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.

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.

Bleeding Steel (2017)

Take Jackie Chan’s “loving father / brave protector” role from The Foreigner (2017), 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.

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.

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.

Continue reading I went skydiving!

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.

Continue reading The drive to Queenstown and Queenstown

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?

The drive to Fox Glacier and Fox Glacier

I’m not a rock climber, hiker, trekker, or mountaineer, but I love mountains. The silence, the trees, the mist and clouds, the twisting, rushing rivers in valleys full of rocks… it’s all more magic than a harsh, empty, burning bright beach could ever be.

New Zealand is full of mountains, and some have snow or ice on them all year. We didn’t walk on or fly over any of the glaciers on the South Island, but I was happy we had the chance to stroll up near one of them.

There are 42 photos below.

Continue reading The drive to Fox Glacier and Fox Glacier