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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

时态

Hamsun 有个毛病让我十分抓狂,这个人喜欢乱用时态,过去时现在时混着乱用。翻译成中文正好没问题,翻译成英文就让人很烦。但是他文字颇妙,尤其是写人物言行与动机错开不一致,我又舍不得不看。哼,哼,这也就是成名作家能 get away with 乱用时态,居然还有人夸奖乱得好!换了无名作者手稿早就被扔进垃圾箱了。

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Currently Reading and Watching

"Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d'Urbervilles" by Kim Newman. One of the better spoofs on Sherlock Holmes, with Thomas Hardy as collateral damage. Told from the point of view of the hapless Colonel Sebastian Moran, the gory and sometimes hilarious adventures of the criminal mastermind cleverly reference and parallel the Canon. The inimitable Irene Adler made an appearance and became the woman who is forever referred to by the professor as "that bitch."

"Wanderers" by Knut Hamsun. I can't seem to shake his spell.

Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" is a curious mixture of various subjects: psychosis in youth (possibly the first sign of schizophrenia), dysfunctional but common mother-daughter relationship (more common in Asian than western families), arrested psychosexual development with links to both perfectionism and ballet, sex and art/dance. They are not entirely tied up in a perfect bow but the connections are there. Aronofsky may be suggesting that arrested psychosexual development in beautiful young women is linked to both a distorted, prudish, and obsessive parental point of view, and that the ideals of ballet may unconsciously represent such a parental view in the audience, which conflicts with the inherent sex appeal in the dance/performance aspect. Art is sex, even the somewhat frigid framework of ballet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rare Export: A Christmas Tale (Or, Bad Santa)



北欧幽默真是墨墨黑,连圣诞老人的传说都能被他们拍成恐怖片来,而且看上去似乎芬兰的幽默比瑞典挪威丹麦的还要更硬上几分。大部分是悬疑恐怖成分,偶尔来一句(绝不翘嘴角的)笑话。

一个无法解释的现象:这片儿里绝对没有女人!父子加铁哥儿们打天下。这说明什么?不清楚。

必须贴一张影片第一男主角Onni Tommila (上图),可爱得要命,在影片里跟他亲爹 Jorma Tommila 出演父子。DVD 中有两个短片,是同一编导在拍这部电影之前 (2003, 2005) 拍的同一题材短片,采用原班演员,其中 2005 年拍的短片 Rare Exports: Official Safety Instructions 里有 Onni 出镜,当时大概只有四五岁,逗死人。芬兰人里一部分有强烈的亚洲特征,跟欧洲相貌一混,效果十分神奇。他们的语言/名字也很绕口,什么时候我得拿来借用一下。

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In The Loop



The dialogue! The dialogue!

去查了一下,天啊,五个人合起来写的对话,我立刻脑补画面:五个哥儿们躲在一间屋子里一边抽烟一边疯狂地互相 insult each other 一边编笑话,然后拍成电影。很久很久没听过这么密集的搞笑对话了。

很多地方让我联想起英国版 The Office,只是设定换到华盛顿DC和伦敦唐宁街,虽然人物都是 minister, congressmen 什么的,但无能和乱搞跟 The Office 一样。It would have been pure hilarity if it weren't also true.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Chute

It was about eight in the evening when I decided to take the cardboard Amazon box to the garbage chute on the tenth floor. The chute is dark and dirty and stank of the seasonal mixture of garbage of a highrise apartment building. In summer, the ghost of rapidly rotten fruits and food rushes out of the pit and hits you in the face. But it is autumn now, so the stink is vague, hollow, with a slight chill of some unknown substance slowly disintegrating into some other unknown substance.

The wall into which the chute opens is hidden behind a door in a small, windowless alcove. A thoughtful design to thoroughly block the stink from creeping up the giant garbage receptacle in the basement. Tonight, however, the little alcove was lit by a dim light bulb on the verge of going out any moment, making the small enclosed space seem especially isolated.

I gripped the handle on the chute cover and pulled it open. With my head slightly turned sideways to avoid being hit by the stink, I thrust the cardboard box into the gaping black hole. Suddenly, with a damp breeze, a soft, shapeless, semi-transparent blob arose slowly out of the darkness and floated, like a jellyfish in deep sea, toward me, toward the light.

I gave out a scream and slammed the cover shut, and rushed back into the hallway, running until I reached the door to my own apartment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Take Shelter



I was not as impressed with Take Shelter as I had expected --- perhaps I had expected too much. In general, the movie leaned pretty heavily toward the "paranoid schizophrenia" context (ie, subjective delusional point of view), rather than toward the "apocalyptic horror movie" genre. The mood is beautifully created. I just thought the filmmaker could have gone farther. The dream sequences are pretty fantastic, but the movie could easily have used 2-3 more such segments --- even though I was shaking in my shoes already.

One day about a month ago, I was driving home on Rt. 66 from work and got caught in a torrential downpour. On the radio, the news station was blasting tornado warnings in just the same area. The roads were so slick with water that the car was nearly floating. Plus I could see nothing but a blur outside my window and hear nothing but the mad beating of the rain drops. I pulled over to the shoulder several times, heart pounding, hand shaking, breathing hard. It felt like the end of the world, and there I was sitting alone in the car.

According to the currently known of laws of physics, all that has happened still exists in the space-time continuum, and so exists everything in the future. The undetermined nature of time is but an illusion. The future is there, only it is out of the reach of our cognition. So I often wonder what is ahead of now, this moment, for the little speck in the universe that is I, that has already happened, waiting for my senses to enter and surround it and make it real for the sorry little brain in my scull.

Sitting in the car alone in the rain, I wondered whether a short (time) distance beyond was my car swirling in a funnel cloud. The future is right there but I cannot access it. Oh well, at least on that day the world did not end, and nor did I leave Kansas.

So, what will happen has already happened, and the only barrier is our knowledge. We are the way we are, because a large part of our nature is rooted in our oblivion of what lies beyond now. I suppose there could exist a different creature, a creature that sees every spot in the space-time continuum or even just the segment of their finite life span, a creature that has symmetrical memory of the past and future. Such creatures would feel, think, and behave differently from humans, obviously. How? I don't know. I only know that for these creatures there would be no such thing as hope.

********

Come to think of it, our sense of the past is also an illusion. The past exists in a physical sense outside of our awareness, just like the future does the same. Our knowledge of the past, however, exists in the now, in the lazy but continual sparks between neurons or the patterns of a few particular neurons somewhere in our brain, now. It has nothing to do with the actual physical events in the past, just like the girl in the photo, which I am looking at, is not the same thing as the small human female I was 30 years ago. What we are holding in our hands is not the actual past but rather a (now) flickering shadow of the past.

In other words, we have a sense of the forward direction of the flow of time, only because we have memory. Without memory, we would not know what time is. (Of course, like the stars and aliens, time exists outside of human knowledge. Or does it?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On Conan Doyle

... by Michael Dirda, who is of the editor of the book review column in Washington Post.

Last Friday we went to dinner at a fancy place near Dupont Circle. What luxury to be living in the area, I sighed. Within half a mile radius are 3 (!) book stores, including Kramer, the chain books-a-million, and a second-hand book shop which was playing Bob Dylan at 9 pm.

While browsing the shelves in Kramerbooks --- their collections were very distinctively Washingtonian, skewed toward politics, current affairs, social studies, etc. --- I happened upon Dirda's little book On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling. It is more or less fanboy chatter about our Dr. Doyle. :D

Dirda's favorite Sherlock Holmes story is, not surprisingly, also The Hound of the Baskervilles! He claims to be a member of a club known as "Baker Street Irregulars."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Four Weddings and a Funeral

They're showing it on TV tonight. My God how did it ever gain its absurd popularity? Today I find it intolerably annoying and not remotely funny or cute. Argh! Loathsome garbage! (Imagine me waving my fist in the air and scream, "LOATHSOME!")

Thursday, November 3, 2011

物理科普片儿

最近PBS又推出一套四小时科普片儿,讲现代理论物理,看了第一集关于空间的内容,前半部分还是老一套的历史课,从牛顿讲到爱因斯坦到量子力学,但是一半过后就是新鲜东西了,没全听说过,连某同学都没听说过放卫星用陀螺测量引力造成的空间扭曲试验。最后结尾来段新鲜有趣的、未经证实的理论,据说九分可靠,是从黑洞推导出来的:宇宙内四维空间里的一切现实其实是外面一层二位空间上储存的信息投射进来的全息影像而已。换言之,我们都是倒影。

另一条有趣的话题是,空间不是空的,充满了某种“物质”,有质量的物体的质量来自结构中的例子跟空间“物质”互动,互相作用越强,越是“滞”,就越重。这倒让我想起过去的神话般假设,空间不是空的而是充满了某种介质,然后发现了空气和粒子运动和光速守恒,介质说就被甩掉了。当然我听说过黑暗物质和黑暗能量,但是它们是最近才发现的,而所谓空间物质与质量的关系的理论出现在此之前。实际上,上小学的时候,我读过一本苏联科幻小说叫“太空神曲”,里面的一个中心理论是真空不是真空而是某种介质,可以随时从中提取能量而推动高速(半光速)太空飞船,那么星际旅行可以不必自带大量燃料。那小说在八十年代就有中文译本,那么原著最早也得七十年代出版,作者是从哪儿搞来的这套理论呢?结果居然是正确的 --- 好吧,不能肯定是正确的,因为这个所谓希格斯粒子(绰号“上帝粒子”)尚未被超级粒子撞击器正式发现,不过貌似电视上的物理学家都差不多相信了。这个理论是64年发表的,难道苏联科幻作者听说了就与时俱进地塞进了小说里?

这个节目的视觉效果很好,很形象,对解释抽象的理论很有帮助 --- 对于我这种无知外行来说。主持人又采用很多比拟的说法,例如他解释爱因斯坦通过研究光速为什么是不变的而发现了狭义相对论,说“空间和时间此起彼伏的推拉,保证了光速不变”。我咕咕地笑着跟某同学开玩笑说,这是空间和时间的阴谋!他俩商量好了扭来扭去的硬要保持光速固定不变,为的是把我们的脑子搞晕!

Why I don't like LA

In preparation for an upcoming trip, I googled the area for B&N stores in various areas and, disappointed with the sparse locations, googled for other book stores. The density of book stores is so low in the vast and populated LA county that I want to weep.

No wonder I never learned to hang out in a book store until I moved east. One is hard pressed to find a book store while barreling down the streets (ha!) in the congested streets. Kids like me hang out in movie theaters, on the beach, in shopping malls, at Asian cafes, but not book stores.
To my horror, I just realized that, as book stores dropping dead across the country, we are all going the way of California.

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...

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