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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Young Montalbano


电视里连续放了两集,昨晚还因为停电而只看了一半,本周会连续播完,简直跟中国的电视台一样。叹气,Michele Riondino 实在太帅了一点,还满头美丽的大卷毛,很难跟原版 Montalbano 对上号,not that I'm complaining ... 其实我还挺想念 Luca Zingaretti 的,一边看着 Riondino 直流口水,一边内心被罪恶感咬噬,仿佛背叛了 Zingaretti 似的 ... 自责说,objectify 这位男演员实在对不住,年纪轻轻但演技真挺好的,很细腻有层次。

剧情编得太复杂了,看得脑仁儿疼,不过每集都来点儿吃的喝的,关键问题上毫不马虎。

青年版和中年版剧集的风格还是挺近似的,表面上插科打诨、轮番上艳女,一味抓人眼球,但明媚的景色之下有一层淡淡的 despair and resignation。

Giuseppe Fazio 已经出场:


Mimi Augelo 下面也会露面:


亨利四世(上)

把剧本翻出来看看,很多有意思的地方。

Falstaff 替自己辩护说:Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

赶走 Falstaff 就等于自闭于世。Falstaff 就是这个世界。He is all that is profane。又懒又馋又贪又虚荣,成天喝酒偷钱扯谎吵架(打架是打不过的,一定撒丫子逃跑或者装死),一边踩别人一边给自己脸上贴金。Is this why Prince Harry finds him irresistible? Is this why we all find him irresistible?

但是,Harry 的回答更有趣,揭示了他的性格和处境:I do, I will.

别忘了这场戏的起点是 Harry 主动要 Falstaff 扮成父王质问自己,然后又翻过来自己扮父王。排练了这一出戏中戏之后,Harry 真的进宫面对父王,而且应对如流,舌灿如花,哄得亨利四世回心转意,把军队交到儿子手上让他证明自己。在酒馆里毒舌讥笑 Falstaff 的 Hal 跟王宫里哄父王的 Prince Harry,跟自谦“老粗”把法国公主骗到手的亨利五世,当然是同一个人。(电视剧中 Tom Hiddleston 扮演的 Prince Harry 比较纯真甜美容易下咽,不如原著人物那么两面派/阴险/残忍/工于心计。)

没有在大学文学系里读过书,写过 literary criticism,上过精神分析课的莎士比亚显然没学习过描写人物的现代规则 --- 一个人物看似突兀的行为必须用一套内在心理动机或理论解释出来,例如 Ian McEwan 笔下的中年男人一辈子被一场失败的恋爱盖棺定论。莎士比亚那些矛盾而绝不统一的特质/世界观/欲望/动机/行为规律在同一个人身上同时活蹦乱跳地存在,一半是油一半是水,又这样又那样,又想往东又想往西,认爹又是嬉皮笑脸的 Falstaff 又是殚精竭虑的亨利四世。

The contradictions just sit there in one person, with no attempt whatsoever to resolve them.

不过这种矛盾而不统一的人物在莎士比亚的笔下也算少数,大概因为写起来太费力了,而且一不小心就会显得乱和假,被他写得又矛盾又可信,神奇到让我吐血。谁还写过 Prince Harry 这种人物呢?他的动机和天性完全是自相矛盾的,虽然在亨利四世(下)的结尾不得不做出选择(成年礼?),但是我们观众离开剧院的时候心里跟他一样,自相矛盾的两条路线面对面地耗着,Falstaff and the Crown, the world and heaven, the holy and the profane, 虽然不能和平共处但谁也消灭不了谁。

很少有人写共存的 contradictions,并不等于这不是真实而普遍的现象,只是因为我们的大脑不够用,not built to process so much complexity.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Great Storm

Can't forego the opportunity to record the storm, the most violent I have ever witnessed.

*********
It was windy two days ahead of Sandy's arrival, but one day before the air was oddly calm and balmy. The only abnormality was the darkness. On high noon, the sky had an inkiness that bled from the low clouds into the air. It looked like dusk all day.

The rain came slowly in the evening, no more than a drizzle, mild and warm. The night passed peacefully, until the rain intensified in the predawn hours.

I had a strange, anxious dream in the morning right before I woke up. Outside the window it was pouring, but quiet. The trees swayed gently in the wind, not even hard enough to shake off the leaves that had recently turned amber and crimson. From the window I could see headlights moving down the street. Crazy people were still out and about? But I heeded warnings and stayed indoor.

In the afternoon, I went to the exercise room in the basement of the building and walked for a while on the treadmill. A few young residents braved the weather to take their dogs out and let them do their business around the building, before rushing back inside wetter than the pets.

The day moved slowly, especially as I was stuck home and the sky never changed for 10 hours straight. The gloom merely persisted until darkness suddenly smothered everything at half past six in the evening.

The only sign of the passage of time was the wind, which grew more wild and violent as the day inched on. Before the darkness descended, the wind really picked up, tearing at the trees like a raving meth head on a three-day binge. I stood at the window, gazing out with amazement, wondering why none of them had yet been torn down onto the soggy ground after hours of being horribly shaken. They must have at least a severe concussion.

Although it hardly seemed possible, but the wind became even stronger after dark. Ominous noises made themselves heard through the tightly-shut windows like a thousand ghosts howling and jostling and battering each other. The poor window panes shuddered desperately for hours on end, as if just about to be punched through and shatter into mangled pieces.

I am sitting in the living room, waiting for the power to go down. It's a miracle that our lights are still on after a whole day of the worst storm I have ever seen. I doubt we will last over tonight. This truly feels apocalyptic.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Age of Doubt

最新翻译的Montalbano系列刚出炉,在图书馆网站上下载了有声书。Salvo 象个小男生一样地热恋了一把,顺便印证了意大利男人永不停止恋爱的谣言。其实情节有点狗血,有点男性范特西,但被 Camilleri 讲出来不知怎么的完全可以接受。这一本的情节还相当复杂,也很赞。

从明天开始,本地电视台将连续播出“青年 Montalbano” 系列剧,很期待。最近的周日晚上黄金档电视,我一直在追看 "Inspector Vivaldi" 系列。看意大利剧,景色是一大重点,这部外景在 Trieste;另一重点是风采各异的男演员,从男主角到打酱油的小警察到处都是惊喜 eye candy,连不美的老头男主角都很有气势。最好玩的是,老头不仅是威风八面的探长,而且做得一手美味饭菜,今天 swordfish,明天 penne alla norma。

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writers Group

Tonight's Arlington Writers Group was dedicated to writing exercises. Each assignment was divided into three parts: beginning, middle, end. Each person wrote a beginning (with or without prompt, short or long), handed it over to another person to write the middle, and handed over to the third person to write the ending. We wrote for a solid hour and a half and afterward my arm was sore. It was thrilling! The results were often hilarious. I can't tell you why, but making up stories is just my favorite thing to do in the world. I never get tired of it.

The boy sitting next to me looked about 18, and I got to see his writing as we handed our parts around the table. He seemed obsessed with plants. In one piece, he began a story with "He was upset that the bean sprouts he bought was evil and called up the company that sold him the sprouts to complain." In another, longer piece, he began with "He was convinced that he was meant to be a plant and spent hours standing in the sun with palms up." What an odd and funny kid.

NaNoWriMo

刚刚登记了一下。今年真的要 NaNoWriMo 一把吗?真的吗?真的吗?最近工作忙得快疯掉了,直到年底都未必有缓和,但是 ... 说不定越是逼上梁山越有效果。这几天倒是把 outline 写得七七八八了。走着瞧吧。

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mariinsky Ballet: Cinderella




上周五晚上在肯尼迪中心看了一场 Mariinsky 的芭蕾演出。本来还不知道,Mariinsky 就是大名鼎鼎的基洛夫芭蕾舞剧院。这次带来的舞剧灰姑娘不是原版舞蹈而是2002年Ratmansky编舞的现代版,服装与布景都颇抽象,舞蹈布局也跟传统不太一样,动作中加入了一些现代舞和爵士舞的元素,但是远远没到 Matthew Bourne 那种程度的解构。情节方面也有一些略微违和的成分,例如后妈和两个后姐姐的搞笑内容相当的多,到最后失去效果。中间毫无警告地插进一段王子被一群男舞者勾引的舞蹈,前后情节又无联系 --- 这王子一边找灰姑娘一边被男人勾引,算哪门子的童话 --- 让我看得骇笑出声,旁边的观众还向我侧目来着。

但是,第二幕中间和第三幕结尾的 Pas de deux 真是太好看了,看得我热泪盈眶。尤其是两人 close but not touching 地各跳各的段落,真让人汗毛倒竖。

这场演出还出了点意外,原定女主演跳到第一幕后半段独舞忽然背部受伤,匆匆下场。停顿了二十分钟之后,换上另一名年轻舞者顶替上场,结果她表演得充满感情,跟男主(Igor Kolb) 的配合也丝丝入扣,一点没有仓皇感,长得又比第一任美,我几乎觉得赚到了。

Monday, October 22, 2012

Henry V

I should probably go read Henry IV and Henry V again. I just cannot make up my mind which Henry he really is: the fierce warrior king in Henry V or the laughing jesting prince Hal in Henry IV. It seems obvious that Henry does the job of a merciless king pretty well, considering where he started. The streak of kingly cruelty ("I know thee not, old man.") has been there all along. Yet still on the battlefield he continues to doubt his own purposes and righteousness.

One would logically argue that the chronological arch must be the correct trajectory, that the callous youth has to evolve, in the forward direction, to become the responsible adult. Yet I cannot shake the feeling that the ridiculous Hal is just as true if not more so, while the adult is somewhat a projection of his father's wish and Harry's need to become his father's wish. We are all familiar with the "Hero's Journey" theory, as if it were an unquestionable fact for everyone, yet Shakespeare breaks every rule, including the one described by Campbell hundreds of years later. It remains unclear and undetermined who is more real in Harry: the younger one or the older.

The first time I read Charles Lamb's summary of Henry IV, specifically the part where Hal puts on his father's crown when Henry IV sleeps, as a teenager myself, it kind of freaked me out how much I thought I "got it" --- the whisper of "If he is dead then I am finally king now and no one will be mad or disappointed at me any more."

The familial conflicts in Shakespeare continue to freak me out like nothing else, as if shining a light into the darkest and most shameful corner in my mind. To me it is always much easier to understand Hal than to understand Hamlet. It would take more time and experience, and A Song of Ice and Fire, for me to understand (sort of) the bloodthirsty Henry V. But all along I have known the pull of opposite forces: to have fun with Falstaff or to renounce him. To be the good child or the rebellious one. To be free or to be shackled with responsibility.

Hence there is no better example of "the human heart in conflict with itself."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paolo Bacigalupi


去年在Balticon看见了Bacigalupi真人之后,某同学非法下载了一些他的书,我问他借来,一直也没翻,直到这星期才开看他的短篇集。第一篇一上来就是“小乞丐王军在成都的街上...”,挖赛,现在回想起来,去年好像确实听见他在讲话里提到从中国旅行回来什么的。

刚看完两篇,觉得很有特点,风格很 sensual,略有点神秘感加浪漫派。记得他在讲话里提起,最早写了几篇sci fi/fantasy 混合型作品,后来转写严肃文学,又不喜欢又没人欣赏,于是回到 sci fi/fantasy 的怀抱。果然有些文艺腔,而不是纯科幻类型。

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Hollow Crown: Richard II

Just started watching it, starring Ben Whishaw. The style is WEIRD! I looked it up and saw that Richard II was directed by Rupert Goold, not Richard Eyre. Well, yeah, Duh! As Valley Girls would say. While Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 are reasonably solid and conventional, except a few choices clearly intended to appeal to the 师奶 viewers, Richard II seems ... experimental. Richard II is portrayed as a flaming homosexual, delivering the flowery verses with a strange flat tone, giving various male characters under 40 "the look." And then, what's with all the St. Sebastian references?! Oh, wait, that's also a homosexual thing ...

Nevertheless, all the treachery and usurping and conspiracies and personal grudges that toppled the throne, oh my! The brain screams out, "Robert Baratheon!" "The Mad King Aerys!" Sigh. Some people mash up Stephanie Plum with Urban Fantasy. Some people mash up Shakespeare's history plays with Wagner with ... dragons.

*************
On a more general note about Shakespeare. Well, I mean, how much have people changed? How much have they learned about what the fuck politics is all about? Yes, we now have flushing toilets and electricity and YouTube, but our understanding of the world has hardly moved an inch. I thought I'd never be surprised by good ol' Willie again, but here I am again. I mean sometimes it just makes you weep, doesn't it? What is the point of all the literature in the past 400 years? He's said it all already. The relationship between Prince Harry, Falstaff's little Hal, and his grimy drinking buddies and the dying footsoldiers with missing limbs writhing in the cold French mud. What's changed? Modern suckers are still dazzled by the glorious glitter of power and tell themselves that they are the King's brother by bleeding on his battlefield. "Yet herein will I imitate the sun..."

Monday, October 15, 2012

No Helmet

昨天在 Capclave 听贵宾作家 John Scalzi 提起好莱坞要拍摄他的小说 Old Man's War,而且主演是 Tom Cruise。各种笑料源源不断。拍战争戏,本来演员不仅要穿盔甲而且要戴头盔,但是头盔会遮住大明星那张价值连城的脸蛋儿,所以最后银幕上很可能是一群穿盔甲但不戴头盔的士兵上战场。大家听了咕咕笑一通。

今天在油管上看电视版莎剧 The Hollow Crown 之亨利四世上,结尾处 Prince Hal 和 Henry Percy 决斗。之前战场戏上大家都戴头盔,还一脸泥(这种拍法最早是 Branagh 的亨利五世电影版吧?),简直看不出谁是谁。我还在想,两人决斗时看不出谁是谁怎么办?结果非常不意外地,导演 Richard Eyre 让他们先把头盔给摘下来,然后再决斗。好不容易卡司上两个帅哥来演 (Tom Hiddleston 和 Joe Armstrong),一定不能失望广大(女?)观众啊。

另外,忽然想起莎士比亚这种历史系列剧的搞法,原来GRRM叔的吊胃口系列也是从他哪儿学来的。当年如果老莎也是写完了一本演一本,半天也憋不出续集来,观众肯定要往台上扔臭鸡蛋!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

钦差大臣



今年又被华盛顿莎剧院推销成功,买了六场戏的套票,才二十块一场!而且是好座位!一下子就被说服了。

第一场是最近上演的 Government Inspector,果戈理的剧,在网上查了一下,中文被翻译成“钦差大臣”,太厉害了。

Michael Kahn 亲自导演的,很好看,从头笑到尾。 这个题材,我觉得,首都人民尤其能领会其中的讽刺啊。

The Dragon Master Redux

Although I have said I was quite turned off by Jack Vance's characters and attitude toward women, I cannot seem to forget some of the imageries in The Dragon Master. The setting and the premise were so striking --- it is a world I have never seen anywhere else.

At Capclave today, I was reminded yet again how widely those tired old tropes are still being repeated and recycled. Yet no one has bothered to recycle at least this premise by Vance ever since. Hmm. It gives me hope that this is still an inefficient market and there still are original ideas that have not been written.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Anecdote

为了防止被情节来源者看到(虽然这个可能性微乎其微),这个素材片段必须用中文来写。

 上个星期,联邦劳动数据统计局放出失业人口统计率为百分之七点八,右派保守党一片愤怒,跳出来指责此机构伪造数据,故意让现任总统面子好看,企图操纵大选走向。当然,证据与事实这种事情对于这些人来说是无关紧要的,只要看上去像是操纵,喊的嗓子够响,三人成虎即可。当然,这个局,那个局,领导们关心的终极目的是自己的乌纱帽,在局里几十年爬到顶的官僚,每年每个月每星期都在不伪造不违法的条件下尽量吹嘘自己的业绩,淡化自己的失误。

这个情节是二手见证,从一个认识统计局职员的人那里听来的。据说,这个职员说,伪造数据什么的纯属胡扯,但是其他形式的猫腻随时都有。例如定期的失业统计数据发放,每次是早上八点四十五分向全国媒体公布数据。几家重大媒体(想必有 Reuters, Bloomberg, WSJ 这些机构)抗议说不行,我们收到数据之后还得写稿子贴上网站,会有几分钟的延迟,不行不行,我们要提前拿到数据好做准备写好稿子,我们保证不在八点四十五分之前发放稿件。

这些数据对股市有影响,所以劳动统计局按照法律规定不能提前泄露数据,内部必须保密,更不能放给外人。按理说,这是法律规定统计局做主合理合法的事情,完全可以对媒体说,八点四十五就八点四十五,公平对待,你几点放上你自己的网站关我屁事?但是,美国的联邦政府机构非常软弱,在国会的压力下,不得不让步妥协,允许每个重大新闻媒体派一个记者提前(大概十到十五分钟)进入统计局,到指定的电脑上看数据写稿子。为了防止外泄,进门之前要上交一切与外界联络的工具,包括手机、爱疯、黑莓,手提电脑,平板,等等。

但是,事后有人发现,在八点四十五之前,股市上已经有少量股票浮动跟之后发布出的失业率数据一致,显然有人能够提前知道未曾发表的数据,而且这些股票的买卖与新闻记者进小黑屋的时间吻合,显然还是有人把消息传出去了。

传言者开玩笑说,下次数据发布前记者要进统计局必须脱光了搜查。

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

I have heard of Nesbo (don't have that o-with-a-slash character on my keyboard) for at least a couple of years but was not moved to try him out until I saw a movie adapted from his novel. (The movie is "The Headhunter" BTW.) So I randomly picked up "The Redbreast" from the library shelf.

The first two chapters are very slow-going. The translation (apparently done in UK) was terrible, clearly by someone whose native language is NOT English. The text is littered with bizarre expressions such as "hairslide" (hairpin?) and stuff. I took it up and put it down for a couple of weeks.

I gave it another try on vacation last weekend at the secluded Black Walnut Point Inn on the tip of the Chesapeake Bay and made some progress between eating crabs, crab cakes, and soft-shell crabs. Soon enough I was hooked and have been unable to put it down!

The pacing, oh, the pacing is incredibly clever. The case itself is not terribly complex and follows a thriller/adventure structure rather than a mystery structure (ie, corpse -> investigation -> solution). However, he is soooooooo good at pacing the intertwining chapters with two parallel timelines and multiple points of view of characters. There are chapters that are really exposition with no death or carnage involved, but he is able to keep up the suspense even in the actually mundane segments. Master manipulator this guy is!

Character-wise, Nesbo is clearly weaker than Mankell or Connelly, but he's not too bad and has the familiar black humor typical of Scandinavia.

The best part for me, however, is to immerse in a realistic sense of the psychological conflicts that plagues the Norwegian national conscience in terms of Nazi-ism, the fallout of WWII, and the long-term aftermath. This is something distinctive to Norway, not shared by Finland or Denmark (not sure about Sweden though), which retrospectively explained another Norwegian novel I read a few years ago. Such a nuanced, unflinching dissection of an incredibly complex collective psyche is a rare and unexpected find in a thriller/mystery novel. Just proves again that the mystery genre, if done well, provides the best medium for the grand tradition of literary realism on each particular society and its conditions, on real people and lives, on every particular place and time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jody

She's one of the most bubbly persons I have ever met. She is dark and petite and slim, with head of dark brown hair that explodes into massive curls on wet days and a wide mouth that laughs easily and loud. Olive skin and a nose that is not big but has the characteristic Jewish bump. Her most notable quality though is the nasal, girly voice --- It sounds just like Fran Drescher, minus the dorky snorty laugh.

She loves the heat, loves baking in the sun, which reminds me of another Jewish girl I knew some years ago, a colleague at the pharmacy I worked in. Her name I have forgotten, but her look returns to my mind clear as day. She had long, thick, curly hair down to her back, brown with a hint of gold. Her eyes were green. The same Jewish bump on the nose. Long, narrow face. She also loves the heat, and her idea of a vacation was to sit by the pool in 110 degree dry heat in Palm Springs.

Funny, neither woman was born or raised in the middle east or anything. One grew up in New Jersey and the other in Southern California. Coincidence? Most likely. Although a more romantic speculation for this love of intense heat would be inherited ancestral memory of wandering the deserts for 40 years with Moses.

Jody has a daughter of 4. Her divorce is to be finalized any day now, but her boyfriend's divorce is still pending. He has two children of his own. Together they make a startling handsome couple. She loves to retell her daughter's constant and hilarious wisecracks and her loss of words to respond to them. Filming her daily life would probably make great reality TV.

Timon of Athens

During the intermission of Timon of Athens at Folger, I eavesdropped on a discussion among the 3 persons (who looked like a mother with t...

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