So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

This fourth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy by Douglas Adams is not as fun as the first three. Hapless human protagonist Arthur Dent isn’t roaming the galaxy anymore; he’s back on Earth somehow, even though the Earth was destroyed. Purely by accident, he falls and misses the ground, thus learns to fly. He also falls in love.

When and why I read So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

I was prompted to re-read the series when a friend decided to throw a HHGTTG-themed party for her 42nd birthday.

Genre: fiction (comedy/science-fiction)
Date started / date finished:  15-Oct-18 to 15-Oct-18
Length: 152 pages
Originally published in: 1984
Amazon link: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy by Douglas Adams

First a BBC radio show and then a series of painstaking novels, later a BBC miniseries and later still a video game and even a Hollywood movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy offers a multitude of zany insights into the the philosophical conundra of the ages.

If you have not read the original book trilogy, do not stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and above all, don’t panic. Just go and read it right now. Dozens of pop-culture references and in-jokes will suddenly make sense, even though the books themselves often don’t, and you’ll be able to join in the annual Towel Day celebrations on May 25th.

The books are available in a wide variety of styles and formats, but I love this cover art by Peter Cross. I bought these fantastic American book club edition hardcovers at a thrift store when I was in college. A friend in high school originally recommended the series and lent me her copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide omnibus.

When and why I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy

I was prompted to re-read the series when a friend decided to throw a HHGTTG-themed party for her 42nd birthday.

Genre: fiction (comedy/science-fiction)
Amazon link: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Date started / date finished:  12-Oct-18 to 13-Oct-18
Length: 209 pages
Originally published in: 1979

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Date started / date finished:  13-Oct-18 to 14-Oct-18
Length: 217 pages
Originally published in: 1980

Life the Universe and Everything
Date started / date finished:  14-Oct-18 to 15-Oct-18
Length: 182 pages
Originally published in: 1982

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The cover of Ready Player One says “Enchanting. WILLY WONKA meets THE MATRIX.” —USA Today. I thought it was more like Second Life meets Speed Racer meets Surrogates.

OASIS, the book’s highly advanced and therefore seemingly magical virtual world, in some ways resembles Second Life, an online platform where user avatars can interact with one another in a variety of digital settings for business, education, entertainment, or personal reasons. In both cases, the world is fake but the social and economic relationships inside it are very real.

The book embodies modern liberal values such as the superiority of science over superstition, the urgency of the need for alternative energy sources, the right to online anonymity, the idea that information (and thus education) wants to be free, the equality of all races, genders, and sexual orientations, the importance of inner beauty, the protection of basic human rights, and, of course, the inherent evil of money-grubbing mega-corporations run by villains who, like Speed Racer‘s E.P. Arnold Royalton, will not hesitate to take with deadly force whatever their obscene piles of cash can’t buy.

To the extent that the book has a message, it’s that of the mediocre 2009 Bruce Willis movie Surrogates: the real world should be more important to humans than any substitute. However, the whole of Ready Player One seems to argue the exact opposite: “The digital world is really cool, guys! We can use it to live in our own retro-futuristic fantasy worlds, like, forever!” The moral of the story thus seems not just tacked on but insincere.

What, then, is the point? The novel is an unsubtle homage to the pop culture of several decades set in a technologically superior “dystopia”, though anything with so much baked-in wish-fulfillment can’t possibly be properly dystopian, if you ask me.

But hey. At least there’s a Firefly reference in there.

See below for more thoughts on the novel as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Does “oblong” mean “rectangle”?

Imagine you are reading 1984 by George Orwell, and you come across this passage:

The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

So. What shape is the telescreen? Does “oblong” mean “rectangle”?

Continue reading Does “oblong” mean “rectangle”?

Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

This box set contains three folk tales told in Singlish style: The Three Little Pigs Lah, The Red Riding Hood Lah, and The Goldilocks Lah.

The plots are not very different from other adaptations of these familiar tales. The characters are not very different, except that the bears in the story of Goldilocks are not bears but wolves, a change presumably made to connect the third book with the first two. The setting for the stories is Singapore. The illustrations are a mix of drawings and photos of objects and places, and each book’s drawings are by a different artist.

The appeal of these books (in general and for me specifically) is that they use and teach Singlish dialect and slang expressions. The target audience includes both those who want to see their own dialect used for humorous effect and those who are unfamiliar with Singlish and interested in increasing their understanding of it.

See below for more details about these books.

Continue reading Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

Book launch for The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup

H.S. Norup, a fellow member of the Singapore Writers’ Group, has published her first novel, The Missing Barbegazi, with Pushkin Press.

Here she is launching her book at the atrium of the Singapore National Library during the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. She gave a presentation offering some background on the book and its characters, read an excerpt aloud, and signed and sold all the copies at the festival bookshop. It went great!

Photos below.

Continue reading Book launch for The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup

Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition by Morgan Chua

Caricatures don’t make much sense if you don’t know what’s being exaggerated or why….. There was some background information included in the front of the book, but mostly this is a collection of political cartoons that I don’t have enough context to appreciate.

The author is a Singapore-born cartoonist, and the cartoons were originally published in book form in 1989.

The events that took place at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 4 June 1989 attracted international attention and sparked outrage at the Chinese government’s military advance on student demonstrators. Since then, a new generation of Chinese has grown up in a country that continues to grapple with issues of political liberalisation, democracy and censorship.

When and Why I Read Tiananmen

I bought it on sale at localbooks.sg.

Genre: non-fiction (graphic novels, politics and history)
Date started / date finished:  28-Aug-18 to 30-Aug-18
Length: 128 pages
ISBN: 9789810779276
Originally published in: 2014
Amazon link: Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition

Four books from LocalBooks.sg

Singapore online bookseller localbooks.sg has done some good branding work. The bubble envelope is bold and cheerful, and the books I ordered came with a friendly note on which someone had written my name, and a little word search that promotes local authors.

See below to find out which books I ordered. (They were on sale.)

Continue reading Four books from LocalBooks.sg

The Darkest Minds (2018)

Starring the actress who played Rue in The Hunger Games (2012), The Darkest Minds was like Wrinkle in Time (2018) plus X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but better in some ways than either one.

I wish I’d known it was based on the first book in a series and not a standalone story; then the pacing would have made more sense.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-darkest-minds/id1412296702

The reviews reflect a general consensus that though the cast was good, the movie feels like a timid, bland echo of other dystopian stories. I dunno, sweet and safe isn’t necessarily bad. Here’s a representative “meh” kind of review, from IGN.

Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

See below for discussion of the following questions related to my recent Funzing talk on language:

  • How do people like the Hopi whose language does not have words for left and right keep track of the cardinal directions?
  • The Hopi have a less egocentric idea of the locations of things. Does that correlate with a less egocentric kind of worldview or ethics?
  • Since language has a biological basis, doesn’t that mean that linguistic relativity is a myth?
  • What’s the difference between studying a language and using it?
  • How does using sign language differ from using a spoken language?
  • How do memes (macro images), smileys (aka emoticons or emojis), text-speak and other digital innovations relate to more traditional forms of communication?
  • Why might reading something in two different languages produce two different impressions?
  • Do there exist languages (like a fictitious Star Trek alien one) that are extremely difficult or impossible to translate because they rely noticeably more on metaphors and allusions?
  • What are some other properties of language that might make one language appear strange compared to another?

Continue reading Does your language control you? Lingering questions.