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June 29, 2003

Two More Movies

These'll be the last two as I'll be picking up Kelly and Jean at the airport after work tomorrow. And I'm really looking forward to seeing them, for Monday and Tuesday nights.

Anyway, I watched a movie I grabbed off the International Channel: Kickboxer's Tears, starring Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. Let me just go on record that this movie is about as bad as anything Jean Claude Van Damme ever did. Poor photography, cheap story, bad acting, and it's own special brand of dumb, fifteen minutes of regulation kickboxing. In the end, the only thing that made it worth it was the grudge fight between Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. I really like Yukari, and wish she'd been a bigger martial arts star. So this fight was a treat.

Just now, I finished watching the sequel to My Lucky Stars (sequel to a sequel), Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars. A number of good martial arts sequences, but otherwise the same formulaic plot and by-the-numbers humor sketches as in the previous one. Maybe I'll skip Winners and Sinners after all.

So now the only Asian movie I have in my stash unwatched is Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, a nostalgic love story that is considered one of his best works. I'm saving this one for a special occasion.

Of course, as I'm going down to Expo on Wednesday, I'll probably stock up on more Asian movies in the dealers' room.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:32 PM

My Lucky Stars

Yet another Asian movie. I've only got two left in my stack.

This is a mediocre movie, but has some decent martial arts, including some humorous stunts. Notable as yet another movie featuring Nishiwaki Michiko as a villainess. Gotta find something with her as a hero...

It's apparently the sequel to Winners and Sinners, so maybe I'll look for that at Anime Expo 2003 (which if you haven't figured it out yet, I'll be attending).

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:29 AM

June 28, 2003

Flirtong Scholar

Yes, 'flirtong'. Depending on what dialect you view the film in, the Stephen Chow character is Tong Pak Fu or Tang Bo Hu. As the foremost of the Four Scholars, he falls in love with Chau Heung (played by Gong Li), and schemes to win her heart, posing as a poor workman to be close to her.

This is not as much fun as God of Cookery, which had more visible slapstick and Western-accessible humor. Watching Scholar, I had the definite feeling that this was a fine example of one of Chow's many talents, puns. Much dialogue flew between the characters in a manner which was obviously intended to be funny, but the literal subtitles couldn't capture the wordplay. And lacking a deep background in Chinese culture, I missed even more. Still, it is laced with enough moments of patent physical humor that I enjoyed it, watching with my work friend Burr yesterday.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:37 PM

Two New Albums

The iTunes Music Store can't answer all my music needs. Not yet, anyway. They have neither of the two albums (or artists, for that matter) that I just purchased through Amazon:

Both of these albums are classified as 'electronica', presumably due to the heavy use of synthesizers and sampling. If the various tunes were not so variable and abrupt, I'd classify them as ambient music. That's how I'll be using them, anyway. Music to code by (software development trances are fun!).

First pass judgement is that they'll get a lot of listens on those days when I gotta crunch lots of code and don't want to do it in silence. Maybe i should get a new copy of Music for Airports too? I could listen to it on the trip down to Expo!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:24 PM

June 26, 2003

Two More Asian Movies

This is really a nostalgia festival, since all the movies I've been watching have been from the 80's and 90's. Last night I watched In the Line of Duty III, starring Cynthia Khan (with Nishiwaki Michiko as a ruthless villainess). Lots of brutal gunplay and frenetic martial arts.

Just tonight I watched Royal Warriors starring Michelle Yeoh. This is actually the first film in a collection of films about women cops, though they are only related by the umbrella title "In the Line of Duty." This one was even more over the top than last night's, but I had fun.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:27 PM

June 25, 2003

QOTD

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Confucius

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:32 PM

More Newsy RSS Feeds...

BBC News Indexes

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:58 AM

June 24, 2003

I've been reading The Master

I've been reading The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, soon to be a major motion picture with Johnny Depp in the role of the devil. So far it's an interesting book, with that peculiar mixture of magical realism and absurdist fiction I've seen before in Iron Curtain authors (for instance Stanislaw Lem and the brothers Strugatsky). In the opening chapter Bulgakov introduces two characters:

The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, editor of a fat literary journal and chairman of the board of one of the major Moscow literary associations, called Massolit for short, and his young companion was the poet Ivan Nikolaevich Ponyrev, who wrote under the pseudonym of Bezdomny.

Fortunately or not, at the same time, I just finished watching The Producers, Mel Brooks' 1969 movie of a scheming Broadway producer and a nebbish accountant who plot to defraud hundreds of old ladies out of millions of dollars by raising money for a play that they know will be a flop. The main characters are the Broadway producer Max Bialystock, played by Zero Mostel, and accountant Leo Bloom, played by Gene Wilder. This is vintage Brooks, from the sight gags to the preposterous characters.

However, while reading Master, I realized that Berlioz was irrevocably imagined as Zero Mostel, while Bezdomny now seems to resemble Gene Wilder. I don't really believe this has harmed my understanding of the text, and it certainly hasn't messed up my enjoyment, but I thought it was amusing how the two had fused together.

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:06 PM

June 23, 2003

Movie Festival

Some guys would take the absence of their families as an excuse to go party. Or maybe drive to the coast and surf, for all I know. But I'm a boring kind of guy, so I've been playing Dungeon Siege and watching a bunch of Asian movies. I don't feel like writing a review, so I'll just link to a few:

Attack the Gas Station. This is the best of the bunch I've watched so far. Filmed in Korea, it recounts one night of criminal mischief at a 24 hour gas station. We get flashbacks into the life of each of the criminals, as well as a bunch of silly interaction between the civvies and the criminals. You're not supposed to root for criminals, but go with the flow on this one...

Eastern Condors. Mostly notable for having Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in substantive roles, this is a fairly conventional 'dirty dozen' style war drama, with the usual generous helping of corny acting found in lots of Hong Kong martial arts films. The climactic fight scene in the final fifteen minutes is worth getting the DVD for, however.

Ashes of Time. One big wu xia soap opera. To borrow a quote from the link:

The scenary is beautiful, the music is haunting, the fighting is stylish, all the main actors and actresses from Hong Kong in 1990s acted in the movie and the plot is based on one of the most popular wuxia books in the Chinese culture. The story is a tad slow. For Condor Heroes, it is best to stick to the TV series and the comics. This story is too complicated to be compressed into a movie.

This is not Wong Kar Wai's best picture (I say this even though I've only ever seen three of his films that I know of, since either of the other two are better). But it does have Brigette Lin in a starring role, and I've had a crush on her ever since I saw Bride with White Hair, the movie which started me on my Hong Kong movie journey.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:55 PM

June 20, 2003

Kelly is Eight!

My daughter reached the big 8.0 today. Congratulations Kelly!

First present was opened this morning: Hamtaro: Ham Ham Heartbreak.

She was playing it when I left for work this morning. I don't know how many more she'll open today, as I think Jean is taking some of them with her on the plane to Michigan tomorrow. I'm driving Jean and Kelly to the airport tomorrow morning. Miss 'em already.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:29 AM

June 19, 2003

Fooled By Randomness

I finally finished Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I initially heard about him via an essay by Malcolm Gladwell, entitled Blowing Up. Gladwell is one of my favorite writers, and he has a knack for making the most obscure subjects exciting. In his essay, he described what it is Taleb does, which is options trading (and options design), and what makes Taleb interesting, which is his views on randomness.

Taleb believes that by and large, the visibly successful figures in the trader's profession are not in fact brilliant and insightful, but simply lucky--for now. As Taleb argues in the interview The World According to Nassim Taleb:

Everybody will tell you that stock investing is a great idea because it's been back-tested by some serious Guru and if you bought one share of some stock during the revolution you would have owned the GNP of some banana republic. But you forget that your back testing is only on stocks that are alive today and did not cover stocks in imperial Russia that a rational investor would have bought at the beginning of the century. Many continental stocks were recycled into wallpaper. When you look at markets you are only looking at the remnants, the parts that have survived.

It's this skeptical attitude towards today's winners that attracted me in the first place. Fooled by Randomness expands on this and other flaws in market trading, and more specifically options. Taleb has a rather snide authorial tone which gets tiresome at times, and the book seldom delves into the actual math and probability underlying his philosophy, but his parables and anecdotes make the reading worthwhile.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:22 PM

Neverwinter Nights

I realize all you Wintel owners have already had this game for a year or two, and grown bored with it. That's fine. I'm not driven by trendyness, I just want the fun games eventually. And since I'm completely uninterested in online play, the fact that the gamer's community has moved on to the Next Big Thing disturbs me not in the least.

So I saw on Slashdot a couple of days ago that Neverwinter Nights was available as a downloadable tech demo. I grabbed it and have been playing it ever since (thus temporarily displacing both Dungeon Siege and Fallout as my time waster of choice).

I've seen player reviews on GameFAQs.com give wildly differing ratings of the game, so I've been unsure if I wanted to get it when it came out on the Mac. Playing it myself, I'd more or less convinced myself that I'd go ahead and buy it, until tonight, when midway through a long section of the game, it crashed. Granted, it is a tech demo, rather than a completed game, but many of the negative reviews for the PC version ding it because it frequently crashed. If this is so, no way am I going to spend good money on it. So I'll wait awhile after the full release and check the reviews...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:44 PM

June 17, 2003

RSS Feeds

Once again, for future reference:

New York Times RSS Feeds.

And how to point into NYT archives.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:53 AM

June 16, 2003

QOTD

The process [for dippin' dots] was determined around 1988 by Curt Jones (a biologist interested in cryogenics...the science of freezing...not cryonics, the science of "Disney on Ice").

Kaz Riprock

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:40 PM

June 13, 2003

Superstring Theory

For future reference:

The Official String Theory Website

Official how? Is there a license?

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:17 AM

June 10, 2003

Routine Shift Coming

I've got a block of time alone coming up. In a way I look forward to it, as I get some time to waste in ways I choose. Realistically, my experience is that after a couple of days, I'll be wandering the house looking for distractions. I always complain about the routines which command my day, but I miss Jean and Kelly when they are not around.

Jean and Kelly are going to Michigan to visit Jean's parents, so I've got the house to myself from Saturday afternoon, June 21st, through Sunday, June 30th. Ideas for things to do:

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:22 PM

June 05, 2003

Irony

My back has been giving me pain of late, conveniently getting worse after 1am or sometimes 3am. So I wake up and try to find a comfortable position, but sleep is hard to come by. It seems my lot in life is to find out how little sleep a human can get by on, long term.

Anyway, a typical mental habit of mine while lying awake and dealing with discomfort is to replay a song in my head. Usually, when very tired, I end up playing a single lyric over and over, often degenerating to a single verse. When my neural twitch problems were at their height, this led to my totally ruining my enjoyment of an album I had recently bought, Prolonging the Magic by Cake.

So last night I'm bouncing back and forth between thoughts about my back and music I've been listening to recently, and eventually fall into the rut of bopping over the same lyric over and over, when I suddenly realize what it is I'm 'singing': In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning as sung by Frank Sinatra.

I guess I better get a copy of It's Quarter To Three (the Fred Astaire version from The Sky's the Limit, please).

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:28 AM

June 03, 2003

Brain Freeze

A couple of nights ago, I went through the evening routine, making sure Kelly took her shower, helping her get the tangles out of her hair, toothbrushing, then a half hour watching Mahou Tsukai Tai. Then off to bed, and time for Daddy to work on his own tasks.

However, not ten minutes passed after I put Kelly to bed before she came into the den. "Daddy, I'm scared."

I'm sorry to confess that I was annoyed. It seems that two out of every three nights Kelly complains about being scared, and I'm convinced that it's just a ploy to stay up later. So initially I was brusque. "What are you scared about? What do you want me to do about it? Hasn't Mom worked with you on how to overcome your fears?" That sort of thing. So I sent her off to bed again.

After a bit, I got over my annoyance and went into her room to check on her. "I'm still scared Daddy."

"So what are you scared about?" I asked.

"I don't want to talk about it because it makes me more scared."

Annoyed again: "I can't really help you if I don't know what's scaring you."

After a pause, Kelly finally shared her fear. She's going on a 'field trip' to 7-11 with her class in a couple of days. I'd make a crack about budget cuts, but I understand this is just an end-of-the-school-year treat for the kids. They're all gonna get Slurpees.

Anyway, some kid named Ally told her a spooky story about the walk-in freezer at 7-11. Apparently, the story says it's haunted, and it snares children with it's power cord and drags them inside to freeze to death. "I know it's just a ghost story, but it still scares me."

So now I've finally got my fingers on the Boogieman, and I'm not so frustrated. "Kelly, you're right. This is just a story, and you know the difference between fiction and real life. In fact, so long as you stay with your teachers, about the worst thing that can happen to you when you're at 7-11 is that you'll drink your Slurpee too fast and get..."

"Brain Freeze!" Kelly's hand whips up and grabs her forehead.

"Right. Now that's pretty nasty, but nothing to be scared of. Even I have had brain freeze before. I was even trying to go slow, but this shake was so cold that even little sips were enough to give me brain freeze..."

I paused a moment and then began to demonstrate: "sip ... ow ... sip ... ow ... sip ... make it stop! ... sip ... ow!"

By this time Kelly was giggling, and soon she was joining in on the silliness. I got her calmed down and said goodnight. Checking on her maybe a half hour later, she was asleep.

That felt good.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:28 PM | Comments (2)