Wednesday, February 21, 2018

So Slideshow

(Movie slideshow Grammar Sections--Conjunctions)

Taken from Princess Mononoke -- Part 3

Presentation only version: slidespub

Version with example sentences from Princess Mononokeslidespub

Christopher Hitchens on Billy Graham

Black Panther

(Movie Review)

Why I Saw This Movie
I was almost going to give this one a pass.  I had been seeing a lot of superhero movies lately, and superhero movie fatigue was beginning to set in.
These Marvel movies all tie together, so you kind of have to see them eventually just to be all caught up on the continuity.  And I knew if I didn't see it in the theaters, I'd eventually end up seeing it on the small screen (like I did with Age of Ultron).  So might as well see it in the theater.
Then all those reviews started coming in.  People were really raving about this movie.  And then I absolutely had to see it.

Expectations Going In
I suspect my expectations leading into this movie were similar to most people.  But correct me if your experience differed from mine.
1). This is just going to be one of those little Marvel movies to tide us over until the next Avengers crossover.
2). Wow! Everyone's raving about this movie.  It's supposed to be the best Marvel movie ever!  People were calling it Marvel's first Shakespearean epic.  People were calling it the next evolution of Marvel movies.
3). And then the counter-reaction set in.  A lot of people started posting on the Internet something along the line of: "It wasn't a bad movie, but it's nowhere near as good as everyone's been saying."

...put me in group 3 right now.  It wasn't a bad movie, but it was nowhere good as everyone has been saying.  But let's get in to the positives first.

* The acting is great.
I had never seen Michael B. Jordan in anything before.  But that guy is a great actor.  (It's almost a shame he was wasted in the villain role.  The guy should be a leading man in his own right.  He just exudes charisma.)
The actress who plays Shuri (Black Panther's sister) was also great.
And, as much as I hate to be the guy who praises the only two white characters in the film, both Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis were great.
I love Martin Freeman's comic facial expressions.  (That look of exasperation he had when he was talking to Andy Serkis was great).  And Andy Serkis was just amazing!

* This movie definitely solved Marvel's villain problem.

* The movie avoids the temptation to focus in only on the hero, and makes this movie a real ensemble cast.  It wasn't just about the Black Panther, it was about the whole leadership of Wakanda.

* I know people always hate that the Marvel movies are always setting up future movies.  It's an interesting system Marvel has of doing the old set-up and pay-off across movies rather than within a movie.  It's annoying when you're watching the movie with the set-up.  But it is kind of satisfying when you get to the pay-off.
Andy Serkis and the Vibranium was one of my least favorite parts of Age of Ultron.  But it was kind of nice to see that plot thread now paying off in Black Panther.

* Severe pacing problems.  Especially in the first act.
Too much standing around and talking about how great Wakanda is.
There was some action sequences in the beginning, which were intended to break-up the exposition, but I actually found them just as boring as the talking (I think because I didn't really know who the people were, and the stakes were not clear.)  That whole challenge fight scene at the beginning had me confused as to what the point was.  In fact that whole "becoming King" ceremony followed by the "becoming King Vision" ceremony of act 1 was way too long and boring.

* Why are they constantly switching back and forth between Wakandan and English.  If you want to have them speaking Wakandan to build the illusion of authenticity, go for it.  And if you want them to just speak English, then go for it.  But what is with all that switching back and forth?

* A lot of these Marvel movies have suffered from the problem of having undefined powers, or undefined magic technology, that just works when it is convenient to the plot.  This movie has the "undefined magic technology" problem in spades.

I know progressives, and people of color, seemed to have embraced this movie.  But during those opening tribal ceremony scenes, I couldn't help but think to myself that this movie was using every African tribe stereotype in the book.  It was almost like watching one of those jungle adventure movies from the 1930s.
Would you call this racist? Well, you wouldn't, would you?  Because the writers are both black, and the director is black.
It made me think a bit about how the stereotype itself isn't as important as the intention behind it.
It also made me think a bit  about how almost all visual representation on film is some kind of stereotype.
Even films or dramas that are supposed to be based on real life make use of stereotypes.  For example 90201 Beverly Hills is nothing like a real American high school.  It's a stereotype based on our images of what a typical American high school is.

6 out of 10.  (Slightly above average, but nowhere near as good as everyone says it is.)

Marvel Cinematic Universe Links:
1. Iron Man
2. The Incredible Hulk
3. Iron Man 2
4. Thor
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
6. The Avengers
7. Iron Man 3
8. Thor 2: Dark World--Haven't seen yet
9. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
12. Ant-Man
13. Captain America 3: Civil War
14. Doctor Strange--Haven't seen yet
15. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
17. Thor: Ragnarok

Video Review
Video Review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump and the prospect of nuclear war

Monday, February 19, 2018

"the same" versus "sameness"

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

My wife (L1 Vietnamese) was reading a novel in English, and came upon the word "sameness" being used in a sentence.

"Is this a real English word?" she asked.
I said yes.  (It was low-frequency, certainly, and maybe slightly unusual, but it still seemed to fall within the bounds of acceptable usage.)
"What does  it mean?" she asked.
"It's just the noun form of 'same'," I said.  "You know how '-ness' can change an adjective into a noun--like 'happy' and 'happiness'."
"But isn't 'same' already a noun?" she asked.
"No, it's an adjective.  For example: 'That is the same book'."
"But how come we use it with 'the'," she said.  "We often say 'the same'.  I thought 'the' was only used in front of nouns."

...and this I couldn't answer.


I looked this up in  Practical English Usage by Michael Swan.  Swan said:
"We normally use the before same. Give me the same again, please." (p.490).  But Swan never says why.

Update, Update:

I asked my manager about this, and he said the reason we use "the" before "same" is because there's always an implied ellipted noun phrase.  So "Give me the same again"  is short for "Give me the same thing that I had before again."
Tom Holland (whose book, Rubicon, I really liked) tweeted yesterday:

The best up-dating of the Trojan War by miles is Dan Simmons’ Ilium: the Iliad restaged on 30th century Mars by nano-enhanced super-humans (aka the gods).  A plus is that the novel also features dinosaurs.
Yes, Olympos is equally good. Anyone with an interest in the Trojan War who hasn’t read them has such a treat in store.

I've also read Ilium and Olympus.  My reviews here and here.  
I'm not quite as enthusiastic about these books as Tom Holland.  In fact, in 2016 I put these books on my list of  10 Worst Books: Fiction.
But... on reflection, I was probably a bit too hard on these books.  
I was ultimately disappointed by the ending.  And that disappointment colored how I remembered the books as a whole.  But, I really enjoyed the books as I was reading them.  Dan Simmons definitely held my attention while I was reading him, and he did a very good job at re-writing the Iliad.
Are Bullies Bad People?

Still trying to help this guy get the recognition he deserves.  Like, share, and subscribe.

Predictions On the Future of Gun Violence

(I've been travelling the past week, so you'll have to forgive me being a few days late on this.)

So... another mass shooting, huh?

Allow me, then, to make a couple predictions on what is going to happen in the next couple years.  (I've had a history - of - being - wrong since I started this little prediction game, but this time I'm pretty sure this is low-hanging fruit).

1).  Absolutely no gun control reform will happen because of this latest mass shooting.  (I wish it wasn't so, but it's the cold hard political reality.)

2).  There will be another mass shooting within at least two years.  Probably within one Year.  (I take no pleasure in saying this, but it's just statistics at this point.  If our current trends continue, it's likely that we'll have another mass shooting before 365 days have passed.  It's a near certainty we won't make it to 730 without another mass shooting).

In light of all this, if I were the Democrat Party leadership, here's what I would do:
Full out embrace the mental health care aspect of it.

I know, I know, it's ridiculous.  (As I pointed out after Sandy Hook,  mental health issues are a problem in every country.  We're the only country that has regular mass shootings.)
But gun control reform is not on the table yet.  It's just not.
And Democrats have been wanting to get back funding for mental health ever since Reagan cut all government funding back in 1981 (W).  So if Republicans are putting this on the table, why not take it?

Just say to the Republicans, "Fine, you guys win.  I guess this was all about mental health all along after all.  Let's just fund all those mental health hospitals just like you guys wanted to."
Then, not only could we get some much needed funding for mental health, also the next time there is a mass gun shooting (and there will be more), then we can say: "Okay, we tried your plan.  Now let's try gun control."