The Dark Knight

People are talking about The Dark Knight to catch up with Titanic, which grossed over $600Million in its box office. The Dark Knight has brought in $470Million on its 13th day out.

I was a little skeptical when i walked into the theater. If not for the free ticket and such a lovely walk from office to the theater on such a sunny afternoon…

But i was surprised by the complexity of the movie. Not just the plot, but also the characters portrayal. I wonder how many viewers come in to watch the Late-Heath Ledger’s final role. They weren’t disappointed. Now i wonder how much of this role played in his accidental death. What a dark character! How could any normal person endure such abyss…

I’m hesitant to dive into a detailed analysis of why I like the movie so much. I want to see it again and i want to keep this pleasant enjoyment intact, like a ball of well designed flower arrangement. Taking it apart is to destroy its beauty.

I like the movie, all of it. The way it is made, the shots, the lighting, the subtleties of the acting, not just from Heath, but also Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. I like the stage design, how stark the “bat cave” looked in its industrial lofty brickwalls and tall rough glass panes. Even the minor thug characters are just right, they are fleshy real, adding in their own texture. And of course, the brilliant lines delivered by Heath tied all the pieces together.

Now i can’t remember whether i have seen The Batman Begins. Vaguely i seemed to remember i have and liked it. but I can’t be sure it is not just the trailers that i remembered. because how could i never write about it if i had? puzzling.

Stuff White People Like: #106 Facebook

This is hilarious:Stuff White People Like: #106 Facebook.

For a brief period of time, MySpace was the site where everyone kept their profile and managed their friendships. But soon, the service began to attract fake profiles, the wrong kind of white people, and struggling musicians. In real world terms, these three developments would be equivalent to a check cashing store, a TGIFridays, and a housing project. All which strike fear in the hearts of white people.

White people were nervous but had nowhere else to go. Then Facebook came along and offered advanced privacy settings, closed networks, and a clean interface. In respective real world terms, these features are analogous to an apartment or house with a security system/doorman, an alumni dinner, and a homeowners association that protects the aesthetics of the neighborhood. In spite of these advances, some white people still clung to their old MySpace accounts. That was until they learned that Facebook started, like so many things beloved by white people, at Harvard.

Within a matter of months, MySpace had gone from a virtual utopia to Digital Detroit, where only minorities and indie bands remain.

The Eureka Hunt

So where does “insight” come from? How does the “aha” moment come into being? Is it really a surprise? Turned out, not really. Our brain knows more than we do! and it works hard to get that “aha” moment into light. An interesting article in last week’s New Yorker: The Eureka Hunt, by Jonah Lehrer. It is only an abstract on-line. You have to get a paper copy to read the whole thing.

“Angry Youth”

Back when Tibet controversial was in full swing, there was a very propaganda-ish video defending the pro-China position. The New Yorker just came out with a pretty good profile on the author who actually made that video. Angry Youth, The new generation’s neocon nationalists., by Evan Osonos.

It is quite interesting to learn that the author is a Ph. D. student in FuDan University (one of the top universities in China), major in Western Philosophy!

Go read it, you won’t be disappointed if you took a tiny interest in the entire Tibet vs. China debate in the Spring.

Another Cartoon Controversy

So Danish Newspaper’s cartoon caused outrage in Muslim community back in 2005. Today’s issue cover of The New Yorker caused another controversy, and somehow Muslim related, too.

Personally i think it is just another over-reaction, similar to the first cartoon controversy, maybe milder. But in principle it is the same thing.

Since when American politicians are behaving like Chinese ones? So sensitive? and so thin-skinned?

In reality, aside from the lighthearted Sempe’s, most of The New Yorker cover art has always puzzled me. Always thought of that as The New Yorker style. Their satire has always been highbrow and seemed to be understood by a tiny group of people within their own club. They liked to pick some obscure but i’m sure highly amusing facts once you understood the context. I doubt they did anything different this time. Their only mistake is to pick on some facts that people could actually understand, or maybe just think they understand.

If the US is going to behave more and more like the China, i wonder if the Chinese will behave more and more like the Americans? Looks like they are trying, at least they have displaced Americans and became the most obnoxious tourists.

Can’t Find a Parking Spot? Check Smartphone

San Francisco is preparing to undertake the nation’s most ambitious trial of a wireless sensor network that will announce which parking spaces are free at any moment.

Drivers will be alerted to empty parking places either by displays on street signs, or by looking at maps on screens of their smartphones. They may even be able to pay for parking by cellphone, and add to the parking meter from their phones without returning to the car.

NYT: SF’s New Parking sensor network

“The Back of the World” – The New Yorker July 7&14, 2008

Accidentally, both articles i enjoyed in this issue of The New Yorker are grayed out, i.e. no on-line version.

Romeo, Romeo
The ballet gets a happy ending.
by Joan Acocella
The Back of the World
The genius of G. K. Chesterton.
by Adam Gopnik

I’ve never even heard of Chesterton before. Based on the quotes sprinkled throughout this review, I liked him already.

“All my life I have loved frames and limits; and I will maintain that the largest wilderness looks larger seen through a window.”

The joy of the book[The Napoleon of Notting Hill] lies in the marriage of Chesterton’s love of feudal romance with his love of the density and mystery of the modern city. … “A city is, properly speaking, more poetic even than a countryside, for while nature is a chaos of unconscious forces, a city is a chaos of conscious ones. The crest of the flower or the pattern of the lichen may or may not be significant symbols. But there is no stone in the street and no brick in the wal that is not actually a deliberate symbol — a message from some man, as much as if it were a telegram or a post card.”

In addition to “The Napoleon of Notting Hill,” the review also talked about this other book “The Man Who Was Thursday.” There are some quite fascinating dialogs from the latter book.

[a scene between the main character and an anarchist poet]
The book is also stippled with small epigrammatic moments, as when Syme comes upon an anarchist poet, Gregory, standing by a street amp (“whos gleam gilded the leaves of the tree that bent out over the fence behind him”) on a silent, starlit street:

“I was waiting for you, ” said Gregory. “Might I have a moment’s conversation?”
“Certainly. About what?” asked Syme in a sort of weak wonder.
Gregory struck out with his stick at the lamp-post, and then at the tree.
“About this and this,” he cried; “about order and anarchy. There is your precious order, that lean, iron lamp, ugly and barren; and there is anarchy, rich, living, reproducing itself — there is anarchy, splendid in green and gold.”
“All the same,” replied Syme patiently, “just at present you only see the tree by the light of the lamp. I wonder when you woud ever see the lamp by the light of the tree.”

Another intriguing observation by the reviewer on anarchy in early 1900’s. Not sure how much exaggeration it is in the reviewer words below since i don’t know the history that well, but it is on the alarming side. Was anarchist that successful once? or is the reviewer lumped a bunch of different things into anarchist for the sake of “shock and awe”?

It’s easy to forget just how scary anarchists could seem at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the previous quarter century, they had killed a French President, and American President, and the Russian Tsar, and had bmbed the Royal Greenwich Observatory, near London. (The same score now — Sarkozy, Bush, Putin, and the London Eye — and we’d all be under martial law.)

Lastly, about the title of the review “The Back of the World”, it is a reference taken from the ending paragraph of “The Man Who Was Thursday”, and it is meant to indicates the two-sidedness of reality.

This double vision, where the appetite for romantic violence is imagined as the flip side of the desire for absolute order, gives the book its permanence. It ends with a powerful and strage image of reality itself as two-sided:

“Listen to me,” cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stopping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front–”

Reminds me of the days back in college, feeling totally lost after a lecture and only able to find clarity in a discussion session with the TA. Here the reviewer is the TA, and Chesterton, the professor. I liked the review because it makes something strange sounds interesting. Not sure i actually want to read Chesterton if i couldn’t have a page by page review by Adam Gopnik to go with it.