Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition by Morgan Chua

Caricatures don’t make much sense if you don’t know what’s being exaggerated or why….. There was some background information included in the front of the book, but mostly this is a collection of political cartoons that I don’t have enough context to appreciate.

The author is a Singapore-born cartoonist, and the cartoons were originally published in book form in 1989.

The events that took place at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 4 June 1989 attracted international attention and sparked outrage at the Chinese government’s military advance on student demonstrators. Since then, a new generation of Chinese has grown up in a country that continues to grapple with issues of political liberalisation, democracy and censorship.

When and Why I Read Tiananmen

I bought it on sale at localbooks.sg.

Genre: non-fiction (graphic novels, politics and history)
Date started / date finished:  28-Aug-18 to 30-Aug-18
Length: 128 pages
ISBN: 9789810779276
Originally published in: 2014
Amazon link: Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition

Four books from LocalBooks.sg

Singapore online bookseller localbooks.sg has done some good branding work. The bubble envelope is bold and cheerful, and the books I ordered came with a friendly note on which someone had written my name, and a little word search that promotes local authors.

See below to find out which books I ordered. (They were on sale.)

Continue reading Four books from LocalBooks.sg

The Darkest Minds (2018)

Starring the actress who played Rue in The Hunger Games (2012), The Darkest Minds was like Wrinkle in Time (2018) plus X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but better in some ways than either one.

I wish I’d known it was based on the first book in a series and not a standalone story; then the pacing would have made more sense.


The reviews reflect a general consensus that though the cast was good, the movie feels like a timid, bland echo of other dystopian stories. I dunno, sweet and safe isn’t necessarily bad. Here’s a representative “meh” kind of review, from IGN.

Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

See below for discussion of the following questions related to my recent Funzing talk on language:

  • How do people like the Hopi whose language does not have words for left and right keep track of the cardinal directions?
  • The Hopi have a less egocentric idea of the locations of things. Does that correlate with a less egocentric kind of worldview or ethics?
  • Since language has a biological basis, doesn’t that mean that linguistic relativity is a myth?
  • What’s the difference between studying a language and using it?
  • How does using sign language differ from using a spoken language?
  • How do memes (macro images), smileys (aka emoticons or emojis), text-speak and other digital innovations relate to more traditional forms of communication?
  • Why might reading something in two different languages produce two different impressions?
  • Do there exist languages (like a fictitious Star Trek alien one) that are extremely difficult or impossible to translate because they rely noticeably more on metaphors and allusions?
  • What are some other properties of language that might make one language appear strange compared to another?

Continue reading Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

Magician (Master/Apprentice) by Raymond E. Feist

I struggled to get through these. I’m not sure what made them seem so boring. Dwarves, elves, wizards, kings, princesses, armies, a dragon, an interdimensional portal… yawn.

Maybe the story felt plot-driven? Maybe it followed too many characters? Maybe it covered too much time? Maybe the author’s preferred version is appreciably worse than the bestselling version the publisher released in 1982? Maybe what feels like a cookie-cutter fantasy epic now would have sounded fresh in 1982? Maybe George R. R. Martin’s ridiculously successful Ice and Fire books now outshine all previous fantasy works?

It’s not that I’ve read so much non-fiction that I don’t enjoy fantasy anymore. I loved Brandon Mull’s Five Kingdoms. I think the reason I didn’t like Magician is probably something to do with style changes that have taken place in the fantasy fiction market.

When and Why I Read Magician

Recently, I have tended to read non-fiction and serious fiction. I am using a friend’s recommendation as an excuse to read Magician, a genre fantasy novel split into two mass-market paperbacks. I bought them for $1 each in 2007.

Genre: fantasy
Originally published in: 1982/1994

Date started / date finished:  21-Jul-18 to 27-Jul-18
Length: 485 pages
ISBN: 0553564943
Amazon link: Magician: Apprentice

Date started / date finished:  27-Jun-18 to 11-Aug-18
Length: 499 pages
ISBN: 0553564935
Amazon link: Magician: Master