Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Milky Way



今晚是个大晴天,站在岛的南端看天空,比昨天看得见的星星更多。天空正中一条粗粗的宽带,灰蒙蒙的。其实昨晚就看见了,假设为空中没散去的薄云层而未加注意,今天在同一地带又看见了,而且形状跟昨天看见的一样!我一拍脑袋忽然明白了,这不就是银河吗?看上去不像众多星星聚集起来,而象一条云雾纱巾。上次看见银河还是97年暑假在黄石公园,平时住在城里哪儿能看见这东西啊。

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

Tilghman Island




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。

晚饭在岛上一家昂贵的高档饭馆里吃的,吧台边坐了四五个人,餐厅里就我俩。头抬是炸西红柿片儿,上面堆了沙拉玉米丁。主菜一个是桃子酱煎猪里脊肉+polenta+芸豆;另一个是鱼排+油果risotto+玉米丁。我喜欢后者,前者有点 heavy。我吃不下了,但是某同学不顾我的劝阻,任性地点了两个甜点:家制冰淇淋和黑巧克力慕斯。冰淇淋一般,巧克力倒是很劲道,吃得我眼冒金花。

餐厅外面就是浅湾,一条白船施施然驶过。

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。

天还没黑透就等着看星星,可惜一直有高云遮着,等到九点半左右终于放晴了些。小岛离都市其实挺近,只有一个半钟头的车程,所以眺望西北方仍能看见红乎乎的城市光污染。不过头顶上还是够暗的,看得见很多明暗不等的星星。上次看见这么多星星是超过十年前的事儿了。

这次到此度假各种麻烦都被我们撞上了,简直象被诅咒了似的。敲敲木头,希望接下来两天别再折腾什么事儿了。

Saturday, August 27, 2011

She Laughs, She Laughs, She Laughs

Three women have laughs that grate on my nerves.

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.

Cold Weather



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

Hopper @ Hirshhorn




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

The Longest Year: PML

在这个机构上班常常见到让人拍案惊奇的怪现象。今天开会讨论某个药的某个罕见但严重的副作用,当时在会的有至少四个MD,包括一个在此部门干了二十多年的头头,为了怎样表达很基本的风险数据 (risk estimation) 扯不清。其实很简单,随便一个做过公共卫生研究,分析发表过流行病几率数据的博士生都知道应该怎样表达风险几率,连我这个从来没正式学过 biostatistics 或 epidemiology 的人,没吃过猪肉也见过猪跑,知道一般应该怎样估计和表达此类风险数据。但是这几个MD云里雾里的乱搞,坚持采用一种很含义混乱而且容易误导读者的表格来表达,我提出为什么不用 Kaplan-Meier 图线,被一口拒绝了。后来想想其实原因很简单,在这个机构里,管事儿审查的MD们大多数没有做临床研究或者公共卫生研究的一手经验,全是纸上谈兵的资历,对生物统计一窍不通,听见K-M图线之类的就会眼前发黑。

平时这些问题都是推给统计学家来管的,但是统计学分析一般只用在审查药物的效果 (efficacy),副作用的数据一律拒不经过统计分析,拿出来的只是未经分析过的描述性的数据。这是本机构老掉牙的传统,谁都不敢提出质疑。实际上,那些发病率极低但是后果严重的副作用,依赖传统规则已经完全落后而不够用了,学术界和工业界都早有提出各种统计方法应付数据先天不足的问题,但是这个真正掌权的机构迟迟不肯更新规则,害得大家都跟着后面爬行。过去我在外面不太明白为什么这个机构为什么态度这么保守,是不是害怕被工业界的新统计方法钻了空子。现在从内部看就明白了---因为从上到下管事的人们根本就不懂,身居高位的掌权的都是老头儿老太们,靠了屁股够硬,马屁功够强,忍力过人,就上去了,只升不降越爬越高,但是他们既不懂也学不进新东西新方法新概念。

在这个机构里还看到一个很有趣的现象:很多人把行政头衔跟技术和能力混为一谈。不仅是当官的信奉这一套,夸夸其谈满嘴跑马,深信自己的水平傲视全球,练就一身不懂装懂的铁布衫外衣;而且低层工作人员也一样拜倒在官衔面前,打心眼儿里相信头头的决定必然高明的。当然啦,反正大家都是瞎子领瞎子,谁也分辨不出对错好坏水平高低来,不以官阶为标准还能靠什么做判断呢?总不能靠他们自己的头脑和判断力吧。

Monday, August 22, 2011

音乐消费

星期六拖了某同学去附近的Wolf Trap看露天音乐会,Gypsy Kings。每人三十块的草地票。前后左右都是拖家带口跑来野餐的听众,旁边的一群还掏出了一瓶自家制的Sangria酒。我们俩没经验的,只带了两瓶白开水,觉得有点准备不足。

今天在亚马逊MP3下载服务上翻了半天也没找到比较全套的Stephen Sondheim的歌曲集,只好随便买了一本十八首歌的合集。

Ten in the Morning

Jack Wong sat in a chair behind the sofa. I stared at him across the sofa's back.

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

三体 (看完了)

前面的现实部分讲了半天科学,闷,我正看得不耐烦,几乎要放弃了,忽然来了一段很fantasy的游戏世界。什么周文王、纣王、乱纪元之类的,还金字塔,好玩得很,于是又勾起了继续读下去兴趣。哎呀,如果通篇都是这个游戏设定就好了,现代科学家那一套可以统统跳过。

除了全部除掉现实框架,作者还应该全部除掉女性人物。他是太典型的理科男了,一写到“女人”就让我狂笑起来。

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。

**** ****

第一部看完了。

三体星本身的设定很多地方是这篇小说的亮点,可惜牵涉到地球人的部分与之不怎么能搭上界。关于地球人内斗的部分倒是给我一种十分熟悉的感觉,想想恐怕也是因为我跟作者是差不多同一代的中国人才会认出剧情背后所指。八十年代后期,中国知识分子界有一种暗涌的思想,如果能用西方的体制与思想彻底替换掉中国的一切就好了,这股思潮的代表就是河殇。当时有这样的想法也可以理解,正如作者在故事开头一定要联系上文革,文革留下的精神创伤和羞辱自惭让很多人恨不得将“自己”这个identity和与之有关的一切抹个干净。这本小说不知是哪年写的(2006年出版刊登),但是立场显然是站在自我否定的对立面,虽然作者对自我否定者表达了一定的理解和同情。

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Choose (story idea)

On his 65th birthday, Robert went to his neighborhood clinic to pay a mandatory visit to the Choose Machine.

He stepped into a small confined space no larger than a photo booth. An electrical buzz indicated that the machine was scanning him from head to toe and collected various vital signs. He spat in a glass tube and placed it into an open slot in front of him, and stuck his index finer into a hole in the wall for a quick prick. The screening was complete.

Robert walked out of the booth and sat in the waiting room for about 10 minutes before a smiling nurse came over and handed him an envelope. He tore open the envelope and read his fate. He got three choices for the rest of his life. 1) If he was to choose no medical interventions beyond basic primary care, he could live to approximately 80 years old. 2) If he was to choose to deposit $250,000 now, which was half of his life savings, he could get Tier 1 medical care, which would keep him alive up to 90, unless he accidentally contract an incurable infectious disease. This would cover dementia should he had it, as well as termination at the age of 90. 3) If he was to give all of his savings to the System, the machine would guarantee his life through 100 years of age and his mental capacity up to 85. Of course, if he chose 3), he would have to continue working for the cost of food and shelter.

With no family or close friends, Robert picked 1).

(TBC)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fevre Dream




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

岁月神偷

事先听说过此片口碑不错,但是,片头列制作人员的时候,看见张婉婷罗启锐的名字,我的心咣当一沉。为啥呢?因为过去看他们的片子就留下一个十分混杂的印象,有很多好看的细节,但是他们似乎控制不了自己的煽情倾向,最后不矫揉造作一把就不甘心,给我留下一嘴的过分甜腻的苦味儿。

电影开头半小时还算 delightful,虽然李廷治演的罗家长子搞跨阶级恋爱有点琼瑶味儿,这条线小打小闹,暂时被其他好看的人物和细节给淹没了。有些镜头剪辑有点粗糙,但是也被深水埗的街坊细节给淹没了。

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!

如果没有钟绍图这个小男孩,这片子简直没法看。

这算是粤语残片的余毒么?Where is 叶锦鸿 when you need hm?!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Young and Mean

40 years ago, Ebert was not even 30. He wrote in his review of "Love Story" (1970) --

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

War of the Worlds (story idea)

What would alien invasion look like?

Not Independence Day, of course.

It's been too long (3 decades) since I last read HG Wells' story. I can't remember how the struggle went there, except the ending.

Nevertheless, here is my plan:

The war looks less like a war, but more like colonization. It is long and drawn out, with casualties on both sides. The course is twisty and full of coincidences and self-sabotaging stupid decisions on both sides (or only the Earth's side?).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Future



Miranda July 的第二部电影。充满了很逗的段落,对中年生活的观察、反省、自嘲。例如剧中两主角听说楼里上网信号要中断的时候抓紧时间上网。例如两个人都感慨自己奔四十了还一事无成的人生。让我看得很戚戚。

July 的脸象洋娃娃,有种塑料感,眼睛总是张得老大,一副惊奇加迷惑的表情,而且眼珠颜色颇淡,更让人联想到洋娃娃的玻璃眼珠。男主角 Hamish Linklater 几乎是男版的 Miranda July,也是卷卷的头发,永远迷惑不解的表情,仿佛一早走错了路,摸索至今。

****

看完后溜进另一间放映厅把 Another Earth 给看了。很难看,剧本与导演都挺幼稚的。

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans




Werner Herzog 的黑色幽默感不算是我的菜,不过这片儿还是有不少地方让我笑出声来,特别是有爬行动物出场的戏。或许是特意向 noir 类电影致敬的作品来的,很容易联想到 Coen brothers。

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Fifth Witness

有声书。Michael Connelly 之 Mickey Haller 系列中之新书。So so 吧,不算特别出色。

倒是听说 George Pelecanos 和 SJ Rozan 的新书都快要出版了。Something to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Depressed and Right

The theory that depression is a positive trait, proposed by psychiatrist Nassar Ghaemi, is hardly new. In fact, it is almost fashionable for pop-psych talking heads to try to uncover the evolutionary advantages (yes, advantage, not dis-) of depressive tendencies. I have seen studies suggesting that depressed patients judge reality more accurately, have more empathy, and focus their attention better than non-depressed people. I take them with a grain of salt, especially toward the habitual rush to read "evolutionary advantage" into any pointless and accidental byproducts of this extremely imprecise, unreliable, and non-anthropomorphic process known as "natural selection."

I'm not clinically depressed, yet --- a fact that often surprises myself, because I am an above-average pessimist. And I have a possibly perverse fondness for tragedies and bleak stories. I think I'm right a lot more often than the normal optimists around me, but they disagree. Nevertheless, I have to wonder whether this "healthy people have a slight bias toward optimism" is a biological phenomenon or a cultural one. Could very likely be localized to a few especially self-congratulatory and delusional cultures, but far from universal.

世界科幻大会

前两天从GRRM的自称不是博的博逛一圈回来,心血来潮地跟某同学说,要不咱们去内华达州参加世界科幻大会吧?某同学还挺积极地说,好主意,你去查查订旅馆和入场券要多少钱。然后我一不小心就漏了口风:GRRM在博上说他要去,我想去追星... 某同学立刻跳起来:啊哈,原来你扮成科幻迷,实际上是要去追那个臭老头!说不定还打算对他动手动脚... 我赶紧安慰他:别嫉妒嘛,我就是想去瞅瞅他真人有多胖而已。男人真是神经脆弱啊。某同学气呼呼地说:早告诉你这人不是好人了,参加什么会?他怎么不呆在家里赶稿子?后来查了下网站,发现离开会时间太近,旅馆预订期早过了,只好作罢。不过某同学动了心,正在考虑明年要不要去芝加哥参加下一届的大会。对此我俩各怀鬼胎:我希望胖老头明年也去,某同学希望他不会出现。

Timon of Athens

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

Popular Posts