thailand, and anyways an invading group of male soldiers came into her kingdom, intending to rape and pillage and take the place over.

This queen instructed her female subjects to throw a big party for the invaders, to offer them wine and food and what have you, and to make them feel at home and welcome, and whatever the proper name is for the feeling lonely men get when women hang all over them.

So, that’s what the women in the kingdom (“queendom”?) did… and after all the invading soldiers were asleep, worn out from the wine, food, and what have you…

The women killed every blasted one of them. With their own swords. While they slept.

And that legend or myth or whatever was brought up as a parallel to the whole “bar girl” situation, I think. The bar girls were who were telling about the legend.

And yeah, I am sure there are true stories of lonely white dudes getting legitimately ripped off and screwed over by Thai women…

But I don’t really think our Ted is one of those fellows.

I sincerely think Ted is a cloying, mellifluous wank who didn’t realize how good he had it, honestly.

Toward the end of the film, Ted tells about how Tip just wouldn’t pay him any attention, leading up to when he decided to leave her.

Ted tells, in his cloying li’ul accent, how towards the end of their marriage, Tip would get up at like six in the morning every day to go feed the pigs.

Tip would spend all day tending to pigs, doing chores, running the farm…

…meanwhile Ted’s “laid about,” not doing anything…

…and toward the end of their marriage — if you can believe it, folks — Tip was so busy feeding pigs and cleaning the house and doing farm chores that she didn’t even have time to bring poor Ted a beer.

Poor Ted! His wife’s up at six, busy all day running the farm…

And Ted had to get up off his fat arse and get his own beer, when he sat around the house all day doing *literally* nothing whatsoever.

Ted gives this as a reason why he had to leave Tip.

No, I’m not joking.

The film goes back and forth between Ted’s point of view and Tip’s, and Tip mentions that all of her family and neighbors had begun to wonder why Ted didn’t help her with anything whatsoever, or even work at all…

Meanwhile Ted’s talking about how Tip became “distant” from him, because she was worried too much about running the farm!

So anyways, this film was interesting to watch, but the whole “my Thai wife stole my money and ruined my life” angle Ted tries to foist on everyone is bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

You didn’t want to be a pig farmer, Ted?

WHY’D YOU BUILD A PIG FARM?

You wanted a wife, instead of patronizing every bar girl that’s nice to you?

WHY’D YOU TREAT YOUR WIFE LIKE A SERVANT?

I have to admit, being that I have lived most of my life in rural Arkansas, the idea of running a pig farm (or any type of farm) with a wife holds a certain amount of appeal for me. It’s honest work, you’re outside a lot, you’re not sitting on your ever-widening ass typing on a computer…

And it might not appeal to everyone. And it honestly might not appeal to me, after a week or two.

But I like to think I would have sorted all of that out before I built my own pig farm, if you understand what I mean.

Ted ended up having to bum money from Tip to get a ticket back to Britain.

And he’s supposed to be who I, the viewer, sympathize with in this film.

RIGHT.

“WHAT DO YOU FEAR MOST IN THE WORLD?” — SERENDIPITY AND “TWIN PEAKS”

Hello everyone, I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything to this blog — and even longer since I’ve posted anything related to anything other than politics…

Which on that front, well, what can I say? The guy that Back To The Future Part 2 alternate timeline dystopian 1985 Biff Tannen was presumably modeled after is now our president-elect. The guy that killed Marty McFly’s dad in alternate timeline 1985 is going to be sitting in the Oval Office for four years.

Can’t say that I’m happy about that.

But hey, it is what it is, and I can’t just make like a tree and quit the internet just because I’m honestly scared shitless for the future of the United States and civilization as we know it.

I gotta keep on keepin’ on.

So that’s what I’m doing. And this blog is not and was never intended to be solely a political or news-related blog, it’s a blog featuring the various and sundry things that rattle around in my brain long enough to warrant my typing them out and sharing them with all of you awesome folks out there in internet land.

And somewhat serendipitously — the serendipitousness of which I speak will be revealed near the end of this post — I happened to purchase a Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition DVD set off of eBay in the weeks leading up to when the guy that tried to rape Marty McFly’s mom on multiple occasions got elected president of the country with the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet.

I didn’t pay full price for my Twin Peaks DVD set, at least not the price Walmart is asking for it on the link provided. Mine was slightly used, but it’s in great condition, and I enjoyed watching the pilot (including the alternate international ending) and both seasons immensely, and I will probably watch them all again at some point.

Yes, Twin Peaks really is that good of a show.

I also purchased a copy of the feature film/prequel “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” on eBay — also used, also cheaper than retail — and watched it after I finished season 2 of Twin Peaks. And it’s interesting to watch, but I honestly think that the nudity and profanity featured in it took something intangible away from the Twin Peaks universe. A big part of what’s so addictive about Twin Peaks is that the viewer is made aware that there’s something less than wholesome going on under the lily-white surface of the small logging town of Twin Peaks, but what those less-than-wholesome goings-on actually are is never completely revealed in explicit terms in the TV series itself.

And hey, don’t get me twisted here: I’m no prude. To people who only know me through my blog or through social media, I may come across that way sometimes, but to anyone who knows me personally, well, you can ask them yourself. I prefer to leave that aspect of myself to the real world, and while that dynamic does sort of mirror the dynamic of Twin Peaks — the whole “dark underbelly vs. prim and proper facade” thing, I mean — I prefer to maintain that dynamic rather than carelessly blend the two together.

In a roundabout way, what I am saying is that if Showtime’s Twin Peaks Season 3 features lots of boobies and four-letter words, it’s going to be fundamentally different than the first two seasons.

It’s not that I don’t like looking at boobies, or that I wince whenever someone says “fuck,” it’s just that “Fire Walk With Me” sacrificed something essential about Twin Peaks by including lots of boobies and cusswords.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, I don’t know how to explain it any better.

Anyways, moving on:

I don’t want this to be a completely political post, but a major plot element in Twin Peaks — incidentally, one that is only fully revealed in “Fire Walk With Me” — quite serendipitiously coincides with something rather disgusting about our new president-elect.

And yes, it’s more disgusting than when Biff Tannen got manure dumped in his convertible, and some of it got in his mouth.

But for me to explain this any further, I am going to have to spoil certain things for you, the reader. And if you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Twin Peaks or “Fire Walk With Me,” well, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. This spoiler is pretty major, and it affects the way the viewer empathizes with certain characters, and as Twin Peaks is by far more character-driven than plot-driven, well, the way the viewer feels about the show’s many characters as the show progresses is important.

So, before I get into that, I want to briefly discuss the visual aspect of Twin Peaks. Articles and even books have been written about this, and they reference all sorts of symbolism and mythology, and knowing that David Lynch obsesses over every little detail of every shot of every film he’s ever done — he didn’t direct every episode of Twin Peaks, by the way, but the obsessiveness is still there when other directors stepped in — all these articles and books are definitely worth checking out, if you’re a fan of the show.

I’m going to take a much more superficial approach and just talk about — and show you — how good-looking most of the actors in the show are. This is both to provide people who don’t want me to spoil a big part of Twin Peaks for them an opportunity to navigate away from this page before they accidentally read my spoiler and also to just have an excuse to post pictures of good-looking people to my blog.

Anyways, here we go with the “avoiding the spoiler/look at the pretty people” section of this post:

That’s Laura Palmer. Her dead body is found in the pilot, wrapped in plastic next to a big log, after the tide receded and left it — left her — on the muddy gravel bank. This still frame is from a home movie that Laura was in, one that the local sheriff’s department and the FBI examine, following the discovery of her body. Laura’s murder is the central plot theme of the entire series. It’s worth noting that even though Laura appears multiple times throughout the series in home movies, photographs, dream sequences, etc., she only appears as her living, breathing self in “Fire Walk With Me.” She’s pretty, isn’t she?

That’s Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI. He is investigating Laura’s murder. He’s quite eccentric, and his methods of investigation are anything but conventional. He loves a good cup of strong black coffee, and he does his best to maintain a cheerful disposition throughout the series, no matter how unpleasant the situation. And just in case you were wondering, I, the author of this blog, am heterosexual, but look at that guy and tell me he isn’t handsome. Go on, do it.

That’s Audrey Horne, teenage daughter of Benjamin Horne, a wealthy real estate developer in Twin Peaks and owner of the Great Northern Hotel, where Agent Cooper stays during his investigation. (TO BE CONTINUED…)

Bobby

Shelley

Leo

Josie

Harry

Donna

James

Annie

(et alia)

“The Host” 아니죠. “괴물” 맞습니다!

Since at this point in this election cycle I am sick to death of politics – the whole “Hillary vs. Bernie” thing has gotten me into a seemingly endless pissy mood, so I don’t have anything humorous to offer, either – and since I am not feeling especially philosophical, I will write today briefly about one of my favorite movies, the 2006 Korean monster film “The Host,” directed by Bong Joon-Ho.

I like this film for a variety of reasons, and perhaps the most significant reason is simple nostalgia. I was living in Gimpo, South Korea in 2006 when this movie was released, and I think I watched it in the theater, but if not I at least watched it while I was living in Korea.

The majority of the film is set in or near Yeouido, an area in Seoul on the northern side of the Han River. From Gimpo, it was about a 20-30 minute bus ride (depending on traffic) to Songjeong Station on the purple subway line. From there, Yeouido is just a few subway stops away. I went there quite a few times during my time in Korea, and it’s a pretty peaceful place to visit.

The main characters in the film are Pak Hee-bong, an older Korean man who owns a snack stand in Yeouido, and his family: his oldest son Gang-du, who helps him at the snack stand, his daughter Nam-joo, who is a competitive archer, his younger son Nam-il, who is an unemployed college graduate and budding alcoholic, and his granddaughter (Gang-du’s daughter) Hyun-seo, a seventh grader.

I have purchased snacks and beer from stands like the one Hee-bong owns. Yeouido is a really nice place to hang out with your friends, or to go on a cheap date, or for that matter to go by yourself to relax or to read. Those steps you see in the movie, the ones that go down from the mostly flat, grassy park area down to the Han River? I have walked down those steps, or at least I have walked down steps like that in Yeouido. There are many sets of those steps that run along the riverbank. And anyways, I have sat at the bottom of these steps, down by the river, and read. I believe the book I read most of down by the Han River was “The Te of Piglet,” by Benjamin Hoff, a sequel to his more well-known book “The Tao of Pooh.”

But I am digressing, as usual.

What I want the reader to take away from my digression is that Yeouido is a very peaceful, relaxed sort of place. Families go there for picnics and that sort of thing. Sitting in the park in Yeouido and looking across the Han River, it’s easy to forget that roughly half of metropolitan Seoul is directly behind you. The bustling streets and subway stations you just went through to get here seem far away, something that you might run into way over there on the southern side of the Han River, but nothing that would ever bother you here in Yeouido. (As long as you don’t turn around, ha ha.)

But this idyllic area is the setting for most of “The Host.” And before I get too far into who and what “The Host” is, I first want to note that the Korean title of this movie is “Gwoemul” (괴물), and despite what the English subtitles on the DVD may try to tell you, “괴물”does not literally translate to “The Host,” it literally translates to “monster.”

The “monster” in the film is a gigantic (big enough to swallow a fully grown human whole) mutant fish monster thing that looks suspiciously like a big version of some sort of canned oyster or something that Gang-du eats about halfway through the film. If anyone knows what those things are called, I would appreciate it if they told me; I had to return “The Host” to the video store before I started writing this, so I can’t go back and look now.

This giant, multi-tailed, frog-footed, people-eating fish monster thing appears one day in Yeouido, first hanging bat-like from the underside of a bridge, then dropping down into the Han River, then rampaging around Yeouido eating people.

Where did this monster come from? The film’s opening scene gives the viewer an idea:

The film opens in a laboratory in Yongsan Garrison. Yongsan is the American military base in Seoul, in case you didn’t know. There are two scientists, one Korean, one American, and the American scientist outranks the Korean scientist. The American scientist laments that the lab is quite dusty, smearing dust on a bottle with his gloved finger. The American instructs the Korean (who, I think importantly, is not especially fluent in English) to dump all the contents of all the bottles down the drain. How this is supposed to get rid of the dust in the lab is a mystery; nonetheless the Korean scientist objects, in broken English, because dumping chemicals down the drain would cause the Han River to be polluted. The American scientist tells the Korean scientist “The Han River is very broad. Let’s be broad-minded about this.” After that, the American scientist leaves, and the Korean scientist is shown wearing a gas mask, dumping bottle after bottle of toxic chemicals down the drain, as a white fume cloud rises up out of the sink. If I’m not mistaken, the Korean scientist smudges the dust on the bottle he’s pouring, perhaps thinking “this lab is still gonna be pretty flipping dusty after I dump all these bottles out,” and a panning shot shows a couple hundred empty bottles on a table behind him.

The film then cuts to two Korean fishermen standing about knee-deep in the Han River, fishing. One of them captures a strange-looking fish of some sort which is never shown up close to the viewer. The man catches it in a little cup, shows it to his friend, then drops it, cup and all, after the thing he caught tried to bite his finger. He scrambles in the water for a second, upset, but he recovers the cup. It initially seems like maybe he was scrambling to catch the strange creature again, but he’s just scrambling for the cup: it was a gift from his daughter.

The next scene is of two younger Korean businessmen running toward an older Korean businessman who is about to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge spanning the Han River. Why he is committing suicide is never mentioned, but he does manage to jump off of the bridge to his death before they reach him.

This man’s suicide is mentioned on television, inside the Pak family snack stand. Hyun-seo has just gotten home from school, and she and her father are watching her aunt Nam-joo in an archery competition. A news blurb mentions that the businessman’s body was found in the river…but that it had been bitten in half. Neither Hyun-seo nor Gang-du seem to pay any mind to this detail.

Gang-du is called away by his father because of a complaint from a customer: it seems that this customer was sold a dried o-jing-eo (squid) by Gang-du, one that had nine legs instead of the usual ten. An earlier scene showed Gang-du heating up an o-jing-eo on a burner, pulling off one of its legs and sticking it in his mouth as he did so. Hee-bong tells Gang-du that the legs are the most delicious part of an o-jing-eo, and that customers expect to get what they pay for, and stop eating the customers’ food. He hands Gang-du another o-jing-eo on a tray with three cans of beer and tells him to take it to the customers who ordered the o-jing-eo Gang-du ate part of, and to give all of it to them “service,” which in a Korean snack stand/restaurant sense means “free.”

That’s right, “free.” This is something else that makes me nostalgic for Korea: restaurants will often give customers little freebies now and then, especially regulars. I and the party I was in were often the recipient of a free bottle of Coke, or Pepsi, or Chilsung Cider (kinda like 7-Up), or beer…or maybe a bowl of rice, or an extra helping of something. And get this: tipping is not allowed. Don’t get me wrong, I tip my waiter or waitress here. I am not a cheap-ass, despite being (seemingly) perpetually broke-ass. And I usually round up with my tips. Fifteen percent is usually my minimum. But I can’t help but miss the “service.” And yeah, that’s what they say when they bring you an extra Pepsi or whatever, “service.” It’s written in Korean “서비스,” which reads “seo-bi-suh” phonetically.

Also, since I am waxing nostalgic, I would like to say that my mouth is watering for some good dried o-jing-eo right now. In all honesty, when I first got to Korea, walking past stands and carts and whatnot on the sidewalk selling o-jing-eo was kind of unpleasant. It has a very fishy sort of smell, and unless you’ve smelled it, you don’t really know what it smells like, and there’s no way for me to describe it to you. It’s a very strong smell, especially if you’re not used to it. And I don’t mean to denigrate Korea or Koreans or anything like that by saying so (admittedly I am a bit of a Korea-phile), but the smell actually made me gag before I got used to it. I had to hold my breath when I would walk past carts or whatever that sold it. But after a while, I found that wasn’t the case, and a while after that, some Korean friends got me to try some of it…and I have to say, it’s really good stuff. Of course there are variations in quality, but good o-jing-eo is just about the best thing in the world to nibble on when you’re drinking beer, or for that matter whenever you want to snack on something. It’s sort of like a fishier version of beef jerky, and it’s really good stuff, despite the aroma.

Where was I? Oh yeah: Gang-du takes the tray to the customers, who don’t pay any attention to him. They are looking at something hanging from the bridge, something that drops down into the river and swims underwater toward them. Gang-du tosses a can of beer at it, and which gets swallowed whole, and several other people (there’s one Pakistani guy I think in the crowd, but the rest are Korean) throw trash into the Han River, hoping to get the attention of the thing underwater.

Despite my being an anti-litterbug sort of person, I really like this scene. I think it sort of ties in to the opening scene where the American scientist tells the Korean scientist to dump all the toxic chemicals down the drain. The film seems to be saying “sure, Americans have helped to pollute the Han River, but we Koreans have done our fair share, also.”

I forgot to mention that the opening scene was based off of something that actually happened in 2000: a Korean mortician working for the U.S. military in Seoul dumped a whole bunch of formaldehyde down the drain. Maybe the “scientists” in the opening scene were supposed to be morticians, I dunno. At any rate something like that did actually happen.

The reason I think it was significant that the Korean scientist/mortician/whatever in the opening scene couldn’t speak English all that well is because it allows for a certain amount of ambiguity in where the blame lay: maybe the Korean scientist in the film misunderstood the American one.

And I don’t mean to appeal to any authority I may or may not have on the subject, but despite what anyone may think, there are in fact many Korean people who speak Korean as their native language and also speak English as fluently (or even more fluently) than many native English speakers. My characterization of this particular Korean scientist not speaking English well is based in my interactions with countless Korean folks of varied English ability. Most Korean folks I knew – even elementary-aged students – spoke English better than this fellow. And maybe that’s significant, maybe it isn’t; at any rate there’s another English-speaking Korean scientist who translates for Gang-du and another American scientist, and the other Korean scientist is perfectly fluent in English. I know it’s only speculation, nonetheless I think there was a reason the particular actor in the opening scene was cast, and also why he enunciated his lines the way he did: to throw a little ambiguity into the mix. Maybe I am all wet, I dunno.

At any rate, following the scene down by the river, where Koreans toss trash into it to taunt the weird fish monster thing under the water, the weird fish monster thing jumps out and starts running around Yeouido eating people.

This particular victim was oblivious to what was happening, because she was listening to classical music on her headphones. It’s a shame GIFs don’t have sound…the effect in the film was quite effective: one second there’s cacophony, the next there’s peaceful music, the next…

I think it’s also significant that during this mayhem, there are only two people who seem to have any interest in anything other than running like hell: our Gang-du, and also a blonde American man. The two of them challenge the monster, but to no avail. The American – the viewer is shown later that he’s a member of the U.S. military – gets his arm ripped off and dies later in the film.

So an American scientist told a Korean scientist who didn’t speak English well to dump toxic chemicals down the drain, which led to a mutated monster jumping out of the Han River several years later and eating people, and one of the heroes that fights the monster is an American. Tell me the ambiguity of blame wasn’t intentional.

There are other scenes later that portray American military people as uncaring toward Koreans, such as the one featuring the Korean scientist who is fluent in English. The American scientist he is translating for acts concerned about Gang-du (who is in custody, about to have several painful tests done on him) when he interviews him, then almost immediately changes his tune to hostile and indifferent, saying Gang-du is delusional, and that the “virus” has infected his brain.

This “virus” is indirectly where the English title “The Host” came from: the river monster is thought to be “the host” of an unknown virus, one that has infected everyone who came in contact with the monster. This virus is mentioned on news reports as the cause of a mysterious rash that many people have started to get.

This rash also has (or at least had at the time the movie came out) a real-life analog in Korea: a rash of unknown origin called “atopi” that affected quite a few people, mostly children. I had students who had it from time to time. Nobody really knew what caused it, but chemicals in processed food like ramyeon (which kids ate tons of, including crunched up and uncooked, which is actually not as gross as it sounds) were thought to be a possible culprit.

That’s a detail of the film that would go right past anyone who has never heard of “atopi.” But it’s another real-life sort of detail that was put in, like the formaldehyde-down-the-drain event, and also something much more easily recognizable that happens toward the end of the film: the U.S. military decides to fight the monster using something called “Agent Yellow.”

Which, yeah, if that doesn’t ring any bells, you obviously don’t know much about the Vietnam War.

Director Bong Joon-ho said that calling the film “anti-American” would be a stretch, and I would agree with him. But it does play off of tensions between American military personnel and Korean people. I don’t think Bong would deny that.

Regrettably, the DVD I watched last night was scratched, so I didn’t get to see the ending of the movie again. I only got about an hour and a half through the approximately two hours of the movie, and I don’t remember exactly how it ends.

Hyun-seo, I forgot to mention, is swallowed by the monster and taken away in the monster’s first appearance. She survives being swallowed and spat back up in the sewer, and she manages to make a call to her father Gang-du to confirm she is still alive. The majority of the film centers around her family trying to find and rescue her. Her family is thwarted by American military as well as Korean people (government and civilian; one of Nam-il’s friends tries to capture him to get reward money) in their rescue attempts, but finally they find out where she is.

But like I said, I don’t remember exactly how the movie ends.

It’s worth watching, at any rate.