What I’d like to see Disney do with Lucasfilm


So, that happened.  Disney, owner of among other nerd things Pixar and Marvel, bought Lucasfilm for 4.05 billion dollars.   A lot of money by any standard, but I have to believe between all the possibilities for merchandising and theme park attractions and media that this acquisition will pay for itself fairly quickly.  I’d imagine Mr. Lucas to a degree just wanted out.

The really interesting thing to watch in this announcement is the announcement of several post-Jedi films.   This has  until now been considered the realm of the non-cannonical expanded universe material.  I wonder how they’re going to handle that.  Is it sort of tabula rasa and they’re going to just start fresh with Star Wars, the emperor is dead now what?   Is it going to honor the fiction? And what of the stars, will they recast people?  Start sufficiently later that they can just cycle through a new story with old dudes?

There’s no real answers to this.  I mean every  Star Wars nerd I know is going please make the Thrawn trilogy, please make the Thrawn trilogy.  At least that aren’t casting doom and gloom across the whole franchise.   You’ve got to wonder if anyone even cares about old-man Star Wars fans.  I mean they’ll farm nostalgia where they can but when I went to Star Wars weekend at Disney World stuff from the animated show and films were really the centerpiece.  If you’re under 10 today that’s probably the way you’ve experienced Star Wars.    Maybe even the only way you’ve experienced Star Wars.

Should Have Seen It: Casablanca

So Casablanca turned out to be another film which earned its reputation. It’s the kind of film they just don’t make anymore, for better and for worse. I hope that does not sound like bleary nostalgia, its more of a description than anything as some of the movie just screams,”This was made a long time ago.”

The film starts with a long introduction of the scene and an enormous amount of expository dialogue. It takes almost one-third of the film to know who all the principles are and what it is that they’re doing.

The importance of Casablanca may be lost on a modern audience. It was a way-station on the route out of Nazi occupied Europe for many people fleeing to America via Lisbon Portugal.

This owed to it being controlled by the Vichy French government, puppets of Berlin. Some of the tension in this film depends on this understanding– which I imagine everyone knew when this was released in 1942.

Once the story gets started, it has two tracks. A love story between Rick and Ilsa and an escape story involving a few more characters. Bogart and Bergman excel in both roles and have tremendous chemistry together.

A great deal about this film had been spoiled for me because of all the references over the years but seeing these scenes in their full context was rewarding.

The action in this film is great for how little action is in it. A gun is shown a few times in the film but only rarely are they fired. This gives real emotional weight to the scenes where the characters are willing to resort to guns.

Speaking of spoilers the ending deserves special discussion. I think the idea of spoiling one of the most well known scenes in a seventy year old film is absurd but if you don’t want to read about the ending stop reading now.

The ending is the good of why they don’t make films like this. Bogart chooses duty to humanity over being with his love. Oddly the film succeeds at making this a touching and bittersweet but not sad moment. I can not picture a modern film maker succeeding so completely.

One final note. I loved the beautiful theme to this movie’s score. Time goes by was a beautiful piece of piano. It complemented the feeling of the film exceptionally.

Rant: On Space

I saw this on  Engadget today.  The Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time. This just makes me ill that we haven’t even developed a replacement and that NASA has to go around with a tin cup begging for money.

And that’s all she wrote for one of the most inspiring things our government has ever done.   We can’t afford to keep the space program up and running.

Or at least that is what the soulless assholes who have no vision for doing something great would tell you.

NASA’s entire operational budget right now costs the same amount it costs to provide air conditioning to soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan.   Not to maintain the bases, or keep the weapons there.  Not to train all those soldiers, not to transport them.  Just to provide the air conditioning when they’re there.

Meanwhile the great computer boom in the economy in the 1990s was nearly entirely from the space program.  In fact if you look at almost every significant technological boom in the last few decades it has its roots in either the space program or the military.

But for some reason it’s easier to get money to murder people than it is to send people into space. I can’t understand why why we can’t get the funding not to put a man on Mars but to put a city of 600,000 people on Mars.

Korean Food Dictionary App

So a while ago I spent 99 cents on O’ngo School’s K-food app.

It’s really a huge dissappointment.   It did a really poor job of helping me with my restaurant going needs.

If you know nothing about Korean food, then I’m sure it might be useful.  But if you’ve already got a pretty good idea what the big categories of Korean food are, it’s totally useless.

Yeah I know what sam gyup sal and soju are.  What i want to know is the difference between different kinds of sam gyup sal or different variations of guk su are.

I really would like to see something that really digs down into the vocabulary of Korean menus.   If anyone knows of an app that takes a really deep dive into Korean food.

Olleh! the quest for Wifi

So for the longest time I had wanted to get  Wifi access on  my ipod touch while I ride the subway.

There stores however had proven to be kind of useless.  I’d go into one and they’d tell me for some reason it was impossible.  It was a weekend, it was at night, it wasn’t the third Tuesday of every month at twelve o’clock when the bells ring.

So after having gotten the run around for a good while I fatalistically set out for another go at it hitting up their Global Service Center in Itaewon.

Still they couldn’t set it up but the lady handed me a card and was like call this number here.

So this morning I called the number.  And it was the wrong number.  But fortunately they were able to set me up with the right number and connect me for me.

So I finally got it set up after all, tonight I rolled into the subway and it was like 8,800 won (about 9 dollars) a month to get my ipod touch online.  If only I’d known about this from the beginning.

‘Liberty’: The American Revolution review

I really enjoy American history.  I recently watched an old documentary mini-series.  ‘Liberty’: The American Revolution, was a 1997.  PBS made this six-hour part history of the Revolution beginning with the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 till the end of the revolution.   It’s available on Google Video, if you just search for the title.

One of the things that  was really great about the way this series told the story was they took personal writings of people who were involved and had actors read  them in character.  It’s a really enjoyable way to relate primary source information.

I also liked that it  gave the British position a lot of air time.  British soldiers and generals almost as much time as patriot sources.   It’s a different  take than I’ve usually seen.

Portal 2 Single player review

Portal 2 is the sequel to the Orange Box throw-in Portal.  A game which surprised the entire world and blew some people’s minds.

I thought it was a very clever puzzle game that had a last level that really hinted at much bigger things. It hinted at using a portal gun in a more traditional gamey environment.

But then Portal 2 starts and you’re back inside Aperture’s testing facility.  And you’ve got to go get a Portal gun and start solving puzzles.   And for a while the game feels completely like more of the same.

Then you go to some other places and always stay there a bit too long.  You’re always given not enough new story material to really satisfy.

The new puzzle mechanics are creative and at time they’re really satisfying.  However the game seldom thrills.   It’s more of a smug look how smart I am feeling which frankly is a pale imitation to the bathe me in dopamine stuff that’s pretty normal for video games nowadays.   If using your logical brain while you play videogames is something that appeals to you greatly then your experience may be better than the very good experience I had with Portal.

In the end the only thing that’s wrong with Portal is the beginning feels very much like the same of a game we all played to death.   White tile buildings now with some vegtation in the halls with simple puzzles.  After they introduce new mechanics like like light-beam bridges, gels and gravity lifts the game takes off.

Finally, it tells a very well contained story.  It doesn’t feel like it’s out there to set up a sequel which  isn’t something I can normally say about games anymore.

Also due to the PSN outage I can only talk about the game’s single player component.

Hopefully now Valve can just get on with making Half-Life.    In the end I’d give this game a B+ but so much of that is because I don’t feel rewarded when I solve a puzzle like I do when I shoot someone in the face.  Which I admit, could mean something is wrong with me.

How to watch TV in Korea

Okay, so I haven’t blogged in a really, really long time.  Consider this post zero in my blog.

It’ll now be less about cultural exchange and more about whatever’s interesting me at the time.

So since I’ve been over here I’ve actually developed a taste for television that I had let grow dormant in the states.  Maybe there’s something bad to be said about letting international travel teach me to be a different kind of couch potato.  A topic for another time.

When I say I like to watch tv, I don’t mean watching television programs on my computer while I’m hunched over an uncomfortable chair.  That just won’t do.

First up get a comfortable chair or a couch.  Secondly get a big screen tv.  If you’re going to be here two years or more spending some of your first paycheck money on getting a good screen to watch it on and a place to sit down is money well spent.

Then you can hook up your computer either directly to your tv or network it through some kind of box.  Assuming you have an HDMI out plugging it into your tv should be pretty trivial.     I push my tv to my Playstation 3 and watch from there.

From here it’s easy to end up with a TV setup that’s better than the cable you had at home.  Just download what you want to watch and bam all the shows you want none of the commercials.

As for what I watch, it’s mostly just HBO

Game of Thrones–I love the books so needless to say this is awesome.

Boardwalk Empire–The first season of this period crime drama was really amazing.

Mythbusters–They blow shit up.

True Blood–Can’t wait for season four to start of this show, as usual they dropped the bomb at the end of season three.

Mad Men–Parts of this show make me kind of uncomfortable but in a good way.

Gaming in Korea

Sorry about the lack of updates recently I’ve been sick for about a week.

Before I came here I’d heard how PC gaming was big in Korea. I’d read a lot of magazine articles that compared it to the Japanese console market. The comparision is, terrible.

The Japanese game market, arcades excluded, functions in very similar ways to the American game market. Basically it’s all based on getting people to buy your game and single and multiplayer games are both big bussiness.

The Korean game market has no single player games. Playing Starcraft’s campaign in a PC bang (read bong–an arcade for PC games pictured above) is considered rude. One of the reasons behind the lack of single player games is they pirate everything that isn’t nailed down here. In general spending money up front on games is becoming rarer and rarer. The free to play model is such big bussiness here it’s all setup on the heroin dealer system the first hit’s free. But I think that really limits the kinds of games that they can make to stuff with really good quick appeal.

At this point i should point out that there is a console scene here and piracy is still an issue there although less so. One of my students had a flash drive in her DS though. I’m not really seriously morally bothered by piracy. I’ve chosen not to do it for years now but plenty of my friends do but seeing what happens when Piracy is unrestrained makes me dislike it a lot more.

The games they do play here other than stuff from Blizzard and NC soft mostly aren’t all that well known in the West. Warcraft, Starcraft, Lineage, Diablo, Aion you’ve probably all heard of those but then you get to a bunch of free to play stuff like KartRider, Sudden Attack, Dungeon Fighter Online a lot of clones of better games. Also Maplestory and Fifa Online are huge here. At least with my students…almost all of them are into either one or both of them.

Other than Blizzard there really isn’t a Western publisher with any kind of substantial presence here in the PC space. I have seen Xbox 360s with American games in Emart and Homeplus but i’ve yet to see anyone buying that stuff.

Oddly enough the PC bangs advertise how great their computers are…and then Koreans go in them and play Starcraft and Kartrider both of which I’ll bet you could run on one of the more advanced cellphones here if you really wanted to.

Oh great a top of the line Nvidia card to play Starcraft locked at 640x 480.

The saving grace for me is that steam works here and they’ll let you bring an external storage device into the PC bang and play whatever. I just got a 500 gig hard disk which powers through the USB to take with me on a gaming bender.

Public transit

I took the bus at Ohio State and that was pretty nice.  I had a 30 minute shuttle to just outside my door for three years with the University village system.  And then their was the CABS and COTA so there were always a lot of options for public transit.

And that system, however wonderful it is for the midwest, just can’t even hold a candle to the public transit system here in Seoul.

The first option for getting around longer distances  in the city are the fast Subway cars.  They’ll cart you to just about every corner of the city from Inchon all the way  across Seoul proper.  The kicker is the subway stations are incredibly clean and safe.  The only bad side about these is that they’re only open till midnight so the 5 am subway is often crowded with people going home.

Getting off the subway will often lead to getting on the bus.  Now we have buses in Ohio and they’re alright.  But the buses here in Seoul are really amazing.  They run at frequent intervals most places.  My friend has a like 15 minute bus wait occasionally if he gets out at the worst possible time to find one particular route to take him to a satellite city.

My bus on the other hand is seemingly always there.  Like literally always during  bussiness hours.  The other amazing thing is there is a bus lane through the whole city so  you never wait in traffic on a bus.  Just zip from here to there.

Now, as I mentioned before,   the subway does close early which brings us to the last leg of  Seoul’s public transit system.  The Taxis.  They’re kind of expensive, for Seoul–but a trip across a good chunk of the city won’t even add up to 20 bucks.  Sometimes got to help them get there so if you don’t speak  korean that’s not so hot but whatever.

The nice thing is they do run all night and aren’t any more expensive at 3 in the morning than they were at 6 the night before.