Pirates of the Caribbean: TNG

The Rum Diary.

The Rum Diary, starring Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp (i.e., Hunter S. Thompson), is another of those tales from around the late 50s or early 60s about drunk Americans and shady businessmen somewhere in America’s empire in the Caribbean.

Kemp is not completely irredeemable, but he’s on the precipice. He falls in with some of the well-known local businessmen, but manages to extricate himself from their clutches with the girl and without any violence. When he is sober, he writes stories for a failing newspaper and a shady editor who eventually scarpers. A plan to print one last issue of the paper goes pear-shaped and Kemp sails off to America, where he marries the girl.

The Rum Diary is not without its amusing moments, but it never tries to tell the audience when to laugh. It has all the standard elements such as the best friend who’s probably too far down in the slough to escape, but not so far that he’s forgotten. There’s the expat who’s at the bottom of the slough and can never escape from it. There are the corrupt businessmen, the shifty, resentful locals, and the femme fatale. But apart from the locals, there was none of the violence which might’ve been expected when the chief villain realises his girlfriend prefers the hero.

The film is, as I said above, another of many about (drunk) Americans in the Caribbean, but didn’t quite have the direction or drama to stop people from saying things such as “What’s on the other channel?”

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It’s just Boris

Men in Black 3.

It’s true. Almost. The first MiB film came out in 1997, although I don’t think I saw it until about ten years ago.

Anyway, Boris the Animal escapes from prison on the moon and plans to have his revenge on K who put him there forty years earlier and shot his arm off and set up the arcnet which protects the Earth from alien attack. Boris travels through time and succeeds in killing K whom only J can remember.

J then travels through time to track Boris down. There’s a big showdown at Cape Canaveral on the occasion of the launch of Apollo 11, and K blows Boris to sludge, thus preventing the incident from happening in the first place.

Meanwhile, J learns what happened to his dad, and how he came to have his father’s watch.

The film was a bit like an extended episode of a sitcom. There was nothing special about going back to 1969 apart from certain features of MiB kit being absent, and everything being bigger and more chromed. Boris the Animal was pure villain, but apart from a scene in which he had an argument with himself, he wasn’t exactly blessed with the best lines, which is what the villain needs in a film like this. Instead, he was little more than a homicidal maniac.

Not a bad film, but not a memorable one, and so far adrift of the first two that it’s missed the franchise boat. Watch it once, recall in a few years from now that you have but can remember none of the details, don’t worry about not seeing it again.

Prometheus

The Silent Version.

A pale-skinned alien, who’s been spending too much time at the gym, drinks some potion which causes him to disintegrate. In 2089, Sigourney Weaver, after much plastic surgery, has turned into Noomi Rapace, and is poking around on the Isle of Skye where she finds a cave painting, which is so accurate that she immediately knows that she should go to one of the moons orbiting Saturn.

When the expedition gets to the moon, the audience guesses exactly what’s probably going to happen, and it does – all the iconic bits of all the other Alien movies.

The End.

I just don’t see the point of this. As far as I can tell, there’s no explanation for the gay, gym-boy aliens or their violent behaviour (advanced but psychopathic), and there’s little or nothing here which isn’t familiar from other instalments of the franchise.

My copy will live as a drinks coaster.

Fixes, films, and Orion

Another post from Mr Bamboo.

Let’s start with rare sightings. I looked out the window last night and was able to see the constellation of Orion and a few other stars besides. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Orion from the Empire, although on the main stars were visible. I could see his belt, but not his sword. There was also a planet in view (probably Saturn) and a few other stars. Although air pollution probably makes most of the stars invisible, light pollution is, I suspect, an even worse offender, and imperial cities are wastefully over-lit.

Second piece of Saturday morning trivia is that I’ve fixed Firefox. I had another look at the page about the problem I’d been having and found there was a section further down which said that if nothing else worked, a new profile might resolve the issue. Although Firefox wasn’t working, typing firefox.exe -p in the Run box brought up the profile manager first, and then it was just a matter of copying the contents of my old profile over to the new one. However, I’m still gravitating towards Chrome, which I’m using at the moment.

I watched The Dictator last night. It was a combination of typical fare from Sacha Baron Cohen and a film rather than a mockumentary. Baron Cohen played Aladeen, the barking-mad dictator of the east African nation of Wadiya, who finds himself down and out in New York. The climax of the film is the send-up of America, and how it behaves just like the dictatorships it so abhors.

The worst part of the film was the Chinese ambassador. This was a minor, but missed opportunity. For one thing, very few people here have moustaches or look like they escaped from some Hong Kong B-movie; wrong accent; the satire should have been things like ambassadors from various African countries in trade talks with China, but the banner reading “Tribute from African countries”; the ambassador could’ve mentioned the policy of non-interference and then promptly have told the Japanese ambassador to stop worshipping at the Yasukuni shrine; he could’ve deplored the pernicious influence of American culture and the have taken a phone call from one of his children at an American university.

I also watched The Avengers last night, which had nothing to do with the fun but corny Sixties TV series, but was another outing for Marvel Comics. Robert Downey Jr. got the best lines; Scarlett Johansson still looks like a milkmaid; and I don’t know where Thor’s accent was meant to be from, but I think he must’ve been to the Meryl Streep School of Duff Accents. There were lots of explosions and exciting action sequences for the hard of thinking.

I started watching Prometheus last night until I found the soundtrack was in Russian. The odd thing was that there was nothing wrong with the picture quality, but the sound itself was bad, and during the opening credits, it was possible to hear someone clearing his throat. I might still watch the film, but without any sound. I might even like it more that way.

Vowel stems and consonant stems

Indo-European spam.

Most of the spam comments which are marked for my consideration are the usual cretinous drivel along the lines of “Great post”. Today, though, I had one about Indo-European nominal morphology, which might have had a vague chance of getting past me if the accompanying e-mail address had been remotely plausible. However, the chance I would’ve let that little turd plop onto my blog was very remote. Try again, spam boys.

The holiday has unofficially started, and although the afternoon might’ve been a bit gloomy, we were not cowering under leaden skies as we often are around this time of the year. Tomorrow is meant to be clear and sunny.

In spite of finding an alleged solution online to my problem with Firefox, I’ve had no joy and have, unofficially, switched to Chrome at least until the next version of FF comes out. I have too much bookmarked via FF to abandon it quite yet.

We had a departmental meeting this morning, which was followed by an IB meeting. The news from the latter is that our classes are being reduced to 40 minutes. I’ve been here before, but I can’t remember where and whether the class time was lengthened or shortened. It doesn’t affect me too much, but the proper IB classes, which are already struggling to meet the overall time requirements, will be squeezed even further. The idea would appear to be to squish an eleventh period into the day because we know that our pupils really need that extra class.

I’m not quite certain what’s going to happen to lunchtime, but if my calculations are correct, probably nothing. The one, small benefit may be my awful Tuesday because the library periods, a symphony in awfulness, won’t drag on into the very depths of the afternoon like a Batman film.

And that reminds me of the bad-quality, cinema-taped version of The Dark Knight Rises, which I watched a few days ago. Bloated. In fact, I stopped watching the movie just as Robin entered the cave because by then it was at least twenty to thirty to forty-five minutes too long and my patience was at an end. Also, by that stage, sound and vision were completely and annoyingly out of sync. Catwoman and the actual villain were both annoyingly similar and tiresomely smug. Bane was annoyingly pointless and cartoony.

I see there’s an article on the Beeb about Bo Xilai who, according to the Party sock puppets, “is accused of abuse of power and corruption”. I thought that was all of them. (And no, I haven’t missed the ambiguity of that sentence: ‘abuse of… corruption’.) Meanwhile, a Chinese forensics expert, Wang Xuemei, has been casting doubt on the evidence surrounding the death of Neil Heywood. She does not appear to be someone to be dismissed lightly, but this is much like opening the lion’s jaws and then sitting down inside them for a nice cup of tea.

Why do I watch these things?

Underworld Awakening.

Mr Bamboo has been watching DVDs for the first time in ages. We start with the latest in the Underworld series. It’s twelve years later and humanity having discovered the existence of vampires and werewolves has been eliminating them.

Meanwhile, Selene (or whatever her name is) has been kept in cold storage all this time until her daughter, half-vampire, half-werewolf helps her to escape into a world of unoriginal, phoned-in dialogue and a plot which seemed to have no soul. Well, we are dealing with a tale of soulless blood-suckers. A drinks coaster of a DVD.

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.

Normally I skip the trailers on DVDs, but the trailers on this celebrated the appalling efforts of a company called The Asylum and their high-quality productions, which were delightfully engaging in their badness.

The film itself is B-movie silliness of the highest order. Abraham Lincoln leads a small band of Secret Service agents to some fort which has been besieged by zombies. It isn’t without its waggish moments such as the appearance a young of Theodore Roosevelt being fed all his best lines.

The pace was a little variable with some rather flat patches at times, and Lincoln carried much of the film probably because the rest of the cast couldn’t act. This could have been a fun budget romp, and it showed flickers of cultishness, but it never quite rose to the occasion consistently.

The ending was cleverly engineered with Lincoln being infected with zombie-ism just before he popped out to the theatre.

Nationalism in a foreign tongue

The eloquence of Chinglish.

This afternoon after I come out of 远东百货 after l’expedition de la shopping (as they say in authentic, 21st-century French), there’s a white Buick (elsewhere known as a Vauxhall, I believe). On the front wings is emblazoned “F_ck Japan” and on the rear in Japanese (for which I cannot vouch) and Chinglish is “Japanese and dogs no nearing”. (I’ve seen that somewhere before.) I assume that the sentiment on the front wings can’t be expressed in Chinese without the risk of prosecution, but I also can’t help but note the irony that apart from a little 汉字, not a word of this is in the woman’s native language.

I can only conclude that nationalism in this more refined age is a quite international affair. Extraterrestrials had better watch out. The people of Earth stand united in blinkered idiocy.

Low and behold

Chopper squad.

I get home after doing some shopping and hear a helicopter flying rather low in the vicinity of the building. I look out of the window and there it goes, well below the height of the building, flying along the canal first one way and then the other. No idea why. Perhaps no one had told the pilot that Xi Jinping has been found.

The anti-Japanese protests across the Empire mark the annual round of infantile behaviour from imperial citizens. Without Japan, they’d have almost no AV stars (“Oh dear god! No Sora Aoi?! Think of the children!” or “Taiwanese AV stars? For the whole weekend??”) nor any Hello Kitty, Doraemon, or Naruto, etc. I expect some text message will be sent out telling the hysterical reactionaries to go home, and that’ll be the end of that. The clown who destroyed his Honda Civic will buy a new one (or at least nothing Chinese), and the sounds of sheep bleating will be heard across the empty-headed expanses of the Empire.

I’ve been getting annoyed with Johnson’s version of Indo-European as I edit his grammar of Old Persian. He knows of Tocharian, but his book came out at about the time Hittite was discovered, and laryngeal theory was another ten years away, I believe. I’ve been sorely tempted to skip that bit of the book, but I’ve reached the end of the chapter on vowels.

Donald Ringe is also irking me because although his book is much more recent, he posits the existence of trimoraic vowels to explain the inconsistent reflexes of the ō-stem endings in the old Germanic languages. He even lets that old nonsense – acute vs. circumflex accent – rear its ugly and unnecessary head. As far as I’d be willing to go is admit the possible survival of ō.V to account for the differences in the ō-stems where there ought to be none., but trimoraic vowels and acute vs. circumflex accent are as bad as saying (P)IE has some weird þ phoneme. Ockham’s Razor, if you catch my drift.

My theory was that the ō-stem declension in the Germanic languages was the result of the merger of two different accentual paradigms, one in which the accent fell on the stem and the other in which it fell on the endings. The latter preserved the older endings while in the former, they were changed. I suspect that this a.) cannot be proved unequivocally and b.) wouldn’t survive careful scrutiny, but at least I’m not positing a bunch of vowels which were found nowhere else, or accents which never strayed beyond a particular syllable or paradigm.

Mr Bamboo, Etiquette Teacher

In, The Vegetable Clump.

I hate getting vegetables weighed and priced in Carrefour because there’s often a clump of people around the scales. Sometimes there’s something approximating to a queue, but there’s nothing to say that someone won’t approach the scales from some other direction and then just push in as they please.

Today there was a clump and seeing that one woman had got trapped behind her trolley, I manoeuvred around her, but knew I would be a polite boy if things didn’t go in order. Indeed they didn’t. Some younger woman, oblivious of the running order, pushed in ahead of me and Mrs Apples, and when she pulled a pomelo out of her basket, I stopped her and let Mrs Apples have her turn after which it was mine. Pomelo 太太 could bloody well wait.

You turn your head away for a moment

And the next thing you know, the heir to the throne has vanished.

The prolonged disappearance of the heir apparent has resulted in Freegate being given a right royal going over this week. At best it works for a brief period of time before Nanny obviously swamps the server withe requests, thus preventing anyone else from getting through. There are rare occasions when a connection is made, but it seldom lasts. I’m writing this offline because I may only be able to access WordPress long enough for a copy-paste-post job before the shroud of ignorance reasserts itself. Until his majesty reappears and things calm down, activity here will be minimal for the foreseeable future. One thing I do note. The Internet seems to be whizzing along. Does this apparent increase in speed have something to do with Freegate being out of action? Is this indicative of just how many people are using Freegate?

There’s still no news about the old boy, There’s now been a sighting of Prince Frog Face, but it seems less and less like that some sort of back injury was to blame for his absence. As one story mentioned, the heir apparent might be back in the saddle tomorrow with not a whisper of why he was away. (As it now turns out, but I didn’t see the information until later in the morning, he’s back today, thus proving that tomorrow never comes; and after such a long absence, he’d better bloody well have a note from his mum.)

In other news, after seeing the exchange rate with the US dollar has been going seriously in my favour, I bought some more Avison: the Concerti Grossi after Geminiani and Scarlatti, and Opp. 9 and 10. The problem, though, is that the amount of information about the albums is minimal. There are covers and track listings, but no information about the date the albums were released (recent years is my best guess) or about their composition. I like to know something about the background to the works although my eye glaze over when it comes to the pretentious nonsense that the tracks often attract from some overexcited musical luvvie. (Phantasm, I’m looking at you.)

Another week of school has gone by. I like PAL 1. They’re a lively bunch who are interested and get involved. PAL 2, on the other hand, is like PAL 3 a couple of years ago with a solid core of immature boys on the right-hand side of the classroom who are unable to concentrate or sit still. Once again I say, “Do exercise three” and they hear, Lark about. Don’t mind anyone else. Yet if it wasn’t for them, I think PAL 2 would also gain my unreserved seal of approval.

We had some horrifically heavy rain at lunchtime a few days ago. I thought I’d go to Subway to get something for lunch, but by the time I got out, water was beginning to stream down the steps into the the Parkson building, and there was a curtain of water at the entrance. The streets were a combination of lakes, rivers, and springs. There were some huge and very deep puddles (the biggest I saw being on this side of the intersection where 县前街 meets 解放路); at one place there was so much water in the drains that it was bubbling back up through the manhole cover; and in several places there were swift-flowing streams. The surface flooding was extensive and even if the city had decent drainage, it probably couldn’t have coped.

Since then, the weather has been predominantly grey although the sun is shining at the time of writing. I shan’t be at all surprised, though, if the cloud comes over sooner rather than later.

The latest supercar sighting was a white Aston Martin just up near the bridge. A Vantage, I suspect, but I passed it by too quickly to see. I also saw the Panamera called Connie again a couple of days ago. If you’ve got the money, why buy a Panamera in the first place and why call it Connie? The car is ghastly enough as it is, but giving it a name like Connie just makes things worse.

The free orange bikes have continued to appear around the city apart from outside 远东百货 where everything is in place apart from the bikes.