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Saturday, January 22, 2011

乱梦

最近两天不梦到全美赛了,而是焦虑主题的,大概是担心开车来回的安全问题。五个钟头啊!从来没开过这么远的路(不过四个钟头倒也开过)。阿弥陀佛,敲敲木头。

心情焦虑或者有心事的时候,常常梦见欲速则不达的状况,去哪里,做啥事,就要迟到了,却总是被拖延拖延拖延,总也赶不到。

今天早晨做的梦记得特别清楚。我带了S同学去上海,说好我先出去跟某友见面吃饭,他在家打盹,然后我回来接他出去逛街。我脑子里想念的是去找第一第二食品店里的各种点心糕饼,中西结合的风格,小时候吃过之后就再也没碰到过。然后路上不知怎么七拐八拐就走进不认识但是似曾相识的小弄堂里,遇见了刚从外面回来的外公外婆。然后想起他们从南京东路的老房子搬了出来之后住在离得不远但是又新又整洁的另一家房子,而且弄堂里也干净整洁,没有水沟里散发出各家住户刷马桶留下的臭气。我跟他们谈了几句,说起要跑回南京东路的老房子去接S同学,然后掏出手机,却发现老房子的电话没有记在上面。这时候我妈也出现了,掏出iPhone!(这是现实中绝不可能出现的事情。)翻啊翻的,也找不到电话号码。我手忙脚乱地意识到,时间已经不早了,说不定某同学已经等得不耐烦而自己跑了出来。那我还得去找他,那我的买点心计划怎么办!

然后就醒了。

醒来之后想想,又好笑又伤感。外公外婆都不在了。外滩的老房子早就变成了地铁站。上海还有弄堂吗?

做这个梦不是偶然的。前两周在一家很一般的川菜饭馆吃饭,S同学嫌不够辣,我第N次地感叹想带他去四川云南,要多辣有多辣,看他是否仍然吃得下去。总之带他去中国会很好玩呀很好玩。可是S同学不想去(“你跟人呱啦呱啦,我象个傻瓜一样在一边晾着”以及“吃了假冒伪劣有毒食品怎么办?”是常用借口),又因为工作原因不方便去,我只好做单人旅行的打算。

梦见外公外婆也不是偶然的,昨晚收到阿姐的来信/卡片。很正常的联想。

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

孟医生

今天提早从班上溜了出来,到大楼门口等车,还没到公车站头就听见有人喊我的名儿。一抬头只见一个高大有肉,五十岁左右的中年男笑嘻嘻地冲着我伸出手来,我脑子一蒙,只知道这个人很面善却想不起他是谁,赶紧接过人家又大又软又暖的手(感叹一句:有肉就是舒服呀),打个哈哈: 噢是您哪,您好您好。

对方热情地说:小F跟我提起,你到此地儿来干活了,没想到真的碰上了。

小F我倒是记得,他是上上个工作时的同事,而且我辞职后跟他一直有联系。我接着话茬随棍而上,说:哦哦,您也认识小F啊。

对方有点意外地看着我,答道: 是啊是啊,他前阵子加盟我们公司啦。

说起来我今天真是脑子短路了,说到某公司的名字之后还慢了两拍才终于想起眼前的人是谁:阿伦孟德尔松!是我的上上上个工作时的同事。也就是说,上上个工作的同事F医生跑到上上上个工作的公司,认识了孟医生,而他俩分别跟我认识。最搞笑的是,其实F医生一早告诉我他去了那里,我当时还请他替我向孟医生打招呼问个好,所以现在怎么忽然装起糊涂来?孟医生一定觉得很奇怪。

除了脑子短路以外,我没认出他来,可能还有两个原因,第一是这家药厂在宾州,我怎么也没想到会在本地,特别是我们这地方,遇见他;第二,他留了络腮胡子,五年前可没有胡子。五年前,我记得孟医生总是带着顶犹太人专用的帽子yamaka。今天他戴了一顶带沿的黑毡帽,上面还别了一小条红色的缎带,兼黑呢长大衣,很有范儿的样子。

想当年,嗯,也就是五年多之前吧,我在宾州那家药厂工作的时候,跟好几个医生/medical directors合作过,孟医生是其中跟我最合得来的一个。我就是一个小小的writer,跟大家开开会,给他们写写protocols, study reports之类的技术文件,本来临床研究,study design 没我什么事儿,都是medical director跟生物统计学家鼓捣出来以后,再交给我写成正式文件而已。孟医生不知从哪里看出我尚未挖掘的天赋,有一次把我请去办公室,两个人在白板上画起临床研究试验的流程图来。当时别说我从来没有在别人那里受到过这样的礼遇和重视,连自己都没想到自己思路够清楚,可以帮着设计 clinical trial,当时就觉得特感动,跟孔明受到刘备追捧那样受宠若惊。

所以其实孟医生我是一直都放在心里的,所以重逢居然不认识,真叫我无地自容(嗯,不行了,开始胡乱用成语了)。

脑子里的白雾散光之后,我问孟医生到这里来做啥,他说参加一个关于儿科癌症药物开发的多峰座谈会,早上来,这就要坐公车+地铁进城,然后坐火车回宾州。当时没有多想,现在想想真奇怪,他在一个财大气粗的药厂里资历和职位都很高,公事出差为啥不坐出租车而要跟我们挤公车又倒地铁?当然如果他去叫的士,我们就没可能在车站碰上了。真是奇妙。

我回家跟他顺路,在公车和地铁上一路谈新药的开发和审批,临床研究世界化,制药工业不景气,等等话题,十分投机,好像又回到了五年前共事的时候。只不过我觉得自己现在比过去多了点自信和眼光,说出来的话也多了点真才实学---毕竟多了五年的工作经验。而孟医生似乎比五年前多了一些无奈和感慨。他说,他爱的是医学研究,有希望造福病患的新科技,可是现在搞药物研发越来越艰难,各方面的压力越来越大,而公司也越来越短视,只顾短线投资立竿见影,逗华尔街开心,谁都不想长线投资在早期开发上,动物研究和一期临床研究的项目被七砍八裁所剩无几。老板不想冒风险,只想等别人研发出十拿九稳的新药再买进。

我说起自己现在的工作,令人失望,做事的遇到重重阻力,上头的只想保住自己的乌纱帽。以前还对这地方抱有粉红的幻想,现在是看见了香肠是怎么做出来的,真相不好看呀。也不知是安慰我还是有感而发---我觉得是后者---孟医生叹气说官僚结构和内耗是人多的地方的普遍现象,他在私营大厂也常遇到类似阻力:他只想做出高质量的药物研究,把有效的新药带出来给病人,但是客观条件太复杂太纠结,常常不允许他追求如此朴素简单的目标。

我坐在他旁边看着他。孟医生很容易让人一见如故,立刻产生亲近感,即使现在留了络腮胡子仍然不改圆脸上的坦然和诚意。他的眼睛很圆,是很深的棕色,有点象只人畜无害的布熊猫,跟人说话时常常会望你一眼,然后挪开视线凝视着面前虚无的一点,我理解这是因为他的本性是有点害羞的---因为我自己也是这样,又想望着别人的眼睛又不好意思。

这时候我的记忆忽然好了起来,十分肯定过去孟医生有提起孩子,“我要养家”之类的言论。于是我问候他的孩子。他说,我还是只有一个儿子,七岁(结婚晚还是生子晚不得而知)。说到这里脸色特别温柔起来,“现在他到了跟老爹亲的年纪,我出差办事他会想念我 ... 所以现在我尽量能不出远门就不出远门。” 我故意逗他,问他有没有想过自己出来创业而免受management的气,他立刻摇头,“我有太太要养,儿子要养,房贷要还,冒不起风险。也许,等我儿子上大学之后吧。” 嘿嘿,口吻跟五年前完全一样,让我这种同样胆小的人觉得好亲切。

然后,地铁到了火车站,孟医生跟我告别,站在门口他回头笑笑:“什么时候想回来跟我讲一声哦。”

被善良可爱的人惦记,是件幸福的事。

The Car Man

Matthew Bourne 的现代改良版 Carmen,在YouTube上可以看到片段。我看的是摄影棚中的舞台录制的无观众版本。

背景是差不多五十年代,二战之后,好像纽约的一个意大利移民街坊。一个高大英俊的陌生人流浪汉闯入了他们的小世界,在车房留下来做修车的。车房老板当然又老又难看,还有肚腩(一看就是假肚腩),有个美丽风骚的太太。风骚老板娘在车房对面开了家酒馆,街坊邻里都在这里喝酒打架什么的。太太有个妹子,妹子有个受气包男朋友。这个陌生人一来就搅局,引诱完了老板娘又去勾引受气包男朋友。他跟老板娘的奸情被老头子发现,两个人谋害亲夫,然后嫁祸陷害妹妹之男友 ...

总之这剧很 film noir,Bourne 在DVD附带的花絮访问中解释他的灵感来自“邮差总按两次铃”和马龙白兰度、占士甸这些电影经典 --- 当然从情节和服装也看得出这些 references。Matthew Bourne 的翻版舞剧的手法基本上都是 deconstruct 经典、混合媒介与类型(genre)艺术,令观众在芭蕾舞剧里看到在其他媒介中耳熟能详的套路(cliche) 而产生新鲜感 --- 实际上这已经很难讲是纯粹的芭蕾,而是跟现代各种舞混合的结果,他自己也如此说,什么都可以被他编进去。

另一方面他没有说但是让人很容易联想起西区故事中的各个群舞段落和服装设计。

说起来陌生人跟老板娘妹妹的男友搞一腿的情节完全是gratuitous,拿掉这一段对故事情节并无直接影响,但是他特地描述二男之间的复杂恩怨,想必还是忍不住要虐一下(第二号)男主的缘故。

舞蹈部分嘛,让我看得很不满意,因为摄影剪辑非常之乱!镜头凑得太近,又剪得太碎,群舞的时候尤其糟糕,从一个人跳到另一个人身上,很少看到完整的身体完整的段落。一套动作还没做两下就换镜头到别人身上了,看得我头晕眼花。这种表演还是看现场比较好。

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Longest Year: The Team Leader Saga (2)

It seemed like such a perfect idea at first --- to promote a team leader from within the team. She already knew everything about the job and was familiar to the reviewers on the team. There would be little to no learning curve.

The Boss was a little disappointed that two of her favorites on the team were not eligible, by policy, for the team leader position. She had to settle for Ellie, who was a distant third in her regard, but the only viable option. She made her "acting" team leader as a trial period.

Ellie took the job enthusiastically and immediately set about devising new processes and procedures to oversee the rest of the team. She had long been discontent with the Boss' laissez-faire management style and, empowered with new-found authority, set out immediately to shake up her previous colleagues, now subordinates. Ellie gave little thought about the "acting" before her title, as this is often a formality, and she was confident that no one else could begin to compete with her for the official title. It was merely a matter of time before her title was formalized.

Within three months, the three reviewers and one project manager separately went to the Boss to complain about Ellie's micromanaging and inefficiency. Perhaps part of the conflict originated from the uneasy among the reviewers that Ellie, who had been their equal not long ago, was suddenly bossing them around. One even told the Boss "it's me or her."

At the end of the four-month "acting" period, the Boss took the title away from Ellie, and gave it to another reviewer, Patty, with a lesser academic degree, hoping this would appease the team. It was a slap to Ellie's face, but what could she do? She tried to maintain an awkward smile on her face.

The new team leader accepted the promotion with relish, despite all her previous griping and complaining about the Boss and the job behind her back. The micromanaging on the reviewers, unfortunately, did not lift a crack. It seemed that, be it the human farmer or the pig Napoleon in charge of the animal farm, there is little difference in the animals' lives.

Alas, when the chronically powerless ones are suddenly given a bit of power, it often goes to their head and, despite years of complaining about being micromanaged and oppressed, they become worse than their oppressor. Ah, how quickly power erases the memory of having one's neck pressed in the mud. One cannot wait to jump on their former jail-mates' necks and perpetuate the cycle. Such disasters are daily occurrence in this place.

FIVE MORE DAYS!

还有五天就要去Greensboro看全美锦标赛啦,我激动得屡次做梦梦见现场,且现在就开始收拾行李。为啥涅?为啥看全国赛比看世锦赛还激动和期待涅?

阿弥陀佛保佑一切顺利,我想看的选手都按时出场不要临时退出。

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blue Valentine



I have nothing to say about it, except that it strikes fear in my heart, and I can imagine it does the same in many hearts.

Amazing writing, directing, and performance all around. It's very rare to see two equally strong performances from two relatively young actors.

太好看啦!

先鸣谢一下婷婷同学,从她推荐的牛博文,顺藤摸瓜到一篇在天涯上连载的极长文章,一个在日本出生,中国长大,回到日本念大学的男生写的。哦太好看啦!特别是描述日本社会的各方面,既幽默(i.e.,贫)又很有洞察力,带一点大陆男青年的眼光,但是完全没有让人不舒服的某些特质。不过前几节写了很多跟各国留学生混在一起的记录,直到第7, 8节才开始讲日本。我才刚刚看到大阪的料理,很想吃...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

没啥特别感想,就记录一下。很短,两小时即读完。本来希望能得到一些关于海鸟的背景资料,但可用内容不多。有些关于飞行的细节还算有意思。

这是一个励志的故事,虽然含有特意安排的基督符号,但主题略微偏离传统的宗教原神话。

最早听说 Jonathan Livingston Seagull 是在花样滑冰节目中(skater: Adam Rippon; choreographer: David Wilson) ,采用了小说改编成的同名电影中的原声音乐。这个节目在YouTube上可以看到,体现励志与飞翔的主题。

青蜂侠

说实话我不太明白这片儿为什么口碑这么差。的确不像眼下的comic hero片那样在视觉效果和数码合成上拼命砸钱,几场动作戏比较老派且缺乏技术独创性。可是,不受欢迎的真正原因恐怕还是美国观众和影评普遍不太能接受混合类型(mixed genre)电影,最好情节、风格、tone,都在线内刷漆决不过界,这样大家可专心感受纯感官刺激。

Seth Rogen喜欢搞自己那套anti-hero的调调,难得大大小小的笑料让我咕咕傻笑直到结尾,难得剧本把四十年前的原版电视剧中的种族主义态度修正到不偏不倚甚至让人嘴角上扬。这些都不那么容易。即使不算出色,也并不太差。

Of course, I could be biased in favor of Rogen, because he is chubby. ;-)

如果周星驰来导演,则必须另找编剧,一山难容二虎,而且不可能指望他来拍耍嘴皮子的英语喜剧。但是他在导演肢体喜剧以及运用视觉特效方面也已经证明了能力与想象力,如果他手中能掌握好莱坞的大片成本和绝对艺术控制权,天晓得会得到什么样的作品。

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Longest Year: The Team Leader Saga (1)

Once upon a time there was a boss lady. Boss Lady was on the brink of 60, but she always kept her auburn hair impeccably dyed and looked ... uh ... about 56.

Nevertheless, mentally she was as swift and sharp as ever, wielding both the power of her position and her irresistible feminine charm. From time to time she turned it on to persuade and convince one of the gray-haired, pot-bellied, grumpy old men who held a bit more power than she through no merit of their own. Perhaps underneath the flirtatious smile and the girlie, nasal, slightly whiny voice hid a boiling contempt for these old white men who struggled to shift their oversized butts in their thrones while muttering something inaudible among themselves.

Boss enjoyed the not-insubstantial power assigned to her own little throne, plus a bit more she could squeeze out of the nearby departments if she really pushed --- but that little extra must be used judiciously. She had about 10 FTEs that were fully under her control. If she said "jump," they'd all reply "How high?" Seeing that never failed to bring a warm comfort to her heart.

The 10 or so FTEs had been more or less of equal footing for a few years, until Boss Lady was getting tired of all the boring administrative stuff. "I am working way too hard," she thought to herself. Just then she took a leadership training course, one of an endless buffet of training classes offered to managers in this massive organization. The leadership instructor, a 6-foot-2, bull-like woman who could belt a scream to shake the entire building, told them that one of the desirable qualities of a leader is to delegate.

A light bulb came on in Boss Lady's head. "I shall delegate," she thought. So she set off to create two team leader positions under her who could rule over the minions, thus freeing her up to spend more time working on more important projects ... at home, or, on Fridays, at her beach house.

It was a walk in the park to get her own boss to approve the creation of these two team leader positions. He never could resist her twinkling eyes and girlie, whiny, pleading voice that melted his bones.

She advertised within the organization. Some resumes and letters were submitted. She looked at most of them with disdain --- after a few years in this "iron rice bowl," no one can write a minimally presentable resume any more. Typographical errors, ugly formats, jumbled structure, incomprehensible sentences, obviously inflated qualifications ... The sloppiness was appalling. She interviewed half a dozen. One or two stood as being particularly sharp. Too sharp, in fact. More letters after their names than her own. More confidence. Younger. Ugh. She was certain these wolves would shove her aside and take over her carefully cultivated pasture as soon as they set foot on it. No way. She dismissed them quickly.

A couple of months later, the talent search went nowhere, and she was getting increasingly irritated by her subordinates' endless demands for her technical decisions, administrative support, and passing complaints to the upper management. Oh, such tedium. She needed two team leaders as soon as possible to block these pettiness from her ears. "I'm too old for this nonsense," she thought. "Delegate."

So she decided to promote from within.

Daniel Deronda (11%)

看得好慢好慢。仍然是大小姐Gwendolen的戏,没男主出场。

折腾一阵之后,又出来一段疑似讽刺傲慢与偏见的情节!某有钱有头衔有土地的金牌35岁王老五要大驾光临了,乡下一大圈有适龄女儿的父母都开始打起小算盘。

George Eliot把贵族和崇贵的诸位都讥笑了一顿。即使拿到今天仍可算激进哪。

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Way We Live Now (4)

看完了。

好棒啊!

没有金碧辉煌的城堡和一眼看不到头的花园,演员也不是每场戏都换一套新衣。可是,金钱、政治、社会、爱情,样样都是那么火辣辣的真,绝无装腔作势。

最恐怖的是,商界巨头Melmotte那一套生财之道,拿了以修铁路为名集来的资本,去投其他的机倒其他的把,包括给自己竞选议员。嘿嘿,1857年写的Little Dorrit,1875年写的The Way We Live Now,一百多年后在资本主义自由市场中历史重演,说到底都他妈的一回事!正事不干,钱倒来倒去倒都倒进了自己的腰包里。差别在于2000年代的投机倒把,规模更大,技巧更复杂,参与者更多,全民拜金潮更汹涌。而且,罪魁祸首们有全套国家机器撑腰, 他们才不会象当年的骗子那样,失败后破产跳楼或者自割动脉。They're still laughing all the way to the bank. 这就是进步吧?

*********

Even the women are spirited, and the romances as snappy as Mrs. Hurtle's whips and guns! :D

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"You see, but you do not observe."

前阵子忽然心血来潮,在Netflix上加了过去看过且很喜欢的电视剧 Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes,也就是我成天念叨的 David Pirie 之作。今天收到了。

除了跟 Holmes 的关联之外,我还喜欢剧中的爱丁堡的黑咕隆咚的胡同和主角 Robin Laing 的苏格兰口音。Laing 演 医学生时期的Arthur Doyle,Ian Richardson 演贝尔教授。(Doyle祖籍爱尔兰,但他在爱丁堡出生长大,所以苏格兰口音也合乎逻辑。)

开头没多久,贝尔教授在课堂上对学生讲:"You see, but you do not observe."

我的脑子里“叮”地一声响。Sherlock 第三集中,Vermeer油画案开头,泰晤士河边尸体旁,Lestrade 说,"I don't see..." Sherlock 大声反驳,"You see. You just don't observe."

好吧,我就把 Kindle 掏出来,翻到福尔摩斯全集,search "see observe." 果然,在波希米亚丑闻案中,原话就是 You see, but you do not observe. Oh, my Gatiss ...

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此剧插入几段 Doyle 父亲的片段,提起他父亲的多年酗酒之后的神志不清,家庭关系一片混乱 --- 在现实中,Doyle 妈妈把丈夫送进精神病院,跟比自己小二十多岁的房客同居起来。Doyle 跟他娘关系一直很近,但是对这个比他大不了多少的房客却十分厌恶。这个房客在剧中一露面,我马上吐血: Matthew MacFadyen!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Way We Live Now




这套剧是 Downton Abbey 温情主义的最佳解药。辛辣诙谐,针针见血,把贵族阶层和新兴资产阶级各自的小算盘都写得入木三分,毫不留情。真好看。

非常年轻的 Matthew MacFadyen 演个油腔滑调的贵族花花大少,把自家财产挥霍光了,再去处心积虑追求富商 (David Suchet) 之女。笑死了。

眼睛很有戏的 Cillian Murphy 同学演个正面男主,年轻有为的铁路工程师。

好奇有点想看 Trollope 的原著了。

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Downton Abbey (1)

今晚的第一集共一个半小时,也不知道是按照什么规律剪的,七零八落,没有dramatic arc,没头没脑的就完了。看样子是把ITV版的7集剪成4集。

中间插一段弯男秘密恋,还是跨阶级的,也是没头没尾的。除非未来情节中还有下文呼应,否则显得就是赶时髦的gratuitous来一段儿。

楼上的人物和情景远远不如楼下活泼生动,目的性很强,大笔大笔的 exposition。而且人物动机也不怎么清楚。比如,大女儿 Mary 到底是想留在 Downton 呢?还是急着嫁出去?某公爵根本没财产,自己还要去追美国财主女,Mary 为啥要巴巴地把他抓住?继承人 Matthew Crawley 来了,家里人人都觉得亲上加亲是正理,她又耍脾气讨厌人家了。说她不想要 Downton 吧?又摔摔打打地发脾气。楼上的只有男主人性格比较清楚,但太理想化,他坚持维持执行entail,怎么知道新继承人一定能好好照顾和保留 Downton 呢?老太太(Maggie Smith) 写得有点脸谱化。女主人呢,也太理想了,自己带进来那么多钱,先结婚后恋爱。眼看家业旁落,跟老公非常恩爱地温柔抗议几句就完了。这家也太和谐了吧。

楼下的情节比较有戏,几个人物也容易让观众立刻产生关心同情,不过大管家Carson和管家太太之间的暧昧有点象直接抄袭 Remains of the Day。另外不明白为什么Bates一定要留在Downton,或许未来几集中有所解释。1912年的英国,一个有点瘸腿的退伍老兵不会绝无活路吧?在伦敦写字楼里抄抄书也可以啊。如果没有隐情则有点难以置信。楼下的两个“坏人”目前比较脸谱化,有肥皂剧倾向,希望后面可以写出点层次来。

这个剧的开头部分,最大的问题是处理戏剧矛盾半心半意。很明显,中心矛盾在于要不要contest the entail,是把Downton交出去还是打官司把Downton留给大女儿。结果呢,没有发展也没有冲突更没有climax,东拉西扯地就解决于无形了。

也许我的不满的一大原因是很多铺垫和发展的情节被砍掉了,所以显得交代不清。

Matthew Crawley 的作用,除了提供矛盾之外,显然是代表现代平民观众的POV。一方面坚决表示不受旧规矩束缚,骑车上班,让现代观众认同,但另一方面又毫不迟疑毫无挣扎地就把这么大一个包袱给背了下来,欣喜地打入没落贵族的圈子,有点扯了。连我都知道这种巨大产业入不敷出,排场大而未必真有钱,是个紧箍咒,就算有美国财主继承女的嫁妆,维持起来也是一大把头痛,搞不好还得把自己卖身出去,再钓一个财主女回来。一个中产阶级律师,习惯了掌握自己的命运和生活方式,就这样放弃了自由人生,能这么容易吗?如果是穷困潦倒急着发财,倒还可信一点。现在这样让我这个观众就难以代入或认同。

一切都很温吞,没有棱角,缺乏悬念,缺乏 dramatic drive。

说实话,现在这个年代再回去拍这种贵族戏,我特别想看的是算钱,是第N代贵族如何四处筹钱和卖身维持的账本的dirty details。否则老是重复英国传统贵族梦的套路,回顾帝国时代的好时光,又何必设定在二十世纪初呢?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dogs and Children



Say what you want about Malcolm Gladwell (playing fast and loose with data and statistics, using extraordinary anecdotes to tug at readers' heartstrings, too biased, etc.), he is a damned good storyteller with a keen eye of observation unlike anyone else's. One does not have to believe or agree with every single point of his in order to appreciate that.

His essay "What the Dog Saw" is one of the few pieces of writing that are deeply, deeply stuck in my head. I don't think I will ever forget it. It was one of the most fascinating revelation that a dog sees through people --- not what they say, but what they think --- by observing their body language, and one's body language betrays what is really on one's mind, emotions that oneself is largely not consciously aware of. In other words, a dog may know more accurately how you really feel than you do.

The last paragraph is etched in my brain. It made an incredible point that struck me like lightening the first time I heard it on the audiobook, and I have mulled over it many times since then.

He stopped. He had had enough of talking. There was too much talking, anyhow. People saying, "I love you," with a touch that didn't mean "I love you." People saying, "There, there," with gestures that did not soothe. People saying, "I'm your mother," while reaching out to a Chihuahua instead of their own flesh and blood. Tyler looked stricken. Lori shifted nervously in her seat. Bandit growled. Cesar turned to the dog and said "Sh-h-h." And everyone was still.


I am an above-average observer of people's emotions. More than occasionally, I can correctly anticipate people's reactions and thoughts. The skill and habit come in handy while driving to help me spot cars who are about to cut into my lane (but they bring a certain burden as well). So it is hardly a surprise to read that people would say things they do not mean or feel, and that people often have simultaneous conflicting feelings. All that rings true. However, what I did not realize is that the subconscious emotions emerge in people's faces, tone of voice, body language, movements, and other signals.

Humans may very well be worse observers of humans than dogs. Why? Language interferes. The poor integration between the "thinking brain" and the "emotional brain" (Joseph LeDoux) has made language as much an unintentional liar as a communicator. It hides and represses (to others as well as self) one's feelings. Yet feelings express themselves outside of the thinking-language paradigm anyway, which dogs can see clear as day, because dogs are not distracted by human language and the game it plays. Dogs see who you really are.

Only today did I suddenly realize, children too, just like dogs, see through people's unspoken thoughts and feelings. As the prefrontal cortex matures with age and increases its grip on the rest of the brain, this clarity recedes as the brain's social coordination and impulse control become sophisticated along with language skills.

Another fascinating observation in "What the Dog Saw" was that some people are more conflicted than others. They can fool themselves and other people, but they cannot fool dogs. I now realize that they cannot fool children, either.

Some people are not conflicted. They are what is called "authentic." Most people are somewhere on the spectrum, between the extremes of authenticity and repression/conflicts.

It may seem that I am implying that the "thinking brain" is bad and detrimental to one's authenticity, and that this repression of the "emotional brain" is utterly undesirable. Not true. Nature cannot be defined as good and bad, favorable and unfavorable. Hypocrisy improves social cooperation among humans and, in turn, their chance of survival. It is good for the species and sometimes bad for individuals' mental and emotional health.

Some people are hypocrites; some are conflicted within themselves. Some people are more authentic because they have a less robust prefrontal cortex function and are more impulsive; they think less before they speak or act. Some people are more authentic because they are not conflicted for whatever reason, because they have little need to repress themselves; they have zen.

Dogs and children can recognize who is who.

(For an explanation of the photo above, see Gladwell's blog.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Daniel Deronda

开始慢慢地看这一本。

滑稽的是,已经读了4%,title character Daniel Deronda 神龙见首不见尾,只露一面就消失了,作者一直在连篇累牍地描述女主(姑且假设大小姐Gwendolen是女主)。

老一点的严肃英国小说有一个习惯让我抓狂:没完没了的 exposition,介绍某某是啥样的人品性格教育经历等等,下定义,没有情节进展,闷死了。那时候大概文学界还没有 "Show. Don't tell." 的口号广为流传。

不过至今描写的人物都活灵活现,Gwendolen的心理活动尤其细腻准确。而且绵里藏针,冷嘲热讽。我还挺迟钝的,读了好几章后才意识到George Eliot多半是在讽刺Jane Austen及类似的浪漫爱情小说呢。美貌聪颖、自视甚高、性格perky、有四个“废物”妹妹的女主角简直就是照着Lizzie Bennet写的嘛!嘿嘿,算你狠。中间有一段女主角向替全家买单的姨夫要求置匹马给她骑,作者说,姨夫太不浪漫,没想给她弄匹烈马,让Gwendolen摔下来被有钱公子搭救...

总之,挺有趣,不过真的很长很细密。我慢慢地看得了。

Lies, Damned Lies, Medicine

A series of articles have been published in BMJ to recount the web of lies meticulously weaved by a British physician (Andrew Wakefield) who created, out of thin air, a nonexistent link between vaccines and autism from falsified patient records and data. His goal? Personal financial gains from lawsuits against companies that make vaccines and from his own patented vaccine.

One man, driven by greed, aided by the ignorance, stupidity, and mob mentality of the masses, single-handedly cost health care agencies around the world billions and billions of dollars, an unknown number of lives of children whose parents believed (and more still believe) this fake claim that vaccines cause autism and refused to vaccinate them, and all the wasted years of effort and resources that could have been spent on something that is real.

Here is BMJ's editorial. Here is the article by Brian Deer, the journalist who doggedly collected all the evidence to prove Wakefield's lies, lies, lies.

I am often reminded of the question posed to a certain junior senator from Wisconsin who suddenly became the most feared and therefore most powerful politician of his time: "Do you have no decency?"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Story Idea




六年前到 New Zealand 旅行,除了企鹅和Kiwi之外,印象最深的动物是 Royal Albatross。据说是世界上翅膀(张开后的 wingspan)最长的动物,生活在海与山交界之处,最会利用空中的气流滑翔,毫不费力。在南岛的Dunedin参加的当地旅游团(半天而已),导游带我们去海边看鸟和海狮。当时正值初春,天上灰蒙蒙的,时不时洒点儿小雨,海边还风大。我穿着带帽子的厚夹克冻得索索发抖。可是 albatrosses 真好看,仿佛悬浮在空中的风筝,悠闲地随气流上下起伏,手指也不必动一下。导游说,刚成年的小鸟被大鸟带了出海,十个月到一年都不回到岸上,除了捞鱼吃饭之外,非常偶尔才会落到海面上休息。等他们回到岸上时,就算是通过了成年礼,能够独立创天下也不怕了。

当时我就觉得导游的解说好浪漫呀,而且这些大白鸟在天上滑翔的样子真是帅毙了!(当然,笨笨的胖胖的企鹅仍然是我的最爱。)

几年过去了。前些天在外头走路的时候,也不知被什么刺激信号勾起了回忆,忽然站在街中心对S同学说:我有个故事主意,我要写一族飞在天上的人类的生活 --- 不,不是我们这样的人类长了翅膀,而是大半生命在空中度过的智慧生物,包括他们的文化和社会关系。而且我要深入其内部描写日常生活而不是从外面仰头羡慕地看着他们。你看过有人写这类的故事么?

S同学读过的科幻小说是我的几十倍,我想出来的主意,经常被他一句“那个谁谁写过类似题材”灭掉 --- 但是我需要这个活Wiki 替我删除已经被写滥了而尚不自知的俗套。

他挠挠头想了一会儿回答:不记得有见过,不过你也不能太信我了...

我立刻打断他:你没见过那就足够冷僻了。

好吧,这个故事肯定需要很多很多的背景资料搜集,Albatross当然是一定的,其他海鸟大概也需要。情节呢?无所谓啦,等资料找全了之后再瞎编好了。现在第一步先把 Jonathan Livingston Seagull 这本书拿来瞅瞅。

Monday, January 3, 2011

Panique Au Village

Roger Ebert 推荐的比利时动画片。

2002年制作的短片

2009年出品的长片

笑死了,笑得喘不过气来了,笑得腰酸背痛。

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nine Nights of Glory



Universal Sports is showing a documentary tonight, "Nine Nights of Glory," with footage from the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. I happened to catch the portion about the "Battle of the Brians": the hotly contested men's figure skating competition that ended with Boitano (USA) defeating Orser (Canada) with the slimmest margin imaginable (5-to-4 split by the judging panel). Both men as well as their coaches (Linda Leaver and Doug Leigh) were interviewed extensively about their experiences.

Boitano's and Brian Orser's 1988 Olympics free skates can be found on YouTube. People today are still fighting about who should have won. The reality of figure skating is, sometimes it's just too close to call.

Also making brief appearances on film were Viktor Petrenko (USSR), the bronze medalist, and Christopher Bowman, the No. 2 US competitor.

They looked so young! It's hard to believe that was 23 years ago. Boitano went on to have a successful professional career and is still actively involved in figure skating. He also has a TV cooking show now: What Would Brian Boitano Make. Orser also had a fair professional skating career and started coaching a few years ago. In 2010, his Olympic dream was fulfilled by his student Yuna Kim, who won the Olympic gold medal in women's competition. Coincidentally, the Olympics were again held in Canada (Vancouver). The coach and protege have since gone through an ugly "divorce," but Orser has made a boatload of money in Korean advertisements (Kim is the biggest star in Korea) and a promising coaching career.

Nowadays Viktor Petrenko is coaching in Simsbury, Connecticut with his wife Nina and his mother-in-law Galina Zmievskaya who had coached him, and works as a technical specialist for the ISU.

Always a wild child, Christopher Bowman had a turbulent career and life. He died of a drug overdose in 2008. He was 40 years old.

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3 more weeks!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fast food recipe: Sundubu



Recently I made a fortunate discovery at the local Korean supermarket: packaged Sundubu soup base.

Boil water or beef broth, add soup base, add soft Tofu (comes in tubes), add mushrooms (enoki is a must, but I also throw in whatever other types I can find), add an assortment of seafood (e.g., a bag of frozen mixed seafood, also from the Korean market), let stew for a while, and add a raw egg on top at the end. I like to stir in a bunch of watercress before taking the pot off the stove.

Mix cooked rice into the soup for a complete meal.

Stone pot optional. Pickled Korean vegetables optional.

Currently watching




1. The Thin Blue Line. Rowan Atkinson's sit-com series from 1995, spoofing a small-town police station. Oddly, he himself is not doing a lot of physical comedy in it. Just spotted his friend Mr. Fry in a cameo in one of the episodes. Very small budget and cast. Typical, traditional, pure sit-com with all the money on the writing and ensemble acting. Love the occasional word-play.

2. Jeon Woochi: The Taoist Wizard (2009). Korean action fantasy comedy. A bit predictable and aimless, but watchable in a way, thanks to the lack of self-consciousness. The cheerful, improvisational script reminds me a bit of Hong Kong movies.

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Post-holiday shopping damage: a cashmere sweater/cardigan, a pair of corduroy pants, a box of foundation powder, a black-leather wallet.

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