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.

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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 that looked festive yet incongruous—none more so than this sign:

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

Below are 30 more holiday photos.

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Book shopping in Melbourne

I enjoyed visiting four different bookshops in downtown Melbourne.

Hill of Content Bookshop sells new books. I was surprised to see that they had two full-height shelves on the subject of “Critical Thinking”. I was even more surprised when I noticed that the adjacent subject was “Religion”, and had only been allotted one full-height shelf. Ouch.

It isn’t as if there’s less to say on the subject of religion…

The Paperback sells only new books, but the space felt cram-packed with an eclectic mix of books the way a used book shop feels.

They seemed to be doing a thriving business.

Kay Craddock is a longstanding Antiquarian Bookseller with a charming collection of hundreds of owl figurines perched on the shelves alongside the books. The place reminded me somewhat of the venerable Atlanta Vintage Books, where I used to work.

City Basement Books sells used and rare books, and after emerging from a confusing tangle of twists and turns among the shelves, I bought three.

(1) Changing English (2) Mots D’Heures: Gousses, Rames (3) Spreading the Word

 

I went skydiving!

My husband Aquinas did, too. There are no photos and no video, though, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to imagine us skydiving. You can have a look at Nzone’s Instagram photos or their promo video; that should help. After all, one person in goggles and coveralls falling from the sky and grinning from ear to ear is much like another.

See below for my notes on why we went skydiving, what it was like, and why I’m glad I didn’t record the experience.

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Rocks from New Zealand

The iridescent marbles at the top left are magnetic hematite from Hettie’s Rock and Crystal Shop in Queenstown.

The polished green thing that looks like a miniature bookend is a piece of New Zealand greenstone (jade) that I bought at ReflectioNZ, a shop and cafe in Fox Glacier.

The ten rocks in between are rocks I picked up on the Fox Glacier trail we went on.

The rest are from the wharf area in Queenstown.

The drive to Queenstown and Queenstown

People go to Queenstown not to hang around the town itself but to explore the surrounding area. Many of the shops in town are souvenir shops, but even more of them are glorified concierge desks where you can book activities like boat tours and sightseeing flights. Oh, and skydiving. (I went skydiving!)

Below are 42 photos of the scenery on the way from Fox Glacier to Queenstown, including a stretch of road delightfully lined with purple wildflowers; an unbelievably precipitous stretch of road; gorgeous mountains by the lakes; and a genius construction traffic light.

Then there are also a few (15) photos in Queenstown itself, including photos of birds, flowers, and signs.

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The Black Cat Bookshop, Queenstown

Okay, so Queenstown has some pretty interesting things to do.

For example, you can strap on a device that uses pressurized water to propel you into the air.

“Flyboard. Fly like a superhero.”

Alternatively, you can splash around in one of the lakes in a strange submarine jet thingy that is painted to look like a shark.

“Hydro Attack. The ultimate blend of shark and machine.”

I did not sign up for either of those activities. I don’t like water.

If you ask me, the most exciting thing to do in Queenstown, New Zealand (apart from skydive) is browse among the used books at Black Cat Bookshop.

When I arrived at the shop and saw these paperbacks out front, I wasn’t sure whether I would find anything to my taste, but looking through the books on the shelves was sure to be an *interesting* experience.
I haven’t read any books by Murakami, and I don’t think I’d necessarily like them if I did, but I heartily approve of this quote: “If you only read [the] books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
In the end, I bought three books as to give as gifts plus this one for myself.
After exiting the mall I noticed this second-floor sign.
For those who might overlook the second-floor sign, there’s a sign on the sidewalk that says: “Help! Booksellers trapped inside on a beautiful day! Come buy all the books so we can escape.” Why would anyone want to escape from a room full of books, though?

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)

Moral values are and should be demonstrated through art, but it’s better that they be embedded deeply so that they shine through, rather than pasted to the surface like so many flashy glass jewels. I found The Last Jedi too didactic in its details and (possibly) too cynical in its approach. See below if you want to know why.

Continue reading Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)