Middle age

Let’s start with The Flintstones.

I had no idea that The Flintstones had reached the ripe old age of 50. What, I ask myself, might’ve been 50 in 1960 and part of the cultural landscape in the same way? Or is this a new phenomenon because of the Age of Television so that we can expect to be eventually reminded of the 50th anniversaries of The Jetsons, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Scooby-doo, Josie and the Pussycats et al.?

I only have a fairly vague recollection of The Flintstones. Fred liked to say “Yabba dabba doo” when he was excited; Barney’s laugh was his catch phrase; and the opening lyrics were only partially intelligible. Back then, I would’ve been unaware that it was an animated sitcom, and these days, with The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park, I’m not sure an animated sitcom would quite work unless it had satirical overtones. I don’t think The Flintstones took pot-shots at the US government because of Vietnam.

Meanwhile, according to recent news, I’m too late for my mid-life crisis. I should’ve had it by the middle of last year, but now I’m too old. On the other hand, it claims that the unhappiest people in British society are 35- to 44-year-olds. That’s not the same thing as a mid-life crisis, which I’ve always taken to be that point in time when middle-aged people finally realise their progress in life has come to a halt.

Perhaps this is why I look round for new things to keep me amused so that although in other aspects of my life, progress may have ceased, there’s something to divert my attention. Probably, my definition of a mid-life crisis should be revised to say that it’s when middle-aged people realise their progress at work has come to a halt. If that’s so, then they need to remind themselves that their jobs aren’t their lives.

On the other hand, there was the question about earning £100,000 just recently, and whether it was worth it. My feeling is that for that sort of money, employers would believe that you ought to be doing your job all day, every day, and the government would believe it ought to tax you at a similar rate. Not worth the grief. I’d be happy if I knew that regardless of its relevance to my job, my PhD would ensure a higher salary, although I’d also like to be paid on the same scale as subject teachers in our programme. EFL teachers ultimately get paid less regardless of our qualifications and experience.

My salary at the moment? Adequate, but all things considered, could be better.

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I love rock ‘n’ roll

The Runaways.
 
The film about the formation of Joan Jett’s first band, The Runaways, in the days when there was no such thing as all-girl rock bands. Their producer is a nutjob, and after some obligatory touring around the States, the band go to Japan where they are big, and pursued by fans. But they’re also only teenagers, and Cherie Currie, who was recruited as the band’s Brigit Bardot figure, descends into the world of addiction.
 
Later, Jett forms Joan Jett and the Blackhearts while Currie, who is working in a wedding accessories shop, hears her old friend interviewed on the radio.
 
Kristen Stewart seemed to do a good job playing a character who is not some dull schoolgirl with a namby-pamby vampire for a boyfriend. In fact, Joan Jett could take wimpy vampire boy, no probs.
 
I was unaware of The Runaways (well, it must’ve been the early 70s), but I remember Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, who seemed to be Suzy Quatro clones to such a degree that I thought it was Suzy Quatro.

Rubbing Salt into the wound

Resident Evil: Afterlife.

I knew this would be cinema-taped. I wasn’t surprised that it came from Russia. I was a little bit surprised that the quality was reasonable. I was more surprised that the film had been so wildly popular.

The storyline might just fill an hour, I think. Alice is in search of some place called Arcadia, which she eventually tracks down to a ship. She has to land her plane on top of a building surrounded by zombies which, predictably enough, manage to enter the compound. There is, of course, betrayal, but Alice manages to get her new-found friends to Arcadia, where they find the butch version of Mr Smith is up to… something. There’s a big fight, and Mr Smith gets away – or so he thinks until his aircraft is blown to smithereens. Fortunately, Mr Smith was part of a job lot who can all fly black helicopters and look sharp in an expensive suit.

I’m rather baffled why this film would be so popular. Perhaps the Resident Evil generation have grown up and no longer have to ask their mums for the money to go to the movies. The film ends up looking like an episode of The Matrix with Mr Smith in his black suit sitting in his pristine white secret underground bunker [On a ship? –ed.] before the anticlimactic big fight.

Mr Bamboo says, “Huh?”


Salt.

Lara Croft is having an S&M session with some North Koreans when she’s rescued by Naomi Watts’ husband. Some time later, a Russian turns up at CIA HQ claiming that Lara is a Russian agent. Oh come on, says the audience. Just because she adopts ethnic orphans as a fashion statement… But it’s true. Lara Croft turns out to be the 5th man and she’s going to whack the Russian president.

Now that everyone knows Lara’s the bad guy, how is she going to complete her mission? Easy, she dyes her hair (or, reverts to her natural colour) and walks past all the secret service agents.

Anyway, she completes that mission, gets captured, escapes in Tomb Raider style, and meets up with her trainer (no, not the personal kind) who then has her husband murdered. Lara isn’t going to tolerate that, and goes guns-n-ammo on him and his other agents before going on her next mission – to trigger war between America and Russia.

It’s a small matter for her to breach White House security, and access the high security underground bunker (not on a ship this time) where she finds that Naomi Watts’ husband is also one of the bad guys. Oh come on, says the audience. He was really good in that film about Orson Welles. But no, he’s another bad guy, and only Lara Croft can save the world.

Anyway, she eventually goes ninja on his sorry ass, and then with the connivance of one of the CIA agents who’s been having doubts, she jumps out of the chopper to hunt down the other agents.

Salt was entertaining cartoon-y/video game-y stuff. Good quality copy, too.

Spin the DVD; see a film

MacGruber.
A McGyver (spelling?) and A-Team parody about 25 to 30 years too late. I laughed. It was probably hysteria.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
The movie of the long-running video game as acted by incompetent 5th formers for a school concert. Ben Kingsley, still trying to live down his role as Gandhi, is the villain again. Alfred Molina is a small businessman who organises ostrich races and avoids paying tax. Tamara Drew is the snooty princess.

“It lives, Igor! It lives!”

Igor looked a little sceptical.

Porsche Cayman S

On the bench lay a strange human-like creature, a corpse constructed out of parts of corpses. The head and torso were Maria Schnitzel, the prostitute who had got drunk, tripped over the railway tracks, and had been torn in half by the 8.15am to Frankfurt. The left arm was large and tattooed, and even Igor had to admire the Doctor’s skill in grafting it onto an unsuitable body. He did not asked how the arm fitted into the socket of Maria’s shoulder. The right arm was still too large for a woman’s body, but more delicate than the left, and had belonged to the writer, Walter Schreiberling, who had died from an overdose of opium just in time to involuntarily donate his limb to science. The pelvis and thighs belonged to a notorious Dutch smuggler, Jan van Drijver, who had fallen into the North Sea and had been bitten in half by a killer whale, which had then beached itself with the lower half of the body left exposed. Seagulls had pecked away at the lower legs rendering them useless for the Doctor’s purpose, but he had skilfully joined the torso and legs together. The missing legs had come from a homeless man, and a soldier who had misplaced the rest of his body during a ferocious bombardment.

“Now to attach the electrodes,” said the Doctor. There was a pause. “But this time not to me.”

All right, Live Writer doesn’t quite work with WordPress in the same way it worked with Spaces. I had to manually edit the img tag so that the picture would float on the left-hand side of the text. I also see that the line spacing in Live Writer is rather like the default line spacing in Word at 1.15 rather than 1. Now for the acid test – uploading a new post.

28.06.13. Edited the HTML mainly to fix the text size. Because Nanny blocked WP, Live Writer became unusable and, in truth, it’s easier to use WP’s online editor.

It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s grey

It must be sports day.

Yes, it’s sports day time again, and the weather gods, true to the traditions of the past eight years, have decreed that the days should be grey with a perpetual threat of rain. Actually, we’ve got the drizzle-cum-rain, but the events are continuing nonetheless.

When I saw that it was raining last night, I had my doubts about today. When I got up this morning and saw that it didn’t seem to have changed at all overnight, I trudged into school to find that the opening ceremony (the only part of such days for which students have done any practice) was under way in spite of the weather louring menacingly. Finding another of my colleagues here, who had expected to be teaching because of the state of the weather, I had a long chat before two more strays wandered in, and I decided to head home.

My progress was arrested by the recollection that I needed to go to China Mobile and put more money on my phone, and by the increasing precipitation, which sent me back to school in case we were summoned when it might be pouring with rain.

In spite of the weather, the events have continued, and it’s probably safe for me to head home to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Actually, the other thing I want to do is to post an entry here using Live Writer, which I set up last night, but too late for me to try an experimental post. Because WP seems a little more browser friendly than Spaces was, I may find that Live Writer confers no advantages. Last question: is Live Writer going to go the way of Spaces? [20.09.14. The answer is mostly “yes”. I still have Windows Live Writer, but never use it. It seems not to have been updated since 2011, and attempts to get it to work have always foundered at some point during the set-up.]

Après l’excitement

L’anxiety.

While the switch from Spaces to WordPress doesn’t bother me, I am slightly agitated by that Cyberian Sword of Damocles which perpetually hangs over the Internet in the imperium sericum, and must admit that it’s hard not to feel that WordPress will be blocked sooner or later. It’s a little slow to load, and it’s probably easier to insert a link manually than click on the button at the top of the editing screen. (That’s from school, which has a much faster Internet connection than I do at home.)

In the meantime, I’ve been welcomed by my first dollop of spam. I hope cleaning out the crap doesn’t become one of those frequent household tasks. This looked like a robotic turd, which I swept into the oblivion of cyberspace.

The Guardian has an article asking Captain Scott: a second-rate hero? It’s a book promotion article, but it seems to have brought the Scott-haters out of the woodwork. I’m not really having problems imagining Scott saying things like, “Heavy sweater and a scarf should be enough”, and really meaning it. There seems to be much potential for black parody: the Empire, stiff upper lips, and catastrophic mismanagement in an extreme environment.

Well, there goes the bell. I have a little extra time because there are eye exercises before the next class.

Goodbye, Spaces

Hello, WordPress. (Until you get blocked.)

I saw the news about the shift from Spaces to WordPress on El Reg this morning, which sent me scurrying to Spaces to find a message suggesting that I should transfer Green Bamboo to WordPress. Since Spaces was going to become extinct in six months from now, I thought I may as well make the jump. Don’t be alarmed, faithful readers. Er, reader.

I have no particular qualms about moving to WordPress except the obvious one – when will the site get blocked? I do know that I’ve been able to access some WordPress blogs recently, but not others, though I’m not sure of the pattern of access. Unlike Spaces, which seemed to be reasonably immune to Nanny’s innate hysteria, I’m less confident that this blog will survive as it waits to join my blogspot blog among the ranks of the inaccessible. [12.08.14. As I predicted, WordPress did get blocked probably because of Nanny’s obsessive desire to control everything.]

The other thing which concerns me is whether the entirety of Green Bamboo really is going to be transferred over, because I started that in November 2005, and must’ve posted far more than the 464 entries WordPress was quoting. (Now updated to 1748 entries.) I’d be annoyed to lose material from before the advent of Live Spaces (or Spaces Live; I never really knew which).

Anyway, I need to go.

At school. Just as I arrived, I wondered whether I can still use Live Writer with WordPress or not. If I want to change the font, for example, it seems that I’ll have to do it manually. Not sure about adding snaps to entries and positioning them the way I like.

However, I see that I can add tags to posts. Hurrah! I was never that keen on categories, especially when a post might cover more than one topic.

“My blessings upon thee, qq” said Irony smiling kindly on the child

And qq smiled back ironically.

When I’m chatting to Linda from school, I use the international version of qq, which is the local answer to various IM programs. You’d think that even the international version of qq would adhere to the usual paranoid strictures on the Internet which irk and annoy me so intensely, but it seems that that’s not so.

When I start qq, a box with news and other information eventually pops up, which I normally ignore, but today I noticed that the first advert was encouraging users to join qq international’s Facebook page. “How de­light­fully ironic,” I thought, because Facebook is blocked. I wasn’t thinking ironically enough because the next advert was for a VPN service spec­ifically aimed at those of us in China who are stoutly defended by the state from the colossal amounts of social trivia on Facebook, the colossal amounts of video silliness on YouTube and vimeo, and the colossal amounts of gossipy trivia that gets vomited across Twitter every second.

What next? Join Φάλυν Γόγγ and have the State Harvest your Internal Organs for Free[1]. Or, Buy a Δαλάι Λάμα T-shirt. (All profits go to the Popular People’s Front of Τιβέτ.[2]) Or, Choose Δεμόκρασy, and Vote for the Tyrant of your Choice.

I thought I was a master of such arts as irony and sarcasm, but I see I have so much more to learn.

Notes
1. This offer is only available to HK-based recruits. See the displays at the Star Ferry Terminal, Causeway Bay and other locations for details.
2. Not to be confused with the People’s Popular Front.

Back to life

Back to self-deluding reality.
 
After three days of Internet <span class = “technobabble”>hiccuppery</span>, things are as back to normal as they can be from this country, with not a sign that anyone noticed anything amiss. It might’ve been a software upgrade to Paranoia++ (every dictator’s guard against information and the encouragement of critical thinking created by those true sons of Liberty, the Americans) to strangle the new flavour of Google in case people might start saying things such as, “So you guys didn’t actually gain power by popular mandate?” or “Instead of all that voting nonsense, we just need to use violence.” Can’t have that sort of thing, can we?
 
However, I may have stumbled across one casualty of the recent abuse of Cyberia – newsbiscuit. (Later: turns out that was a glitch; newsbiscuit is viewable – for the moment.) Of course, I can understand why a site peddling irrelevant satire would be so offensive. Another casualty is intrusive pop-ups which are obviously coming from China Telecom, but which suddenly seem more frequent than they did before.
 
Well, that was the Internet, but what about the rest of the world. I see the Pope met the Queen. “So nice to see you again, Heinrich,” said the Queen. “How’s everyone back home in Germany?” I like the story from The Poke about the Pope looking less evil, and Steve Bell, whom I regard as a tiresomely unfunny Spart, goes for a Reservoir Dogs cartoon, but is being berated by commentators. Christine O’Donnell still doesn’t know how to masturbate. Dear God, woman, you ought to know by the age of 41. Nick Clegg is now more popular with the Tories than the Lib Dems, but probably only because the Tories think he’s the PM, and when they’re being honest (almost never), they will admit that they’re not really sure which one’s David Cameron. “I think he’s the toff,” said one Conservative supporter. “No,” said her husband. “I think that’s the other one.”
 
In local education news, our school came second in results for the May/June exams after Hangzhou (where students have to have IELTS 7 before they enter the programme). The general feeling is that although we should split the PAL students into four classes because of the number of them (101), their quality hasn’t suffered (or, doesn’t seem to have suffered) in spite of the increase. On the other hand, AS2 has now swelled to 36 with two more new arrivals this week bringing the total number of AS students to 69. Just as we need four PAL classes, we need three AS. But that would be too sensible, and eat in to all those lovely profits. Headmaster wants a new Audi A6.