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Showing posts with the label TV and film

The Chinese Room

The Chinese Room is a thought experiment conceived by the American philosopher John Searle, in which you watch the infamous 2003 film The Room, then translate it into Chinese. Searle postulated that the act of translation could not make the dialogue any worse than it already is.

It was on the sixth viewing of The Room that one of its deepest secrets became clear to me: every scene resembles the sort of highly contrived dialogue found only in language learning textbooks. I can only imagine that when Tommy Wiseau first studied humanity on his home planet, his textbook convinced him that all human interaction consisted of people meeting, greeting and leaving in quick succession, like talking billiard balls.

As an example of Searle's thought experiment, I present the Flower Shop Scene translated into bad beginner's level Mandarin (from bad beginner's level English):

约翰尼: 你好.
Yuēhànní: Nǐ hǎo.

售货员: 你要什么?
Shòuhuòyuán: Nǐ yào shénme?

约翰尼: 十二朵红色的玫瑰.
Yuēhànní: Shíèr duo hóngsè de m…

The middle of the film

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I was given Michael Palin's first volume of diaries by my father-in-law and admired them so much that I was inspired (not for the first time) to keep a diary myself. I soon realised (not for the first time) that I'm not one of life's diary-keepers. The secret, if Palin is any guide, is to write up your previous day's adventures first thing the following morning. Presumably this requires an engaged brain at an early hour, so there's no hope for me.

I've resisted any urge to try again in the wake of Halfway to Hollywood, Palin's second volume of diaries. This is not a reflection on the book, which is just as admirable as the first volume; quite a surprise considering that the time period covered is, in hindsight, a lull between his great successes as a Python and as a travel documentary maker. Part of the joy is knowing the denouement before the author, the opposite of the normal reading experience.

The title is an accurate summation of the contents. As Pali…

If Chins Could Kill

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The first year at university is a rite of passage in many ways, and never more so than when the unsuspecting fresher enters the strange, liminal world of Cult Films. I vaguely remember that one night we watched The Evil Dead (or was it Evil Dead 2?). Not just a cult film, but a cult horror film, which is about as culty as you can get. I'd like to say that it changed the way I viewed cinema forever and left me hero-worshipping the star, Bruce Campbell. But this would be unfair to the truth: I hated it. And I hated him by association (whoever he was).

It wasn't Campbell's fault though. I hate horror films as a genre. I get squeamish at the sight of blood, and more squeamish at the sight of severed limbs with motive power of their own. Nowadays I'm desensitized compared to back then, but I still tend to avoid them if I can. Sorry, horror fans. It's my loss, I'm sure.

So what was I doing reading Campbell's autobiography? It's another selection from the lib…