Thursday, October 4, 2007

Learning English in China

A friend of mine teaches English in China, and he sent me four images from the textbook he has been assigned. To deem them glorious would be putting it mildly.

A rather upset Orang. One should also note the somewhat less common IPA transcription of the word - all too understandable, of course, since the system is not complicated enough as it is.

So that is a hedgepig! Right. Thanks.

glede (glēd) n. Any of several birds of prey, especially a European kite (Milvus milvus).

I somehow doubt they actually meant the Milvus milvus, but I give them the benefit of the doubt.

A nutria is a really angry beaver.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fighting Humanity's Battles One Arthropod at a Time

I was woken up at around half one this morning by a plague of mosquito bites on my hairy, yet fragile, little body. I had a bite on my right shoulder, on top of my right foot, on the index finger of my left hand, near the back of my neck, and on my - surprisingly hairless - ass. Aside: When I say I am hairy, I mean I AM HAIRY. While the hairs on my chest tend to accumulate centrally to lead a happy trail to my frontal nether regions, the ones on my back are scattered haphazardly so as to form a diorama of a prehistoric jungle of giant ferns. To make matters even more complicated, I have absolutely no hair on my ass. For all intents and purposes, I look like a baboon. But I digress…

I thought, at first, to pull the blanket over my head and just go to sleep that way, but it proved to be a futile idea. I was itching like an ape with fleas, and there would be no way to keep all my appendages within the confines of my rudimentary “blanketent” at any one given time (it’s not that I have a huge body – I have a really small blanket). Also, the fucking mosquito had managed to find its way under the blanket, which I discovered, much to my chagrin, as it mockingly buzzed past my ear. It was war.

I got up, and turned the lights on. I was naked, it was humid and the strong October breeze was blowing the curtains in patterns that were ever so grotesque. Man against mosquito, Primate against Diptera, Cordate against Arthropod – this never-ending battle had gone on for far too long, the line had to be drawn somewhere, and it was I who drew it!

It wasn’t easy. My enemy, 1/200th my size, proved to be a wily, and cunning, foe. I spent the first twenty minutes trying to locate the little fucker, flailing my arms about arbitrarily to disturb it from its foxhole, shaking the blanket like the mad man on a mission that I was, ruffling the curtains. Eventually, I spotted the heinous beast perched atop my black, iron headboard. “Clever boy,” I thought. Approaching it with the gracefulness of a lioness on the prowl, I SWATTED the little shit, using a small cushion, with the rage of a horny rhinoceros. Not only did it get away without problems, it had also succeeded in tricking me. So blinded was I with wrath that I did not notice the two spikes of the headboard that managed to skewer my right hand, which avoided two most gross punctures thanks to that most trusted of man's ancient weapons - the ornamental pillow.

I was hurt, but, thankfully, I was finally awake – both literally and figuratively. In order to prevail, my head needed to be calm. I squinted my eyes like a night hawk and continued to scan the battlefield. I looked everywhere – behind the door, under the bed, on the closet. It had vanished. I rubbed my hand through my hair in frustration when, through the corner of my eye, I noticed my white whale fly away hastily from behind me. Like Han Solo in Empire, it had decided that the best way to hide from a behemoth would be to park behind it. However, it had not counted on such an involuntary reflex. The time had come: this was my O.K. Corral.

Beleaguered, my bitter rival hobbled on to the wall, and I swatted it with a respectful slap that left a fine, circular spot of blood, mine and his together, on the concrete. I was elated, but also underwhelmed. I think Fred Ebb said it best:

When it all comes true
Just the way you planned
It's funny but the bells don't ring
It's a quiet thing.

It was awfully quiet as I laid back on the bed. I turned the lights off, and pulled the blanket over my chest. I closed my eyes to say a quick prayer for my fallen foe, when it all became clear to me. I had been so foolish. Tears had already started running down my cheeks way before the buzz subsided. Dear Lord in Heaven – there had been two of them!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Coming Attractions: Paprika

There are few words to describe the majesty of Satoshi Kon's genius, but awesome, heartwarming, and overwhelming are some of them. His unswerving loyalty to the anime form, and his insistence on telling fully-formed feature length stories within its boundaries are examplary.

The main "problem" with anime is that it relies on fairly static character animation complemented by stationary backgrounds over the course of a given shot, if not an entire scene. One has to master both anime as a form and the art of storytelling in order to create a distinctive world within an overall constrictive framework. It is a testament to Kon's talents that he can tell better stories in such an anachronistic, almost antediluvian, style than many of his "contemporaries" in Hollywood.

Like the incredible Tokyo Godfathers before it, Kon's next feature, Paprika, promises to be a feast for the senses and the soul. You can view the trailer here:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ratings, Schmatings...

I've bitched about this before, but having run into the very same episode of The Sopranos a few days ago, and confronted with the very same labels, I thought I'd bring it up.

Our version of the FCC (who also won't won't let me be or let me be me so let me see - I hate myself) have recently introduced these tv warning labels. Before every show, these signs come up to inform the viewer whether the show that follows is:

- Suitable for a General Audience,
- Suitable for Ages Seven and Above,
- Suitable for Ages Thirteen and Above,
- Suitable for Ages Eighteen and Above,
- Includes Elements of Violence or Horror,
- Includes Elements of Sexual Nature, or
- Includes Elements that might set a bad example to the impressionable young (whatever that might mean)

Imagine my delight when I sat downa few nights ago to watch Boca, the ninth episode of The Sopranos' first season. For those who don't know or don't remember, the episode revolves around a child molesting girl's football coach and how cunnilingus is Uncle Junior's particular forte in bed. Of course, the episode has all the usual violence or threat thereof, as well as other, assorted mob-related crap.

Anyway, I sit down, waiting for the theme tune to kick in when the signs on the screen inform me that the following programme is suitable for ages seven and above and that it includes elements of violence and horror. I almost pissed myself (not literally, of course; I haven't done that in weeks).

Here is a show about the mafia; very gritty, incredibly violent with one especially disturbing theme particular to this episode and the powers that be here deem it perfectly suitable for an eight year old. It's their hypocrisy I find ridiculous, you understand. They have no idea what the show is about, are most likely oblivious towards the general theme and the episode in question but they see a mafia show and arbitrarily assign it a label.

Conversely, they must have but a vague awareness of South Park as they, once again, randomly deem it suitable for audiences 18 and above just because it's "controversial."

I do see the necessity of having a guide of sorts but I hate such slapdash labels. Besides, I believe that this sort of decision belongs to the parents and not the government anyway. My parents let me watch whatever I wanted to and look how healthy I've turned out. Harvey says hi, by the way.

Is There a Chance the Track Could Bend?

Does it remind anyone of a particular episode of The Simpsons?


Just when you thought James Cameron could not be a bigger asshole, he confounds all expectations by making a documentary about Jesus. And not just any documentary: a Controversial Documentary about how he had a wife, and a son (much to my dismay, not called Jeff), and that he may have been a mortal figure after all!

It's not the claim itself that's unsettling. Skepticism about Christ and his teachings are as old as, well, Christ and his teachings. Not only that, but the mid-seventies saw a barrage of pseudo-scientific literature on Jesus, his apparent mortality and his lineage, not to mention the hyperbole surrounding The Da Vinci Code, in turn liberally based on the former set of "studies." One might even say Jesus's mortality has been done to death (if one liked cheap puns - and one does).

The only aspect of this whole publicity stunt that is worthy of empirical interest is Cameron's perceived sense of self-importance and self-worth. Does the man wake up one day and think that he can tackle any subject in the world, however obvious or pointless it might be to do so? And, you know, that can be a fun intellectual pursuit I suppose, but Cameron has a propensity to turn even the most basic and unoriginal idea into an asseveration grand. What's next? Is he literally going to try and rediscover America? He does realise he is not God, right?


"It doesn't get bigger than this," said Cameron at a news conference, apparently. I think he was talking about his ego.

Read the story here:

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar, Oscar...

Has there been a more lackluster year for film in recent memory? Maybe it’s because the previous two years were so bloody great, but I don’t think that’s it. That would have been a factor had this year been flat-out terrible, but no: it was just mediocre. If 2004 was fire, and 2005 was ice, then 2006 was Derek Smalls; lukewarm water.

Still, that’s no reason for not holding the Oscars (if the Academy does not stop gazing its navel because of war and disease, it sure as hell won’t stop for timid output), and here we are: the 79th Annual Academy Awards, or the Oscars, which is what we simple folk like to call them. The following is my attempt at a live blog of the telecast. For all you geeks out there (well, out of the three people reading this – Hi, Mom), think of it as Harry Knowles’s Oscar recap, but more cohesive, less unctious, and with, you know, punctuation.

A couple of things you should know before you read any further: I am in Istanbul, Turkey (as opposed to Istanbul, Kansas), so I am doing this at three in the morning, having had only a few hours sleep. I am also stocking up on caffeine, and if you think I’m rambling now, just wait till they start giving out the big awards.


OK. Good. Fine. It’s almost three now, and the glitterati are making their way into the shindig. I have never been a particular fan of the Red Carpet; the only one I enjoyed was three years ago when I saw Roger Ebert interviewing celebrities, and asking them actual questions. Some were nonplussed, but some seemed to have found the prospect of answering real questions liberating. Ken Watanabe, for example, struggled with a challenging question of Ebert’s regarding the fate of Tom Cruise’s character in The Last Samurai. I like Ken Watanabe.

Leonardo diCaprio is looking refreshingly orange. Not tanned, orange. And Nicole Kidman like waxwork. I would shit myself if I ever ran into her at night. What the fuck would she be doing in Istanbul?

Peter O’Toole also looks like waxwork. But that’s OK, because he’s 129 years of age. He’s like the Mr Burns of Hollywood. But nice.

There is a man wearing an actual cape on screen. Unless your name starts with a B, and ends with an ela Lugosi, you should never wear a cape. Ever. Fuckwit.

I am enjoying the insipid “informative” subtitles that keep on appearing on the screen as Chris Connelly et al interview the celebs. Not only are they ludicrously lame, but also coolly condescending. “Leonardo has always wanted to be an actor.” “Al Gore used to be the Vice-President of the United States.” “Martin Scorsese’s eyebrows weigh seven pounds. Each.”

Mark Wahlberg is now channeling his character in The Departed. OK, I know they don’t like going through this pablum, but it’s part of the job, and there are worse things someone could be doing for tens of millions of dollars. Cheer the fuck up, bitch.

Eddie Murphy, in a self-deprecating, and uncharacteristically calm mood, has just declared his love for all his films, including even Pluto Nash. I am an Eddie Murphy apologist, and I would always forgive him his bad choices - by God, he’s got enough.

Anyway, bullshit, bullshit, who-are-you-wearing (which is a morbid question, by the way), I-loved-you-in-that-movie, let’s-do-lunch crappola is almost over. I am having a fragrant cup of coffee, sitting on the world’s comfiest chair. Come on, Ms DeGeneres. I’m ready for your close-up.


A montage of all the nominees talking at the camera. John Knoll from ILM is there. And so is Patrick Marber. Which reminds me, I must watch Alan Partridge soon.

Oh. My. God. The nominees are actually standing up clapping themselves. Oh, not like that, you perverts.


That’s it? THAT’s the monologue? That’s why we watch the fucking show in the first place. I mean, OK, the whole musical number schtick is Billy Crystal’s trademark, but they could have at least made an effort. The whole thing was shorter than my manhood. Only less funny.

Oh, it’s the incredible walking, talking candlestick. And Daniel Craig. A few years ago, a friend of mine was working at the London offices of International Creative Management. He was in awe at the fact that he was “in Hollywood," and he was generally full of shit anyway (we tell our own), so I used to just ignore him. This was just around the time of the first Tomb Raider, and I remember his telling me that they were really pushing Daniel Craig as the next big thing. He said to me, back then, that Daniel Craig would be the next Bond. There are no coincidences in Hollywood anymore. Almost none.


I have a feeling that Pan’s Labyrinth will win in all the categories it’s nominated in. Which would be awesome.

Is it me or does Guillermo Del Toro look like a spitting image of Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys?


Hollywood Sound Effects Choir. I liked this more when it was an advert for Honda. And, you know, this would be much more interesting if they stopped showing us the choir, and just showed the actual montage itself. Because, talented as these people are, they still remind me of that guy from Police Academy.


Sound editing? Really? Didn’t they use to give out one of the big awards right at the beginning of the show? I mean, I can feign interest only so long before I get bored and start scouring the channels for porn.

You know, when people use the phrase “men in uniform,” all I can think of is a gay strip troupe. Then again, when am I not thinking of a gay strip troupe? Anyway, the phrase rips the self-importance off of any haughty speech.


Right. Best Supporting Actor. Eddie Murphy is going to win; everyone knows that. I just hope his speech is funny.

Oops. Everyone’s wrong. Alan Arkin wins. Yay! I mean, I haven’t seen the film but I am well chuffed nonetheless. Purely because his name sounds like mine.


My God, there are a lot of commercials. Obviously, we don’t get the American adverts over here, and, since there are, like, seven people watching the telecast in the entire country, they keep on running the same promos over and over again. I must have seen that My Name is Earl promo at least a hundred times. It gets funnier each time.



We come back to a blurb about The Departed, the most overrated Scorsese flick since the one about gangs of New York. You know, GoodFellas.

I pour myself my third cup of coffee, and great, it’s my least favourite part: the songs. Why is it that they invariably suck ass? Apart from Let The River Run, there has not been one decent song in living memory. Anyway, it doesn’t matter as the producers take pity on the world and only show two ditties before cutting to…

Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore and his eight chins are being earnest. The latter nine are feigning disinterest in running for office next year, and oops, he is interrupted by music. Hi-larious.


A Heroes promo. I get the cheerleader’s power, and the painter can see the future. But what’s Ali Larter’s ability supposed to be? Looking hot, hot, hot?

By the way, my name is not short for Alison. Just saying.


A Gilligan’s Island joke? Seriously?

Best Animated Film. Right. It’s going to be Cars.

Shit. It’s Happy Feet. And George Miller looks like The Penguin. From Batman. I suppose that’s intentional. Anyway, I am glad it’s not Cars because it was not a very good movie. It just felt so formulaic. Whereas Monster House was just, well, different. It was never going to win (says he who’s guessed neither of the big awards correctly so far), and I am glad it was at least nominated. The penguins were funny, and I like Robin Williams’s crazy schtick, so that’s good enough.

Helen Mirren and Tom Hanks are giving the screenplay awards. I like Hanks and all, but when was the last time he was funny?

William Monahan wins, and the announcer says he based the script on the Japanese film Infernal Affairs. Japanese? For fuck’s sake. For a show with a supposedly international theme, you’d think they’d get the fucking countries right. First, they imply that Penelope Cruz is Mexican, and now this.


Emily Blunt and Anne Hathway announcing the best costume. I’d like to be the turkey in that sandwich. (Geddit? Turkey? I’m Turkish? Whadda ya know from funny, you bastards!)

The girls are having such a blast as a bunch of beautiful people model the actual costumes in question. It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, Milena Canonero wins for Marie Antoinette. It turns out she desgined the costumes for Barry Lyndon, for which she won her first Oscar. You see, when they mention films like that, it just reminds me of the dullness of this year.


I couldn’t hold it off any longer, so just as Tom Cruise pontificates on Sherry Lansing, I go to the bathroom. My girlfriend brought back a whole bunch of People magazines with her from the States, and I find out that William Mapother is Tom Cruise’s cousin. Anyway, I come back to find out that Pan’s Labyrinth wins cinematography, too. That’s three out of three, no? I really can’t be arsed to go back and check.

John Knoll et al win for Pirates of the Casribbean. Yay! John Knoll rocks. I met him once, and he was a true gentleman. Which is a true feat considering the fact that I was wearing a Yoda mask at the time.


Oh look, it’s Liechtenstein’s own Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe, the Italian Stallion. I have a feeling they’re here to present something to do with foreigners. And sure enough, it’s a montage of best foreign language film Oscar winners: Babette’s Feast, The Barbarian Invasions, Amarcord, La Strada, The Nights of Cabiria, Rashomon, The Bicycle Thieves. Great films, great montage by Giuseppe Tornatore.

Best Film in a Foreign Language. I go into the kitchen to get an apple, it’s going to be Pan’s Labyrinth anyway.

I come back, and Guillermo Del Toro can shapeshift. Cool. Oh, shit. It’s someone else. The Lives of Others won? What the fuck? And the guy thanks Bavaria and Schwarzenegger. It’s truly surreal.

I am still in awe as Jennifer Hudson wins for Dreamgirls. That’s the surprise of the night so far. The fact that it wasn’t a surprise. Beyonce (can you handle this?) does her best to look happy for Hudson. I am not too familiar with the Knowles clan but I will go out on a limb and say that it’s her infamous father sitting next to her. I like his tash.


Did you just spot Larry David? He was sitting right at the back. And here’s Jerry Seinfeld, the man with the most amount of cars in the entire world, “bitching” about the price of crap in cinemas. Anyway, An Inconvenient Truth wins, everyone looks sanctimonious, supercilious and smug. I yawn, and note that it’s five to six. I have to be at work in a few hours. I'm going to be extra cuddly today.


The Academy manages the impossible by both honouring Ennio Morricone with a special Oscar, and denigrating him by making Celine Dion sing his song from Once Upon a Time in America. Morricone makes everyone feel awkward by speaking in his own language, Italian, and the shots of various people watching him are fucking hilarious. Then Clint Eastwood starts translating for him; it’s pretty fucking impressive even though he seems to translate every fifth word, and the whole thing reminds me of the scene in The Godfather, where Michael is talking to Appolonia’s father, with Carlo repeating everything Fabrizio says: “'Grega a Italiana' – 'Grega a Italiana.'” Ahh, good times.


Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst! Spider-Man 3. Venom, baby, Venom! Anyway, Little Miss Sunshine wins for best original screenplay. Strange that it still hasn’t opened in Turkey. I don’t understand that: some films, we get like a week before it actually opens in the US, and some we have to wait for for years.


Dear Lord in Heaven: it’s the songs again. As “The Dreams” scream and shout, I debate whether I should just fuck it and go to bed. Or even call in sick today. Hmmm, questions, questions. Anyway, best song goes to Melissa Etheridge: awesome, lesbian kiss. Go on, grab her boobs, too. No? OK, can’t have it all, I suppose.

Yes, I am, indeed, 12 years old.


A bit about Little Miss Sunshine just reminds me of how much I love Steve Carrell. And I love lamp. Anyway, it’s followed by a montage about “America” edited by Michael Mann. It’s fun enough, and I can never get enough of Roy Batty proclaim “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” Finally, an award. Quite an important one, too; editing, because, usually, whoever wins this wins best picture. Well, Thelma Schoonmaker wins for The Departed, so I guess this year will be different. Because Babel will win best picture. Which is a shame because it’s rubbish.

As always, the “In Memoriam” section is very moving.


Philip Seymour Hoffmann is about to present Helen Mirren with her Oscar. Is he wearing the same shirt and jacket combo he wore last year? Anyway, Helen Mirren does win. Everyone, including Dame Helen, acts surprised (a joke so good, I’ve used it twice).

Reece Witherspoon and her hair extensions walk in to a boombastic version of Walk The Line. That was such a great film, with an incredible final shot. The Last King of Scotland is also a great film, and Forest Whitaker rightfully wins for his turn as Idi Amin.


Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas. I love those three. Scorsese is about to join them on stage.

Yep. Got that one right.


Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson are about to present the best picture award to Babel. Or The Departed? Or Little Miss Sunshine?

It is The Departed. Kind of a surprise. I wonder if it would have won best picture had they kept the dildo scene in.

Anyway, it’s over. Thank fuck for that.

PS. I know - that last sentence works on so many levels.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Welcome to Cerebral Mastication. Kinda like me, it sounds both rude and pretentious (when, in fact, it's just plain silly). I will treat this blog as a platform for my various rambling thoughts on all aspects of pop-culture to find an audience. An audience of one, most likely, but an audience, nonetheless.

Joan Didion wrote "In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. Its an aggressive, even a hostile act." That quote will most definitely apply to my pompous pontifications.

Thanks for visiting, and keep sending me food for thought. Regular updates will start later on this week.

Friday, January 5, 2007