Friday, December 30, 2011
半年前偶然听到 NPR 上关于 Jason Moran 的专题节目就喜欢得很，但是后来忘记了他的名字，想找也没找到。最近因为 Moran 被肯尼迪中心请去做爵士乐 curator 他又上了电台节目，于是我也把他给“找了回来”。
我对 jazz piano 毫无抵抗力，而 piano 和 bass 放在一起的质地对比简直太可爱了。Moran 虽然粉 Thelonius Monk，但是演奏风格感觉有一点 classical，当然这也没什么奇怪的，从 classical 开始而转而迷恋 jazz 的人多了去了。
在这个专题节目里，第一首曲子是 Moran 改编 Maurice Ravel ，好听得一塌糊涂，哇哇哇！后面的几首也不错。
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
He expressed my exact sentiment when he labeled Steig Larsson's Dragon Tattoo series as a "primitive fantasy" and David Fincher as a "very cruel director." I also agree with him that von Trier's heavy disdain for people is a annoying and tiresome. I'm less inclined to be impressed by impeccable techniques and a vast visual vocabulary than film geeks. In other words, I'm picky about the kind of filmmakers I "hang out" with, which may have some correlation with how picky I am about the kind of people I hang out with.
When it comes to the impression of Steven Spielberg we go in completely opposite directions. There is something lurking underneath Spielberg's sentimentality that disturbs me, but I cannot put my finger on it. A friend once digressed that Spielberg betrayed a carefully disguised tendency to cruelty and calousness in the Indiana Jones series. Not sure if that is it. To me his effort to appear sentimental and innocent or child-like is just a little too laborious to be wholy convincing. Maybe I'm just paranoid.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
This is one of the most underrated movies I have seen. When I saw it in theater I couldn't quite put my fingers on why I found it so mesmerizing, but it has haunted me all along.
Putting the Blu-ray disc in the player, for some reason I decided to turn on the commentary track first, even though the plot has already faded in memory. Surprise, surprise. I had always assumed that, given it was the first directing effort by a renowned writer, its strengths lie in the dialog, the narrative structure, the plot, and the characters. Those elements are all excellent, of course, but I did not fully appreciate how beautiful it looks.
With only a fraction of my attention on the chatters of Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy (brothers), I stared at the shots and the color scheme. With all the dense and rapid dialog, visually it is remarkably still and uncluttered, with a stark palette and a gaze on faces and eyes. There is a simple elegance in the framing and composition of most shots. The lighting and shadow are exquisite without being showy or self-conscious, and the background lights and shapes have an abstract beauty that is simultaneously delicate and intense.
One of the movie's tricks is fluid scene-to-scene transitions, sometimes with temporally scrambled voice-overs, sometimes with clever editing (see Tilda Swinton's entry scene). Another trick is movements in the out-of-focus background, scurrying at the edges of the frame and the edges of the viewers' consciousness, oozing an ominous sense of conspiracy and dread.
As a moviegoer I am extremely grateful for directors/editors who trust and respect my intelligence and attention. Thank you for choosing people like me to make your movies for.
I can think of no other movie that reflects the mood of the era better (2001 to 2008). It speaks to me.
On the commentary track, Tony Gilroy talks about how heavily he has been influenced by the movies of 1970s. The period of late 1960s to first half of 1970s is truly the golden age of American cinema, the end of which was marked by the commercial successes "Jaws" and "Star Wars." One of these days I'll have to systemically watch the classics from that time. It occurs to me that the parallel between that time and ours is no accident. Vietnam war, Civil Rights movement, social unrest, the assassinations, and, to cap it off, Watergate. Deja vu.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Nearly all the posters of "A Dangerous Method" arranges Keira Knightly's Sabina Spielrein in the middle, between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), a transparent --- and entirely wrong --- characterization of the movie's theme. She is not the woman that came between Jung and Freud and broke up their friendship.
David Cronenberg, who is Canadian by nationality, makes a subtle but conscious case for the Jewishness of psychoanalysis. The riff between Freud and Jung, the movie seems to argue, is largely an ethnic and class divide manifest in academic disagreement.
Buried beneath this ethnic argument is the suggestion that it is no accident that psychoanalysis originated and flourished in the repressive Victorian era in Europe among Jewish medical men (and remain dominated by Jewish psychiatrists to this day), that the permissive and liberating philosophy of psychoanalysis is inherently Jewish, and that Protestants are instinctively unable to embrace psychoanalysis, even an open-minded, intelligent Protestant like Jung.
I don't know enough about Judaism and Jewish culture to judge whether the hypothesis is credible. It probably is to some extent. I do have doubts about whether ethnic and class difference played a large role in Jung's feud with Freud. The movie implies that Jung is troubled by Freud's emphasis on sex as the underlying motivation for nearly all human behaviors and unconsciousness and his implied support of socially unacceptable behaviors (e.g., infidelity), because Jung is sexually repressed and deeply conflicted. One scene in particularly clearly establishes that Freud and Spielrein understand it (the central role of sex) and each other, because they are Jews and therefore not as plagued by sex-related guilt and conflicts as Jung is.
I don't know enough about Jung and his work to judge whether this characterization is real. Again, it may be true to some extent. However, the very fact that Cronenberg is suggesting that the riff between Jung and Freud is rooted in social class, religious, and cultural differences that neither of them has any control over happens to support Jung's theory that cultural heritage heavily influences people's behaviors and unconscious. Isn't it ironic?
I wonder whether Cronenberg has realized this irony. Although Jung in this movie is portrayed as being repressed and unable to fully accept the legitimacy of sexual urges, while Freud is portrayed as being more "liberated" or knowing of the human nature and therefore perhaps "more correct," the movie itself indirectly acknowledges that Jung is just as correct if not more so by tracing his behaviors and decisions to his Protestant heritage.
Nevertheless, it would be an injustice to suggest that the movie blames the breakup between Freud and Jung entirely on the Jewish-Protestant and class divide. It fully acknowledges the Oedipal nature of their relationship and conflict. I don't know whether all men want to marry his mother, but it seems pretty universal that all men must murder his father to become his own person. The more intimate and affectionate the relationship, the more the son has to kill of the father (even if symbolically) to become an adult.
The intimacy of mentor-disciple relationship is shown is something of a double layer in the movie: The Jung-Spielrein relationship is a parallel to the Freud-Jung relationship. However, the daughter does not need to murder her father to become independent. She separates from him and her sexual desire for him, and becomes her own person in a process that is perhaps as painful as the patricide. The movie makes both types of separation perfectly clear and somewhat symmetrical.
Although the movie is heavily didactic with long segments of dialog, Cronenberg's visual language remains ripe with meaning and suggestions. Note the deep-focus shot in the scene above, which keeps both Freud's face in the foreground and Jung's face in the background clear. Similar view is used throughout the movie to keep the patient and the psychoanalyst, who do not face each other, in the same frame with the same clarity. Perhaps he is suggesting that the process of psychotherapy is bidirectional and affects not only the patient.
The acting is interesting across the board. Knightly is fine in the hysterical, manic scenes and slightly laborious in the later "normal" scenes. Fassbender, interestingly, has done two movies and sexual urges and conflicts around the same time. The second movie, "Shame," seems almost like a rebuff to the line in "A Dangerous Method" that sex is the only reliable pleasure for everyone.
Mortensen takes the cake for the best, but also the subtlest, performance in the movie. While maintaining a detached, controlled, dominant, almost manipulative presence, he drops a number of hints of vulnerability and genuine affection.
Jung's wife, played by Sarah Gadon, is probably a little underdeveloped compared with the 3 main characters. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by the treatment of this character and the movie's exploration of gender and power in general. She is clearly distressed by Jung's insatiable sexual appetite (depicted through his hearty appetite on the dining table), but she has to make do, even though she is the financial pillar of the family. So, perhaps, she is a counterpoint to the acceptance and indulgence of primal sexual urges. Possessiveness and exclusivity are also a human instinct. When we love someone we want the most we can wring out of that person. We don't want to share and dilute. Or perhaps some but not all of us craves the exclusivity. That is an instinct, not social regulation or repression. Obviously, one man's freedom is another woman's suffering, even if you take society out of the equation.
As such we enter a territory not thoroughly explored by Freud. Social restrictions on individual behaviors have obviously brought on neuroses and conflicts and mental dysfunctions, but they also serve the purpose of keep us living together in close proximity without cutting each other's throat. Such is the human condition. There is never a place where one's own needs and others' needs can exist in absolute and blissful freedom and harmony. We always have to struggle with conflicts and competing needs between ourselves and others, and hope for a tolerable compromise. (People do cut each other's throat every day in the world, after all.)
If I have to grossly simplify the movie's plot, it would not be a love triangle in which Spielrein breaks up Freud and Jung's relationship, but rather a love triangle in which both Freud and Spielrein love Jung, but the damned Protestant just doesn't get it.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Zinsser wrote about his Overtone Years, but it was the sentiment of being a fourth-generation New Yorker that got my strings shuddering.
I've not had rootedness for at least two generations. For whatever reasons, I live like HC Anderson --- figuratively, philosophically.
It's neither good nor bad, this life, but I am just reminded that I'll never know how it feels to be a fourth-generation New Yorker and walk by the apartment buildings that your parents and grandparents lived and died.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Both funny and scary, with a bit of social commentary.
Beautifully photographed and directed with judicious use of special effects. Thankfully the alien monsters were "man in a suit"/puppet, with little CGI. CGI cannot imitate the real fluidity of movements.
A lot of apparently ad lib dialogs, just the type I like.
It is just the kind of movie that has you screaming and laughing simultaneously.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
说实话我有点怀疑白色的猪骨浓汤不是真正用猪骨长期熬出来的自然白 --- 每日流量巨大的快餐店，很难相信店堂后的厨房里有几只巨大的锅一直在熬猪骨。谁知道浓汤是怎么批量生产出来的，里面放了多少 MSG，不过好吃还是好吃的。黄黄拉面也还算有筋道，对于没吃过真正用手拉出来的日本拉面的人来说。主要是汤面里的肉、菜、汤、面搭配数量已经科学化系统化，恰到好处，深得我心，各个成份多一分嫌多少一分嫌少，刚好被我全部吃光，无论哪一样多一点都会剩下。
某同学十分钟情店里的南瓜 tapioca 糖水，冷甜食一碗，不算特别甜。
Friday, December 2, 2011
Is it Oregon? I couldn't help but feel it was Australia. On film hardly any place but Australia has left such an impression of a complete lack of human infiltration. Sure, you get a glimpse of a half-nekked aborigine, but that just makes it worse. "You should see the cities we built," Michelle Williams grumbled to the lone Indian captured by the white men. The Indian didn't understand her, of course. I wondered whether she was only trying to remind herself of what cities looked like.
The movie is slow, oppressive, and pretty much a long journey into the belly of desperation. In a male filmmaker's hand, no doubt at some point insanity would take over and someone would get killed in a mad struggle. She generally avoided blood and death, but the sense of doom hung heavy without release, even in the end. Even I find it a bit unbearable and fast-forwarded to the ending.
The ending, ha! A cursory Google search can tell you that a lot of viewers are enraged by it. Mightily pissed off. Is it a reaction typical to American moviegoers? Or is it universal? I digress. Anyway, I suspect that if the movie were merely a slow and artsy *film* but spared us the uncertainty and doubt, if there were some relief of closure at the end (even if tragic), people would not have been so angry about it.
There is hardly any dialog in the movie, except for the endless boasting of Stephen Meek, played by an unrecognizable Bruce Greenwood (I wouldn't have known it was Bruce Greenwood if it weren't printed on the cast list). This character makes me chuckle (but without mirth). Why? Because I know this guy. I have met him a number of times before. I met him in a friend's husband, with whom I had an unfriendly argument that spoiled my friendship with the wife. I met him in a pot-bellied government bureaucrat, spewing bullshit as his subordinates listened in hushed reverence. You can see him on TV on Fox News, CNN, or other news network's talking heads that they use to pass for news. He is the art professor, some sort of expert, or resident intellectual who keeps dropping big words but makes no sense. He is so sure of himself that people look up to him with awe. He freely dispenses truisms that are vaguely profound but entirely meaningless. He is the charming snake-oil salesman. He is usually male, but I have seen him in a woman or two with Ph.D. in social science.
It is really funny (funny ironic, not funny haha) that, in the beginning, the men in the wagon train, which got lost under Meek's guidance, were whispering doubts about Meek and even suggesting that he be hanged. Yet, faced with Meek's bravado, they continued to follow his lead, relinquishing their power and judgment in his hand. He had no idea where he was going, but neither did they. And people would rather follow a blind man than follow their own instinct. Ain't that the truth.
I know that man. Don't you? I often wonder why such a guy is so popular, so revered, so trusted. "Do you see he has no idea what he's doing?" I want to yell at people and shake their shoulders. But people love him and beg him to tell them what to do. Considering the poignant but subtle social commentary in "Old Joy," I was convinced that Kelly Reinhart was making reference to contemporary events.
Surprisingly, "Meek's Cutoff" is a true story. There really was a Stephen Meek, and he really did lead a wagon train lost in the Oregon wilderness. Only there were a lot more wagons following him and the consequence was more disastrous than in the movie. Amazingly, Meek was not killed by the disillusioned mob after many died on the road, although there were rumors. In fact, the real Meek died of old age. Ain't that what always happens?
Back to the enraging uncertainty of the ending. I was reminded of John Sayle's "Limbo," which also has an equivocal ending. "It could be water or blood," as Meek says in the movie.
Just recently I was thinking about the human perception/illusion of time as Brian Greene explained. The past and the future may be equally elusive, but the constant, weak electrical impulses and neuronal patterns that are memory give us the feeling that we have access to the past, but not the future. It is not the past that we know, but rather the ghost of the past still living in our brain. What if we didn't have this ghost living in our brain? (Think anterograde amnesia. Think "Memento.") What if we had a similar ghost in the brain that feeds us knowledge of the future in the same way?
So, anyway, what the heck was I trying to say? Oh, the unknowable future. Right. Hmm. We don't know what awaits us in the next minute, day, week, month, year. We could be hit by a bus and die tomorrow. Or gets killed in a plane crash next week. Or get lost in the Oregon desert and die of thirst. At least, living in this era gives us a false sense of certainty. The whole world has been mapped out. If we get lost, click on the GPS. If we are thirsty, turn on the tap. We know the mathematical probability of dying in a car crash or plane crash. We know the treatment for pneumonia, the cause and prevention of cholera, and the way to get to the nearest hospital. We have this cemented sense of safety through our access to a huge amount of knowledge. However, in the time before maps were charted, what was it like, PSYCHOLOGICALLY, to walk into a desert or sail into the sea without a map, without satellite, with no end in sight? I don't know about you, but it scares me shitless. Perhaps this is why we like our movies predictable. Yet isn't this unknown landscape the same as our everyday reality? The desert of tomorrow is as unknowable as the Oregon desert for the westward emigrants? Isn't it also the same for "the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns"?
Michael Khan at STC and Erick Shaeffer at Signature are so good. Ah, I am grateful for living in the DC area. It is no NYC but soooooooo much better than LA. There was nothing to see in LA last week. Everyone was doing "Nutcracker." Ugh.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
"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
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
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 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
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
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
Thursday, November 3, 2011
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！
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.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
过去在好几处听说过 Milton Erickson (1901-1980)，精神病医生，催眠疗法大师，在二十世纪中段据说很有名气，追随者后来在他那套催眠疗法上系统建立立了NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) 疗法。但是现在的心理学和精神病学里就不经常看见他被提到。
这本书不是 Milton Erickson 写的，而是他的徒弟 Jay Haley 写的，类似学生给老师传记，把老师的病例笔记拿出来整理剪辑一下发表。里面的 cases 写得很神奇，很悬乎。
可以看出为什么 Erickson 的治疗方法后来不仅没变成主流，而且在眼下的文献里很少提到。第一，他行医的时代 (1930年代到1970年代) 医学界和精神科行内的职业准则与现代差别很大，很多当时的合理行为放到现在就有违 ethics。例如他经常给病人下直接的命令，尤其是在催眠状态下发出明确的指令，改变病人的思想，行为，甚至记忆；他还经常瞒着病人安排一些场合与冲突，让病人在不知情的情况下改变对某件事的 obsession。过去医学界的态度比较 paternalistic，替病人作主，医生出于“为你好”的动机，决定基本上全掌握在他手上。后来 bioethics 的发展方向渐渐偏向提高病人的地位，医生需要尽量跟病人开诚布公，让病人掌握选择权（哪怕他们选择得“不好”）。
第二，他的治疗手段和方法非常独特而随意，甚至充满幽默感，我觉得别人根本没法学，也无法系统化之后加以推广。当然，心理治疗实际上都是因人而异的，但是一些根本的技巧还是有规律可循，可以系统地教授、练习、掌握，但是 Erickson 的那一套，似乎很大一部分是建立在他自己的直觉和经验之上，看样子不是随便谁都能掌握的。
Call me a cynic. 我在惊叹的同时又产生一些 skeptical 的念头。写书阐述病例是弗洛伊德开创的精神分析学的传统，很多精神病学家，尤其是流派创始人，写很多本书，记录病例和治疗成果，给自己的理论奠定基础，这些书一般比较通俗，吸引了专业之外的读者。别的医学专科没那么多通俗作品，也没这个传统。这本书里，Haley 直接引用了许多 Erickson 自己记录总结的病案，每一例都是神奇而成功，有一些案例（不是全部）给读者留下“一点即通”的印象，仿佛 Erickson 很轻松地通过一两次催眠就彻底治愈了顽固持久的焦虑或者纠结。我就想，就算是大师也不会百发百中吧？只写成功不写失败，很容易造成偏颇的印象。
同时又想到，心理/精神治疗的一个严格准则是保密性，其实不仅保护了病人的隐私，也可保护医生的名声。除非病人自己跳出来公开地说不仅没被治好还被治坏了，一般情况下弗洛伊德可以随便宣扬自己的方法多么有效，成功率多么高，多么手到病除，也没人能证实他的成功率是90%还是50%还是30%。一个比较有想象力的人甚至可以编造病例内容，天马行空，虚构病历 --- 追查此类书籍中的病人以及现实中的后续几乎是不可能的。
Milton Erickson 是不是象 Haley 描述得那样神奇，我当然不可能知道，不过这些案例读着很有娱乐性倒是真的。
Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
小说中的另一段情节也让我心有戚戚。女主角 Rachel Walling 被联邦调查局开除，因为她不识时务，得罪了局里的势力，以“跟被调查对象发生不正当关系”为借口而陷害 (这个“被调查对象”是 Jack McEvoy)。离职之后，跟 Jack 上床，Jack 说现在你可以想跟谁搞就跟谁搞，不必担心丢工作了。我听到这里忍不住吃吃地笑出来。
顺手狗了一下这本书的前传，是1996年出版的 The Poet。然后，看见他的小说系列又受刺激了：这个人经常一年出两本侦探小说！GRRM 你不羞惭吗？！
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Many years ago I showed a first-person-perspective short story of mine to a male classmate. He said, "The hero is a woman, because no man thinks or behaves like this." Ever since then I have not written anything from the male POV. Now I know the young man who was my classmate and the young woman who was I had no idea how diverse and unpredictable the male and female minds are. Nevertheless, I've always been a little embarrassed and insecure about my understanding of the male perspective or the lack of.
So imagine my shock and delight at hearing author Kate Atkinson confess, "Jackson Brodie is basically a woman --- he is me." on an interview about the TV series adapted from her novels featuring the affable private detective. And the producer of the series happily copped to the fact that the character is a "female fantasy." I had thought the same thing when I had watched the episode last Sunday, but in not so enthusiastic a mindset. Yet, now that I hear the two women admit to it cheerfully, why not? Why the hell not indeed!
Sigh. Bordie is such a Teddy bear. This is not Michael Connelly or George Pelecanos. This is the female fantasy, baby!
I loved the first episode, primarily thanks to the scenery in and around Edinburgh (aaaahhhhh...), and the variety of Scottish accent, which tickles me to no end.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
So, I was flipping through the issue and saw an interview with a 22-year-old secretary in San Diego who claimed to have had a one-night stand with Ashton Kutcher, who is a comedy actor of minor fame for a few badly reviewed movies and a celebrity of major fame for having married Demi Moore. Anyway, the spunky blonde told the magazine reporter that she was invited by some friend's friend to a party held in a hotel suite that was occupied by the said actor, who subsequently invited to get into the hot tub with another girl after everybody supposedly got drunk. Kutcher then invited them to have sex with him. The offer was declined by the other girl but this girl was game. It was almost daybreak, apparently, when they went to bed.
Anyway, all this was mildly amusing. The reporter wisely printed a few of the girl's "like" in the piece to go along with the photographs. She is indeed cute and fresh faced. I was very intrigued by the interviewer's methodical approach to questioning her (a "civilian" rather than a professional celebrity). The person (I neglected to check the reporter's name) interrogated the girl like a seasoned detective, gentle but systematic, probing for all the detailed, such as whether the actor wore condoms during their acts (he did not) and whether he was tender afterward (the girl was ambiguous).
The girl said they started small talking after they both dozed off for an hour or so. The actor said that since he had to act 90% of the time, he enjoyed not acting in moments like this. He then asked a bit about the girl's background. She said she was a Lutheran from Texas. He exclaimed, "OMG, are you a Republican?" And he proceeded to ask her whether she knew anything about politics. The girl grumbled a bit and admitted that she'd heard of Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas. The actor asked her whether she'd vote for Perry next year, and she said she did not know.
This political detail is so out of place in this story that I just burst out laughing in the bookstore. Perhaps it had something to do with my having watched the political movie "The Ides of March" not an hour before. Perhaps it reminded me of my years of living in Los Angeles and knowing how indifferent the West Coast masses feel toward politics. I don't know why but the scene in my head --- a professional celebrity and his one-night-stand in bed talking about politics in a San Diego hotel --- was immensely hilarious.
No wonder the show had lukewarm reception in the US, but was a huge hit in Canada. The humor, sentiment, and characterization are entirely Canadian.
Underneath the absurdity and jokes is a light melancholy, which most likely has something to do with broken families and lost love. Just a touch. I am completely powerless to resist it.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
在 PBS 的数码副台上看见一个挪威做饭节目，说实话饭看上去也就那么回事儿，但是主持人 Andreas Viestad 特别逗。他总是在室外做饭，很多时候是阳光明媚（但是看上去不暖和）的夏天，但也有一集是飘着小雪的冬天，他穿着大衣在户外示范 cheesecake 的做法。今晚看见的节目里，Viestad 在湖边树林里搭了两块平石头，下面烧树枝，在石板上烤面包和牛排，然后面包夹牛排，涂上芥末权当蔬菜，我看得笑死了。还自己跑到湖里去捉小龙虾 (crawfish)，手指被夹得痛，把小龙虾煮了之后得意地说： Revenge is a dish best served hot. 笑死我了。很北欧的幽默。
In general I'm drawn first and foremost to piano, sometimes to bass, and am very rarely affected deeply by any of the brass.
Yet, listen to this Davis' rendition of "Round About Midnight" (Thelonious Monk's standard). It is soooooo intimate, so raw but tender. I'm so taken by his trumpet portion that I have tears in my eyes. It is not to say John Coltrane's tenor sax in the second half is any less, but it is just not as personal and vulnerable as the first half and the ending.
Now I want to get Davis' recordings.
Here is a piano version by Monk himself. Also beautiful.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Take, for example, the topic of too many kinds of toilet papers or pasta sauces on the supermarket shelves. Lehrer thoroughly investigated the neuropsychological mechanisms of choosing in his book "How We Decide" and continues to write about it (see his recent blog entry here). He complained about feeling paralyzed standing in front of the countless brands and types of toothpastes.
Tonight I stumbled on a video of Gladwell's talk about the marketing evolution of spaghetti sauce (BTW, I think he is wrong about the "authentic" Italian sauce) he gave in 2007. It is as if he was giving a direct answer to Lehrer: Look, I'm giving you a history lesson to explain why there are so many choices for every product in the supermarket and why it's not a bad thing! (On this issue I actually side with Lehrer, as I too am sick of being overwhelmed by too many choices with hardly any substantive difference. But Gladwell is also not wrong about most people feeling happier when they imagine that there is a product "just for them.")
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Jenny White's novels, especially this one, remind me of GRRM to an extent. Both seem to have a coolly detached and fatalistic view of the powerlessness of individuals (including kings and pashas) swept by the currents of history. Fatalistic, but not cynical, an attitude derived from their uncommonly vast knowledge of and clearheaded understanding of the real histories of nations and politics.
Her delineation of all the forces at play in and around the Ottoman Empire at that particular moment --- January 1888 --- is almost as impossibly complicated and unbearably tense as the moment before King Joffrey ordered the beheading of Ned Stark. International socialists, Armenian nationalists, Ottoman bureaucrats and secret police, Kurdish troops, everyone has his or her own agenda. Everyone is at odds with each other and, as we already know, bureaucrats who are supposed to be on the same side are more dangerous than your enemies, and the knife is more likely to be plunged into your back than your front.
The macrohistorical elements are beautifully and credibly weaved together. The political landscape is accurately drawn. The ultimate effect is a sense of inevitability and pessimism, especially if you know that the storm brewing and temporarily averted in this book did arrive a couple of decades later, in real life, with its full force of mayhem.
Yet while reading it I was frequently bothered by small flaws that buzz around like gnats around the light on a summer night. Not bad enough to erase the accomplishment in other aspects, but annoying enough to damage my enjoyment. Most of characters are distinct enough thanks to colorful ethnic details, but their motivation from one scene to another or in certain moments are crude and unbelievable. Transitions from scene to scene are sometimes sloppy and illogical. Dialogs and relationships are occasionally unrealistic. The author lets slip her weakness in plotting with some awkward narrative choices and overlapping exposition.
These flaws are not enough to make me throw the book down. In fact, her pacing is excellent. I didn't zip through it in one day like I did with "The Abyssinian Proof," but did stay up till 2 am to finish the last stretch.
White is simultaneously sharp and sloppy. Most important , besides the plotting problem, I can't help but feel deeply unsatisfied with the uneven characterization. Something, a crucial ingredient for a great storyteller, is missing. I can't quite name it, but this ingredient has to do with a deep and organic insight, an unconscious and instinctive understanding of the heart. White seems to lack this instinct and fake it with overly intellectual analysis and argument.
GRRM, on the other hand, has this instinct in astonishing abundance.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Hugh Laurie 唱得，嘿嘿，真的不咋地，至少我这么觉得。（Tom Jones 被采访的时候哼哼唧唧地说 Laurie 唱歌很，那个啥，有点象那个谁谁，而我，咳咳，那个啥啥，挺喜欢那个谁谁的。听得我乐坏了。）但我觉得他的钢琴还不错。更重要的是，我跟他的口味十分近似！他最迷 Blues ，选的歌都很好听，让我多次胳膊上刷刷地起鸡皮疙瘩。这是真爱啊 --- 可以从他痴迷的眼光里看得出，我对此非常理解和认同。
小说写得好像哲学教科书，基本上没什么情节，仅有的少量情节也都是滥俗的童话套路，可有可无。我听着听着，每句话里都少不了前缀后缀的复合词，忽然就想起 William Zinsser 写过的拉丁语系和英语的差别。拉丁语系的语言风格就是层层叠叠，绕来绕去，充满 flourish。古英语传下来的词儿和风格则质朴直接，简洁有力。不过现代英语亦吸收大量拉丁语词汇，令律师们疯狂滥用得不像样儿。
Hedgehog 中唠叨的学术气，不知是作者自身职业的浸淫还是拉丁语的天然文化遗产，我偏向于后者。但是同时，不知怎么作者让干燥无水分的人生思辨和哲学感慨听上去有种游戏的轻松感，我疑神疑鬼地觉得她对一老一少两个主角的 “深刻思考” (Profound Thought #4) 和高雅情趣其实带有点不太辛辣的调笑意味。对哲学系学生和教育系统大发牢骚尤其真实加逗人。
提到 Renee 喜欢的侦探小说时冒出 Michael Connelly 和 Henning Mankell 的名字来，不禁让我微笑。可惜我不看战争与和平，不知道能不能算得上品味有文化。
小说结尾让我联想起 "One Day"，一般的 contrived，但是在这里倒也不让我多么反感。第一，我私心猜想，作者这么写，会不会是因为下不了手制造一个彻底的灰姑娘与王子从此幸福 ... 的结尾 --- 尤其是让读者脑补一对老头老太彼此上下其手乃至宽衣解带的情景！第二，结尾时 Paloma 的口气真是太日本小说了！想必是有意模仿日本小说中经常干掉主角，然后剩下的主角挥着小拳头发誓要“勇敢地活下去”这种桥段。
The novel struck me as setting a perfect tone of lightheartedness. Indeed a lighthearted tone is perfect for a philosophy professor's novel. Best leave the heavy and complex and "heart of darkness" stuff to real novelists.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Due South, of course.
今天在油管上找 Da Vinci's Inquests 的片尾曲 (which is awesome, btw)，看见有人提起 Due South。搅得我又回忆起多年前迷恋这套寿命甚短的电视剧了。
找到一些视频片段，里面 Fraser 的口音又逗又可爱，一般地方跟美国口音差不多，但是遇到 schedule 和 lieutenant 就是英式的讲法。
This week, unfortunately, I've had two such irritations. The first was a job ad posted yesterday on LinkedIn for a medical writer. The recruiter wrote that this writer would be "create guidance's for the department." ARGH! It's "guidance" or really style guide. People who cannot distinguish plurals from possessives, ie, those who write "it's" when they mean "its," really piss me off.
I'm not a grammar Nazi, you know. I don't begrudge people for misspelling words or missing an article or a preposition, nor am I particularly bothered by double negatives (as long as they are in quotes). But (see, I can even start a sentence with "but") I just hate mixing up possessives!
The second irritation came from figure skating, specifically, Han Yan's short program at this week's junior Grand Prix competition in Innsbrook, Austria. Chinese coaches who cut music for their own students are often woefully unqualified to do a barely decent job. I hate programs that totally butcher the original music! Ugh, butchered music really grates on my nerves like a dull knife cutting my toe off. These coaches should be absolutely forbidden to touch any music-editing software.
Oddly enough, I do not remember being irritated by grammatical errors in Chinese. Well, I don't remember seeing grammatical errors in Chinese, in fact. Maybe it is because I've almost never been around people for whom Chinese is a second language.
Wait, no, that is not the heart of the matter. A lot of errors in English are made by English-speaking natives, yet I've never seen or heard Chinese-speaking natives making grammatical errors in Chinese. A lot of mistakes (by native speakers) in choosing the right character/pictogram, yes, but grammar is never a problem.
Conclusion: Chinese grammar is VASTLY simpler and more intuitive than English grammar. So simple that no one can mess it up even if they try.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
War of the Ghosts
One night two young men from Egulac went down to the river to hunt seals and while they were there it became foggy and calm. Then they heard war-cries, and they thought: "Maybe this is a war-party". They escaped to the shore, and hid behind a log. Now canoes came up, and they heard the noise of paddles, and saw one canoe coming up to them. There were five men in the canoe, and they said:
"What do you think? We wish to take you along. We are going up the river to make war on the people."
One of the young men said,"I have no arrows."
"Arrows are in the canoe," they said.
"I will not go along. I might be killed. My relatives do not know where I have gone. But you," he said, turning to the other, "may go with them."
So one of the young men went, but the other returned home.
And the warriors went on up the river to a town on the other side of Kalama. The people came down to the water and they began to fight, and many were killed. But presently the young man heard one of the warriors say, "Quick, let us go home: that Indian has been hit." Now he thought: "Oh, they are ghosts." He did not feel sick, but they said he had been shot.
So the canoes went back to Egulac and the young man went ashore to his house and made a fire. And he told everybody and said: "Behold I accompanied the ghosts, and we went to fight. Many of our fellows were killed, and many of those who attacked us were killed. They said I was hit, and I did not feel sick."
He told it all, and then he became quiet. When the sun rose he fell down. Something black came out of his mouth. His face became contorted. The people jumped up and cried.
He was dead.
Monday, September 26, 2011
看样子 Sondheim 虽然是天才，但脾气非常好，居然没跟 Burton 翻脸，还在 DVD 上出现，说点好话，表示一下支持改编。
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Last week, Fish Tank reminded me of a thought that once bothered me --- As stories accumulate over human history, will we one day run out of stories to tell? Have we already? Is there truly nothing new under the sun?
I'm sure other deep thinkers have long contemplated such literary apocalypse before, although at least I can claim that I came up with it independently. It seems inevitable (to me) that there are only a finite number of stories, or original thoughts, available to the universe of the human mind and experience. Homer and other classical authors had it easier than modern storytellers, one could argue.
Fish Tank was excellent, yet my brain could not help but drudge up all the similar movies I had seen before. Same with Drive. It is impeccably crafted with a strong point of view, yet I cannot bring myself to use the word "unique."
From the start, Drive immediately recalls the archetypal western: A lone gunslinger with no past or allegiance comes to town. He befriends a good woman and her family. He toys with the fantasy of settling down with such a woman and having a normal life. He feels protective toward them. He is subsequently drawn into violent showdowns to save the peaceful normal people. In the end he rides into the sunset, alone, because that is his destiny, because the lone gunman can never integrate into society. In Drive, the entire setup, down to the ending, pays full homage to Shane (don't they all?).
The interlude involving the voluptuous Christina Hendricks (poor woman), on the other hand, was a halfhearted reference to film noir. Albert Brooks is a somewhat fresh touch in the genre though (I'd hesitate to call him "delightful"). The storyline of crime boss setting up their minor underlings, meanwhile, reminds me of John Woo's The Killer and its predecessor Le Samurai (Melville). Yeah, in this kind of stories, the boss always sells out their employees/contractors, just like bureaucrats. There may be a semi-decent middle manager (Bryan Cranston here, Chu Kong in The Killer), but the big boss is always evil. Did the French audience recognize Alain Delon's le Samurai in the boyish Ryan Gosling?
It's so meta! Nicolas Winding Refn's graphic violence and the strong retro style must have Quentin Tarantino, the king of remixing the old, biting his lips furiously. I suspect a nod to the Japanese swordsmen/Yakuza genre in all the blood squirts that both Tarantino and Refn seem to love. The techno soundtrack, on the other hand, is very European.
A bit of homage here, a tip of hat there. Meta on top of meta, references to references. It's all because we are born too late.
There's nothing wrong with Drive, which is made with a precise eye and a ruthless pair of scissors. (Editing is king, I often think.) I only shudder at the end of original stories as we know it. Or, perhaps, it is merely a hazard of being old and jaded like me.
Within a maze of houses, a door opened and ushered me into a small, bare room. Light seeped in from the only window, high up in one of the walls. The air was musty and wet. It was a cellar, I deduced. The room was entirely empty save for a bench set along the wall.
Dr. Watson sat at one end of the bench. Has a murder or some other crime taken place in the cellar? I wondered. Yet there was no body on the stone floor.
"Holmes is coming," he said, without moving.
"OK," I nodded, and left.
I was again walking the narrow alleys and streets. The air smelled of rain, yet none had fallen. It was just as well, for I was holding a book in my right arm. The book was paperback but with the dimensions of a normal hardback, and heavy. On the cover, medieval knights on horseback were slashing at each other.
A crack tore through the book's spine at about a quarter from the top. I held it delicately as if I was holding a baby, but it was no use: The crack expanded before my eyes, and the book snapped in two in my hands.
I stood there confounded. It was then that I realized the book was GRRM's next entry in the Ice and Fire series. And it was a pre-publication copy that Amazon had shipped to me by mistake. Should I send it back for a replacement? But then I would not be able to read it ahead of everyone else. Perhaps, I thought, I could read the whole book in their current state, and then return it to get a new copy. Then a thought entered my head: Why didn't I get a Kindle version? But a Kindle version would not have been mistakenly delivered ahead of publication ...
Thursday, September 22, 2011
蓝领阶级，Housing Project (在英国叫 Council Estate)，单亲家庭，年轻而倔强的穷女孩子被年纪大得多的男人引诱 ... 这个永恒的故事结构，从 Tess of the d'Urbervilles 至今被反复采用。Fish Tank 也不例外。另有之前看的瑞典电影 Pure。
Fish Tank 还让我联想起其他电影，包括 Dardenne 兄弟拍的劳动阶级题材影片，还有陈果的《香港制造》，因为香港制造也是描述困在官方贫民窟，即 Housing Project 里的年轻人的故事。
这片里的女主角固然演得好，不过此类女主总是很相似，倔强而美丽的一朵野花。而 Michael Fassbender 的男主角非常性感但又保持微妙的自然主义，两人的对手戏充满了张力，倒是不太常见的特点。
She came to sit outside my office a year ago. She is extremely quiet, even when she is talking on the phone or cutting open boxes of office supplies. Her moves are elegant and precise and absolutely noiseless. She is unflappable.
She looks somewhere between 30 and 35, perpetually neat and orderly. She usually has her long brown hair tied up in a bun, but on Fridays when few people are in the office ("working at home," supposedly) she would let it cascade down in a puff of soft, wavy cloud.
I initiated small talks a few times with her as I dropped off forms and picked up pens and mouse and books. I learned very little, including that she recently moved and has two children. There has never been any mention of a husband, but hints suggest that he is around. They can't afford to buy a house, so they rent a condo. (Me, too!) She said she was born in Texas and lived in New Mexico, but there was not a trace of Texan accent.
So, on Monday, when I passed by her desk, I stopped and whispered, "I'm leaving."
She looked up with not a hint of surprise on her oval face. "Another department or altogether?"
"Altogether." I replied.
Her lips curled up slightly. "I don't like it here either," she rolled her light brown eyes. "They're so disorganized."
"Tell me about it," I chuckled. One of the few sane people around, she is.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
... Astrid Lindgren.
心血来潮在本地图书馆网站上找 Lindgren 的书（英文版），然后顺手 wiki 一下 Lindgren biography。
生于 1907 年，中学毕业后，在家附近的城里当秘书。19 岁时怀上了老板的孩子，老板向她求婚，她拒绝了！
这是 1926 年哦同学！不是 1996 年哦！
然后，这个未婚先孕的女秘书，一个人从乡下跑到 Stockholm 去谋生，当秘书、打字员，把孩子生下来，自己没钱没法养，就寄养在别人家里，打工攒了钱经常去探望儿子，直到攒够了钱把孩子送到娘家养。几年之后，嫁给当时的老板，但继续给杂志写新闻和文章。然后，儿童小说手稿得奖一鸣惊人...
Saturday, September 17, 2011
I guess it's Gaelic, for "The Guard" really means "the policeman." The police uniforms and cars had "Garda" on them.
The movie was hilarious, but I must have missed somewhere between 10% to 20% of the jokes, lost in the fog of Irish accent and dialect. Worse, I suspect that all the absurdities marked an Irish sense of humor --- black with a bite --- which went a little over my head. Indeed, during the movie I laughed frequently but a little uneasily, not unlike Don Cheadle's American cop who stared at Brendan Gleeson with equal parts of amusement and disbelief ("Is he truly dumb or just playing so?").
Meanwhile, the writer/director John Michael McDonagh continually referenced Hollywood action movie cliches. The climax especially recalled American westerns. It was very ... self-consciously meta, as suggested by Gleeson's knowing wink. Is that also an Irish thing?
Both Gleeson and Cheadle were impeccable, but who would have expected less from these two? However, it was the freckled boy on a bike with a dog that stole every scene he was in.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Yesterday I scoured the frig and dug out the last bits of groceries since the shopping trip 2 weeks ago.
I chopped up the green beans and shiitake mushroom into short strips, saute with garlic, added water and covered to steam a while, and then threw in chopped pieces of a wrinkly tofu product known as "vegetarian chicken".
Salt, pepper, a bit of soy sauce, a couple of tablespoons of sugar should do. I dropped a scoop of "lemongrass sauce" from a jar for improvisational fun.
It probably needed five more minutes to soften a bit more, but I lost patience and turned the gas off. Served on white rice.
Store-bought fake chicken (not my photo).
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Hunger Games 电影正在拍摄中，发行的时候多半会去看看，作为动作片，情节设计颇为惊觫，高潮 和 twists 节奏安排得相当抓人。
Saturday, September 10, 2011
五月底的时候跟某同学去巴尔的摩的科幻会，有好几个有名的作者到会讲座，包括帕欧罗八奇嘠路皮先生 (Paolo Bacigalupi)。某同学说他现在很红，拼命得奖，没想到看上去这么年轻，还挺帅的。我说，他戴了耳环，穿着又悠闲有款，多半是弯的，而且看上去人很和气亲切的，你上去勾引他一下嘛。某同学扭捏不肯，不过，趁我睡觉的时候，他跑去买了本儿他的 Windup Girl 小说请他签名。（某同学以为他叫八西嘠路皮，我说是八奇，这是意大利语，信我的没错儿，你别跟人家说话把人家的名字都叫错了。）
这两天在读 Hunger Games，不太喜欢，想起来问某同学要来 Windup Girl 看。某同学反复警告我要细心对待，不要折书页，不要弄脏了，不要 ... 因为“是签过名的！” 我翻开首页一看，哇，还有留言呢，“给某同学，希望未来的世界比现在的世界更美好，八”。搞得我都不好意思拿着读了，象我这么不爱惜书的人（经常书敞开着面朝下放着），不如到图书馆里借本旧的乱翻算了。
Friday, September 9, 2011
前几天开车时迷路了，偶然看见路边一家饭馆的中文招牌 “麻辣烫”，而且英文招牌还是拼音 Mala Tang --- 为什么麻辣要当成一个词而在一起呢？麻辣烫三个字应该是平行的嘛。上网调查一下，发现原来是一家成都火锅店。可是，麻辣烫的原意好像不是火锅 ... 吧？
不锈钢做的小火锅下面是个酒精炉。该涮的食物都涮了之后，我招手请服务男生过来帮我把火给灭了。他拿起一个很小的盖子，在蓝火苗上一盖就灭了。过了一会儿，某同学也要灭火，很 macho 地不叫服务生，自己用夹生肉的小夹子去夹小盖子灭火，笨手笨脚地折腾了半天，终于给它盖上了。不知为什么我觉得好笑得要命。
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
我对乡下一直有点偏见，自认城市老鼠，一定不会喜欢，一定会闷出油来。结果并不。事先没有任何计划，每日上午坐在 sunroom 里望望海湾，翻翻 Kindle ，在附近走一走，跟店主 Bob & Tracy、厨子 Peggy、其他住客聊聊天。下午跟某同学开车出去找个饭馆儿吃本地海鲜，下午在小城里逛逛，在港边看看船，天黑前回到小岛尖端看日落。晚上坐在楼下客厅的沙发，或者阁楼角落里的沙发床，上上网，读读 Kindle。九点多天黑透了，去外面看看星星。
除了 Kindle 和 laptop 之外，还带了一本 sketch notebook，但是忘记带铅笔，只有一只黑钢笔。白天坐在树下的躺椅上，水边的饭馆儿里，街边的长凳上，画画树，画画船，画画房子，画桌上一杯冰淇淋。已经很多很多年没有动笔了，十几年前自己玩过水彩画，还想去上课，但后来都搁下了。在乡下觉得处处有可以 sketch 的景致和镜头。我并不擅长画画，视觉记忆不佳，且缺乏练习，但是画画让人心情愉快，脑筋清醒。
住宿的旅店周围是个鸟类保护区，看见不少不认识的鸟，认识的鸟类有在海里捉鱼的 blue herron，海鸟，以及白头雕 bald eagle。旅店门前的大树上有家白头雕做巢安家，家里的小娃子一早必站在岛末端的十字架上得意洋洋地东张西望，让我们这些游客远远地留影。还有黑压压的蜻蜓群和几只蝴蝶，包括一只黄色的 Monarch。
在乡下呆了三天后回家，发现带回好多礼物 --- 浑身被蚊子咬了很多包，涂了三天的可的松药膏才消下去。
Thursday, September 1, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, in a fit of frustration, I got up in the middle of the night and searched for a place for a short getaway. My preference would be a cottage on a cliff in Scotland, but I had no more than a couple of days available. After clicking around a bit, I found the Web site to a Bed & Breakfast called Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island. The photos on the Web site were impressive, and the inn's location on Google Map was intriguing --- It is sitting at the tip of the island, where it juts into the Chesapeake Bay. So I booked a room for 3 days this week and went.
The gravel road leading to the inn confirmed the map's indication that this is a secluded spot. In the office, one of the two inn keepers, Bob, handed me the key to the room. He was a 40-ish chubby white guy with a ruddy face and a carefully trimmed beard around his mouth. His yellow T-shirt, smudged with dirt, was stretched tight by the beer belly, which enhanced the jolly impression he gave.
I made a mention about being a city person and not used to the country. He chuckled and said, "We were city people, too. Tracy and I lived in DC for 20 years."
"You got this place not long ago, no?" I remembered something from the TripAdvisor reviews about the B&B.
"A year ago," he nodded. "I taught music at American U and other places." He also told me that he grew up in Vermont, while Tracy was originally from West Virginia. Bob had taught music at various schools in the DC area and performed on stage in choirs and musical productions. Tracy had been a software contractor for Oracle.
"How did you find this place then?"
Bob's eyes twinkled. "Four years ago, we found the Point on a bike ride. God told Tracy to settle here and take over the inn."
"What do you mean by ...?" I thought he was speaking metaphorically.
"Tracy saw a vision of this place when he was 3 years old," he nodded. "He had been looking for the vision all his life. When we got here, God told him this is it."
"What do you mean by 'vision'?" I stared at him.
"Tracy hears God's voice all the time," Bob nodded and gave a slight chuckle. "He is a preacher's son and talks to God all his life."
My brain immediately cued the song "The Son of a Preacher Man." Thanks a lot, Quentin Tarantino!
"You should get Tracy to tell you the story some time," Bob winked. I studied his face. He seemed to be the type to clown around, and he was smiling at the moment. For a moment I wondered whether I was being punked.
"We had no money and no idea how to do it," Bob said. "But God is good. He led us here. And a year ago we finally took over the lease of the Bed and Breakfast. We've had storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, but He's taken care of us. And here we are."
"It must be nice to know for sure that this is your destiny," I tried not to sound like a damned skeptic.
"We don't know anything," said Bob. "We just do what God tells us. God is good."
I met Tracy by the swimming pool when Bob took me around the property. He was cleaning the pool of the mud and dirt and debris brought by the hurricane. Tracy looked about the same age as Bob, but thinner, a bit less jolly (must be the lack of a beer belly), a little more reserved, and black.
"Bob said you saw a vision of this place when you were ... uh ... a kid," I brought it up when I ran into him in the living room that evening. The curiosity had been eating at me inside.
"Yeah, it is true," he said, "I saw this place in a vision when I was 3, and then I found it at the age of 41." He glanced at the window. "Bob's waiting in the car. We're going for pizza at this place in St. Michael's. Ask me later, or tomorrow, and I'll tell you the whole story."
On the third day morning, I finally caught up with Tracy outside the tool shed. The sun was already high. He took off his baseball cap and sprayed the strongest bug repellent on his shaved head, and then vigorously sprayed his arms and T-shirt. The black flies were still humming around. I had already been attacked by these flies despite repeated spraying --- They bite, and it hurts like hell.
We talked a little. I asked about the history of the inn. His account was clear and well organized, a lot more coherent than Bob's scattered chatter. The place is ripe with religious connections, he told me with a disarming smile and a casual shrug, as if he was talking about turnips.
The area had been privately owned since the inn was built in 1845. In 1978, when the Charismatic Movement in the Catholic church was sweeping the Baltimore area, a devout person happened to visit Tilghman Island and heard about a wooden cross having been washed ashore here. He considered it a miracle. He convinced his church to purchase the land and the inn, and they began having revival meetings here. They planted this cross at the tip of the island, facing the Chesapeake Bay. The group owned the inn for 4 years, until it could not afford to keep it up and subsequently sold the land to the state.
(It seems God did not want them to stay here for too long, I thought. Of course, I held my tongue.)
The state designated the bushy area behind the inn as a bird sanctuary. In 1989, a local couple named Tom and Brenda leased the inn from the state and opened it as a Bed and Breakfast. They ran the place for 20 years. Until Bob and Tracy came along.
"Four years ago, my contract at Oracle ended earlier than expected" Tracy said. "The next morning I lay in bed and asked God, So? What now? What do you want me to do with my life next? I heard God say, 'Take Bob for a bike ride.'
"I laughed and asked Him, 'Are you sure? I don't have a job now, you know. Just want to remind ya, I've got bills due at the end of the month.' He said, go. So Bob and I put our bikes in the car, drove to St. Michael's, and biked all the way down here."
I remembered the bike lanes on both sides of Route 33, the only highway that cuts through St. Michaels and runs to the end of Tilghman Island.
"We got to the Black Walnut Point, met Tom and Brenda, the innkeppers at the time. We had known nothing about this place before and decided to stay at the inn for the weekend. Then we walked down the gravel path to the pier over there ..." He pointed at the wooden pier on the water. "At that moment, I heard God speaking to me in my head, 'This is the place you've been looking for. Stay.' "
He grinned, showing his white, straight teeth. It was a charming, boyish grin that made it all sound as real and natural as breakfast cereal and cold milk.
He walked back into the office and came out with a color photograph in hand. It had a orange hue, probably due to light exposure over time. In it, a smiling boy held a piece of paper with crayon drawings. "It was me at 6 years old. I drew a picture at school, it was the vision I saw at 3. My mother took this photo."
He then proceeded to explain how the drawing corresponded to the view of the Point from the pier --- the sun, a tree growing into the water, a house that looked just like the office, the brown grass growing nearby, and the cross. I shrugged inside. Well, it had all the common elements of children's drawings: The sun, a house, a tree, and a cross, which is not unexpected for a preacher's child. I would not be surprised that there are hundreds or thousands of places on earth that fit the drawing. But I did not want to interrupt his story. I nodded and made some inaudible noise to suggest an appreciation for his miracle.
"I was not too sure about it. I said to God, Are you serious about this? You know we got no money, don't you? How are we going to buy this inn? Nah, you gotta give me a little more hint."
He was suddenly a jovial preacher with an irresistible gaze. I couldn't help but laughed.
"I was talking to God quietly, you know, in my head," he pointed at his forehead. "I was not saying anything out loud. Bob was walking ahead of me, shooting the camcorder at the water. He suddenly turned around and said, 'God just told me that we should live here.' "
We both laughed.
"I was trying to stay calm, and I was trying not to show anything, because I knew that I had told Bob about my vision before. I was still waiting for God to give me one more sign. So I said to Bob that, yeah, this would be a nice place to live, to retire to, for example. But he shook his head and said seriously, No, God spoke to me too just now. He said we should settle down here."
"So ... you did?" I asked.
"Well, it took us 3 years, but we worked on it, and we finally did it a year ago." He did not explain what happened in those 3 years, but I imagine it must have involved a lot of working, researching, saving, and perhaps some borrowing.
For a moment I remembered the American churches' position on homosexuality. I asked him whether he had a particular denomination he belonged to. He said none. The God he and Bob believed in was the God that is everyone's God. "He doesn't care," he pointed upward.
"God knows what is meant for you. Doesn't matter if you have no money or no idea. Have no worry. Have no fear. All you need to do is just ask him. He will take care of you. I talk to him everyday. He tells me everything." His eyes shone bright. I looked away.
"Like?" I asked.
"Everything. What to do. What will happen. What to look forward to. Things about each of our guests ..."
I did not have the courage to ask him what He told Tracy about me. Chicken! I'm still regretting it.
Perhaps it was his charisma. Perhaps it was the sun beating down on my head. Perhaps it was the water, the island, and the birds around me, so removed from my familiar surroundings. On that day I thoroughly believed Tracy, including his daily bantering with his own personal God.
An internal dialog with self is hardly an abnormal phenomenon. Only, Freud called the voice "superego," while Faulkner called it "the problems of the heart in conflict with itself." Tracy's God is his superego, a gentle, supportive, and kind presence, akin to an optimistic and encouraging personal coach, egging on the mortal and weary ego to find meaning in life and walk every mile.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
在黑夜里听海水咕嘟咕嘟地轻轻拍着石岸，很宁静。因为地处大陆与半岛之间的内湾 Chesapeake Bay，几乎没有浪，水声是低低的，细密的，要仔细听才能听得见。
Monday, August 29, 2011
跑到马里兰 Eastern Shore 内岸的 Tilghman Island 躲两天。夏天就快结束，加上这两天的台风，这里挺安静的，除了来钓鱼的就是岛上住户。
吃完了已经七点半，开了车回旅馆 (B&B)，路上看见日落。红彤彤的太阳夹在水平线和云之间，马上就要掉下去。赶不上回到旅馆坐在 porch 上悠闲地看了，就在路边停了车站着看。好快呀，只三五分钟太阳就没影儿了。
Saturday, August 27, 2011
The first is my mother. On the occasions when I point out to her that I am well aware of her intention or motivation that she would rather conceal, she lets out a shrill sound that slits into the trailing dry chuckles. Her mouth opens bigger than it normally does for natural laughter, forming a twisted O of dismay.
The second is the boss lady. She has a special laughter in her bag of tricks that she reserves only for colleagues whose place is higher or on the same level as hers. It is a trilling, girlish, flirtatious laugh that she employs more often and more enthusiastically when there are male colleagues or superiors around or when someone is challenging her competency or veracity. I can smell the nervousness and insecurity intensify as her pitch gets higher and her demeanor becomes more girlish (she is 60). I wonder whether the tactic works.
The third is a colleague. Once a week or so she comes into my office or calls me to complain about being mistreated and abused by her superior. Sometimes, after a particularly frustrated rant, she finds something about her superior to ridicule, such as her hair, and laughs. When she laughs, her nose is scrunched and her mouth is forced wide, her teeth gleaming in the light. I wince.
前阵子看的 Another Earth 是独立电影圈里的宠儿，我觉得挺烂的，前年的 Cold Weather 也是小成本独立电影，就让我特别喜欢！可见对作品之好恶没法靠类型预测。
Aaron Katz 编导兼制作的 Cold Weather 光凭了一条优势就赢得我的好感：这是一个福尔摩斯小说迷的电影！不仅屡次提起引用福尔摩斯（剧中一个人物表示斑点带子最好看了），不仅小小地开个内部玩笑（男主角特意去买了个烟斗，"helps me think." 逗死了），而且剧本的结构和风格深得福尔摩斯短篇小说的精髓。基本上没有直接的暴力或打斗场面，案情也不是特别复杂，虽然设定是现在，但很有点老派的感觉，时不时还来点儿幽默。（感叹一下：福尔摩斯真是属于全世界的，不受时代、文化、地域的局限，货真价实的风靡全球。）
男主角 Cris Lankenau 毫无福尔摩斯的个人魅力，是个三十左右，有点肉头肉脑的普通青年。全片就是他和妹妹、同事/朋友、前女友四个人的戏，他们之间的对话和交流场景非常低调，真实感忒强，但并不是独立电影里常见的那种漫无目的加 self-conscious 的自然主义，而是饶有兴味又亲切有趣的人际关系。Katz 是所谓 mumblecore 电影流派的代表人士，此类电影以自然主义的人物尤其是对话著名，也就是说，电影里的人说话象现实里那样哼哼叽叽，漫无目的，有时前言不搭后语，不一定每句话都支持主题或者推进情节。我曾经看过并且颇喜欢的 Medicine for Melancholy 原来也是 mumblecore 作品之一。
Cold Weather 另一个深得我心之处是环境景色。Katz 和摄影师 Andrew Reed 深情地凝视 Portland, Oregon 秋天的天空与街景，大部分时候不是下雨就是阴天，人人穿着雨衣胶鞋晃来晃去，好有情调，好有决不粉饰决无矫情的天然情调，逗得我都恨不得跑去溜达溜达。
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Went to Hirshhorn Modern Art Museum last weekend and was pleasantly surprised by a few Edward Hopper paintings, including the above "Hotel by a Railroad."
It again struck me with the restrained drama and implied emotional conflicts that always haunt Hopper's urban images. How does he convey, simultaneously, the characters' own isolation and their ambiguous relationship?
The woman's grey hair is a surprising touch that reminds me of Maugham --- She is not a youthful blond having a fling with a balding businessman in a hotel by a railroad. Hopper lifts a corner of the curtain over the mystery of the heart, but his spotlight on the characters (coming from right through the window) conceals as much as it reveals.
A viable exercise, I realized at the moment, would be to write at least one story or sketch on each of Hopper's "urban scenery" painting.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
He had changed little since I had last seen him over a decade ago: middle-aged, thick glasses with black rims, slightly bulging eyes, short black hair. He was wearing the same white pharmacist jacket as he always did, with the tie knot showing at the neck. I had never seen him in anything else.
"Do you want to come work for me?" he asked. "I still need a couple of people."
"Where?" I asked in a daze. "Where is this place?"
"It's in Venice," he replied. "Pretty quiet. Not like West LA."
"I ... " I should have said I had not practiced pharmacy in over 10 years and did not know half of the drugs' names they hand out nowadays, but what came out of my mouth was, "Sure. After I quit my job at the XXX, I'll come help out a couple of days a week."
He nodded stiffly without smiling. I did not remember ever seeing Jack smile. I had thought him mean and harsh when I first started at the pharmacy, but Ann, the other intern, told me he was in fact a big softy. And so he was.
A trickle of doubt crept into my mind. It seemed too real. The morning light shone in from the big apartment window behind me. The drowsiness that had plagued me earlier this morning was gone. Am I dreaming? I wondered. To test it out, I reached out a hand toward Jack, "Let's shake on it." He took my hand and shook it briefly. I could feel the warmth and the squeeze. So I was not dreaming? I was almost convinced now. Everything seemed so real. Yet, still, something was bugging me, "How did you get in?" I looked behind him toward the door. "I don't remember opening the door for you."
At that moment I woke up. The morning light flooded in my face from the window. I crawled out of the couch and, still oozy, went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Am I so desperate to get out of XXX, that I am willing to go back behind the counter? On the other hand, this job lets me work at home on Mondays, so that I can take a nap at ten in the morning.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
看到三个太阳的段落，想起有人想用三体解释A Song of Ice and Fire里面冬夏不规则的现象。即使是没看过三体小说的洋书迷也曾提出双恒星的假设，甚至还计算轨道什么的。后来拿去问GRRM，胖子扑哧一声笑出来，回答说不是的，这是fantasy不是sci fi，不是一条思路来的。据说胖子以后会解释Westeros冬夏之谜，但那将是神话而不是科幻的解释。
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
GRRM often says he takes history and "mix it up." Oh how he mixes!
There is something odd about the narrative structure. After three or four climaxes (more than enough for one novel!), he suddenly interrupted the plot for a lull of 13 years. Nine-tenth of the novel takes place in a few months in 1857, but the last few chapters within a few days in 1870. Why? No obvious reason, as the finale could easily be tacked on to 1857 without affecting the story one bit. I have my own speculation, about which I might ask him directly if I ever catch him at a con or a signing.
A couple of places in the book had the effect of punching me on the nose, leaving streaks of tear on my face. One of such passages is in the later chapter that spans those 13 years. It goes as such:
[Captain Marsh] never had visitors, never talked to anyone but his damned annoying housekeeper. She vexed him considerably, but Marsh didn't really mind; it was about all he had left to keep his blood hot. Sometimes he thought his life was over, and that made him so angry that he turned red. He still had so many goddamned things he"d never done, so much unfinished business ... but there was no denying that he was getting old. He used to carry that old hickory walking stick to gesture with, and be fashionable. Now he had an expensive gold-handled cane to help him walk better. And he had wrinkles around his eyes and even between his warts, and a funny kind of brown spot on the back of his left hand. He'd look at it sometimes and wonder how it had got there. He'd never noticed.
You know what the crazy thing is? He was no more than 33 when he wrote that. WTH GRRM? Did you always have an ancient vampire's soul living inside ya?
This is a story about, to a large extent, the complicated business of domination and submission --- Well, why mince words? It is about slavery, like nobody I've ever seen, especially in white American writers, in the tradition of Huckleberry Finn but goes farther. It goes beyond the American slavery, but it certainly does not shy away from that particular giant elephant in the room, casting a silent long shadow over a few hundred years on this place and its people.
His examination of the nature of slavery has resurfaced in the fourth and fifth books of A Song of Ice and Fire, with more depth, more angles, more complexity, and more unflinching interrogation.
GRRM's insight about organizational management is pretty astounding. I have never seen such realistic depiction of the tragedy of middle managers, except in David Simon's "The Wire" series. In Fevre Dream, he gave a grotesque and hilarious example: Every time the big boss has a problem, he calls his loyal dog (i.e., middle manager) Sour Billy Tipton over: "You fix it, Billy," he says. "Think of something." Billy acts with far more enthusiastic cruelty toward those beneath him than his boss, because like all middle managers he lives his entire life on the promise of getting a promotion. One more step and you'll be on top. Oh, so close yet so far ...
Sunday, August 14, 2011
直到白血病情节出现！我差点在博物馆的放映厅里仰天长呼：真的吗？要不要又来这一套啊？！一天前我刚刚又被教育了一遍 Erich Segal 的《爱情故事》如此遭人嫌恶啊！当然，爱情故事也有百万忠实支持者，有时候我疑心世界上人类在生理上原本就分两类，一类吃这一套，一类不吃这一套，很不幸我属于后者。张罗两人到底是本来就属于真诚的前者呢？还是出于一种诡异的信念：怀旧不仅要重现旧日的真实建筑，还要重现当时的流行文艺的大俗套？
之后影片就迅速地 deteriorate ，出现一系列匪夷所思的场景。好好的不在香港治癌症，要跑去文革中的北京的医院，开什么玩笑。李廷治跟山口百惠以及他们的老祖宗 Ali McGraw 症状完全一样，毫无病态，容光焕发，美貌只增不减，还吐血！MD 我看得都要吐血了！
这算是粤语残片的余毒么？Where is 叶锦鸿 when you need hm?!!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I read Love Story one morning in about fourteen minutes flat, out of simple curiosity. I wanted to discover why five and a half million people had actually bought it. I wasn't successful. I was so put off by Erich Segal's writing style, in fact, that I hardly wanted to see the movie at all. Segal's prose style is so revoltingly coy -- sort of a cross between a parody of Hemingway and the instructions on a soup can -- that his story is fatally infected.
Mean, Roger, you are evil and oh so cool. :D
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