Mobile Phone Protective Case

After I bought a Samsung S7 from a friend, I immediately bought a rubbery (thermoplastic polyurethane) case for it at the nearest mobile phone accessory kiosk. (Throw a rock in any direction in downtown Singapore and you’ll hit ten such kiosks.)

The text on the package is hilarious…

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A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the third book in what is sometimes called L’Engle’s Time Quartet, is a bit like Cloud Atlas in how people and their actions are connected across large expanses of time.

Charles Wallace Murray, a precocious child who is saved by his older sister Meg in A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, is a teenager in this book. Watched over telepathically by his sister, he rides the unicorn Gaudior to different eras and mentally inhabits a series of people. By influencing their decisions for good, and using an ancient Irish Christian prayer taught to him by his sister’s mother-in-law, he hopes to avert the nuclear apocalypse that is likely to be kicked off by an insane South American dictator whose Welsh ancestors migrated from the American town where the Murrays live.

I remember being confused by A Swiftly Tilting Planet when I was younger, but even as an adult I found the plot hard to follow. The bits I remembered best were about the unicorn (which is invariably shown on the cover).

See below for a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book as well as specific comments on what I liked and didn’t like about the book.

Continue reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

In the first half of A Wind in the Door, the companion to the Newberry Medal–winner A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murray hones her powers of discernment with moral support from a somewhat conceited conglomeration of dragons (which is invariably shown on the cover). It’s memorably gratifying when Meg recognizes the inner goodness in her little brother’s mediocre school principal, but when she does, there’s still, alas, a whole third of the book left!

The finale takes place in a sub-microscopic realm that’s hard to picture and introduces a new character who’s hard to care about, even though he’s somehow the key to winning the climactic battle between good and evil. Good luck ever turning this one into a movie, Disney.

When and Why I Read A Wind in the Door

When I recently read A Wrinkle in Time, some scenes seemed missing. I assume they are in the sequel.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 29-May-2018 / 29-May-2018
Length: 203
ISBN: 044098761X
Originally published in: 1973
Amazon link: A Wind in the Door

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (again)

A Wrinkle in Time is undoubtedly a strange children’s novel, but well worth reading, no less now than fifty years ago.

When and Why I Read A Wrinkle in Time

I just read this book recently, but then I read a whole lot of other things before I had the chance to read the books that follow it, so I’m just starting over.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 27-May-2018 / 29-May-2018
Length: 198
ISBN: 0440998050
Originally published in: 1962
Amazon link: A Wrinkle in Time

Deadpool 2 (2018)

This M18/R-rated movie carries a warning about “violence and coarse language”. You might think that’s standard boilerplate for any action movie, and maybe it is, but in this case, they’re really not kidding.

In case you missed the first Deadpool movie, Deadpool is a basically immortal, literally scarred super-anti-hero in a skin-tight red-and-black suit that, like Spider-Man’s, covers his whole head and eyes, and unlike Spider-Man’s, has two long swords attached to the back. Deadpool’s human name is Wade Wilson. The name “Deadpool” refers some kind of bet about who was going to die soonest, which turned out to be not Wade, obviously.

Deadpool spews a steady stream of pop-culture references, curses, and insults, often talking directly to the audience about how he’s in, like, the mother of all superhero movies. The Deadpool movies are thus not just violent, coarse fantasy/action movies, they’re parodies: each one is a sustained self-reference joke, complete with ironic use of 80s light-rock hits. (The 80s are so trendy these days!)

The second Deadpool movie, as Deadpool himself tells us, is not for kids, but is nevertheless “a family movie”. As becomes clear towards the end of the movie, he’s not talking about the genre of the movie, he’s talking about the theme of the movie. The movies in the Fast and Furious series were also “family movies” in this sense: the characters consider each other family because they derive their identity from their strong bonds with each other.

What group of people/mutants could Mr. Pool possibly belong to? Is he talking about starting a literal family with his girlfriend (who will never not look like Inara from Firefly to me)? Is he joining the largely but not entirely absent team of X-Men? Is he forming his own superpowered vigilante crew? How about all of the above? Yeah, kinda!

Here’s an article about the entirely irrelevant official plot summary. See below for my plot summary (with SPOILERS) in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Deadpool 2 (2018)

Cold beer, wet air

People who sell drinks near where people work or relax outdoors in the heat have a technique for making their drinks look particularly cold: They put the bottles in the freezer for a while, which in addition to actually making the drinks a bit colder, makes the bottles look nice and frosty when they are taken out.

Food and drink photographers know that condensation on a drink makes it look cold even if it’s not, so to gain time to capture the perfect shot, they may use inedible glycerin to create “condensation” drops that last longer.

My Tiger beer frosted itself very thoroughly and automatically as soon as it came into contact with the steamy Singapore air.

big beer at Newton Food Centre

Side note: I imagine the stall owners at Newton want to smack whoever bought the first blinking LEDs. That first stall’s obvious advantage kicked off an arms race. The result is that almost all the stalls now have very flashy signs, and none of them stand out. Except maybe the one that has a programmable LED signboard… the arms race continues!

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

A Room with a View was the Hungry Hundred Book Club book for May. The group leader, Rachel, started off the discussion at the well-attended meetup with an interesting question:

Is A Room with a View primarily a love story, a coming-of-age story, or social commentary?

Since the book has elements of all three, the answer to the question says as much about the reader’s perspective as it does about the book itself. How much people enjoyed the book depended very much on what they thought it was trying to do and what they thought it did well, thus the question served not only to kick off the discussion but also to guide and shape it.

At the end of the discussion, we rated the book. It garnered perhaps only one rating of five stars, but many of three or three-and-a-half or four, as well as a couple of very low ratings (0.5 and 2). The reason for the less-than-spectacular average rating seemed to be that Forster was undeniably good, yet didn’t measure up to other writers.

During the discussion, someone mentioned a Guardian article based on a lecture by Zadie Smith on the fiction of E.M. Forster. The article compares Forster’s work to Austen’s.

Forster ushered in a new era for the English comic novel, one that includes the necessary recognition that the great majority of us are not like an Austen protagonist, would rather not understand ourselves, because it is easier and less dangerous.

Zadie Smith, in pointing out this message in Forster’s work, is saying in part that what Forster was doing was different from what others were doing, and that he was good at it. I agree.

See below for my opinion on whether A Room with a View is a love story, coming-of-age story, or social commentary and what I got out of it. (If you’ve never read the book or watched the movie, note that this post gives away the ending.)

Continue reading A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Please push your bicycle across the underpass

This is a grammar post. I think the sign should say:

Please push your bicycle through the underpass.

I would use “through” because an underpass is basically a tunnel.

Not that prepositions necessarily make any sense, but in my experience, we say you go across things that you are on and we say you go through things you are in.

Thus, if the sign were talking about a bridge, then it could say:

Please push your bicycle across the bridge.

sign at Clemenceau Ave