Saturday, February 20, 2010

Korea Likes, Dislikes

I dislike:

- Milk. It tastes gross here. I drink 2% in the States, so it shouldn't be that different, but it is.
- Clothes dryers. Or the lack thereof. Why no clothes dryers?? No toasty warm clothes or tight-fitting jeans. Sigh. I suppose I should be happy that we're being "green" or whatever.
- COLD. Oh, so cold. Brrr. Jeonju, my hometown, is thankfully less cold than Seoul. Still cold, though.
- The cat, when he hisses at me. For no reason. The cat's a little psycho- he had a very rough kittenhood, and it's made him a crochety cat.
- Buses in Jeonju. What the heck?? Buses in Seoul are nominally better, but still hard for me- I don't understand where we're going and where to get off- where are the maps, people??
- AT&T. International roaming in Korea is $2.29/minute. That is ridiculously stupid. Thank goodness for free wireless everywhere, because at least I have internet access!
- All the seafood people try to stuff down my throat. Blargh.

I like:

- No housekeys! Number pad, 4-digit passcode, voila! No locking yourself out of the house, no worrying about where the keys are.
- Heated floors (ondol). So. Awesome. I had forgotten how great warm footsies are.
- My grandfather. I missed him a lot. He makes funny noises, calls me "아가" (which means "baby" or "child"), gives me an allowance, kicks the cat (not brutally, don't call animal services- it's a sign of affection!), wears awesome hats (fedoras and newsboy caps), and eats everything I prepare, and even tells me that it's good! I love him.
- The cat, when he meows like a kooky toy. He loves my aunt to bits, and meows so sorrowfully when she's in the bathroom that it's simultaneously hilarious and sad.
- Subways in Seoul. So clean! So user friendly!
- Free wifi everywhere. Wheee!
- Yummy Korean food, to be had on the cheap everywhere I go.

My sister has decided to make a surprise appearance in Korea! We are now busy catching up and confusing our family here by speaking in rapid-fire English.

More later!


Sunday, February 14, 2010


Landed in Korea at 10:15 p.m. local time on Saturday, February 13.

I rather dislike the fact that I lost an entire day in transit- I had left the house at 8:00 a.m. on February 12!

I got to my cousin's house around midnight. My mom's younger sister and her husband had picked me up from the airport in their spiffy little Peugeot. And I saw snow for the first time this year, hooray!

It is super cold here (I'm in Seoul, in the Anamdong neighborhood, just near Korea University, where my cousin goes to school).

And also, it's past 3:00 a.m. and I can't sleep because I slept for a whopping fifteen hours when I got here. Went to bed around two, woke up around five in the afternoon. Another day, gone!

Happily, I did manage to go eat dinner with the cousin, then we had coffee at the biggest Coffee Bean I've ever seen in my life. And then, my cousin being who he is, we conducted a fast-paced walking tour of his school. A small portion of the campus, but still- to have an LA girl traipsing about at nighttime in a Korean winter is a bit nutty.

It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, though it's well below freezing. And windy. And I had a 돼지바, possibly a bad idea but really delicious.

So concluded my first full day in Korea- one meal, one coffee, one dessert, and countless hours of conversation about Korean history, the philosophy of history, moviemaking, and plans for my next two days in Seoul.

Off to 강남 (Gangnam, Kangnam?) tomorrow to see my great-aunt!

William, Diana, I am hoping to go to Daegu next week to see you. Will you be around??

I think this is the first post I've ever written on my iPhone- not as bad as I thought it would be, though correcting spelling is a pain.

Last thing- The Konglish here is awesome. I'm going to try to take as many photos as I can!


Friday, February 05, 2010

Dear Korea...

I'm returning to the motherland!

At the end of this month, I'll get on an airplane for the 13+ hours required to get me clear across the Pacific Ocean.

I'm so excited!

Then I checked the weather. And my good humor dropped a bit. What does a California girl, raised on sunshine and mildly breezy winters, wear in Korea during the winter?

William, Diana, Amanda, other people that have recently experienced Korean weather, any advice for me?? Particularly anyone who knows how temperate the weather in LA is- help! How many layers am I supposed to wear?

Keep in mind that, uh, I haven't been in weather below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in about, um, three years. So my thin-skinned temperament has probably gotten worse.

The weirdest thing, to me, is that I can't figure out what kind of shoes I'm supposed to take with me. Boots? Uggs? Galoshes? Say "whatever" and just wear what I normally wear?

I really am thrilled to be going back to Korea for the first time since 1995 (1996?), when I was just a wee student, in Korea for (of all things) a math competition (in which America was beaten soundly by Korea and China).

I'll share (read: freak out) about my preparations for the trip in the coming weeks.

Hooray! 만세!!


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2010 Oscars Nominees

I care about the Academy Awards. Truly, I do.

I even worked on two movies that won Oscars. I celebrated those wins and loved that experience, the headiness of knowing that something I had worked on was being recognized by people all over the world.

So I'm perplexed as to why I can't muster up any enthusiasm this year, particularly for the visual effects category. The nominees:

District 9
Star Trek

I am sort of anti-Avatar just because it's the big behemoth that stomps over everything else. I had the chance to work on the movie and I turned it down, knowing full well that I was turning down the chance to work on an epic, enormous film. I also turned down the dubious honor of working for a temperamental director that (allegedly) abuses his crew to no end.

For me, choosing to work on a film is all about timing and even more about the people that I will be spending countless hours with. If I like a particular producer, I will follow that producer to hell and back and probably even have fun along the way. If I don't like the producer ... let's not even speak of such things.

Even the nominees for animated features didn't stir me much:

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

Granted, I've only watched two of the three (Coraline and Up), and though I enjoyed them, I'm still not feeling much oomph. I'll be surprised if Up doesn't take it- it was beautiful and very meticulously executed. It would be amazing if Up were to win both the animated feature and best picture categories- I would feel somehow vindicated, I would feel that animation is not an outside industry, but a real part of Hollywood. Bullied younger sibling no more!

I'm really tired. My exhaustion from the past couple months has finally caught up to me now that I've had a minute to sit still and rest and let the buzzing in my brain take over. I haven't had to squash my thoughts or run around every minute of the day. It's wonderful, but also really tiring. There's no adrenaline to keep me going anymore, it's just willpower at this point.

I think by the time the Oscars actually roll around, I'll probably have more passion for movies again. I just need to finish working on this one before I can find that emotion again, I suppose.

For now, I'm planning my future (interviews, job scouting, resume-editing, all that jazz) and trying to squeeze in some travel- definitely a wine tour with my sister, definitely a trek to San Francisco to see my two best friends, and, if I have the bravery and monetary ability to, I'd like to take a long plane journey to the motherland (William, I'm looking at you!).

So close to leaving the rabbit hole ... it's making me a bit sad, really. I think I have Stockholm Syndrome- I was held captive and longed for escape, but now that the day of escape is near, I'm afraid to leave.

We'll see where life takes me from here.


Monday, February 01, 2010

Santa Maria!

The title of this post is meant to be said with a Spanish telenovela flair- that is, overly dramatically, with a prolonged rolling R. "Santa Maria! Dios mio!" That kind of thing. Not to be racist, even though I am.

Visual effects, if I have not made it perfectly clear in the past, is like pasta in a pot at a roiling boil. You can't really see what's going on in there, there are frequent spillovers if not watched carefully, and there is a fine line between perfect and overdone. It's not even a short pasta, like farfalle, which would be easier to keep an eye on. It's definitely a long pasta. On easier movies, it's a relatively cooperative pasta- let's say spaghetti. On this show, it's been tagliatelle all the way- long, thick pasta that is absolutely beastly to detangle and impossibly difficult to toss in sauce.

Oh, yes, I'm comparing my entire industry to different types of pasta. This is probably the point that men in white coats should come to fetch me. (I just typed "white men in coats" before I corrected myself, but thought the mistake was funny. And possibly Freudian. And definitely more proof of my current idiocy.)

I'm punchy, slap-happy, drunk on exhaustion, running on fumes, and any other colloquial phrase that describes extreme mental degradation. My brain has become mush, my e-mails are getting weirder, and I find that I forget the words I want to say just before I say them. For instance, names. I'm forgetting peoples' names lately, something I never did before.

Santa Maria!

That's my new refrain every time something goes wrong- "Santa Maria!" I think I need castanets or something for added flair. Maybe a black lace fan?

In December, I began going to Santa Maria two or three days per week. Come into work (in LA) on Monday morning. Go to a meeting. Hop into the car (with driver) for a three-hour trek, during which I felt nauseated (I get carsick if I'm not driving). Get out of the car groggily in Santa Maria. Go to work there.

Get back to the hotel late at night. Work some more from there.

Get up the next morning. Get ready to go, pack everything up, and go to work in Santa Maria. Then get in a car midday or so and come back to work in LA.

A tough, tough schedule. I didn't think it would be so bad, but after three weeks, I was not a happy worker bee.

Then came the punch in the gut that I was anticipating- rather than going back and forth, I would have to move to Santa Maria for a few weeks, for an indefinite amount of time.

Well. That certainly takes the wind out of a girl's sails.

I drove up in early January with a giant suitcase and a bagful of chocolates, dread and anger burning a pit in my stomach. I don't do very well with strangers, a legacy of my childhood as an extremely shy girl, and I particularly didn't want to be in the company of these people, whom I had worked with for the past five months and whom I disliked for professional reasons.

The three weeks passed full of strum und drang.

I am a stronger person for having gone through this. I know it, and I appreciate it, but I certainly don't like it. I think this was good for my career, since I now know that I am capable of working anywhere, no matter what the (horrendous) circumstances may be.

I drove back on Sunday (yesterday) with something akin to guilt- survivor's guilt, maybe. (And, of course, as soon as I got home, I had work to do.)

Today, I'm back at work in LA, at my desk that I have not seen in three weeks, sitting in my beloved chair that felt neglected (it told me so).

I'm hoping to regain my sanity in the coming weeks, which I'll need when I start another movie ... and begin this unraveling process all over again.

I took this photo on my phone around 6:00 in the morning one day, when I had woken up after nightmares full of CG environments and horrible FX passes. My hotel room was on the fourth floor, right across the street from a Jack in the Box (there were four- FOUR- that I passed in my time at Santa Maria).

One of (the few) things I liked about the town was that there aren't many tall buildings. I could see things for miles, it seemed, on clear days.

Many more posts about Santa Maria (and Santa Maria!) coming soon, I'm sure. I need to unpack, do laundry, and try to de-zombie-fy myself first.