Oldboy, American vs Korean

I just watched the American version of Oldboy and I have a few things to say (spoiler alert?):


Could have used more gore and less music. The single take fight scene was alright… but for an implicit homage to spatter films, it needed a good bit more, well, spatter.


Sympathy for Lady Vengeance > Oldboy (Korean) > Oldboy (American)


AV Club said that Spike Lee was a hired gun on this piece. BS. His fingerprints are all over it, for better or worse.


Choi Min-sik>Josh Brolin (no offence)


Octopus scene in original vs. Spike Lee version? C’mon.


In the Korean original the main character semi-apologetically tries to rape the female character when he first meets her. It’s hella weird, hella awkward, but the fact that she sticks with him says something pretty strong. This version cut that scene out, and we got less of a sense that there was something very off kilter about her as a result.


The American backstory > Korean backstory. There’s loads to unpack here. The American set up had the antagonist’s father having a sexual relationship with the antagonist’s sister. This maps more directly onto the incestual relationship that the antagonist sets up with Doucette and Marie. But…. The symbolism is different. In the Korean version has a sexual relationship with her brother, and a single offhand comment from the protagonist results in her phantom pregnancy. That is loads different than the American version (father has sexual relationship with daughter and son; no pregnancy), in which the protagonist spreads lots of rumors (which seems like a more slight offence).


The original ending>the American ending. Where is the cutting out of the tongue? Puh-lease.


Having the effete antagonist be European and British? The Korean original had only class to play against, and so whatever statements it made were much more powerful. Writing off the antagonist as foppy Eurotrash was lazily American.


Elizabeth Olsen > Mary Kate Olsen + Ashley Olsen.




Elizabeth Olsen > MKO * AO

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Two bits from today’s print

I found these two bits from two different articles I read today. I liked one and thought the other one was terrible writing. Guess which is which:


“[The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia’s] main purpose appears to be to provide an alternative to established waffle shops, such as the ASEAN regional forum…”

“Peripheral Diplomacy: Balancing Act,” The Economist, vol. 412, no. 8894, July 5th-11th, 2014, page 38.




“The Germans were merciless, playing with grace and unity and a raw power that saw them rip open the Brazilian defense as if it were a can of soup. ”

“Devastating Loss Leaves Brazil in Tears,” The New York Times, accessed July 8, 2014.

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Foursquare Daiquiri

Tiré d’une lettre particulière:


Be sure to make a daiquiri with Foursquare Rum; it was the first cocktail I ever fell in love with, and while a more developed palette may have foregone the relationship and so avoided the rocky times that it brought about, it still reminds me of love that doesn’t know any better, and— unlike some other things we fall for —can be passed on without melancholy.


Et le réponse:


You should also remember that melancholy is part of love… it’s the sweetness inverted… it’s our senses saying farewell…

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And they say physics killed philosophy

I just came across a tantalizing little review of Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe in the London Review of Books.*

The short, doesn’t-nearly-do-it-justice upshot is that Smolin, a physicist, thinks that too many of his colleagues are beholden to a set of models that depend on abstract mathematical symmetries. I’m hardly qualified to discuss the specifics, but it does remind me of another book I found thanks to the LRB, Denys Turner’s biography of Thomas Aquinas.

During his life, Aquinas had to contend with the neo-Platonists, who believed that every person has an immortal soul connected to his body, and that this soul was what ascended to heaven (one would hope) upon dying. Aquinas believed that the soul was the organizing principle of the body, the form of man, and that the soul ceased to exist upon death.

Without getting into specifics (which would take too long to explain, and I might not do a very good job of it anyway—just read the Turner!), the Platonists had an easier time joining their philosophy with Christian teachings about the afterlife, but a harder time explaining what happened before people are born (If souls are immortal then where to they come from? Were they around forever before being joined to a person at birth? why would a soul bother teaming up with physical substance in the first place?). Thomas had a bit of an easier time explaining things around birth (well, a soul comes into play whenever a human being has a form that we can identify as human), but a harder time lining his philosophy up with the Catholic’s view of afterlife (so if the soul is the form of man, what happens to that soul after death? How can it go to heaven if the body stays put on Earth and starts to rot? If we get our bodies back at the resurrection, what happens in the interim? Does god reunite the substance that our bodies had with our souls? What if some of that substance has become a part of another person?).

And so the unfamiliar, academic logic around the debates that Thomas had in his lifetime have an echo in those circling around physics today. A neat little correspondence.


*Alas it’ll have to remain tantalizing to you too, reader, as this review is in the pay-to-view section of the periodical.

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Some thoughts on Rowling, Hermione, Ron and Harry

This is the last thing from a fanzine, but I do genuinely think that Harry Potter represents genuine quality work, and so I’m going to post about JK Rowling’s recently expressed regret that she didn’t have Hermione and Harry get together, rather than Hermione and Ron.

Given the character histories involved, I’m not sure how bright Harry’s prospects for parenthood are. You’d hope that he wouldn’t punish his kids by locking them under the stair, but Vernon didn’t demonstrate many other options. Ron and Hermione come from loving family backgrounds and I think would be more stable in the long term.

But that doesn’t explain why a sixteen year old Hermione would choose to go with Ron (if that’s the right word—she’s not thinking of family histories and who’d be more stable or whatever). Would she prefer the likeable wallflower or the emotionally turbulent (if not emotionally damaged) Harry? It’s romantic and tempting to put her together with Harry, but even if they did get together, how would it play out? She’s seen him go through weird kinds of torment and possession and loads of stuff that she never had to deal with. I could see them getting into a resentful caretaker dynamic (“just listen to me Harry, my research is telling me what is best for you,” “well you just CAN’T know what I went through”), which doesn’t seem like a very good paradigm. In that sense Ginny is a much better fit because she went through something similar to Harry (kinda like how Peeta is a better fit for Katniss because they both went through the Hunger Games). That being said, maybe the most acute ending would have been to have Ginny and Harry be childless in the series’ epilogue.

Anyways, maybe Hermione remembers Ron getting concussed in their first year of Hogwarts and feels obligated to love him and so represses her love for Harry. Maybe Hermione would have loved Harry, but a self-preservation instinct kicked in telling her not to get too close (watching someone scream in their sleep and suffer from debilitating nightmares might permanently change your perception of that person). Listening to that self-preservation instinct seems like the kind of wisdom that comes from experience, and maybe in a real world version of HP Hermione would date Harry and they’d either muddle on or end messily, in which case she’d either reenact the same dynamic, overreact and date no one, or find a new dynamic with someone else, perhaps someone like Ron. The only solution I can see is to get Steven Sondheim to write a musical about the characters as adults.

The upshot is that I disagree with Rowling. There’s no wrong choice in the matter, but whichever one she chose, it says something strong about Hermione’s character. Whether or not that instinct for self-preservation would kick in at such a young age, whether she’d be old enough to recognize it, I like that Hermione would have a sort of freedom from Rowling’s feelings about how who she should have ended up with.

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Christmas Season Things:


1)      The Mark Rylance production of Twelfth Night, playing at the Belasco in New York City, is out of this world.

2)      I’ve been looking to get into Thomas Aquinas for awhile now and—thanks to the London Review of Books, might have a doorway.


Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait looks like a combination biography (though the details of Aquinas’ life are pretty scanty) and introduction to his thought. Most of the Aquinas readers I’ve found seem to have been designed for classes that were already steeped in the specifics of the man’s philosophy, so it is nice to have something that is more of an introduction.


I was also pleased to note that the author, Denys Turner, takes up an argument against Richard Dawkins’ knee-jerk materialism and makes something of a stand for the value of theology and philosophy as worthwhile endeavors. As quoted in the review, Turner says that “there is scarcely a proposition of Thomas’s theology that [he] is able to formulate accurately enough to succeed in accurately denying.” Ouch.

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A Break from the Usual

I don’t typically get political, but this debt ceiling business has me heated… and so!

Let’s imagine that you’re in high school in a small town, and you have an older, spendthrift cousin. Some of his expenditures are good (he bought a car to take grandpa to his dialysis treatments), some of them are questionable (that car was a Lexus), and some of them are a bit shady (he uses said Lexus to make women think he’s rich). He does alright at making money, but he never seems to have quite enough, and he’s always everyone he knows up for money, even you. And usually people are willing to give him a few bucks because he pretty much always pays them back at some point.

Eventually you might get a point where you say, “hey man, enough is enough. I’m not going to lend you any more money to pay off some other creditor any more. If you go broke it’s on you and you should be responsible for your own decisions.”
And that’d be fine. Your cousin probably does need to learn a lesson, and if his credit goes to hell, well, that’s on him.

Now imagine that the spendthrift is your father. He’s always running from creditor to creditor, trying every idea he can think of (idealistic, shady, or just deluded) to make just a little bit more money so he can pay down the money he owes. He always stumps up in the end, but you and most everyone else is getting uneasy about how much he owes. You might realize from your earliest days that dad needs to spend less money, that he needs to spend it more wisely, that he needs to tighten the belt and treat himself and the family a little less often, but no one seems to listen to you. Not only that, but his web of loans and counterloans actually does manage to keep the ship from leaking too badly; you get to the doctor when you need it, you don’t have to drop out of high school to get a job to make ends meet for the family, and so on.

So what should you do? Should you try to teach him the same lesson you’d teach your cousin? Sabotage his attempts to extend his credit a bit more and cause the whole shebang to collapse? Sure you’d get to wag your finger and say, “this is what happens when you aren’t responsible!,” but you’d also be fucking yourself over. The next time you went to the bank they might think, “this poor bastard seems alright, but he’s X’s son. Can’t risk throwing that much money into that sinkhole of a family,” before they say, “I’m sorry, but credit is pretty tight these days, and we can’t get you the money with such a small down payment.” Or that technical school might think, “you know we woulda given this kid a chance—he’s pretty smart—but pops stiffed the bank on his last loan… better not take the chance,” before saying to you, “Sorry, but we can’t take the risk that you’ll be able to afford our tuition. Sorry!” You get the idea.

I don’t much know what I’d do if I were the son of a spendthrift (it is always hard to take the reins from your forebears when they get older and are perhaps less able to make good decisions), but I’m pretty sure throwing the family into default would be a disaster. So if Ted Cruz and his moron cohorts want to live in a fantasy world where the US defaulting on its debts somehow won’t affect their own well being, please someone, just let Texas secede and sink their own goddamn boat without taking me with them.

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