Black Hole

1996 January 22

It started out as a simple conversation about the big snow storm on the East Coast of the U.S., the “Blizzard of 96”. Ms. Pak, a friend in Taegu, and I were discussing the weather. Ms. Pak speaks some English, but not really enough to have an easy conversation. It's hard work for the both of us, but she is determined to learn English. Our method is very unstructured; just talk about whatever topic we can with whatever words she can find. Then, if I can figure out what she means, I try to show her a better way to say it. I told her about the phenomenal 30 inches of snow I had seen when I was in Philadelphia for the holidays. We reminisced about past snow storms. Her largest memory was of about 6 inches here in Taegu when she was a child not much older than her 4 year old son. That's not 30 inches, but when your a child it's all magic.

Ms. Pak said that my description of the snow in America reminded her of a movie. The movie was called “Black Hole” and it was about an “outside speaker man”. She was talking about an American Movie of course (Are there any others! Our finest export!)…and of course it was a “love story”. OK so far, but I did not know what she meant, after all, aren't all movies really a love story?

“Snow”, “Black Hole”, “Love Story”, “Outside Speaker Man”….what have we here? With a lot more effort, Ms. Pak communicated to me (not the same as “told me” mind you!) that the outside speaker man was a NEWS REPORTER and every day was the same day for him. I think I've got it. It must be Bill Murray's “Ground Hog Day”. (They don't usually change the names of movies here, they just transliterate the name to their own language. An easy example: “Rion King”.)

I ask her what event the news reporter is covering; is it Ground Hog's Day? Her obvious response: What is “Ground Hog”? No success in explaining that! How about this: does the reporter learn to play the piano? Yes, that's the movie, “Black Hole”. I'm beginning to understand.

I'm determined to explain the significance of Ground Hog Day; after all, I come from Pennsylvania, and Ms. Pak has seen the movie, so she's got all the background material. Ground Hog Day is a holiday in America, just like Mother's day, and Halloween. The ground hog is like a big squirrel, and on a certain day in February he comes out of his house in the ground. If the sun is shining and he can see his shadow, then we know that spring is coming soon. If the sun is not shining and he can not see his shadow, then we know that we are going to have 6 more weeks of winter. The news reporter went to see if the Ground Hog would see his shadow.

That took about 30 minutes to explain. Ms. Pak understood my words but had no idea what I was trying to say! Apparently this concept was not as clear in the movie as I assumed. But I'm stubborn; I know I can explain this to her if I just try a different approach. Finally I give up………… Yet, I understand, as I fall into the Black Hole.

John Del Ferro /Taegu,Korea/22JAN96