King Rat by James Clavell

Here’s a favorite quote from King Rat:

Writing can be just about the most important job in the whole world. If it’s any good…. A writer can put down on a piece of paper an idea—or a point of view. If he’s any good he can sway people, even if it’s written on toilet paper. And he’s the only one in our modern economy who can do it—who can change the world.

For some thoughts on the novel, check out my post on Asian Books Blog about King Rat.

When and Why I Read King Rat

I’m re-reading this novel for Asian Books Blog. I read it in 2001.

Genre: fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished:  14-Jan-18 to 26-Jan-18
Length: 352 pages
ISBN: 0440145465
Originally published in: 1962/1983
Amazon link: King Rat

Harry Potter in Russian

This copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Russian (ISBN 9785389077881) was a gift from Ilya Sergey (a colleague of my husband who does theoretical computery things) and his wife Lilia Anisimova (an illustrator who does computery things of an entirely different kind).

It is the latest addition to my collection of translations of Harry Potter books, which consists mostly of translations of book 3, but also includes some translations of book 1.

The title page of the Russian translation looks like this:

The text inside looks like this:

It’s incomprehensible and unpronounceable yet blessedly phonetic!

The book features a beautiful new cover illustration by Kazu Kibuishi. The spines of the books in the seven-book set form an image of Hogwarts, like so:

New versions in many languages now feature Kibuishi’s illustrations; only buy the Russian edition if you’re a crazy collector like me—or if you can actually read Russian.

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.

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.

Bleeding Steel (2017)

Take Jackie Chan’s “loving father / brave protector” role from The Foreigner, 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):

Bills and coins from New Zealand

I collected the current coins, the current bills, a slightly older set of bills, a couple of older coins, a special $10 note, and a squashed penny from The Interislander ferry.

Below is a chart showing when changes were made to New Zealand’s bills and coins. (The change from a yellow line to a green one indicates the switch to decimal currency.)

It seems like every government bank, bureau of printing and engraving, or monetary authority likes to taunt visitors with displays of cancelled bills no longer able to be used as money. Here’s the display at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand:

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.