Interview with PotUppers: Shukmeister

Next up in our series of interviews: Shukmeister! Inventor of the SqueeCaps and Lakorn Lover. She shares a love for heavy metal, just like me (Kakashi) and we are the nucleus of a PotUp band (lifegoal for our next lives, maybe?).

Interview with Shukmeister

Shuk, thanks for answering a few questions about you and your drama watching life! So, you are actually the inventor of the "Squeecap"-format. How did you get this idea?

"It came to me in a dream" LOL Actually, it started out in the middle of a discussion about When A Man Loves, starring our favorite Hand Towel, Song Seung-hun. At the time, most of my drama conversation was on Dramabeans; we had just started moving over to Twitter for squeeing. Anyways, our lovelies at DB had no plans to recap beyond the first episode, but JoAnne figured it might be a fun train wreck to discuss.

So I offered to team up and write the recap, and try a 'conversational' style similar to Dramabeans' weekly Open Thread. I wrote the first one as a straight recap, to allow JoAnne to add as much snark, squees, and sighs as she wanted. We decided to rotate the recap / commenting positions for each episode. You were willing to host the recap and gif our posts. First post (episode 2) was published on Black Day 2013. And history was born.
The glittering abs that inspired it all.
Backstory: By the time WAML had come out, I had already written three novel-length stories. The last one was a 55,000-word fanfiction where the majority of the characters were avatars of people I had met online, with large chunks of dialogue inspired from various Open Threads. The Prince And His Harem was completed and edited by the end of 2012, so when the idea of recapping came up, I was at loose ends and it sounded like a fun challenge.

It turns out I am much better at creating a straight recap and allow others to comment. That was our first complete SqueeCap. Clearly it wasn't the last [laughs].

If you think back to your blogging activity on this blog here - what stands out? (positively or negatively!)

My first post was in January 2013 as information about alcohol in dramas.  I've always liked writing about non-specific drama related items. The alcohol posts were my firsts; my current obsession is the sheer number of  Eiffel Towers that can be found in almost all Asian dramas, whatever their country of origin. I also see a lot of horse related items, too, but I won't write about them. On that path lies madness.
I really enjoy the conversational aspect of our SqueeCaps, RAWR's and other posts. It gives a chance for our readers to see individuals take different sides and disagree on a particular episode / character / show, without it collapsing into the name-calling and childish behavior that is so prevalent in today's drama forums.  I think the free flow of our words is what sets PotUP apart from many other drama fan sites.

My pet peeve? The squabbles we once had over the "rights" to a particular dialogue color. Ultimately, I chose green. But the growing pains we went through made us a much better team!
I am happy being green, although I use purple on my personal blog. Because I can. :)

Sometimes the sheer volume of work that we do can  be overwhelming: recapping this show, commenting on another, making gifs / screenshots for a third. But luckily our readers are not the type to bombard us with those "Thanks for completing this 10 seconds ago, when is the next one coming out??" comments. We have wonderful, respectful Squeeglets that all deserve an abs-view of their choice!

Do you have a special recapping-technique? 

My original inspiration was the Dramabeans recap, so I pretty much do a straight rendition of the story line. They do tend to be long and detailed, almost a blow-by-blow account of the plot. That gives commenters the greatest amount of ground to cover, but are very time-consuming. Once the comments are done, I look to those delicious comments as inspiration for any of my original graphics.
What might be interesting is that the show is usually playing on another electronic device while I am typing up the recap. Originally the show would be streaming on my laptop (named Lazarus) while I typed on the desktop. Recently, though, I finally bought a tablet (named Typhoon), and use that as my video source when the video files are downloaded. The portability of Typhoon also makes it easy to work on recaps during lunch; I just prop it up on my desk and use my workstation and a jump drive while Lazarus compiles gifs. I also sometimes ChromeCast it onto my television at home, if it's on a streaming site like Viki.
Not an angry alien face but my desktop
Where and when do you watch your dramas? 

Anywhere and anywhen? [laughs]

My job hours run until midnight, so frequently I'll watch dramas into the wee hours of the morning and sleep until almost noon. I also watch during lunch breaks. During my "weekends", I'll prop the tablet above my piles of clean laundry and watch while I fold. Thanks to technology, you can literally squeeze some watch time in all sorts of nooks and crannies. For first time viewing of shows I really like, I make sure I have enough time to watch it in it's entirety. The smaller amounts of time are used for recapping and / or commenting.

Over the past year or two, a lot of my dramawatching time has been taken up with subtitling projects. So nowadays I'm a bit more choosy in what I watch.
Many people are interested in "first time" stories... care to share yours? What's your first KDrama (or Asian drama) and what happened then? 

Is it okay to narrate my foray into Asian live-action? I need to preface this with a well-known fact: I'm old. As a child I watched the first generations of Japanese anime English-dubbed as Saturday morning cartoons: Star Blazers / Battleship Yamato, Voltron, Macross saga...

Approximately 7 years ago, I found Hulu, an online streaming site that, at that time, was free and had a large number of animes I had never seen before. I dove into them like a BASE jumper and within in a few months watched every single one they had. Rooting around their directory for something else to watch, I saw one folder of shows titled "Korean TV Dramas". The first couple I skimmed through were You Are Beautiful, followed by Boys Over Flowers, then Bad Guy starring Kim Nam-gil. Then, in a driving need to understand what the heck "Oppa" meant, I discovered DramaBeans and began lurking there.
As for other Asian countries, that has been a relatively recent change. A lovely and very diverse group slowly formed on Twitter from our original group of Twitterbeans. So I tried  to watch bits from any drama in any country recommended by any of them. Currently, I'm watching Binbir Gece / 1001 Nights,  an award-winning Turkish drama that first aired in 2006. (found on Netflix if anyone is interested). UPDATE: 49 episodes / Season 1 is available, but it's a 3-season show. Ack! Still, very good.

I also like watching adaptation dramas. For instance, I have watched SoKor, TH, and VN "Full House" productions. There's a Philippine version too, but I've never found a complete English-subbed version.
Countries I have watched include: China (mainland), Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Do you keep your drama-watching personality a secret from your work environment? 

Not really. The people I work with are generally amused and tolerant of my drama-watching craziness. But then, they also have to put up my heavy-metal music playlists as well. My social media accounts, however, do not generally include my drama watchers chinguelya, and my Twitter account has few (read: 2) non-drama-watching, real-life-face-to-face friends.

As some readers - but probably not everyone - knows, your heart beats a little bit more for Lakorns than any other Asian drama format. How come?

There's all sorts of answers and reasons for this. First of all, the age of the actors tend to be closer to 40 than 20, which at my age means I can crush on them and not feel like a pedo-noona. And, like the Eiffel Towers, the same film locations pop up over and over again, making a fun game guessing the house by the staircase or furniture. But, really, it's the drama stories and production style that are just so darn addicting!
Tik Jesadaporn Pholdee and Krit Chakrit Yamnarm. Ahjusshi hotness.
  • Bad girls (called nang'rai) wear bright makeup and usually sport tight-to-the-head hairstyles. They like to grab a guy's arm with both hands and cling to show ownership of said male.
  • There's a lot of screaming, hair pulling, face slapping, and sneering. 
  • They also love musical stingers (giggles, toots, wolf howls) as if you didn't get the hint.
  • Like Darth Vader, even the worst bad guy gets redemption in the end, if only in death. 
  • The na'ek and pra'ek (lead couple) never lip-kiss, but there's usually a lot of skinship, forehead kisses, the old Tuck Her Hair Behind Her Ears ploy, soulful staring from a distance...
  • The plots involve crazy schemes, lots of misunderstandings, corporate shenanigans worthy of the greediest chaebol, and slews of Schemey McSchemerson relatives.
    Arm biting. Lots and lots of arm biting.
  • PPL is by no means subtle, and car / clothing brands are not "fig-leafed".
  • Blurry knives, blurry guns, blurry wine bottles. A stern warning on any of the many many gambling scenes that gambling is illegal in the entire country of Thailand, so there.
  • They have two historical periods: Boran (the equivalent of saegueks) usually set in the Ayutthaya Kingdom between 1400~1700 CE, and 1950's post- WW-II when Thailand experienced a surge of Chinese immigration. Lush costuming and muscle cars.
  • Most importantly (and not for the faint of heart), they have a unique lakorn style called "SK" or "SSK", meaning "Slap (Slap) Kiss". These are the revenge stories: Man kidnaps woman believing she killed the person he loved, only to find out she's innocent and lovable. But not without mild torture, mental abuse, and  physical assaults. In the end, pra'ek has a love-based meltdown and has to spend episodes begging and proving he really really loves the na'ek. These are some of the most popular lakorns in Thailand, with a much higher viewership than fluffy rom-coms.
    Catfight for a gun, anyone?
What was your first Lakorn? 

My first lakorn was a marriage contract plot that a Twitterbean, Ricky, recommended. It was called Roy Marn / Don't Marry Me!. The younger bratty daughter is forced to marry to correct a generation-old debt between families when the older daughter disappears on the engagement night. Pra'ek, naturally prefers the older one, but gradually falls for the brighter and more honest of the two girls.

Which Lakorns would you recommend to a newbie (and why)?

The adaptations of SoKor shows are a good starting point, since they blend both the Korean and the Thai storytelling styles. The three biggest ones are Full House Thai, Kiss Me (the Thai version of "Playful Kiss"), and the makjaeng Autumn In My Heart.

As for a more traditional Thai rom-com, I would recommend the recent Jao Sao Chapor Kit / The Specific Bride.  Playboy needs a fake wife to throw off his mother's matchmaking efforts, but ends up falling in love (naturally). It has been fully subbed by a terrific subber, Neko^^MeowMeow. One warning I forgot: average length of an lakorn episode is 90 minutes twice a week. Luckily, this particular one averages one hour.

Where can Lakorns be found? Who subs them?

Sadly, most of the mainstream Asian drama viewing sites are largely focused on SoKor dramas. In 2016, Viki removed almost all Thai fan channels from their listing, ostensibly to secure licensing. With the exception of slightly disreputable streaming sites such as DramaCool, there's no centralized site to view lakorns. The majority of fansubbers have DailyMotion or YT sites. A few have their own standalone blogs. There are more downloading sites versus streaming nowadays.

With the exception of one Thai cable channel, all subtitles are the product of fansubs. The biggest clearinghouse for is Always Meena. A good source of links to streaming sites is Jasmin's Lakorns, although many of the links may be broken due to Viki's recent takedown of all Thai fansubbing channels.
Well past thirty but so worth touching...
Do you do participate in the Lakorn subbing world?

Yes. I segment, time, and edit. When the translator has completed an episode or segment's worth of dialogue, each sentence is timed to correspond with the timestamp in the video. Then another member of the team "hardsubs" or embeds the subtitles  into the video itself. It's pretty time consuming. Some media players can play with subtitles saved as separate "softsubs".

Is there a particular upcoming drama you are most looking forward to?

A CDrama called Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. It stars Mark Zhao (a tough guy from my favorite TW drama of all time), as one of a pair immortals getting re-re-reincarnated to try and find each other. I've never seen him in a wuxia mane of glory, but so far the buzz is pretty positive, so I intend to take a peek. (The original movie starred Yang Yang and Crystal Liu).
The KDrama Solomon's Perjury, because I like a good murder mystery, and the hype is giving me "White Christmas" feels, which I still think was an amazing show.

In LakornLand, I'm looking for two late 2016 shows to finish subbing: (1) Ngao Asoke, a 50's-era lakorn where a man falls in love via encouraging letters from his long-distance girlfriend. Except it's the GF's servant penning them while GF gallivants and gets a reputation as a lightskirt. And (2) Jao Wayu, a three-series storyline of childhood friends finding love in the armed forces.

Any drama-wishes for 2017? 

I would like to see Cha Seung-won in another rom-com. Or a dark drama. No more saegeuks. I miss that mustache!

I would love another drama (doesn't matter what country) where the couple trusts and believes in each other despite the machinations of everybody else. I hate misunderstandings and noble idiocy in equal angry measures! And the last one I watched was from 2010. No, wait, LoveO2O was close. Xiao Nai had perfect faith in Wei Wei, but she wasn't quite all the way there. Still. it was a really really good try.