Inala: A Zulu Ballet (Singapore 2019)

I found this performance to be a bit mystifying. It featured the Soweto Gospel Choir and an international fusion dance group. The choir moved around and danced during the performance. Overall, I would say there was a lot of energy and movement and skill, but I felt the lack of a discernible story to tie it all together.

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John Wick (2014)

I was impressed with the first bit of this movie, which had very little predictable dialog—very little dialog at all. It’s just scenes of Sad Keanu, basically…

John Wick is alone except for his vintage hot rod and a puppy thoughtfully gifted to him by his late wife. So when the entitled, oblivious son of a Russian crime boss takes a fancy to his car, steals it, and kills the puppy, leaving him completely alone, what does he do? Why, he goes back to his life as the best professional assassin ever, letting nothing stand between him and his doomed target. (I mean, you know it’s a revenge plot, right?)

Gone are the days when noir was black and white and grey; here you’ve got grey, sure, but also yellows, reds, blues, and greens. It’s slick and modern and moody. I guess the stylization is a big reason the violence was not unenjoyable. There’s a lot of death, but it’s not a lot of senseless grunting and bloody messes. It feels clever. More than that, it feels just. It’s also got some rather funny deadpan moments that keep it from feeling too heavy.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/john-wick/id928911988

See below for a plot summary with SPOILERS.

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Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I have nothing good to say about this book. I do not understand how it can possibly be a bestseller.

I’m not the only one who feels like it’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Here’s an excerpt from a PW review of Wintersong that encapsulates my objections succinctly:

“The plot meanders, the stakes are ill-defined, and the characters lack depth and verisimilitude.”

If you think I’m cherry picking and only this one snooty publishing gatekeeper disliked it, yes, I am cherry picking—but here are some notes from an editor and book blogger who was similarly underwhelmed.

If you want to know more about why I didn’t like Wintersong, dive in to the rant below.

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When and Why I Read Wintersong

I am reading this for the Middle Grade / Young Adult Fiction Book Club. It is marketed as a retelling of the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

Genre: young adult fantasy / romance
Date started / date finished: 13-Jun-19 to 17-Jun-19
Length: 448 pages
ISBN: ASIN B01C2TAATC
Originally published in: 2017
Amazon link: Wintersong

Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

This book of folktales was a gift brought back for me from Uzbekistan with a couple of other items:

Dried apricots, spice tea, a detailed handcrafted magnet, and a booklet of folktales.

The booklet is not a top-quality production, and has some flaws and errors. By far the worst error is that one of the stories was accidentally split into two parts, the second part printed on an earlier page and the first part printed on a later one! Still, the translation is accessible, the introduction is informative, and the folktales are entertaining.

The stories are a mix of humor, wisdom, and foolishness. The central character, Mulla Nasreddin or Nasrudin, is known by a variety of names with a variety of spellings. He is sometimes clever and sometimes obtuse.

See below for some examples of his shenanigans.

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When and Why I Read Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

This small booklet was purchased for me recently in Uzbekistan.

Genre: folktales
Date started / date finished: 12-Jun-19 to 13-Jun-19
Length: 46 pages
ISBN: 9789943398826
Originally published in: 2018

Dubliners by James Joyce

I am, still, not a fan of James Joyce.

I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a high school student. When I re-read it again recently for the Hungry Hundred Book Club I asked myself, more than once, why I’d even bothered, not having liked it the least little bit the first time around.

Enough was enough, I told myself. Lesson learned. I was never going to read more Joyce. Life’s too short to spend time trying to like stuff I don’t actually like, regardless of how ‘important’ the stuff purports to be. But then, I read more Joyce anyway! Why did I do that?!

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When and Why I Read Dubliners

The Irish Embassy in Singapore invited local readers to participate in Bloomsday by reading James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners and coming for a discussion on 14 June 2019. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue the question of whether Joyce is really the founder of ALL modern fiction, as has been asserted.

Genre: literary fiction (short stories)
Date started / date finished: 30-May-19 to 05-Jun-19
Length: 150 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 2814
Originally published in: 1914
Gutenberg link: Dubliners

Little Women (1933)

Why do I feel like there was too much shouting? (Also, too much crying? Sheesh, Kathy, calm the heck down.)

The 1933 Katharine Hepburn film is an unsubtle adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic American novel Little Women. Then again, the book at times is less than subtle in its advocacy of Christian selflessness. Moreover, I get the sense that compared to the films of the day, Little Women represented a victory for realism: it was a departure from overblown, melodramatic, stereotyped adventures.

I decided to watch Little Women (1933) after the Hungry Hundred Book Club meetup, when I saw three classic film adaptations—Little Women 1933, Little Women 1949, and Little Women 1994—listed in a friend’s copy of the book. Many critics seem to consider the 1933 adaptation the best of the bunch.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/little-women-1933/id298739825

See below for more of what I thought of it, as well as a plot summary in the form of a list of incidents included in the movie.

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Increasing Feminism in the Works of Louisa May Alcott

Introduction

Loved by mothers and daughters for more than a century, Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women attained a higher level of popularity than any of her other books. Even though the book was clearly directed toward a female audience, it has been said of Little Women than even from a male point of view the book and its sequels are very good (Chesterton). Though Little Women is known mostly for its characters and amusing stories (Gale), it becomes clear to a careful reader that Alcott weaves into her stories her opinions on certain issues. Her reform-minded father and her mother both encouraged her to live independently and stand up for her opinions (Gale “Overview”; Magill, “Little Women” 1264). The issues Alcott supported included coeducation and abolition, but causes Alcott especially supported were women’s rights and women’s suffrage (Gale; Gale “Overview”). In fact, after she had become famous, the novelist used her popularity to aid her causes and became the first woman in Concord to register to vote (Magill, “Louisa May Alcott” 7). It should not be surprising, then, that it is Alcott’s feminism which most influences Little Women and which dominates her later works in particular. Sometimes Alcott speaks out quite strongly through her characters, but other times she must make sacrifices, toning down the opinions in order to insure that her books succeed. In her earlier works, such as Little Women, Alcott is most restrained, but in her novel Rose in Bloom, she is less so, and in Jo’s Boys, she hardly restrains her opinions at all.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The full title of the work is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come. The work tells the story of a man named Christian who reads the Bible and thus comes to fear his doom and to feel that he is carrying a burden. He desires to be saved. Luckily, he subsequently encounters a man named Evangelist who advises him to travel to the Celestial City by a certain path. Christian tries to follow his instructions, with varying degrees of success, and (massive spoiler alert) ultimately reaches his goal.

Is it worth reading this venerable Christian text nowadays?

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When and Why I Read The Pilgrim's Progress

The characters of Little Women refer to the book and its setting, characters, and plot.

Genre: fiction (religious allegory)
Date started / date finished: 16-May-19 to 20-May-19
Length: 145 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 131
Originally published in: 1678
Gutenberg link: The Pilgrim's Progress

English grammar: How to use pronouns ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘myself’

The first-person singular pronouns of English are ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘myself’. Although in daily speech people have been known to use them somewhat interchangeably, IMO it’s worth knowing which roles those different words are supposed to play in a sentence.

Give yourself a quiz. Read each of the sentences below and decide whether it is grammatically correct.

Me/Myself/I Usage Quiz

  • The horses were trained by Sylvia and myself.
  • Me and Sylvia sold the horses to a riding school.
  • The boss split the profit between Sylvia and I.

Answers and explanations after the jump.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, a popular and influential nineteenth-century American novel about the coming of age of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, is familiar, charming, and—for those with a compatible upbringing—only a little bit too didactic.

It’s easy to admire Jo, the fiercely independent heroine of Little Women, a tomboy who cuts all her hair off, looks forward to spinsterhood, and aims to support herself by writing. I wonder if she’s a Mary Sue; others (doubtless more fruitfully) debate whether or not the book is feminist.

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