07 September 2008

wall to wall empty cans

This weekend I have: almost broken up a marriage, finally seen WALL-E, gotten very annoyed with idiotic people, finally met Ami's "not"-boyfriend, barely restrained myself from throwing my camera at people's heads and not drunk that much.

I've also come to the conclusion that I don't like newbies very much. This seems a bit unfair because I'm relatively new to Korea still, but I'm exempt due to not being an idiot. On Friday night Scotty and Jojo got Ruby and me to come along for a friend's leaving do, said friend seemed pretty cool but he'd also brought along a friend from back home whose only been in Seoul for a few weeks. He in turn brought a gaggle of about twenty more of his ilk. Now I certainly didn't come to Korea with the intention of doing wonderful cultural things (although I'm not entirely averse to that should the opportunity arise), nor did I think that I was going to be benevolently helping people by 'teaching' them such an all-important skill as being able to construct useless sentences in English that they'll never use. I'm here for the money, for the experience and just to be somewhere that isn't where I was. I'm being a selfish scavenger, I'm part of a system which rapes people of their (or their parents') hard-earned money and rarely gives them fair return- but I'm alright with that. It's how the world happens to work.

I can't stand these foreigners (ex-pats, tourists and whatever else) who seem to think that there mission in life is to be as obnoxious as possible. I suck and haven't really learnt that much Korean, but at least I've made a bit of an effort, and at least I understand that I ought to. I keep coming across these idiots who seem to think that the suggestion that they learn the language is some kind of an affront to them. I just want to smack these idiots! Gah. And seriously what the hell is wrong with people from Toronto? I thought that "Chonto" was some mysterious place in Korea before I cottoned on that people from there all seem to have some disease which seems to prevent them from pronouncing the name of said city correctly.

New staff are irritating too. I managed to fit into Yeouido and Sinchon easily and get on with everyone without being annoying, why the hell can't some other people do something so simple? Replacement-C clearly has no social skills, I suppose it isn't his fault but it was bloody annoying. The new staff at Sinchon are irritating too. It's weird because Sinchon is a place with pretty low turnover, and when I got there there was already a really nice communal feel- and then I discovered that a lot of the staff were leaving. The place has become a bit quieter but since I've still got Elica, Scotland, Ruby, Gamble, Mack, Smartie, Balley and Daryl who I really get on with it wasn't a problem.

We've now got three new members of staff- a new receptionist, Bashful, who is perfectly nice but so dull and shy that talking to her is like getting blood from a stone. Then there's the two new teachers- Colt is inoffensive but he just sits in his office all day being old, and studying. He doesn't really talk to any of us most of the time. The other new guy, Tanky, on the other hand is very chatty. I don't normally mind that, and he initially seemed like a pretty cool guy. I don't mind him talking through the Seinfeld episodes that Scotland and/or Freemason are watching cos Seinfeld is craptastic. When he waffles on through The League of Gentlemen or Monkey Dust I get a tad murderous though, and I seriously might have killed him when I was lounging around in the bunk bed all hungover and trying to sleep. Elica and Scotland bitching at each other managed to chase him out of the room thankfully. He also seems to have pinned Scotland and me as his ideal new best friends, even though we tried to explain that we're horrible people. He merely simpered that he likes practically everyone and sadly didn't seem phased when I pointed out that I don't.

He seems to treat Koreans, especially Korean women, in a kind of derogatory way which really pissed me off. He overheard Smartie telling me that she'd managed to sort out someone to fix my air conditioning (it works now, and I'm incredibly thankful) and just busted into the conversation to demand that his be fixed to, as well as a leaky tap which apparently was hella urgent. He didn't seem to understand that he had no right to be impatient about these things being sorted because he hadn't told any of the staff about them, he apparently thought that they would psychically know about them and act accordingly. He then didn't even bother to thank Smartie, and when me and her were practicing some French he condescendingly began speaking to her in very rapid French, and switched to Russian when she seemed confused. He bitches far too much about all the receptionists' level of English, which just isn't fair since they all try really hard. He seems to always find something to complain about when it comes to Koreans- their attitudes, their English ability, their driving... He's free to complain about these things as much as he wants, but he doesn't constantly need to imply that these things are somehow indicative of Western/American superiority.

He lives in the same building as me so he invited me to come over and meet his (shiny new) wife, and then go out to a BYOB punk club. Although I had a strong urge to have a lazy weekend and just watch Dexter or something I acquiesced because his wife sounded like someone I'd get on with and a BYOB punk club is my idea of a good time. Tanky managed to fulfill pretty much all the stereotypes about an idiotic American abroad. He's grossly overweight, he's rude, he's clearly stupid and he's found himself a nice submissive little Asian wife who, it turns out, is half his age and does all his cleaning for him. She is also not exempt from my ire, she sounds like a maniac- she doesn't eat anything after 2pm in an effort to lose (non-existent) weight and is affronted by the presence of beer. She refused to come along to the punk club with us because she had to study, although Tanky was pretty adamant that she didn't really need to. Whatever.

Anyway we headed out, and the punk club didn't seem to be happening. They were semi-open and playing A Hard Day's Night, which I'm all about but which didn't seem to fit the theme. Since Tanky's been out of the country for a couple of months the whole city has changed it's plans to piss him off apparently, and because he doesn't have internet at home he couldn't check things (or ask me to google away perhaps). We were going to make alternative plans but then his wifey called him and they got into a massive phone argument about the most ridiculous thing ever. I understand that people sometimes blow up over little things, I do it too. But I'm capable of realising that I'm doing it, and I don't do it after the fact because there's no bloody point. She was shouting away at him because I'd commented on their Simpson's poster (it was pretty cool seriously- Seurat style) and he'd offered it to me. It was a nice gesture I suppose but I've already had enough of the paternalism- I'm actually capable of looking after myself, if someone wants to do something nice for me they can buy me my own poster or tell me where I can get one, giving me the poster would seem a bit weird. So she was mad at him for offering to give it away, which I can kind of appreciate. This turned into a massive irreconcilable argument though with lots of screaming and begging. Last I heard he was pleading for forgiveness and she was refusing to come home.

To be honest I don't really understand why he'd wanted to go out to this club if she wasn't up for it, it doesn't seem like the most appropriate way to act if you've just got married. He seems to have convinced himself that he's in love with her because she's probably the only person of the female persuasion who's exhibited any interest in him, and she seems to be operating under the misguided impression that the fact that he's American and considerably older than her somehow make him a good catch. They're both bloody minded idiots, and I was very glad when I finally managed to get away from their drama and spend my evening in PJs with cheese toasties (although everyone else wasn't very impressed with my refusal to come back out again later).

Tanky also needs to stop offering his wife to me like a smarmy pimp (hey, there's a brothel down the road anyway). As far as I'm aware he hasn't been offering her for sexual services, but I try to ignore him as much as possible so I might have missed it. It's just that any time I'm trying to do something he suggests that his wife can do it for me- sewing, shopping, communicating with Koreans. It's incredibly creepy! I don't understand why he thinks that I'm as pathetic as him and would be happy to rely on getting somebody else to do everything for me. Offers of help are gratefully accepted, offers of getting your spouse to do my chores for me make me want to run away screaming.

I've finally got a camera and I've been very excited about it, taking pictures left, right and centre:
I didn't think anything of putting them up on Facebook because, well, that's what I do with my old photos that I've scanned, pictures from disposable cameras when I have them and my phone pics. I don't feel like filling up my hard drive with hundreds of pictures, I'd rather just dump them somewhere online and have done with it. Facebook is also the easiest way for me to share my pictures with my friends (and some of my family) too, since emailing is more time-consuming and I can only send a few at a time. However a few people have been getting really pissy about it.

Balley and Daryl were mildly whingey about one picture each, but not in a particularly irritating way (although Daryl expressed her preference for teeny little pictures which is just stupid), and I wouldn't have minded removing them if they pressed it. Elica complained a little too, I removed the ones of her kissing some guy when she asked because it was fair enough, although she isn't on Facebook and I'd shown her the pictures beforehand so I didn't think it would be a big deal. The person who's really irritating me about it is Ruby. I told her that I'd take some down if she told me which ones she didn't like, instead of doing so she later messaged me even though we were in the same fricking building and begged me to delete them all. Maybe I should just do it for her, but I think that it's kind of ridiculous. I thought that she was complaining about a couple that she felt were really unflattering or something, not that she would insist that I remove them all. I find it a little bit offensive- I feel that I took nice photos and I don't want to have to hide them all somewhere. I know that Facebook is a public site and therefore I can kind of understand why she doesn't want them there (but in that case why have a Facebook profile?) but at the same time they are my pictures and surely I have a right to do with them as I please. I don't want to offend or annoy anyone, and I can sympathise with the horrible feeling that you get when someone's posted a picture of you which you think is unutterably foul. I removed quite a lot of the pictures but she's still demanding that I get rid of more, I don't really understand why she has such a problem with them, especially since she's quite a camerawhore.

I think I'm just going to stick to photographing trees and buildings which can't fight back.

I don't want to suggest that this weekend wasn't fun or that I'm excessively mad at people. Ruby and I actually had a really nice time together on Friday and it was nice to see Scotty and Jojo too- and actually some of the randomites were pretty cool. I wasn't in the mood to go out on Saturday night so after a bit of a walk around I got to indulge myself, even if I had to put up with idiots for a little while. After several botched attempts I finally got to see WALL-E today. It doesn't seem to be out everywhere anymore, so we had to retreat to a random cinema hidden in Mullae which noone else seems to have heard of, but I can report that it exists and is perfectly pleasant.

WALL-E was enjoyable enough, but it isn't brilliant. It does its thing well- the futuristic world is wonderful realised with exquisite detail and the film manages to work well with very little dialogue (but if I want to watch a silent movie I'd probably watch one, or Hush the "silent movie" episode of Buffy). Maybe it's because I'm not the world's biggest fan of sci-fi that I wasn't enamoured with the film, WALL-E basically cinematically realises the drab rusty colours that I associate with the draining nature of a lot of sci-fi (like when I was reading Dune). The character WALL-E was endearing and sweet; his curiosity was charming as was his hoarding instinct. I understand that this is supposed be a relatively fluffy family film, but I don't think that that ought to absolve it of the duty to create a believable plot. Why did (this) WALL-E survive when the others didn't? Is it because he scavenges and thus has spare parts and enough knowledge to keep himself running longer? If so, why not make this explicit? Why are certain robots (WALL-E and later EVE) able to exercise free choice whereas most others cannot? What is it that allows these robots to be sentient and act in a relatively human way? If WALL-E was affected by what humans left behind on Earth to that extent I want to know how and why. It probably doesn't help that I don't really buy the idea of sentient robots anyway.

The whole romance angle was kind of weak in my opinion. I understand that it's supposed to be fantastical, but somehow familial fish and ogres in love seem easier to swallow than robots staring into each other's visors. I know that the film was just trying to be sweet and whimsical, but it just seemed stupid to me. I also think I might have liked the romance between WALL-E and EVE a lot more if the robots didn't have these oddly gendered personalities- why is EVE so feminine? EVE's destructo-gal role was pretty fun though! I did really like the fact that nobody was able to pronounce anyone else's "name" correctly, and there were some nice little touches when WALL-E was trying to entertain EVE such as the Rubik's cube and the light bulb. Whilst I liked the nostalgic film and music that WALL-E favoured I felt that they were odd choices. All the humans left Earth around 2100, so I doubt that WALL-E would find a lot of VCRs and jazz. I felt that the film was consciously trying to evoke the audience's idea of the nostalgic past, which creates the desired effect but doesn't hold true to the story. I think a more interesting version of this story wouldn't feel so human or accessible, but probably wouldn't be box office gold. I'd like it a lot more though.

WALL-E's inbuilt music system was pretty cool. I would have no compunction about becoming a cyborg if I'd get a (large) mp3 player fitted inside my head, it would save all the hassle of fiddling with headphones. The people/cyborgs/robots/whatevers of the future are going to have such a cool time, as long as anyone lives that long- which actually this film made me doubt. When WALL-E hands EVE his treasure, a plant he found growing amidst the rubbish, she seizes it because her directive is to find evidence of life on Earth. WALL-E is obviously concerned by her randomly shutting down and lovingly guards her through freak weather conditions until the ship comes to collect her. That was all pretty sweet, but I think that he could have saved himself a lot of hassle by not hanging out in the rain and snow. Also WALL-E's obsession with EVE seems a little bit disturbing if you think about it. Their relationship begins with him skulking about following her, and watching her asleep. Once he gets his plant inside her (that sentence started out a lot cruder!) she completely shuts down and turns into nothing more than a receptacle of gestation. Add to this EVE's egg-like shape and her treatment as a hospital patient once she gets to Earth it really seems as if WALL-E accidentally knocked her up without no ring to produce future little MCs WALL-Es pizza plants (did I mention that I love Sarah Jones?). Their 'relationship' continues for an unspecified amount of time during which he ogles her while she's comatose and gropes her hand which is apparently something very special for robots. It just feels like something of a violation, and I'm glad that his hand got trapped and hurt when he did it, ha.

The robots on the ship appeared to be far more obedient that WALL-E, which is a little weird because they've spent far more time around humans than he has. I loved the OCD robot who was frantically trying to clean up the foreign contaminants WALL-E was leaving everywhere. I would really think that a futuristic ship would have a better security system than the one it had, it took them ages to track down WALL-E and EVE after they'd been designated 'rogue'. I don't really understand why 'ill' robots were kept around, why not just destroy them? Also it had secretly been decided that returning to Earth would not be possible, so why were the probes still sent to look for life on Earth? Surely that could have been faked perfectly well?

I liked the idea of the fat, useless future-people who are so consumerist and lazy that they're incapable of paying attention to what's around them. I definitely agreed with the idea that these people wouldn't be aware of WALL-E or find his presence weird, because they're all basically drones anyway. However I think the decision to make all these-future people American and mostly white was bizarre. In a live action movie there can be casting issues, but in an animated movie it's quite easy to portray the statistical probability that in the future most people will be caramel coloured (at least The Matrix got that right). Also since everyone seemed physical incapable of making babies perhaps a cursory explanation for their existence could have been made. No explanation of this new human society was given- it appeared to be just as consumerist and overrun by the huge Buy n Large corporation but I don't understand how this corporation was making money off of them. Nobody appeared to have jobs or do anything, perhaps the corporation just enjoyed controlling people for the sake of it? Perhaps everyone who came onboard initially was incredibly wealthy, and their descendants are able to live off of this somehow (would there still be banks, interest, investment?), in which case I want to know what happened to the poor people- did they remain on Earth to end up crushed by the WALL-Es? I don't understand how the ship had enough fuel to power a 700 year flight, if it was manufacturing it's own fuel or something then I want a brief mention at least.

Although the plant that WALL-E found seemed to be incredibly resilient, it lasted a pretty long time without water and only a little soil as well as getting tossed about a lot, I don't see that the presence of one little weed means that life on Earth is automatically sustainable again. There was an awful lot of work which needed doing, not least somehow removing all the waste products littered across the Earth. If nobody could do something about it 700 years ago I don't understand what there brave new plan was. I really wouldn't give humanity good odds on survival on a planet without any evidence of sustainable life and freak weather conditions including devestating sand storms, especially since they didn't have a decent understanding of farming and thought they'd be able to grow fully formed pizzas. If the planet had been devoid of plant life for 700 years I would assume that the atmosphere had changed and there was no longer enough oxygen for humans to survive. If humans have adapted to subsist on nitrogen or if they succeeded in terraforming the planet incredibly quickly that needs to be made obvious, rather than leaving plot holes large enough for WALL-E to easily dump all the trash into. Quite frankly I'd rather watch Firefly.

There were far too many little inconsistencies all over the place which weren't a big deal but grated on my nerves. When the humans who WALL-E had succeeded in waking up splashed water at one of the robots they electrocuted it, ye the water apparently had no effect on their hoverchairs. I don't understand how WALL-E was able to avoid falling in space when he wasn't being aided by EVE or his fire extinguisher. I don't understand where the Captain and some of the other humans suddenly developed an ability to walk! Etc, etc, etc...

One thing that I did quite like was the Captain's longing to go "home" to Earth, a desire which he managed to wake in the other people too. I'm listening to Sloop John B right now which feels especially appropriate! They wanted to a return to a home that they'd never known, and I think that the importance of this national, or in this case potentially international, aspect of identity is pertinent. Although humanity on this ship didn't constitute a dispersed group I'd still characterise them as a diaspora I think, as they exhibited most of the characteristics.

Overall I didn't think that it was a bad film, it just wasn't anything overly amazing and I can't quite understand why it got such enthusiastic reviews. I suppose I'm also just not really in the mood for loveable well-meaning characters who bumble around trying to do the right thing at the moment, the magician in the short animation 'Presto' also got on my nerves for being stupid. I think I actually laughed more at the PIXAR title with the overly-energetic lamp squishing the 'I' (which I've seen plenty of times before) than I did at 'Presto'. WALL-E's end credits were exceptionally buff I have to say, but it's not a good sign that they might have been my favourite part of the film.

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