Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Plagiarism or Influence: Changing form but not the content

A book review seems not to be plagiarized… Or is it?
Professor Wang: It’s well written. Are you sure it’s his own work?

Professor Tsu: I tried a plagiarism search. Nothing showed up.

Professor Wang: What they’re doing now is changing all the key words.

Professor Tsu: Sounds just as much effort as writing an essay from scratch.

An example of rewriting by changing the form but not the content. It may fool computer plagiarizing software but not a human reader… But we do learn from models…

Original Book Review
Suspense in "The Charm School" (1988) keeps being ratcheted as on a rack. Had to keep putting it down to draw breath. Its "charm" lies in waiting for the axe to fall. Which it does, repeatedly.

I also read Nelson DeMille's "The Gold Coast" (1990) which was less wrought up, and funny, and I still kept stopping but for a different reason. That was to highlight lines of clever writing where he shines a light on human capers and frailty.

So it's as if Nelson DeMille decided to do "The Charm School" as dollops of derring-do with dashes of diplomatic back-stabbing, then to pen personality profiles tongue in cheek in "The Gold Coast".  Great span of talent.
Rewritten Book Review
Anxiety in "The Charm School" (1988) keeps being increased. I had to keep stopping to take a break. Its so-called charm is in waiting for crises to happen, which do, very often.

I also read Nelson DeMille's "The Gold Coast" (1990) which was less tense, and humorous, and I still often stopped reading but for another cause. That was to mark lines of skillful writing where he illuminated human strengths and weaknesses.

So it's as if Nelson DeMille decided to do "The Charm School" as a mainly an action novel, then to write about characters ironically in "The Gold Coast". He has a great range of skill.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bird’s Nest National Stadium

Bird’s nest ceramics?
Q: Commissioned for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finished at 428 million dollars, under the 500 million dollars budgeted, the stadium looks like a bird’s nest. Am I being a little facetious about its appearance?

A: Not at all. The designers looked for a Chinese ceramic motif, a vessel that would hold people. And in China, bird’s nest is an expensive dish for a festive occasion. It’s a rather auspicious design.

Q: Who were the designers?

A: Swiss firm, Herzog and de Meuron. Chinese artist Ai We Wei was a consultant but he withdrew his name after he learned local people had lost their homes by the project.

Q: This bird’s nest design. Looks like random steel girders.

A: Exactly. They were to hide the pillars for the retractable roof. But that was sacrificed in the interests of safety.

There actually are Chinese ceramics which feature a random pattern of lines. But it’s decoration, rather than structure. This post-modern design structure recalls a decorative design of antiquity.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sei No, Ya Hoo, O Le!

Ngo and Yasu watch boys playing in the park...
Ngo: What means this, “Sei No?”
Yasu: It’s like in English, you say, “Ready, Go.” I just wonder why he says “Yahoo” when he lands.
Ngo: It’s an exclamation of fun. Like “Yippee” and “Whoopee.”
Yasu: I like the song. 
Ngo: Footballs. "Olé!"

“Sei-No, Ya-Hoo, O-Le!”
1-2, 1-2, 1-2.
Nice beat.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Where's the White Rabbit?


This month White Rabbit is touring with a seasonal circus. After the style of Martin Handford's Where's Wally (U.K.) a.k.a. Where's Waldo (U.S.) et al., find the White Rabbit in the circus.

Answer: On the tent roof.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good and Evil in Literature

Francis and Francis and discuss their philosophies…

F. Urquhart: You play it more menacingly than I.

F. Underwood: And you play it for amusement. 

F. Urquhart: You perform it as a malevolent, malicious Machiavellian.

F. Underwood: Whereas I can applaud your performance as an elegant epitome of evil.

Both versions of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards have at their centers unambiguously wicked politicians. Is it possible to cheer such characters on and wish that they succeed in their ambitions? If so, have they seduced us with their cleverness and scuttled our sense of moral outrage? Or do we appreciate them for a peep at the schemings of a MacBeth or Richard III? Toni Morrison on Good and Evil in literature: ”Evil has a blockbuster audience while Goodness lurks backstage. Evil has a top hat and dresses well and even has its own theme music. Goodness is often described as stupid: good people are often viewed as stupid people.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Street Photography

Vivian discute la photographie de rue avec Henri...

Vivian: You must lift the Leica to take a picture. It draws attention to you.

Henri: And you use a Rolleiflex. Pourquois?

Vivian: I can look down into the viewfinder, the subject is not threatened, sometimes they don’t even know I am taking their photo.

Henri: I see the picture forming through my eye. You see it through your lens.

Vivian: We both have to choose the moment.

Henri: Oui. The decisive moment.

“She could go into a space with a total stranger, get them to accommodate her by being themselves and generate this moment where two presences were kind of vibrating together …  and then she’s gone.”