Wednesday, February 29, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High 2, Episodes 1-2

Read episode reviews for:

Dream High 2--Episodes 3-4
Dream High 2--Episodes 5-6
Dream High 2--Episodes 7-8
Dream High 2--Episodes 13-14
Dream High 2--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

I didn't watch the original Dream High TV show last year, but I did hear the leftover buzz from the show. It sounded like a Korean High School Musical, but with more natural music numbers because the kids are attending a special arts academy for singers, actors, and musicians. On Korean television, shows only last for one season, but on rare occasions when something is massively popular, they'll continue the same basic idea with a different cast, so this show is not quite a traditional season 2--more like a spinoff show of the original.

The real reason I wanted to watch Dream High 2 was because some real life K-pop singers are in the show, and I wanted to check out their acting. T-ara has recently become one of my most liked girl groups and Jiyeon from that band is in this show. Then there's Hyorin from Sistar, and while I've never heard their music, I have heard many times that Hyorin's voice is amazing. Thirdly, there's actress Kang Sora who I'd seen from her stint on the reality show We Got Married, where she was precious. Finally, this show features Korean-American signer Ailee in a side role, and I'm already a serious Ailee fan, just after hearing her debut single. Basically, I started this show because it promised four leading ladies I was sure to like.

In this show, the K-pop world is abuzz with the new "age law" regarding underage singers and celebrities. Minors are now required to spend 20 hours a week in school, and they can't work after 10 pm. Some people are protesting this law because it means they'll see less of their favorite young stars, such as the three girls in the band HershE or the 2-member boy band Eden, both managed by OZ Entertainment.

The OZ agency transfers all their young singers to Kirin School of the Arts to work around the new minor rules, and the students at Kirin High are thrilled to be around real celebrities, especially Hyesung, a super-cute klutz of a girl who is on a mission to get closer to her fantasy love JB, one of the two members of Eden. JB himself is massively insecure and doesn't want to attend Kirin because it means he'll have to face his old nemesis,Yujin, an indie singer-songwriter. OZ is also purchasing the school itself and they have some new rules--no cell phones, no internet, no snacking, no dating between other words, anything personal is off-limits. So, thus far we've got the Kirin school takeover plot, the Yujin vs. JB plot, and the Hyesung trying to win JB's heart plot.  Let's see how it goes!

Things I Loved:

1. The meta-commentary. In the opening scene, Rian of HershE is being fussed at for not crying on cue. It's funny and awesome because her director throws a fit and says "See if I ever work with pop stars again!" But the actress playing Rian is a pop star herself, so Dream High 2 kind of  protects itself from criticism against the acting done by singers. And actually, I think Jiyeon's acting as Rian is just fine.

Her Acting is Now Criticism-Proof.

2.The star-studded cast. Eventually, I will care whether the plot is interesting and whether the main cast can actually act, but for now I'm plenty thrilled by just seeing so many people I know. There's even a brief cameo by IU! And as a complete bonus, Kahi from After School is in this show! I was not expecting her, but she's a fair actress and she's considered one of the better dancers in the K-pop biz. Her character is cold, efficient and all business, and there's a great scene with Kahi teaching a dance class. That's like a dream class, except she's sooo tough on her students.

Glorious, Glorious Kahi!

3. JYP! Famous producer/record label manager JYP is in this show as a teacher, and his hammy acting is wonderful. An understated performance from him would be unthinkable.

This is a JYP Production.


1. The boys are dull. The boy-band members JB and Shiwoo are kind of boring, but maybe that's intentional, like the show is trying to tell us that they're just going through the motions and enjoying the fame without being genuinely happy, 3-dimensional people. The boys are flat when acting opposite each other, but they do seem to take a step up when they're interacting with a girl.

And They Do Have Very Pretty (and Gravity-Defying) Hair.

2. Hyesung. I like her character less and less as the show progresses. People tell her she doesn't have talent and in the context of the show, she is proven to not have talent. She isn't even pursuing her dream of singing because she loves to sing--she's trying to succeed so she'll be able to get closer to her celebrity crush JB. I can't appreciate her valiant efforts when her goal is so small. I really, really like Kang Sora as a person and an actress, but I don't connect with Hyesung as a character.


Overworking: The celebrity kids want to be free to work overtime and to perform after 10 PM. It seems like a counterproductive attitude since they'll be allowed to work super-hard as soon as they turn 18 and cease being minors, anyway!

 Classic Overachievers.

Unrequited Fan-love: There is a tender, delicate and oftentimes terrifying relationship between celebrities and fans. Poor Hyesung confesses her love for JB (in the polite, honorific language, no less), and he barely glances her way until he needs to manipulate her for his own benefit.

Reversal of Fortunes: Yujin once aced his Kirin auditions and clearly had starpower while JB didn't have any charisma at all, but now JB is a superstar while Yujin is just an ordinary high school student. Also, OZ president Kangchul used to be the Kirin Principal's errand boy, but now his company is taking over the school.

Cultural Observances:

Treatments of Stars: Mistreatment and bad working conditions for young actors and singers has been an issue in K-pop for a while. I hear it's improving every year--I hope so.

K-Pop: Hyesung dances to "Abracadabra" by the Brown Eyed Girls. A boy at school says he'll grant Hyesung's wish by helping her, saying the word "sowon" for wish, then he sings SNSD's "Genie" which contains the word "sowon" many times. He's really good at the song, too. Give it a listen:

Later, students sing "Roly Poly" by T-ara, and it is great to see JYP singing "I Am the Best" by 2NE1. Too bad that Hyorin and Ailee had to sing "Top Girl" by G.NA because I think it's just an average tune--great for noraebang (karaoke), but bad for standout vocalists like these two.

New words: "saranghamnida" means "I love you," but it's not the only way to say I love you in Korean, depending on your relationship to the other person and how polite you need to be. In ascending order of politeness/formality [according to my understanding as a new learner]: Saranghae (casual, informal I-love-you, the one most commonly heard in K-pop songs), Saranghaeyo (informal yet still polite I-love-you), Saranghamnida (formal, polite I-love-you to someone much older or someone whose station in life is notably above your own). The fact that Hyesng uses the latter term with JB shows that she's not personally acquainted with him at all, and that she considers herself to be beneath him, despite the fact that they're the same age.

Watch Episode 1 of Dream High 2 HERE at DramaFever

Episode Evaluations:

Now that my initial fangirling over singers is out of the way, I still like the show. It's not deep like 49 Days or hilarious like My Name is Kim Samsoon or full of characters you can wholeheartedly love like Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, but it's fun and quite watchable. I don't love any of the characters yet, but I like watching them trying to find their way.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scripture Sunday: Second Thessalonians

The Thessalonian church is still growing in their faith, and Paul is very pleased with their overall attitude: "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (1:3) They love each other and they love God, so everything should be just fine with the Thessalonian church, right?

Well, actually, they've been having some doctrinal problems. Specifically, they've been taught to believe some incorrect things about the second coming of Christ, often referred to in modern Christian circles as the Rapture. Paul gives them some information about the way the world will be when Jesus does come back: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2:3-4)

So that's pretty specific--the second coming of Christ, or the Rapture, isn't going to happen until one evil man who opposes God sits in the temple and actually declares himself to be God. Paul doesn't mention any specific dates, times, or ways to calculate the return of Christ because those human measurements of time could not matter less in this case.

But though he's discussing the potentially worrisome topic of the end of the world as we know it, Paul takes time to remind the recipients of his letter to be of good cheer, and he also asks God to encourage them: "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (2: 16-17) Paul may have some serious doctrinal issues to address, but his intention isn't to scare anyone into righteousness, it's to inform them of the facts and to encourage them to continue on their current path. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

K-Drama Review: Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 7-8

Read episode reviews for:
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 1-2
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 3-4
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 5-6
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 9-10
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 11-12
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 13-14
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 7-8

Seung-hoon and his rich-kid group Strawberry Fields won the battle of the bands competition, and now they're back in school bragging about thier win over Eye Candy, the poor-boys-with-heart band. Eye Candy lost by forfeit because one of their members was injured, so they're floored by the unfair loss.

In the previous episode, Ji-hyuk and Suah had their first kiss, which naturally complicates everything instead of clearing the air. Suah gets superhumanly awkward around him, but when Ji-hyuk opens up and says she can stop avoiding him, Suah turns him down. But though Suah's not sure where she stands with Ji-hyuk, she does finally tell her best guy friend Seung-hoon to stop waiting for her to fall for him. I feel like she's being a little cowardly in her reactions to Ji-hyuk, but being very brave about telling Seung-hoon that they're never going to be more than friends--it's a tough admission to make.

With life going so lousy for Eye Candy, Ji-hyuk writes a letter of withdrawal from school. But unbeknowst to the downtrodden band members, a video of their performance has gone viral on the internet, catching the attention of a media group run by Seung-hoon's big sister. The video is popular because the boys are really rocking out and having fun, but it hits viral status because Ji-hyuk stops the performance at the end to save Hyunsoo, who was bleeding from his guitar-playing hand. Girls everywhere are falling for Eye Candy because of that video, ironically making them more popular than they would have been if they'd won the contest outright.

Before they know they've achieved fame, the guys decide on their own to be happy and to just play for fun again. But soon they hear that a big company wants to recruit them! And yet...the company only wants to sign Ji-hyuk and Hyunsoo. Awk-ward.

Things I Loved:

1. Ji-hyuk/Suah: Oh. My. Gosh. Just when I give up on them, they go into Cute Mode again. Suah admits that she's frantic to find her MP3 player not because it contains Seung-hoon's song, but because it has Ji-hyuk's voice on it. (Mixed signals, sugar! But moody Ji-hyuk is just as bad with the mixed signals.) Ji-hyuk calls Suah to sing her favorite song to her because he's too embarassed to do it face to face, but then it turns out that he's sitting outside his apartment, and all she has to do is walk out of her apartment to hear him. Gyahh, so cute.  

So Awkward, Suah Tries to Hide in the Wall.

2. Hyunsoo. This melancholy guy is my second-favorite in the band. In episode 7, the poor thing starts skipping school again because he's depressed after his onstage meltdown. In a major character-revealing scene, Hyunsoo sits at a playground with his baby sisteer, feeding her and telling her about how he and Ji-hyuk used to be best buddies. Hyunsoo smiles and reminisces about their childhood when they were inseparable until Ji-Hyuk disappeared into the music scene and started playing guitar with Byunghee. Hyunsoo's jealousy prompted him to take up guitar, so he's always had a chip on his shoulder and had something to prove. While music comes naturally for Ji-hyuk, Hyunsooo has to practice hard just to keep up. But after all this gut-spilling, Baby Sister comforts and hugs her oppa to let him know he'll be okay. Awww. 

 Baby Sister Shows Her Support for Hyunsoo.

3. Mr. Kim: This teacher seemed like a jerk in the early episodes, but it was all just build-up to his greatness in these eps. He tells the Eye Candy guys that life hasn't ended just because they lost the competition. It's honestly so great to have a little adult pragmatism intrude on the teen angst. One musical setback does not equal the end of all your hopes and dreams, boys! Teacher Kim says he's disappointed in how quickly they started sulking and giving up, because they can do so much better. You go, awesome teacher. He even smiles happily when he sees a video of the guys playing, like he's terribly proud of them.

World-Weary Mentor Expects More From You, Son.

4. Suah:  I had begun losing interest in Suah and I thought the writers needed to do something particular with her, something related to her own goals instead of just having her respond or not respond to the guys' attentions. We still don't have much in the way of private interests for Suah, but she has gotten so strong. She returns Seung-hoon's gifts and says she won't accept anything from him in the future because she realizes that she's been letting Seung-hoon take over an almost-boyfriend role. She says point blank that she can't accept his feelings. It's so painful to hear the truth, but it's good she has matured enough to make the tough decisions. Later, when Ji-hyuk and Seung-hoon are both acting like jerks, Suah righteously announces that she doesn't need either of them! Right on. I love both fellows, but they need to grow up, too.

Atta Girl, Show That Backbone!

5. Do-Il: I thought Do-Il was just some dull, quiet guy in the early episdoes--I'm rarely interested in silent brooders. But now he feels like a real person, and he's often more observant than the others in the band. It's sweet and sad how he quietly supports the resident forceful girl Wookyung, because he has probably liked her as long as she's liked Ji-hyuk. But they'll end up together for sure--that's the way the plot is pointing. I also love Do-Il for stopping Seung-hoon's noona to ask if she genuinely thinks that the band has musical skill, because he doesn't want success handed to him.


Moping. The guys whine too much in episode 7. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when they got over themselves. They do have legitimate troubles, but they're too quick to view one big setback as a permanent ruin.

Paper-tearing. When one person rips up an important piece of paper, it's significant and dramatic. When three different documents get ripped up in one episode (the demerits list, Ji-hyuk's school withdrawal, the HR Entertainment contract), it has less of an impact every time.


Leadership: When they run into trouble, Ji-hyuk wonders what Byunghee would have done and how he would have dealt with the guys falling apart the way they are. Some scenes remind viewers that despite being the pseudo-adult leader of Eye Candy, Ji-hyuk is still a kid in a lot of ways. He throws minor fits and threatens to quit school when things don't go his way, but more often he makes smart choices. Ji-hyuk's at his absolute best when he's making tough decisions, not when he's chilling and letting things happen however they will. No one can take care of the other guys or Suah like he can when he commits himself to it.

Snobby Authority: The school principal is really a jerk. He praises Strawberry Fields to the high heavens just for winning a musical competition, then says Eye Candy has brought shame on their school for failing to place in said competition. Yanno, at some schools they actually try to teach the kids, or maybe possibly encourage them to achieve their goals.

Remembering the Dead: The reason Ji-hyuk is so distraught at losing the battle of the bands is that now no one will ever hear Byunghee's music on a large scale. At this point, his whole musical career is a tribute to his lost friend.

Loyalty/Disloyalty:  Unlike leader Ji-hyuk who will take a personal loss rather than play without his friends, Seung-hoon is dropping his band Strawberrry Fields and debuting alone because he doesn't need them anymore. I'm glad to see him pursuing his talent and passion, and I even like that he's leaving behind his sidekicks, The Bully and The Snob, but I don't like the idea that he's tossing people aside and treating others like they're disposable.

Strawberry Fields (is not) Forever.

Cultural Observances:

Samgyupsal: At Hyunsoo's house, they have a barbeque party where everyone's sitting at a low table and taking food off of a grill right in front of them. The meat is samgyupsal, a type of grilled pork similar to bacon slices.

New words: Jincha="really?" Pi="blood" (mentioned while discussing Hyunsoo's bleeding hand). Nado="Me, too".

You can watch episode 7 HERE at DramaFever.

Episode Evaluations:

Everyone, even the secondary characters, gets their development nudged forward, which makes me happy. Even though Shut Up, Flower Boy Band is supposedly just a high school drama about a rock band, it always feels fresh and exciting and the plot moves along at a nice pace.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

K-Drama Review: Operation Proposal, Episodes 1-2

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

Valentine's Day arrives in Korea, and Baek-Ho is late for a wedding. We're meant to think that he's late for his own wedding, but anyone who has seen the "surprise-he's-not-actually-the-groom" fakeout before is expecting to see him as a guest. Baek-Ho is in love with his best friend Yiseul, but she's marrying somebody else, and he's not sure whether he'll finally get the opportunity to tell her how he feels. Valentines is also the day of the Seoul International marathon, so the roads are impassable and Baek-Ho has to run all the way to the wedding. He runs so hard and for so long, it's painful to watch. It's like he's trying to make up for 20 years of doing nothing by giving his all at the last possible second.

The wedding continues as planned, and Baek-Ho says nothing. Later that day, he finds an old unopened letter from Yiseul which contains a love confession, so at least now he knows that at one point in time he had a shot with her. Next thing you know, Baek-Ho is sitting alone, crying his eyes out; the ugly, sniffly crying where you don't care who sees you bawling. Then a man who calls himself a Time Conductor offers him a handkerchief, then offers him a miracle--a trip back in time to make things right with Yiseul. The angel-like Conductor wonders aloud if Baek-Ho will do anything different with his second chance at love, since people rarely change for real. Baek-Ho goes back in time to 2001, his first year of high school, where he begins the process of figuring out how to win Yiseul's heart.

Things I Loved:

1. Baek-Ho. The actor, Yoo Seungho, does a great job of making this character sympathetic. Baek-Ho has a lot of flaws, mostly related to indecision, but I think he still gets the audience's full support. He's a little young for the adult half of his role (the actor is 19, and the grown-up Baek-Ho is about 27), but he's ideal for the highschool scenes. And, boy, can he cry perfectly. There's nothing halfway about his commitment to his performance.

When He Cries, You Will Cry, Too.

2. Baseball. I'm sure we'll hear more about Baek-Ho's past as a baseball player later on, but I like that it's a major part of his character because it's an interesting detail. Baek-Ho's room is full of baseballs and mounted gloves, plaques and trophies, which are all testaments to his achievements and his passion in life, but the trophies are ironic too, because he hasn't achieved the one thing he wants in life. He seems to have failed at his baseball career as well, come to think of it. Maybe he'll get to fix his love life and fix his professional life, too, as a result of the time-travel?

Groovy Blue Personalized Baseball Glove!

3. Music. The show has a really lovely swelling, twinkling soundtrack that could belong to a movie. The opening snowscape scene is magical, and when it's accompanied by classy music with strings, we feel just a hint of the fairytale world we'll be seeing later.


1. Baek-Ho's silence. How do you like a girl for twenty years and not let her know? Come on, now, that's a little ridiculous. It's hard to get behind a character whose main flaw is crippling indecision. I can understand him never confessing his in love in high school and maybe even in college, but at what point does it go too far? I don't yet know if there's a genuine reason for his inability to tell her how he feels, but I hope it's justified.

Takes Several Decades to Make a Decision.

2. Not enough Kim Yewon. This actress plays Chaeri, the best friend of Yiseul. Chaeri's an attention-hound looking for a rich husband, but she's got a sweet heart. I liked the actress in Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, but when I heard she was in this drama, I was hoping she was the lead instead of being stuck in a best friend role again. Maybe she'll get more scenes as the drama progresses. She's a favorite of mine, so I hope so!

Someone, Please Give This Woman a Main Role.


Time/Timeliness: Baek-Ho runs out of time to tell Yiseul he loves her, then he's running late for the wedding, and so on. Time is never on his side in any sense of the word until the Conductor steps in and gives him all the time in the world.

2nd Love: In an interesting philosophical moment, the Conductor says that most people marry their second-best love. He says that it's easy to recognize first loves because they hurt so badly, but it's harder to find that 2nd and most important love. I'm hoping that Baek-Ho and Chaeri are the second loves, because I want more of Kim Yewon in the show, but I'm not sure if I have any cause to hope for this--we don't seem set up for this pairing.

Cultural Observances:

Nationalism: Baek-Ho's taxi driver mentions that all good citizens should be out watching the marathon and supporting the Korean runners.

Traditional clothes: Yiseul's mom wears hanbok to the wedding.

Hanbok: Sort of Like a Full-Skirted Kimono.

Episode Evaluations:

Cute show, precious cast, great soundtrack, but with some caveats. While it's nice to see the sweet, innocent love between two people who genuinely care about each other, they are definitely having too many easily-fixed misunderstandings. All it would take is for Yiseul to say "I like you" instead of leaving Baek-Ho hints and clues, and all it would take is for past-travelling Baek-Ho to say he likes Yiseul instead of making lots of sacrificial gestures to prove it. In a perfect world, actions do speak louder than words, but in Operation Proposal, words speak louder than actions, and the main characters need to repeat this one simple phrase: I. Like. You. Conflict resolved!

You can watch episode 1 of Operation Proposal HERE at DramaFever.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, 1818

Here's another classic story I'm reading for the first time! Frankenstein the novel, as I suspected, is almost nothing like the various incarnations of Frankenstein I've run across over the years. I've seen so many versions of the monster in childrens' shows, comedy specials, skits, and other forms of media, but none of the pop-culture depictions of the monster seem to accurately represent the sadness and abundant emotion of the book.

I shouldn't be surprised at it anymore, but it seems like all British or American literature from the 19th century has to be set inside a frame story--the narrative has to be told to somebody who told somebody who is telling the reading audience about it, or something equally layered. Frankenstein is actually not told by Victor Frankenstein or by his created  monster, but by a third party whose main purpose seems to be praising Victor Frankenstein's character to the high heavens.

The story starts out with some guy, Captain Robert Walton, writing to his sister about the weather in St. Petersburg. He's a sea captain and he is preparing for a big voyage to the Arctic, where he hopes something amazing and purposeful awaits him. As his letters continue, it becomes clear that Walton is seriously poetic and he really wants a like-minded best friend because pouring out his heart in well-composed letters to his sister is just not doing justice to the depth of his feelings. But Walton's loneliness doesn't last for too long because his crew soon discovers a dying man floating on a big piece of ice. As the man, Victor, is nursed back to health, he admits to Walton that he has been in the Arctic chasing another person, or rather a "demon" as he calls him. Then Victor begins to share his long, tragic story with the captain.

Victor's thirst for knowledge led him to serious questions about the nature of life and souls. He was a brainiac who devoted himself to the intense study of various educational disciplines, including a few areas of spiritualism and quackery. Time passed and Victor learned how to give life to inanimate biological objects. He cobbled together an eight-fool-tall body, ran an electric current and some other stuff through it, and brought the ugly creature to liiiiiife. But no sooner does his pet project come to life, than Victor runs away from it in disgust. Strangely, it's at this point that I, as a reader, go from feeling a certain fondness for Victor and his obsessive studying to feeling outright revulsion for him because he refuses to take responsibility for something he made.

And I do feel very sorry for the monster, which I did not expect to happen. The monster does some cruel, vile things, but he had no real guidance. He didn't ask to be created and abandoned, and it isn't his fault that his own creator views him with absolute horror. Victor created a life that could have had some value if he had chosen to assign said value to it, but instead he leaves the creature alone in hopes that it will run away and just not be his problem anymore! But it becomes his problem once again when the creature kills his younger brother and frames a servant for the crime.

At one of the climaxes of the story, the creature confronts Victor and talks to him for the first time. The creature has been through a lot of painful encounters with human beings, most of which began with him trying to do something kind and ended with him doing something destructive. He wants Victor to make him a companion so he can live happily ever after with her in the wilderness, but his plans for a monster wedding don't ever come to fruition because Victor sabotages the effort. Victor and his monster proceed in a gruesome game of one-upsmanship where each tries to hurt the other horribly, and they both succeed. When this very short book is over, the body-count is about as high as your typical Shakespearean tragedy: everyone we care about (and some people we don't) has died.

What's the moral of the story, then, if you're looking for one? Perhaps that seeking after too much knowledge or pursuing science for science's sake is a bad idea. Jurassic Park has also taught us that. Another moral or lesson I see in Frankenstein is the importance of compassion and empathy--if Victor had cared for his creation as he ought to, the many, many deaths could have been averted. That's why the story is tragic; a little less obsession and selfishness from our protagonist would have changed everything. Grade: B

Favorite quotes:

-"Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin." (pg 16)

Victor-"But now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. " (pg 26)

Monster-"I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy" (pg 80)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

K-Drama Review: Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 5-6

Read episode reviews for:
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 1-2
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 3-4
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 7-8
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 9-10
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 11-12
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 13-14
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 5-6

The sound you hear is everyone's jaws dropping as this show continues to get better every week.

Ji-hyuk opts to save Suah from dangerous thugs instead of competing with his band, Eye Candy, for a musical practice room at school. Since the thugs keep coming around Suah's place, Ji-hyuk suggests that he and Suah change apartments. In most dramas, they'd end up moving into the same apartment which would lead to wacky misunderstandings, but it's somehow cuter that they're separate and highly uncomfortable in each other's respective apartments.

While things are going badly for Suah, things are looking up for the boys in Eye Candy. In the competition to enter the big battle of the bands, Eye Candy came in 2nd while the rich-kid band Strawberry Fields was 4th. Hyunsoo feels that his guitar skills are being slighted when the judge comments say that the guitar part could have been stronger, but everyone else is elated. Valentines Day is coming up, and the boys are more popular than ever, as evidenced by the massive pile of chocolates they receive from girls at their school.

In these episodes, we finally get Suah and Seung-hoon's backstory to their ten-year friendship. Seung-hoon came to her elementary school from America and he didn't speak any Korean, but Suah stood up for him when he was bullied. She even carried him piggyback when they were kids and he was smaller then her. This is a great moment of character revelation because it shows why Seung-hoon is so bent on caring for Suah--it's partly paying her back for her help in the past. And it also shows that the privileged prince does know what it's like to be the underdog and the person everyone puts down.

Then finally, the day of the big rock festival arrives!  Hyunsoo is running in a panic to get there on time, and the guys begin to worry. In his rush to cross the street, Hyunsoo is nearly hit by a bus and he falls and cuts his guitar-playing hand badly. Noooo....

Things I Loved:

1. Ji-hyuk/Suah. They're shaping up to be an epic couple, but they're such a natural pair, too. They both have strengths and weaknesses, and they both get smarter and stronger over time. I like how they don't ever lie or manipulate anyone, least of all each other. And they get the cutest moments! For example: when Suah cries, Ji-hyuk awkwardly puts a comforting arm around her while pretending that he hasn't. And Suah leaves a bottle of milk at Ji-hyuk's door every morning, just to make sure he's getting his daily nutrition, I guess.

These two have a fun little subplot where Ji-hyuk has unknowingly recorded the vocals for the song that Suah always listens to for comfort. Although Ji-hyuk doesn't admit to being the singer when she asks him, he's smiling like a fool as he's walking down the street while sharing earbuds and listening to his own song with her.

Any More Cuteness, and the Screen Would Explode.

2. Seung-hoon. He's such a great character. I thought he was a cold shell of a person who had no interest in the world around him, but he has proven to be one of the more compelling members of the cast, right up there with Suah and Ji-hyuk. Seung-hoon rightly asks why Suah didn't tell him about her troubles, and he's all kinds of hurt that she didn't come to him for help. He's a hero at heart; he just hasn't had an opportunity to save anyone. One of the best parts of episode 6 happens when Seung-hoon bravely and awesomely declines the mean school Principal's offer to keep Eye Candy out of the band competition. Atta boy! Honestly, I'm rooting for Seung-hoon every bit as much as the Eye Candy guys.

Seung-hoon, Fighting!

3. Hyunsoo. More so than the "villains," this good--guy member of the band has the potential to cause serious trouble. Hyunsoo's definitely challenging authority when he smoothly suggests that maybe Ji-hyuk shouldn't be in the band and should instead spend his time on romance, since he's always flying off to help Suah. Whoops, looks like our resident loose cannon is getting ready to fire! And due to a bad case of absentee parents, Hyunsoo is always taking care of his baby sister, which keeps him from band practice and frustrates him more. Hyunsoo's a bit of a workaholic because he puts forth more effort than anyone else in the band, all while parenting his little sister. AWWW. Don't make me like you any more than I already do, Hyunsoo, because I know you're trouble.

Excellent Big Brother; Questionable Friend at Times.

4. Suah. What a doll! She's a gentle soul with a go-getter's attitude. Suah works at least two part-time jobs to support herself after her dad's financial crisis, but she never gets bitter toward her appa for his failures.  Suah truthfully tells her dad that she's doing all right in her current impoverished situation and that she's made some great friends. She has also grown more assertive and learned more about herself through the crisis. I find it interesting that I now care about Suah like a BFF, but it was a gradual attachment that developed over several episodes.

Only Gets Better With Time.

5. The Music. We don't hear enough of it, but what music we hear from the bands is good. Eye Candy sounds kinda like FT Island or CN Blue, the poppy yet instrument-playing Korean bands that have vocals you actually want to listen to.

Complaints: Most of my complaints about these episodes actually turned into beneficial things for the plot arc. Hyunsoo is missing from a lot of the scenes (presumably because his actor had other commitments with Infinite), and they make good excuses for it, but it got to be noticeable that one of the band members was only in a third of the band scenes. But having Hyunsoo offstage makes you wonder what's happening to him and when he's going to crack.

Also, thank goodness Suah's dad gives himself up to the police so that the loansharks will stop hassling his daughter. That subplot with the thugs was almost lasting too long, but it wraps up before it gets too repetitive.


Telling the Whole Truth: Well, most K-dramas wouldn't last a whole 16 episodes if the cast didn't have a veritable festival of misunderstandings and partial communications, but Ji-hyuk says that Suah needs to tell everyone at school the whole truth about her situation. And wouldn't you know it? He was right. As soon as Suah airs all her secrets in public, she has nothing left to lose and nothing to worry over. When in doubt, try confessing.

Leadership: After being chased out of one practice space too many,  Ji-hyuk acts like a grown-up and talks to the actual landlady of their practice space instead of just sneaking around behind her back. He shows his leadership skills in other ways, too, because he regularly takes care of his friends by cooking for them and he dashes off to help Woo-kyung, a girl who annoys him, when he gets a call. That's just the kind of person he is.

Sacrifice: Hyunsoo sacrifices his hand to win the band contest in honor of Byunghee, but then Ji-hyuk sacrifices their win to protect his hurt friend. Hyunsoo was grimacing and playing guitar with bleeding hands until Ji-hyuk forcibly stopped him from playing and shredding his hand further. But though Eye Candy loses the competition because of Hyunsoo's injury, the guys are worried about his hand, not about their win, just as they should be.

Bleeding All Over These Frets.

Cultural Observances:

Valentine's Day is rather different in Korea than in America. In America, I mostly see guys doing stuff for their girlfriends on V-Day, but in Korea (and in Japan, from what I recall from manga), Valentine's Day is a holiday specifically for girls to give chocolate to the guys they like. The more chocolate a guy gets, the more popular he is. But the guys on TV and in the comics never seem happy if they don't get chocolate from the one girl they like, which is the case with Seung-hoon, who sadly broods over a pile of chocolates that did not come from Suah.

Episode Evaluations: Character development for everyone! Sadness without angst! Plotlines that actually resolve themselves within a reasonable time frame! What a great show.

You can watch episode 5 HERE at DramaFever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

K-Drama Review: Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 3-4

Read episode reviews for:
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 1-2
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 5-6
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 7-8
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 9-10
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 11-12
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 13-14
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 3-4

The five remaining members of the band Eye Candy are barely coping with the loss of their leader, Byunghee, who was hit by a bus shortly after being beaten up by some rich kids from school. Now Byunghee's best friend Ji-hyuk has to step up as the new leader of their group of friends, and he also ends up protecting Byunghee's songwriting muse, Suah.

Early on in episode three, we get a flashback in black-and-white to Byunghee at his awesomest, being his usual adorkable, wacky self. There are shots of him hiding his face after saying something cute to Suah, then him hanging out with Ji-hyuk, then brainstorming some more of his "genius" schemes, and it really shows you just how much the guys in Eye Candy are losing when this silly, vibrant personality exits their lives. The rest of episode three is a blame-go-round about Byunghee's death. Eye Candy blames the rich-kid band Strawberry Fields for beating up Byunghee before he stumbled into traffic. Ji-hyuk blames Suah for distracting him when Byunghee called for help. Everyone blames themselves, as well.

It would have been easy for the show to fall into a malaise of crying montages, with everyone angsting nonstop, but it moves forward surprisingly well. All the characters are getting gradual development, and Suah's getting a decent emotional arc too, which is good. With such a guy-focused story, the main girl could end up being just a placeholder, but the actress (Jo Boa) brings vulnerability and friendliness to Suah's scenes.

On the musical front, Eye Candy has cut a demo tape in preparation for the huge battle of the bands Byunghee singed them up for. Their demo sounds good, but they still have to compete for a decent practice space, and their school is all abuzz about the showdown of Eye Candy vs. Strawberry Fields.

Things I Loved:

1. The guys' love for their lost friend. Their grief is very real, and they deal with it in normal, human ways. There are sweet moments like when little Kyung-jong wraps up Byunghee's picture in a coat because he hated being cold. Then there are almost celebratory moments when the guys set off all the fireworks in Byunghee's sparkler stash. But there's an attempt to push down the sadness, too, because Kyung-jong, the baby of the group, breaks down sobbing at one point and Ji-hyuk has to run away before he cracks, too.

Taking Care of Byunghee's Picture.

2. Ji-hyuk. I barely noticed this guy in the first two episodes because of Byunghee, but he's a great hero in the making. He's learning how to take care of his bandmates and there's a nice moment of tension-panic for Ji-hyuk as he realizes that it's up to him to keep his guys from taking revenge and getting expelled from school. He's like the dad of the crew (or at least the hyung, the older brother). Ji-hyuk may be downright scary in a fight, but he has a kind side and always looks out for the other guys by buying them food with the extra cash he makes.

Our Angry, Illustrious Leader.

3. Hyunsoo. Ji-hyuk's supposed to be the craziest guy in the band now that their leader is gone, but a few lines indicate that lead guitarist Hyunsoo is a potential loose cannon, too. In a fight scene, the icy-cool Hyunsoo goes a little crazy, like maybe he's less chill than previously believed. Hyunsoo also hints that wants to be the new vocalist of Eye Candy, but the role suits Ji-hyuk better. I wonder where his character development is heading. Trivia: Hyunsoo is played by "L," one of the members of the K-pop band Infinite.

May Go Slightly Mental in the Near Future.

4. Suah/Ji-hyuk. This potential couple is so darling. I like watching the tiny moments of awkwardness between them, and there are plenty. Ji-hyuk does finally get past his blamestorming and he forgives Suah for talking to him the night Byunghee died, distracting him from an important phone call. When Ji-hyuk sees thugs outside Suah's apartment, he invites her over and makes her food, but then grumps that she shouldn't expect him to make ramyun for her all the time! When she starts to look potentially sad and sniffly over a reminder of Byunghee, he gives her more food and changes the subject.

Almost Painfully Precious When Combined.


None. These episodes are legit, and they avoid a lot of the storyline pitfalls I was expecting.


Family Issues: Byunghee's drunk dad is extra-drunk at his son's funeral. Do-Il's dad is revealed to be a famous gangster. Suah's dad unwittingly puts her in a position to be hounded by loansharks.

Conflicted Feelings: Seung-hoon's guilty conscience is bothering him over Byunghee, though he's only partly to blame for the accident. Seung-hoon has some cold impulses, but he's never outright cruel and oddly enough, he's enjoying the competition and difficulty of having Eye Candy around all the time. You know, I don't even consider him to be a villain anymore. He has earned his place as one of our leads; he's just a lead who is in opposition to most of our other leads.

Seriously, He's Not a Bad Guy.

Probably Unrequited Love: Seung-hoon keeps hoping that Suah will confess her feelings to him, and he's always wearing that "Did you have something special you wanted to say to me? Please?" expression. Seung-hoon is deeply worried over Suah's financial predicament. When she won't accept an expensive present from him, he gives her a small present of a warm scarf when he notices she's been walking home in the cold. It's almost heartbreaking, because you can tell he loves her, but while Suah lets him hold her hand for awhile, she eventually pulls away.

Someone's Heart Is Going To Get Broken, Quite Soon.

Cultural Observances:

Funeral pictures with black ribbons: At Byunghee's funeral, there's a picture of him with black ribbons tied over it. This isn't just a Korean practice--they do it in Ireland I believe, and they used to do it in America too, but this is not something I see done in the States any more.

Kneeling: Ji-hyuk kneels in front of Seung-hoon, begging him to let the guys stay in school. Seung-hoon really shouldn't hold the power of expulsion over another student, but that's how the power system ends up working. Ji-hyuk has to humble himself before his enemy in order to protect his bros, and it works.

Taking off shoes when you enter a house: Even in Ji-hyuk's apartment, he and Suah take off their shoes at the door. And it's not like the shoes are muddy or dirty, it's just the standard move to take them off.

Episode Evaluations: I'm still stunned that this show killed off my favorite character and somehow got even better in the aftermath. Can't wait for more!

You can watch an English subtitled version of episode three HERE at Dramafever.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scripture Sunday: First Thessalonians

Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian church is intensely positive. Paul is proud of the Thessalonians for being bold about sharing their faith: "For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing." (1:8). These people don't just believe in Jesus; they live out their faith in public and share the love of God with others.

Paul takes time to discuss his previous trip to Thessalonica and mention how he and his fellow ministers acted during their visit. He takes care to mention that they preached the gospel in order to please God, not to please people, and that they never flattered anyone or looked for personal glory. This is an example that could benefit modern Christians, especially those who get to preach from a pulpit--they need to focus on what God wants them to say rather than carefully picking out their words in order to please and flatter their listeners. And yet, Paul doesn't say it's necessary to be harsh or abrasive while ministering to others: "But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" (2:7). So a person speaking God's word must not hold back the truth, but they're also supposed to be loving and gentle toward those they're dealing with.

This personal tenderness toward the Thessalonians had a very strong pull on Paul and his co-ministers. He says "we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (2:8). That's true brotherly love at work, when one person can care so unreservedly for another person and give expecting nothing back. But the Thessalonians did in fact give something back to Paul in the spiritual sense, because he receives great joy and comfort from knowing that they steadfastly follow after the Lord. Paul is longing to see the Thessalonians again, and since he couldn't take a second trip to see them, he had actually sent his right-hand man/protege Timothy to them.

1st Thessalonians contains some important facts about the second coming of Christ, also known as the rapture in Christian circles. Paul makes sure that the Thessalonians know that there is no set calendar date for the Lord's return: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." (5:2) In other words, it's going to happen suddenly and when no one expects it. Many different denominations (and cults) have tried to predict when Jesus' second coming will be, but dozens of end-of-the-world dates have already come and gone. God's own word tells us that we can't predict when the end will be, nor should we try to--it's our job to be prepared to face the Lord whenever that day does come.

Chapter five ends with a list of short but important things for Christians to remember:

"16Rejoice evermore.
17Pray without ceasing.
18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19Quench not the Spirit.
20Despise not prophesyings.
21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22Abstain from all appearance of evil. "

All easy-to-remember proverbs that we would do well to actually commit to memory.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

K-Drama Review: Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 1-2

Read episode reviews for:
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 3-4
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 5-6
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 7-8
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 9-10
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 11-12
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 13-14
Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, Episodes 15-16

Contains Major Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

This show? It is awesome. Shockingly so. I'm glad I gave it a chance because I had already decided that I wasn't going to watch Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, and I had a couple of very good reasons: 1. It's a teen show and while I enjoy YA books, it's been years since I've liked a TV show centered around and marketed to teens. Veronica Mars was probably the last one I liked, and that was half a decade ago. 2. Just from the posters, I figured the show would be about pretty people posing in pretty ways while holding guitars. Like a music video stretched out over 16 hours. Not exactly riveting television, correct?

But boy, was I wrong! Just with the first two episodes, SUFBB proves it's a show with real heart, and it's not afraid to let a little sad realism slip into its world of attractive teenage musicians. It's an approachable and friendly-type show, and it kind of winks at the audience and says, yes, we know we're being a little bombastic and over-the-top. Just bear with us; it'll be worth the trip.

Byunghee is the leader of a band called Angujeonghwa (most people are translating it as "Eye Candy"). He and his best friend Ji-hyuk and their four other bandmates are super-cool in their neighborhood and are all but worshipped by the local teen crowds, but that's just part of the story. In reality, the guys are all incredibly poor and they come from broken or dysfunctional families, so their time together as a band is the one place where they can pretend to be totally fine and normal, and be regular kids with a chance at pursuing their dreams of success. But when their school shuts down and they all get transferred to a snobby prep school, it becomes clear that the guys will never be regarded as anything but trash by the "haves" at their academy. And when Byunghee gets obsessed with having a particular girl be his songwriting muse, it just complicates matters further.

Things I Loved:

1. Byunghee. He's such a perfect example of a rock band leader. He has delusions of grandeur, but he's charismatic enough that people want to follow him. They may refer to him as "our wacko leader," but the guys really do look to Byunghee as an indicator of whether everything's going to be all right. And since he's so buoyant, they always have some reassurance that things will go their way. Even if they won't.

Beloved By All. Has Only a Tenuous Grip On Reality.

2. Fights. There are a lot of fights and near-fights in SUFBB, and they seem very accurate and boy-like. In romantic K-dramas, most guys fight only over the heart of the heroine, because that's what the audience wants to see. Here, we get a few major fistfights in the first two episodes, and they're over territorial issues, or just because people got mad. That's very dude-like, fighting because of insecurity, aggression, and pent-up frustrations with life. We'll probably gets fights over the girl later on, but for now I'm glad the dirt and grit of this show comes from the guys' own economic and social issues.

There's Even a Brief Fight With a Teacher.

3. Decent Music. We don't hear Eye Candy play all that much, but when they do play, they actually sound like a band you'd want to go and hear. In their first scene, they're doing a nice cover of "Not In Love" by Canadian electronica band Crystal Castles (which itself was a cover of 80's new wave group Platinum Blonde. Layers within musical layers...), which sounds slightly like Coldplay but less sleepy. If you went to their concert, you'd have a fun time if you were at all into rock/pop.

4. A not-quite-a-villain. Seung-hoon is the default bad guy for this story, but he's not really evil and not really even "bad". He's just Eye Candy's main opposition. He's the prince of Jungsang high school and he resents the new crop of delinquents coming in to mess up the place, but you get the sense that Seung-hoon would be a decent person if he weren't trying to live up to his own reputation for being above everyone else. He genuinely worries about Suah--she's not just a trophy to him, she's a real friend. He just doesn't know how to connect with her or ask her what's going wrong in her life.

A Thoroughly Sympathetic Semi-Villain.


1. Too Many Names. This is an inherent difficulty in watching any major ensemble cast drama, but it took me a very long time to keep the names and faces of the main cast straight. In an average K-drama, there are about four leads you have to remember, but in this show there are at least eight main characters--the six guys in Eye Candy, then Suah and Seung-hoon. It took me the full two episodes to keep everyone's names and personalities straight.


Family Troubles: No one has good family relationships, here. Byunghee's dad is abusive, Ji-hyuk's mom and stepdad are...I don't know what they are, but he lives by himself and there's talk of them legally disowning him. Do-Il avoids going home for reasons we don't yet know, Hyunsoo's parents are badgered and brow-beaten, and Suah's dad is in trouble with some loansharks.

Rock Muses: We see some foreshadowing of future plot points (I think) in the big discussions of muses. The guys in the band don't actually know what a "muse" is supposed to do or who might qualify as a muse. Byunghee knows it's a pretty girl who makes you want to write music, and the rest of the band eventually remembers that Eric Clapton wrote the song "Layla" for his muse and won her away from George Harrison.

Suah, Unintentional Rock Muse.

Childlike Attitudes: Most of the guys have had to grow up too fast, but despite making some grown-up decisions, you get the sense that they're still kids in a lot of ways. Byunghee is especially childlike. He's never 100% creepy, overbearing, or abrasive because he so often shows a genuine soft-hearted delight in the simplest of things. He bounces back after every setback, and is surprisingly non-emo about it.

Finances=Persomal Value: Seung-hoon unknowingly wounds Suah when he says that the poor kids are nothing like them and will never be their equals. He's trying to hint to Suah that she shouldn't fall for a street rat, but what he actually does is hurt her feelings by making her feel worthless. The problem of basing personal value on wealth is that wealth changes. If the street rats hit it big, they'll be valuable and if Suah's dad loses money, she's suddenly an untouchable. I see this financial problem nudging Suah closer to Eye Candy, who are more on her new "level".

Cultural Observances:

Band members=Oppas: Before the Eye Candy concert, both teen girls and tiny little middle school girls refer to the band members as "oppas," which means big brothers. Korean girls/women get to use this term for older guy friends as well as blood relatives, and the term seems to be applied a lot to famous guys. So long as they look up to a guy, they get to call him oppa, even if he's a distant actor or singer.

Noraebang: In episode 1, the guys go hang out in a karaoke room, but only two of them are actually having fun and singing. Everyone else is depressed.

New words: "Eodi" is "where". "Eodi-ah" seems to be "where are you?"

Episode Evaluations: This show is easily ten times better than I was expecting. There's a bit of depth here, but the show isn't trying to be deep. There's no voiceover talking about the larger meanings of life; you just see them played out in these kids' everyday struggles. I plan to keep watching and reviewing this one--it may just be a keeper.

You can watch an English subtitled version of episode 1 HERE at Dramafever.

Further discussion of the MAJOR SPOILER death scene, because I just can't let it go:

My favorite character! Is killed off! In episode two! *uncomprehending blink* If I had done my research prior to watching, I would have known that Byunghee's actor was only doing a short cameo in this show and was never intended to be part of the full cast, but I don't like to read plot descriptions or press releases about K-dramas before I watch them--it's like reading the last chapter of a book first. So I was blindsided by the death of Byunghee, but after I calmed down I realized that this plot choice is really going to do great things for the show. Ji-hyuk was never going to step into the spotlight with Byunghee stealing every scene, and this loss should propel the characters to grow and change. I think I was mainly shocked because I feel that in American dramas, the best friend characters either die early on in episode one, or they die in the season finale--never in between. The timing was shocking! Don't let the smiley, pink-infused posters fool you--this show will suckerpunch you with its sadness at times.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scripture Sunday: The Book of Colossians

The book of Colossians is another of Paul's letters to the many churches of his day, and this one focuses a lot of its attention on Christ and on how he must be central to a believer's life.

Chapter 1 dives right into some serious doctrine related to God's son: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (1:15-17).  This passage kind of goes over my head the first time I read it. I'm not used to thinking of Jesus in this way, as someone powerful and preeminent, though scripture clearly shows that he is these's just easier for me to think of the Lord in his humble and sacrificial mode.

The next couple of verses show that Jesus' power, both in heaven and in earth, has been approved and set up by God the Father: "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (1:19-20). It is because Jesus has this God-given power and authority that he is able to provide forgiveness of sins.

Paul talks to the Colossians one-on-one a little more in chapter 2. It seems that, unlike several other  churches, Paul has never physically visited the Colossians or their neighbors the Laodiceans, so he's all the more invested in communicating with them and providing them with some helpful doctrine. In chapters 3 and 4, Paul's counsel is mainly of a practical nature, telling the Colossians the sort of attitudes and actions they should avoid, then telling them the sort of behaviors they should embrace: "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." (3:14-15). Charity means "love", so Paul is saying that loving others is the very essence of a righteous attitude. I also like the phrase "let the peace of God rule in your hearts", because it's so easy to let your heart be taken over by worries instead of letting the peace that the Lord provides sink in.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

K-Drama Review: My Name is Kim Samsoon, Episodes 1-2

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

Kim Samsoon hates her name. It's old-fashioned (comparable to Bertha, Mildred, or Agnes in English) it sounds odd, and it has a negative meaning which she'd like to escape. Samsoon is almost thirty years old, and despite being a first-class baker after studying in France, she feels like a total zero. Her longterm boyfriend cheated on her at Christmas, she lost her job, and her future prospects for work and marriage don't look so great.

After Samsoon's sudden heartbreak over discovering her guy cheating, she slips into a hotel bathroom stall to weep and wail out her frustrations--but it's the men's restroom. Jin Heon (played by Hyun Bin) interrupts her caterwauling to point out that she's hiding out in the wrong bathroom. Cue embarrassment all around. Then a flashback shows that Jin Heon was paying attention to her dramatic breakup in the hotel dining room instead of paying attention to his own beautiful but super-dull date. These two people never expect to run into each other again, but Jin Heon owns a French restaurant and quickly finds himself in need of a new pastry chef. Craziness ensues when messy, unstylish, offbeat Samsoon steps into the kitchen and changes life for everyone, especially her sardonic boss.

I started watching this show for three reasons:

1. Hyun Bin.
2. Everyone said it was the best K-drama ever (it's in several Top Five Best lists).
3. Hyun Bin. Sorry, I'm biased. Ever since Secret Garden, he's been my favorite K-drama actor, eclipsing the other contenders. But this show winds up being more than just a vehicle to see a charismatic lead actor--it's about one woman's struggle to reinvent herself and succeed on her own terms. So viewers may tune in for the handsome guys (Daniel Henney is the second lead, even), but they'll stick around for the great portrayal of the issues faced by modern women.

At Left: The Initial Draw. At Right: The Show's Heart and Soul.

Things I Loved: 1. The music. I seriously love this soundtrack. While the soundtracks to some K-dramas kill me because they'll play comedic music during romantic moments (Flower Boy Ramyun Shop) or play romantic music during fight scenes (Boys Over Flowers), the music here always makes you notice the comedy, like when syrupy Christmastime jazz plays as Samsoon stalks her ex or when fierce violins erupt into a classical flourish during a pool scene. The music sets the mood for the show and says "Don't get too serious, audience. You're going to love this and it's all going to turn out okay."

Episode one opens with Samsoon manically running down a hallway and hiding while Nat King Cole's warm classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" plays, which totally changes the mood. Later, Samsoon and Jin Heon are hanging out together while "Are You Lonesome Tonight" by Elvis plays, but the song is like an ironic echo, because these two are not lonesome but they're not happy with each other, either. I guess what I enjoy the most about the songs is that they're American standards--I immediately start laughing when I hear them, because I pick up on the intentional contrast between the lyrics and the scenes they play over.

Vengeful, Yet Inconspicuous. Merry Christmas.

2. The comedy. The timing and the comic beats in this show are killer. The fantasy sequences where Samsoon imagines what she'd like to say, but then snaps back to reality, are grand. Because we all do this in our own minds. We tell people off and stalk and flounce, and then we shift back to the real world and do the right thing, which is what Samsoon inevitably does. I especially enjoy super goofy moments like Samsoon singing the Korean version of "It's Raining Men" at noraebang (karaoke) and just absolutely going to town with the song, or the snort-worthy scenes after she wins a giant teddybear-pig thing (a teddypig?) and insists on carrying it to dinner.

This Pig May Be My Only True Ally in Life.

3. Jin Heon. As I've said before, I like the actor better than the character, but the character has plenty of interesting points. Jin Heon goes on dates arranged by his mother, but sabotages them because he doesn't want to be there. He tries for insulting banter with his dates, perhaps hoping that someday someone will call him on it and dish back as good as they get--but nope. His dates either adore him anyway, or get fed up with his pettiness and throw water at him. Samsoon is the first person to really call him out for his rudeness, so their dynamic is good for him. I also like his relationship with his mother, Chairwoman Na, who is fussy and demanding (but not mean!) and who bickers with her son just for fun.

Complaints: 1. Samsoon. I think I'm utterly alone in feeling kind of put-off by this character, because everyone seems to love her.  I find her voice annoying because she doesn't seem to enunciate any of her words--but this is definitely the character's issue, not the actress', because I've heard Kim Sun-Ah herself in other shows, and her voice sounded pleasant and fine. Normally, I fall for the heroine right away, but Samsoon took a while to grow on me. I wholeheartedly sympathize with her circumstances, though.

It's Not Her, It's Me...


Themes: Trauma. Jin Heon can't drive because he's scared of being at the wheel, for reasons as yet unknown. Car trauma seems to be a common trope in K-dramas. I've seen many, many characters who either can't drive or can't ride in cars because of their past traumas.

The Comfort of Love. In the beginning of Ep. 1, Samsoon is crying not because she misses her unfaithful boyfriend (HyunWoo is an unprincipled lout!) but because she misses loving and being loved. This show is actually rather practical about love--it's not entirely some mystical force that happens to hit two people at once. It's a basic human need that we all want to have met.

Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes!

Joking/Seriousness: Jin Heon pulls a prank on Samsoon by ruining her special date with another guy, but he fails to see that the date is very important to Samsoon, because he views everything in the romantic realm as a joke. Samsoon is broken hearted that Jin Heon may have ruined a potential match for her, and she goes so far as kicking him and refusing to speak to him in retaliation. Basically, Jin Heon is rich enough to afford his little emotional games, but Samsoon doesn't have the luxury of toying with people. She's dead serious about finding love and finding a husband.

Cultural Observances:

Plastic surgery: Korea has a reputation for having the highest rate of plastic surgeries of any nation in the world. Numbers-wise, America gets more plastic surgery, but Korea's percentage of citizens getting cosmetic surgery is nearly double America's stats. Plastic surgery is mentioned several times just in the first two episodes of MNKISS. Samsoon insists that she has never had surgery, and at one point Jin Heon asks his dull date where she got her rather obvious facial surgeries.

Namsan Tower: Jin Heon and Samsoon ride in the aerial cable cars near the famous Namsan Tower.

Just Don't Look Down.

New words: "Kure" means "okay" or "sure". 

Translation note: Partway through episode one, I didn't feel like the sub translations I was getting were accurate--it just seemed like some of the facial expressions of the actors weren't matching with the tone of the dialogue I was reading. I switched to another type of English-subbed video, and the language was suddenly much clearer and wittier. So if you're ever watching a foreign TV show, consider shopping around for a new sub if the wording on the subtitles isn't clicking with you. The right translator makes all the difference.

Episode Evaluations: I don't love the heroine, but I love the story so very much. I'm just all up in this writing, because it seems like something great is waiting to spring out of every corner of the story. I'm not reviewing the rest of the episodes of My Name is Kim Samsoon, but the whole thing is worth seeing, in my opinion.