Ice truck slogans

I’m fascinated by the commercial vehicles in Singapore, especially JM Ice trucks.

J.M. Ice: There’s always a better service!

This bizarre slogan is struggling mightily to convey the message, “Our service is always better!” but unfortunately suggests that “There’s always a better service than ours!”

Iceman: You ring, we bring.

Descriptive, concise, memorable. Could apply to anything being delivered, though.

Tuck Lee: Have ice will revel.

So pithy, clever and downright hip, it’s no wonder they trademarked it! You win, Tuck Lee.

Jackie Chan comes to Plaza Singapura to launch Kung Fu Yoga

When I went to see Railroad Tigers, I saw signs heralding Jackie Chan’s visit to Plaza Singapura, so I made sure I was there. I should have made sure I was there earlier…

Below are the best of the lousy photos I managed to snap amidst the forest of arms. Clearly I was not cut out for the life of the paparazzi. Still, I did get to hear and glimpse one of my favorite movie stars, which is a thing I never really expected would happen—especially because Jackie Chan routinely almost dies.

Continue reading Jackie Chan comes to Plaza Singapura to launch Kung Fu Yoga

Railroad Tigers (2016)

In Railroad Tigers, Jackie Chan’s character is a Chinese villager living under the yoke of the Japanese army during WWII. He is the leader of a secret rebel group, the Flying Tigers. He leads the small, patriotic group on raids to harass and steal from Japanese soldiers stationed on the trains that pass through his village. They aren’t soldiers, though, and although they constantly risk getting caught, they never really accomplish much. What can they do to truly help their country? When a wounded soldier tells them he has failed in his mission to blow up an important bridge nearby, they know what to do… but not how to do it. Will they succeed?

Almost the whole film happens on a train, though there are some scenes in the village as well. I laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it. Those who have disparaging things to say may have found the pro-China and anti-Japanese themes distasteful; or they may dislike silly action movies, since many action movies these days are gritty, dark, or at least largely serious in tone; or perhaps it’s partly just that they’re English speakers who don’t like having to experience jokes via subtitles.

In fact I wish my Mandarin (and my Japanese) were stronger, because then I’d have been able to appreciate the dialog better. Nevertheless, even though I mostly had to rely on the English subtitles to understand the dialog, it was still hilarious. And you don’t need subtitles for the slapstick comedy, anyway; you could get a fair amount of enjoyment from the movie even with the subtitles off—assuming you like slapstick.

In fact, the main reasons I like Jackie Chan’s movies are: (a) they’re silly, and (b) each of his characters is charmingly and effectively protective. Moreover, as other reviewers unfailingly point out, it’s amazing that Jackie Chan is still not just alive but also kicking. Hats off to an amazing and very dedicated lifelong artist!

I’m looking forward to the next Jackie Chan movie already, and I don’t have long to wait: Kung Fu Yoga is being released in Singapore this week.

No-boarding and No-alighting Zones

The intent of this phrase is to designate zones in which people are permitted neither to get in a taxi nor to get out of one.

However, I think “no-boarding and no-alighting” is a whopping long phrase to use as an adjective in front of the noun “zones”. It’s so cumbersome that my initial inclination was to read it as an elliptical formation designating two different kinds of zones:

[Be aware of the] no-boarding [zones] and [the] no-alighting zones.

This would be analogous to a sentence like:

If the medium-size shirt doesn’t fit, let me know; there are bigger [sizes] and smaller sizes available.

Obviously there are no sizes each of which is both “bigger and smaller”; the adjectives are separate, and there’s a noun implied but omitted after the first one.

I’m not even sure the intended reading of “no-boarding and no-alighting zones” is syntactically possible, unless you hyphenate the whole thing, which would be ugly and probably violate most style guidelines:

No-boarding-and-no-alighting Zones

Since there’s a set of illustrations below the text, I think probably I would write it as:

No boarding or alighting in these zones.

Or, even shorter:

Do not board or alight in these zones.

The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

To call this movie didactic is to make ‘didactic’ a compliment! The story is a clever allegory about a boy who’s bored because he’s lazy, jaded, or both. When he suddenly finds a huge gift box in his bedroom one day after school, he pulls it open to find a tollbooth and a car that takes him through a gate to another world, where he must convince two kings to allow Rhyme and Reason to return to a land suffering from chaos and discord. On the way he has to learn to value knowledge and thinking using words and numbers as tools to defeat the demons that lurk in the Mountains of Ignorance.

Much of my love for this movie is probably nostalgia, but even if you’ve never seen it before, I think you’ll love the colorful Dr. Seuss–like visuals, the allegorical names, and the thrilling adventure quest itself.

The movie is mostly a cartoon, but opens and closes with live-action sequences filmed and set in San Francisco.

I was so pleased when Warner Brothers released The Phantom Tollbooth on DVD. I loved the movie for years. I must have seen it by borrowing it on VHS tape from the library, Turtles, or Blockbuster, and I probably only read the classic 1961 book years after the fact.

I was reminded of The Phantom Tollbooth when I watched Disney’s Robin Hood because one of the voice actors (Candy Candido, who has a very distinctive, very low voice) is in both. In this movie, as the Awful Din, he sings: “Haaaaave youuuuu… ever heard an elephant tap dance, on a tin roof late at night? That’s noise! Beautiful noise!”

Keep reading for a detailed plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

Report suspicious individuals or items

… but not both?

Another problem with conjunctions!

The intent is:

Report all the suspicious individuals and all the suspicious items you notice.

But it’s getting confused with:

If you see a suspicious individual or item, report it.

It should say:

Report [any] suspicious individuals and items.

RahXephon (2002)

The show has stunning visuals; long, meditative pauses; a sci-fi plot with humanoid aliens; giant mechas, good and bad; Mayan design motifs; a coming-of-age story; time distortion; love triangles; a chosen one; an immortality quest; military loyalty and in-fighting; and more hidden identities than you can shake a stick at. Weird as the show is, it all comes together in the end (unlike Lost). Highly recommended!

I bought this set in Singapore very cheaply—too cheaply, it turns out. The picture quality for a good third of the episodes is terrible. Though the box has the MDA approval sticker on it, I don’t think the discs are legit.

Furthermore, this version has English subtitles but no English audio, except for the random words that are in English in the original. Hearing the original audio is somewhat edifying because I still remember some Japanese words from a class I took back in… 2002, coincidentally. However, I watched the show in English years ago, and I remember the story as being thoroughly weird even without subtitles that come across as error-prone, awkward or downright mystifying.

I want to watch the show (and the movie) with English audio and better quality video, and I feel bad for buying some kind of knock-off—I really try not to do that, since I think the content owners should always get the requisite fees. Luckily, there’s a RahXephon DVD set on Amazon again.

Tim Ho Wan

My husband and I recently started calling Tim Ho Wan “Tim Mo’ Fun” as that was the best of the silly names he came up with when trying to remember (or pretending to try to remember) the actual name of this cheap Michelin-starred restaurant. “Tim So Fun” is a pretty good fake name, too.

About half the time, I misremember the name as Tim Wo Han. Today when I ate there, however, I noticed that the Cantonese word “ho” in the name corresponds to the familiar character meaning “good”, which I know is pronounced “hao” in Mandarin, so I should be able to remember the whole thing the right way around next time.

The name, as far as I can tell, is pronounced “tiān hǎo yùn” in Mandarin and means something like “add good luck”.

Speaking of luck, I hear that New York just got its first Tim Ho Wan outlet in December 2016, and that people are going nuts over the food! As well they should. Personally, I feel lucky that I don’t have to wait outside in New York winter weather to eat at Tim Mo’ Fun. Consistently balmy Singapore has several Tim Ho Wans, and if you feel cold while waiting in line at one, it’s not because of the weather, it’s because of the aircon.

The pork BBQ buns, one of what they call the Big Four Heavenly Kings (the dishes printed on the promotional tissue packet above), are the best thing on the menu, but there are many delicious dim sum items available.

Store vs. shop

I, an American, am now having trouble using the word “store” to designate the retail establishments in which you buy stuff; those are called “shops” in British English. Here, “store” means “storeroom” or “storage room”, though I doubt the short form “store” is used in the UK…

“Stores” can also mean “supplies” or “inventory”, but the word you’ll hear in shops here is “stock(s)”. If a shop has run out of a particular item, the shopkeeper will say something like “no stock” or “got no more stock already” or “stock finish already” and probably also make a waffling motion with one or both hands.

Interestingly, you can write either:

While stocks last!


While stock lasts!

but my guess is that the second one is far less common in part because the “sts” consonant cluster at the end is hard to say. I think it also makes sense to use the plural version of “stocks” because typically, the shop is selling individual items, not something measured in volume or by weight, so using the mass noun would be a bit strange.

“While stock last!” is just wrong, but that doesn’t mean nobody writes it.

Anyway, a ballpoint pen isn’t what I would call exquisite, Photoshop sparkles notwithstanding.

So anyway, today I chuckled when I saw a sign on a door near a public restroom that said “janitor store”. Surely it’s not a place to buy janitors, though with a bit of imagination it could be a place where janitors shop…