At the movies

Deja Vu.

Denzel Washington is trying to solve the case of a terrorist attack on a ferry. He bumps into some people who have a machine that allows them to look back in time and solve the case. But Denz has the hots for the dead babe and get them to send him back in time so that he can rescue her and save the day.

It’s yet another Timecop film of no particular merit. Pass it by as it’s lying in the bargain bin.

Casino Royale.

Finally, a copy that wasn’t in Russian. Bond’s back, kind of with a new lease of life. It’s still the death-defying stunts, but there’s definitely an edge that older Bond films never had, or lost. I note, with no particular regret, that the naked gymnastics which were part of the opening sequence have finally been ditched.

Although the film is set in the present, it’s treated as if it’s Bond’s first time out which adds to the sense of a fresh start to the franchise.

The disc, which, to my surprise, refuses to run on my main DVD player (admittedly aging; time to buy number four?), has a trailer from Spiderman 3 which might be worth seeing after all.

[20.08.13. We’ve now got as far as Skyfall, and what seemed fresh back in 2007 has now led to two more films which feel as if they’re repeating a formula, viz. that Bond doesn’t know whether he’s being a 21st century agent or one of the age in which Ian Fleming originally set him.]

Be seeing you…

Well, that’s it from me until the 7th. Until then, you can reminisce about your favourite episodes of Green Bamboo, such as the time I wrote the stuff about the thing, or the other time when I wrote the thing about the stuff. Ah happy, mem­orable days.

The Roaring Boy [sic!]

More incessant yowling.

That bloody child is yowling again. I mentioned this particular imp a few posts back. We’re not talking about a baby or toddler. We’re talking about a child who has to be about four years old. I don’t know why he’s wailing, but he keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. From what I can tell, granddad seems to think it’s all a bit of a joke, and apparently doesn’t think that comforting the child or mollifying it might be a good idea (because the rest of us would get some peace and quiet). But to indulge this brat in such a fashion is merely to encourage it to continue. Since the kid is probably just seeking attention, why can’t it just ring a small bell like any normal little emperor?

While we’re talking about small children, I’ve learnt that the people at XXKX have a four-year-old daughter. This child suddenly appeared after the Spring Festival with some woman who, as it now turns out, was grandma (the actual mother looks like she shouldn’t be old enough to have a daughter this age). When Mr XXKX told me a few months back that they didn’t have children, he must’ve been saying that they didn’t have their daughter with them. He got her to give me the menu the other night, but she’s as shy as a Chinese cat. She already has a boyfriend, too – Waif Boy from the motorbike repair place. There was much distress when he was forcibly separated from his girlfriend when I was in XXKX one evening a couple of weeks ago.

(To understand the reference in the title of the post, click here.)

Go straight to DVD

Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.

The name of the film I mentioned is Succubus: Hell-Bent. It’s straight-to-DVD fare, which means that it’s another of those which you shouldn’t buy, shouldn’t steal, and shouldn’t hire. If some demented relative gives it to you, say you’re very excited about it, but want to save the film for a special occasion. In fact, this is the sort of film that probably sent directly to the people who do the pirating because that way, there’s a chance it might have an audience. I watched it only because there are a bunch of cute girls in the film I wanted to protect everyone else from it.

What’s it about? Boy meets succubus; there are murders; she gets hers at the point of a sword. That’s more than you need to know, but I felt like sharing. Gary Busey was in it. If that’s not a recommendation, may I find myself living in China.


Less demand than expected

Hordes didn’t materialise.

English Corner ended up being a damp squib. I expected hordes of Junior Middle School pupils corralled into the area where we normally have English Corner, but there were just a few and they seemed to be sitting around with their parents having lunch. From what I could tell, no one seems to have told them that we had English Corner at lunchtime. We certainly didn’t need an hour and a quarter, and I ended up chatting with the usual suspects. It was only nearer the end that a few of them, probably on the urging of their parents, stood around and listened. Whether they understood much of what we were talking about is a moot point.

One of the things which came up was that maths test I mentioned the other day. [08.09.14. Post deleted?] One of the kids wanted me to write a letter to The Times about the state of English tests in China as a kind of corrective to views which foreigners might have about tests in China in general. Actually, I think he was more annoyed with some of the questions in last week’s English exam which clearly needed the guidance of a native speaker because it was one of those frequent occasions here when the question had almost no connection with the article and failed to focus on its theme.

It was not the only instance today when things turned out differently. I eventually found the classroom which we had to use today while our guests were using our classrooms to sit the test to get into the school. After some mucking around, we worked out how to get the projector working and, instead of art class, we continued watching the DVDs from yesterday. It was the better option since we had the whole of each class in the room.

As Todd noted, although it’d passed me by, Equilibrium is full of hidden rooms. Everywhere the hero goes, he’s always knocking holes in walls to reveal yet another. He always makes the hole just where the steps down into the room are located, even although he has no way of knowing they’re there. Even the hidden rooms have hidden rooms. And if that’s not enough, the electricity is working, or there are burning candles, or there’s a handy oil lamp, primed and ready, with a box of matches sitting beside it.

And so the week passes

Cornet Wales in Iraq.

At the moment, there’s so little real news that Prince Harry (aka Cornet Wales) is headlining on The Guardian because of his imminent dispatch to Iraq and threats from the insurgents to kidnap him.

“Mullah Omar! Mullah Omar!”
“What is it, Abdul? Can’t you see I’m trying to violate these farm animals.”
“We’ve just captured the entire British army stationed in southern Iraq.”
“What?! All of them?”
“Mid order collapse. Usual story.”
“Not again. And what of Cornet Wales?”
“That’s the thing. All these foreigners look the same, and so far no one will identify the prince. Perhaps we should torture some of them.”
“Dude, what is it with you and torture? I have an idea.”

[Mullah Omar and Abdul exit to the compound where the British soldiers are sitting around the pool on deck chairs and being served drinks by bikini-clad cuties.]

“Damn it, Carruthers, captivity is hell. I want to be out there on the streets getting shot at or knowing that at any time I might have all regions north and south blown halfway across Iraq. But what’s happened instead? We’re in this five star luxury hotel. I’m a fighting man and… Ooh! Is that a pina colada?”
“Quite right, your Majesty… Look out! Here comes that Mullah Omar.”
“Listen up, heretical violators of Iraqi sovereignty, we know that Prince Harry is among you. If he will identify himself, the rest of you are free to go. I don’t think I need to remind you what will happen if he doesn’t reveal himself.”
“Dear God!” Carruthers whispered. “He means Carla Gugino doing the barbecuing topless. Will these fiends stop at nothing?”

[The British soldiers sit silently sipping their drinks. Harry stands up.]

“I’m Cornet Wales.”

[Carruthers stands up.]

“No! I’m Cornet Wales!”

[Another squaddie stands up.]

“I’m Spartacus!”

[Everyone starts standing up claiming to be Prince Harry or Spartacus. Mullah Omar raises his hands for silence.]

“Now can we torture them?” asked Abdul hopefully.

[Omar looks contemptuously at Abdul and pulls a large reefer out of his jacket. Harry hesitates for a moment before leaping forward and grab­bing it.]

“See, Abdul; we have our man, and no one even got tortured.”

Those cinematic moments in brief

For Your Consideration.

This is a film about three members of the cast of Home for Purim (later renamed Home for Thanksgiving at the insistence of the studio president (played by Ricky Gervais) because the original film is a bit too Jewish) who believe that they’re going to be nominated for an Oscar. The stars of the film are two veteran actors who have probably never even been as high as Hollywood’s C-list, but they’ve been around long enough to believe that they’re bigger fish than they really are. The younger cast members will probably follow in the footsteps of their older colleagues. In the end, none of them gets a nomination, and the one cast member who does sleeps through the phone call.

As for the failed thesps, it’s back to bad infomercials; to giving bad acting lessons; and to a bad one-woman show.

This is probably one of those films that was funnier to make than it was to watch, and probably has more resonance for minor thesps in Hollywood than anyone else. The star turn came from Fred Willard who played the host of some magazine programme about Hollywood, and who managed to say the most dimwitted and inappropriate things ever time he opened his mouth.

I’d certainly never heard of the film until I saw it in the DVD shop. Until now, you’ve probably never heard of it either. One you’re not reaklly going to miss if you never see it.

Ghost Rider.

Another comic book character from Marvel gets the big screen treatment, and with Nicolas Cage in the starring role, it also gets the big wooden treatment. Dorothy Parker said of Katherine Hepburn that she ran “the gamut of emotions from A to B”. Cage doesn’t even get past A. Roger Moore had the eyebrow thing which was kind of amusing; Cage merely looks constipated.

I hope the comic book’s better. Don’t buy the film – not even if it’s in the bargain bin; don’t steal it because all the other shoplifters will laugh at you; and if some well-intentioned relative gives it to you for your birthday, show how much better you can act than Nicolas Cage when you appear grateful.

Blood Diamond.

Leonardo di Caprio plays Danny Archer, a South African mercenary and diamond smuggler trying to acquire a pink diamond found by Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) who has been abducted from his village and forced by rebels in Sierra Leone to pan for diamonds. Jennifer Connelly plays the love interest. Most of the film is about Vandy leading Archer to where he hid the diamond, but at the same time, Archer owes a mercenary colonel (Arnold Vosloo) money and negotiates a deal with him. But Vandy is less interested in the diamond than he is in reuniting his family. His wife and daughter are in a refugee camp and his son has become a child soldier with the rebels.

In the end, Vandy gets the diamond, the money for it, and his family, while Connelly gets to expose the role of a London diamond cartel in driving the civil war in Sierra Leone.

It’s a Hollywood action film, but has a little more depth to it than an outright guns ‘n’ ammo flick. When Archer keeps talking about leaving Africa, you know he’s going to buy it, and does, but doing the decent thing after, it seemed, he was going to welch on the deal. Jennifer Connelly’s role as the love interest was kind of out of place. She shared moments with Danny, but the phone call just before he died was very studio when you think about it. Also, Vandy’s happy reunion with his family was another studio touch.

It’s not a bad film. It’s lengthy, but I never got bored or restless with it.

Letters from Iwo Jima.

Letters from Iwo Jima is the story of the Japanese defence of the island against American forces in World War II. It’s less about the fighting itself and more about the people who range from the general commanding the troops to the sometimes fanatical officers under his command to Saigo, the ordinary soldier who manages to survive the carnage. The story is based on the discovery on Iwo Jima of letters written by the soldiers, but which never made it back to Japan.

Saigo, for example, was conscripted and left behind his young, pregnant wife. General Kuribayashi and Baron Nishi have both been to the States. The general recognises that his task is, in reality, hopeless. He also saves Saigo on a couple of occasions. Shimizu is a former policeman who, in spite of being a droid, is no keener to die than Saigo, but is eventually murdered by an American soldier. Lieutenant Ito is a fanatic, but when he straps a couple of mines to himself and plays dead in the hope he’ll take a tank with him, he falls asleep instead. It’s not actually clear whether he stepped on one of the mines deliberately or not.

This is one of the better films I’ve seen recently and certainly worth seeing, I think.

The things I stumble across

You do a search.
I was searching for information about quantifier phrases last night…
"Quantifier phrases? How weird is that?"
Yes, quantifier phrases. You should know me well enough by now to know that’s the sort of thing I search for online.
"And not Carla Gugino?"
Well, er, that was a youthful indiscretion.
"Ten minutes ago?"
More like fifteen. Now, are you going to let me tell this story or not?
"Do I have a choice?"
…when I stumbled across I Lam Arth which, in spite of the name looking like it’s probably going to take you to a site about Jewish bread-making rituals, is actually about Tolkien’s Sindarin language. It has a bunch of articles on Sindarin which attempt to be linguistically rigorous. As the one on syntax says, there’s just not enough material to come to any firm conclusions.

Metrical phonology.
I see that someone was searching for some stuff about metrical phonology. I’m not sure whether I’ve discussed this before, but, in case you missed it the first time, here it is again.
There are three canonical foot types:
Moraic iambs: (.µ.’µ[µ].) or (‘µµ)
Moraic trochees: (.’µ.µ.) or (‘µµ)
Syllabic trochees: (‘σσ)
Moraic systems are quantity sensitive, so that two light syllables are equivalent to a single heavy one. Syllabic trochees are quantity insensitive with stress being assigned without regard to syllable structure. While trochaic systems may be assigned from left to right or right to left, moraic iambs are only assigned from left to right.[1] Footing is not necessarily iterative. In English, for example, it seems that primary stress is assigned by a single moraic trochee at the right edge of the word, while secondary stress is assigned by syllabic trochees from the left edge.[2]
Beside foot-based languages, there are also default edge languages where primary stress is assigned to a certain syllable type. In the absence of such a type, stress is assigned to the leftmost or rightmost edge of the word. Or if the word has several candidates of equal rank, then stress is assigned to the leftmost or rightmost one. There are various criteria for assigning stress in these languages: syllable quantity might be one, with heavy syllables attracting stress (e.g. Khalkha Mongolian); sonority might be another, with more sonorous vowels attracting stress ahead of less sonorous ones (e.g. Cheremis). Here also belong languages such as Vedic Sanskrit and Lithuanian in which the properties of morphemes determine the location of surface stress. These, too, are default-edge languages.[3]
Other languages assign stress to some marginal syllable, but will still foot the rest of the word. This often results in the foot marking primary stress being sub-minimal. Although it was posited that such feet could only occur under primary stress, there is evidence to show that they can also occur under secondary stress. The phenomenon seems to be rare, though.
In Optimality Theory, the baby seems to have been thrown out with the bath water in that the patterns which can be seen when looking at grammar as a dynamic system tend to slip into oblivion when describing them in stative terms. Once again, I think this constitutes potential evidence against Optimality Theory as anything more than a theory of language acquisition.
1. Allegedly. I’ve seen more than one article claiming otherwise, but have always had the impression that the author was merely looking to prove a point instead of considering that the data or analysis or both may be wrong. It’s much like claims that onsets contribute to syllable quantity ("salience" might be a better term). I don’t think they do – ever. A Japanese phonologist once suggested, plausibly, that when the onset appears to contribute to syllable quantity, we’re really judging syllable well-formedness. Syllables with onsets get stressed ahead of those without.
2. Provided the initial syllable of the word isn’t shwa which is, of course, unstressable in English (e.g. .a.(pò.the).(ó).sis.).
3. As were the Germanic languages about 2000 years ago or so.

The long arm of the law

But what’s my motivation, dahling?

It seems to be the season for thesps and the law. First, Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty in public, which results in outrage from the infantile Indian public and a arrest warrants for the pair from an Indian judge (who should be charged with wasting his own time). Childish. However, whatever happened to Richard Gere? I can’t recall having seen him in a film for a long, long time. Apparently, he was in Chicago (2002) and has been in four films since, none of which is even vaguely familiar.

Then I learn that Hugh Grant has been arrested for throwing a family-sized tub of beans at some snapper. It’s hard not to imagine that the snapper deserved to get beaned for his no doubt irritating and intrusive behaviour.

Speaking of criminal acts, I see there’s talk about banks charging current account customers £200 a year in fees. Obviously, my NatWest account isn’t used much. Basically, my Phil Soc sub once a year and occasional online purchases are all the action it sees. Now, if only Hugh Grant had beaned a bank manager instead, the plaudits of the public would be so much greater.

Back again

The doing of doing – done.

I see someone from Vietnam (.vn?) was looking for “verbs from verbs”. The type which instantly spring to mind is causatives which, in many cases, is a process that makes an intransitive verb transitive. For example, in Old English there was a verb līþan “to go” which had a past sg lāþ. With a little trickery because of Verner’s Law (medial fricatives preceding a stressed syllable are voiced) and i-mutation, lāþ- is the source of lǽdan1 which gives MnE “lead”. The underlying sense in Old English is “cause to go”. Quite a few Class 1 weak verbs are causatives, although the Indo-European causative suffix *-éje- (Sanskrit -aya-) has merely left traces of itself behind.

I’d assume that ferian “to carry” (> MnE ferry) is from faran (sv6) “to go” (> MnE fare). Lecgan “to lay” is the causative form of licgan “to lie” (I believe I’ve mentioned this in a previous post).

In some languages, causatives are a formal part of the verbal conjugation. In English, we tend to use verbs like “make” or “have” in a perphrastic construction (e.g. I made them leave ~ I had them leave).

Other verb-from-verb formations can have quasi-modal senses (de­sid­er­at­ives, for instance) or frequentative-iterative senses (e.g. chat ~ chatter). As I said about causatives, these sorts of formations are often part of the verbal conjugation rather than mere derivation. English seems to have a pre­fer­ence, in the main, for analytic formations when it comes to creating such verb forms.

1. I’ve used the acute to indicate a long vowel because the Garamond font lacks ash with a macron. (11.08.14. Seven years later, this is still the case. It’s about time the range of Garamond’s Latin Extended-B block was, er, extended.)

I know I should feel sympathy, but…

I’ve got nothing.
Given the often appalling treatment of animals in this country, I really have no sympathy for the victim in the story Catapult boy is eaten after taunting crocodile in pen. You poke a crocodile; it’s going to eat you. But no lesson will be learnt from this.
I watched the urchin child chasing one of the chickens around a couple of months back, and was told that he’d apparently killed a kitten last year. On the door of XXKX, it says in large characters "Boiled live fish". Think of Flopsy the rabbit, trapped in a tiny cage on top of an air con unit several hundred feet above the ground in Beijing. Think of the geese at my first school which the workers tried to goad into taking to the lake instead of leaving them alone and allowing them to do things in their own time.