The Savage Curtain

Image result for the savage curtain

One of those season 3 episodes of Trek which went for high concept and floating historical person in space over pacing and logic.

No curtains either, savage or regular.

Any good?

It’s memorable, but mostly for the ‘good vs evil’ battle element. I can’t say it’s bad, I don’t skip any parts when watching, but it is resolved in a depressingly expected way compared to other episodes, like ‘The Corbomite Manouvre’, where the resolution is clever and ultimately the alien enemy is not a bad guy, he’s just lonely.

Also, unlike ‘The Spectre of the Gun’, there’s nothing distinctive about the scenery.

It’s simply good guys vs bad guys.

But then the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

The biggest problem I had when re-watching it was the use of Kahless as a representation of ‘evil’. In TNG and DS9, the Klingons revere Kahless and see him as a liberator from tyranny. His eating of his enemy’s heart is very much in line with Klingon customs, so that’s not really evil, and he established the ‘honour system’, which has some dubious elements i.e. the punishment of the father’s sins on seven generations of that family, but is basically a worthy code.

Therefore, the fact that Kahless is featured at all, raises two questions in my mind.

i] The aliens took the historical figures from the minds of Kirk & Spock, so did they know a lot about Kahless, or was it their general dislike of Klingons that caused him to pop up here? Continue reading

Kwok Fu Shing + shop of gold


Even though I’ve lost my teacher, I still thought my Cantonese was pretty stable, lying somewhere between upper beginner and lower intermediate, but

it turns out my mother in law is the ultimate leveller of expectations.

Obviously, I can’t understand 75% of what she says,  she’s

too fast

too anxious and

uses vocab way beyond my level, but last week, when I saw Kwok fu Shing on TV I turned to her, confident I could direct the conversation to a place I could have vocab for, and asked if she liked him.

I got the first part of her answer,

she thought he was okay, quite handsome

but then her answer kept going and going and going and I heard some words I knew, like Mainland China, Kwun Tong, basic verbs etc. but overall I was pretty lost.

Why was she talking about Kwun Tong?

Did Kwok Fu Shing grow up there?

Why was she doing a firehose action with her hands? Continue reading

Nirvana in Fire [defies weird translated title to be decent Chinese historical drama]


Nirvana in Fire [not sure what the Chinese title is, but don’t try directly translating anything from Chinese, you’ll end up with weird results] was the most popular Mainland drama in 2015, even the most popular of the last 10 years if you believe the hype machine, which I didn’t mostly cos the only other Mainland drama I know is the one where Fan Bing Bing became the Empress of China.

What’s it about?

The plot’s hard to layout as there are so many characters [you’ll be lost in the first few episodes. In fact, in Hong Kong most people are still lost after 35 episodes, which has led to terrible ratings and a desperate attempt by TVB to get it over and done with as fast as possible, mainly by showing double episodes on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s all pretty sad as a] it’s a good drama and really not that hard to follow if you pay attention, and b] the average audience for TVB has been revealed to be either braindead or only half-watching.]

Those were long brackets.

Basically, the story’s set around 500AD, I don’t know the official name for this period, but it was after the Three Kingdoms and before the Sui/Tang dynasties, and generally is an underexposed era for historical dramas. Basically, China was split in half [north and south] and those regions were further split into mini-kingdoms. The one in the drama is made-up but they talk about the Wei, which was real, and the other big kingdom at that time was the Jin, either northern or southern, I’m not sure.

I actually like dramas that are set in unfamiliar periods, though to be honest most periods of Chinese history are pretty unfamiliar to me. I know the vague details, but not the specific player names or the majority of main events/rebellions/coups etc.

Nirvana in Fire focuses on a main character, Mei Chengsu, the leader of the Jiangzou Alliance [basically a bunch of criminals, rebels and outlaws, kind of like Mance Rayder and the wildlings in Game of Thrones], who travels to the capital to make an unfavoured prince the next Emperor. He does this through manipulation and meticulous planning, sometimes unbelievably meticulous as every small character seems to be one of his spies and no one else realises it.

Secretly, and this is revealed early on so not really a spoiler, he’s the son of a general who was labelled a traitor by the current Emperor 13 years earlier and massacred.  Actually, the Emperor was just going by what he was told by others, so it’s not completely his fault, and he’s suspicious by nature so he’s not a hard guy to manipulate. Continue reading

Interview: Atomic Books [zine store in Baltimore]


1] I don’t know much about Baltimore, but Atomic Books seems to be on every online list of where to buy/send zines that I’ve ever seen. How did you get so well known?
To learn all you need to know about Baltimore, just watch the HBO series The Wire. It’s exactly like that. Also, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. It’s exactly like that too.
Atomic first gained notoriety after the multiple homicide, but we agreed to participate in this interview under the condition that we would not have to talk about that.
The store has been around since 1992. The store was selling books and publications online before there was an Amazon. It’s always been a place that’s been welcoming to zines, small presses and independent voices. We like weirdos with something to say.
2] What is your best-selling zine? My money’s on Cometbus…
Over the years, we’ve had a good number of great-selling zines.
Cometbus is a great guess. It as been a perennial best-seller and when a new issue comes out, it’s like a major event.
Other best-selling zines over the years have included Answer Me, Beer Frame, Ben Is Dead, Burn Collector, Chunklet, Crap Hound, Dishwasher, Doris, Found Magazine, Monozine, Murder Can Be Fun, Smile Hon You’re In Baltimore, Thrift Score, and a good number of others. But in the entire 25 year history of Atomic Books, the all-time best-selling zine we’ve carried has to be How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety. It has cats. It has guns. It has solid advice. The perfect formula for a hit.
3] I live in Hong Kong so I can’t get to most zine places [actually, I can’t really get to any; HK is not famous for zines]. All I can do is send e-mails, and 8 out of 10 places never respond for various reasons. You guys did. Are you actively looking for weird sci-fi zines from HK or do you take zines from anywhere, anyone, anytime?
Hong Kong is not famous for zines, yet. YET! You’re the first step.
It can be tough. Really, the ideal is to be in a town that has a vibrant zine culture (and some times this “culture” can be comprised of one, two or several incredibly creative and prolific people. But the problem with that too is that the zine culture can come and go. Washington DC used to have a very active zine scene back in the early ’90s, now, not so much. New York has a decent zine culture. Chicago has a great zine scene. Portland has a vibrant zine scene. Right now, Australia seems to be developing an interesting zine scene.
Here in Baltimore, like most of our arts scenes in general, it ebbs and flows, which is weird because we have a number of universities and great art schools, our music scene has been pretty lively lately, we have a lot of political issues we need to work out, we have a growing publication festival in the city called the Prints and Multiples Fair and the Small Press Expo just a 45 minute hop over to Bethesda and we have a couple stores willing to support zine makers – so Baltimore has all the ingredients for a vibrant zine culture – but with a few exceptions, there’s really not a lot going on right now.

Continue reading

TVB // Blue Veins


Objectively, all TVB dramas are terrible, the Cantonese equivalent of Monster Dog or Space Truckers, but at the same time weirdly addictive. If you switch on during an episode, there’s a good chance you’ll see it through to the end [of the episode] cos the plot and time within the drama move at lightspeed.


If a character decides to do something, even something that takes a really long journey like go to Holland to find an ancient artefact, the very next scene will be that character walking around Amsterdam with a map.

This is common in a lot of movies, but TVB stands out more cos a] it happens frequently, and b] it’s juxtaposed with endless scenes of characters exchanging bland dialogue + life philosophies.

E.g. Relationships are just like the waves of the sea, sometimes they’re choppy, sometimes they’re calm. But if you are good at surfing, you can ride them for 10-15 seconds before falling off and potentially hitting your head on a submerged rock.

That’s not a hundred per cent accurate, but I remember hearing the first part of it in one of the dramas and it gives you the basic idea of what I’m talking about.

Rumour has it TVB has an archive of these philosophies that they recycle every 2-3 years, in new dramas. No one really notices, due to the abundance of them, so they keep doing it. New ideas are frowned upon.

It’s not just the dialogue that’s bad. The writing in general is awful, no subtlety at all, which I guess is understandable when you consider they often write the script as the drama is being filmed. This obviously leads to ridiculous plot twists, uneven performances and copycatting.

E.g. in the new vampire drama, the main female character [Kay Tse, channelling a P4 student playing a tree in the school nativity play] can touch dead bodies and bring them back to life for 1 minute. Obviously, the writers have never seen or heard of the US show ‘Pushing Daisies’. Continue reading

The Book + the Sword // Jin Yong


Jin Yong is my wife’s favourite writer and probably the best known guy writing Chinese martial arts in the whole world.

Though most people in the west don’t know him.

I don’t know the reason, but not many of his books have been translated into English. My wife told me it’s hard to translate from Chinese to English as the traditional Chinese characters used often have a meaning that can’t be translated well. Also, there probably aren’t many western writers, apart from academics, who are at a high enough standard in Chinese writing to give it a crack.

Maybe the American-Chinese guy who did ‘The 3 Body Problem’ could give it a crack sometime?

Anyway, what my wife said could be true in this case, as the translation I read was quite simple in its style, word choice and sentence structure. And a lot of the story was just plot, plot, plot, which made me wonder if a lot of the deeper, between the lines stuff had been lost along the way.

And when I say ‘a lot’ I mean:

The Chinese version of ‘The Book and the Sword’ is about 1,000 pages

The English version is around 500 pages.

500 pages worth of story was lost?

I don’t know,


although there were a lot of characters to keep track of and the story was quite melodramatic in a lot of ways, there were aspects of it that I thought were great.

Kung Fu strategy

The way Jin Yong describes the action is decent, but the parts that really stood out were the parts in-between where the characters or the narrator would delineate the style that was being used and the strategy behind it

E.g. the one third attack Continue reading

Mysterious Doctor Satan // Tyson Bley


The large testicle entombed in R2-D2 (arms stretched) splashes on his Nikes,
needs R-rated persuading by traditional girlfriend, ecstatically, or else be
mesmerized by a looming network of death farms – a reiterated glimpse into
their galaxy of centerfold coral, into the pollution (of hate) of the self-driving car.
Cancer killed my dog (the bad movie’s velvet oddity appears and disappears
very quickly). Squat itself in Tinder shambles mock-throwing FBI music-
bollocks at an atlas (representing a more empirical Tumblr) on Japan just
when the ultimate Vader of librarians joined a Turkish boy band and Mexican
adults huffing the mystery malice of Poster Brit’s misty Caesar vaping soulful
death knell in infinite pork jersey and Vans condescended to race using
Martian philosophy. The cries of overhead fish match the accents of children,
those squirrels of Europa who announce the return of the virtual world (on stickers).
The uncontrollable whitewashing of Victorian bad posts through the death of
Weird Twitter seduces the KKK into a spree of postal sex, their horrid paramedics
horrified, struggling in confusion to unevenly flash a muggled vampire shrinking
in the pool at a friend’s wedding reception – which fairy tale descends into surrealist
porn over the next thousand years like addiction eating at a fresh tie. Roses backlog a
monster’s dry underbelly. Nude against a red wall on the street opposite Love’s
underground butchery whispers through paper burned money in a bundle in the
hand of an android screaming in rental cars burned into the night screaming all
other parts of the meme OK…. The dick increases (in size) if you kick it in the ear. Its
(interior) lake buzzes like a helicopter through rings of subterranean beer forfeiting
the old-fashioned Count’s grudge by falling in love with/in praise to itself
with flu’s sound.
i] ‘traditional girlfriend’ refers to Meg Tilly in ‘Psycho 2’
ii] ‘seduces the KKK into a spree of postal sex’ – in 1972,  five low ranking members of the Compton branch of the KKK tried posting racy letters with copies of ‘Barbarella’ to black residents, hoping to lure them to a park and brain them. The plot failed for obvious reasons.

Continue reading