Friday, August 26, 2011

Two Powerful Korean Films

     I will never forget the first time I watched a movie by Hong Sang-Soo. I had started at the beginning of his filmography, with The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well (1996).

Front Cover

Back Cover

      My first 3 viewings of The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well were not good enough. I was still recovering. By now, a full 5 years after having had watched it for the first time, I am able to cope with it. What the hell are these people doing? What is the plot? What is happening!? And that's it! This film is about regular people going about their regular activities. This is a masterstroke of psychological film making. One deep powerful stroke into your ephemeral thought center that caresses your neurons for days, weeks, months, years. This is definitely specifically designed for the INTP personality or for anyone that values thinking. Most people will not be able to watch this film and feel that anything truly remarkable has happened. And you, the reader, might be wondering how a film showing regular people doing regular things can be so powerful. 

     The second film by Hong Sang-Soo I had watched is the 2nd in his filmography:

Front Cover

Back Cover

     The plot of The Power of Kangwon Province does exist, provided one sits through the whole film and pays very close attention. This is not a typical movie, where one can accept phone calls, grab a bite to eat, leave a swirl in the toilet, pick their toenails, etc. You have to sit there and shut out everything else in your life and pay attention. You will be rewarded

Monday, August 22, 2011


     I'm going to use this posting space to keep track of some of the questions I have in reference to science and philosophy. One of the earliest questions I had was:


     It seems logical to me that there cannot be a smallest thing, but there is a smallest theoretical length at which new science would need to be developed in order to explain. That is called the Planck Length and it's many orders of magnitude smaller than atoms or their constituents.

     Another question I had formed, in my early 20s:


     Light speed makes no sense for objects that have mass, so my answer to this question is that zero velocity also makes no sense. Using logic, an object that came completely to rest would lose all its mass, have infinite length, and not last long enough to witness the birth of the universe. Since time slows as velocity increases, then that implies that time speeds up as velocity slows. If somehow, one could achieve zero velocity, then one would experience such a fantastic rate of time that the birth of the universe would never happen.
     One might wonder what I'm talking about, since zero velocity is so easy to achieve. But that is not the case. While you are reading this blog post, you are on the Earth (very likely). Since the Earth is moving around the Sun and the Sun is moving around the core of the galaxy and the galaxy is moving through space, you are not even remotely close to zero velocity. And it gets worse. Space itself moves.
     Gravity is definitely something to consider while pondering this question. The one thing that locks your velocity is gravity. You are "locked" at around 66,000 miles/hr because that is the orbital velocity of the Earth. You can escape that lock by leaving the influence of the Earth's gravitational field. But then you must escape the Sun, and then, you must escape the Milky Way.
     At what velocity would one be locked outside of the gravitational field of a galaxy? That is something I do not know. One thing is clear: from your point of view, everything would be moving. If you found something that was not moving, then you could determine your velocity to be zero, with respect to that object. But since everything is moving (in reality), you are automatically moving at the same velocity as that object. Your next task would be to determine the velocity of that object and then escape its lock. Good luck achieving absolute zero velocity!!!


      I am perturbed by the laziness of many writers for TV and movies, as well as with the developers of video games. But in their defense, I am also perturbed by the name given to energetic photons. In particular, the suffix -ray is what I find so bothersome. Photons of all energy levels are waves, whether we see them or whether they kill us. X-rays and gamma rays are "rays" as much as "fat" makes one fat. ("Fat" is another poorly understood word.) Why am I calling some writers lazy?
     Because they should know that our eyes collect photons; they do not emit photons. Anyone that thinks a person with x-ray vision could look through walls or see a woman's breasts has not advanced much beyond what the ancient Greeks thought. They thought that our eyes emitted light.
     Just like with visible light, if one wants to see anything with x-rays, then one needs an x-ray source. I am curious as to what one would see if they could detect x-rays. I wrote the following on 5-25-2010 and posted it at a physics website:

      "I couldn't sleep the other night because I was thinking about photons and their ability to penetrate materials. It can be argued that humans are photon detectors. This is true in more than just the sense of visible light because photons don't just enter our pupils. As an example, our bodies can detect x-rays (our bones stop them). But we can't form an x-ray map of our surroundings, as we can with visible light, unless computers assist us. 
     Imagine for a moment if our eyes were unable to detect visible light. For some reason we evolved to detect x-rays. If I were in a building, away from all windows, what would I see? Assume that all light sources (in this case the sources would emit x-rays) were turned off. Since x-rays have greater penetrating power than visible light, would I still see the Sun if I were inside a building? If one had eyes able to detect x-rays would there be a need to make artificial x-ray sources?
      But then I thought about much longer wavelengths. As you know, if you step outside of a building and shine a flashlight against the wall, the photons will not pass through the wall and be detected by any humans inside. Interestingly, I asked, 'Why can radio waves pass through the wall?'

      Since radio waves have less energy than light waves, how are they able to penetrate materials that absorb and reflect visible light? I used to think that radio waves were made of photons, but I read recently that they are not. It just seems logical to assume that the carriers of electromagnetic radiation, the photons, waved at all wavelengths.

      Since radio waves are not made of photons (are they made of electrons?) why are they put on the same chart as visible light, ultraviolet, x-ray, gamma-ray, etc.?

     Wow. Everything was fine until I got to the end of what I had typed. What made me think that radio waves are not made of photons? I must have read a really bad forum answer somewhere else. Luckily, someone responded to what I had typed....

      "Radio and Visible light are exactly the same phenomenon.

Long radio waves can be explained "classically" because the wavelength is so much larger than the size of atoms, and because they have low energy: you have many many many individual photons each very subtle so you only see the overall effect. The atoms of the radio antenna don't stop and absorb a photon and change state; instead, quantum effects mix displacements of the free electrons with the photons and when it all comes out in the end you say "electric field" etc.

Short visible waves don't do all that because they are very small compared to the atoms. Your eyes work by having a molecule stop (absorb) photons which causes a change to the electron's energy level in the atom. Visible light's energy is a good match for the available energy levels in organic molecules... so no coincidence that we use it to see with!

Just at the edge of visibility and into UV, individual photons knock individual electrons out of a metal, which is what lead to the realization that photons exist. Radio waves, in huge numbers, gently sway the electrons in the metal instead, like water molecules in the surf making small seashells dance on the edge of the beach.

The two things are extreme ends of a continuous range of phenomena. Just like water is "a liquid" in bulk, but individual hard and solid atoms on another scale. Radio and Visible light is like the difference between a pile of sand and a large slab of stone. Different things happen if you drop each one onto you.

     Honestly, I'm kind of embarrassed about my mistake. Anyway, I still want to know what would happen if our eyes could collect photons in the x-ray energy range. My guess is that hospitals would be sources of light, as well as dentist's offices. How many x-ray photons from the Sun penetrate down to ground level? Would the Sun even be visible?

    For now, this is my answer, based on my research. The sun would probably be hard to distinguish amongst the more powerful and unusually ubiquitous x-ray sources covering the entire sky. The whole sky would probably be "visible", but I can't even guess what "color" it would be. X-rays don't penetrate to the surface of the earth, so a life-form that could detect x-rays on the earth would need to develop artificial sources and carry around flashlights that emit x-rays. Even so, regular objects and other life-forms would look pretty odd. A lot of things would also be transparent.

     Updates to come randomly.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Korean Movie - The Customer is Always Right

     I take enormous risks when I watch movies. I haven't sat down and figured out the ratio, but the amount of bad movies I watch exceeds the great movies. I consider the bad movies the price I have to pay in order to find the gems. I don't consider the money to be the price I have to pay - no. The actual price is all the crap I have to be exposed to. This is the same with books, music, and to some extent - women.
     I won't be telling you about the crap because I don't want to talk about it or even think about it. The other night I sat down and watched The Customer is Always Right, completely unaware as to whether it would blow me away or ruin my day. The best word I can use to describe this movie is "magical", but with a caveat. If you're not really into Korean movies and haven't seen the early works of Lee Chang-Dong, then you might be less entranced. I don't want to potentially spoil anything, so I won't name the exact movie you should watch first.

DVD Front Cover

DVD Back Cover

     I'm going to tell you about the actors.
  • 성지루 (Seong Ji-Ru) is the barber in the scan. He is gullible and timid; he breaks down and is thwarted easily. It took me a long time to recognize him, since he acted very differently from his role in A Good Lawyer's Wife. In that movie, he played the seriously mentally disturbed person that rambled nonsense. 
  • 이선균 (Lee Seon-Gyun) is the man blowing the bubble in the scan. I was very surprised to watch his role in this movie because he was essentially an alpha male; very calm, assertive, assiduous, easily able to kick the crap out of people, successful with the ladies, etc. A total bad-ass. He normally plays a sexually frustrated character that can't talk to women without stuttering, or he's psychologically abusive to women.
  • 명계남 (Myung Gye-Nam) is the man with the sunglasses. He's the mystery character, he's the customer, and he's always right. 
  • 성현아 (Seong Hyeon-Ah) is the woman in the picture. I remember her playing a psychologically disturbed person in Time who used plastic surgery as her source of paramount satisfaction. She also played the mother in the closed-loop paradox horror movie Cello. In this movie, she is a manipulative sex-crazed maniac that is content with nothing and upset with everything. 
     Sadly, I can not tell you why I loved this movie so much. There is much I can not reveal, due to the fact it's spoiler-heavy. The fact that I have seen so many Korean movies definitely made this a far more interesting experience, because I was able to compare how these people act compared to what else I have seen them in. Ultimately, this movie is mysterious. The man in the sunglasses had me stumped beyond hope. Well, here's the gist of it. I can tell you this much...the barber did something very bad...and somehow...the man in the sunglasses found out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two Korean Movies - The Snare and Say Yes

     Youtube is a great place to find out what movies to watch. In my particular case, I like to watch Korean movies, and there are plenty of such lists on Youtube, even genre lists. I found a video that listed the top 69 (!) R-rated Korean movies and I had watched 22 of them. The #1 movie on that list was The Hole. I found the list credible since all 22 of the movies I had seen were indeed quite good. However, I had never seen the #1 movie, so I watched it last Saturday night. It was easy to find because it was already contained in my physical collection.
     Before I proceed, I have to talk about the title of the movie. The original Korean title is 올가미, which does not mean "the hole" in English. I looked up 올가미 in my Korean-English dictionary and here is the definition: a noose; a snare; a lasso; a rope; a trick; a cheat; a trap. I couldn't find The Hole listed at Han Cinema or Asian DB, but I did find The Snare listed as Asian DB. Asian Media Wiki decided to use the title on the DVD case and here is their entry. Take note that IMDB also lists it as The Hole. I have decided to officially call it The Snare, since Asian DB uses that title, plus that is the correct meaning of the Korean word.
     Anyway, I have posted the DVD front and back covers, so you can see for yourself.

The Snare (1997)

DVD Front Cover

DVD Back Cover

      I can understand why someone would rate this as the best R-rated Korean movie. It ventures into taboo territory in the form of perverse emotional desire, which makes the viewer feel rather uncomfortable. I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't mention the exact nature of the emotional abnormalities. I was constantly surprised and I would call this "original". I very, very, very seriously doubt this will ever be remade by Hollywood, due to the uncomfortable nature of the content. 
     As for the picture quality of the DVD, it varies between low and high resolution. Some scenes look like VHS quality and others are clearly DVD quality. I don't know how that works, but it doesn't in any way alter the viewing experience. The movie is shocking enough that it could be in black and white and it wouldn't make a difference. There is an oddity to report about the DVD. The soundtrack is actually available through the on-screen menu. I have never seen anything like that before. 

     The second movie I feel compelled to blog about is called 세이 예스 in Korean, which is a spelling of the English "Say Yes".  So the title is rather straightforward and means the same thing in both languages. Why am I mentioning this movie in the same blog post as the above movie? They were both made by the same director. I had seen Say Yes several years ago and something happened that was not supposed to happen. In other words, I was thoroughly shocked.
Say Yes (2001)

DVD Front Cover

DVD Back Cover

     Besides the thing that was not supposed to happen, there was something else that shocked me. 박중훈 (Park Joong-Hoon) plays a psychologically demented and manifestly violent character that torments the lives of others. He is normally a comedian. Consider for a moment watching Jim Carrey playing a violent hard-edged murderer that stops at nothing to make his human prey suffer. Wouldn't it be strange to watch the jovial Carrey kill people?
     The main theme in this movie, as in The Snare, is torment. Someone, for a reason they consider rational, has decided to torment other people. The torment is far more physical than psychological and there is no concern for the comfort of the victims. 
     These are both "hard-hitting" movies and I would recommend them if you enjoy being shocked.