Category Archives: Entertainment

It’s the New Year. Where’s my broom?

Cloud Atlas.

I didn’t managed to finish watching this DVD and don’t mind at all. This was the film version of a novel called Cloud Atlas which weaves together six stories across time. It sounds jolly clever, but also like some piece of authorial showiness which has publishers saying, “Very good, but now write us something readable.”

It’s also clearly one of those books which is unfilmable in that a film can be made from it, but it’ll never be a successful piece of cinematography. The film was apparently trying to be faithful to the book, but in the end it was merely six vaguely related stories spliced together and using the same cast to save the studio money.

I had a mail message from Amazon this evening. They were inviting me to buy a book called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve never heard of it or the author. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I ended up at Good Reads (which is blocked from here because the imperial government just hates people having their own opinions about anything; 14.11.13. Seems to have been a temporary blip; I was back on the site without a VPN) where the reviews were so positive that if they were a programming language, it’d be called C++++++++.

Instead, I started having a look at the one- and two-star reviews on Good Reads (because the reviewers are likely to be bluntly honest), and from what I’d read about the author, I’d say the protagonist of the book is the author himself. Again, like the author of Cloud Atlas, Rothfuss is clearly talented, but he’s puked up an overindulgent, George-Martin-sized tome.


I think your halo has slipped a bit

Caving into the studio. Or should that be smialling? (Smialing?)

The Hobbit is now going to be made in New Zealand. How? Because the government there is going to change the law, and give the studio NZ$25 million. So much for it being one of the least corrupt countries. If the boys from Warner Bros tell the New Zealand PM to get them coffee, then I suppose he probably does; and then they make him go back and get them muffins, which he has to buy and can’t then claim on expenses.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d try changing the tag line at the top of the page. I don’t know quite why I can’t save my changes, but there was a lot of wheel spin and nothing happened. Perhaps the same fate is going to befall this entry when I attempt to post it.

“Waltzing Matilda! Waltzing Matilda!”

Sang Will Scarlet.

Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood film is going to star Russell Crow and Cate Blanchett. I’m already hearing dialogue such as

“You scoundrel, Robin Hood!” exclaimed the Sheriff of Nottingham in outrage. “Those are my cans of Castlemaine XXXX.”


“Throw another kangaroo on the barbie, Friar Tuck,” said Robin.


“It could be worse. Nicole Kidman might be playing Maid Marion.”

or there’s a running gag so that every time the Sheriff or Prince John throw a boomerang, it hits the Sheriff in the face.

Ridiculous behavioural quizzes

Is it rational to answer them?

When I went to The Independent earlier this afternoon, I found an article How predictably irrational are you? It’s by some American academic called Dan Ariely, and is really a plug for some book of his. Anyway, with the article comes a pop quiz from which you can find out how rational you supposedly are.

I got 24, which allegedly makes me rational. My highest marks came in the fourth question because I decided that an apparently unknown guest who gives me £10 instead of a bottle of wine is unlikely to be a good friend[1]; and the ninth question because I preferred the pencil (which has a practical function) to the money (a mere 10p and thus a sum too pathetic to pilfer).

Obviously some hack at the The Indie had nothing better to do yesterday afternoon.

1. Actually, although some people might think that it’s worth making a friend of someone who’s willing to give you money for nothing, my inclination is that this person is, in fact, an idiot for such and act, and not someone I really want as a friend. Also, if they’re getting fussed about a bottle of wine, they’re too fastidious and indecisive to be someone I’m likely to get along with. On the contrary, I’d probably find someone like that to be rather annoying.

And he will play


According to a report in the New Humanist editor’s blog (blogspot; possibly viewable; possibly not), Richard Dawkins is going to make a guest appearance in Dr Who (Dawkins to appear in Dr Who). The entry wonders what part he might play. I’d be tempted to have him play God and wander around saying things like “I keep telling the Pope I don’t exist, but he just doesn’t believe me.” On the other hand, perhaps he could be struck down.

“So God killed him?” said Rose peering at the arms and legs sticking out from under the pile of books.
“Well, not exactly,” said the Doctor, “what with God not existing. No, God didn’t kill him, but rather the idea of God.”
“The idea?”
“Yeah, this huge pile of Bibles fell on him. Ironic, eh?”
“Yeah,” said Rose doubtfully. “Just wondering, Doctor, but just who was Richard Dawkins again?”

[30.08.14. Dawkins did make some sort of appearance in Dr Who, but it was so fleeting that I’d forgotten he’d even made an appearance.]

A Man for all Seasons

The RSC’s annual Whine.

I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I’d find the annual article about the RSC trying to promote Shakespeare to schools for one reason or another. This time round they’re trying to inculcate four year olds into the Cult of Shake­speare (Teach children Shakespeare at four, says RSC). As some of you may know, I’m not a big fan of the idolatry of the Bard who, I feel, is prob­ably overrated (though you must say such things quietly), and whose Engl­ish is largely gibberish except a patch here and a line or two there which are still comprehensible to speakers of Modern English. Probably, because Shakespeare’s English is not ours and not so easily understood today, we are perhaps apt to mistake the translucent or opaque parts for something immensely clever.

I don’t want to dismiss Shakespeare as some second-rate hack, but he needs to be presented with more reality (i.e., a playwright with commercial concerns dealing artfully with well-worn themes) and less (fawning) adul­ation.

I suspect that if you used Shakespeare as a reading text in the IELTS exam or as the source for the listening test, educated native speakers (with no special knowledge of the language) might be lucky to get IELTS 6.

I was nosing around the Net when I happened across an edition of The Daily Tucket, a reputable journal of note from the early 17th century. Perhaps it might offer some clue why the RSC is trying to indoctrinate four-year-olds.

The Daily Tucket

Banned on the run

Foreign cartoons? Oh the horror!

I read a story on Danwei a few days ago about more horror-related hysteria from Nanny.

The horror movie rules are intended to protect the mental health of children.

The usual nonsense in other words, because any restrictions on such films are easily circumvented by a quick trip to the DVD shop. Why not buy some porn while you’re there?

Anyway, the ban on showing foreign cartoons on telly has now been extended to 9pm (Further restrictions on foreign cartoons, and horror movies). It was previously 5pm – 8pm. Although I know that things are not the same at all high schools, several of the ones I’ve been teaching at inflict evening study on our little darlings. In other words, our kids wouldn’t have the chance to see any cartoons between 5pm and 8pm or later. About the only time they might see any would be at the weekend, probably after a trip to the DVD shop to buy horror films and porn. And cartoons.

Ironically, there’s a shop just up the street which sells comic books. If the artwork you can see at the front is anything to go by, it would seem likely that most of their merchandise is probably manga rather than 漫画 (mànhuà).[1] So much for 7:3 domestic to foreign cartoon ratio.

I’m going to guess that the local cartoon/comic industry just doesn’t cut it compared with the Japanese anime/manga behemoth. One of my pupils once lent me The Butterfly Lovers on VCD (for some reason), but the result was like soft-focus Disney in lurid pastel colours. The anime version would be more pleasing aesthetically, although Yingtai would end up with unfeasibly large boobs.

Meanwhile, Edison Chen is back in Hong Kong and, so it says over on ESWN, is going to retire permanently from the Hong Kong entertainment industry. Well, I suppose it’s better to leave on a high because he and his leading ladies are now probably better known than ever. The accompanying picture of police surrounding the car to keep the baying mob of hacks away is bad press for the use of police resources, although under the circumstances a goodly number was probably in order. I’d say from the pic that 100 is a bit beyond a goodly number.

In another ESWN story, Jolin Tsai, squawking Canto-pop princess, appears to be trying to divert attention from the Edigate scandal (in which she may have had a small part[2]) by referring to Taiwan as her country, thus causing the hysterical reactionaries on the Mainland to react, well, hysterically.

1. All right, some low linguistic comedy on my part. The word is spelt the same way in Chinese and Japanese.
2. According to that source of the pictures, there were questions about whether the shots of Jolin were really her. They don’t look like her.

Whine and a film

Sorry, I mean “Wine and a film”.

I met up with Brigid at The Flying Pan in Wan Chai for brunch before we wandered around IFC for a bit before going to see the lunchtime session of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The story is about Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke that leaves him almost completely paralysed apart from his left eye and his imagination. With the help of a speech therapist, he manages to dictate a book about his experience, which is published ten days before he succumbs to pneumonia at the age of 43.

The film appears to have been based on a true story which rings a few bells. It’s funny in places, but mostly depressing because it would be terrible to be in the same situation with your brain working, but the rest of you not following suit, and your means of communication being slow and ponderous.

After the film, Brigid and I went for a drink at one of the bars in Central, and had something to eat; although after a late brunch, I wasn’t feeling inclined to have anything substantial. We then went in search of somewhere to have dessert and ended up, on the recommendation of some (rich) elderly local American expat, at Di Vino. The dessert, which was three different kinds of chocolate was seriously yummy.

I finished reading The Book with No Name by Anonymous last night. It’s a noir, supernatural thriller about the town of Santa Mondega and the search for the Eye of the Moon which confers invulnerability on the wearer and the power to control the moon. Most of the inhabitants of the town, except for people in the service industries, are hardcore nut jobs who end up getting whacked, usually by the Bourbon Kid, who drinks a shot of bourbon and then goes mental. It’s all very tongue-through-cheek. Oops! I meant “tongue-in-cheek”. Probably.

Back to Chengdu tomorrow. I managed to buy everything that I wanted to buy and one or two things that I hadn’t considered. I suppose this visit was a little more touristy than previous occasions. Brigid has tended to be elsewhere during the week of the Spring Festival in previous years so that if she hadn’t been here, I would’ve been left to my own devices. I perhaps didn’t buy quite as many books as I thought I might. A lot of the books I was looking at tended to have blurbs that began

The year is 1547. Miguel Huevos y Bacon, a Franciscan friar, is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Eva del Salsa de Tabasco, and finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue that involves the highest reaches of the Spanish government etc.

I must admit I saw comparatively few books which interested me sufficiently to want to buy them on this occasion. Besides, I still have Jasper Fforde’s latest still to read and Stephen Fry’s The Stars’ Tennis Balls (not to mention, I think, one other). My Name is Red took me far too long to get through, but it could hardly be described as a ripping yarn.

I might be back on the air some time tomorrow afternoon if I’m feeling so inclined. Don’t wait up.

Nostalgia revival

It’s the 80s again. Again.

Apparently, the 80s are back according to Never gonna give it up: 80s stars cash in on thirtysomething pop nostalgia boom in The Guardian. There was an 80s nostalgia boom, probably fuelled by the recording industry trying to increase its profits, about ten years ago when, suddenly, a bunch of 80s music started to reappear on CD. In fact, compilations of music from the 80s seem to be a staple in record shops these days, although I note that a lot of the time it’s the same old stuff published by different labels.

assist I liked pop music back in the 80s. Then Kylie turned up and I decided that enough was enough when the stars of dreadful Australian soap operas had musical aspirations. It was not just Kylie, though. I didn’t like the style of music that started being re­leased. And since then, I’ve remained largely ignorant of pop music, al­though I know the names.

Well, I suppose it’s about time my generation got to remind everyone of the music of our youth instead of being bored by a bunch of tedious geriatrics from an older generation reminding everyone about the music of their youth.