Know Your Picture Characters Entry #77

October 31st, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 科恩兄弟 B. 贾森雷特曼 C. 朗侯活

D. 昆汀塔伦蒂诺 E. 皮特多克特

Nine out of ten doctors do not recommend trying to read Chinese based only on one’s knowledge of Japanese; the tenth doctor is a sadist.  But Theoman proved them all wrong, because he recognized the Japanese word for “brothers” or “siblings” and he clung to it like a man tossed overboard in a storm hanging onto a piece of driftwood.  Fortunately, it carried him to shore: A is the Coen brothers, whose best movie is, in fact, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, whatever A(nother) Fan might tell you.  But Fargo‘s their second best, so I guess he wasn’t too far off.  And neither was Theoman, who scored an impressive 40% this week, also picking out D as Quentin Tarantino, whose Chinese name has a disappointingly small number of characters that have anything to do with violence.  That third one in there is a tower, which I guess would hurt a lot if it fell on you?  I might be stretching a bit here.

A(nother) Fan likes to have backups; if he can’t be right about the characters (and, for 4/5, he wasn’t) he can at least be right about which film was best.  Or can he?  Pete Docter no longer lives in Bloomington; he lives at E, and, appropriately enough, has a character meaning “special” appear not once but twice in his name.  WALL-E was better than Up, and I can’t remember Toy Story well enough to make a definitive judgment, so I guess he wins that one.  And he’s right about Tarantino as well, in quality if not in location.  And being a member of whatever generation he is (not mine, presumably) paid off, as it allowed him to recognize Opie.  He can have credit for Up in the Air as well, so long as he acknowledges that it’s kind of interesting that the first character of Jason Reitman’s name in Chinese is also the name of one of my Chinese teachers.

But maybe we should move away from Chinese for a bit.  As has been pointed out to me, I am not a real Chinese speaker; I just play one on the internet.  Let’s go back to nihongo (Japanese) for a while.  Everyone know what day it is today?  Good.  If you don’t, go hide in the corner in shame for a while.  Then, when you come back out, your task will be to find the word that completes this sentence: “Linus awaits the Great _______.”

A. 瓜二つ B. 瓜田 C. 南瓜 D. 胡瓜 E. 西瓜 F. 西洋南瓜

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Consequences Part 10

October 28th, 2011 by Wordsman

Tracy Tang had had more than enough of these cryptic mind games.  She wasn’t in the CIA; she was a police officer.  The life of a police officer is supposed to be simple.  There is right, and there is wrong.  You stop one and defend the other.

She cuffed the old woman and took her by the arm, just as she had done a hundred times before and just as she would do a hundred times again.  The routine was comforting while it lasted.  It lasted as far as the stairs.

At first she thought that the old woman had tripped her.  She regained her balance and spun around, ready for the chase.  But the woman wasn’t running.  She just stood there calmly with an awkward smile.  “See what I mean?”

Officer Tang ignored her.  She grabbed the criminal’s arm and pulled.  Nothing happened.  The woman clearly wasn’t exerting any effort at all, but suddenly she was harder to move than if she was made of lead.  Officer Tang tried using both arms.  She wouldn’t budge.  The officer got down off the stairs, went around to the woman’s back, and pushed.  Nothing.  She tried pulling in the opposite direction: easy as pie.  But when she went back to pushing, the woman went right up to the edge of the first step, and then it was like she had hit an invisible wall.  No amount or type of exertion on the part of Officer Tang—and believe me, she got creative—could get her up the stairs.

“I’m stuck here,” the woman said, without a trace of her former smile.  “Neither you, nor the army, nor anybody else can get me out.”

But Officer Tang was not beaten that easily.  There was more than one way out of the station.  She had the woman do an about-face and brought her back through the turnstile, past her pillar, and onto the platform.

“It won’t work,” the old woman said sadly.

“You have the right to remain silent,” Officer Tang reminded her.

A train pulled in a few minutes later, and the officer spent every instant of the twenty seconds the doors were open trying to force the woman on.  She might as well have tried to push a jumbo jet up the Grand Canyon.  A number of subway passengers watched curiously.  A few who wanted to board through the door she was occupying expressed their displeasure.  “Official police business!” she bellowed, and she kept on working at it until the doors slid shut.  In fact, she was so absorbed in her effort that she continued to try even after the train was gone.  Luckily for both of them, the mysterious force preventing the woman from getting on the train also stopped her from being knocked onto the tracks.

After failing to get the woman out through two different maintenance tunnels, even Officer Tang was ready to admit that she would not be able to bring this perp in on her own.  It was time to call for backup.  In fact, it was time to go ask for backup in person, because she wasn’t sure she could explain the situation effectively over the radio, if she could at all.

But what about the criminal?  Could she really leave her there alone among all those innocent citizens, leaving them at risk of being slapped to within an inch of their lives at any moment?

“Stay here,” she ordered, looking around wildly in the desperate hope that another officer might happen to be walking by at that very moment.  “Don’t think you’re getting out of it because of . . . whatever this is.  I’ll be back to arrest you properly soon.”

The old woman was smiling again.  She was sore all over, but it was nothing compared to what she had done to herself in her own attempts to get past the unfathomable barriers blocking every exit.  “Like I have any choice.  I’ll try not to commit any crimes while you’re away.”

Officer Tang’s wandering eyes settled on a nearby garbage can.  “Oh, you’d better believe you won’t.”

As she sat there attached to the waste receptacle—a new low in a life that had set the bar underground since Day One—she decided that the handcuffs were a punishment for her being amused by the officer’s distress.  She made a promise to herself to never again take pleasure from another person’s misery.  It was a promise she kept for almost five hours.

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This Day in History Entry #141

October 25th, 2011 by Wordsman

Henry said, “You can hold up your chin
Ever after, if we this fight win
They’ve got great cavalry
But we happy few, we
Will be victors, this day of Crispin!”

Event: Henry V’s English longbowmen defeat a larger French force in the Battle of Agincourt
Year: 1415
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #76

October 24th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 低俗小说 B. 冰血暴 C. 鐵面特警隊 D. 少女孕記 E. 天外奇蹟

Theoman is pretty good at picking movies: of the five he selected, three appear on this list.  Unfortunately, he is not very good at shuffling, for he didn’t manage to get any of them in the right order.  As for the others . . . A Few Good Men was very good, but I’ve never seen Unforgiven, so I refrained from judgment on that particular year.  And The King’s Speech was predictable but enjoyable, so I’m not sure you can say that Inception really bested it, unless you measure Best Pictures by multiplying the special effects budget by the number of plot holes (which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but really, anyone who tells you they totally understood that movie is lying, including the director).

A Fan, of course, discovered a topic near and dear to his heart.  Perhaps too near, in fact, for it led him to start shouting out movies that no one besides him has ever heard of, like Quiz Show.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was actually better than Forrest Gump, as were all the other movies he put down, but I chose only one representative from “Oscar’s Annus Horribilis”: it’s Pulp Fiction, and unfortunately for A Fan, it came first.  It is unique among these movies in that the Chinese title is basically exactly the same as the English one (except, you know, that we have to write it with these funny symbols).

Then Another Fan came in, one unrelated to the first but sharing a lot of his passions and opinions, providing us with a wealth of Best Picture “better thans.”  This included at least one that I considered and rejected–Apollo 13, because it has a number in it–and two that I included.  So I guess Another Fan did better this week than A Fan.  He can brag about it if they ever happen to meet.  It seems that while A Fan felt that 1994 was the worst best picture year, Another Fan focused on 1997 as one in which every single other nominee was better than the winner.  Again, I only chose to use one, because L.A. Confidential was the hands-down winner that year . . . at least until James Cameron paid someone a billion dollars to make it not be.  You can find it at C, which appears to mean something like “iron-faced special police force” (keep in mind that I don’t actually speak Chinese, so my information is even less reliable than usual).

I suppose it’s always nice to know that one has at least two fans.

Another Fan’s other success came in picking Fargo, an uneven film, but come on!  The English Patient?  Guhhhh.  Fargo is B, and it has my favorite Chinese title: “Ice, Blood, Violence.”

And finally, in swooped Dragon, who really should have trusted her instincts, because I agree with her that Shakespeare in Love was better than Saving Private Ryan.  She also picked the wrong Pixar film: E is not Toy Story 3 but Up, which is both a better film and came in a year with a worse Best Picture winner (based on the logic that if The Hurt Locker was really so great, I would have seen it).

D is Juno, which I didn’t like on rewatching quite as much as I did the first time I saw it, but it is still leaps and bounds ahead of No Country for Old Men, which was a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE film.  As a friend of mine once put it, “I didn’t think it was possible to make a movie about a homicidal maniac so boring.”

Okay, so now you’ve got the five films.  But let’s do something that involves a little less guesswork and a little more close examination of the characters (because that’s what we’re all best at, right?)  Find me the names of the directors of the five movies (as in, the five I specifically chose here) that should have–or at least could have–won it all.

NOTE: I replaced the director of L.A. Confidential with the director of Apollo 13, because there is no Chinese Wikipedia article on Curtis Hanson.  And, as we all know, if there’s no Wikipedia article, it doesn’t actually exist.

A. 科恩兄弟 B. 贾森雷特曼 C. 朗侯活

D. 昆汀塔伦蒂诺 E. 皮特多克特

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Consequences Part 9

October 21st, 2011 by Wordsman

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

Officer Tang had mixed feelings about the Miranda Rights.  It had never been successfully explained to her why criminals had any rights at all.  If they wanted rights, they shouldn’t have broken the law.  In general, she paid very little attention to the post-arrest stages of criminal procedure, which she often found confusing and/or unsatisfying.  In her ideal world, you got the bad guy, and that was it (Officer Tang was one of the few people whose ideal world still had bad guys in it).

On the other hand, reading an arrestee her Miranda Rights was a symbol of victory.  It was a way of showing you had won, like saying “Checkmate!” or hearing your country’s national anthem or dumping a barrel of Gatorade on the coach.  Every time she got to say, “You have the right to remain silent,” it was a reminder of another job well done.  So she relished the delivery of the lines, even if the philosophical background behind them made her somewhat uneasy.

Most of the time she did not care whether or not they waived their rights.  It didn’t matter to her if they said anything compromising—that was all for the detectives to take care of.  In fact, she generally preferred that her arrestees keep quiet; after all, what had they done to earn the privilege of talking?  Officer Tang was not the first cop to reinterpret, “You have the right to remain silent” as meaning, “You have lost your freedom of speech.”

But this time she wanted something.  She had to know.  What had the woman been doing down there for all those months?  The mystery had consumed her like no previous case ever had.  She had the assault charge, and that was enough to bring the woman in, but it was not enough to satisfy Officer Tang; it was just an excuse.  You could hardly say that Al Capone’s great criminal act was failing to pay his taxes.

“Thought you could get away with it, didn’t you?”  Lacking experience actually talking to suspects instead of just reciting at them, she was forced to rely almost exclusively on clichés.  “Well, you might have somewhere else, but not in my town.  You didn’t reckon with the Crescenton Police Department!”

The old woman was in no mood to respond.  She had arrived at Grief Stage Four: Depression.  She was never going to get out.  No one was ever going to listen to her.  She would die in that subway station, and it would most likely be several days before anyone even noticed.  And, because apparently that wasn’t funny enough for the universe, it had decided to throw this disagreeable police officer at her as well.

“I bet you’re wondering what kind of sentence you’ve got to look forward to for what you did,” Officer Tang continued.  She certainly was.  “Five-to-ten?  Twenty?  Life?  I hear there’s a proposition in the legislature to get rid of the death penalty here in the state of Ohio, but I wouldn’t count on that to save you.”

“I’m already serving a life sentence.”  She didn’t want to talk to the police officer.  Then again, she couldn’t remember the last time she had done something because she wanted to.  If it was her lot in life to be toyed with for others’ amusement, she might as well play along.  Stage Five: Acceptance.

“So you’re a repeat offender!”  It was all coming together now: a hardened criminal spends decades digging an escape tunnel with spoons stolen from the prison cafeteria.  One night she jumps in, claws her way to undeserved freedom and finds herself in the subway system.  That explained why she had just been sitting there for months.  She was laying low until the whole thing blew over.  “Where were you doing time?”


Officer Tang faltered, but just for a moment.  She couldn’t possibly mean here here.  She must mean, “in the state of Ohio.”  “Well then, you’re in luck.  We can put you back where you belong in no time.  Just need to run you by the station to do a little paperwork and you’ll be on your way.”

The woman laughed.  It wasn’t funny, really; it was just . . . fair.  For the first time, her situation was going to cause problems for someone else instead of just for her.  “If only it were that easy.”

“What?”  She tightened her grip on the woman’s arm.  “Ma’am, you’re in enough trouble as it is.  You don’t want to add resisting arrest on top of it.”  Officer Tang didn’t want any complications, and she certainly didn’t want to have to beat an old woman into submission.  She just wanted the intruder out of her station.

The woman kept laughing.  It hurt her throat, but she couldn’t stop.  Sometimes all you can do is laugh—it’s not one of the stages of grief, but maybe it should be.  “I’m not resisting.  Believe me, I would love to go with you.  But like I said: it’s not that easy.”

Officer Tang was starting to feel very uncomfortable.  The people she arrested did not usually laugh.  Cartoon supervillains laugh.  Real criminals don’t laugh.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

The laughter finally subsided.  “You’ll see.”

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This Day in History Entry #140

October 18th, 2011 by Wordsman

Starting out as a playing card co.
They tried numerous ways to make dough
But the key to their fame
Was a new kind of game
Else we’d never have heard: “Nintendo”

Event: The Nintendo Entertainment System (Japanese: Famicom) is released in North America
Year: 1985
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #75

October 17th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 達拉斯 B. 新英格兰 C. 纽约 D. 水牛城

E. 費城 F. 迈阿密 G. 华盛顿

Okay, I think we’re gonna make it.  It’s not even Tuesday in Newfoundland yet.

Theoman knows how embarrassing it is to be hoist with one’s own petard, so he chooses to use other people’s petards.  But he uses them upside-down, which sounds like it could be potentially devastating to the local mole population.  But I digress.  Let’s see how the Reverse Dragon Method (which sounds like it should be used for something much cooler than this) panned out.  He got . . . one.  The same one that Dragon got this week, actually, if she’s allowed to take credit for getting New York right when she says they’re all New York.  Dragon likes to cover up her lack of ability in geography by saying that all names actually refer to the same place.  She is the opposite of Joseph Stalin, who is rumored to have thought that the Netherlands and Holland were actually different places.  But at least she gave me some credit and figured that I only put New York six times instead of seven.  She picked out A as the Birthplace of the American Revolution, the Cradle of Liberty, good ol’ Beantown: Dallas.

These eastern locations turned out to be an oddly idiosyncratic bunch.  New England, for example, starts with the character meaning “new” (it is literally that character plus the characters used for “England”), but New York doesn’t.  E, Philadelphia, is fairly obviously an abbreviation, with the first character representing the first sound and the second meaning “city,” like “Phi-town” or something like that.  And D, Buffalo (my favorite), makes no attempt to imitate the English sound: they just took the word for “buffalo” and stuck that “city” character on the end, I guess so you can tell whether they’re talking about the animal or the place.  Which you can’t do in English, except by context.  Maybe the Chinese are on to something.  (Editor’s Note: Uh, capitalization?  It’s not quite dead yet, despite the best efforts of the internet.)

A Fan wasn’t terribly accurate, but we can certainly agree with most of his logic.  He thought B was funky, and really, who doesn’t think “New England” when they hear “funky”?  And Dallas may be the Yankees of football, but C, New York, has two teams that everyone hates: the all-talk-no-championships Jets and the led-by-the-lesser-of-two-Mannings Giants, whom their neighbors in New England will certainly never forgive.  Just as A Fan will never forgive Rex Grossman for failing to win the Super Bowl with the Bears, though Rex actually ended up at G.  The folks in F are crying because Miami is 0-4 and, in a few hours, will be 0-5.

And now I just wonder what a Philly cheesesteak made with buffalo meat would taste like.

But it’s time for a change of pace (“Finally!” they all cry).  We’re going to spend a week watching movies, by which I mean we’re going to spend a week looking at movie titles in a foreign language until our brains hurt.  You may recall that we had a challenge about Academy Award Best Picture winners, and that at that time A Fan suggested we do a quiz about movies that should have won, based on the tried-and-true KYPC method of assuming you know what the quiz is about and the author doesn’t.  So we’re going to give that a try.  All of these are movies that are better than (or at least as good as) the film that took the prize that year.  Don’t worry: these are 100% objective evaluations, with which no sane person could disagree.  The range is 1990-present.  And apologies to Theoman, but we’re still working in the medium of Chinese here.

NOTE: Consulting Wikipedia is both allowed and encouraged for this week’s challenge.  Just make sure your mouse doesn’t stray over to the link to the Chinese article.

A. 低俗小说 B. 冰血暴 C. 鐵面特警隊 D. 少女孕記 E. 天外奇蹟

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Consequences Part 8

October 14th, 2011 by Wordsman

“Hang on a second.  I don’t remember ever hearing this thing.  It just sort of appeared in my head.”  Denial: the first stage of grief.

The woman frowned.  It was not a good look for her, though she wasn’t terribly nice to look at in the first place.  “That’s the part I’m not sure about.”

“But it was you, right?  You’re the one that hit me.  It didn’t start until after that, and then it went away when I came back.”  Stage Two: Blame.

The frown deepened, turning her wrinkles into great valleys of consternation.  “But it’s the Song of Mastery.  I didn’t sing anything.  I wasn’t trying to put this on you.  You can’t force a guy to do what you want just by hitting him.  The world would be a much simpler place if that was true.  Not a very nice place, either.”

“Whatever.  The details aren’t important.”  Stage Three: Bargaining (the lawyers are best at this one).  “You said that if I do what you say, it’ll all go away?”

She looked up at him.  Months of making her pitch and constantly getting rejected had caused her to seriously doubt her ability to judge people, if she had ever had much of one in the first place.  Was this kid any different?  The only way to find out was to try him.

“Seems that way.”

“Great.  You’ve got a deal.”  He extended his hand, knowing full well that a handshake is as legally binding as an unsigned contract or a pinky swear.  He wasn’t actually planning to be ordered around by a madwoman; he would simply play along until a better option presented itself.  Much to his chagrin, Peter was having a great deal of trouble thinking up better options.

The woman smiled but did not take the hand.  Peter retracted it awkwardly.  Then he told himself that he probably didn’t want to shake hands with someone who appeared to spend all her time sitting on the floor of a subway station.  “What do you want me to do?”

“It’s simple,” she lied.  It was an obvious lie, one that Peter would have recognized even if he hadn’t been training for the legal profession or grown up with a younger sibling.  “Get me out of here.”

Peter looked around.  No forbidding iron gates or barred doors had appeared in the station since he was last there.  Could it be that the woman couldn’t walk?  No, she had been capable—more than capable—of moving around that morning.  He rolled up his sleeve and saw that there was a definite mark where she had seized his arm.  If she was enfeebled, then he had all the muscular strength of a gelatin mold.

“I don’t understand.”

The woman continued to smile.  “I don’t understand it completely myself, but I can tell you that it’s going to involve at least two steps.  The second one will be a bit . . . complicated, but the first part should be pretty clear-cut.  I need you to get me out of these.”

She shifted uncomfortably around and gestured toward her back with her chin.  Peter noticed for the first time the she was sitting not only next to a pillar but also right up against a garbage can.  The “can” was not really a can at all, but simply a bag ringed by a framework of long metal bars.  In between the bars—and, at either end, around the woman’s wrists—someone had placed a pair of handcuffs.

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This Day in History Entry #139

October 11th, 2011 by Wordsman

Sean and Alex’s ongoing fight
Tina Fey can see Russia, alright
John wields his nihontō
Mr. Bill cries, “Oh no!”
Live from New York: it’s Saturday Night!

Event: Saturday Night Live premieres on NBC
Year: 1975
Learn more:
See also:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #74

October 10th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 亞利桑那 B. 奥克兰 C. 堪薩斯城 D. 聖地牙哥 E. 旧金山

F. 西雅圖 G. 圣路易斯 H. 丹佛

so theoman likes stream of consciousness huh well in that case i thought i would try writing todays post in a freer style that is not hampered by fascist punctuation or Okay, I can’t do this.  But even though it’s not great for blogging, the stream of consciousness strategy seems to pay off at a 50% rate for character guessing, which, as regular KYPC participants know, makes it pretty much the best game in town.  It nabbed him Denver (H) right off the bat–though I have a sneaking suspicion that his old friend, phonetic complexity, helped the stream along a bit in that case.  Anyway, he shouldn’t have needed it, as the characters for Denver are the same as their team.  Denver’s NFL team is the “Vermilion Buddhas,” right?  It also won him Seattle (F), which, appropriately enough for this Western quiz, starts with a character meaning “west.”  After that, however, the consciousness stream streamed off a bit.  Whatever the heck that means.

We hoped that when A Fan went out of town, he might have stopped in one of these places in order to improve his chances of guessing correctly.  It seems that he didn’t, however.  The character he identified as the Gateway Arch in A actually refers to Asia, so of course this is Arizona, which is . . . uh, a little closer to Asia than . . . well, about half of the others, anyway.  Then he went on to make a disparaging statement about the fine people of San Diego and a cryptic one about Oakland.  Then he actually got one right, so we had to do a double take and go back.  He probably thought he was kidding when he identified the third character in E as the hills of San Francisco, but this character actually means “mountain,” as in “old gold mountain,” which is what the Chinese decided to name the City by the Bay.  And as for the rest of his guesses . . . well, perhaps the less said the better.

We thank Shirley for her informative statements on the subject of knee replacement surgery and wish her a speedy recovery.

Finally came Dragon, who has never given up on the idea that I am trying to trick you all every week.  Her lack of trust led her to employ a sneaky strategy.  Fortunately for all that is good and pure in the world, this strategy backfired by . . . correctly identifying Arizona (A), Kansas City (C), and Saint Louis (G), giving her the best score of the week.  Hmm . . .

B is Oakland, where “the inside overcomes the orchid.”  D is San Diego, which is “a whale’s . . .”–No, I’m just kidding.  It’s the “holy land of fangs and elder brothers.”

And at last we swing back around to the East, where we can find teams in Buffalo, Dallas, Miami, New England, New York, New York again (no, I won’t list it twice), Philadelphia, and Washington.

A. 達拉斯 B. 新英格兰 C. 纽约 D. 水牛城

E. 費城 F. 迈阿密 G. 华盛顿

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