Cheap used books from Colorado

I purposely did not go in any used bookstores while I was in the U.S. (though I admit I was tempted). Still, somehow I wound up returning from Denver to Singapore with these 21 used books. I bought them at two thrift stores where I went to buy pants. (Trousers? Whatever.)

These books cost me less than US$23.00 in total. (For the sake of comparison, note that the website of the most prominent bookstore in Singapore, Kinokuniya, lists new copies of the hardcover Four for the equivalent of about US$19.00.)

From a content standpoint, the book I’m most excited about is probably the psychology textbook. From a collecting standpoint, I’m most excited about Wolf Wing and the Percy Jackson books, because they match books I already own.

Are we there yet?

When I was a kid, I thought flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles, which I did maybe twice and which takes about five hours, was unimaginably far, because the flight from Atlanta to Nashville, which I took many times, only takes about one.

These days, if I don’t watch five or six movies, the flight feels like it’s over as soon as it starts.

Below is a list of the movies I watched on United Flight 1 from San Francisco to Singapore on June… actually I don’t know what day it was, technically, since we left on the 16th, flew for more than 16 hours, and arrived on the 18th.

  1. 13 Going on 30 (2004)
  2. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  3. Capture the Flag (2015)
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  5. Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day (1996)

Until my flight from San Francisco back to Singapore, I had never seen Independence Day. I knew it had a famous scene where an alien spaceship destroys the White House, but I didn’t really know anything else about it. I was disappointed.

I guess I was expecting it to have more subtlety. (I know, I know. It’s a disaster movie. Why did I think it was going to be subtle?)

See below for more of what I thought of Independence Day, including SPOILERS.

Continue reading Independence Day (1996)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

I did not want to be one of those people who think Paul Newman is “that salad dressing guy?” and my movie-watching experience is appallingly thin in the popular area of westerns, so I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the plane.

It was depressing to realize I was going to have to watch the characters circle the drain. In a way I didn’t, though: I fell asleep. So not the best movie experience ever.

The screenplay was written by William Goldman, the man responsible for The Princess Bride (1987)!

Maybe that accounts for the similarity in the protagonists’ behavior when chased by some really persistent trackers to that of Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo when chased by the Man in Black.

Capture the Flag (2015)

Capture the Flag was listed as an international movie in United’s online entertainment panel because it’s Spanish. So I was surprised to realize that the movie’s animation matched the English audio, and that the movie was about Americans.

The premise is that some kids break into a rocket and launch it to the moon, thus thwarting an evil businessman who wants to extract some kind of power-generating resource from the moon and destroy the flag of the original moon landing and simultaneously gratifying the grouchy failed astronaut grandfather and healing his relationship with the astronaut father.

I wanted to think it was cute, but I found it too implausible. Actually, I fell asleep. So it was really slow, or I was sleepy, or both.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Wow. Just wow. How is it that I had never seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure before?

The California dude voices. The vocabulary. The simplified historical content involving figures who (thankfully) were not depicted as speaking English unless they were actually English speakers. Futuristic George Carlin. (George Carlin!) The time travel phone booth. (Phone booth!)

The coolest part was probably how the characters solved problems in the present by planning to return to the present later to do something that would benefit them right then.

13 Going on 30 (2004)

The movie 13 Going on 30 seemed like it was going to be, and was, something like the 1998 Tom Hanks movie Big only with a girl protagonist.

I liked the fantasy element and the message, which is about being loyal and genuine and appreciating the now. Overall I thought it was cute and fun to watch if rather awkward in places.

The idea of magically becoming a different age is similar to the idea of body-swapping in movies like Freaky Friday (1976 and 2003), whose premise is that a girl changes bodies with her mother, thus gaining an adult perspective.

One review I read pointed out a similarity with Devil Wears Prada (2006): there’s a backstabbing New York career plot element.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Concluding remarks by George Murray Smith, the editor of The Cornhill Magazine, in which the installments of the unfinished novel Wives and Daughters were first published serially:

While you read any one of the last three books we have named [i.e, Wives and Daughters, Cousin Phillis, and Sylvia’s Lovers], you feel yourself caught out of an abominable wicked world, crawling with selfishness and reeking with base passions, into one where there is much weakness, many mistakes, sufferings long and bitter, but where it is possible for people to live calm and wholesome lives; and, what is more, you feel that this is at least as real a world as the other. The kindly spirit which thinks no ill looks out of her pages irradiate; and while we read them, we breathe the purer intelligence which prefers to deal with emotions and passions which have a living root in minds within the pale of salvation, and not with those which rot without it.

In other words, it is a book well worth reading. For more on what stood out, when and why I read it, and related works, see below.

Continue reading Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

The media response to Now You See Me 2 expresses the typical disappointment for the typical sequel. I agree that this one made less sense than Now You See Me. (It was still fun to watch.)

I think part of why it’s difficult to make a good sequel is that you have to use characters in a way that introduces them to new viewers while not boring those who already know them. Another part of why they’re hard is that, since they’re heroes in the first film, sometime near the beginning of the second film, you have to take something away from them. The second quest is more dire… they’re not underdogs anymore; they run the risk of being completely destroyed and they’re fighting not to win but merely to survive. Otherwise you just have a stale repeat of the original, and obviously that’s no good.

More on the plot and what I thought of it below, including SPOILERS.

Continue reading Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Zoolander 2 (2016)

Zoolander 2, the sequel to the now classic Zoolander, was better than I was led to believe. It seems to have failed to meet high expectations, but I didn’t think it was incoherent (whereas Point Break (2015), for example, was).

It had an interesting plot, but it wasn’t all plot… it had themes, too!

⦁    failure
⦁    ageing
⦁    fatherhood
⦁    abandonment
⦁    gender identity
⦁    obesity
⦁    loss

In fact, maybe there were too many themes. I’m not sure there was a theme overall, because all the issues that were raised were worked out in the end, and it’s not clear which was the central one. It’s not clear that a comedy would really need one, though… can’t a successful comedy just be an endless string of mostly unrelated jokes? Recycled jokes, even?

I liked Don Atari, the character who spoke nonsense, thus adding a lot to the “stranger in a strange world” disconnect that Derek and Hansel struggled with when they returned to the world of fashion. It was really painful to see how they were treated in their fashion relaunch, but that was the point.

I usually find comedy hard to stomach because inevitably some of the one-off jokes are offensive or just disgusting; certainly that’s true here. Nevertheless, other jokes succeed. Probably no two people would agree which jokes were funny and which weren’t.

I probably overlooked more than half the celebrity cameos since I don’t follow celebrity or fashion news. The cameos seem to be a major reason the movie was criticized… they’ll seem even less relevant to the movie in the future when these celebrities are less well known, assuming people even watch this movie in the future. Who knows, though? The first Zoolander movie wasn’t popular when it was first released either.