Inadequate Review: Interstellar

This highly anticipated film from Christopher Nolan succeeded once again, but with some flaws.

If you are reading this review, first of all, I don’t know what you are doing with your life; secondly, you must not try to avoid spoiler. Because I will tell you that the story has a happy ending, surprisingly.

Astrophysics, relativity, time and space. If you are one of the people would consider any technical or theoretical flaw unacceptable, then this movie is not for you. After watching the movie, my wife and I had a very extensive conversation about the whole space traveling sequence, and found quite a few things impossible with this film. However, none of this hindered our viewing experience. As an audience, I found myself completely emotionally engaged during most of the film, closely following the characters throughout the entire amazing interstellar journey, fighting through improbable odds to get back the space station and save human race. After pilot Cooper decided to make the ultimate sacrifice for Dr. Brand and human race, he fell into the black hole where not even light could escape. Director Nolan used quite some of his imagination and magic tough to build us a 4 dimensions space. This scene was so amazing, and almost literally mind-blowing. As a person closely related to science, I have always had trouble in imagining what a 4 D space-time looks like (not that I am good at imagining any things), let alone to explain it to anyone else. But director found a way to present and communicate this complicated theoretical idea to a very large general audience with such ease. Although conventional wisdom tends to believe nothing survives in that gravity pull from black hole, I am certainly willing to admire that this film take advantage of some unknown theoretical area and great deal of imagination to explain the whole story from the beginning.

Besides the scene of Cooper black hole experience, I found the Dr. Mann planet plot was extremely intense. Before meeting Dr. Mann, everyone talked about Mann with such a glowing manner and absolute positive tone. It just smelt fishy. When Dr. Mann was woke up from deep sleep in water, he simply lost himself and cried uncontrollably. It is hard to imagine how people should react in that kind of situation, cry would be the most logic option. And Matt Damon did a great job in this role. Yes, it was Matt Damon who played Dr. Mann. I found he was a little too famous, and almost distractive in the movie. Anyhow, I digressed. And when asked about the broken robot, Dr. Mann behaved a little awkwardly. I thought to myself, oh, well, it is all downhill from here then. Apparently, Dr. Mann was so desperately looking for human contact, and he sent out fake positive signal, and tricked the crew to the frozen planet where even cloud was even frozen. He set up Cooper, broke his mask, almost killed him, then hijacked the aircraft with the intention to steal the space station? I think. The big revealing as Dr. Mann was getting closer and closer to jeopardize this entire mission was intense and nerve-racking. However, I have to say how Dr. Mann didn’t see the danger of opening the airtight gate was beyond me. But then again, hey, he was basically insane. As the blast happened, the camera took the position straight far above everything that was happening, and the entire theatre was silent all the sudden. In that moment, the silence was so powerful. Looking at all the debris from the space station floating away and the station spinning away from the far above, I felt like I was staring at the end of human race. It was so helpless! I hold my breath while watching pilot cooper miraculously pulled off the high difficulty docking onto a fast spin station. I can’t believe that he did it. Later, my wife told me that she knew everything was going to be fine, as all of this kind movies are, and she wasn’t nervous at all. I grinned. Maybe I was way more emotionally involved in this kind of stuff than others. One thing I have to say that if the station was spinning at a very high rate, it would be impossible for human to actually achieve that task. Just imagine what will happen if putting an animal in high speed centrifuge.

The most moving scene was when Cooper came back from the water planet, and watched all the video messages from the earth. Looking at our son literally growing up in front of you must be a tough and emotional experience. I felt my eyes were a little watering during this. I have always fell for this kind of stories, love of family, heroism, desperation, or being forgotten, and probably more. And this one combined two of them perfectly.

And this leads me to the miserable ending, which I don’t think it made too much sense in the movie. During this entire dangerous journey, Cooper’s love for his daughter was the main motive for him to go on. And the director spent the first one forth of the movie to set the stage for world ending, and Cooper/daughter relationship. Throughout the storyline, it sometimes was the daughter who brought forward some story development. Needless to say, when Cooper woke up in the hospital on human heaven station, he had all of these emotion to express, all of the stories need to be told. But when he saw his daughter, maybe it was her aged appearance that made her unrelateable to him, Cooper barely had five sentences with his daughter before he stood up and left. My jaw is currently still left on the theatre flood. Well, not literally. But I, as a audience, who filled with all these emotions, ready to experience with Cooper for this happy ending, was left unsatisfied. This is it? This is all you have to say to your daughter after surviving from HUGE wave, murder, explosion, and BLACK HOLE. By the way, Cooper has a son too. If Cooper didn’t even acknowledge his death or existence in the final big family reunion, why introduce such a role? This role almost contributed nothing to the story. It was very redundant, and unnecessary. The final happy ending was so full of flaws that it took me out of the movie and left me with such a bitter taste. Why Cooper as a hero returned to the human station, but was merely acknowledged by a reporter? He went through a worm hole, and black hole, and some kind of 4 D dimension space, and came back, and was hardly a celebrity? I found that so difficult to accept. Maybe human race finally evolved after the nature disaster, and just simply mind their own business.

As a person who always afraid of looking into the infinite space, I found this movie just justified my fear. Human was so trivial, and so helpless in the space, what we can do to save ourselves was almost by some miracle. But this is neither here nor there. Despite of my resentment of the ending, I still like this movie quite a bit. It was a great viewing experience if only for the visual effect, and I would recommend anyone to see them. And in fact, I have already done that.

Irrelevant Comment: “Why Mandarin Won’t Be a Lingua Franca”

Reading the article “Why Mandarin Won’t Be a Lingua Franca” on time.com gets me to think a little. (http://time.com/3585847/mandarin-lingua-franca/) Well, yes, I don’t use my brain very often.

Recent APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit brings China into highlight, and somehow led the author Andre Martinez to consider the future possibility of Chinese language as an international language. And the author did lay out quite a few obstacles that Chinese dialect needs to overcome to be relevant in such consideration. Interestingly, as a native Chinese speaker, I have thought about similar topics from time to time. Although I do agree with the conclusion in the article that Chinese is unlikely to replace English on international stage, my logic still differs from Mr. Martinez’s.

In my cynical opinion, whether one particular language dominates the international dialogues is mainly dependent upon one thing, “money”. The truth is that the language that the most powerful economic entities/countries use would be widely adopted. If we look back in human history, it is undoubtedly that Spanish was way more popular in terms of population percentage when Spain was the most powerful nation in Europe. Chinese was widely adopted by some Asian countries way back when China was a wealthy and powerful nation. When Great Britain blew open the door to Asian market in 1850s, the English language was also widely accepted in many Asian countries. The initial reason why English became more widely used than other language was solely because of the Britain troops set their feet on almost every continent, every country. We don’t need to go into glory/bloody details about how they achieved this.

Thanks to industrial evolution, English maintained the dominant status after WWI. It is undeniable that when a nation, or certain region drove the world’s technology development, the rest of the world would have no choice but follow. This gave English significant advantage over other languages. Western world was way more advanced in technology, and economy, for over 100 years, and English-speaking countries hardly bother to learn other languages for various reasons. In order to communicate, the rest of the world has to speak English.

Just like many people whose mother language are not English, I often think Chinese is a more beautiful language than English is. The author claimed that Chinese “is just too hard for outsiders to attain fluency”. I don’t know how to judge that, but I do think Chinese is a way more complicated language. One single character could have quite a few meanings dependent upon the situation it is used, and those meanings may not relate to each other. This actually comes in handy when giving a name to children. Chinese names often have some meanings, either some wishes or expections. Chinese could be very concise more often than not (Well, yes, it also depends on who is speaking.) One example, in English, there is a saying “Still water runs deep”. There happens to be a phrase with the exact same meaning in Chinese “静水流深”, it pronounces as “jing shui liu shen”. It saved a few syllables from English pronunciation. I have to say that I am not close to be a fluent English speaker, and my opinion could be far more biased than I would like to admit. So, take this with a grain of salt (自行斟酌, zi xing zhen zhuo).

English might be as neutral as the author claimed it to be. I don’t know if that is a good thing. For example, I know that Chinese and Spanish both use different word when addressing senior individuals (I am pretty sure there are other languages have the same thing, apologize for my ignorance). This is actually one of the very important human sides in a language that do not exist in English. Out of respect, people often use those particular terms to address their grandma, grandpa, parents, older relatives, or the papa next door. But in USA, the most common way to address the other people in this situation is using first name, which is considered to be very disrespectful in China. And it took me very long time to get used to this.

Chinese is more flexible and versatile than many people know of. Because China was way behind these developed countries in science. We learned a lot of the knowledge from western world, but still in Chinese. Many characters, and words were created according to either their English meanings or pronunciations.

At last, just like majority articles published in TIME, the author can’t resist the temptation to remind readers of the unpopularity of China in Asia when writing articles relating to China. Don’t wanna dive too deep in political conversation, just merely point out that, popular or not, that is almost irrelevant in this subject. And China is far from a powerhouse no matter in military nor in individual average economy growth. So, we are not a threat.

Anyhow, no one should expect Chinese to threat English “for global preeminence” in the future. And American citizen rejoice. No need to fill the brain with other unpopular languages.

Inadequate Review: Gone Girl

On Sunday, after I abandoned the plan for outlet trip, my lovely wife suggested that we go and see a movie. A couple of her friends had very good things to say about “Gone Girl”, and we haven’t done too many fun stuffs together since we moved into Windy City. So, why not go and see a movie? After some extensive research, we decided to go to the Showplace ICON theater, which turned out to be quite a good decision because of its convenient location and FREE PARKING. You can’t overstate how valuable this is nowadays, especially in a big metropolitan city.

I managed to maintain minimum exposure to this movie because of my lack of interest, didn’t even watch the trailer. In retrospect, my lack of knowledge and low expectation definitely made the movie more thrilling to me. Movie started with a attractive but mysteriously terrifying smile from Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) coupled with a voiceover question from Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). This somehow instantly drew my interest. After a normal trip to his sister’s bar, Nick found his wife gone missing with a suspicious and disturbing scene at home. The broken coffee table, genuine expression from Nick, and the careful inspection by the detective, all led me to think it must be a case of kidnapping. However, as the investigation progressed, my doubt about Nick was gradually raised by Nick’s lack of social awareness in the press conference and emotion detachment from the searching process. As the investigation goes on, Amy’s diary also in parallel narrated how their romantic relation started and how the marriage made a wrong turn when both of them became unemployed, even described some physical conflict between them. Nick even pushed her toward the stair handle. Although all of these seemingly pointed the possible involvement of Nick in Amy’s missing, I somehow just couldn’t believe that is the truth. And then, the diary was found by detective, all of those credit card purchase was found in the wooden shell. The master plan of Amy was revealed by Amy herself. Everything was setup to kill Nick, who had a fair with his college student. I was so relieved for Nick at that time, because at least he knows what was the truth. Although lawyer’s help seems have positive impact on Nick’s case, It appeared that Amy had already planned all of these on her list and calendar. I was seriously doubting Nick could leave this clean, until Amy’s waistbag fell on the ground unexpectedly. I thought the subsequent robbery left Amy no money, and seemingly no options but to live miserably. But apparently, Amy was such a mastermind that she came up with a backup plan right away. Her wealthy former lover believed her twisted story and rescued Amy, took her to his isolated huge mansion by the lake, thinking they could rekindle the romance between them. However, Amy didn’t want that. Nick’s confession toward camera seems impressed Amy. She planed to fake a rape scene again, just like what she did before to her exboyfriend. What shocked me was that she went to such an extreme that she slashed his throat while having sex with him on the bed. His blood spilled all over her, but Amy just barely flinched. The very next day, after all of the drama, robbery, murder, Amy drove back home, showed up before the front door of her house, fell into her husband’s arm in front of all the cameras. There is no way that I would have guessed this astonishing turn of events. Because I just can’t understand why killing a man and reuniting with her husband would somehow be more feasible than maybe simply hiding and staying with someone loving her. Nick apparently didn’t believe the story that Amy told FBI, and demanded the truth from her. Amy told him everything in shower, Nick was stunned. In the following days, Nick was so uncomfortable to be around her, but he wouldn’t dare to say what he wanted to say. He knew she was a psychopath, and he was terrified. Right before the arranged media interview, Amy revealed that she was pregnant, and Nick would have to maintain that marriage with her for a while. Nick explored, and slammed her head against the wall. Ironically, that is when this couple was finally frank to each other. Amy wanted Nick to help her maintain the marriage because of her brand. And he just needs to follow her instruction, hold her hands before she stepped down stairs, and tell the media what she wants him to say. He surrendered. That is how the story ends.

This movie touched upon so many different aspects of our life, husband-wife relationship, social media’s hunger for story line, public relations manipulation, and how ourselves are portrayed by others. There are so many topics involved in this movie, I found myself can’t stop thinking about them, the logic of the film development, the ethic questions of all parties involved, and how this film is reflecting in the real life questions? I have not read the book before. After a few conversation with whom have read the books, many of my confusion about the story became clear.

My first question is why would a wife become so extreme, and go so far to put his husband in the jail simply because of cheating? Amy’s whole life is under disguise from what I understand. She pretended, or tried to be what a man wanted. That explains why Nick and Amy had such a smooth start. Everything between them was so perfect, and spontaneous. Nick said all the right things, and Amy behaved naturally and responded so right from a male perspective. She maintained her size at 2, and said all the right things when recession hits and Nick became unemployed. But when a man wanted to leave her, she became a hateful and desperate monster, because the man would not respect his roles in the play, or her effect in this play. So, she set up a rape against her exboyfriend, and she wanted to send Nick to jail. On the other hand, it has to be said that the movie director deliberately made Amy the super villain, while the original storyline is more balanced. After unemployed, Nick became very depressed and manipulative, a basically A-hole, according to the book, driving Amy crazy. This aspect was merely introduced with a roughly 5 min scene in this movie. Cynical side of me initially attempted to defend the actor’s behavior based upon the limited information when chatting with my wife. I think unemployment could greatly challenge a man’s ego, more than many other obstacles. Coupled with the silent pressure from the wife, it is not hard to imagine Nick could just become very depressed, and defensive because of his self-esteem issue. “So what should the wife do?” my wife questioned me. I really have no idea. I am that kind of person believing that people should take care of their own business regardless of the circumstances. Ultimately, no one could change your fate except yourself. In that situation, the husband could be down, but I guess maybe the wife could show some weakness, and let the husband think that his effort is needed, and surely appreciated. This perhaps could motivate the other person, and give them the purpose that they could be searching. Wife could simply say “I need you to get out of your slump, I need your support for us to get through this.” You get the idea, I am not guarantee this could work, just offer an option. Because you could encounter the possible unpleasant passive aggressive response, such as “Find yourself another guy then. This is who I am, who don’t wanna do anything.” In that case, “Good luck”.

The other big question is why Amy thinks it is more attractive option to go back to Nick after killing Desi. When Amy spent her whole life to be someone a man wants, she grew the appreciation for the man who respects her effort, and is willing to “perform” according to her preferred script. And when Amy saw Nick expressed his regret on television, emphasized that he wanted Amy to come back and become the man that Amy wanted, Amy was truly moved and realized that this is a much more appealing storyline to the “audience”. Desi became a inevitable victim or “villain” in the exciting story. She killed the “kidnapper” and reunited with her husband victoriously! Amazing Amy was brave and strong, a true role model for the society. Even the pregnancy was also part of the plot, for the perfect ending in the story.

The “Gone Girl” covered so many other aspects in the real world, such as, letting the audience experience how the media leads a discussion and draws audience’s interest about any topic. It would be fun for anyone to watch this thriller, with or without the previous knowledge of the novel. In fact, having watched this movie really made me wanna open the novel.

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父亲

早就应该写些关于父亲的文字,不过那份沉静下来的心情却一直迷失于琐事之中,也便不曾提笔。

记得小时候,我发现只有个妇女节,心中还颇有些愤愤然,觉得很不公平,为什么没有给爸爸过的节呢?于是,某日与父亲商量了一个日子算是家中的男人节,但是之后谁也记不起定的是哪天,也便不了了之。我想,主要原因是,那个时候的我最在乎的还是儿童节。

父亲很轻易地便成为了我幼时崇拜的偶像,至今那份崇敬也不曾褪色。脑海中好多与父亲在一起的情景,不时回想起来,似乎仍能体会那份童趣与温馨。

自己刚刚学会思考之后,发现这世界上有超多的”为什么”,母亲总是有些严肃,于是我终日里缠着爸爸探索宇宙的奥妙。很神奇地发现他什么都知道,使我佩服得五体投地。然而,渐渐地父亲也不堪其扰,推托道,我期末考得如何如何,就买《十万个为什么》作为嘉奖。那时的我听罢,幼小的心灵深处腾起无限的憧憬,”哇塞!’十万个’为什么,厉害啊!”如今想来,父亲真是用了一个好聪明的托辞,彻底把我这个唧唧喳喳的包袱甩掉了。

小时候我晕车晕得厉害,一上车就开始吐,庆幸的是,父亲有辆三轮摩托,让我也可以享受高科技给生活带来的便利。父亲和他的朋友们出行的时候,我从来只坐父亲的摩托,即便父亲的车上载满了复合板,我也坚持与父亲同行。无奈之下,他只得把板子捆得紧紧的,让我趴在上面,然后以比蜗牛快一点的速度载着我和木板驶向目的地。我虽然一路只能紧紧抓住木板,心里却踏实得很。这种对父亲的绝对信任让我有时候对周围的安全程度毫不在乎。同父亲去海边游泳的时候,他的水性很好,总喜欢游到很远很深的水域,我套上泳圈便一路费力地跟着。回望时,岸上的人已然渺小了,海面上只有我和父亲。事后,他回忆说,尽管他心中颇有些忐忑,我一路上却尽是笑容。

父亲喜欢喝酒,也便有了我小时候很喜欢玩的那大大的肚子。这肚子有很多功用。可以用来当沙袋练拳击,哼!哈!不过上了中学之后,我就被禁止用它练习了。冬天的时候可以暖脚,屋里凉凉的,父亲正在睡午觉,正是我暖脚的好时机,哇哈哈!早上的时候可以当枕头,父亲喜欢睡懒觉,我早起之后,经常会昏昏沉沉地走到父母的房间,倒在父亲的肚子上再眯一会,”嗯?我只是想叫你起床而已。”当然,还可以用来嘲笑,”你低头能看见自己的脚尖嘛?”

慈祥是父亲的常态,当然,他也曾动用武力显示他的权威。虽然次数不多,但每次都起到了震慑对手的效果。

渐渐地,不再是”小不点”,不再需要父亲的保护,开始了自己的旅途探索。渐渐地,我与父亲的对话少了。渐渐地,我更享受一个人呆在家中的自在感觉了。渐渐地,有了自己的心事。父亲并不多言,只是时不时地激励着我,在他的面前,我只是守着自己的秘密,规规矩矩的做着自己该做的,学着自己该学的。

不记得什么时候开始,父亲开始要我陪他喝两盅,我绝少应允,尽管我有时会从外面醉醺醺地回到家中。每每被拒绝之后,父亲便不再要求。如此数次,我心中不由得愧疚起来。终于答应陪他,父亲很是高兴,打发我去买了酒回来。自那之后,每次我陪他的时候,他总是会喝得很多。喝酒的时候,他总会讲一些他过去的故事:和叔叔与当地的混混打架,上山下乡的时候收拾队里的坏小子,练长跑被教练打屁股,参加高考被车间主任横加阻拦,参加业务考试第一个全都通过,跑到四川去抓捕窃贼,……。所有这些故事,他讲第一句,我就知道最后一句了。妈妈和我嘲笑他”好汉不提当年勇”。他只是笑笑,接着讲他的旧故事。后来我发现自己喝酒了之后话也有增多的趋势,怀疑是爸爸的基因在作怪。

不确定是不是酒精疗法的作用,与父亲隔绝的时期不久就结束了。政治,哲学,为人,这些严肃的东西被纳入了我们的话题。爸爸总是用他的生活经验打击着我那从书本上学来的理论。面红耳赤的我很气愤父亲居然会持有那种令人无法接受的观点。与父亲的争论几乎成了那时晚餐上不可缺少的部分。母亲听腻了,便会居中调节,不合时宜地问一句”今天谁刷碗?”。我和父亲就赶紧起身离开饭桌,留下母亲在后面抱怨着。

纺织业压锭,国企改制。

这项政策的出台,对家中经济状况的冲击有多大,我是不知道的。但是我知道,父母都开始了工作的变迁。因为职务关系,更近一步了解实质情况的父亲,和我有了新的话题。讨论政策讨论得多了,我只觉得憋闷得很。父亲却也在这一期间也因为工作关系摔伤了腰。总之,家中的一切都因为这变故乱糟糟的。

那天和母亲在家等着父亲回来吃饭。突然父亲的工友来敲门,我和母亲就手脚冰凉地奔到了医院,见父亲脸色苍白地躺在床上。他看到我泪汪汪的出现在门口,挤出个笑容,说,没事,就是摔伤了,住两天院就好。不幸中的万幸,父亲的腰椎没有错位,否则,再严重一点点就落下残疾了。父亲就诊的医院离学校很近,我中午的时候就会骑车去看他,然后再回到学校上课。父亲思量再三,为了不让我中午的时候来回奔波,恐怕影响我高考复习,就提前出院了。高考那天,父亲还是只能卧床,不然他绝对会送我到考场的。我考试的时候,在家中的他肯定是坐卧不安的。

本科入学的时候,父亲想送我,我拒绝了,担心他的腰还是受不了长途旅行。不过,之后读研究生入学的时候,我特地叫上父亲陪我,免得让他以后遗憾。这事被周围的朋友取笑了好久,说我这么大了还要爸爸来送。拜托,是我带他出来的,好哇?

自从本科入学,在京津两地游荡了七年,如今在海外又已漂泊了近两载的时光。与父母在电波两端遥望,虽然能够听见那亲切的声音,但是感受不到,父亲粗糙的手掌,母亲温暖的拥抱。还好,离家了这么久,家中的事事物物依然历历在目。回忆中的场景和余味依然可以帮我支撑过这样一个无眠的夜晚。想起与父母的离别是大约两年,在上海浦东机场,我要踏进安检口的时候,前一刻还笑容可掬的母亲,突然泪泉喷涌把我揽在怀里,父亲在一步远的地方僵僵地笑道”好了,别误了飞机。”,我”嗯”了一声说”我走了”,便扭头快步进了安检门。我无法说得太多,因为接下来的只有哽咽。我暗暗骂了自己一句,以为自己已经习惯了离别,下定决心不哭的!

确实,岁月不停地将我们推向下一个路口,残酷而坚决,但也只因这时光流逝,我们意识到那份温馨与珍贵。祝父亲父亲节快乐!祝妈妈身体健康!

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