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Quick Reviews and Updates

Some reading, writing, and watching updates and a few quick reviews! Happy reading.

4:50 to Paddington by Agatha Christie – Almost positive I’ve read this one before, but the great thing about Christie’s mysteries is that I often forget them after reading, so when going back it’s like I’m reading it for the first time again. Anyway, this is one of those that they’ve retitled over the years. Used to be What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. Either title works for me and this is probably one of her most inventive mysteries. Hats off! I thoroughly enjoyed it, including the cheek of Miss Marple to end by not telling us which man her young friend ended up with.

Alice – Although truly unique in the world of Korean dramas, I couldn’t finish this one. Too weird having the main love interest being essentially the same person as the main character’s mother. Incest not cool, even admidst parallel worlds.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien – What a wonderful, wholesome story! Clear lines between good and evil, characters who don’t immediately have all the answers but do their best, and a made up world that reflects our own in myriad ways, leaving such food for thought. Just who is Tom Bombadil, anyway? But that’s just it, there are mysteries in life that may never be explained to us. It’s okay, maybe even preferable, not knowing everything. It’s clearer in the books than the LOTR movies that the characters floundered for much of the time–all of them, elves included. Refreshing, perhaps, even human.

A Grand Deception by Elizabeth Mansfield – So good was this book that I can’t remember a thing about it. Now I’m reading her story My Lord Murderer. Sadly, it’s going the forgettable way, too.

The Knight by Steven James – The murders in this series are extremely violent, sickeningly so. It’s been difficult for me to continue. Taking a pause on this one.

Chimera – This Korean drama had great promise, great acting and all that, but just ended up being too slowly paced for me. Almost halfway through it didn’t feel as if the main characters were progressing with the investigation or solving the mystery.

He Is Psychometric – This was an enjoyable procedural drama starring Park Jin Young from Yumi’s Cells 1 & 2 and Shin Ye Eun from Yumi’s Cells 2. These two have good chemistry and explains a bit more the hurt that Park’s character Babi brought to Yumi with regards to Shin’s character in that show. This drama tells the story of a young man who can read the history of objects and people by touching them. It was full of good acting and decent plot points and development. Not a must see, but definitely showcases Park’s acting chops and ability to carry a show.

The Devil Judge – Talk about atypical Korean drama! Here, Park Jin Young plays an everyman character opposite a formidable and charismatic head judge played by Ji Sung (Dr. John). It’s based in a dystopian world where justice is turned into a reality television show. Haven’t finished it yet, but this is definitely one of my top favorite dramas I’ve watched. Up there with shows like Awaken, Signal, and Tunnel. Also he is not literally a devil, or the Devil, I don’t think, so much relieved there. Longer review coming.

WritingTrolls for Dust 3 is getting more added to it and also edited. As I’m still getting used to a new job, I am not sure about a timeline for this one, but I do hope to get it published just as soon as I can. For now am backing off of a thriller I started because I’m just not feeling it right now, and interestingly enough am cooking away at what I call my “grandma” story. It’s an idea for a drama that I’ve had for a few years now and I think it’s going to make a nice, little novel revolving around fairies. In addition to that, I’ve written a poem that could easily be a children’s book and if I can find someone willing to illustrate perhaps I will publish that too.

Reading – Enjoying Moneyball, have some Agatha Christie’s to dig into, and cracking open a John Grisham, The Last Juror. My all time favorite Grisham is The Pelican Brief and I’m doubtful any of his newer works can top it for me, but I always like giving him a chance. Also attempting the somewhat intimidating and tedious S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. Being familiar with Abrams, I don’t expect any solid resolutions to the mystery/ies involved, but I love the idea of two readers bashing out ideas together in the margins.

A Story to Read When You First Fall in Love: The Age Gap Romance

Spoilers ahead.

Age Gap Romances are tricky. And, especially gaps where it’s the woman who is older. Depending on the story, they don’t always come across as believable, and then there’s just the Don’t-Even-Go-There! ones. A Story to Read When You First Fall in Love gets many, awesome story points, but as a romance, I wished they just didn’t even go there.

Maybe it’s because we now have so many lonely, aging, single women suddenly waking up to the fact that feminism has failed them. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason there are more and more age gap romance dramas where the women falls for a much younger man, or he falls for her, or whatever. It’s not totally unbelievable, certainly there are relationships like this in real life, however they are not the norm, and this sub-genre of romance is definitely also in the fantasy category. In this particular drama, a Japanese drama, it really only works for one reason: The female lead is extremely beautiful almost to the point of looking ageless. If she was an average looking woman, this relationship would be creepy. In fact, later on in the show, the show itself showcases the creepiness of such relationships using a woman of the same age who is slightly less beautiful, and more manipulative.

But I get ahead of myself. Harumi Junko is a cram school teacher who never really made it in life. She failed the test for Tokyo University and just settled into being sort of a nothing. She is thirty-two, still living with her parents, and at risk of losing her job because she’s not a popular teacher at the school. Through happenstance, Harumi comes in contact with a group of teenage boys and somewhat befriends them. Later on, one of the students, a boy with pink hair named Yuri comes to her cram school. He’s a slacker who decides he wants to pass the test for Tokyo University. This is a nearly impossible feat, for he’s barely up to junior high standards in scholastic activity. However, Harumi sees something in him, a bit of herself at the same age, and she strives to help him see this through despite difficult odds.

This in itself would have been a great story, no romance needed. But, because the writers decided to go the Don’t-Even-Go-There! route, it’s also a romance. Not just any romance, no. I am not sure what’s worse, the sixteen-year age gap, the fact that Yuri is a minor and only seventeen for most of the show, or the fact that they are very clearly teacher and student. I think the last fact is the stickler for me. Coming from an American perspective we have a lot–a lot–of thirty-something female teachers who end up in sexual relationships with their male students and have ended up charged with crimes, doing jail time, etc. Fortunately in this story the female lead is so utterly clueless about any romantic attention towards herself that it’s the farthest thing from her mind until about the last episode. That doesn’t really make it great, though.

A great platonic friendship between student and teacher would have made more sense. And this is because the largest portion of the show is all about Yuri studying and striving with blood, sweat, and tears to pass the test and make it to Tokyo university. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, on the show cheers him on. And so the romance is pushed to the side…yet it’s not.

Harumi actually has three possible love interests in the show, and all are Don’t-Even-Go-There! Besides Yuri, we have Masashi, Harumi’s successful cousin who works at a trading company and who incidentally went to Tokyo University. That’s right, he’s her cousin, her literal cousin who has been in love with her for twenty years and too scared to make an actual move. Then we have Kazuma who is not only Yuri’s teacher at school school, but the first person that Harumi ever taught. He’s a bad boy, who is awesome and flirty and…married. Yes, married. But he gets divorced. I wish I could say that made things better. It didn’t. Suffice to say, with three possibles and a very clueless heroine, the show actually has very little romance, so, so little that it could have been done away with altogether.

With Yuri, he’s a minor, and of course you can’t show Harumi wanting or doing something illegal, so that’s out. There’s not a lot of “story” to their love story. Then there’s her cousin. Same deal. Then there’s the sometimes married, sometimes divorced one. Same thing again. The only way the romance kind of works in the end is that Harumi finally gets a clue already and actually does something for herself for a change. Thankfully, by this point our pink-haired hero is nineteen. Still with the pink hair, though. Yes, this man will never change, not even his hair, so you, beautiful woman, sixteen years older, have nothing to fear.

Yet there’s a lot to love about this show. Not the title, which has nothing to do with anything, but the characters. Almost every single one of them turns out to be really good people. These are people that genuinely love and care about others, and that’s pretty awesome. The cousin in love wins us over by the fact that he really does love Harumi and wants what’s best for her. He is true to her and helps Yuri for the test any way he can even though this boy is his rival. Masashi just tried so hard, yet fails so miserably, one just can’t help but root for him. But by the end, he gets the truth: cousin or no cousin, Harumi is just not into him like that. Sad, but true. He has a great line, asking her to give him a clear rejection, so he can move on. That’s a life lesson there. Often we want to let people down easy and it’s better just to give them the straightforward truth so that they can move on and find the one who will love them.

The bad boy teacher makes the biggest, selfless move, seemingly giving up everything so that Yuri can have a chance at succeeding on the test. But his move sacrifices any chance he and Harumi could be together. It’s all okay, though, because he still loves his wife, or ex-wife, or whatever she is. At the end he says he’s courting her, which is rather cute, and he becomes a politician, giving up his teaching career. He also has the best flirtations on the show and a sort of dry humor. He and Harumi drink together and fall asleep. He touches her boobs, but swears to her he didn’t do anything else because he doesn’t want to sleep with her when she’s drunk. He wants them to be coherent and in love, etc. Puzzled, she asks, then why did you touch my boobs? Because they’re there, is his answer. That got a laugh out of me. I don’t know, sometimes in these shows it’s just nice having men being, well, men. And it was just refreshing that he didn’t come up with any big excuse or falling over apology that really wouldn’t have been sincere. She obviously forgives him, for they continue to be friends.

In addition to the heroine and the three love interests, all of the minor characters on this show are also great. Some strange at first, but they all come around and are, fantastic, caring people. Interestingly, none of them are truly put out by a Harumi-Yuri romance, but then this is a bit of a fantasy. It is also a comment that people of all ages do fall in love, and sometimes with those deemed unlikely to be the object of one’s affection.

It is true that age gaps matter less the older one is, however, it was just unseemly that Yuri was a minor and also her student. It’s hard not to see a “grooming” aspect in the story, and the writers know full well it is there as they address it later on with another teacher the same age as Harumi who definitely preys on her students in a romantic way. This is then swept away as she just does it to motivate them to study. Really?!? In the last episode many other teachers at the cram school state that when the students pass their exams they will often give love confessions to their teachers. Maybe stuff like that does happen, and sure, students sometimes get crushes on their teachers, but it’s odd to make it seem so lighthearted and so commonplace mixing romance with teacher-student relationships. Maybe I am just too cynical, but what’s the real agenda of such plot lines?

Age gaps: Sixteen years. This is one of the biggest age gaps I’ve seen in an Asian drama. My favorite one, High School King of Savvy, was ten years and definitely and solidly more of a romantic comedy, with a clear emphasis on both. They took pains to show how the pair was a match for each other and also that the young man was ready to be a man. It still has a bit of a weird factor, though. Then there’s Secret Love Affair that is almost a work of art when it comes to the sound and cinematography, but has a twenty-year age gap with the man being younger. In that one at least he’s not a minor, but the woman is married. Don’t-Even-Go-There! but the writers do and somehow manage to tell compelling stories while doing so.

Yumi’s Cells 2: Hilarious!

Spoilers ahead.

This series is my current favorite. Not only is it hilarious, but it also has a lot of food for thought and fun, romantic suspense: Which guy will Yumi end up with? Based on the popular Webtoon, Yumi’s Cells was an instant hit, taking a lonely 30-something through one romantic possibility after another. In season one, we were introduced to Ku Woong (Ahn Bo Hyun – Kairos),got to watch as he and Yumi built a relationship, and subsequently got to watch it fall apart largely due to lack of communication.

Alternating between the real life scenes are cartoon scenes of the “cells” in each of their bodies, telling the audience what the character is thinking and feeling but as if each thought or desire was a separate cute, cartoon character interacting and arguing with the others. At first I didn’t like the back and forth, but more and more I enjoyed the very funny cells scenes that put a great X-factor on what is itself a rather humdrum story. It also makes one think, “hey, I sometimes do that!” or think that way, or feel that way. It makes one start to consider what “cell” is ruling at any given time. Am I ruled by logic primarily? Pride? Love? Hope? The depth of the show is often astounding.

It was sad to see Yumi and Ku Woong break up at the end of season one and I was pleasantly surprised there was a season 2, because with Kdramas there’s so often not. Yumi’s Cells 2 is even better. Kim Go Eun (Goblin) is Yumi. I can’t see the character being played by anyone else. And, although Yumi is frustratingly awkward in romance, she has good chemistry with this season’s love interest, Yoo BaBi, played by Jin Young of group GOT7. Jin is not only easy on the eyes, just like Ahn, but he has very expressive eyes himself, always a plus for an actor.

Babi was literally a paper doll in season one. Hey, it’s true, often when you’re dating or really into a certain person, all the other guys or girls could just be paper dolls, no matter how cute they are. It was pretty funny seeing that shown on screen that way. In season two it is Babi’s turn to date Yumi, and although he’s refreshingly straightforward as a person, it still takes them what seems like ages to get together. In contrast with Woong, Babi is more of a grownup and thus Yumi becomes more grownup as well. Some may think of this as boring, but it’s character growth and the two characters really seem like they have a real relationship. Refreshing also, is that Babi isn’t run by pride. His heart throws a party in welcome for Yumi. It’s a great thing and I sometimes wish that more people were like this: more straightforward and more ready just to dive into love. So, so much time is wasted on hesitation. Diving in is likely the best way to get to know the person, to know if they really are the right one. Over time, Yumi also has the courage to be straightforward as well, and sadly, a bit of her hesitancy and awkwardness rubs off on Babi. But, hey, he’s too perfect and needs flaws.

Speaking of those, Babi is quite possibly too nice in some ways and too open to love. If you have a damsel, you shouldn’t be out there helping every other damsel in distress you see. While that should be obvious, it isn’t to Babi, and he finds himself quite shocked one day to find that he has allowed a cute intern to worm her way into his affections. Sometimes it can be dangerous to care about others too much. If you have a significant other, there must be boundaries in place to protect yourself, that person, and the relationship. It seems Babi didn’t have those boundaries set well. Yumi ends up so hurt by this–even though he didn’t really, physically cheat on her–that she breaks up with him.

Although I am very team Babi, I get that Yumi can’t trust him. Still, he chases after her, while Woong most certainly did not. It shows Babi is willing to fight for her, and is something that remains with the viewers even after Woong shows up again, with better clothes, better hair, and loads of money as his computer game has now become a success.

Despite Woong being back in the picture and still head over heels for Yumi and egged on by the awesome “Control Z” illustrator (P.O of Block B), the show clearly still has plans for Babi. Both men face off in a hilarious showdown in which their cartoon cells do all the actual fighting. Both get significant barbs in, but it’s Babi who walks away with the girl.

The scene where Yumi and Babi get back together was done so well. The acting was amazing and we could see both knocking down each other’s walls. Afterward they are awkward together and walking on eggshells and it’s only at the end of episode 12 that we really find out why: Each one is sure the other one feels they made a mistake in getting back together. But that they are finally able to tell each other that is a great thing.

Not a great thing: Like Woong, Babi has now for the second time kept very important information from Yumi. It’s a lie of omission, it’s not ideal, and throws Yumi for a very big loop, as normally he is very straightforward. This seems to be his great flaw, that he is unable or unwilling to share either something he doesn’t understand about himself, or something he thinks will burden Yumi. Hopefully he got the message loud and clear from her that he shouldn’t do that, that not communicating is worse than the hurt that could be caused by communicating. Communication is so key in every relationship, but especially in romantic ones. Our basic instincts have us constantly misunderstanding each other, so even if a couple communicates well, it can still be a bit of a battle.

Four more episodes remain in the season. Although the Webtoon adds another guy, purportedly the one and Mr. Right, I do not know if there are plans for a season three of the drama. I think the writers will have Yumi end up with either Woong or Babi. The feminism doesn’t seem strong enough in this show to have her end up alone, but who knows? I am waiting in suspense for the next episodes.

The funniest things this season: Ruby and Control Z! Wow, are they great. I loved Lee Yoo-Bi in Pinocchio and she’s hilarious here as well as a ridiculous, cute girl who always refers to herself in the third person. We get more of these two than is warranted, but I like it. Funniest cells scene, aside from the man face off, was when Yumi and Babi kiss for the first time. Their tongue cells meet! It was laugh-out-loud funny. Yumi’s editor, played by Jun Suk Ho (Kingdom Season 2) was also hysterical.

Other things I love about this season is the soundtrack–a lot of great, mellow love songs–and also the poster. It’s a great poster. See for yourself: https://asianwiki.com/images/e/e4/Yumis_Cells_S2-p2.jpg

Can’t wait to find out what happens!

Updates

Finally, I am making headway with my manuscript. Telling a complicated story only gets more complicated with each subsequent book, but it’s fun. Kinda like solving a puzzle. So Trolls for Dust, Season 3 is rolling again-yay! It’s satisfying to look out on the figurative horizon and see a point where I could have people read the tome and give their thoughts. And it is a tome, a doorstop that I hope and pray will be worthy of the trees killed in its name when printed.

Summer is good. I am changing jobs, which will hopefully be both fruitful and interesting. It’s a relief to change things up sometimes. That being said, I have thought a bit about blogging and this blog and do want to continue to do reviews every week. But it was nice to have a break.

Korean dramas I am watching and will soon have reviews of: Yumi’s Cells 2 (tearing my heart out), Chimera (who doesn’t love a good serial killer mystery series?), and Alice (time travel plot twisty goodness).

Books I am reading and will soon have reviews of: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (since I saw the movie once upon a time and already know the twist, it’s a bit meh), The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien (so wholesome compared to more modern fare. Even Sauron seems wholesome!), A Grand Deception by Elizabeth Mansfield (those Regency romances keep following me), and The Knight by Steven James (book 3 of the Patrick Bowers series. Reading one of these a summer. Maybe should speed it up?).

My heart is up and down these days and sometimes the Psalmist says it all:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37: 3&4

Happy Summer!

Hello, All! Well, June is here and in May I did some writing and since my book is calling to me, will be working more on that the rest of the summer. So I won’t be posting very regularly.

God answers prayers and I am happy to report that He seems to be answering my prayer for a great summer for me, my friends, and family with a resounding YES! What winter will bring, we have yet to see, but summer is to be fun and glorious and for that I am very, very happy. We need to be filled up with joy for the sorrows and hardships we may face ahead.

Speaking of sorrows, I’m hearing of more and more people diagnosed with various ailments and illnesses they have “had for years and just didn’t know it.” I am hearing of more people going on disability and more people suddenly dying. The main cause, however, is still elusive to the general public. Most want to pretend the authoritarian two years of COVID did not happen and that many, many people took a harmful vaccine under coercion and threat. To us who have long been awake about vaccines, it seems obvious that the vaccines have been hastening death and ill health in many as their immune systems have been, possibly, irrepairably harmed. Socially, there is still the pressure to not mention vaccines, or the vaccine, to not bring it up. To so many friends I want to ask, did they (whoever is having the health issue) get the vaccine? But I’m just not sure how they’ll react. So, so many still have a huge blindspot about vaccines, thinking that a vaccine is always something good and could never harm anyone. It fills me with sorrow to see so many under this delusion and under this spell. And it is a kind of spell, because if people weren’t under it, they would question vaccines or list them as possible causes for health difficulties. Sorrow hovers over me, too, knowing there may be many, many more yet to come who will die or have serious health problems due to these vaccines, probably at these some that I know personally. And yet I also live in the JOY that God is in control and that he has and may still spare some from their bad decision.

True Beauty: I realized I completely forgot to write a review for this funny and excellent Korean drama! Suffice to say, I really liked it, even though some of the initial episodes dragged. The show reminded me a bit of Boys over Flowers, perhaps being a high school show, and also of Extraordinary You, as it is the same director. In fact, if one pays attention there are a few nods to Extraordinary You in the show. The acting was great and the topic timely, as so many especially young women are obsessed with their own looks. Moral of the story: Ladies, don’t stress! If he likes your looks, he likes your looks, wearing makeup may enhance your attributes, but it’s really just down to does the guy dig you or not. If he does dig you, jackpot! If not, changing your looks isn’t really going to do anything, and isn’t it a rather hollow victory to only win someone after having to change so much for them?

In this story the main character uses makeup to stop being bullied for being “ugly,” but really she finds all she needs is self-confidence. Makeup isn’t directly vilified in the show; in fact, it’s a bit of a springboard for the heroine who finds a passion for it, wanting to be a professional makeup artist. What is highlighted in the show is the bad behavior of people who constant criticize others looks and call them ugly. From what I have heard of South Korean society, they have a problem with this. How true this is, I don’t know firsthand, but find most Koreans very good looking. Perhaps these are problems that plague good looking peoples? Shrug. Who knows? Americans often seem to revel in looking fat and sloppy–different side of the spectrum. Anyway, True Beauty was a great show, laugh out loud funny at times and having much food for thought.

Updates

Happy Wednesday! Later this week I will have a review of the charming, funny show True Beauty. After that, due to limited time and energy and the need to focus on my own stories, I will be taking a break from blogging, at least until June. Thank you so much for reading. –Pixie

Doctor Prisoner: The Best Villains

Spoilers ahead.

How glad I am that I didn’t give up on this show! Ok, let me back up a second, Doctor Prisoner, starring Namkoong Min is an excellent, over-the-top drama, but the plot quickly becomes repetitive. It is almost–almost–a fatal flaw. Thankfully the characters and incredible acting save it.

In South Korea they apparently have a law where a prisoner can get released for compassionate care. The prisoner has to have some awful disease that they are nearly dying of that the prison can’t treat, so they have to be moved to a hospital. In Doctor Prisoner this is the de facto way that rich and powerful people get out of prison. And doctor Na Yi Je (Namkoong Min) is the best at inventing diseases and helping the criminals get the compassionate release.

As I am still on a Namkoong Min binge, he is definitely why I wanted to watch this, but he is not why I stayed. Although this is a story about rooting out corruption, really it is about villains one upping each other. All of the “good” guys are villains in their own way. The few truly straight and narrow characters in the show are presented well, but blandly: This is not their show, not really. Sometimes it is just fun to watch villains be villains. We don’t have to try to understand why they are evil and give them sympathy. In fact, in this show they actually gain sympathy by their deviousness. Because they are outright evil, it is a joy to see them taken down. Not only that, but there’s an even greater joy as some are reformed.

The opening scene is hilarious as we watch Dr. Na Yi Je in action, meeting with a client in prison, and convincing her to practically kill herself to manifest evidence of an obscure, or even made up disease, to get released. Oh Jung Hee is a rich lady who has been imprisoned for hiring a contract killer on her husband’s mistress. Played by Kim Jung Nan (Tale of the Nine-Tailed), this character is the only woman on the show who’s a main player. She’s spicy, feisty, and awesome, and if one has to be an a woman of a certain age, hey, what a way to be! I absolutely love this actress and so want to be her. She also gets the best costumes here and in Tale of the Nine-Tailed–and her performance in that was great as well. A comparable American actress would probably be Meryl Streep. I can easily see Kim playing the “devil” in The Devil Wears Prada.

Oh Jung Hee also carries the romcom part of the story as she and prosecutor Jung Ui Sik fall for each other in hilarious fashion. Their story is way better than a serious romance with the lead character would have been. Jung Ui Sik is played by veteran drama actor Jang Hyun Sung (Leaves of the Red Sky), who plays a good villain.

But, back to Na Yi Je. Yes, he has a heartbreaking back story about how he turned out this way. By the end of the show, we don’t really care about that, we just want to see him take down more people and bend them to his will. In this cat and mouse game, this guy is always ten steps ahead, and boy, is it fun to watch. He enters into battle with the chief doctor of a famous prison (I can’t remember the name now), Sun Min Sik, played by Kim Byung Chul, who had a super creepy performance as the Wormtongue villain in Goblin.

Kim has so, so much fun here with this ladder climbing turd of a doctor, who wouldn’t recognize the Hippocratic Oath if it bashed him on the head. He uses “evil grin face” to full effect and is so ridiculous that after awhile one almost forgets he’s a villain. He’s an awful man who also has a great marriage: His wife is super supportive and it’s just great, great writing. Kim must have had so much fun playing this role. It’s just too bad he didn’t have a mustache to twirl.

After a few episodes with Na Yi Je and Sun Min Sik taking turns one upping each other, here’s where it gets repetitive, but if one can stick it out, it’s revealed that a different villain, an even worse one, is Na Yi Je’s real goal. It’s someone we’ve already met, the heir to a conglomerate, a chaebol character that frequently populates Kdramas: Lee Jae Joon played by Choi Won Young of Hello Monster (I Remember You) fame. Choi is awesome at playing a psycho, and although his character is necessarily scenery chomping, his physical acting is incredible to watch. An outstanding performance. By the end of the show, his character takes over almost everything. We, the viewers, are almost drawn in to his narcissism.

The best character, though, the best–and really this is a compliment to the writing–is Lee Jae Joon’s younger half-brother Lee Jae Huan, played by Park Sun Seok (Penthouse series). This is the first thing I’ve seen Park in and I hated his character. What an awful person! Jae Huan is essentially the first villain in the show, and for the first few episodes he seems like one of those characters that will get punished quickly and then the show will move on to someone else. It’s true that the show does move on, but Jae Huan stays, at first as a kind of comic relief as we get to see that prison life is hard for him. He’s so funny that we start to hate him less. Spoilers, spoilers! By the end of the show everyone is rooting for this guy! The writers do an amazing job of reforming this character and making him almost a good person. It’s awesome to watch and really makes the pay off with his brother at the end. It’s great writing because it was so unexpected.

Doctor Prisoner is Shakespearean in its scope and theatricality. The epic music almost never slows down, nor the pace. And yet fast pace continued can get dull. If you watch this and find yourself at that point, take a break and come back. The second half is worth it. Actor Namkoong Min holds the show being the solid, main character who is almost as villainous as the rest, but he’s just the ringmaster. Doctor Prisoner is a circus, a showcase of interlinked character pieces that I call: “The Best Villains!!”

A warning, if you ever want to go to the doctor again, this may not be the show for you, for the doctors in this are completely untrustworthy, especially and importantly our hero doctor Na Yi Je. They inject people with dangerous substances at an alarming rate and have an almost superhuman ability to manipulate the human body with drugs. Maybe the show is really just a commentary on our current medical industry? Literally the only tools they have are manmade drugs and surgery and in this show these things are the swords and spears of battle. It gives a patient real pause and concern.

Only One Story Matters

The season of Lent is a time of reflection for the Christian, a chance to soberly analyze the cost of our redemption in Christ. God does not take sin lightly, and because of that, the only way to save us, the ones He loves, was to become our substitute and suffer the punishment in our place. God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, lived a perfect life for us, and died on the cross for all of our sins–for the sins of the entire world since time began and until it will end. It is a marvelous mystery, a wonderful miracle that has a divine logic that humans can really only understand through faith. The substitute had to be both human and Divine to truly take our place and then to conquer sin, death, and the devil.

These days I find myself in the middle of so many stories, my own, of course, but also too many TV shows, too many books, and even too many writing projects. Reflecting on God’s Grace, and on Jesus’s death and sacrifice helps me to slow down, to remember what’s really important. Even current events, alarming as they may be sometimes, necessarily fade in comparison. In the end, only one story matters, and that is the history of this world, the story God put into motion when He created it and then implemented a plan to save it and also to eventually end it. Someday this, world, this universe, will not exist, but we still will, for we have eternal souls. The believers will be with God in heaven and the unbelievers will live in torment, abandoned by a just God who cannot tolerate sin, although in His loving patience it may sometimes seem like He does. How happy and how awful at the same time, but that is the story. More than that, it is the reality we face. Where one is going to spend eternity is the only thing that matters, for there is no going back, no changing things, no exceptions if you belong to a certain group.

Lent is a chance to ponder the weight of evil. Sin, death, and the devil, cannot and could not be defeated without the shedding of blood. Our Savior paid a dear, dear price. But in looking to Jesus, we can see love and hope; we can see our redemption. Yes, it came at a great cost, but it is ours to have, forever. And it was sealed with Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, signally our own rise from the dead someday. And so Lent is also a time of great joy, almost a painful joy, in a way. The story, the true story of our redemption is the greatest story ever told, and the world itself testifies to that story every single day. May your Lenten season be filled with serious reflection and also joy in your Savior Jesus Christ.

The Undateables: More Matchmaking, Please

A sort of subset of Kdrama romcoms are those dealing with matchmaking agencies. The Undateables starring Namkoong Min (Awaken) and Hwang Jung Eum (She Was Pretty) is just such a one. For some reason Hwang’s characters always start over the top and then become normal. Not sure this makes the actress appealing, but it’s definitely a relief when the spastic humor stops. That being said, both leads are decent at comedy, though I prefer Namkoong in more serious fare.

Jung Eum, played by Hwang, is a former diving champion and now a matchmaker at a local dating agency. She’s not great at her job and through a serious of coincidences ends up getting Namkoong’s character, gallery owner and relationship expert, Hoon Nam to help her successfully breeze through a list of the agency’s most “undateable” clients. And of course the two fall in love in the process.

As a whole, the series was a fun watch and was very funny at times. The best parts were when the two leads were working on matchmaking other people. Sadly, this part of the plot was lost in other drama for awhile, but when it got back to that the show was more on track. Nearly all of the characters showed growth and change, which is always great to see, but some threads were dropped and never picked up again, like Jung Eum’s father’s ill health.

The minor characters were often hilarious, such as the prideful agency supervisor played by Baek Ji Won (Sell Your Haunted House), who to save face, bought a hideous pink jacket so expensive that she subsequently wore it every single day. The jacket itself almost became its own character, symbolizing both foolishness and stubbornness. The cutest couple was Oh Doo Ri (who had awesome style like Audrey Hepburn) and Kim So Wool (who has to be tracked via detective work), played respectively by Jung Young Joo (He Is Psychometric) and Kim Kwang Kyu (Pinocchio).

Another fun matchmaking drama is Dating Agency: Cyranro, although I didn’t care for the ending.

Weirdgorden, Episode Two

Author’s note: I ran out of time to finish this for today, so I’ll update it later this week. It’s a work in progress. Happy reading! –Pixie

Weirdgorden — The Store That Doesn’t Sell Anything

Episode Two

A busy street in a Midwestern City with snow on the sidewalks all around.  The store, Weirdgorden’s has all the lights on and the door sign is turned to Open. 

Inside we see Amy sitting at a table with a coffee and notebook in hand. She taps her notebook with the pen and stares at store clerks Charlotte and Larry, who are at the U-shaped counter unloading and cataloguing various soaps, lotions, and creams. 

Larry: Big shipment today.  You think Mr. Gorden’s branching out?

Charlotte:  Isn’t he always?  That woman is here again.  

Larry: I think she likes your coffee. 

Charlotte: (piling lotion tubes in her hand). She should, drinks enough of it. 

Charlotte comes out from behind the counter and starts organizing the bottles on a display rack.  When she’s done, Amy scurries from her seat to inspect the display while the clerks regard her curiously. 

Amy: No price tags—again!

Larry: (snorting) And why would there be, why would there be? (He stacks empty boxes and takes them through the swinging doors to the back. 

Charlotte asks if Amy wants another coffee, but she declines and returns to her seat. 

Charlotte: We close in an hour.  (She organizes fancy bar soaps in a pyramid on the counter. 

Ding! The door chimes as a husband and wife enter, the wife clearly dragging the husband.

Betty: See, dear, it’s a beauty shop!  Oh, just look at all these beautiful soaps and lotions!

Dave: Yes, hon. (He nods to Amy and Charlotte).  The wife’s looking for a gift for her mother. 

Charlotte: Ah, is that so?  (She smiles and goes back to her tasks)

Betty and Dave take some time choosing various soaps and lotions and Betty brings them up to the counter and piles them in front of the giant cash register.  Charlotte continues her tasks and Dave clears his throat very loud to get her attention.  All the time Amy scribbles notes in her notebook.  Charlotte reluctantly walks over to the register before looking hopefully at the door to the back room. 

Betty: The choices you have are so wonderful!  My mother’s in the hospital and they just do not understand beauty care, you know what I mean?

Charlotte: Oh, yes.  These are great items.  Imported, you know. (She looks at Betty expectantly, while Betty looks back equally expectantly)

After a minute with nothing happening, Dave clears his throat again, asking isn’t Charlotte going to ring up the items. 

Charlotte: (Waving a hand).  Oh, Larry’s already done that, dears.

Betty and Dave: Oh. Oh?

Charlotte pulls out a pretty store bag and begins putting the items inside.

Betty: How much…?  (But Charlotte doesn’t answer)

Dave:  (Whispering) Fifty, give her fifty.

Betty scrounges in her wallet for fifty dollars, but when she hands it to Charlotte, Charlotte laughs.  Amy stands up, watching closely. 

Charlotte: I don’t need your money.  Mr. Gorden pays me quite well, thank you. (She nudges the bag to the edge of the counter)

Betty:  Oh, but I have to pay for the soaps. 

Charlotte:  Pay for the soaps?  (She sighs)  And why would you do that?

Dave:  Look here, how much are all these items, anyway?  We want to pay for them and go on our way!

Charlotte:  We don’t sell soaps and lotions here.  Larry!  La—rry!