I watched 65 movies in 2020. That sounds like a lot, even for a lockdown / quarantine / stay-at-home kind of year, even for someone with no kids.
On the other hand, I don’t watch television.
Let that sink in.
TV shows add up fast! Movies don’t require the same time commitment. They come in self-contained 90-minute or two-hour chunks. Movie marathons are less likely to occur than TV binge-watching because not every movie is part of a series, and movies don’t tend to end in cliffhangers.
See below for stats and favorites.
Continue reading Movies Watched in 2020
I like sci-fi movies, and I like Tom Cruise movies, but I don’t like this particular sci-fi Tom Cruise movie, which I just watched for perhaps the second or third time. It’s a murder mystery that thinks it’s sci-fi—a philosophical murder mystery with some annoying CGI and a dash of horror.
See below for more thoughts (no spoilers).
Continue reading Minority Report (2002)
The sensibility of this version is different. Totally different. 😉
I like the overall feel of this version better than that of the 1990 movie, but the story is much, much worse. The conflict between the haves and the have-nots doesn’t hold up. The resolution is not one.
I’ve written about Total Recall (2012) before. Here’s what I have to say this time. Beware spoilers.
Continue reading Total Recall (2012) again
I cannot wholeheartedly recommend Steven Pinker’s style-guide / usage manual, but it does have a couple of important things to say about written English.
Respect Your Tools
Language has its own internal logic. Good writing respects that logic. Writers should study grammar explicitly rather than rely on intuition in order to communicate clearly, show respect for their readers, and inspire confidence in their work. Good writers are those who read widely enough to absorb good practices from a longstanding written English tradition. They know the rules but also when to break them.
Break the Rules
The Ancient and Venerable English Teachers’ Code—beloved by Grammar Nazis, Prescriptivists, Fussbudgets and Curmudgeons—is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules, and some of the guidelines will lead you astray because (a) Some were written by people who didn’t understand English and (b) Thanks to natural and inevitable language change, the English we use today differs from the English of the past.
See below for more details about what I liked and what I didn’t like about Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style.
Continue reading The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
When and Why I Read The Sense of Style
I bought this a while back. Finally getting around to it.
Date started / date finished: 22-Nov-20 to 01-Dec-20
Length: 368 pages
Originally published in: 2015
Amazon link: The Sense of Style
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the original Total Recall was one of the most expensive movies of its time, and like a lot of movies based on stories by Philip K. Dick, it has an interesting premise. It’s a classic of the sci-fi/action genre and its plot is a lot cleverer than that of the remake, but it’s still too bloody for my taste. Here’s what I wrote about it before.
I wrote a post about The Golden Chersonese for Asian Books Blog.
A paperback edition of The Golden Chersonese was published in 2010 by Monsoon Books. The text is also available free from Gutenberg.org along with various other works by Isabella Bird.
Bird traveled around the world in the late 1800s, largely unaccompanied. This volume of hers, one among a dozen published works, contains letters describing her experiences in the Malaysian Peninsula, where she traveled after stopping briefly in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore.
Reading the letters without much in the way of added historical context left me feeling somewhat adrift, but the book was worth reading for the strange feeling it gave me of traveling not just in space but in time.
See below for some notes on what makes this travelogue very much of its time and not ours.
Continue reading The Golden Chersonese by Isabella Bird
When and Why I Read The Golden Chersonese
"A nineteenth-century Englishwoman's travels in Singapore and the Malay peninsula."
Genre: travel / Southeast Asia
Date started / date finished: 09-Nov-20 to 23-Nov-20
Length: 352 pages
Originally published in: 1883/2010
Amazon link: The Golden Chersonese
Both servings of Singapore Siu Dai offer comics and brief comedy sketches that exaggerate the ironies of life on the island and lovingly poke fun at aptly named fictional characters meant to caricature the island’s people.
Though I can’t help but feel that the target audience consists of people who are familiar with acronyms like MOE (Ministry of Education) and the ubiquitous Singlish speech particle ‘lah’, there’s a glossary that explains these and other potentially opaque terms, noting whether they are Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin or Singlish.
Luckily for foreign readers, one of the entries explains the phrase ‘siu dai’, which means ‘less sugar’, the idea being that these sketches depict Singapore, warts and all.
There’s a third Siu Dai book that I haven’t yet managed to snag.
When I Read Singapore Siu Dai 1 and 2
Singapore Siu Dai 1
Date started / date finished: 17-Nov-20 to 17-Nov-20
Length: 129 pages
Originally published in: 2014
Singapore Siu Dai 2
Date started / date finished: 19-Nov-20 to 23-Nov-20
Length: 139 pages
Originally published in: 2014
This is the grandaddy of all the other books on Singlish. This paperback, containing reprints of two originally separate volumes from 1982 and 1986, contains a wealth of acronyms, onomatopoeias, words, phrases, and chants in or derived from English, Malay, and the locally spoken Chinese dialects Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew.
Continue reading The Complete Eh, Goondu! by Sylvia Toh Paik Choo
When and Why I Read The Complete Eh, Goondu!
This is a list of Singlish words and phrases with explanations, grouped into chapters.
Genre: Reference (English, Singapore)
Date started / date finished: 26-Oct-20 to 19-Nov-20
Length: 221 pages
Originally published in: 2011
Amazon link: The Complete Eh, Goondu!
Singaporean graphic designer Hang Kwong Lim struck internet gold when he transformed the names of all Singapore’s MRT stations into logos resembling those of famous local and international brands.
My first thought was “Hm, that’s interesting…” and my next thought was “Oh, I recognize some of these,” and my doom was “I think I’ll share this with my boyfriend.” The two of us proceeded to spend over three hours together on Skype puzzling them out.
Some answers were really obvious, some were less obvious, some came in a flash of uncanny insight accompanied by a feeling that was equal parts pride and utter mystification in the face of the veiled mysteries of the workings of the human mind. A few of them, I admit, we got by the simple expedient of using Google’s “search by image” feature. I only looked at answers in Facebook comments for the last two, because TBH I didn’t realize the answers were there.
Keep reading for a complete list of answers and my thoughts on this delightful excursion into the world of branding. Visit the Mothership post first if you want to work out the answers on your own!
Continue reading Singapore MRT station names as famous brand logos
Award-winning Singaporean author Catherine Lim has written many books, but this is the first one to find its way into my collection. I don’t think it’s typical; it’s a rather short novel based on a cruise she went on.
I’m not a fan of semi-fictionalized stories (like Roots) that chase two rabbits and catch neither. Memoir-type stories are interesting as accurate representations of unusual situations, whereas novels entertain by telling carefully constructed, dramatic stories. If you’re composing a memoir, you create drama by choosing what to include and what to omit, but you don’t invent things. If you’re writing a novel, you invent pretty much everything. If you switch back and forth from recording to creating, I never know whether you’re relating something that happened, or something you imagined. The result is a feeling of cognitive dissonance.
The genesis of Meet Me was, according to the author’s preface, accidental, and its publication reluctant. When Lim was on the Queen Elizabeth 2, she wanted to write satirically about the people she met. After penning her thoughts, however, she found that the ship had subverted her intentions and made her instead write unflatteringly about herself, at which point she thought maybe she wouldn’t actually publish anything about the cruise. Nevertheless, here we are. And there she is on the cover.
If you’re going to read a navel-gazing book about a female author’s mid-life crisis, read Eat, Pray, Love. There’s a reason Elizabeth Gilbert’s quest to find God or a man or whatever is one that hundreds of thousands of people have read about and/or watched. To the extent that Gilbert rewrote her own experiences by leaving out the messy or unsatisfying bits, her story became stronger as a story. When we read narrative non-fiction, we still look for narrative as well as truth.
When and Why I Read Meet Me on the Queen Elizabeth 2
First book I've read by this well-known Singapore novelist.
Date started / date finished: 10-Oct-20 to 11-Oct-20
Length: 210 pages
Originally published in: 1993
Amazon link: Meet Me on the Queen Elizabeth 2