Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (LRT)

It was my first ride on one of Singapore’s LRT lines. I went from Bukit Panjang Station on the Downtown MRT line to Choa Chu Kang.

The train I was on had one car; the ones going the other way had two. Looking at the trains going the other way, I wasn’t so sure they were trains. There’s one rail under these things, but they’re not monorail trains. They’ve got rubber wheels on either side and they roll on those. So is this thing a train? A bus? Or what?

It felt like a theme park ride, to be honest. The track seemed bendier in the left-right and up-down directions than the MRT lines, but since I don’t look straight out the front of the MRT trains, maybe I’m overestimating how smooth the tracks are. The platforms at the stations, which were sized like the trains, contribute to the theme-park-ride impression.

It kinda freaked me out that the elevated track didn’t really have edges. It looked like we could just plunge right over the side. The vehicle didn’t really go very fast, though.

When I left Choa Chu Kang during rush hour, by taxi, the driver pointed out to me where one of the LRT trains had broken down on the track over the road. I was glad I’d gotten to experience the LRT in working condition.

I gladly concede the loss of historical ‘decimate’.

That’s part of page 105 of the 1952 edition of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage. I looked up the word after I read the plot summary in the Wikipedia entry about the film Inferno (2016), which currently says:

[The villain’s bioweapon has] the potential of decimating the world’s population.

It could be argued that a 50% reduction in the world’s population, technically, does not count as “decimating”, since—as has been smugly pointed out—the meaning of “decimate” is etymologically tied to a figure of 10%.

In fact, it’s been argued (even more smugly) that “decimate” had another, earlier meaning, which was financial in nature; supposedly “decimate” meant “tithe”.

I think I agree with Fowler that “decimate” can now legitimately mean “destroy a large proportion” but should still be avoided when the context contains a specific proportion.

See below for more on my reasons for (finally) ceasing to believe exclusively in the historical meaning and my thoughts on how to carefully use the word in its widely accepted modern sense.

Continue reading I gladly concede the loss of historical ‘decimate’.

Robin Hood (1973)

Disney’s Cinderella has more cat-and-mouse antics in it than us grown-ups tend to remember it having; Disney’s Robin Hood, similarly, seems to have more marching in it than I would have thought possible. It’s a charming story, though, possibly in part because of all that celebratory marching!

I love the despicable babyishness of Prince John, the adorable aspirations of the rabbit kid who wants to be just like Robin Hood, Marion’s demure wistfulness about her childhood sweetheart… and the way the snake somehow has eloquent body language despite not having a body. (Snakes are so awesome!)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/robin-hood/id656527876

Keep reading for a detailed plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat as well as a few other thoughts on the movie.

This post is part of a series on versions of the Robin Hood legend.

Continue reading Robin Hood (1973)

The Little Book of Plagiarism by Richard A. Posner

The Little Book of Plagiarism is a little book full of big ideas clearly explained. It’s hard to summarize, since the text is already so concise and in fact contains its own summary at the end.

There’s a lot of confused thinking on the subject of intellectual property. It angers me when people actively refuse to show respect for the intellectual property of others; it saddens me when people merely fail to do so. Posner’s very readable book sheds light on a number of key issues.

See below for my list of some of those issues.

Continue reading The Little Book of Plagiarism by Richard A. Posner

Aries Accessories

I visited Aries Accessories at Lot One in Choa Chu Kang.

I loved the name and the flying sheep; in the Western zodiac, I’m an Aries. I don’t like pink, but I liked the starry theme and I thought the tagline “Twinkles of Joy” was inspired.

More to the point, I liked what they had for sale.

aries-clips
The bag may be pink, but the scarf, headband, and hairclips I brought home in it are all black.

Robin Hood (2006–2009)

It’s cheesy and historically inaccurate, but this Robin Hood series has its moments.

The scenes that take place outdoors in the forest are more convincing than the ones that use the same indoor and outdoor sets over and over; Sherwood Forest, though, is very much a character in the show and an important presence. Regarding the human characters, I would definitely say that the bad guys were more interesting than the good guys by a mile.

I would recommend the show if you’re looking for some lighthearted entertainment with some interesting characters and can overlook the show’s obvious flaws. Or if you’re just interested in any and all variations of the Robin Hood myth.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/robin-hood-series-1/id275354656

See below for more about the characters and why they’re interesting, even if they do make a lot of Evil Overlord mistakes. (No specific spoilers.)

Continue reading Robin Hood (2006–2009)

Inferno (2016)

In Inferno (2016), Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) and some woman follow a trail of clues that are tied to European religious art and history, as in The Da Vinci Code, only this time the focus is Dante, and Langdon doesn’t know how he got to Italy or why there are people chasing him. The movie doesn’t seem to be popular with viewers or reviewers, but it was plenty entertaining, if you ask me.

What makes the complicated puzzle plot work for me? Partly, it was Langdon’s initial puzzlement about what’s going on, which puts the audience right in the thick of things—we’re not looking over the shoulder of a pompous art expert, we’re looking over the shoulder of a confused victim. We catch glimpses of memories or dreams but, like Langdon, we can’t quite catch hold of them, and whether or not we know where we’re going, we have to keep moving.

Partly it was the amazing Italian settings. I mean, hiring Tom Hanks is expensive, but the filmmakers also apparently rented every major tourist attraction in Florence, and one or two in Istanbul as well, stopping in Venice along the way. Or they just recreated a bunch of famous places in a studio in Budapest, one or the other. (Actually, some of both.)

Partly it was the freakishly believable terrorist, an extremely rich but extremely delusional white guy who gave a bunch of TED talks about how humanity cannot allow the world’s population to double again and who took it upon himself to try to solve the problem by developing a virus that, when released, would cause immense amounts of pain and suffering but also ensure the survival of the race… by cutting the world’s population in half—decimating it, one might even say—like the Black Death did when it made way for the Renaissance.

Partly it was that I particularly liked one of the secondary characters. While I found the villain’s death cult genuinely threatening, I found his pragmatic mercenary quite amusing. (In this much at least, reviewers seem to agree with me.)

Why wasn’t the movie liked?

Maybe it was too cerebral and not actiony enough. Thrillers have to have Bond gadgets in them, not Renaissance paintings.

Maybe, as more than one reviewer says, it’s the related problem that Tom Hanks’ talent is “wasted on the role of Dr Robert Langdon, an academic who is sort of a brainier, duller Indiana Jones.”

Or maybe it’s just that Dan Brown’s novels aren’t very different from each other (or particularly deep), and it hasn’t been long enough since the last installment for people to find his offering very, well, novel.

Anyway, upshot: if you don’t go in expecting the art-historical conspiracy-theory trail-of-clues plot to resemble what spy movie heroes and real-life detectives typically do to prevent catastrophes and solve crimes, respectively, then you may, like me, be entertained. The plot of Inferno is needlessly complicated and fundamentally illogical, but (unlike that of Point Break) it’s still coherent.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/inferno/id463979057

Keep reading for a detailed summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Inferno (2016)

Why I am not interested in meditation

Long story short: I read books instead.

(That’s not a stock photo, by the way, or a photo I took in a library. That’s a photo I took of some shelves in my house.)

The appeal of meditation

Meditation is a popular and ever-trendier thing in the West. I have to admit there is some appeal to the idea of a peaceful, accessible activity that increases one’s ability to handle life’s challenges with wisdom and equanimity. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to give up thinking that maybe it’s for me.

You could argue that I haven’t really tried it, but I have tried it, and after some thought I realized that reading, too, is a peaceful, accessible activity that increases one’s ability to handle life’s challenges with wisdom and equanimity, and that there’s no particular reason I shouldn’t prefer it.

Perhaps if you read about my experiences and reflections on the subject, you’ll agree.

Continue reading Why I am not interested in meditation