Search This Blog

Friday, December 31, 2010

Old House in the Garden District

Last May I went to New Orleans for work with a couple of colleagues. One of them, Aaron, asked whether I would like to go with him to his friend's house for dinner on Monday evening. I said sure.

From the convention center, we took a taxi, which went through the Garden District and stopped at a corner of the main street (whose name I have forgotten). Aaron walked into a supermarket to grab a case of beer. I strolled around a bit, taking photos of renovated old houses and shop fronts painted in various pastel colors.

The sun was setting. The sky was stained with streaks of violet and magenta clouds.

When Aaron came out with a shopping bag in hand, we turned off the main street into a densely shaded residential neighborhood. The sidewalks were full of bricks being uprooted by roots of old trees. I had to watch where I put down my feet. In this humid southern air, I quickly began to sweat.

We took a couple of turns and arrived at an old house with pale blue sidings. It was long and narrow, like a matchbox perched on its long side. All the houses on this block were of the same shape and well preserved.

Aaron knocked on the door. A man in a white Tee and white shorts opened the door.

"My friend John," Aaron introduced us. "Jun, my colleague." We shook hands.

Although Aaron is tall and John is short, they seemed remarkably alike. Both are middle-aged white men with unevenly graying hair cut short and gray stubble. Both wore nerdy, black-rimmed glasses that hid a twinkle in their eyes.

I walked in the door and heard the creaking of wood floor under my feet. Typical of old houses, the ceiling was high, from which soft yellow light diffused in the room.

A plump, gray-haired woman in a white Tee and a faded floral skirt walked out from the back room and shook hands with me. John's wife Cindy. She smiled. We spent a few minutes on small talk.

I glanced around curiously. The house, John proudly proclaimed, is over a century old. They had spent several years to restore and renovate it while trying to preserve as much of the old structure and materials as possible. Cindy took me from one room to the next, and the next, deeper and deeper into the belly of the long, slender strip of a house, until we reach the kitchen in its tail.

I peeked out of the window and saw the neighbor's wall a few feet from my nose. "Yes, at that time the houses were all built very close to each other in order to better resist hurricanes." She explained that the huddled houses on the entire block essentially formed a collective mass, making each building far less likely to be uprooted by the forces of nature. I suppose it was akin to the difficulty of breaking a bundle of sticks compared with breaking them one by one.

In the kitchen I helped myself with some kidney bean salad, dirty rice, and chicken pasta, and, plate in hand, retraced my steps through the entire length of the house back to the front living room. The doors between rooms were all lined up. It suddenly dawned on me that, on hot days, one could open the front and back doors and left the breeze flow right through the house.

Cindy showed Aaron and me an antique map, copied from the city's records office, showing the streets and houses of the neighborhood in the late nineteenth century. Keeping its distance from the rowdy, bustling French Quarter, the Garden District has traditionally been a suburb where upper-middle class whites set up homes. Both John and Cindy are locals.

After dinner and more conversations at a beautiful antique dining table, I noticed a couple of walls covered with framed photographs and walked up for a closer look: Exotic places, foreign faces of children and women, lyrical composition, distinct moods.

"John is a professional photographer," said Aaron behind me.

"I can tell," I smiled.

From the faces in the photos, I could tell some were taken in South American and Southeast Asian countries. Other photos were of New Orleans. The tenderness in the eyes behind the camera was unmistakable. I wondered but did not ask Aaron whether he met John through photography, for once upon a time Aaron worked as a freelance photographer for archeologists.

We had dessert --- a piece of pecan pie with whip cream --- and chatted some more about traveling, New Orleans, and Katrina. Then all four of us stretched out on the couch and a pull-out bed to watch "Treme" on HBO. John kept pointing out for us famous local landmarks ("So-and-so club!" "So-and-so candy shop!" and, altogether, "Cafe Du Monde!") and personalities (mostly musicians) making cameos on the screen.

When John drove Aaron and me back to the hotel, the night was grinning and the air was drunk with a southern sweetness.

Weir of Hermiston

这本也看完了。

草草估计,Stevenson 留下的手稿大约是计划中的半本书而已。

不禁有点希望有天堂,或者 afterlife,在里面,Stevenson 把这本小说写完了。

自知之明

过年放假,闲着也是闲着,从barb的博溜达到赋格的博,然后就看见一篇对阿城的访谈。赋格还很客气地评为“还真敢说啊”,换了我就说“还真敢胡说啊”。文章很长,我也没全看,就跳着看了点阿城对音乐、画、写作的说法。不过临到结尾的时候倒来了一段有趣的话:

阿城:都有,没有什么特别突出的,和人打交道,在这边有一点就是得小心,真的是精神上有问题的人特别多。中国又特别忌讳,“你说我是疯子。”这样的人大量混在人民群众当中,有的时候你很认真对待,就会发现,他是个精神病。

新京报:举个例子。

阿城:很多啊,我因为对这个还算有研究,我能够很快判断出一个人是不是有精神轻度分裂啊,是不是忧郁症等等。他其实不是他所要表达的要解决的, 焦虑的人特别多,这种其实我们去正视这件事就很简单,就好比在美国,很多人跟你说话之前,先告诉你,“我焦虑”,或者“医生说我现在不太正常”。这边不 是,你也不知道怎么回事,他就跟你直接说,那你最起码礼貌,就会很认真听,结果你发现他这儿(指脑子)有问题。

嗯,阿城还挺有自知之明的嘛。这篇谈话不需要读完就看得出他“这儿”多半是有点问题了。

(十分巧合的是,前两天晚上看电视的时候碰上重播古老的电视节目,Hitchcock 剧场中的一集,讲的就是疯子take over精神病院的情节。)

在豆瓣上的阿城小组上随便翻了翻,发现最近几年他的“作品”都是一些访谈,也就是跟自己哥儿们闲扯侃大山,然后记录下来,就可发表了。要么就是一堆给别人的书和艺术展览写的序言,我也懒得去找来看了。总之给人的感觉就是他和其他一些“文化人”、“艺术家”,眼下的真正职业就是 pundits,即所谓 "Talking Heads" 是也。太多的电视台和报刊杂志需要节目需要内容,有点破事儿发生,记者除了陈述干巴巴的事实之外,还需要找俩“专家”说几句应景话,告诉读者/观众/大众 what to think,所以职业 pundits 就应运而生。在美国的白天黑夜没完没了的新闻电视网上面信口胡柴的职业,原来早已风行中国出版/电视/文艺界。

随便翻了翻豆瓣上收录的阿城近些年的文章,似乎田壮壮的重拍版《小城之春》是阿城写的剧本,嘿嘿,两年前我抱怨这电影的时候倒还不知道这件事。另外看见一篇阿城介绍Raymond Chandler的文章,忍不住读了读,真是连 Wikipedia 里面的条目都不如,让人心里嘀咕“您倒是读没读过Chandler的小说啊?” 没有亲自读过半本原著的迹象 --- 虽然他自称侦探小说是看原文滴(其他文学作品则拒不看原文)。其实涅,这篇介绍文字给人的感觉是他连中文版 Raymond Chandler 也没看过。我十几岁的时候看过 Chandler 小说的中文版之后都能写出比这更像样的读后感。

Thursday, December 30, 2010

各得其所

无意中在This American Life的旧节目archives中撞见关于钱的一集: Windfall,有点兴趣,正没事做,就听了一听。其中的一个部分是Elizabeth Gilbert与丈夫Michael Cooper讲述他们对钱的不同习惯与态度:Liz来自一个节俭的家庭,自己继承了节俭的生活习惯;而Michael视钱如粪土,虽然不是挥金如土,但是抱着"千金散去始复来"(这句成语要认证核实一下)的态度,不当回事。两人第一次认识就是Michael向Liz借钱。结婚时,Gilbert爹妈送给她一万块嫁妆,是多年积蓄哦,她想存起来,而他坚持要花在婚礼上---当然一万块的婚礼也不是什么豪华仪式。Liz在节目里喜滋滋地说,我们花了钱办了事,我很幸福,一点也不后悔肉痛。

听到一半,我把网页打开细细找了找:哈,这节目是1998年录制的。后来的事情,大家都知道了:2002年(?) Gilbert 跟 Cooper 离婚,然后写了一本书 Eat, Pray, Love。这本书大红大紫,极其畅销风行。很多读过此书的人得到印象是Gilbert是娇生惯养的作女,挥霍一年的时间周游世界用来治疗爱情创伤, 连电影都把她描绘成spoiled brat。另有很多读者以为她的前夫必是个自私而讨厌的家伙。实际上呢,事实比cliches更加合乎逻辑。Cooper是罗斯福研究所国际人权办公室的头儿,的确是个不在乎发财也很习惯用别人的钱的人;他的事业就是用别人的钱做国际事业。Gilbert呢,努力写作,早早发财,下半辈子不愁。

我觉得这件事真是太有趣也太合乎逻辑了。现在听他们当时录制的节目,真是既定命运啊。

**************

同一节目中Dan Savage也抱怨了男友Terry Miller太爱花钱而自己很节俭。我一边听一边想,他俩也一样长不了。结果却猜错了,在网上一查:他们在一起十六年,现在仍然没分,前几年还婚了。

RLS & ACD

前阵子唉声叹气地说摊开好几本书,现在都渐渐地被我消灭掉了,只剩下Weir of Hermiston还在拖拖拉拉地读,不过也快了。

今天看见书里有一段讽刺法律系学生自以为是的话(RLS自己念过两天法律系):
... like many young men coming to the Bar, ... he flattered himself he was a fellow of unusual quickness and penetration. They knew nothing of Sherlock Holmes in those days, but there was a good deal said of Talleyrand.

我吐血。RLS果然也是福迷呀。我找不到RLS和ACD两人在伦敦或爱丁堡认识的证据,但是RLS给ACD写过信,ACD记在心里,这件事是确有记载的。写Hermiston的时候(1896),RLS已经在南洋住了挺久的,不过显然没妨碍他追迷福尔摩斯小说!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ballet




Barb 昨天提起,不明白为什么我不爱看芭蕾。真是巧极了,今晚的PBS电视节目里,谈话节目主持人Charlie Rose访问了Jennifer Homans,她最近出版了一本书: Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet。 这个谈话节目非常 fascinating,这本书听上去也很让人感兴趣,我倒是被激发了看舞蹈,包括芭蕾,的兴趣。

我觉得吧,对于古典芭蕾一直缺乏自发的兴趣和热情,原因跟我对 classical music 和中式戏曲也缺乏自发兴趣有相通之处:规矩太多,程式太严,在我看来不够刺激,变化不够多 --- 这个倾向的另一个结果是我对 Jazz 音乐一听钟情,因为它的随意与无穷变化。但是,这并不等于我不喜欢看舞蹈。

几个月之前,看两场电影的夹缝之间,我溜进放映厅里看了半个多钟头的电影 "Mao's Last Dancer",建立在真实人物事件上,讲一个中国大陆培养出的芭蕾舞演员,在1980年代访问休斯敦芭蕾舞团的时候叛逃留在了休斯敦并且成为该团领头男舞的故事。电影剧本其实有点弱智,片名也是噱头,跟Mao没啥直接关系。但是其中的舞蹈段落拍摄得很好看,让我非常入迷,例如此男生在休斯敦第一次上场跳Don Quixote中的双人舞 (Pas de Deux),在巨大银幕上展现出来,哇~~

讲了半天,我想说的是,我计划找个机会看看现场芭蕾表演,但是我多半不会变成舞蹈迷,为了谁是最美的女明星在网上跟人掐架。

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Luke, I AM your father."



今天的新闻,Empire Strikes Back 被国会图书馆收录在 National Film Registry 中保存。被收录的电影是被认定为 “Culturally significant films” 荣誉,星球大战 Star Wars: A New Hope 之前已经被收入。其实涅,说实在的,我觉得 ESB 比 ANH 还要好一些 --- 不止是我,而且很多影评多年来都这么说。 ESB 剧本不是 George Lucas 自己写的(谢天谢地),而是出自科幻小说女作家 Leigh Brackett 之手。

前两天看 Tron: Legacy,里面有不少情节和景象都让我想起ANH,例如深入敌后的老头子/大师,连服装都象是抄的。真是 ...

自曝



这件事说出来就人人都知道我有多么古老了。

1985年花样滑冰世锦赛在东京举行,比赛结束之后,一群获奖选手顺路到北京演出了一场表演。这场表演被(北京电影制片厂?)拍成一部电影记录短片。而我,看过这部纪录片!具体时间当然不记得,仿佛是在哪部电影之前搭着播放的。

当时看过后对别的人和节目都不记得了,只记得 Bestemianova & Bukin。这大概是我第一次看见花样滑冰---蹦蹦跳跳的惊险技术动作都没有留下什么印象,但是冰舞却深深记得而且疯狂地喜欢上了,有缘就是有缘啊,没说的,到现在也是最爱看冰舞。

差不多同时,电视里播放了一些 Peggy Fleming 的表演录影,是她在太阳谷 (Sun Valley, Idaho) 的室外溜冰场录制的表演节目,大家都是七十年代的打扮和发型。拍得很艺术,特别是在群山的背景之中,给人感觉好像是另一个世界。

现在,Bukin 大叔的儿子都已经参加国际比赛了...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

穿越

前阵子我曾经嘀嘀咕咕,如果能穿越到古代,甚至只是几十年前,跟现代的一个巨大差别恐怕是人口密度少。

读Robert Louis Stevenson,Christopher Isherwood是极好的纸上穿越媒介,因为他们描写环境与人物都活灵活现,没有陈腔滥调,生活中的各种细节生动而鲜艳,让人身历其境。Isherwood 描写的六十年代初的南加州,跟三四十年后的状况对比,挺有趣的。Pasadena 依然是装腔作势,郊区化扩展已经失去控制,高速公路上没日没夜地堵车,而校园里的大学生仍然是五颜六色充满无知的朝气。差别在于,除非是千万以上的富翁,谁也买不起听得见海浪声的房子。

当然啦,从一开头就爱上了福尔摩斯全集,也是一半因为这些小说把读者带到当时的伦敦,喧闹热腾腾的社会生活里。

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Single Man




I don't know how to explain it. While reading the novella, I kept thinking how it was vastly different from the movie. But then I can't help but suspect that this story is utterly un-filmable, that a faithful onscreen adaptation would have been unwatchable. Nevertheless, the book and the film seem to be two very different things with some rather tenuous connections.

The movie was OK. It did not work for me nearly as well as it did for a lot of movie critics. It seemed a bit overly sentimental in a calculated way. It tried too hard.

What Ford and co-writer David Scearce did was to take a few elements that are merely suggested by Isherwood and extrapolate them into a more sentimentalized, digestible movie. I cannot accuse them of perverting the author's intentions, but then why is my impression so different from theirs?

*******************

Many years ago I read the Chinese translation of "Sally Bowles," one of the stories in Isherwood's collection "Goodbye to Berlin," based on his experience as a young man living in Berlin in the early 1930s. In the tradition of Maugham and Greene but perhaps going further, he has a way of erasing the line between fiction and reality. The story read more like astute diary than fiction.

I was thrilled by the story. At the time I was a teenager who had never met a "foreigner" in my life and knew utterly nothing about the decadence of Berlin teetering on the edge of Apocalypse. I had no idea homosexuals existed; therefore the homosexual stuff (including the narrator based on Isherwood himself) in the story totally went over my head. Yet I knew with dead certainty that it was real, that Sally and all the crazy, stupid, self-destructive things she did were all palpably real.

Isherwood had a laser-precise way of describing things and people. Yet his intentions/themes/meaning are very difficult to pin down, perhaps because of his utter refusal to reduce characters and situations to types. So-and-so is an airhead. So-and-so is a dreamer. So-and-so is a bitch. So-and-so is in love. So-and-so is depressed. With the precise realism comes the full ambiguity of people and life.

*************************

Compared with the earlier Berlin stories, A Single Man has maintained Isherwood's impeccable observation and lack of reductionism. There is perhaps less warmth and sympathy toward the people he writes about, yet this hardening does not come from cynicism marinated in age, but rather a philosophical acceptance (of an indifferent universe, I guess?).

Ford turned the story into one of romance, one of love and grief. It is not wrong, but this sentimentalization seems to trivialize the story, in which grief is there but not nearly as pervasive or central. The movie was almost entirely about George grieving Jim, but the first half of the story was more about the omnipresent death and mortality --- Jim's, George's own, Jim's one-time girlfriend's, and the threat of world annihilation (Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962). Not unlike 1932's Berlin, 1962's California could have easily been teetering on the edge of the abyss too. And the second half is something else --- I am not sure what, but again the tone is completely different from the movie's, even if a lot of the adaptation is faithful on paper.

The more complicated, ambiguous elements in the story were excised, perhaps for fear of confusing the audience. Charley, for example, was transformed from a childish, lonely, recently-jilted housewife who symbolizes George's hopeless link to the home country, to a lonely sad woman who loves a homosexual man and, as the filmmakers hint, has been destroyed by her unrequited feelings. (Isherwood has a real knack for drawing childish, silly women.) Another stark departure is how much more repressed George is in the movie than in the story --- Look how this homosexual man is victimized and persecuted by the world and therefore has to hide his true self. Well, yes and no. In the story, George makes no effort to hide his "deviant sexuality." What he hid was his grief. Not quite the same, is it?

*************************

What is Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man about? It is quite difficult to pin down. For such a short novel, it is surprisingly rich and complex. It is about death and doom --- the death in the past (Jim) and the inevitable end of everyone, sooner (nuclear war) or later (old age) or unpredictably (heart attack). It is about the past (Charley and England, Jim, memory of the war), the future (Kenny and other students), and now, where one struggles to not only stay alive but rather to live. It is the present moment that we are all trying desperately to hang on with white knuckles.

The story is also full of humor. At the beginning was a hilarious episode describing the physiological and psychological mechanisms of driving in Southern California that had me in stitches. You really have to have driven on these freeways day-in and day-out to realize how true and astute this is.

The story's ending has absolutely nothing to do with the movie's, even if they share a superficial similarity. Isherwood's ending is pure mysticism. Odd, isn't it? A mysticism grew out of his brand of merciless realism, as hard and sharp as a diamond knife.

Roman de Gare

这片名的意思大略地可以翻译为: Pulp Fiction。

男作家的饭特西里总有个美丽的女人,with a heart of gold。这片儿里照例有这么个女人,倒不必说了。奇怪的是,法国男导演的饭特西自我形象---即明显让他自己代入的男主角---总是设置得很丑。走红的法国男影星,除了年轻时的 Alain Delon,都很丑,而法国大导演们最爱用丑男。不同社会里男性的理想自我形象真是很好玩。美国男人的理想自我形象,就是咋咋呼呼自以为是的 Captain Kirk 这种。

这片儿打着 thriller 的旗号,就是玩技巧操纵观众的expectations,典型的bait-and-switch手法用了又用,抖最后一个包袱的时候终于牵强得说不过去了,非常勉强地草草收场。特别是一开头引入了serial killer的幌子,总得出现几条尸体么,吊起胃口而没有payoff,太不厚道了。

Friday, December 24, 2010

神探伽利略




很久以前就被推荐了这套电视剧,一直都没看。读了几个短篇故事原著,因为对物理十分无知就放下了。今天忽然心血来潮就上优酷上看了一点。

我仰天大笑,啊哈哈哈,如果Doyle医生还活着的话,作者和制作人就要交版税啦!都是从福尔摩斯的原型上演绎出来的嘛,可见东野圭吾也是福迷来的呀。福尔摩斯形象之深入人心,风靡全世界,经久不衰,绝不是盖的。

哦,对了,让我联想起 Spock 在 Star Trek 电视剧里也是一出场就风靡 Trekkers ,包括女性观众。那也是一个强调理性而淡漠感性的可爱人物。

为什么大家都疯狂地爱上他们呢?也许是因为读者/观众一早认识到他们是很有感情的,就等着我们挖掘出来;也许因为他们的感情是稀有的,且藏匿起来,所以就更加诱人与珍贵---激发了凡夫俗子的挑战心乎?而且,很可能因为我们从经验中得到结论,这样吝惜表达感情的人,一旦表达出来就不会是假的(没练习过表达虚情假意),肯定特别真,可以完全信任,给人安全感。

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Roger Ebert Makes Me Cry. Again.

With his Christmas blog entry.

Damn.

Chaz is the luckiest woman in the world.

Ebert said several times that it is not the sad moments but rather people's goodness that makes him cry at movies.

He's proved it.

Bûche de Noël



过节期间除了上班之外就打算在家吃吃喝喝睡睡。上班,不请假,是因为要攒假期,一月底去看花样滑冰比赛一星期。

家里又脏又乱,也没有过节气氛,为了对付一下,今天下午去 Trader Joe's 买了一条 Buche de Noel,法国式的蛋糕卷,巧克力芯加巧克力酱,做成一段树桩状。非常 decadent。

Monday, December 20, 2010

龙眠

上次看宫部美雪的《火车》就非常喜欢,这次看带有一点玄幻成份的《龙眠》,仍然十分中意。

正如跟 barb 讨论过的,俺们无聊的中年读者/观众,随便说说文艺作品,并非卖文为生,更没有传播观点和立场的话语权,不需要公正客观 --- 说到底,读书/欣赏是一个寻找投契者的过程。喜欢的,那是因为作者与读者情投意合,价值观一致,态度与心情相仿,便结下了跨越时空的单方向友情;不投契的,跟生活 中遇到话不投机的人一样,要么无动于衷懒得多说半句,要么心里冷嘲热讽或者背后跟好友诉苦一番。

宫部女士就是跟咱投契,没啥理由,即使说得天花乱坠也是制造借口而已。简单地说,就是性格、口味、世界观很类似吧。

《龙眠》是个悬疑推理+特异功能的混合体,而这个特异功能还是 telepathy,这种剧情工具 (plot device) 一不小心就成了懒惰与廉价的捷径 --- 从线索推理不出咩?运用读心术就解决了,这也太容易了。但是在此处作者很小心地把读心术使用者这个关键人物藏在幕后一直不让主角/读者接触,如此便屏蔽了读心术的偷懒而保留悬疑推理的成份。不过谜底和动机一旦揭开都还是相当简单的,简单的好处在于不必牵强附会地编造出很多生硬而虚假的误导/巧合/复杂机关(例如,西村京太郎的推理小说),而坚持人物心理和情节的真实性。

两个有读心术的青年,遇到一个持有怀疑态度的杂志记者,卷入了两个案件。跟火车给我的印象一致,龙眠中的诸位人物的行为规律和动机都极其自然可信,读者忍不住觉得“换了我也会这么想/这么做”,即使是反派人物,制造戏剧冲突的各方面,都毫无勉强做作的痕迹,让人赞叹作者洞察人性的敏锐。例如男主角记者先生,一上来就流露出矛盾的倾向:又善良关怀弱者,又努力跟人保持距离。然后渐渐地揭开他的性格根源:天性诚恳,信任别人,却因此被别人狠狠地背叛了;于是十年怕井绳,宁可披上坚硬的盔甲,也要避免再受伤害。这样的心理经历我真是太理解了。

乍看之下,关于读心术的情节似乎重蹈“With great power comes great responsibility”这类的俗套,可是我不这么认为,我猜想作者的意图是设身处地地、实打实地假设想象一个超人能力:What if? Then take the idea to its natural conclusion。如果一个人可以读到周围人的思想,会是怎样一种存在?会怎样取舍?将一个---只有一个---超人能力放在极其现实的环境(包括人文环境)中,让它自然生长与发展,静观其变。这是优秀的科幻小说的基础,超能力也许是假的,虚幻世界也许是想象的,但里面人物的行为与动机却是真实的,能让读者代入其中而心领神会。故事中两个青年共同被读心术能力深深困扰,但二人的选择与命运很不同,根源在于一个有温暖的家庭,父母与姑婆无条件爱他保护他,而另一个生长在混乱破裂的家庭中,即使没有读心术也会非常困扰,而读心术让他看穿亲人的自私和黑暗面,苦闷厌世也就难免。

即使是几乎没有出场的小小配角如男主角的前未婚妻小枝子,都被写得栩栩如生,这样追求完美人生的小家碧玉,温室里的花朵,连我都遇见过!太真实了。

我唠唠叨叨地重复:没有对真实生活与人性的洞察力,就绝对写不出如此贴切可信的情节,完全在情理之中。

这篇小说让我特别心有戚戚的地方在于,它讨论了一件实实在在的矛盾:我们都渴望跟别人建立坦诚而亲密的感情关系 --- 友谊也好爱情也罢 --- 但是离得太近或看得太清楚或诚意太高,就更容易受到伤害;但是对伤害的恐惧以及对接触的躲避,留下安全却也空虚与孤独的生存状态。如何取舍,怎样把握,这是一个问题。作者最后下结论说,我们还是需要彼此,在互相扶持中找到人生的意义,所以,为了这个bonding,即使会受到伤害也值得冒这个风险。

琴声杀人

不知为何想起了周星驰的电影《功夫》里面两个弹琴的杀手,以及形象化的处理。看的时候就觉得好赞!琴声远程取人头的情节,不记得过去在那本武侠小说里读过,也不知是谁发明的,非常神奇恐怖,总之感觉很熟悉又不能引经据典。被周星驰用电脑动画将之形象化,写实与浪漫结合得恰到好处,不服不行哪。这个情节实在妙,我得想办法偷过来用一用。

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Jazz

只剩下一集没看了。Jazz 博大精深,十集纪录片(总长18个钟头)如何能说得完?偏与漏那是不可避免的。 Ken Burns 与合作顾问们的剪裁取舍是否得当,外行如我当然没法评论。非常粗略的直觉是: 给管乐器(trumpet, saxophone之类)名家的篇幅多,而钢琴,bass,drums 着墨少;传统爵士乐(从创始至战后的bebop)篇幅多,而现代Jazz流派比例非常小(这也不奇怪);对Jazz定义比较狭窄,而相关种类,如ragtime,很少涉及,除了不可避免的 blues 以外。还有很明显的一点是 Burns 的固有局限:爱国主义热情高涨,对美国以外的 Jazz 几乎没有涉及。即使提到了欧洲知识青年接受 Jazz ,也总是扯上 Jazz 跟纳粹对立,代表美国式自由这类的话头。

不过必须承认在某一点上没有让我失望:基本没提 Frank Sinatra,歌手基本上得到的篇幅很少(除了 Billie Holiday)。说来也奇怪,在Jazz中器乐的效果远远深于人声,至少这一点跟我自己的感受是一致的。另外,Burns 的纪录片总是四平八稳不过不失,毫无任何有争议的内容与立场。讲 Jazz 历史无论如何不能回避美国自古至今深入骨髓的种族冲突与积怨,纪录片中对这个话题的处理只能说是sincere,诚恳,但却并不深刻(也许跟爱国主义的感情还是有冲突)。

百年Jazz,独树一帜而又影响深远的名家太多,纪录片集中笔墨于几个已经被盖棺定论的人物: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis。其他人难免一带而过,让人觉得极不过瘾。当然也没有篇幅深入讨论太多的名家,浮光掠影的好处是让我这样的大外行至少能混个脸熟,听过人名之后自己去找找他们的作品,而且以后跟人说起避免闹笑话,不知道 Fletcher Henderson 是何许人也,Savoy 是啥地方,Charlie Parker 用的是啥乐器。

纪录片另外一个特点是,讲故事八卦多而音乐理论少,即使我这个[比较纳德的]外行都觉得有点太过通俗了一点(对于 Duke Ellington 的阐述尤其让人觉得搔不到痒处)。但是八卦也有些好处,了解了诸位音乐家的背景和遭遇,对照他们的音乐的性格,就会发现Jazz绝对是直接表达人性的媒介,二者都是一样的复杂、矛盾、鲜艳、生猛、又太合乎逻辑了---一个人的天性与环境的互动,造就了他的性格,从音乐里全部掏出来,也决定了他的命运和下场。

忽然起念想看Clint Eastwood导演的Charlie Parker传记片Bird。

2010年对我来说喜忧参半,不算怎么愉快也不怎么顺利---中年人参嘛。可是,前阵子无意发现了星期六晚上的广播节目,由此在这一年里开始好好地听 Jazz,真是一件巨大的幸事。

正在读A Single Man

只看了三分之一左右。很有趣,果然 Christopher Isherwood 还是很对我的胃口。

我没觉得这是个言情小说,Tom Ford 版电影将之三屉馒头化而已。

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Opera Singer

前阵子,也记不清何时,反正不出六个月之前,隔壁公寓搬进某女,每隔几周会发出很响的做爱声 --- 不是爽到呻吟的那种,而是引吭高歌的那种。岂止我在卧室里隔着墙被吵得睡不着觉(这墙不算薄,平时说话与音乐声都传不过来),而且在门外的走廊里都是回音嘹亮,估计连走廊对面的住户都听得到。而且绵绵起伏,一山更比一山高,途中且每一步都颤音重重叠叠,七回八转的。每次都要折腾半个到一个钟头。正当你以为她已经一览众山小,无限风光在顶峰,她安静一会儿又来了,而且更上一层楼。没有亲耳听见真难以想象她的声音穿透墙壁还有多响!

开头几次喊啊喊的,我跟S同学抱怨。他说这不象做爱嘛,倒象狗叫,而且是体积很小但是叫声很响的那种,不如你去敲敲门问,你们家的狗怎么叫个不停,要不要戴嘴套。

后来又经历几次,大家不得不接受女高音有天赋的现实。奇怪的是从来没听见其他声音,就她一把好嗓门。昨晚又来,折腾了半个多小时。我把耳朵贴到墙上听了听,感叹说听不见任何男声,S同学开玩笑说,Yeah, she's going at it with a vibrator. 我说别逗了,可靠的老好 vibrator 能有这么厉害,我们还不得天天听歌剧!

结果有一个周末下午,隔壁传来了歌声---原来这位邻居果然是歌手!隔着墙也听不出是否专业,但嗓音与运气训练有素还是听得出来。

让我好奇心起的是她的咏叹调没有明显的规律,差不多每隔一两个月才出现一次,多为周末但也不尽然(例如昨天周四)。如果她有固定男友,为什么间隔如此之长呢?也许平时都是在对方家里唱歌剧?如果没有固定男友,这些也不象一夜站,太有规律也太爽了。另一个可能是,也许她有个friend with benefits。如果是这样,这个朋友的本领如此高强,我祝他们赶快同居换个地方住。

Pale Words, Bright Notes

In Episode 9 of Jazz, Matt Glaser, one of the musicians interviewed on tape said something illuminating.

When we talk about the music, the reason we use terms that sound vague is not that there's something vague about music, but because music expresses the human experience so specifically ... that when you attempt to find language to describe that [experience], words fall short. What's falling short in that equation is language, not music. Music expresses things that cannot be expressed in any other way. That's why it is so important.

This insight is truer than anything I have heard about the tension, connection, translation, and betrayal between language and music. Music is most definitely far more directly connected with the "primitive" and powerful human emotions and instinct than the top-layer, abstract, codified, and indirect expression of language. Music comes far closer and goes far deeper into the truth of our humanity than words. It is in a place within ourselves that our conscious mind can never approach.

And JAZZ does this far more effectively, urgently, and intimately than any other types of music, for me.

Glaser also said,
People have really underestimated the intellectual achievement of Jazz and what it tells us about the human mind --- how capacious the mind is.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

这两天消灭掉

The Reversal (Michael Connelly) 听完了。并非100%谜底的结尾,在侦探类小说里是非常有风险的,被作者把握得恰到好处,赞。

Stone Quarry (SJ Rozan) 看完了。她总是喜欢做精致而完美的谜局,又是另一种的好。

龙眠(宫部美雪)。托福饭饭杨发给我全文。很喜欢,看哭了几次。

以前说过的话:色戒

既然barb看了电影,而我只读过小说,且把自己说过的话找来记录下。

“完全不是张爱玲主打的写实主义,没有直接了解和熟悉的感觉,而且作者的emotional tone十分混乱矛盾,且有明显的猎奇痕迹。总之我觉得是失败的作品。”

“关于间谍什么的有点心虚,缺少一种 authenticity,人物动机也七零八落的。”

“就算是写色,也十分失败,一个女孩子因为失了身(完全没有失身的circumstance,强迫的还是引诱的?)而自暴自弃,而跟汉奸老男人上床,也搞不清是享受了还是麻木的,老男人给她的是爱抚还是抵触的感受(这一点很重要),读者对王佳芝的心理仍然一团迷雾中,就胡里胡图地接受她突然因爱而反悔救他一命的戏剧性高潮。

性爱,尤其是年轻女孩子刚开始发生身体关系,是很细腻婉转,没有逻辑但是非常敏感和复杂的过程,totally intuitive and complicated。别忘了,王佳芝是个颇早熟的女孩子,就算没有性经验,跟男人男孩子之间的非身体交流已经很久,恰好不是充满罪恶感的超级纯情处女 的类型。这些地方张爱玲写得通通都很vague and hollow,但是vague and hollow并不能遮过不合情理的地方。而且这情节底下的assumption让我想起金庸最喜欢的桥段:女人跟谁上了床就心里对谁忠诚,哪怕她并非因为爱情而"失身"。在金庸笔下这些都是处女,不过王佳芝的例子也一样说服不了我,一样让我别扭得要命。钻石云云,更让我恶心。原来给女人买钻石就是爱情的最有力证明了。哈!

至于业余特工的部分,更加make no sense。就算是玩票的,总得搞到枪,安排步骤,等等过程细节吧?那个不见首尾的职业特工总有参与策划吧?根本看不出原定的刺杀计划是怎样的,为什么不在进珠宝店之前或者在店里进行,而非要等他出门上车前。大白天的在街上刺杀要人,是弱智还是活得不耐烦了?业余搞这件事,最难的一步是什么?pulling the trigger,没有杀过人的家伙,根本下不了手,所以动手的非得是那个职业的特工不可,而职业特工怎么会那么笨,那么没用?还“贴身开枪”呢,就算是一 直盯着等他出来,近距离居然连一枪也没开出来,这职业的似乎比业余的还烂。

看过The Godfather没有?里面那杀人是怎么杀的?Michael 在街坊小饭馆里举枪对着人脑门,砰砰砰。 然后若无其事地走掉。

就算是我这样毫无实战经验的人,也能编出比这可信一百倍的计划来。王佳芝跟老头约会不是吗?留着门不锁,半夜放人进来,趁他睡着时砰砰砰即可,他跟情人幽会又不带保镖的。为什么杀人一定要在室外?简直可笑。 ”

Write what you know. 否则任你是张奶奶还是张小妹都一样出乖露怯。别以为看过两部勒卡雷小说和间谍电影就能编出间谍故事了,甚至还要编玩世不恭无奈厌世的勒卡雷式间谍小说,人家是坐办公室坐了几十年的老头子,厌世与讽刺都是亲身得来,业余玩票的外行岂能毫无经验就模仿到真传?

Barb 肯定又要说:好好的爱情故事,又被你这个家伙当成thriller来看!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Candide




昨天下午跟朋友去城里的Shakespeare Theatre Company看了一下Leonard Bernstein作的音乐剧Candide。

N年前读过伏尔泰的原著小说,但是记忆已经模糊了,音乐剧里的情节跟小说应该是差不多的,完全没有将原作愚蠢化娱乐化,保留了原著中主要的哲学辩论。但是,可惜,Bernstein的音乐和作词功力毕竟跟Stephen Sondheim不是一个级别的---又有谁是Sondheim级别的呢?

看完剧之后往外走时,我忍不住跟朋友感叹一声:The ending is so communist.

她噗哧一声笑出来: Oh? Do you think the play would be well received if it's shown in China?

我回答: Who knows. They don't practice communism in China.

伏尔泰原著就是一个披着喜剧+road movie外衣的哲学讨论。搞得我很想把伏尔泰的文章搜出来好好地读一读。可惜木有时间。

Saturday, December 11, 2010

烂摊子

最近心情乱七八糟,间接反应在读书方面,东一本西一本的瞎摊着,下不定决心读哪一本,好像掰玉米的狗熊。计有:

Weir of Hermiston: 极其缓慢而痛苦地一点一点地读着,读不下去又舍不得扔。

Stone Quarry: 老好SJ Rozan,她写的Bill Smith小说总是那么硬煮,那么Raymond Chandler。

Remake: Connie Willis 的科幻小说,话题是Fred Astaire。

A Single Man: 今天刚从图书馆排队拿到。

The Reversal: Michael Connelly 的新小说,有声书,正在听。

对神雕侠侣的某个感想

某日去图书馆借书,忽然想,如果我被困在了一个古墓里几年,成天就学着一件事,面对的只有一个人,没有书籍,没有Internet,没有朋友,没有新鲜好玩的东西。那么即使师父再可爱,再美,再让人神魂颠倒,即使可以跟他发生肉体关系,恐怕也要闷死了!几个月之内我一定会失去理智,把师父掐死,自己逃往山下花差花差去了。

书剑恩仇录

suling的博客上看见她写这两部许鞍华电影,回想起高中时在电影院里看了一下午,大约有三个钟头。现在甚至记得影片在中国发行的时候名为《江南书剑情》与《大漠恩仇录》。印象最为深刻的部分是影片中精美的夜景摄影:钱塘江边兄弟相认;在扬州花船上斗暗器。除了西方影片之外,之前很少见到这么细腻的画面,大家都是阳光普照的外景和灯火通明的内景,个个人脸纤毫毕现。何况这还是娱乐武打片却做得如此文艺!(六合塔倒是假的搭的。)

金庸武侠小说与香港武打片在此之前已经流行了好几年,大家对于武打片有一定的期望 --- 廉价粗糙+感官刺激+复仇故事(例如替父报仇的原神话)--- 对套路尚未达到过度腻味而需要颠覆的程度。许鞍华的文艺武打片,在大陆与香港两边不讨好,可是我却一向偏爱那种介乎genre之间“夹缝”型的路线----在熟悉的设定之下出人意料,但又不至于古怪到无法理解的地步。几乎全部采用大陆的不知名演员,香香公主更是维族演员,也算是一种高雅(?)的猎奇手法吧。当时整个卡司里我只认出达式常一个人,其他演员之前与后来都没有出名(据我所知),似乎从此开拓了用大陆正统严肃演员扮皇帝的先河。

当时同去看电影的朋友非常不爽,因为情节跟小说大相径庭,特别是结尾。我倒觉得结尾非常贴切,可比小说里黯然归隐强一百倍 --- 反正早知道反清复明失败了,这样更加有戏剧性更震撼么。后来又听别人抱怨电影,理由是小说中她最爱的人物余鱼同和与他有关的桥段全部被砍。我去看了小说,一点没被余感动,反而觉得creepy。这件事变成后来我对金庸小说中的言情段落的反应规律:大家觉得很纯情很唯美很浪漫,而我一概觉得creepy。

Friday, December 10, 2010

礼物




今日下午开会时做白日梦,新年没有什么resolutions,但是要给自己买点礼物。买啥呢?哈,当然是烤蛋糕的模子啦!另外还要买把自动的搅拌器,打蛋和面糊用。

最近重做了两次flourless chocolate souffle,还算可食。已经好几年没做了,有点手生。不过 souffle 都得趁热吃,凉了就瘪了。

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

当官的料

连着一星期开会(conference),一日一日地从早坐到晚,闷且累得半死,真是吃呀么吃勿消。尤其是被迫听某官员的浓重法国口音,费劲得要命,还声调平板,催人入睡,差点让我当场打响呼噜。

我的老板六十岁,一天坐下来精神奕奕,晚上还参加reception,跟诸位各界人士觥筹交错嘘寒问暖发挥她的巨大女性魅力---我可没参加reception,会一开完就溜回家了,是听她自己说要留下来参加今晚社交节目的。可见当官有两个先决条件,如果没有就别给自己找麻烦了:一是有真诚强烈的愿望,二是有铁屁股。

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Follow the Money

电影 All the President's Men 中最经典的一句台词,最近让我恍然大悟,把许多点点用线连了起来。

搞 social psychology 的喜欢折腾从众心理,发动普通人攻击杀害异族人类要用什么机制, dehumanize 非我族类的群体等等。这不是没有道理,不过在“异化理论”的下面,很少很少见人讨论奴役和屠杀异类背后的简单动机: Follow the money. 或许因为掌握和催动这个动机的未必是执行的人,而常常是决策的少数人。

很多看似种族争执的冲突,背后都有大把大把的财富暗流汹涌。Spanish Inquisition 的背后是抢钱抢财抢地;纳粹上台的垫脚石是一战以后的割地赔款和经济大萧条;美国发家致富还真以为是制度优越咩?别逗了。种族异化论固然是广泛而普遍的信仰,但没有白花花的银子在人鼻子底下诱惑,在人背后推一把,则跟其他的抽象的主义和理想一样无用。

大多数看似不合逻辑的现象,只要把利益这个因素放进等式便迎刃而解。

The Lifecycle of Software Objects

著名的少而精的科幻作者 Ted Chiang 的新作,一篇颇长的中篇小说,被S同学挖了出来给我看。

这个故事比过去的作品少了很多奇幻的色彩,很现实主义,属于“有可能发生”的次类型故事。从一个很普通的软件小公司开始讲,这家公司的创意和产品是一种网上virtual宠物。这没什么稀奇的,现在就有很多模拟世界和模拟养宠物的网上游戏,而且已经非常活灵活现(虽然我自己没玩过,只是耳闻)。故事中的宠物的特点是一半象婴儿,一半象灵长类动物,能够学习和吸收和消化新知识与新经验,需要主人慢慢地“养”起来,并且跟周围的(virtual)世界接触,才能积累出个性与能力。

跟其他的 Ted Chiang 故事相似之处在于,他能够用很少的科幻(非现实)设定,建筑一个细节丰富的世界,并且按照严密的逻辑把这个世界自然发展到奇异的地步。

我个人对这篇小说的读后感是,在接连许多年写出十篇左右持续高质量的中短篇小说之后,Ted Chiang 终于老虎打盹了。也许是因为我不玩模拟世界的网上游戏,对里面的软件设计师和模拟宠物都不能建立感情共鸣。情节发展---即宠物软件的lifecycle---也显得缓慢而平淡。但是或许做软件工作的读者会深有感触也说不定,或许对自己创造的软件产生过深厚感情,眼看着“作品”在市场上由热到冷,被用户抛弃或者被新产品替代,编程者会感到失落。

故事并不能算失败,只是没有达到 Chiang 以前的作品的水平,但看完之后仍然留下值得思考的命题。也许这不是他的本意或者本意的中心,但是让我念念不忘的问题是: What is real? 虚拟世界中养的宠物其实也可以赋予身体而进入人的生活,那么什么是真的什么是假的呢?这些宠物是人为制造出来的生命,有程序有code,可以在某种程度上修改和控制,但是又包含了活动物和活人的cognitive ability,即从环境与经验中学习和改变。而它们给“主人”带来的亲密感都是真的。这个问题实际上是我最近相当长一段时间里考虑的,人从网上/电脑中的“虚拟世界”发展出来的感情和关系,跟现实中的感情和关系,一样乎?不同乎?差别何在?我渐渐认为网络提供的感情和关系虽然跟现实相似,但实际上并不相同,这是一种我们的天然生理功能(进化得来的)未曾预料的状态。

*********************

在网上随便狗了一下,看到一篇最近的访谈,别的倒算了,他的这段话让我非常戚戚:

I can't recommend technical writing as a day job for fiction writers, because it's going to be hard to write all day and then come home and write fiction. Nowadays I work as a freelance writer, so I usually do contract technical writing part of the year and then I take time off and do fiction writing the rest of the year. It's too difficult for me to do technical writing at the same time as fiction writing - they draw on the same parts of my brain. So I can't say it's a good day job in that sense, but it's a way to make money.

Holmes the Psychopath?

一千个人心里有一千个 Sherlock Holmes,MoffGat 脑子里的 Holmes 跟我的脑子里的 Holmes 也有显著的不同,It's a safe bet that even Moffat and Gatiss have some differences between them.

不是说,我想象中的 Holmes 一定比他们想象得更接近 The Canon。只不过他们定位 Holmes 冷酷无情傲慢粗鲁等等特征,甚至需要 Watson 来暖化和人性化,在我看来是个不大不小的误解。

Doyle 自己是医生,Holmes 原型是外科医生,Sherlock Holmes 的221B Baker Street办公室更象私人诊所,他的工作性质也显然是建立在 consulting diagnostician 的模型之上 --- 普通医生遇到疑难杂症而把病人转到专家医生那里去诊治。专家或者外科医生常常自视甚高,瞧不起普通医生,且背后跟同行称病人为“那个肝脏”或“那个脑瘤”,以及经常需要居高临下扮上帝角色,这都是普遍现象,被民众(例如,电视作者)看见了说不定会被吓到,混熟了便知道他们大多热爱救死扶伤的工作。

实际上,Holmes 与前来求助的顾客们之间的微妙的 paternalistic 关系完全是照着专家医生跟病人之间的关系描绘的。当医生轻描淡写地说“我们得把你的胃切除一半”或者“你的存活率超过六个月的可能性是10%”的时候,或者在某个程度决定停止抢救心脏停跳或者癌症晚期的病人的时候,可不比 Sherlock Holmes 显得生硬冷酷得多了?

Anyone who have hung out in a hospital lounge or cafeteria, especially with surgeons, would think Holmes perfectly normal. Compared with an average surgeon, Holmes is as warm and fuzzy, with total TLC, as Mrs. Hudson.

************

I really need to stop watching the DVDs!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

极端

今天barb感叹说:你好极端,喜欢的作者拼命夸,不喜欢的作者被你痛扁。

我想想这是一个自我过滤之后的现象。大部分的作者引发不起什么强烈反应 (visceral reaction),所以看过就忘记,也不会在他们身上浪费口舌。只有那些引起强烈的正面和负面反应的作品才会让我跳出来抒发一下。

遇到强烈喜欢的,例如 RL Stevenson 或者 AC Doyle 这种,即使清楚地看见他们有缺陷和不足,我也懒得去讲。如果有人问我是否推荐他们的作品,或许我还会友情提醒一下,写的都是扁形人物哦,思想和主题不深刻哦,失望不要来找我哦;如果只是发发感慨,就记录下爱在哪里就好了。

遇到强烈讨厌的,多半是按了我的某个敏感按钮,让我从肚肠里反感,于是揪着不放大发牢骚,控诉一番,至于他们是否也有优点,全面而平衡地评价,三七开还是四六开,实在有违我的任性暴躁的本性,还是不要勉强了。

侧面也看出,喜欢或者讨厌文艺作品,近似喜欢或者讨厌谈恋爱对象,没感觉的转脸就忘记了,有较强感觉的都是感情用事,都是某一两个特征激发了强烈的爱憎反应,跟讲理与计算毫无关系。事后再讲理解释为什么会憎厌张三而痴迷李四,都只是替感情反应放放马后炮而已,编一套说法,可靠之程度可圈可点。所以,恋爱与读闲书都不是可以理智地加减综合分数 (balance sheets) 的情况,因为激发感情反应的往往只是很片面很直觉的东西,有时候,一个缺点足以淹没十个优点。

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

He is one of us.

Sherlock DVD 到手了,赶紧听一下 commentary,从第三集下手。没想到第三集原来是最先拍摄的,而第一集是最后拍摄的。哼,那么第一集结尾的“提高监视级别”的情节,总不会是白塞进去的垃圾对话吧?总要起点作用吧?

过去听MoffGat访谈时光顾着听内容和八卦了,没仔细听他俩有没有口音。Gatiss 听不出口音(演员历史的缘故?),但是 Moffat 越听越明显 --- 不知为什么看着他的脸听他说话口音忽然强烈起来。这个我还得想一想,采取排除法,最后的结论是“好像是苏格兰口音”,但是不强烈,特别是带r的卷舌音,跟在爱丁堡和在加拿大Newfoundland(苏格兰移民聚居地)听见的口音都有点不同,所以也不是很肯定。上网狗了一下,果然是苏格兰人,但是Glasgow附近人士。

第三集高潮时,演到关键时刻(不是cliffhanger而是"I'll burn the heart out of you."),Gatiss 忍不住亲口承认: 我们一直暗示Sherlock跟Moriarty是镜像人物,两人是对等的聪明绝顶傲视凡人,也不怎么有同情心,搞不好他一步走错就变成了Moriarty,但是这里终于点明了他是有颗心的,他是我们这边的(好)人,而不是他们那边的(坏)人。

我心想,这明明是你们俩自己的那一套,而不是Dr. Doyle本来的设定。然后又想:哼,你不就是想说把Sherlock的心之存在证明给他自己和大家的关键是令他人性化的John么?Gatiss 这小样儿可真逗。

This is not a joke.




最近几个月一直在考虑一个问题:下半辈子到底想要做什么?怎样追求人生的幸福?

今天终于想通了:下半辈子的理想是 ---

Baking muffins and scooping ice cream in Wellington, New Zealand.

这个念头一旦浮现在脑子里,心头一块大石立刻落地,幸福感油然而生。

唯一担心的是这样会变成一个大胖子。

公元2010年12月1日,我终于搞定了理想。立此存照。

Petyr Baelish of Sichuan: Echoes of the 3 Kingdoms

Sometimes my mind makes unexpected associations. A few days ago I was talking to a couple of friends, who are of Sichuan (or Szechuan) ances...

Popular Posts