Blog of the month!

Okay, so technically it’s one of five blogs of the month, but they gave me this badge that says “blog of the month”, so here we are.

It would be foolishly optimistic for me to assume my blog is about to “go viral” or start making me big affiliate bucks or whatever, and in the search for content to feature, I don’t assume I was terribly close to the top of the list.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased to have been selected, I’m seeing an (undoubtedly temporary) traffic bump since the listicle was published, and I even went so far as to create a Facebook page for this blog, in case any of you temporary visitors are thinking you might want to hear about future blog posts that way.

The Great Wall (2016)

When I watched this on television at a friend’s house, I’d heard of the movie and wanted to see it (my dislike of the famous-Hollywood-star-in-Asia movie The Last Samurai notwithstanding), but had no idea there were lizard things in it. I suppose I assumed it was a historical story, or maybe a fantastical historical story with magicky people in it, like The White-Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom (2014). I have just learned that the name for that genre is “wuxia”.

No, this was a monster movie. It was a good one! Like Pacific Rim (2013). Again, I sort of expected the monsters to be misunderstood, but no. They’re just monsters. The point is to kill them, not understand them. There are some vague bits of theme wafting around—trust, loyalty, discipline, and teamwork are good, while greed is bad—but really, the point is to stop the lizard monsters from taking over the world.

I enjoyed the Mandarin-heavy dialog because hey! I understood some of it! Every big-budget Hollywood movie with part of the plot set in China (e.g., Now You See Me 2), every Chinese movie with crossover Western appeal (e.g., Bleeding Steel), and every studio cooperation using big names from both the West and China, like this one, brings us closer to a fused future culture like the one in Firefly, even if some of the products of that cooperation, like this one, are not exactly greeted with resounding applause.

Bleeding Steel (2017)

Take Jackie Chan’s “loving father / brave protector” role from The Foreigner (2017), subtract the tragedy, and add an over-the-top comic-book villain equipped with an airborne science lab and a fierce henchwoman in a Tron suit, and you’ve got Bleeding Steel. It wasn’t amazing, but I enjoyed it.

It was especially fun for me for two reasons, both related to my recent trip to Australia and New Zealand. First, on that trip, I skydived for the first time. There’s a scene (shown on movie posters) of Jackie Chan falling from a plane. Now I know what that feels like. Second, when touring the Sydney Opera House, our group was told that Jackie Chan had been filming stunts for a movie there. When I saw the movie, I recognized the location from having been there myself. Of course, I wasn’t actually on top of the Sydney Opera House, but I was in and around it.

When I told a friend I’d just seen a Jackie Chan movie, she thought I meant The Foreigner. No, not that one. Kung Fu Yoga? No, not that one, either. All three are Jackie Chan movies released in 2017! Now I learn there was a fourth: Namiya. It must have been a busy year for Jackie, not even counting two cartoon voice roles.

2017 embroidered patches

I buy embroidered patches for places I visit. Here are the patches I bought this year (starting top left, going clockwise):

Australia and New Zealand (December 2017)

My husband and I went along with his parents on part of their whirlwind trip through New Zealand and Australia. It was one of the longer trips I’ve ever been on (8 to 27 December).

We covered a lot of ground in planes, trains, and ferries, though I feel like what we saw in Australia was just the tip of an iceberg—or rather, a continent.

I took 2270 photos.

There are lots of landscape photos, flowers and birds, a selection of Christmas trees, some architecture (including earthquake damage and graffiti in Christchurch), interesting textures, signs, and selfies with (among other things) various trees, a plush wombat, and the Sydney Opera House.

Since (even after weeding out the less good ones) there are still an overwhelming number of photos, I’ve split them up into different posts chronogeographically.

This is all of us at the end of our trip. We didn’t dress like this on purpose. Just a coincidence.

The plane to Sydney and Sydney

Below are 58 photos, mostly of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Opera House tour. Exploring the structure was more interesting than I had been expecting. The shapes are regular and yet unusual at the same time. Historic, groundbreaking, stunning.

Continue reading The plane to Sydney and Sydney

My Christmas South of the Equator

Since moving to Singapore, I’ve spent many Christmases in places that don’t have winter. This year I celebrated the holidays in a place that does have winter, but has it at a totally different time of year.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that winter can happen at different times of year. It’s almost easier to believe that winter is hot and summer is cold than that winter takes place during the, uh, summer months (June, July, and August) and that Christmas takes place during summer.

While in Australia and New Zealand, I took photos of Christmas trees and other holiday items, which felt festive yet incongruous—none more so than this sign:

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

Below are 30 more holiday photos.

Continue reading My Christmas South of the Equator