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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hell is Empty (Walt Longmire #7)

Unlike the leisurely pace of the previous Walt Longmire mysteries, this one is very gloomy and scary right from the beginning. It's so gripping that I can barely put it down. Although Sheriff Longmire has trekked snowstorms before, the novel is far more chilling than any other. The atmosphere (literally and metaphorically) is freezing. I'm huddled in bed and shivering through page after page.

The novel is an unabashed tribute to Dante's Inferno. The "Devil" in the story made only a very brief appearance at the beginning and goes behind the scene for most of the novel, but his dark presence is felt on every page. Fused with Indian mythology, the journey in reverse hell is breathtaking --- I can almost see my own breath of condensed vapor in front of me in this steamy July when I'm reading the book. So good!

And ... the books have been made into a TV series! I've not seen it but apparently it's been renewed for a second season. I am pleasantly surprised that the lead actor is not a recognizable face.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

To Have and Have Not


Hemingway seems very very transparent to me in this novel (actually three shorter and interconnected stories combined). The macho male hero is not his self-portrait but the ideal he aspires to and knows very well in his heart he is not and cannot be. Life is just a downward spiral from the moment you are born. That's basically his theme. Rather than the macho tough man, the whiny and limp novelist he mocks in the later part of the story is probably closer to his self-image and self-identity.

It's obvious he was homosexual. The way he writes about the sexual energy of male characters, compared with the indifference to female characters, is unmistakable. You simply can't hide that. To confirm it he even dropped a few pages' description of a homosexual liaison. It is so cliched --- the most masculine posturing and protestation come from a self-loathing closet homosexual man.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jar City



Like most of the other Scandinavian crime movies, this one is also based on a bestselling novel, supplying rich and realistic details of a time and a place with a keen eye on social issues. This is a story about family and what binds people from generation to generation. At the center is (surprise!) a world-weary, middle-aged police inspector who has a hard crust on the outside but is actually a big softy inside. He lives alone and is divorced with a daughter. Every detective since Martin Beck is divorced with a daughter!

The movie is a part of American Film Institute (Silver Spring, Maryland) Scandinavian crime film series. More to come. In September they will again show RAID! the movie, which is a sequel to the unparalleled TV series.

The scenery in the film is harsh and chilling. There is rarely any sunshine and always windy, sometimes drifting icy rain. One also gets the sense that Iceland is a small country and people tend to know each other. 

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不出所料的,影片虽然画面和题材都相当沉重,但仍少不了冷飕飕墨墨黑的幽默。例如年轻时髦的警探跟老警探一起开长途车探监一个危险的嫌疑犯,老警探不断抽烟,小警探抱怨烟味儿请他掐了,老警探冷笑说,别娘娘腔了。两人在食堂吃饭,老警探吃煮羊头津津有味,小警探问有没有素食,连食堂大爷都讥笑他一通。老警探在受害者家里发现地板有异,叫人掀起一看,挖出一具腐烂多年的尸体,几个警察捂着鼻子落荒而逃;接下来的镜头必须是在别处监视嫌犯的小警探坐在车里大嚼 donuts。要不要这么犀利啊,笑死了。

Thursday, July 11, 2013

加急列夫的俄国芭蕾舞团



刚做完一个项目,给自己放两天假。今天去国家艺术馆 (NGA) 看 Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909--1929 展览。看得我头昏眼花,真是太那个啥了。看看他们出产的舞剧就知道有多厉害了:Scheherazade, Firebird, Petrushka, Rite of Spring (!!), The Afternoon of a Faun, Parade. 听听跟他的芭蕾舞团合作过的大名们就知道有多如雷贯耳了: Stravinsky 和 Prokofiev 给他们写过音乐,毕加索和马蒂斯和 George Rouault 给他们画过布景和设计过舞台,Jean Cocteau 给他们画过海报,罗丹给 Nijinsky 塑过铜像。这才发现原来他们都是同时代而且同圈子里的人,不同媒体的人互相影响,cross-pollination 达到极致了。

Diaghilev 是老板,他的天才在于识货与人脉,把对的人在对的时机中搞在一起,炮制出前所未有的效果。Stravinksy 的作曲加上 Michel Foskine 的编舞(将现代舞元素注入芭蕾)加上 Nijinsky 的表演加上 Leon Bakst 的服装设计,制造出无与伦比的作品。即使今日看来,这些芭蕾和创意仍然震撼得很。

在历史上只有很少的几次有这样的机会,大量的新思想新观念与 intellectually restless 的人同时集中在很小的空间里,加入一定的经济条件,引发巨大的艺术与思想甚至科学的大爆炸。文艺复兴时代与1900-1929这段时间就是最好的例子。这种大爆炸实属罕见,但留下的影响又久又远。我们今天的音乐和舞蹈还在深受那个时代的影响,仿佛一顿撑死人的饱餐之后,我们至今还躺在那里慢慢消化那时的神奇美味。之后,创新不是没有,但绝没有这么强烈的后果。或者六十年代后期的思潮勉强可以算一个大爆炸时期,但是艺术上的成就远远不及。



Vaslav Nijinsky 和 Diaghilev 之间的恩怨真是太狗血了,太狗血了!过去只看过一些模糊不清的照片,我没想到 Nijinsky 如此美貌。据说他的身材线条不美,不符合芭蕾标准,矮且四肢粗短,正因为如此,天然的缺陷给他制造了锲机,创造出牧神午后和春之祭这样打破传统惊世骇俗的作品。

Sunday, July 7, 2013

又见芬兰

上星期在波士顿参加的 conference,各种跟制药研究有关的 vendors 尤其是临床试验的各种服务都来摆摊儿。我在市场里转来转去,看见好几家中国的 CRO 的摊儿,还有保加利亚南美澳大利亚等地的 CRO 服务。最后在角落撞见一个芬兰的摊儿,跟一个中年女寒暄两句专业的,我提起喜欢芬兰影视,对方问看过啥,我说 Rare Export: A Christmas Story,还有电视剧 RAID,特别是你们的幽默感 ... 她心领神会地点点头:我们的幽默感,很多人欣赏不来呢。我对上暗号地说: 我知道,墨墨黑又干巴巴,我觉得特别逗。

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Take This Waltz



It just proves that when women do the female fantasy, it's usually just as self absorbed as the male fantasy.

In the same way that the female lead exists only to embody the ideals of the male lead character's ego, the same occurs in reverse. The ideal woman in the male fantasy is a projection of his needs and desires but not herself a real person. Here in Sarah Polley's take on adultery and love triangle, the "other man," Daniel, played by Luke Kirby, is as anemic and flimsy as all the other typical objects of one's fancy. 

Late in the movie Sarah Silverman's sister-in-law gave a (somewhat forced) speech to the heroine, Margot (Michelle Williams), which suggests that Polley is not completely unaware of the problem and that she must be, on some level, aware of the dark currents stirring at the heart of this fluff. However, I am unconvinced that she did fully explored the currents and knew clearly what they were about.

The movie makes half a case that it is sexual fulfillment that Margot lacks in her marriage and therefore what she seeks in her affair with Daniel, but it cannot make up its mind about the issue and drifts into other implications --- perhaps what she really needs is undivided attention to her! or grand romantic gestures! or a child! The author's own ambivalence results in the movie's indecision and ultimate demise.

As someone partial to a bit of pudge in men, it was impossible for me not to take the side of the husband (Seth Rogen) instead of the seducer Daniel. His adorably dorky laugh just ruins Margot's (unspoken) argument "My husband doesn't understand me."

It also bothered me for the entire movie that a young couple with such dismal jobs can afford such a beautiful old house in the heart of Toronto. Give me a break. She is a travel writer and his entire profession is to write and publish a cookbook on chickens. The practicality for Daniel is even worse as a rickshaw driver who doodles badly in his pleasingly messy apartment. It's a nightmare of paperback romance elements trying their darnedest to be artistic and quirky.

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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