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.


One Mississippi

That’s the name of a folk song sung by Steve Seskin*. The chorus goes:

The seconds turn to minutes
The minutes into hours
The hours into long, lonely days
This waitin’ on you, darlin’
Is takin’ all my will power
I keep countin’ all the moments you’re away
One Mississippi, two Mississippi
Without you, girl, I’m blue Mississippi.

It struck me that people who don’t live in the U.S. probably don’t use ‘Mississippi’ to count the passing of seconds. The only other placeholder I could think of was ‘one hundred’. But there are lots! What’s strange is that some have two syllables, some have three, some have four, and some have five, so surely they’re not all equally accurate…

I wonder what words people use in other languages?

*I met Steve Seskin while I was on Qwest West in 1998.

MYE: Meiyuer Cables

The trademarked name on this “High-speed USB 2.0 extension cable” is “MYE Meiyuer Cables”.

Students of Romance languages might be forgiven for thinking ‘Meiyuer’ is a kreative spelling of the word ‘meilleur’ meaning ‘better’ in French, because that double ‘ll’ sounds like a ‘y’ and it’s a plausible positive-connotation company name.

  • French: meilleur
  • Spanish: mejor
  • Italian: meglio
  • German: besser
  • Dutch: beter
  • Danish: bedre
  • English: better (ameliorate means ‘to make better’—further proof that English is schizophrenic)

Okay, so probably this Chinese company did not choose a Romance language name. What does it mean? I dunno, let’s ask Line Dict.


This tool, which I love, by the way, is coming up with the name of an opera composer named Étienne Nicolas Méhul, because ‘Meiyuer’ is presumably as close a transliteration as is possible. But I guess I didn’t really expect the dictionary to tell me the meaning of a brand name.

Probably the company name uses ‘měiyù’ meaning ‘good reputation’? But it could also be using the characters for ‘beautiful jade’… Hang on, why don’t I just look up Meiyuer, the company, online?

Ohhhh, now I’m getting flashbacks of the editing/fact-checking job I had that involved looking at a lot of Chinese companies’ websites. They’re practically all red and clunky looking with ugly fonts, bad punctuation and English that ranges from unintelligible to unintentionally poetic…


Anyway, this company’s name in characters is 美鱼儿, which is pronounced ‘měiyúér’, and in English apparently means ‘beautiful fish child’. (I’m still mystified.)

‘(Little) Mermaid’ is close (but no cigar).


Interestingly, it seems the company uses both the traditional and simplified versions of the characters… maybe because Guangdong borders Hong Kong, where traditional characters are the norm.

The point of all this was to say that in Singapore, I’ve noticed a tendency to make acronyms using one letter for each syllable rather than each word, because in Chinese, all the syllables are (more or less) considered separate words.

For example, if you look at the word Meiyuer, you probably wouldn’t split it into MYE, right? Unless you knew pinyin, in which case it’s obviously Mei Yu Er, even though they didn’t write it that way.

Oh, you thought I had something to say about the cable itself?


Wear and use your personal protective equipments

Pluralized uncountable nouns are a pet peeve of mine. The one that’s most frequently publicly wrong is ‘equipments’ because it’s posted at every construction site, and there are a lot of construction sites.

cuisines (meaning ‘dishes’)
slangs, jargons

I’ve also noticed uncountable nouns being used in the singular, which is just as wrong.

a bread (meaning ‘a bun or roll’)
a paper (meaning ‘a piece of paper’)

There are many words that are countable about half the time and uncountable about half the time, which I’m sure doesn’t tend to help people to understand the underlying distinction.

effort / efforts
content / contents
experience / experiences
praise / praises
detail / details
instruction / instructions
input / inputs
dialogue / dialogues

Recently I saw an email from a marketing agency in which the text of the ads was referred to as ‘ad copies’ instead of ‘ad copy’. Ack, no.

Fighting such errors may be impossible in the long run, because in principle there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to say ‘equipments’, and obviously people here already feel perfectly free to do so. Until uncountable nouns die off completely, though, you’re better off knowing how to use them correctly.

Main Wait

National Heart Centre Singapore logo

  • Nice new 12-story building? Check.
  • Nifty quasi-anatomical logo? Check.
  • Building signs checked by English expert? Nope.

The signs in this waiting area at the National Heart Centre Singapore say “Main Wait” when they should say something like “Main Waiting Area”.

To be fair, “wait” can be a noun as well as a verb (but I don’t think it means what you think it means). Also, the signs are totally intelligible, so… close enough, I guess!

No, actually the real problem is that there’s ample waiting space in some parts of the building and not enough in others. My guess is, it’s easy to design a building, but hard to design a building that is used by people. Which is every building, actually.

Loop Sop (Luk Chup)

at Diandin Leluk at Golden Mile Complex

Loop sop. Thai marzipan? We saw these colorful thingies on the dessert page of the menu at Diandin Leluk and had to try them.

Via smartphone, the internet told us what they’re made of (bean paste) and what they’re usually called (luk chup), and confirmed our intuition that they’re relatively rare among Thai dessert offerings (mango sticky rice ftw). Despite several trips to Bangkok, we couldn’t remember having seen them. If we had seen them, we would definitely remember!

I see eggplants in two shapes, watermelons, chilies, and rose apples. (We called rose apples ‘nose fruits’ before we knew what they were supposed to be called.) I think the orange things are papayas. The yellow things look like onions. Not sure about the pink or green ones. And no, they don’t taste different.

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

Andrew Keen’s rant, The Cult of the Amateur, is, like all rants, intellectually undermined by its angry tone. The book contains a substantial amount of scorn and Chicken Little–style alarmism, with, unsurprisingly, a dash of nostalgia for the good old days.

Nevertheless, the book has real polemical value insofar as it raises awareness of quality and the expertise required to achieve it.

If you want to hear more about this book from an expert reader (and amateur reviewer), keep reading.

Continue reading The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War overall. The major theme is choice, taking responsibility for one’s own actions and their consequences.

Some people seem to be reading implications about the role of America in international politics and policing into it, but I mostly think they’re missing the point.

Watch on Amazon

SPOILERS below, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Captain America: Civil War (2016)