T’ung Shu: The Ancient Chinese Almanac is not the almanac itself, but rather an explanation and sample of what is in the almanac, a yearly publication with hundreds of years of history in Chinese culture.
My copy of this explanatory book is a quality hardcover with printing in both red ink and black ink on some pages. See below for what stood out, and when and why I read it.
I’ve never bought a copy of the actual almanac, though I’m sure it’s available in Singapore. Here’s an online version: http://www.dragon-gate.com/tool/almanac/
Continue reading T’ung Shu: The Ancient Chinese Almanac
Amazingly innovative, Cloud Atlas is a book that’s hard to describe and even harder to put down. I didn’t like it, but I absolutely think you should read it because it’s that interesting.
The (presumably rather Westernized) Buddhist themes of reincarnation and interconnectedness didn’t really bother me, though I prefer their opposites, transience and individuality. I think the movie scores better on individuality: there’s maybe as much emphasis on the line, “What is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” as there is on “Our lives are not our own; we are bound to others, past and present.” In both the book and the movie, the nature of truth is a major theme, and one I like.
In the book (but not the movie), two of the six protagonists were rather despicable, and the book’s view of humanity is bleak: the message seems to be that we keep repeating the same mistakes and don’t deserve a civilization, since we keep wrecking it in various ways, heroes notwithstanding.
For a kind of overview and more on what I thought including SPOILERS, keep reading, but only if you’ve read the book or don’t intend to.
Also see my post on the movie Cloud Atlas (2012).
Continue reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I don’t like murder mysteries because I don’t enjoy contemplating early deaths. Any justice achieved at the end of the story is rather after the fact for at least one victim. And Then There Were None is no exception.
However, in part because it is the celebrated work of a celebrated author, I’m not sorry I read it. For more thoughts on the the book (no big spoilers), see below.
Continue reading Ten Little Indians (And Then There Were None) by Agatha Christie
As is my habit, I brought back coins and bills from my trip.
I’m now only missing one out of 100 state quarters collected from circulation since 1999 (one for each state and for each of the two mints, the one in Philadelphia and the one in Denver). It was always harder for me to collect Denver coins when I lived in the Southeast and the Northeast, but unsurprisingly, in Denver there were a lot of Denver coins.
I made a bunch of squashed pennies in tourist machines in various places.
I traded with my mom’s friend who we were staying with to get money from Uruguay, Brazil, and several other countries.
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.
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.
- 13 Going on 30 (2004)
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
- Capture the Flag (2015)
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- 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)
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 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.
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.