Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I found this movie by complete happenstance, at the convenience store around the corner from my place.

It was pretty damn good. Dark Crystal good. The lighting was absolutely fucking brilliant. The entire film was done with marionettes that know that they're marionettes; that's the whole basis of the movie, or rather the thing that 'ties' it all together. (har har - but no, seriously) Kind of a morbid Lion King storyline, with some really desolate and depressing scenes. It was really well done, both the puppeteering and the story itself:

King kills himself, leaves his kingdom to his son with a very Gladiator-style hope (peace), evil brother corrupts it and spawns war by saying the king was assassinated by the rival nation, then a long character-building process of discovery for the disposed heir. That sounds cliche and "meh", but it was quite well done.

I'm so glad that arts like these haven't been lost, despite the fact the movie could have been done using pixar 3-D animation, without marionettes. I often worry if we've entered an age where "art for art's sake" no longer holds true. Movies like "Strings" give me hope. Then I think of 90% of the other movies out there and I get frustrated with the world's lack of vision and authenticity.

(For some odd reason, two of the only pictures I could find of the movie had Ghrak, a henchman, in it. He was a cool character, but c'mon.)

Movies to look forward to

- 12 and Holding (looks exceptional)
- Peaceful Warrior (Nick Nolte as a non-psychopath? Giddy-up. I also secretly like inspiring stories.)
- A Scanner Darkly (Philip K. Dick ftw!)
- District B13 (sorry, story by Luc Beson and from the guy who did Ong Bak and Transporter 2... it'll be one helluvan action movie)
- Monster House (great voice cast, and looks like a great movie)
- Caché (French film; seems like a good thriller)
- Three Times (a very interesting Chinese independent)
- Ghost Rider (just for pure enjoyment factor)

And I can't believe a "How to Eat Fried Worms" movie is being made. I loved the book. Read it back when I was 9 or 10. I would also like to see 2046. I keep seeing it in movie stores, but haven't gotten it. Nor have I checked out Audition, which Jay says is a good Miike film.

A really interesting trailer I just saw: Drawing Retraint 9. It's described as follows: The core idea of Drawing Restraint 9 is the relationship between self-imposed resistance and creativity, a theme it symbolically tracks through the construction and transformation of a vast sculpture of liquid Vaseline, called “The Field”, which is molded, poured, bisected and reformed on the deck of the ship over the course of the film.

Bjork stars in it, so it looked to have a Dancer In the Dark feel, but far more artistic and over-the-edge.

It just sucks that most theatres in Ottawa don't show the really neat movies.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A while back I had made mention of a movie coming out called "300" based on the Battle of Thermopylae. This movie is instead based on the graphic novel(s) by Frank Miller (Sin City). The movie looks like total ass. Fuck I hate Hollywood. Why the fuck are they basing a movie on a graphic novel when the fucking event itself can be easily referred to, there being plenty of historical background and depth?!

Simple logic:

Event --> Movie (1 step)
Event --> Graphic Novel --> Movie (2 steps)

Does no one else see how this makes zero fucking sense? It's like quoting someone who is paraphrasing the actual individual whose quote you desire. Plato is rolling in his grave right now.

Based on the video journals, even the costumes are fucked. Seems like all they got right were the crimson cloaks, though I didn't see any lambdas (the symbol of the Spartan city-state) on any of those cloaks, so I guess they didn't get that right either. Their swords look like shite, and their helmets are all pock-marked and scarred, completely unlike the disciplined state the Spartans kept their kit in. Their shields bear no devices, and THEY'RE NOT WEARING ANY FUCKING ARMOUR! In the footage, they aren't even fighting in phalanyx formation.

AND THERE WERE MORE THAN 300 on the Greeks' side! There were 300 Spartans... with about 7,000 allies. Plus their squires, blacksmiths/weaponsmiths/armoursmiths, cooks, and of course the rabble that follows any army: merchants, scavengers and the like.

FUCK. I hate people.

Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic

Okay, so it's not exactly Japan. However, the opportunity presented seems to be a good one. I sent my letter of intro expressing my interest, along with my resume and a recent photo.

I think if they accept me, and the terms are good, I will make a go of it. It's a town of 50,000 located 50 kms NE of Prague. I got a good feeling from the narrative of the listing, but we shall see.

Beggars can't be choosers, and right now... I am a bedlam beggar.

Old Boy

So I was in Toronto this past weekend, and I have to say that one of the highlights was getting together with Jay and watching movies. His pick was Old Boy, and mine was Seven Samurai. Combine that with a Thai stirfry (freakin' awesome, Jay!), a tonne of beer, and it was one helluva night.

Old Boy is a very difficult movie to describe. It feels like a Korean Fight Club/Memento/Titus Andronicus type of film, but that doesn't do the emotional extravagance or volitility justice. It's a movie without conventional boundaries, one that encroaches on the morally horrific.

To say it's well-filmed is as underwhelming as saying the Holocaust was a bad time. I'd have to watch it again to pay special attention to the filming, but it worked perfectly for what was being accomplished. It was dark, moody, always edgy, bordering on nervous. The scene that starts with a frightened Daesu-Oh watching an ant crawl out of his arm will live in my mind as one of the most... mind-stinging scenes I've ever seen.

I think what really stood out about this movie was the portrayal of emotion, and that emotion's discharge. I wish we could have watched it sans subtitles; so many nuances and subtleties of emotion get lost in translation. Imagine Shakespeare translated into contemporary Swahili. It just wouldn't work.

I'm not sure what else I can really say without divulging the plot, which really needs to be witnessed a priori. It was a great movie, and I'm also glad I could share Seven Samurai with Jay.

Overall, it was an awesome weekend in Toronto - I had a blast catching up and talking with Michelle, and hanging out with Jason. It was a much-needed getaway. I'm not sure what I was getting away from, though. I guess a certain stagnation, or ennui. It was a great chance to refocus.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Damn geography

That position I spoke about in "Belay that last" post below has gone all the way to the interview stages... however, the director of the school wishes to meet with me in person. She said "It is difficult otherwise", meaning that it would be very unlikely for me to proceed beyond the stage I'm at.

That blows. 570-some people had applied by the time I had, and I was one of a handful contacted for an interview phase of the application. I'm starting to honestly wonder if I might not be better off getting over there and annoying the hell out of Adrian and Fiona for a bit while I look and make myself available in-person. I know for a fact I kick ass in interviews - nothing freaks me out thanks to my final Infantry Officer interview: one Lt Col., one Maj., two Capt's... glass door looking in on the other three there for the same interview. I've been a whiz since then. I don't get nervous and I present myself well.

Very difficult to do that from half a world away. I think it's time for that A/V "letter of introduction".

I guess I'll see what the response is from the director. I basically replied saying that I would not be in country for an interview, and pushed a bit to see if she would accept a Skype interview. I'm thinking no, but hey... shows my genuine interest and it's a reasonable alternative that will cost them nothing.

As I always say... We shall see. Lots of other things out there I'm going to focus on so as not to get my hopes up.

The world is a neat place

Saw this video posted on a forum, and thought it was pretty amazing. I'd heard of hydrogen fuel before, obviously, but seeing it in action is pretty astounding. Hope this guy does well! We could all use a new, clean fuel source.

Belay that last

Hmmm... okay, so I was contacted this morning for an interview. It seems like a neat opportunity: 28 working hours including 25 teaching hours. I'm not sure what the "working hours" means - it might mean 3 hours alloted for prep and grading. It's based out of Nagoya, but I will need to take a train to Gifu and Ogaki also (each apparently only 30 mins from Nagoya). I guess I'll see what the director says about the fact I'm not currently in Japan. From his email to me, I couldn't tell if that was a pre-requisite or simply a preference.

The job is teaching to both kids and adults. This is the public job posting:

Classes in both Ogaki, Gifu and Nagoya, Aichi (both places 30 minutes by train from Nagoya station)

Seeking native full time EFL teacher, to teach students ranging from children - adult. Applicant must have experience with small children, be fun loving, energetic and creative. We are seeking applicants with dedication, drive and initiative. Our children's lessons are based on PLS method which is high standard as well as effective instruction and we also use a lot of games songs and dance to enhance English language acquisition. Musical talent is not essential, but a good sense of humor is! The position is 28 working hours including 25 teaching hours per week.

Monthly Salary is 280,000 - 300,000 yen per month. There will be transportation fee provided on top of the monthly salary. The position starts Mid of June or end of August. It is a twelve month renewable contract. All native speaking applicants who have completed 4 year university degree at minimum are welcome to apply.
Please send your resume with your current photo.

So ummm... ignore my angry rant below. Patience is a virtue that likes to give me the cold shoulder. *innocent whistling*

Me out.

Monday, May 22, 2006


I applied for a teaching position near Shikoku island this morning, and since I applied via the website the job was listed on, I received an email. Actually, I wish I hadn't, though it was smart of them to set up the system like they did. The contents of that email is as follows:

This email is to confirm that your resume has been sent to *name of school* for Job ID #*****. To date, 52 resume(s) have been submitted through *name of website* for this position. Please note that many companies only contact candidates they are interested in.

Fucking christ. How does one have a fucking chance in hell when 52 people (today alone) have applied to a position in some small village where the largest urban centre is one of 440,000 people, an island away? What chance do I have to get anything that seems a better location? What I'm saying is that this wasn't exactly the opportunity of a lifetime, and it received 52 applicants. It was a chance, a shot in the dark. I feel like I have a fucking flintlock pistol and everyone else has a .50 cal.

I'm just fucking pissed. I take a firm stance finally in my insignificant life, and I feel blocked in at every turn. Maybe I should haul ass to Japan prior to having a contract and hit the street, door to door, Willy Lowman style.


Some games should come with a Surgeon General warning

This game, for instance. Doom 3. The label should read: Please use the bathroom each time before playing this game, and if you have a heart condition, please don't even pick up this box.

I got it the day it came out two years ago, but didn't play it too much. However, in this recent period of career inertia, I took it up again looking to get away from MMOs (massively multiplayer online [games]).

So I jumped back into Doom 3. ... and just about soiled myself, but only after numerous close-call heart-failures. I kid thee not, this game can kill people of weak constitution. For a time, I could only play for 2-5 minute spurts. I'd simply get too freaked out. To combat this, I stopped playing at night, with all the lights out. Now I can play for a good 20-30 minutes before I feel like my chest is going to explode - which would be poetically just given that I inflict such inconvenience on pudgy, no-jaw'd, Hell-infused walking corpses in the game.

Plot Summary: 2045 (or something), humans have colonized Mars, and have an advanced research facility there. They've also uncovered the remains of a martian civilization, and likewise uncovered some of the technology. There's some faster-than-light transportation technology that is being messed around with. You play some Everyman marine just posted there as security. Not surprisingly, the instant you arrive, there's a job for you: find a missing scientist. As you move around, you hear rumours of people going AWOL, psychiatric reviews becoming more frequent, and there's a sense of general unease. Well, you find the scientist, who is trying to send a message back to Earth. Then... all Hell literally breaks loose. You've got a flashlight (weee) and a pistol. ... and those nice scientists, marines, admins, and technicians you spoke to on the way down? They're either lying in three pieces, being coughed from ventilation shafts, are grease smears on the walls/floors/ceilings, or have been possessed by demonic forces and are hunting you. In other words: it gets real freaky, real fast.

And visceral, as the image above can attest to (in-game shot, not doctored up or from a cinematic). Zombies on fire, zombies who stand up when you walk past, zombies eating other zombies, 28 Days Later style zombies in commando uniforms with weapons... and the worst part: the legions of Hell in all their mangled and grisly splendor. Zombies? No problemo. Mutated spiders that are two feet tall and look like face-huggers (ref. Aliens); two-headed, blood-drooling quadropeds that look like skinned, decaying muscle-men; skeletal juggernauts with rocket-launchers on their shoulders and smoldering eye-sockets; and huge pink fleshed rhinos with robotic hind-quarters... Those get to me.

Mostly the freak-out factor comes from the stunning graphics, and use of dynamic lighting (and frequent uses of zero lighting). As per usual, id Software broke the envelope when they developed the Doom 3 graphics engine. I still haven't seen anything that compares to it.

So why did I choose to ramble on about a silly FPS (first-person shooter) game? Partly because it's a game that deserves acknowledgement, but primarily because I can't help but remember Super Mario Bros on NES in '86, and thinking how cool that was. Or the original Doom, or Wolfenstein (first FPS). Those games were amazing back in the day, but weren't scary. They simply couldn't stimulate those sorts of intense emotions due to the state of the medium. What amazes me is that we're already to the point of evoking cathartic or intense reactions through simulated means. More and more control is relinquished to the player, allowing deeper immersion and thus also a stronger emotional response to content. Detail is also critically important. It's not enough that I, as a player, find myself in a bathroom with a flickering overhead light. Tiles are loose, a sink broken and running, the mirror actually reflects everything in the room (character included), a stall door is slightly ajar and squeaking back and forth, 5-point surround sound delivers peripheral hisses and groans from areas out of line of sight.

There's just something addictive about fear. We crave it, when it can be controlled and we can walk away unscathed. Look at all the movies, books, games and amusement park rides dedicated to fear. I think it's because fear is the most fundamental of all human emotions, the one that is most closely linked to all our actions.

Wow... this was a long entry.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

So - many - opportunities...

I applied/began the process of applying to 3 ESL schools this morning. Sheesh. There's so much out there, but I'm trying to stay away from Tokyo. All 3 were central Honshu, W/SW of Tokyo, in the Aichi (sp?) prefecture: Nagoya, Mito and Nakakoma-gun. The one in Nakakoma-gun looks fantastic, though I'm trying to be more cautious. The reason? The school I was looking at in Takamatsu, Shikoku, has had a few nasty things said about it. Summary of nastiness: the director is extremely racist, the teachers instill a strong bias against gaijin (foreigners) especially those who are Christian or Jewish, they refuse to pay the end-of-term bonus and try to force a continued contractual obligation by threatening to have false criminal charges laid against teachers. Etc etc.

Sounds like a charming place. That said, it could be highly exaggerated, but the fact that anyone would want to exaggerate a teaching experience is indicative of a poor environment. I'm progressing with the application process, and will be very very adamant re: having numerous references from current and former teachers. If they don't like it, I say "Thanks, but no thanks".

I've abandoned the silly, whimsical hope of being in Kansai region. I just want to be over there, and I care more about the school environment than I do about the regional environment. That said, I do not want to be in a large city, but from everything I've seen, that will not be too big an issue.

The one issue that seems to arise every now and again is the need for a driver's license, as a number of schools are based in X area, but teach in R, S, Y, Z locations. So those are out for me. It's unfortunate, because of some those pay more.

So that's my update... I'm just truckin' along, watching the ESL boards carefully and applying to just about everything I see that seems hopeful in terms of job responsibilities, benefits, location and school. What I really need is a recent picture of myself. I might just go and get something done today at Black's Photography or something.

Me out.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just call me Random Vegetation Sanjuro

Yeah, so I'm currently obsessed with Kurosawa samurai movies. STOP JUDGING ME!

Today I watched both Yojimbo (the bodyguard) and Sanjuro, movies linked only by Mifune's character whose name is *random vegetation name* Sanjuro. "Going on 40". Sorry, you gotta watch both to get it. I think I enjoyed Yojimbo more for the plot and intrigue and "lone wolf" feel, and Sanjuro for the combat and dynamic between Mifune's character and the 9 sword-bungling youngsters whose asses he constantly pulls out of the fire. In Yojimbo, Sanjuro enters a random town and swaps his tentative services between two rival gang leaders, turning the town against itself to punish the evils that have taken root there. Sanjuro sees the same character coming to the aid (very randomly) of 9 fumbling but well-meaning swordsmen who are trying to free a chancellor who was framed by a colleague. Think Han Solo helping NINE dopey Luke Skywalkers... :-)

I'll shut up now. But before I do, I'm going to change my name to Oaktree Twenty-Seven, Going On Thirty. (I'm still chuckling)

"I can't kill a lot with one sword!"

... a quote from Kikuchiyo (foreground, right), responding to why he's stabbing half a dozen swords into an earthen mound. (note: must be a pre-edits shot because there are only 6 samurai, the original number, and Kambei still has his top-knot and they're standing in the villagers' barley field)

I'm completely enthralled with Seven Samurai. Released in black-and-white in 1954 by acclaimed director, Akira Kurosawa, it's an absolute marvel to watch. The story is engrossing; the cinematography is precise, each shot perfectly framed; the characters memorable and enjoyable. It's 3+ hours, but feels like days; it seems as though you're watching through the eyes of a villager as the story moves. And I do not mean that as a slight.

If you've read Stephen King's "Wolves of the Calla", the 5th book in the Dark Tower series, then you know the exact premise of this movie. No doubt King was inspired to retell it, in his own fashion: villagers, plagued by and completely in terror of bandits, decide to hire samurai (ronin, actually) to protect them. Pay for the samurai service? Three meals a day. Each is there for his own reasons, some drawn out and examined, others kept quiet.

I watched The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa's 'comedy') last evening, and it was also wonderfully told, and quite funny. That movie heavily influenced Lucas' decision to portray Star Wars: A New Hope from the droids' perspective, as the Hidden Fortress is related from the view of two over-the-top greedy pissant peasants. Another novel storyline: two peasants are recruited, their greed as their bond, to help a disguised princess and her samurai general move 200 pieces of gold through enemy territory. You can see the distinct influence many of the shots in the movie had on Lucas, as well as the way in which C3-P0 and R2-D2 relate to one another in an eternal cycle of futile blame and complaint. Hell, even a lot of the setting of Tunisia was reminescent of where many of the scenes from THF were shot.

I think I'm done blabbing about things for now. I'm sitting here writing this, Seven Samurai paused as the final battle for the village is about to take place. Time to see how it ends, and how many of those swords Kikuchiyo gets to employ. ;-)

Okay, finished watching it, and had to watch it again. Doing so with commentary; a great addition to the content as the man is remarking on both historical context, character portrayal, divergences from typical Japanese films, pointing out stylistic variants and cinematic 'conceits'. Fucking brilliant. So much going on in each frame, I'm now taking the time (and paying attention to the commentator's cues) to watch the periphery of the frames. Incredible how much is happening all the time, all planned and put there by Kurosawa.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Welcome, O' Wondrous Deluge...

So it's only been... well, 16 hours since I posted my resume, and already I've gotten one personalized solicitation and two 'farmed' solicitations to teach overseas. Funny... they're all in South Korea, even though my subject line of my posting said 'Kansai, Japan'. Oh well. It's definitely nice to see offers coming in so quickly, and the page counter on the little resume site is moving, which is nice.

Time to reach out and see what the other TESOL grads in Japan have to say.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Can't think of a clever subject line

Well, I finally posted on one of the most prominent ESL boards. It was a good post, and as part of it I put in this link. I don't consider myself overly clever by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought it wise to make my 'international resume' and letter of introduction easy to reference online.

I'm waiting on the list of TESOL people over in Japan so I can start some networking and direct inquiries. I have a listing of schools in Japan, two of which seemed particularly promising, one in Nara and the other in Nagoya. Nara City is where'd I'd love to be, but I've broadened the scope of what I will accept in terms of geographical locations. I'm still adamant about being in the Kansai region, though.

Anyhoo... small update, but it feels significant given the number of recruiters and directors/principals who use the ESL forums to find prospective teachers for their schools.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Books to movies

It seems that Hollywood has recently become either brilliant or plain fucking lazy. The adaptations of books and old movies is a wise one, given our culture's predilection for consuming re-packaged items. Though a good number movies out there are brand-new (superficially, anyways), we're in an era of film nostalgia, or coupling the written with the audio-visual. Hell, they're even making video games into movies! Reference: Doom, Hitman (maybe), Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy. What next? Is there anything left for them to adapt to movies?

They re-made Texas Chainsaw Massacre, re-made Amityville Horror (blegh), Poseidon [Adventure], The Fog, etc etc. These tend to suck.

On the other side of the re-packaging coin are adaptations: Fight Club, Blade Runner (and a dozen other Philip K. Dick stories), From the Mouth of Madness, The Stand, Dune... The Da'Vinci Code.

I just recently bought the paperback of the Da'Vinci Code. I'm anti-excited (yeah, you heard me) to read it because of the hype that surrounded its original hardcover release, and now the Tom Hanks movie adaptation. I'm sure the movie will be good, but will the book be? With numerous other movies (at least sci-fi), I've read the books before being aware that a movie was in the works. A Scanner Darkly, for example. I read that back in 2nd year when I was in my ravenous Philip K. Dick frenzy. (he's the guy who wrote Paycheck, Total Recall, Imposter, Blade Runner, and Minority Report) The motion-capture animation film promises to kick ass.

So to get back to the point, I'm not sure if I should bother reading the Da'Vinci Code. I know I will read it, but should I? I can already sense myself being underwhelmed.

On a meta-existential level... I have such a tough life filled with gruelling decisions, huh? Back to reading.

Iron Kingdoms

Damn you, Steve (aka, Arreyder). I was in Fandom II today and remembered you giving kudos to Iron Kingdoms. ... so I bought the Character Guide. Only starting to read it now, but it seems like a nice campaign world for D&D 3.5.

In other news, it's been a productive week: finished off all the necessary paperwork from work, finished my TESOL specialization (Business English), got my income tax refund, got the money I was owed, and I've been quite social. Life is good.

Monday, May 01, 2006

FF VII: Advent Children

Wow. I mean holy mutha-fuckin' shit WOW. To think 20 years ago I thought a pixel that could bounce around and be controlled (Y, X axis only) was the height of technology and was "totally rad". I mean, christ, I played the first Final Fantasy for the original NES back in '87.

In case you have no freakin' clue what I'm vulgarly gushing about, Square Enix (Sony) just recently released a DVD movie based on Final Fantasy VII, the video game. It - is - insane; the very pinnacle of aesthetic delight. You know those really neat video game cinematics that segue or fill in story arcs? Okay, now picture a film where THE ENTIRE MOVIE IS THAT STYLE OF CG ANIMATION!!

I am buying this movie. Maybe two copies so I can watch one on my TV and one on my laptop.

Oh, and in other news I'm no longer working. Seriously. What do I think of this? I love it.