Norweigan Wood: The Movie!!!

November 18, 2010

Some random cross-referencing on Wikipedia brought me to this relevation: “Norweigan Wood,” one of my favorite books of all time, has been turned into a film, and it’s coming out in December. I was stunned at the news, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. So many books I love have been turned into movies, all of them with one thing in common: they all turned into crap.

It’s uncanny how the film versions have time and time again sapped the magic from great books; apparently turning a book into a movie is reverse alchemy by nature. “Endless Love,” “Dying Young,” “The Great Gatsby,” “A Separate Peace,” the list goes on and on (I didn’t even like “The Accidental Tourist,” and that was nominated for a billion Oscars).

Still, there is no doubt I’ll be going out to the theatre to see “Norweigan Wood,” if only to grind my teeth every time they desecrate a scene from the book (I’m already irked by the trailer; there’s no way Wanatabe was such a pretty boy, and Midori seems to be missing the very spunk that defined her as a character). One must always hold on to hope, after all.


Governor (O), Senator (X)

November 14, 2010

Well, here’s my biggest D’oh moment of Year 2010 (though knowing me, I could very well outdo myself in the next month and a half). Here’s the scene: I am giving my 10-minute teaching “lesson” as a part of an interview with one of the top five most prestigious universities in all of Korea. What I’m doing is presenting a faux game show to the “students” to introduce them to the cultural references and vocabulary items that will come up in the article they are going to read before the following class.

Knowing that the article is going to talk about a state senator, I present a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the screen and say, “This man is the senator of what state?” The students give their answers, and I carry on. After I’m done, one of the interviewers asks me, “Isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger the Californian governor, not the senator?” Of course, she was 100% right, and I was 100% a pure-grade butthead. I admitted my mistake, and the interview went on, but really, I was in no position to make mistakes as I don’t have prior teaching experience at a university. The panel was very no-nonsense, very direct, and apparently, I haven’t learned anything from all the Apprentice episodes I’ve watched, because I did not hold up very well. At one point, one of the inquisitors asked me what I knew about the school’s English program that set it apart from other schools, and since I couldn’t very well answer “Nothing,” I started babbling on about how I’m sure such a fine school as this one would probably take a “holistic” approach, and don’t even ask what I meant by that, because I still have no idea. D’oh, d’oh, d’oh X 100.

So I’d say that my chances of getting hired at particular school range from 0.00000001% to 0.00000002%, but overall, it was definitely a valuable learning experience. Fortunately, the interview with I had with another college a few days prior to that debacle actually went considerably better. The panel there was intimidating as well, but they were also more willing to smile, and I actually saw a few nod appreciatively as I made my points during my teaching presentation. They also asked me some questions which were more informal and personal, like “Who’s your favorite writer?” (Scott Spencer and Haruki Murakami) and “Have you visited this part of Korea before?” (Yes, I have a friend who lives nearby). And the office workers positively loved me once they found out I spoke conversational Korean, and the guy who was giving instructions to the waiting candidates ended up asking me to translate for him quite a bit. If I were a tad more evil, I could’ve just said something like, “Oh, he said the interviews are all canceled, so you guys should just go on home,” but I didn’t. Anyhow, I won’t know until the end of the month, but I’m rather optimistic about that, knock on wood.

But who knows what will happen? With teaching at a universitiy in Korea, it’s the whole catch-22 situation of having to have experience for you to be able to gain experience, and it takes both luck and persistence to get your foot in the door (fortunately, I do have a Master’s degree, without which I doubt I’d even be getting to the interviewing stage). So if that means having egg on my face a few times during the whole process, well, bring it on, because I’m ready to make more than a few face omelets. Maybe I should make one for Senator Schwarzenegger, as well…


Gyeongju: To History And Back

November 7, 2010

Anapji Pond in Gyeongju

I’m back from a two-day trip to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom that ruled over much of the Korean Peninsula for hundreds of years… Okay, well, that’s pretty much it as far as my historical knowledge of Gyeongju goes. However, I can tell you, the place is indeed pretty amazing, from the tall grave mounds of old Silla rulers right in the middle of downtown to the huge stone Buddha statue in the Seokguram Grotto, the ancient Bulguksa Temple, and the autumn colors in full bloom pretty much all over the place. It was just as inspirational as I hoped it would be (scenes for my novel rose up in my mind like they were always there just waiting to come out). It was also exhausting (I walked and walked everywhere, shades of Paris), but more than anything, it was just plain out fun and really tranquil. History, it does a mind good!