Why do Chinese comprehension passages insist on posing metaphysical, meaning-of-life questions at us? Here is a sample: 作者认为得到物质的奢侈后, 会发现失去才是最珍贵的。腻同意吗? 试联系生活实际加以说明。

[The author thinks that after acquiring material comforts, one will realise that what one doesn’t have is the most precious. Do you agree? Use real-life examples to explain.]

HOW on earth am I meant to answer this?


obscure British series!

Downloading the scripts to Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner (1960s) now.

The Prisoner is a rather claustrophobic show set in a dystopia called ‘The Village’. Moles and spies and secret, elaborate plots abound, all centering around the very tall, often very grumpy main character, known only as Number Six (McGoohan).

Number Six used to be a spy. Used to, because he resigned, and no one knows why.

After his resignation, he was swiftly brought to the Village, a place where no one has much of an identity beyond a number and everything seems happy and fun. Look closer, though, and the people as a whole are in fact like sheep, dumb and easily influenced.

The Village management claims to make decisions for the good of the people (paternalism at its finest!), sometimes extending that to justify cruel Pavlovian-style conditioning of ‘unmutual’ citizens: people who harbour seditious thoughts or intents of escape. Even though Number Six tries to escape time and again, many times his ‘successful’ attempts turn out to be just a show for his sake, and in fact he has not gone anywhere.

The viewer is frequently brought to the ‘behind the scenes’ perspective, where Number Two, the overall in-charge, articulates his alarming plans for Number Six. We always get to see just a small glimpse of how important Number Six is, and what the Village management’s plans are. These tantalising glimpses get progressively darker and more eerie as the show goes on.

This show can get a little repetitive in style after a while, but the psychological drama is well played and as the complexity of the plot increases, one finds oneself double-guessing everyone. Not very ‘mainstream’ per se- it will not appeal to many- but definitely thought-provoking. Even the order of the episodes is not certain: the order in the DVD was different from the order of broadcasting; there are also slight inconsistencies when played in a certain order.

Also slightly amusing in its down-to-the-roots Britishness. I mean- tea! all the time!