Cold beer, wet air

People who sell drinks near where people work or relax outdoors in the heat have a technique for making their drinks look particularly cold: They put the bottles in the freezer for a while, which in addition to actually making the drinks a bit colder, makes the bottles look nice and frosty when they are taken out.

Food and drink photographers know that condensation on a drink makes it look cold even if it’s not, so to gain time to capture the perfect shot, they may use inedible glycerin to create “condensation” drops that last longer.

My Tiger beer frosted itself very thoroughly and automatically as soon as it came into contact with the steamy Singapore air.

big beer at Newton Food Centre

Side note: I imagine the stall owners at Newton want to smack whoever bought the first blinking LEDs. That first stall’s obvious advantage kicked off an arms race. The result is that almost all the stalls now have very flashy signs, and none of them stand out. Except maybe the one that has a programmable LED signboard… the arms race continues!

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

A Room with a View was the Hungry Hundred Book Club book for May. The group leader, Rachel, started off the discussion at the well-attended meetup with an interesting question:

Is A Room with a View primarily a love story, a coming-of-age story, or social commentary?

Since the book has elements of all three, the answer to the question says as much about the reader’s perspective as it does about the book itself. How much people enjoyed the book depended very much on what they thought it was trying to do and what they thought it did well, thus the question served not only to kick off the discussion but also to guide and shape it.

At the end of the discussion, we rated the book. It garnered perhaps only one rating of five stars, but many of three or three-and-a-half or four, as well as a couple of very low ratings (0.5 and 2). The reason for the less-than-spectacular average rating seemed to be that Forster was undeniably good, yet didn’t measure up to other writers.

During the discussion, someone mentioned a Guardian article based on a lecture by Zadie Smith on the fiction of E.M. Forster. The article compares Forster’s work to Austen’s.

Forster ushered in a new era for the English comic novel, one that includes the necessary recognition that the great majority of us are not like an Austen protagonist, would rather not understand ourselves, because it is easier and less dangerous.

Zadie Smith, in pointing out this message in Forster’s work, is saying in part that what Forster was doing was different from what others were doing, and that he was good at it. I agree.

See below for my opinion on whether A Room with a View is a love story, coming-of-age story, or social commentary and what I got out of it. (If you’ve never read the book or watched the movie, note that this post gives away the ending.)

Continue reading A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Please push your bicycle across the underpass

This is a grammar post. I think the sign should say:

Please push your bicycle through the underpass.

I would use “through” because an underpass is basically a tunnel.

Not that prepositions necessarily make any sense, but in my experience, we say you go across things that you are on and we say you go through things you are in.

Thus, if the sign were talking about a bridge, then it could say:

Please push your bicycle across the bridge.

sign at Clemenceau Ave

Bras Basah Complex: Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book

If you are looking to buy books in Singapore, this is a good place to go. It has several book shops selling new or used books. It also has print shops, art supply shops, stationery shops, and shops selling musical instruments and antiques.

Within the last couple of years, these colorful square signs were added to convey the complex’s status as a cultural hub of sorts.

Bras Basah Complex
* Art * Dance * Explore * Sport * Book

One of my pet peeves is lists of things that aren’t all the same part of speech. “Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book” is a fantastic example. See below for why.

Continue reading Bras Basah Complex: Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book

Avengers 3: Infinity War (2018)

I’m thinking I should go see more movies during the opening week or weekend because when I watched Infinity War, I enjoyed people’s reactions to the movie as much as I enjoyed the movie itself. People gasped and laughed and went “WHHHHOOOAAA” in large numbers. One girl in the audience actually screamed when one of the characters got stabbed. At one point I heard the audience collectively go “SHHH***TTT”.

I’m reminded a bit of the time I went to see a WWF match: the audience was really into it, for some of the same reasons: people like to see a champion fight an enemy, and they love it when the champion delivers a particularly cool attack. I was also reminded of what it was like seeing the first Harry Potter movie in a really big, really full theater when it first came out: people loved the characters and felt invested in their world, and couldn’t wait for the chance to enter that world with them. Marvel has built a visually and, yes, emotionally rich alternate reality.

Before I saw the movie, I heard that this Marvel movie was “different”. I assumed that maybe meant it had an even bigger cast of characters than before, or that it was better than Age of Ultron, which people thought was kind of lame. That wasn’t what they meant. They were talking obliquely about the ending, which I will not talk about until you scroll down quite a bit further.

For some reason I thought “Infinity War” referred to the galactic scope of a war, or maybe to a war that gets stuck in some kind of time loop as in Doctor Strange. Nope. The war is named after the stones that the bad guy, Thanos, is looking for. When the movie begins, Thanos has one of the infinity stones already, the power stone (purple). He has attached it to a golden gauntlet on his left fist, which would look ridiculous if he weren’t an immense and very ruthless villain.

Thanos is looking for the remaining five stones. He is missing the space stone (blue), the reality stone (red), the soul stone (orange), the time stone (green), and the mind stone (yellow). If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen these stones in other Marvel movies. For the sake of the universe, we hope they stay hidden.

See below for a summary with SPOILERS. I’ve done a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, but the sequence may be a bit weird. The movie cut back and forth between the different sets of characters more than my summary does, so things are a little out of order.
Continue reading Avengers 3: Infinity War (2018)

The Remains of the Day (1993)

After Rachel of the Hungry Hundred Book Club chose The Remains of the Day for April 2018, I decided I was going to skip out on reading it. I read it half a lifetime ago, and remembered enough not to want to read it again. (It’s poignant, not my preferred mood for fiction.)

Among the DVDs I bought second-hand from a neighbor over a year ago was a copy of the 1993 Anthony Hopkins / Emma Thompson film version, so I figured I could just watch the movie instead of reading the book. (Normally that’s cheating, but like I said, I already did read the book. Also, it was a particularly well-made movie.)

I remembered that the book was about a butler who passed up his opportunity for love because he was too busy doing his job, and that there was something wrong with his master’s politics, such that the butler’s devotion was somehow even more thoroughly wrong-headed than it would have been otherwise.

The wistfulness of looking back on a wasted lifetime is nicely captured in a poem by Edgar Lee Masters called “George Gray”. Even more succinctly: A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

Although I did not re-read the book, and in some ways found the movie painful to watch, I very much enjoyed the book group meetup. See below for some of the themes and scenes we discussed.

Continue reading The Remains of the Day (1993)

The Fugitive by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I enjoyed this short, out-of-print book more than I necessarily expected to. It got off to a slow start, especially for such a short novel, but it gave me lots of food for thought.

The Fugitive was written by a highly regarded Indonesian nationalist. In writing about the book, I learned that the author’s name, though in three parts, is not a first, middle, and last name with the family name last. It’s just a name. He is referred to as “Pramoedya” (which is also spelled “Pramudya”) or just “Pram”.

Read more about the book in my Backlist books post about The Fugitive at Asian Books Blog.

When and Why I Read The Fugitive

I am reading this Indonesian novel for my Backlist books column at Asian Books Blog.

Genre: Fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 17-Apr-2018 / 23-Apr-2018
Length: 171
ISBN: 0688086985
Originally published in: 1950/1990
Amazon link: The Fugitive

The Movie Book

Reading The Movie Book, I got the strong impression that, regardless of its genre, every movie I like is basically the same movie: an uplifting story with a conventional structure, an admirable main character, and an upbeat conclusion. This book, in contrast, expresses appreciation of many kinds of movie, seemingly few of them cheerful.

Still, some of my personal favorites are considered great cinema; I am a fan of the quite historic Wizard of Oz, for example. In contrast, although intellectually I understand that Blade Runner is a classic, I found it largely unpleasant to watch. Oldboy was much worse. Those are two hours of my life I really wish I could get back.

Lesson learnt. Watching “good” movies—or even “important” movies—as if movies can be measured on a universal scale is not a recipe for enjoyment. Taste is personal.

Here’s an interactive list of the 116 movies featured in the book. (It doesn’t list the 88 honorable mentions described briefly at the back of the book, but this post does.) Among them are some movies I have not seen that I would like to see—some that I think I would actually enjoy (e.g., Singin’ in the Rain) and others that are not my cup of tea but would be interesting and give me a stronger grounding in the history of film (e.g., King Kong).

When and Why I Read The Movie Book

I like books. I like movies. I like checklists. Surely I will enjoy a book that consists of a checklist of movies.

Genre: non-fiction (reference; film)
Date started / date finished: 02-Apr-2018 / 17-Apr-2018
Length: 343 pages
ISBN: 9780241188026
Originally published in: 2015
Amazon link: The Movie Book