Monthly Archives: July 2013

Film Review – Evil Dead (2013)


I remember watching the first Evil Dead film as a teenager. My parents had gone away for the weekend, and left me looking after the cat. I got hold of some ‘video nasties’ on VHS, stocked up on chocolate milk, and got down to business. I spent the rest of the night a jibbering wreck, unable to sleep, cowering behind the sofa and jumping out of my skin at the slightest provocation. It was one of the best nights of my life.

The 2013 version, the first not to be directed by Sam Raimi, is neither a remake nor a fourth instalment of the Evil Dead franchise. Instead, it resides somewhere in between. Bruce Campbell, star of the first three movies (along with the chainsaw) is back as part of the original production team that also includes Raimi. You’ll be glad to know the chainsaw is back, too. The plot is very similar to the original; a group of teens head out to a cabin in the woods, stumble across a book bound in human skin (never a good sign), rather naively voice some spells from said book, then all hell breaks loose. Literally.

This new version does benefit from a few twenty-first century twists, not to mention a bigger budget, and the back story is filled out a little more. The group is given a reason for existing in that Mia is a hopeless drug addict, and a stint in the remote cabin represents her only chance to get clean. Otherwise its what you would expect; demons, dismemberments, and destruction. For the eagle-eyed anoraks among you there is a feast of trivia. The first initials of the main cast, for example, David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie, when put in the correct order, spells what? Interestingly, the production notes state that no CGI was used, the makers instead preferring to research illusion and magic tricks. So does it deliver? You bet it does, and then some. Easily one of the movies of the year so far.

In Search of the Toddy Cat

A few years ago I visited Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, south China, with a Chinese friend. One of the things that struck me was how different everything was. Until then I’d been living in the north, in Beijing and Tianjin, and this was my first trip south. It was like walking out of a desert into a jungle. The climate was hot and sticky, and there was wildlife and vegetation everywhere. The people spoke a different language. Pu tong hua (Mandarin) is standardized Chinese, supposedly spoken by everyone in the country, but Guangzhou is one of the places where they speak Cantonese. The food was different. The people even looked different. In north China people are taller, and thick-set. Down south the locals are smaller, lighter and, it has to be said,better looking.

One afternoon we visited ‘animal place.’ I thought we were going to the zoo. The place turned out to be a massive warehouse-type place, full of animals in cages. There were cats, dogs, birds, lizards, and lots of things I couldn’t identify. It might have been one of these wet markets we hear so much about. I’m still not clear about that. Anyway, one thing in particular stuck in my mind. It reminded me of a black and white Koala Bear, with huge wide eyes. So cute! I asked my friend what this thing was.

“It’s not a cat.”
“Special cat.”
“I don’t think it’s a cat. Do you know what kind of animal it is?”
“What kind of cat?”
“Dragon cat. Special cat.”

I could see the conversation was going nowhere. If my friend knew what kind of animal it was, she didn’t know how to translate it into English.

They say in Guangzhou, that if it walks, flies or swims, the locals will eat it. I wanted to know if this thing was being sold as a pet, or as food. My friend didn’t know. She just shrugged and asked me why I cared. I left Guangzhou still wondering about this weird animal, and ever since I’ve hoped to be able to one day solve the mystery of the “Dragon Cat, Special Cat.”

That day finally came recently when I was browsing the news online and stumbled across a story about indigenous wildlife in southern China.

Meet the Asian Palm Civet.

Asian Palm Civet

Aka, the ‘Toddy Cat.’

So my friend wasn’t completely wrong. It certainly is some distant member of the cat family. It’s Latin name is Paradoxurus hermaphroditus but I think we’re better off sticking with Toddy Cat for now.

Here’s where the story gets interesting…

The Toddy Cat is often killed for its meat, though the ones I saw didn’t seem to have much meat on them. Oil extracted from the meat and preserved is also sometimes used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s good for skin conditions, apparently. Most bizarrely of all, though, is the animal’s role in the manufacture of Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world with prices ranging from $35 to in excess of $100 per cup, or up to $600 a pound. If you’re eager to try, this place seems quite reasonable and the site has a ton more info on the production process.

It’s so expensive because the coffee beans they use have passed through the Toddy Cat’s digestive tract. In other words, they feed the Toddy Cat coffee beans, wait for it to shit them out, then gather them up and roast them. Bizarre. The worst thing is that the farmers don’t treat the poor Toddy Cats very well. They are kept in cages and force fed coffee beans. They must be thinking, “No! Please, no more coffee, dude! Toddy wanna sleep, yo.”

No wonder they have those huge, freakish eyes.

Still, my curiosity is suitably piqued, and come payday I have vowed to invest in a modest packet of Kopi Luwak. Just to see what coffee that has been shat out by a Chinese bush animal tastes like. Curiosity killed the cat, they say. How ironic. I hope my curiosity doesn’t kill the cool Toddy Cat.

There has to be better jobs...

There has to be better jobs…

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