Eugie Foster (eugie) wrote,
Eugie Foster

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Terracotta Warriors, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and My Mandarin

Had a weekend of Chinese culture exploration and examination. fosteronfilm and I went to see the High Museum of Art's "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army" exhibit on Saturday. It was awe inspiringly impressive, and it makes me want to write a terracotta warrior story now.

I was hoping to snap a few surreptitious pictures on my cell phone, but the museum security were vigilant-unto-fanatic in their monitoring. I saw them stop several people who had their cell phones/i-Phones and Blackberrys out, admonishing them that no electronic devices of any sort were allowed on the floor. So I figured I'd make do taking notes on paper. But I got no further than two short bullet points before a security guard "ahemed" me in order to inform me that no pens were allowed on the floor and gave me one of those stubby half-pencils with no eraser to take notes with.

To mollify my wing stub issues, I'm very picky about what writing implements I use. Ballpoint pens are out, for e.g., because they make my arms ache, and I never use regular wood pencils because of how much pressure it takes to write with them—not to mention the smudge factor. So Matthew was waiting for my apoplectic sputtering, but I ended up being more amused—in a grumpy way—than infuriated. So, yeah, the note-taking setup was less than ideal, and I took fewer notes than I might have otherwise, but the exhibit was pretty wow-some.

Still in a terracotta warrior mood, after we got home, we put on The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which I wanted to see when it was in theaters, but the abysmal reviews ended up deterring me. I'm glad we waited.

It was shiny, with many 'sploidy EFX, but the writing was cringingly bad. And the actress, Maria Bello, who was cast to replace Rachel Weisz, really wasn't up to the task. Nearly every scene she was in, I found myself comparing her to Rachel Weisz, and she always came up short. But I like Michelle Yeoh in just about everything I've seen her in, and this was no exception. Also, Jet Li did a credible job as the big baddie.

I really wish they'd gotten someone better to write the screenplay, though. The family conflict and reconciliation scenes/subplot was utterly saccharine, trite, and gratuitous and should've been cut.


Writing Stuff

In an amusing confluence of timing, I spent a couple hours on Sunday recording me speaking around twenty words of Mandarin.

rachel_swirsky asked me to provide some pronunciation assistance to Diane Severson, who will be reading my story, "Daughter of Bótù," for PodCastle. I was, of course, more than game, since I'm delighted that they want to get the pronunciation right*. But, as it turns out, Diane resides in Germany, I don't have a Skype account, my cell phone doesn't have an international calling plan (and I'm not sure it's even capable of receiving overseas calls), and we no longer have a land line. So I suggested that I record an audio file of me reading the names/Mandarin terms in my story for Diane to upload.

'Course, my audio setup is pretty primitive. The first time I tried recording, I got massive feedback through the mike and no sound otherwise recording. But fortunately, the second time, it worked. Still not sure how or why (hardware baffles me), but I was grateful for the spontaneous "healing."

It took me a bit longer than I expected to put together a two-minute audio recording. But then I also ended up re-recording a number of times. I could hear as I was speaking them that I was pronouncing some of the words wrong, but it took me several trial-and-error attempts to figure out how to fix them since my mouth simply isn't accustomed to shaping Mandarin—or anything else non-English for that matter.

*I did warn them that my Chinese is…bad, on par with a deaf howler monkey with a cold, and tends towards Shanghai dialect rather than Mandarin. I'm not a native speaker—certainly can't hold a conversation in it—and my understanding of it is all back brain and restricted to extremely simple concepts, words, and sentences. But I still retain an ear for the tonal inflections from my childhood exposure to it—which we discovered, interestingly, that fosteronfilm doesn't have. Matthew, who wasn't exposed to any other language than English growing up, can't hear some of the differences in pitch/tone in Chinese that I can. So I figured I could pull off the smattering of Mandarin terms in my story. But if there's any grousing about the pronunciation, they should be directed at me.

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