Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion 反逆之魯魯修

Code Geass 《反逆之魯魯修》絕對是一部話題之作﹐從零七年的第一季開始﹐己經吸引我每個星期忠實地追看。每星期急不及侍下載最新一話﹐看完後馬登入網上討論劇情﹐追看官方公告或路邊小道消息。這部動畫的成功完全出乎意料之外﹐第一季原本在深夜播送。儘管這部是可以賣玩具的機械人動畫﹐但連把動畫當玩具廣告的笨大也懶得推出週邊產品。也許很多觀眾和我一樣﹐對第二季後段劇情嚴重跳線感到失望﹐但無可否認這部動畫打破日本動畫界過分依懶賣座公式的悶局﹐開創一個新鮮少見動畫的類別。

一部好看的動畫與一部成功的動畫的分別﹐在於好看動畫只是複製其他好看動畫的元素﹐而一部成功的動畫﹐除了要好看外還有一些其他動畫所沒有的獨特元素。《反逆之魯魯修》的人物由CLAMP設計﹐兩個男主角帥氣美型得沒有話說﹐配合初段癈棄王子隱身校園生活的輕喜劇﹐吸引女性觀眾的支持﹐擴大機械人動畫主攻男性觀眾的基本盤。一般機械人動畫由主角當機師﹐戰鬥場面不外是轟轟聾聾的熱血打鬥。這部動畫頭幾場作戰﹐主角充當幕後指揮﹐打鬥不再只機械人間純力量的比併﹐而是講求部隊合作性的戰略遊戲。主角魯魯修擁有洗腦能力的魔眼﹐沒錯是金手指大開的主角威能。但第一季黑騎險中求勝的那幾場戰役﹐是機械人動畫中少見奇兵戰術﹐讓觀眾有耳目一新的感覺。可惜是到中段以後編劇腦汁乾塘﹐逃不過機械人動畫的宿命﹐主角還是要依靠機械人的性能﹐找台無敵機械人便可以橫掃天下。

第一季主線開首的設定很宏大﹐有齊史詩式英雄故事的所有元素。有流亡外國的王子要找出母后被弒的真相﹐有原本的好朋友因際遇變成兩雄相遇誓不兩立﹐有主角不擇手段向父皇報仇踏上奸雄之路。除了間中用來緩和氣氛的校園戲外﹐這部作品的劇情去勢凌勵捉緊觀眾情緒。若不理經細心推敲後發現不合理的小毛病﹐這動畫在故事舖排上張力和迫力﹐展現出近年動畫作品罕見劇力萬鈞之勢。主角因為愛人發現身分秘密﹐向她下洗腦指令要她忘記自己很淒美感人。主角與童年好友均立志要改革社會﹐一個走黑道建立革命軍推翻政府﹐一個走白道加入軍隊要從內部改革。兩個不同理念互相衝擊著對方﹐兩人猩猩相惜卻因命運而站在敵對立場。為求讓觀眾估不到劇情發展﹐編劇也很花心思去扭橋埋伏筆。中段魔女CC的舊情人毛出場回復仇﹐當時大部份觀眾都不明白﹐一個出來送死的閒角為什麼可以佔三集戲。到了後段才驚覺那其實是為魔眼失控當伏線﹐讓魯魯修的一句戲言鑄成無可挽救回大錯﹐這一著絕對是編劇的神來之筆。

很可惜編劇第一季時讓人拍案叫絕﹐到了第二季卻令人拍案大罵。第一季意料之外的成功﹐讓笨大落重本全力催谷這套動畫﹐更接手高達空出來的黃金檔期。不知是編劇好大喜功﹐還是本來劇本己經先天不足﹐第一季所有的成功元素﹐在第二季消失得一乾二淨。扭橋高明會讓觀眾有驚喜﹐但不合理地超展開劇情﹐只會讓觀眾丈八金剛摸不著頭腦﹐完全不明白故事到底想說什麼。魯魯修重建黑騎軍力取得獨立﹐幾個月內先中華聯邦奪權﹐再佔領日本反攻大英帝國﹐因劇情需要加快進度不是大問題。當年元祖高達一年戰爭中﹐聯邦重奪地球打到上太空﹐也只是用了幾個月。魯魯修身為大英帝國王子的身份暴露﹐黑騎發現自己成為家族內亂權鬥的棋子﹐讓魯魯修落得眾叛親離的下場﹐雖然尤突但勉強也說得通。到了魯魯修走頭無路索性與朱雀聯手﹐大開魔眼把全國貴族文武百官洗腦﹐座上皇位一統世界﹐倒也是預料中的結局。

可是魔眼的來龍去脈﹐皇帝企圖毀滅世界的大陰謀﹐王兄的理念與魯魯修到底有什麼衝突。算了﹗我投降﹗我承認完全看不明白魯魯修話的謬論﹐前言不對後語亂說一通大講癈話。若果是單純的正邪對決﹐又或者權力薰心報仇雪恨﹐雖然老土也至少有個交待。整套動畫從開場打到完場﹐從一個學生到一統世界的皇帝﹐到頭來卻不知道主角為什麼要戰。是魯魯修要推倒帝國不公義的制度﹐要為妹妹創造一個幸福的未來﹐要弒父為母報仇﹐要奪取皇權拿回應得的東西﹐還是反叛少年只不過對父兄看不順眼﹐觀眾到最後也不知道他一切行動的動機是什麼。若果他是順天命型的時勢造成英雄也算了﹐偏偏他卻滿口看似大條道理﹐但沒有人知道他在說什麼﹐讓整套動畫失去建立所有劇情的基礎。《反逆之魯魯修》本來能成大器﹐可以名留史冊成為經典動畫﹐可惜第二季編劇玩爛了結尾。讓一個有亦正亦邪的魅力﹐可塑性甚高可以交足內心戲去描寫的主角﹐淪為一個痴人說夢的精神分裂者。

Statistic exam

Pat is having her statistic exam next week, so she is studying hard this weekend. Somehow her nervous in preparing for the exam affects me. I already helped her walking Charlie everyday, did laundry, cooked dinner and washed the dishes on the weekend. As a arts student, Pat seems struggling in the statistic course. I wonder how tough is the course and I picked up her textbook and see hard the material can be. I spent about half an hour go through all the chapter summary. As I expected, the undergrad statistic course for psychology students is a piece of cake to an engineer. There is only one central idea connecting everything in the course: you got some sample data, then you pick a distribution curve, then apply some math formulas to find whatever parameters in the curve. There are some assumptions, from time to time, you have to test whether the sample data justify for the curve you are trying to fit. You don’t want to fit the data into a wrong curve or your experiment result is meaningless. I did not learn statistic in engineering school, but the basic concept is the same for probability and statistics course. It is the same basic mathematics to see whether a new drug is effective on the patients or to decode cell phone signal received from the antenna.

Taxable benefit of living in school

My high school made news on Globe and Mail, a national newspaper. Revenue Canada, aka taxman, sues the headmaster and teachers living on campus understating their taxable benefits on free rent. The headmaster claim a taxable benefit of $6000 per year, on a two stories house over looking Lake Ontario. But the taxman say it should be a value of $31000, which is calculated base on the rent in the area. The case went to court and the judge rule against the Revenue Canada. The judge accept the headmaster’s argument that living on campus sacrifice their private life. It is unrealistic to assume the place rent out with the market price. The rent is cheap because it comes with the responsibility to take care of the boarding students at night.

As a alumni, I agree with the judge and glad that he had made the right ruling. Although outsiders thinks my high school is a elite school with four prime ministers on the alumni list, the fact is the students are as troublesome as other teenagers. Things just happens at night in board schools. The teachers living on campus has to deal with it. The headmaster is not exaggerating. We do have drunken students and students with emotional distress. I was caught once sneaking out to have beer in midnight and saw more than once fights break out among students who suppose to be sleeping. We also pranked the headmaster from time to time. I remember we wrap his car with toilet paper in Halloween one year and painted his lawn furniture in pink the other year. I don’t think anyone with a right mind would pay the market rent to live among 200 naughty teenagers.

Mumbai rampage

The Mumbai gunmen rampage catch the headline of the news today. It also catch the attention of everyone in the office. Our company outsource to India and many in the team had traveled to India, so any news in India has great interest among us. Today some Muslim extremist launch multiple terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Gunmen take over the railway terminal and two luxury hotel. They had killed over 100 people and injured over 400. They also single out and kill foreigners from US and UK. The most scary part is I dined out a lot at those two luxury hotel chains in Bangalore. Mumbai is not like Kashmir, it is the business center of India, like New York to US. If terrorist attack can happen in Mumbai, it can also happen to Bangalore, the high tech center of India. The security in Bangalore is not very assuring and it had bomb attacks only a few months ago. It is quite dangerous traveling to India now. Oh! My boss is still in Bangalore, maybe he should cut his trip short and come home earlier.

I have been thinking how can we stop terrorist attacks from Muslim extremist. The ideal solution is either catch them and lock them up or simply kill all of them. Too bad that it is almost a mission impossible in a country with large amount of Muslims. You just can’t tell the good Muslims apart from the bad Muslims. In ancient time, before the government is constraint by human right regulations, the emperor can threaten to retaliate by killing everyone in the village the terrorists came form. This strategy works well against normal citizens under dictatorship in the old communist Russian and ancient China. However, this strategy may not work on Muslim extremists even we can ignore human rights. The Muslim extremists all prepare to die for Allah. If they decide to throw away their own lives, how can we expect them to take the life of their fellow villagers into consideration. Maybe they will think the villagers die as martyrs and going to join them in heaven.

If we want to threaten the Muslim extremists, we must hold something dear to them as the target of retaliation. Muslim extremists attack us because of religious causes. We must ask what is the most important thing to the Muslim religion? It is the holy city, Mecca, of course. Here is the perfect solution. If the Muslim extremists won’t stop their terrorist attacks, we should threaten to drop nuclear bomb on Mecca. Given enough warning for evacuation, wiping out Mecca would not have any causality nor loss of lives, so it does not violate any human rights. The Muslim extremists must learn violent will not solve anything, it will only hurt them more at the end.

Late genius

Malcom Gladwell’s writing is often very inspiring. I liked his booked Blink and Tipping Point. I visit his website once a while to catch up his articles on The New Yorkers. His article titled Late Bloomer seems strike a chore in my mind. In this article he questioned are genius always shine in early age. Almost all famous artist, scientist, philosophers we remember finish their greatest work in early days. Gladwell went through historical data and show that although rare, there are indeed some late bloomers, whose genius are not recognized until their forties or fifties. There are two types of genius. The first kind is the young genius we all familiar with, who shine bright and then fate fast. The second kind is a late genius, he perfect his work through years of experiment with his thoughts. The young genius seems come around more often because it is pure economic. Young genius gain their fame quick so they can support themselves. The successful late genius often have love ones supporting them whiling wait for their talent come to the full potential. However, more often unsuccessful late genius just simply giving up and live a mundane life. I know for sure I am not a young genius. (That’s quite obvious) Maybe I am a late genius, I can accomplish something great if I just keep trying. If I continue my studies in philosophy, maybe one day I will write a master piece and become a famous philosopher. Most of the great philosophers in history made their name early in their career, but maybe there are still rooms for a late genius.

潮爆中國 – 李照興

Chic China 上次回香港遊行逛書店﹐原本想買些說香港文化的書藉﹐視線卻給這本放在旁邊的《潮爆中國》吸引了。曾幾何時中國等於老土的同義詞﹐近十多年中國發展迅速﹐ 在很多方便已經發達﹐甚至超過香港這個小小的南方城市。說來慚愧我雖然生為中國人﹐去過世界各地不少地方﹐可是中國最遠只是踏足過深圳羅湖城。我對中國的印象﹐只停留在電視報章雜誌的報導﹐又或者偶然與北上工作朋友的閒談。難得見到這本對新中國作全面體的書﹐便二話不說先買下來再說﹐讓我加深了解這個將會在本世紀冒起的大國。

李照興是香港北上的文化人﹐《潮爆中國》收錄他在明報和號外發展過的文章。除了都是環繞現代中國作中心外﹐文章的題材多樣化﹐全部也是從一個切入點出發﹐去探討新中國的社會現象。文章有的講述城市發展﹐有剖釋中國娛樂藝術文化事業的轉變﹐有論述城市新一代的生活面貌。全書的文章並沒有很重的批判性﹐中肯地敘述新事物與舊歷史的交替﹐繪畫未來帶來的新機遇﹐和因為改變而引起的難題。有人會說李照興替共產黨塗脂抹粉﹐ 因為這本書只說中國發展快速﹐令人嚮往的城市生活。完全沒有交代在發展背後﹐被忽略那一個仍然貧窮落後的中國。不過北京上海這些大城市近年的改變﹐也是無可否認的事實﹐這本書正好把這些轉變記錄下來。其實因為中國過去行共產主義的冤枉路﹐香港又是一個不正常的崎形城市﹐香港人一向以來習慣用狹窄的本土視角去看事物﹐才會對中國改革開放與世界接軌大驚小怪。書中很多描述在西方國家根本是正常現像﹐差不多是晉身發達國家的必經之路。

這本書的開場白特別長氣﹐有很多文化界名人寫推介詞和序。這本書本身的內容已經有足夠的號召力﹐其實根本用不著請名人推介﹐反正那些人也不是真正的有名氣 ﹐不過是在文化界小圈子混了一段日子罷了。特別是梁文道那篇最後一代香港文化人的告白﹐與這本的主題完全牛頭不對馬嘴﹐不知道放在前面幹什麼。不知是那些人是作者的朋友﹐出版社隨便找來充場面﹐還是他們反過來想叨《潮爆中國》的光。也許再過十年重看這本書﹐會驚訝當年中國的先知先覺﹐又或者可能嘲笑當年的落伍。如果那天潮爆的不再只是中國的大市城﹐而是中國的農村鄉下也同樣潮爆﹐我們才能喜歡地迎接擁抱一個新中國。

Kyouran Kazoku Nikki 狂亂家族日記

Kyouran Kazoku Nikki 有些動畫是不可以一口氣看完全套﹐每個星期看一集還可以﹐但連續看的話可會感到煩厭。《狂亂家族日記》給觀眾留下的最大印象﹐是女主角凶華大人機關槍式的急口令對白﹐不知道日本人聽到了多少﹐不過我連看字幕的時間也不夠。第二個印象應該是畫工的質素﹐劇中人物的面相常常走樣﹐但每次走樣也有固定模式﹐不知道真的是作畫爛還是算有風格。這套動畫是處境喜劇式的動畫﹐內容全都是環繞著那一群主要角色﹐沒有明確的故事主線﹐每集或每幾集成為一個獨立故事。第一季二十六集動畫﹐除了頭幾集介紹人物出場外﹐其餘的集數打亂來看﹐甚至跳過不看也沒有關係。最後甚至連沒有結局﹐不過是以一個篇幅長點的單元作總結。

這套動畫的類型有點像《Keroro軍曹》﹐事實上兩套動畫也出自同一編劇的手筆。一大堆角色沒有什麼中心主線﹐每集的焦點在其中幾個角色身上﹐而每集最後總是以懶感人的大道理作總結。若《軍曹》說的大道理是友情可貴﹐《狂亂家族日記》說的大道理則是一家人要齊齊整整才開心。咦~ 怎麼聽起來有點像《家好月圓》。狂亂家族的成員臨時湊集﹐話說每個家庭成員也是閻王的孩子﹐有毀滅世界的能力。狂亂家族作戰計畫﹐是把他們集合在同一屋詹下﹐用愛心感染他們﹐阻止他們毀滅世界。

狂亂家亂的成員很古靈精怪﹐當爸爸凰火最正常﹐是一等一的住家好男人。當母親的兇華大人﹐外型是貓耳蘿莉﹐性格完全不像母親﹐是家族中搗亂分子。孩子們有同性戀但好好打的銀夏﹐外表柔弱但內心堅強的小女孩優歌﹐可以號令萬獸的獅子帝架﹐人造生物兵器雹霞﹐化身水母的水神月香﹐和喜歡銀夏優歌的姐姐千花。八個人在加入家族作戰前也有一段自己的過去﹐動畫中段每個人至少有一集當主角。不過閻王的設定除了作為聚集家庭成員的藉口外﹐基本上在故事中完全沒有應用過。甚至與後半段的故事內容有矛盾﹐大慨連編劇自己也忘記了這個設定了。

每集的故事內容天馬行空﹐甚至連基本的合理性也拋到九宵之外。故事完全無厘頭超搞笑﹐編劇執筆那刻想到什麼便寫什麼﹐不用擔心前文後理伏筆等問題﹐反正每個故事最後必定是一切維持原狀。這動畫除了用來消磨時間外﹐沒有更深層次的觀賞值價。最後值得一題是片尾曲的安排很用心﹐每個角色有自己專屬的片尾曲﹐歌曲和畫面的風格各有特式﹐每星期輪流使用。據說在日本電視台播映時﹐每個地區的電視台還會播出不同的片尾曲呢。

Don’t go to Mr. Rent A Car

I rented a BMW convertible at Mr. Rent A Car for my wedding. When I return the car, the rental shop accuse us scratch the bottom of the car and charged me for damage. I should be suspicious when I pick up the car. The guy at the rental counter didn’t inspect the car with me. He just ask me to look for any scratches myself. I thought it is just the usual sloppiness of Chinese rental shop, so I didn’t pay any much attention. I looked at the skirt of the car, but who would aware to check the underside of the car. You can’t really see the scratch unless you get down on the ground. Luckily, I rent the car with my Visa card, which comes with free rental insurance, so I don’t have to pay the damage. Since I don’t have to pay anything, I don’t bother fight hard against the wrongful accusation.

I think the car already has scratch before I pick up the car and the rental company is fully aware of it. They don’t want pay to fix the car themselves and they know I have Visa insurance, so they just blame it on me. If I have to pay out of my own pocket, I will definitely fight hard to prove my innocent. Here are two lessons I learn from this bad car rental experience. First, next time when you pick up the car, ask the rental employee go through the car inspection with you. Ask them check exactly the same things they will check when you return the car. If he missed anything, it is his fault. Second, always use a Visa car with free auto rental insurance. I just receive the refund cheque today!

Is it a cultural problem?

Like many companies outsource to India, my company come to realize outsourcing is not as effective as the business magazine claims. No one can escape from the fundamental law of economics, what you pay is what you get. Yes, going to India seems cost saving on paper, but it really sacrifice the quality of work, which often don’t show up in any project management matrix until it’s too late. This week, I doing code review for my Indian team. Their code is so bad that it is driving me nuts.

In the project status meeting, one of them claim his code is done, all the tasks are completed. However, when I review the code, it’s all garbage. The code is not doing anything, not testing what the program suppose to test. It is pretty much a glorify print statement that prints “PASS” at the end. I have tell him rewrite the code from scratch. Maybe we forgot to tell him on top of meeting the schedule, the program also has to work.

I review other code pieces from other Indians programmers. Well, the code works, but it is the ugliest code I have seen in a long time. Instead of writing a for-loop, one guy copy and paste the code 4 times and change the index in each code segment! Instead of using a single if-else statement, another guy split the code into a dozen if-else statements having exactly the same if condition. Maybe they were paid by the number of lines of code they write, so they purposely inflate to make the program look larger.

To be fair, a few of them are quite decent, but I found the majority are just simply annoying. I wonder is it a cultural problem that Indians are sloppy in general or I am just (un)lucky enough to work with mostly incompetent people?

How to breed Kappas 河童飼養手冊

How to breed Kappas 河童是日本傳說中的妖怪﹐有點像中國的水鬼﹐躲在河中等時運低的人經過﹐然後吃掉他的靈魂﹐相傳被吃掉靈魂會浸死。《河童飼養手冊》是一齣很另類的小品動畫﹐動畫中假設河童成為給人飼養的寵物﹐就像我們從寵物店買貓狗一樣。原作改篇自石川優吾的短篇漫畫﹐每集只有短短的三數分鐘﹐總共有二十六集﹐後來更推出同名的遊戲。

故事圍繞著男主角﹐成為一個新河童主人的趣事。買一頭新寵物回來﹐必定先要從進食和如廁開始訓練﹐河童當然也不例外。到了寵物長大一點﹐可以帶牠外出去公園﹐會結交到其他寵物主人﹐大家一起交流飼養河童的心得。遇到問題除了看寵物書外﹐寵物店也有一系列產品可以買。 動畫後半部的主線是河童學游水﹐從浴江練習熟悉水性開始﹐不怕水後可以去河流一試身手﹐最後當然是去海灘作最終試煉﹐不過竟然會有遇到鯊魚。每集故事舖排到最後一定有個笑位﹐除了幽默感外還有寵物與主人很窩心的感情。最後一集講述主角飼養河童的原因﹐最終當然仍然是搞笑完場。

這套動畫有一樣很特別的地方﹐不論是男主角還是其他配方﹐所有人類角色一律沒有臉孔。。我猜想動畫版跟隨原著漫畫的畫法﹐而原著漫畫則是學市面上一般使用手冊的插圖人物﹐臉上沒有眼耳口鼻空白一片。這套動畫只有一套電影的總長度﹐兩個小時左右可以一口氣看完。不過這套動畫屬於輕鬆小品類型﹐不用急著追看故事發展﹐可以待有空閒時放兩三集來開懷一下。