Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (Season 4)

This season was all over the place.

For like the first third of the episodes, there’s a guy (Ghost Rider) who’s possessed by some kind of devil. What happened to science? The show is usually focused on superhero powers deriving from inhuman DNA being acted on by some kind of material transforming agent. Being possessed by a being from another dimension for no particular reason doesn’t fit very well with the science that gives everyone else weird powers. Also, how is it that his car can burst into flames and not burn? Did the car make a deal with the devil, too? Whatever.

Then Ghost Rider pretty much disappears, and we’ve got an android (AIDA) who has some powerful AI and also an evil magic book that looks like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer prop. Is the android the primary antagonist in the season, or is the primary antagonist the man who created her? There’s a lot of back and forth on that issue; I won’t give away the ending.

There’s a digital world called The Framework that’s suspiciously like the one in a certain movie I keep comparing everything to. It was created (with the help of the ridiculous-looking evil magic book) for a specific set of individuals to live in. In The Framework, one major regret was erased from each of those individuals’ lives. I object to the use of the word ‘regret’ in this context because the thing that changed wasn’t something that the individual was responsible for; it was just something that the person wished had been different. That confused me for a while.

It’s great that the characters care about each other, face tough choices, and overcome tough problems, but I enjoy the show mainly because the writing sparkles with humor. Some sci-fi (*cough cough* The 100) is just too serious.

Jane Eyre (2006)

In this four-hour BBC miniseries version of Jane Eyre, there is much from the book that’s missing; despite its length, it still felt rushed compared to the book. I’m sure the 2011 movie is even more rushed in comparison to the book.

See below for some differences between the miniseries and the novel.

Continue reading Jane Eyre (2006)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story like Jane Eyre?

I despise spineless, aimless characters like Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caufield; Jane Eyre is exactly the opposite. She’s stubborn, she’s principled, and in the end she gets what she wants because she’s worked hard and made the right decisions. Unlike many heroines, she’s not particularly beautiful or smart; what she has is honesty and a strong sense of justice.

The setting and many descriptive details make the book moody and atmospherically (though not thematically) dark; it’s a gothic novel complete with mysterious rooms, storms, eerie sounds and the like.

Jane Eyre is discussed throughout The Weekend Novelist Re-writes the Novel, which points out that the book has an uncommonly large number of antagonists, which means it has an uncommonly large number of subplots. The book’s complexity contributes greatly to its lasting appeal.

When and Why I Read Jane Eyre

This book was chosen by Rachel of the Hungry Hundred Book club for May 2017. I read it in 2011 but I don’t mind reading it again.

Genre: fiction (English literature)
Date started / date finished:  06-May-17 to 15-May-17
Length: 467 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 1260
Originally published in: 1897
Gutenberg link: Jane Eyre

Keep sight of your personal belongings

This is a photo of a sign in a toilet stall in the Lot One shopping mall. It says:

Dear Shopper,
Please keep sight of your personal belongings while in the toilet.
For assistance, dial 5314 6211

This bit of written language inspired several thoughts.

I think “keep sight of” is or has been an idiom in some places, but it did not strike me as apt, though the negative phrasing “do not lose sight of” would have sounded okay. The phrase “keep track of” sounds better, though I wouldn’t expect to see it on a sign.

I’m imagining I hear the voice of the late comedian George Carlin mocking the phrase “personal belongings“. It isn’t as if I’m likely to have brought with me any other kind of belongings, such as public belongings, onto an airplane, he says.

Here, “toilet” is obviously being used not to mean the porcelain commode, but to mean either “restroom” or “restroom stall”, though how you could lose sight of your personal belongings inside a restroom stall is a mystery to me, especially if you have just hung them on the hook just under the sign; if you fail to notice your belongings hanging just below the sign, the sign itself isn’t likely to do you any good! (Some restroom stalls have a shelf behind the commode; the sign would be a useful reminder to check for items placed there. This stall did not have such a shelf.)

Finally, at the bottom of the sign, behold a reminder that we live in the future: it is normal (in a shopping mall in Singapore, at least) for individuals to carry personal wireless communication devices that can at any point be used to summon urgent medical assistance. Or toilet paper.

Shopping for books on Selegie Road

At 7:45, Sultana Book Store at the Peace Centre was supposedly already closed for the day, in spite of appearances (and eager customers).

We had better luck at Book Treasure next door in the atrium of Parklane Shopping Mall.

I bought two books from Book Treasure. I saw several other interesting used books at good prices, but they were books I already own.
I say I bought two books, but actually I bought two editions of the same book. Go figure.
That’s me and my friend, reflected on the underside of the escalator.

Baahubali 2 (2017)

Baahubali 2, to an even greater extent than its wildly successful predecessor Baahubali (2015), broke all the records for Indian films in India and abroad, for both expense and box office receipts, if Wikipedia is to be believed. This lavish CGI-heavy epic was made not in Mumbai but in Hyderabad—with an entirely South Indian cast and recorded in a South Indian language (two, actually: Telugu and Tamil).

Though the name of the main character is the name of a Jain saint, and the whole thing feels like it’s based on a myth, my impression is that the story is original.

The movie is long, at over 160 minutes, and includes 18 minutes of songs that reinforce, rather than convey, the plot.

Speaking of plot: This second movie serves as both prequel and sequel to the first. I wish I knew why the story wasn’t made into a trilogy; the first part is called Baahubali: The Beginning, and the second part is called Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. (Is it just me, or is that really odd?)

I liked the first half of Baahubali 2, in which the violence is stylized and the hero is victorious, better than the second half, which is more somber and much bloodier, and whose final battle is fought by the main character of the first movie, which I didn’t see.

My favorite sequence was the big battle in the small mountain kingdom, which involved a lot of impressive if exaggerated feats of martial arts.

The scene in which the hero and heroine defend a hallway by shooting three arrows at a time reminded me strongly of the lobby scene in The Matrix. It’s the same idea (boy meets girl, boy fights enemies with girl, enemies all die); only the costumes, props, and colors are different.

Do I compare every movie I see with The Matrix? Yeah, maybe.

If you favor subtlety over spectacle, Baahubali 2 is not for you. Characters’ jealousies, realizations, and thoughts more often than not manifest in spoken words. The characters’ actions, too, are often explained in the dialog. For example, it’s not enough to succeed in framing someone for treason, you also have to tell him you’ve just framed him for treason, even if the next thing you do is kill him.

I don’t think anyone could succeed in making a parody of the movie by exaggerating its notable features; they’re already over the top. Wait, hang on, Robin Hood: Men in Tights did have a Robin shooting six arrows at once… if you haven’t taken it up to eleven, there’s always farther to go.

Anyway, overall, I thought Baahubali 2 was worth seeing because it was so spectacular.

Phone zombies, beware!

This sign warns pedestrians to pay attention near the entrance to a construction site between West Coast Plaza and Clementi Woods Park.

Forget your fear of swimming near sharks or camping near bears; walking around holding your phone under your nose is much more likely to kill you!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sign like this before, but perhaps such signs will become ubiquitous, like the mobile phones we are apparently obsessed with.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

So there’s the silliness, yeah, and the comic book costumes and sci-fi setting and all, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is also about… family. There are a bunch of serious emotions in the movie, all relating to what it means to feel a sense of belonging, whether as a sister, a father, a son—or a genetically anomalous member of a tightly knit team.

How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier

How to Lie with Maps gives readers a glimpse into an arcane field whose ubiquitous products we tend to take for granted: cartography. I’ve read a lot of books, but never one with this particular focus.

You can tell the author loves maps; he wants readers to appreciate the good ones, scorn the poor ones, and be wary of those created with specific agendas in mind. His goal is to raise awareness.

Mission accomplished.

More about this fascinating subject and the author’s take on it below.

Continue reading How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier