I’m Tolkien and so’s my wife

Ash nazg… <The remainder of this sub-heading violates copyright.>

According to Language Log (The Tolkien estate over-reaches), the phrase “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion”, appearing on a button, has awakened Sauron [You can’t say “Sauron” on the Internet. –ed.], who has dispatched his Ringwraiths [You can’t say “Ringwraiths” on the Internet. –ed.] to deal with these trademark violators. All right, perhaps a few orcs [I don’t think you can say “orcs” on the Internet, either. –ed.].

Although I don’t know the legal ins and outs of trademark law in the States, this seems to be stretching things since “Tolkien” doesn’t appear to be being used as a trademark in this case.

In fact, the statement is a shrug since it seems to imply that people who watched Evangelion are superior to people who read Tolkien, but I’m not really sure what it’s meant to imply. It lacks any overt wit.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that some author has the orcs [Stop saying “orcs”! –ed.] after him for using Tolkien as the main character in a book. (JRR Tolkien novel Mirkwood in legal battle with author’s estate.) Again, I’m a little puzzled because CS Lewis appeared in Shadowlands, and Ian Rankin has featured in 44 Scotland Street, and all manner of people both alive and dead have been portrayed in fictional works.

[By the way, you can’t say “Tolkien” or “CS Lewis” on the Internet; or “Ian Rankin”. –ed.]

There are also other things you can’t say on the Internet.

You now can’t say “jάσμινε” in the Empire, among other things. The news about the reaction to calls for “strolls” shows just how paranoid the imperial regime is, and I wasn’t even remotely surprised that some study by Qinghua University revealed that the Empire spends more on internal than external defence. That may not be true, but it’s hard not to believe it.

Of course, as the reports which I’ve seen have all been saying, there’s little likelihood of a Jάσμινε Рэvoлутйон, and I agree. I’ve already suspected that the whole thing might be an enormous joke on someone’s part, and if the imperial government is going to be so heavy-handed, it shows, I think, how little they trust people or even know them, and how desperate they are to cling onto power at all costs.

For some time my theory has been that if you could tally up who has been responsible for the deaths of imperial citizens over the past 2500 years, then foreigners come a long way behind the national military (including warlords).

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

The King’s Speech

Not so much tripping off the tongue as over it.

The D-D-Duke of York has a crippling st-st-stammer, which makes him ineffective as a p-p-public speaker. Some mad d-d-doctor has him shoving m-m-marbles in his m-m-mouth, which renders him incoherent, and there seems to be little h-h-hope that he’ll ever be able to sp-sp-speak in public without t-t-torturing his audience with his st-st-stammer.

The D-D-Duchess of York goes to s-s-see Lionel L-L-Logue, an Australian actor whose ambitions have been th-th-thwarted, but whose talents as a sp-sp-speech therapist seem to provide him with a very m-m-modest income. So they begin as L-L-Logue tries to help B-B-Bertie overcome his impediment.

While L-Logue makes some p-progress with his p-pupil, George V d-dies and Edward VIII marries W-Wallis Simpson (Homer Simpson’s great-grandmother), which l-leads to his abdication forcing B-Bertie to sit in the b-big chair. But L-Logue gets a little too f-familiar with his r-royal pupil and is sh-shunned until the k-k-king-in-waiting realises that he n-n-needs his teacher to instill some c-c-confidence in him after w-war is declared and G-George VI has to sp-speak to the nation and the Empire.

The speech isn’t altogether f-fluent, but the king overcomes the first hurdle, and Logue continues to help him throughout the war.

I thought that the film might be all about Logue getting overly familiar with the Duke of York and then getting snubbed by the establishment, but that was a minor part of the story. With some glee, he shoos the Archbishop of Canterbury out of Westminster Abbey so that he can prepare his pupil for the coronation, but again, that’s only a minor element of the story. At the end it says that the king honoured Logue for his assistance and the two remained remained friends. That also seems to be what the film is about. The Duke of York was bullied by his family as a child (and even as an adult) and needed a friend to instil some confidence into him.

Colin Firth seems to do a good job as a man who finds public speaking such a traumatic experience and yet is also full of rage as well. Geoffrey Rush does an admirable job being familiar, because that’s part of his technique, without overstepping the mark apart from one occasion. Helen Bonham Carter, as the Duchess of York, comes across as someone who finds herself in situations which are infra dig., but manages to pretend that everything’s perfectly normal. I wondered whether Bonham Carter, who has come across as a bit dotty at times, played herself a little.

I observed that Logue’s wife was played by Jennifer Ehle, who starred in the infamous wet shirt version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth with whom she is supposed to have had a fling.

The Chinese version of the name is a little odd, but I think 国王的演讲港名:皇上无话儿 says “The King’s Speech Hong Kong title: His Majesty’s Confidant”. Of course, I could be wr-wr-wrong.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

The latest figures

98 dead; 226 missing.

Those are the latest numbers I have for the Christchurch quake. The picture is bleak because there might be another hundred or so victims in the CTV building, and up to twenty from the collapse of the cathedral. If the city is lucky, the toll will remain below the 300 initially reported missing.

My parents managed to go shopping albeit under restrictive conditions and unable to buy bread. They also got petrol and fuel for their barbecue. Since they haven’t mentioned water, I’ve been assuming that that hasn’t been an issue.

At least some of the water in the pictures was caused by a burst main, but I’m not sure whether that includes some of the places such as the stadium and surrounding area or just the shot where the road is flooded and there was a line of cars along it.

I was thinking early that all the work I saw done to patch Christchurch up after the first quake has come to nothing. Although there were plenty of signs from the first quake such as scaffolding, resurfacing of roads, undulating roads, and various buildings fenced off, the city was tidy enough again. This time, though, it appears that there’s a lot more work to be done.

I’ve also been wondering whether the old buildings can possibly be preserved since they’re the ones least resistant to earthquakes.

In local news.

I was not paying attention the other day when I bought some tuna from the supermarket in 远东商场because when I went to use it for tea, I found that it didn’t have a ring pull and that I needed a tin opener.

I happened to go to Carrefour yesterday, where the queues were much more moderate than they have been recently, and looked for a tin opener. I found one, which cost ¥47, but baulked at the price because I’d be unlikely to use it more than once, and I eventually abandoned it on the display alongside the moving walkway to the first floor.

I went to Trust Mart this afternoon partly to look for a tin opener and partly for more mundane domestic demands. The place did at least have a variety, including the same make which I’d seen in Carrefour yesterday, but for ¥35. Since mine cost ¥19.90, I feel less profligate for spending that sort of money on something that I’ll only use once.

It was a nice day today, but actually it was really a subtle, deceptive, vernal harlot because the weekend forecast is less promising with rain and possibly even (a little) snow.

In spite of the news of a drought in the Empire and resultant shortages, there’s a water leak outside the block of buildings where the flower market is. No one seems to be bothered by this gross waste of water in the slightest.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

Christchurch quake, Day 2

The day after.

The death toll from the quake was 75 this morning with 300 missing. It’s also now thought that around 100 might’ve died in the CTV building, including a number of Japanese language students. Quite a few also died when the cathedral collapsed.

I’m looking at pictures of Lyttelton at the moment. One of the roads over to the town looks to be a complete mess. There’s a shot of a petrol tanker which was just missed by a rather large rock that came down on the road behind it. The time ball station is wrecked and it looks as if even a minor aftershock could have the rest of it collapsing. The tower is badly cracked. Like buildings in Christchurch itself, several of the buildings in Lyttelton would appear to have probably been damaged in the first quake.

In the pictures of Sumner, there’s one in which a building-sized rock came down between two buildings, although it’s hard to tell whether it hit a building as the caption claims. Ah, it’s the landslip which hit the building, but this particular boulder just missed it.

There’s a picture of some stadium with a running track which is water-logged along with the area around it. I wonder whether the spontaneous well which bubbled up at the back of my parents’ house might’ve returned. There’s also a photo of another area where the roads are inundated and there’s a line of cars along them. I suspect that the areas along the River Avon have probably slid some more. The Catholic cathedral has also been damaged at the east end while it’s also possible to see some damage on the roof at the base of the tower.

My parents got power back late this afternoon their time, but the report on the New Zealand Herald website said that most of the city was still without water.

At this stage, the picture which is available is still fairly limited. I can only hope that there will be no more major quakes in the area, but at the same time, knowing that the odds were supposedly against such a strong tremor, I wonder whether the sub-structure of the Canterbury Plains has any other surprises in store. I really hope it doesn’t.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

Christchurch earthquake

New shock.

Where the quake in September last year hit Christchurch in the morning before most people were up, the latest quake could not have had worse timing, striking today just before 1.00pm. Being closer to the city, it seems to have been more damaging, causing the spire of the cathedral to topple, and the Pyne Gould Building, which was built in the 60s, to collapse.

The picture of the damage is incomplete because there are hints that New Brighton, Sumner, and Lyttelton, which is the port town in Banks Peninsula, have also suffered serious damage.

The initial casualty figure was 17, but that then jumped to 65, and it’s been predicted that it might reach 200.

Dad phoned me from his car, although text messages had been getting through. While Mum and Dad were talking to me, there was another jolt, and although they’re all right, and the house is still in one piece, their nerves are on edge. Understandable because although aftershocks are to be expected, the prospect of wholly new quakes, and possibly quite powerful ones, is disconcerting. The odds were hugely against a quake of this magnitude, but that is no guarantee such a thing won’t happen.

Just as I got home from Yamazaki this afternoon, I had another call. Dad was using the car to recharge his phone. My parents’ house still had no power, but there was power to the street lighting just nearby, which was rather bothersome. The weather had also turned wet and cold.

At this point in time, there’s no further news, but a clearer picture will no doubt emerge tomorrow.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ. Well, it will be once I’ve copied it over.)


Really, frost.

When I got up this morning, there was condensation on the inside of the window in the main room. That’s a rare event because in spite of how cold it gets during the winter, it’s typically too dry for condensation to form.

I was just about to go into our building at school this morning when I noticed that there was frost on the grass. In all the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen frost even although I’ve seen much else. I expect that on the news tonight, the weather girl will have to explain what frost is, while the local government will be advising citizens not to panic, but if they are worried, they can call the Frost Emergency Hotline.

Trading Standards Officers will also be busy beating people up for selling fake frost – ice scraped from the insides of their freezers.

Chinese has 霜 (shuāng) or 霜冻 (shuāngdòng) meaning “frost”, and at least in this sense, I assume the words among two of the least used in the language when referring to this particular climatological phenomenon.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

A grave situation

Everyone was in tiers.

Dennis, Yvette’s replacement, is a keen cyclist with a keen cyclist’s bike, who wanted to go on an adventure this afternoon.

We went over the canal and then took the road round past 青山公园, which is on the south side of 惠山 and which he had seen, but did not know that it was a park We turned onto 大池路 (although I can only see 西大池 and 东大池, neither of which seems especially 大 to me) and went past the police (or military) college, which scores points for being neat and tidy, but loses badly in the camouflage section because the buildings are covered in bright red tiles.

Our destination was 梅园公墓 (Méi Yuán Gōng Mù; Plum Garden Public Cemetery) which is at the north end of a short valley below 舜柯山 (Shùn Kē Shān). The graves rise in tiers up the hillside with the east and north plots taken, while some workers were preparing the tiers higher up on the west side of the valley.

There was also a great plume of thick smoke from some vegetation which was being burnt off, and from other work which was being done, it appeared that the cemetery had been being refurbished. The trees were new and another group of workers were busy on a different section which, it seemed, was probably going to be paved. Around the small lake were the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

The two buildings, some small temple-like thing, and some other building of indeterminate function, were older than these developments.

Is it typical in China for cemeteries to be built on hillsides? That way, I suppose, the dead can be on a 仙山 with the immortals.

We sat chatting for a while and had a mob of small children come and watch us before they mostly got bored once they discovered that we did not have flip-top heads, six fingers, and pointy ears.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

See you in a few days?

Or is this goodbye for another year?

I don’t know whether this is going to be goodbye until the next time I’m somewhere I can access WordPress, or whether I’m not going to see this place again until who knows when.

If this place falls silent again, there’s always Green Bamboo on Live Journal, which has remained immune from Nanny’s hysterical behaviour so far. From what I’ve read online, I find that things may get worse again, but I’m hoping that because of LJ’s close association with the Grand Duchy of Muskovy, it will be spared for the time being at least.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Hidden tigers: why do Chinese children do so well at school? on The Guardian along with the associated comments. One person hits the nail on the head. Chinese children are only really good at any subject which a computer or robot could be programmed to do. Ask them to do anything which requires independent thought, creativity, imagination, or critical thinking and most of them fall flat on their faces. They might all be made to learn the violin or piano, but though they may be technically good, they play as an automaton might play.

The problem with Chinese children is that they’re one-dimensional, but generally very good in that dimension. Since western universities want potential students to have a second dimension, our students end up doing the most perfunctory extracurricular activities (e.g. going to some orphanage or picking up rubbish), but their parents never allow them the chance to indulge in some hobby which might be tangentially related to some subject they want to study. Of course, most of them would play World of Warcraft or Counter-Strike until they dropped dead from want of food and sleep.

So until Chinese school children show evidence of another dimension or two, I’m disinclined to be too impressed with their narrow range of academic achievements.

The Girl who Played with Fire

By Stieg Larsson.

I’d wondered about this book after reading The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, and I was right to do so. The whole of GPF is little more than the prelude to the final volume and barely contains anything which GKHN doesn’t then cover again.

Lisbeth Salander returns from a prolonged holiday to find that she’s been implicated in the murders of a journalist, his girlfriend, and her guardian, the oily and unpleasant Advocat Bjurman. The police are divided between Inspector Bublanksi and Officer Modig, who think Salander is innocent, and Ekström and others who just know she’s guilty.

Using information which the murdered journalist had acquired, Mikael Blomkvist rides again to clear his favourite anti-social misfit’s good name.

About the only things which GPF has that was never made explicit in GKHN is how Salander managed to escape after just was shot and buried, and how Blomkvist managed to overcome Ronald Niedermann, Salander’s half brother.

There’s no desperate need for anyone to read GPF because the first and the third books are sufficient. Larsson could, once again, have left 60% of the book out, and still have told the story quite comfortably. Bottom line, GPF is bloatware. It’s not badly written bloatware, but GKHN filled in the gaps for anyone who skipped GPF in the first place. It’s a book to be borrowed from a friend or the library, but if I had bought this first, and then GKHN afterwards, I would’ve felt duped.

(I originally posted this review over on the Live Journal version of Green Bamboo.)

And now I’m wet

I also have a stack of books.

Today is a complete contrast from yesterday with grey skies and some quite heavy rain dominating the day so far. There’s been quite a bit of surface flooding where the drains have got clogged by detritus coming down from trees, but since about 2pm, the rain has diminished and we might even get some sunshine as the weather forecast predicted. It seems a little lighter than it has been and earlier I thought I saw a thin slice of blue sky to the south. I think I might’ve been mistaken about that, though.

I went to the University Bookshop this morning to have a look round. In spite of knowing that I have more than enough books already, I ended up with three more – Unseen Academicals, the latest Artemis Fowl book (but I now suspect that I actually have that I bought it in Hong Kong, and the more I think about it, the more certain I am that I’ve already read it), and the sequel to the Bartimaeus Trilogy. I wasn’t planning to buy them, but happened to find myself in the right place at the right time.

When I got back here, I did a test pack of my suitcase. I can get everything in and I’m fairly certain that I’m within the weight limit in spite of having 21 books altogether. The real problem is fitting everything comfortably into the suitcase.

I also got my credit card this morning and can finally pretend to be an adult. I learnt, though, that they’ll dish credit cards out to 14-year-olds, which seems to be about as sensible as asking a known arsonist to look after a box of matches and a can of petrol. Anyway, now that I have one, what am I going to buy? I’ve got so used to not having one that I’ll probably never use the thing.

Right, time to continue reading The Girl who Played with Fire.