Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, translation by WJF Jenner

After spending over 2,000 pages with a trickster god, I find myself wondering what the appeal of the trickster god is. I don’t think I like tricksters.

Clever underdogs, yes. Arrogant tricksters? Not so much.

This post talks about my impressions after reading a complete translation (and a modern retelling) of the classic Chinese story of the Monkey King and his companions.

Visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English for a complete list of translations:

» What’s the best translation of Journey to the West?

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Barbie (2023)

If you think Barbie was well done, you and I have a different idea about what a well done movie does.

My reaction in this case was not “Well done, thanks, I hate it.” That’s more or less how I felt about Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012), which I wouldn’t have watched if I had known it was horror sci-fi and not sci-fi. That’s on me.

Nor am I objecting to the fantasy premise, which is that someone in the real world is adversely influencing a Barbie in Barbieland, thus that Barbie has to go to the real world and do something to fix the situation.

Nor is my negative reaction rooted in culture politics. By all means, be overtly didactic and feminist or whatever, but for the love of cheesecake, have a coherent, positive message.

Much like Frozen, Barbie was immensely entertaining, but the longer I thought (and thought and thought) about it, the less the characters, plot, and theme made sense.

Spoilers below.

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The Brain Makers by HP Newquist

I work for a science journal on the campus of Zhejiang Lab, a research institute dedicated to developing a variety of kinds of “intelligent computing” (artificial intelligence). I have a bachelor’s in computer science, but I have little knowledge of the development of artificial intelligence (something something… subsumption architecture… Eliza…). This book promised to remedy that.

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When and Why I Read The Brain Makers: The History of Artificial Intelligence

The author posted a link to the Kindle book (which was free) on Facebook in the AI group.

Genre: history of science
Date started / date finished: 31-May-23 to 28-Jul-23
Length: 696 pages
Originally published in: 2020
Amazon link: The Brain Makers: The History of Artificial Intelligence

Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Amazing movie. Sure, it’s basically just “get the MacGuffin, save the world,” but it’s done so well! Tension, excitement, scenery! (Sand dunes, Rome, Venice, Norway pretending to be Austria!) I can’t believe the movie was 2 hours and 45 minutes. Felt a lot shorter.

It’s timely too, talking about AI, and I’m so glad there wasn’t a lot of fear-mongering anthropomorphic villainous moustache-twirling; and anyway, no one could equal Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith in The Matrix. Unlike the machines in The Matrix, the AI in Dead Reckoning is not, I would argue, actually central to the plot, nor is it a character. It’s just the setting, part of the premise. The story isn’t about AI any more than it is about a key. The story, to the extent that any story holds the action sequences together, is about people.

Why did they make this Part One? I have a theory about that.

Beware spoilers, there’s a whole plot summary below! It’s time to save the cat.

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Weird English

Signs, product packaging, clothing… sometimes I notice weird English here in Hangzhou. Sometimes the cause is a typo, sometimes it’s negligent copy/paste, and sometimes it appears to have been a complete shot in the dark. Sometimes the result is close-but-no-cigar, sometimes it’s hilarious, and sometimes it’s mystifying.

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Flowers at Zhejiang Lab Nanhu Campus

I posted about the trees that bloomed at the start of spring. Here are some non-tree flowers that came along subsequently. I’m astonished at the beauty and variety! There are roses, irises, lotuses, and many kinds I don’t know the names of. It’s so good to be able to walk around and just look at this stuff. There’s a lot to see.

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Food Festival

Why was I at this food festival? Not to eat, ironically!

I’ve been eating too much, completely without realizing it, because I didn’t bring a scale with me to China. After I finally got one, and finally got batteries for it, and finally put the batteries in, it gave me bad news. (Even without converting the kilogram readout to pounds, I knew it was bad news.)

So it was decided I need to walk more. Fine. During the weekend, rather than drive to visit the nearest mall, Siqi and I walked. It was really hot, and also kinda rainy, but we walked there anyway. (We both carried umbrellas, to ensure that it would not start raining harder.) And lo and behold, when we got there, there was this festival. Wait till you see one of the carnival games they had there!

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