Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Miami Vice (Action 2006)

Well look what we have here, Colin fucking Farrell; but this time he's sporting an 80's style mullet, aka "business in the front, party in the back".

This film was all over the place. You first had one group of bad guys which then lead to another group of bad guys, and then it finished off with one crappy love triangle happening with Li Gong, mullet-boy, and some Columbian drug dealer.

Whoever did the casting really needs to be relieved of his responsibilities. How often do you have an Asian chick in Columbia? Humm, probably never. Now add a bunch of Hispanic guards surrounding this Asian chick who is speaking with a very heavy Chinese accent. Seem a little odd? It sure did to me.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Jamie Foxx has to be more selective about the movies he chooses to do or else his fame from great films like Ray and Any Given Sunday will be soon forgotten.
Rating - D

Snakes on a Plane (Action 2006)

What a silly movie. This reminded me of the corny shit that they pulled in Deep Blue Sea, so much so that good ol' Samuel L. Jackson even had another one of this emphatic monologue sessions.

After watching this, I still don't know why the producers chose to have such an odd marketing scheme when they first released it. Some of you may remember what they did in terms of having very short teasers.

So yeah, as you might've guessed this movie is about what happens when you have buttloads of crazy, poisonous snakes on a transpacific airline flight. They should have placed this in the comedy section because I laughed more than anything else. Silly and stupid are the main adjectives that come to mind, but it was a little entertaining nonetheless.
Rating - C

Monday, October 29, 2007

Samsung SGH-E900

After being here only a few weeks, I caved and purchased a cell phone just because I totally felt naked without one. Hopefully soon, technology will reach the point where we won't need keys for cars, keys for houses, or even cash, because everything will be integrated into one's cell phone. I think Japan is already very close to having this system in place, and I think it already does exist in terms of public transportation.

I got this phone for $1400 RMB which equals $187 USD. I think it was a pretty good purchase just because I could, at last, try out a slider phone that has recently become more popular in the US. The features included in this model are pretty standard, from having a color screen, to being able to play MP3s, to having Bluetooth, etc. I've been texting a whole lot more since it's much cheaper to text than to call someone over here. Also, they don't have service plans like we have in the states. I pay around $3USD per month and I get 150 text messages and around 200 voice minutes. You get charged on a fixed per minute/message rate extra after you go over. Also, all of the services are region-based, so those roaming charges that we all used to get in the US are alive and well over here. If I leave Yanjiao and head into Beijing, a voice call jumps up from $.03USD/min to $.27USD/min. Of course that is nothing compared to US prices, but for the people here, it's a lot of money. One good thing is that mandatory 1-2 year contracts don't exist so people upgrade phones all the time.

One weird thing that we all take for granted is that voicemail is not included in any of the "normal" plans. You have to pay extra and any other feature besides voice and text messages.

The phone itself is light and sleek. One fancy feature is that the area around the directional pad is touch/heat sensitive, meaning that I don’t actually press a button to activate a key. Good thing is that it's fancy. Bad this is that you always accidentally activate buttons when you never intend to do so. It gets very annoying…very. The only comparison I have with this is with laptops, where you can accidentally activate the touchpad and end up typing in a location where your mouse cursor is. Pretty much everyone who has used a laptop to type a paper knows what I'm talking about.

The main keypad is of good size. Not too big and not too small. Texting is easy and it gives your fingers pretty good feedback.

On the left side of the phone you have your run-of-the-mill volume buttons. On the bottom is a slot for a MicroSD card. I used a 512MB chip with it and it works just like it should. On the right side of the phone you have your main power button and two extra buttons: one is dedicated to turn the phone into camera-taking mode and the other is to initiate the music player. The right side also has an input to recharge the phone or to connect a headset/microphone combo to it. An annoying part of this is that you have to move this little plastic tab in order to recharge the phone. This is the stupidest design ever. Who wants to move this flimsy piece of plastic every time you want to recharge your phone? Nokia is still the best in regards to having interchangeable power adapters.

The default battery is listed as 800mAh with a 220h standby time and a 3h 30min talk time. The battery life seemed to be on par with other phones I’ve used in the past.

The OS software is pretty fast and intuitive. It only came with 2 games, but it does have a converter program which I’ve used a lot. The music player is kinda blah. The controls are good, but that damn headset connector is so annoying to use and it totally sticks out from the phone when connected. I still think it’s easier to just use a separate mp3 player instead of trying to use your phone as one.

After using this celly for a few months, I can say that the novelty of having a slider phone has worn off. I’ve used clam shell phones, bar phones, and now slider phones, and I'd have to say that bar phones are the best in my opinion. One good thing is that all cell phones over here are unlocked GSM ones, so I'll be able to easily sell it when I’m finished with it here.

Tigerland (War Drama 2000)

Colin Farrell is and will always be a turd. He's a perfect example of a guy who is way too arrogant for his own good. This movie is yet another role that he can play well because he doesn't really have to act.

The plot of this movie follows around a group of recruits during the Vietnam War. I guess there was this place called Tigerland, which was a training area in the States that got soldiers acclimated to what was in store for them when they reached Nam.

This was a toned-down version of Full Metal Jacket in respects to what getting yelled at by drill sergeants was all about. Of course that film was on a way different level than this one. The story mainly concentrated on Colin Farrell's character as he was a smartass who got in trouble a lot, but was essentially a good person who tried to help out his fellow peeps. It was an O.K. movie that didn't require much thinking.
Rating - B

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Living in China (October 28, 2007)

This weekend I decided to go on a little quest to see if I could purchase an Eve Time Card using my Chinese money. After asking multiple people, I was pointed in the direction of this place called Zhong Guan Cun. Supposedly, this was the place to go to find anything relating to computers.

Like usual I got on the bus which brought me into Beijing and then I took the subway through 2 transfer stations until I reached the second stop of a surface train connected with the subway. I flagged down a taxi driver, but the guy didn't understand where I wanted to go. I flagged down a second taxi driver and he seemed like he knew what he was doing, so I got in.

A few miles later, we ended up in this huge area with a bunch of large buildings with computer advertisements everywhere. There were also a shit ton of people; sorry I didn't get a pic of that. I went into the first building and it was just insane. It reminded me of the Silk Market, but instead of clothes and bags, there were a ton of computer parts, like a TON. Any piece of hardware that you were looking for could be found here. We had motherboards, cases, power supplies, video cards, monitors, laptops, webcams, digital cameras, TVs, etc. Stuff was everywhere and there were multiple floors with the exact same thing in all of them.

I was actually trying to find software, but surprisingly enough I couldn't find a software section anywhere. You would think that in a country full of piracy, that there would be some place that would be selling software alongside hardware, but no. I attempted to ask a few salespeople if they knew where the CDs and DVDs with programs on them were, but they didn't understand what I wanted and kept trying to coax me to buy a desktop. Yeah I don't know how to say "software" in Chinese so I kept on simplifying it for people and they still didn't get it.

I would say that there were 6 huge buildings with the same stuff in it and I fully went through 3 of them. In the 3rd building on the 8th floor I finally found a very small software section. Sadly, as I should have expected, everything was in Chinese and the salespeople could not guarantee that the content would be in English after I installed the software, so I didn't risk it.

My logic stems from the fact that supposedly World of Warcraft is as big here as it is in the US. Assuming that is correct, I know that people here normally don't have credit cards, so younger kids must be purchasing via cash. I also read someplace that people here do not have monthly subscriptions, but instead are charged on an hourly basis. If this is true, they must buy that time card somewhere, and my hope was that an Eve-Online time card would be close by.

Long story short, I left Beijing very tired and disappointed. I pretty much wasted a whole day (7 full hours) trying to look for something that may or may not exist; very frustrating. At least now I know where to go if I want to buy hardware, even though the shit is probably used and maybe even defective.

During my travels this weekend I wore my counterfeit Puma shoes and now I can report back as to why they are so cheap. The shoes hurt your feet and force you to walk funny. When I got home I had a few blisters on my toes and a ton of red/sore spots. My knees were also in pain, which I can't really explain how or why. I don't know what they are not doing in terms of shoe production, but real shoe designers have one hell of a one-up on these counterfeit operations here.

Last week I also purchased a pair of jeans for around $16USD. These things are also very uncomfortable. I think I'm just used to American jeans that have a lot of ass room for all of the tubbos that we have back in our country. Yeah the jeans here are very tight around the upper part, so it feels like I'm in some Billy Idol video or something. I'm sure this pair won't fit quickly after I return to the US and gorge myself on Red Lobster.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Logitech Premium Notebook Headset (Random Product)

I purchased these bad boys right before I left the US. I mainly picked this model becasue it came with a case and becasue of its marketed portability. I've tested it out for a few months now, and they are actually pretty good. The earpieces are comfortable enough, the microphone can be retracted in case you're not using it, and everything does stay nice and snug in its plastic case.

The unit came with a stereo to USB connector for both the earphone and the mic, but this turned out to be very bulky and not much of an improvement over the analog lines. For one reason or another, when using the USB, it tends to mess up and stop working with no apparent cause. I've only used it with Skype, so I don't know if it's a hardware problem or a software one. I've since stopped using the USB connector and everything has been fine. The volume control and mute is very useful, as Logitech has put that feature on most of their headsets.

Overall it's a pretty good unit, but it does cost around $45, which is 3x more expensive than a cheaper model that I also own. When comparing the two, it's hard to justify the premium that you pay for the "portability" of the more expensive headset. There really is no difference in quality, both in construction and sound. If you're not a frequent traveler who needs their headset protected in a nifty plastic case, then you're totally better off by just going for the cheaper model.

Lucky Number Slevin (Action 2006)

This movie started out pretty shitty but it ended up being an O.K. flick. Yeah I was almost about to turn it off 15 minutes into it. That was how boring the beginning of it was.

I personally think that this was Josh Hartnett's best acting gig to date. He wasn't all that impressive in anything else he has been in like Pearl Harbor, 40 Days and 40 Nights, or Wicker Park. But in this film, he actually seemed to have a wee bit of talent; who would've thought.

The story gets better towards the middle and it peaks at end. Yes, it's one of those movies, kinda like The Sixth Sense in that regard. I swear I'll never understand where some of these writers get their ideas. I'm certainly not on the same creative wavelength with theses folks.

Although the film is a no-name one that you see at Blockbuster and quickly bypass, I'll reiterate that it's not half bad; not memorable of course, but still O.K.
Rating - B

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Piano (Drama 1993)

3 Oscars back in 1994? Are you kidding me? This film sucked so bad that I actually sat here for 3 whole minutes because I was that baffled at what I read. How could so many people think that this piece of shit was any good? Do they realize that the whole plot revolved around adultery? I don't care if the chick was mute, that doesn't make her decision to be a skank any less disgraceful.

Besides my very one-sided view on this subject, the movie really did suck. It didn't have a concrete plot, young Anna Paquin didn't know how to act, and the music all came from a 19th century, boring-ass piano. This DVD will be in the big garbage can at the bottom of my apartment in about 10 minutes.
Rating - F

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scarface (Action 1983)

Now I can see why so many consider this film to be a classic. Surprisingly enough, I've never actually seen this movie even though it was mentioned a bunch of times while I was growing up. People always thought that I would like it, but I was a tad apprehensive because people also thought I would like Fight Club, which I certainly did not.

Considering that this movie was made in 1983, you gotta give the peeps responsible for it some credit; it was a pretty good movie. We have a great lead actor, an interesting story, and a whole lot of guns and violence. Yes, the music totally sounded like the soundtrack to CHiPs, but again, we're talking about 1983. I don't think I could even talk at that age.

One interesting thing that I saw from the poster was that Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay for this. I find that really hard to believe since that talentless schmuck is the man responsible for such craptastic movies like Alexander, U Turn, and Natural Born Killers. To this day, I won't accept that he directed Platoon and Any Given Sunday because those movies were so damn good. It must've been the drugs...

Anyway, this was a solid action flick that showed how power can corrupt. I don't think anyone else has made such an in your face example of this. I'd like to believe that if I ever made it big, I would still go to Costco/Sam's Club to by my socks. You can never go wrong by bargain shopping in bulk.
Rating - A

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Thin Red Line (War Drama 1998)

A long time ago I remember asking a bunch of peeps if this was a good movie or not. What I got as an answer varied from "it sucked" to "I'm not sure, it was definitely worse than Saving Private Ryan, but it wasn't completely horrible."

9 years later I watched that exact same movie, and if asked the same question, my answer would be equally as ambiguous. I "think" what the writer intended for, was to illustrate how war can be very different in terms of each individual. I think he was trying to create what Flag of our Fathers did, which concentrated on what was going on in the minds of the soldiers. Clint Eastwood's movie had 3 people to focus on; this movie had around 10. Who signed off on this project?

The film was sorta odd because it very loosely followed a large group of soldiers fighting in the South Pacific; very loosely being the operative word here. It didn't spend enough time on the plot and instead zoomed inside the minds of many different solders as they had brief flashbacks or overly poetic monologues. There wasn't any type of consistency to this either. Some of the characters were given a shit-ton of face time while others were barely even glazed over, so it was very unbalanced in terms of the emotion that the director was trying to invoke.

Without a solid plot, a movie just doesn't work. This film had too much bullshit and too little story. If they would've balanced the equation properly, it would have turned out better. Still crappy of course, but still a little better. If you just cut off the hands of the writer, thereby preventing him from writing another film, I think that would be in everyone's best interest.
Rating - D

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Portal (1st Person Puzzle PC Game 2007)

This game was part of the newly released Orange Box package from Valve, the great people who brought us HL and HL2. I saw a few vids of this game when it was still in production and it looked different, but in a very good way. I'm happy to say that it didn't disappoint in the slightest bit, as it took full advantage of the Source Engine and all of the neat physics it can produce.

For a puzzle game, it was oh so damn fun. Usually it's difficult to make a fun puzzle game because you don't have much to play with, but like usual, Valve figured out a way to beat the odds. They should really do away with paper standardized tests, and instead, make people play this game when they need to be tested on logic, problem solving, and engineering. I think I did more critical thinking in the few hours it took to complete this game than I have in the last 3 years or so. Yes, it was that good.

Like usual, the little things made all the difference, like the dialogue from the AI computer, to the whole deal with "cake", and of course the talking robot sentries. Even the end credits were highly amusing.

As most in the gaming world have heard, Bioware has sold us out and accepted the buyout from EA. If you don't know, EA is the de facto mass producer within the gaming world. This doesn't necessarily mean that all their stuff is crap, but nothing ever seems "polished". This is similar to a comparison between Pixar and Dreamworks Animation. Both produce animated films, but there's just something that the Pixar staff has, that makes them seem more special. And that's what we need more of; unique and special products. Besides Valve, we only have Blizzard, as one of the last standing companies known to produce enjoyable games with an extra layer of quality. It'll be interesting to see if Mass Effect becomes the last good thing that came out of Bioware.

Portal was a great game even though it was a little bit short. It's definitely worth trying out once just to see something "different". I don't know about paying $50 for the whole package though... Valve should've given us HL2 and Episode 1/2 owners some sort of discount. It would have been an easy pricing scheme considering that everything goes through Steam.
Rating - High

Living in China (October 18, 2007)

I have a short little snippet from today that I wanted to share with you. One of the other foreign teachers needed to get money from here, back to the US to pay bills and student loans and such. In a normal country, this would be a very easy transaction, but we're again reminded that we are in China. Supposedly, a few other foreign teachers, associated with a different program but teaching at the same University, were able to pull this off, but all that is hearsay. All I know is that I was told that they had found a way to get a bank account with one of the many "Bank of China" branches that they have here, get a credit card with a Visa/MC logo on it, and use it like we would a debit card in America. Sounds easy right?

So this afternoon we meet our escort for the bank run, get in a cab, and take a short, 5 minute cab ride to this bank. Upon going in, we were greeted with many long lines. The difference between the US and here is that there always seems to be a long-ass line at ATMs, banks, and pretty much everywhere else you go. One would think that if you knew you had to wait in line to use an ATM, you would logically just withdraw more money once instead of going back multiple times. It's just like putting $5 of gas in your tank and returning to the gas station every 2 days to fill it up with $5 again. I don't know if I'm missing some part of the equation here, but all of this waiting seems stupid. Another thing that struck me as a little odd was that the bank didn't really have a "bank feel" to it. It seemed to be more of a stage prop because everything was so spartan. There were barely any papers, all the walls were bare, there were 5-7 teller booths, only a few seats, and 2 garbage cans. I dunno, I thought it looked very questionable and was definitely getting second thoughts of wanting to establish an account at this sketchy establishment. The only reason I pondered doing it was so that I could pay for my Eve account using RMB instead of bumming real, US money to pay for the monthly subscription fee.

Anyway, we found some forms to fill out, started writing in the blanks, and then waited probably 40 minutes to have 4 people in front of us finish their business. Yes, they were that fucking slow, and from what I saw they were only withdrawing money. For the life of me I don't think I'll ever truly know... So after patiently waiting in line, we finally reach the teller as our interpreter began stating our intentions. There was this fat Asian female sitting her plump-ass in a chair looking at us in a manner that said, "I'm not listening to what you are saying, but I already know that the answer is No." She listened, shrugged her shoulders, got the attention of her supervisor, and just sat there and rolled her eyes. The supervisor was skinnier, but he looked like he just got finished doing some farm work. I don't know where they find these people to do these types of jobs, but he looked like an Asian sharecropper wearing a blazer and a nametag. The only thing this dude was missing was a hat. The second he was summoned over, I took one look at him, placed my nicely, filled-out forms in my bag, zipped it up, and wandered to the back of the room to sit on one of the few, unoccupied seats because I knew this guy wasn't going to do anything for us.

The interpreter and my co-worker essentially sat up there debating with this supervisor, calling the equivalent of the bank's 1-800 number, and after 30 more minutes, joined me in the rear of the room. Long story short, either these guys were being punks or you have to be in a major city to get these types of "odd" requests done. I've read on numerous forums that other expats in Beijing and Shanghai have pulled this transaction off, but we're in ass-backwards Yanjiao, so I didn't really expect any miracles to happen. Good thing for me is that I'm financially organized and don't need to send money back on a monthly basis. Again, I'll experience everything once, so now I can put a big fat check next to the bubble saying, "Wait in line for a large chunk of my afternoon to try to open a Chinese bank account and/or wire transfer money to an account in the US."

Yesterday I was fiending some mashies, so I stopped by KFC, probably the only western food outlet in this whole town, and ordered some taters. I was quite humbled when I got home. 5 RMB got me this hella small-ass container of mashed potatoes, with gravy already applied. I should've put a quarter next to the damn thing because it was seriously hella hella small. That spoon was about the same size as a sample spoon is at Baskin-Robbins. Did it taste the same? Yes. Was it like 2 spoonfuls? Yes. Did it come in larger sizes? No. Was it smaller than a side of ranch that us Americans frequently order with our food? Why yes. Will I be purchasing it again? Hell No. I can get a small steak for 4 RMB and that's my whole lunch. Sometimes, I really do miss "Supersizing/Biggiesizing" food items.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Living in China (October 16, 2007)

I actually have a few stories from this past weekend. I wasn't able to post it up earlier because a few last minutes discoveries pertaining to my class ate up all my time, but I think I got everything straightened up now.

First off, I had originally planned to have 2 days saved during the last week of my current class so that an oral final could be given. Unfortunately, that would've meant that each student would only have 2 minutes for me to give them a question and for them to answer it. Because it was an unrealistic timeframe, I had to quickly finish off 2 chapters and then prepare all of the questions for the final. Yesterday I got my first group of 26 students and gave each of them an individual oral final. It's interesting how well one's attendance and writing skills directly equated into having pretty descent speaking skills. I'm fairly certain that when I test the dumb/cheating kids, at the end of the week, they will have no frilling clue what I am saying and I will happily give them the lowest D imaginable.

But yes, grading the last slew of HW papers, calculating out how the grades would weighed, and writing up a buttload of test questions takes up a lot of time and energy. I really wonder what I'm going to do with the freshman since the class is all about "tips on how to have a conversation", and not actually teaching them about any particular topic.

So yes, classwise, this is what's happening. I have one class ending and one class beginning. In a few more weeks I'll have another class beginning so I'll have 2 when the semester ends. Oh yes, and the semester does not end in December like in the US; it ends during the middle of January for some odd reason.

My real story comes from my solo adventure in Beijing last Saturday. The school had arranged a fieldtrip for the teachers to go to the Great Wall, but I had already seen it and was not really interested in freezing my ass off in that super windy area of the country. I had instead planned on going into Beijing to see if I could convert Chinese money back into US dollars.

Everything started out ok as I got onto the bus, sat there for 45 minutes, and then reached the main subway stop. I then purchased a neat little RFID card at the subway station for 20RMB and then put 80RMB in credit on the card. It's useful because every time you use the subway, it costs 3RMB and every bus ride is 4RMB with the card as opposed to 5RMB without. You can just wave this card over a sensor instead of waiting in line to buy a single ticket. I swear we should have more of these forms of public transportation in every major city in the would help out a lot.

My first stop was a place called a "Friendship Store". This is a chain store that caters to tourists. They have a lot of touristy items as well as a money exchange counter. I wandered up with a huge wad of RMB cash and asked it to be switched into USD. It took the guy 3 minutes to get everything prepared, but afterwards, I walked out with $261 USD. The exchange rate was 1:7.5, which was accurate when compared with the daily list rate at XE. There was no service charge either, so that was a big bonus. Hopefully this type of service continues, because in this country, I can easily see something working for a while and then a few times I could walk in and they could tell me to screw off. Again, the system is very random and broken here, and that's very annoying.

My next stop was the silk market. I know, I really shouldn't go shopping where a ton of tourists are because the prices will usually be higher, but I don't really know where else to go unless there is a map or directions written in Chinese so that I could just give it to a taxi driver or something. Not being able to read sucks. Anyway, in the market I bought a light jacket (36USD) and a messenger bag (30USD) after wheelin' and dealin' a ton. Bad thing is that after I walked out, I only had $17RMB left. I was fiendin' some McD French fries and there was one near the subway terminal so I paid 5RMB for a small fry. FYI they taste exactly the same and oh man was it good. I made it back to the bus stop and I took a chance with which bus I would take home. The buses are odd here because the only thing the school told me was that I could take any 930 Bus and it would bring me back to Yanjiao, but only a few of them would take me all the way to the school gate. I usually choose this "middle" stop, but it never brought me to the front door of the school. On this day I decided to try my luck with another 930 stop; sadly I've never been a very lucky person.

After getting on the bus, the ticket lady came around to collect money. An older man and his son said "Yanjiao" as their destination point, and the lady said (In Chinese) that this bus wasn't going there. Oh great... so now I started freaking out a little because I was evidently on the wrong bus and it was already on the expressway. When she got around to me, I also said "Yanjiao" as my destination point, and she started rambling out all this stuff that I couldn't understand, but she still took money off of my card. The bus got off the expressway a few minutes later and the lady pointed at me and the older guy with the kid. I thought this meant that I was supposed to get off here, so I did.

After I got off, I looked around and all of the postings at this bus stop had totally different routes, none of them being 930. There was a younger girl standing there so I asked her if she spoke English, and of course she said no. I then asked her in very crappy Chinese how I was to get back to Yanjiao. She looked at the route postings and said what I already knew; I needed a 930 bus and this stop had none. Again...great. So picture this; I have no idea where I was, only that I was 15 minutes east of my starting location. There was no subway stop in sight and I only had 12RMB in my pocket, which was definitely not enough to pay for a taxi. Yes, I was fucked. If all else failed, I did have my celly, so I could've called the foreign office informing them that I was lost with no money, but yes, that would be very embarrassing and it would be a lot of trouble for my handlers back at the school.

I ended up doing what any person would do, I started walking west. After walking for around 20 minutes, cursing my horrible decision with every step I took, I finally found an oasis: a subway stop. It turns out that this was the second to last subway stop on the eastern border of Beijing. Thankfully I had put a lot of money on my RFID card, so I was on my way back to the original starting point. 30 minutes later, I was back at the bus stop, but this time I got on the one that had the most young people waiting in line. As you might've guessed, the ticket lady verified that I was on the right bus. I got back home an hour later, exhausted and a little wiser. Note to self: always carry 300RMB as "oh shit" money whenever you go out. An interesting fact is that I sent a text to a friend about the 930 buses, and it turns out that they all will all stop in Yanjiao at least once, so the lady was fucking lying. If I would've just stayed on the bus, I would've made it home. Yes, I might've had to walk a lot to get back to my apartment, but at least I would've been in the vicinity.

I've finally found a good tasting pastry that doesn't jack up my stomach. It's made out of egg and it's hella good; only 1.5RMB per piece, so I've been buying it almost every day.

Last Sunday I got a call from my TA saying that he wanted to take me and the other Business English teacher out to dinner. We went to this pseudo-fancy place that had a lot of pictures and foods with English titles on the menu. One was very amusing, so I took a pic with my crappy cell phone camera. Yeah, one thing I learned about eating with other Chinese people is that they love to drink. Even when I asked for a Coke or a Sprite, they only smiled and filled my cup with beer. Yes, so after being force fed beer throughout dinner, I walked out of the restaurant very red and very talkative. The food was ok, but I would definitely take a Wendys #2 or an In-N-Out #1 any day of the week. Oh how I miss burgers and fries.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blades of Glory (Comedy 2007)

As expected, this was a decently funny movie. Who would've thought that some no name like Jon Heder would be catapulted up through the ranks by a single odd film. I doubt he would've thought that he would be working with someone like Will Ferrell only a few years later. This isn't saying that either of these actors are good, but it is saying that they have both made it into mainstream films. Now if they can maintain that status, that's another issue.

The whole plot of this film was really silly as it tried its best to make fun of all aspects of competitive ice skating. Real peeps had little cameo roles too. I wonder how much they were paid for a few minutes of their time? Anyway, I laughed out loud probably around 3 times, but I think I found Old School to be more entertaining if you want a basis of comparison.
Rating - C

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Last Legion (Action 2007)

I've unintentionally been watching a lot of "D" rated movies lately so I might as well keep with the pattern. If you ever saw King Arthur with Keira Knightley, then you've already seen this movie. The only difference is that there is an annoying kid, Thomas Sangster, playing Romulus Augustus Caesar, who gets himself into predicaments because he's a pussy; and instead of Keira, you have Aishwarya Rai, a hot-ass chick from India who so happens to have natural blue eyes. That's as good as finding an Asian chick with green eyes.

Yeah the movie was so cheesy and predictable that it seemed like they purposely tried to copy King Arthur. You have a few roman soldiers, you have barbarian bad guys, you have British Celts, and you have Hadrian's Wall. That all sounds like the same movie to me.
Rating - D

Monday, October 08, 2007

Resident Evil: Extinction (Action 2007)

It seems as though the downward spiral has continued. The first movie was fun, the second was a little over the top, and this last one was kinda crappy. I'm not sure if they really thought that adding other "stars" would help, but it didn't. Ali Larter and Ashanti, your services are ineffective and unnecessary. I don't like Ali Larter's lip either. I know some people find it attractive, but I find it pretty obnoxious; she should go get that looked at.

Milla continues to try, but she is backed only with the shittiest of writers. Ultraviolet and The Messenger are great examples of crap writing. She is a good actor, as displayed in everyone's favorite, The Fifth Element, but she hasn't scored a really good part since then. I'll keep on hoping though.

Unfortunately, there will be a 4th one and probably a 5th if they don't hurry up and end it soon. Some people just don't know when to give up. I personally love giving up; it gives you new choices by removing the one in front of you.
Rating - D

Friday, October 05, 2007

Next (Action 2007)

I'm not even sure that this movie made it to theaters because I can't remember ever seeing a preview for it. The film reminded me a lot of Deja Vu, except a little bit crappier. I don't know if that's because I like Denzel more than Nicolas Cage or if the film was actually better, but this one was definitely lacking.

The movie's plot was a little weird. Nicolas Cage's character can see 2 minutes into the future, so he can predict things before they happen. Like all action films, someone has stolen a nuclear bomb and is planning on detonating it on US soil. Julianne Moore's character is an FBI agent who is trying to find the bomb and is looking for Nicolas Cage's character to help with the mission. Jessica Biel is the lame love interest of the film and she gives it up really quickly.

It's a blah story with a blah grade.
Rating - C

Living in China (October 6, 2007)

Well I only have 2 more days of vacation left before I have to start teaching again with one extra class added. This next group will be freshman who were smart enough to pass the initial college entrance exam to get into a 4 year Bachelor program. My current students did not pass and had to be on a 5 year plan. The fact that these newbies are freshman can be either a curse or a blessing. I've heard that they might talk more because they don't know anything, but the way I see it, they're younger and are probably idiots based that alone.

I have a tiny little rant about modern medicine. Why is it that whenever something happens to me in terms of health, it's almost never fully explained by WebMD or any other doctor I seek advise from? Why can they never ever ever do anything about it?! They should be paid a rate based on being able to fix something as opposed to getting paid a salary. I think that might be more of an incentive to actually try to solve a problem instead of them just shrugging their shoulders. Yes, I've been hearing and reading a lot of things like: "Well it's supposed to go away in 7 days." "Well it's not supposed to continue to grow and spread." "Oh, it's probably a virus so you can't do anything about those." Yeah, I'll spare everyone the details and just say that I'm nursing a wound that is not healing and is instead getting bigger, and of course it seems as though nothing can be done about it. Why couldn't my anomalies be something cool like telekinesis or something!

So last Wednesday, the other teachers and I decided on braving the long, holiday lines and going into Beijing. I think I should've planned a little more in terms of what we were actually going to do when we got there, but I didn't and merely followed everyone else. The crap thing is that we ended up at some lame temple and walked through many incense-filled corridors with a ton of other people. Afterwards, we wandered over to a lake that had water in it. Yeah, I'm not one who can appreciate things that pertain to religion or nature because both are so uninteresting. Wow, a huge wooden buddha. Wow, is that another security guard yelling at a tourist to stop taking pictures of the buddha? Wow, it that another fucking buddha? Wow, buddha had friends? Wow, is that a mosquito flying above the water line? Wow, are those people fishing in that lake? Wow, is that a swimmer swimming in that nasty lake? Wow, a man-made island with ducks on it. Wow, is that a goose hanging out with the ducks? Wow, is that a small stone bridge? Wow, are those rent-a-boats fun?

I'll just cut to the chase and say that I will not be partaking in any more field trips that involve boring shit. I want to see military museums, guns, armor, and swords. I would also like to find a bookstore with English books and somewhere that has pirated software and games. That is all I am interested in: nothing else.

Here is a picture of a 2-3 inch spider. I didn't get close enough to hold up a coin or something, but take my word for it that these spiders over here are crazy. They make multi-layered webs, so it's not a single web layer that we have in the US. They usually setup camp between large bushes and catch all sorts of large insects. Yeah, that spider is a perfect reason why science should never try to find a way to make a gigantic version of this arachnid.

Here are my explanations of some subjects that have been asked. Please feel free to email me any questions you have because you know that I have an answer for everything, even if it's wrong or made-up.

Almost all peeps here have a small washing machine. It plugs into the sink and has a tube leading out to a drain. It's about the size of a mini-fridge, but it gets the job done. I tend to do a lot of smaller loads instead of doing one huge load like in the States. The spin cycle on these things seem to be "harsher" than those back home, so because of that, a lot of clothes won't make it through their ordeal here. You have to use a liquid fabric softener because dryers don't seem to be all that common. I swear I should just go and find's not like I have any other use for the money I earn over here. But yeah, the fabric softener helps a little in making clothes feel a little less crusty, but I would much rather have a dryer.

I have not yet been forced to use a public toilet to "take care of business", so I consider myself lucky in that regard. Yes almost all places have squatters and they don't look comfortable at all. My western toilet in my apartment is fine and it works just like a toilet should. In public they do have urinals, but yes, everything else is a squatter with no TP.

Trash Collection
From the picture below, you can see what the "piles of trash" I was referring to before look like. Just picture these piles everywhere. In the morning they will all be gone, but during the evening it's a freakin' mess. On the ground floor of our apartment complex, we have this designated trash bin that looks like a little shed. I've never seen a trash man come to clear it out, but that might be another one of those morning things.

Food Sanitation
This one is a funny subject. In a one-liner: there is none. You can "trust" the grocery store stuff a little more than you can trust an open-air market, but just by a little. We have discovered that you can eat the same thing at the same place and will probably get sick 1/6 times. For me, I 've noticed that if I have fish here, I'll get sick, like hurling sick. An older teacher said something about "you don't know how long that fish was sitting there at the market without being iced" or "you don't know how old that fish is." It's a pretty scary concept so that's why I'm totally game for buying beef in a grocery store. Also, open-air markets have flies everywhere, so nothing is sanitary about that.

Water Faucets
Water here is normally cold and you can't drink it. It may be clear, but if you put the water in your mouth and taste it, it does have a very metallic/nasty flavor to it. You can only get hot water, if the pipe is hooked up to your mini-hot water heater near the shower. It's not like in the US where the whole house is hooked up to a large hot-water heater in your garage. Because of this, some of us actually wash our dishes in the shower...yeah kinda gross, but it's not like we're "taking" a shower with our plates and cups.

Grocery Stores
Most of the time they are just like any in the US except for no OTC medications. Also, they usually have misc. stuff separated from the grocery and produce stuff. So if I wanted to buy a rice cooker, I would have to pre-pay for it in a specific area of the store. I couldn't just bring it down to the main checkout because some things don't have UPC codes on them.

If you would like to humor yourself, below is an example of a paper that I have to grade. Just imagine 105 of these things...grading sucks and that's why a lot of teachers don't give out homework. But from the looks of the last sentence, more HW needs to be given :-) Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia (Family Drama 2007)

This film was a blatant example of false advertising. They marketed it as a Labyrinth, Narnia, or something else with fantasy creatures and stuff, but it wasn't. This shoulda been kept as a Disney TV mini-movie instead of being made into a real film. It sucked. I can't express that enough; it hella sucked. I guess for the middle school demographic, perhaps some kids would like it, but it was a pretty crappy film, so anyone who says otherwise is probably someone who generally has crappy opinions.

Terabithia was only in the imagination of the two main actors, so they didn't actually go anywhere. How boring it that? Very. Even though Pan's Labyrinth was kinda crappy too, at least it had good sound and music. This movie was the work of an idiot.
Rating - F

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Reaping (Thriller 2007)

I usually don't watch thrillers because they primarily depend on camera work and sound to get the "jump" on audiences. It's entertaining if you're making a thrill ride at a theme park, but for a movie? Who really wants to be "surprised" every 10 minutes? It's just like hooking yourself up to some taser that would randomly zap you through the course of 2-3 hours.

The movie was blah. It had a story of sorts, so it wasn't utter garbage, but I think this was the second recent movie that had some sort of town cult in it. To me, that angle is getting a little old and unbelievable. The biblical plagues were kinda neat from the CG and makeup perspective, but it wasn't overly impressive. All of the acting was very transparent and rehearsed.

I won't be remembering this one, and you won't be missing out on anything either.
Rating - C