Medan-Padang Road Trip

You probably vaguely remember that I went away for a bit in late August. First for my brother’s wedding, but since we’ve paid the tickets all the way to Indonesia, thought we might as well have a trip there. And so we did, the six of us: me and hubby, my mom, my first younger brother, and my second younger brother and his new wife. Not exactly a romantic honeymoon for the newlyweds, what with my style of budget traveling and a whole army of family tagging along, but lovely in its own way nonetheless.

We went on a road trip for 8 days from Medan, North Sumatra, the place where my mom was born, to Padang, West Sumatra, where my grandparents were born. My mom was so excited to finally be able to bring all her children (and the in-laws too now!) to see the beloved island where she grew up in.

Saw many amazing buildings:

tjong a fie mansion

Tjong A Fie Mansion (he was an influential Chinese man in his time)

the great mosque

The Great Mosque

annai velangkani church

A church with Indian architecture. Easily the most unique church I have ever seen in my life!

rumah minang

Minang House (West Sumatra)

Went to all corners of natural wonders:

lake toba

Lake Toba, the LARGEST volcanic lake in the world (view from mountain)

lake toba swimming

Of course, I gotta swim in it..

mystical forest

Mystical forest

soda water pool

Natural soda water pool (Can you see the bubbles? I drank it!)

the sea

The sea. On a low tide you can WALK to the island behind me. Can you see the crisscross tides?

i crossed the equator

Literally crossed the equator line. The hottest spot on the planet.

the clouds

Even went among the clouds..

chalky mountain

The travelling team, chalky mountain.

If only I could share more. Alas I had to pick only a few top pictures.

Indonesia has beautiful, beautiful places. If only the country is more organized. You can’t imagine all the natural wonders that it has to offer. Maybe someday…

I’m going to Tassie next week for a week long, so again I will be off for a bit (will only publish a prepared post for the Classics Circuit). I will be reading though I’m sure. I think I’m getting my reading groove back after lodging in the yearly self-hate ritual called tax yesterday.

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

mouse guard fall 1152

I am never a fan of war stories. I avoid them like a plague. I don’t exactly hate them, just have very little to no interest in them. Unfortunately war stories with mice made little difference to me, as Mouse Guard was far from rocking my boat.

The illustration is very beautiful and the mice super cute that I could enjoy it as a picture book. But the mice look so much alike with each other that it’s almost impossible to distinguish them if not for the fur colours, and the storyline somewhat choppy (on top of it being a traditional war story to begin with). At times I wasn’t sure who was who doing what at what time. It also bothered me that the actions were not drawn to simulate movements (no action lines or blurry ends for speed). The images are far too clean. Stillness instead of excitement, which is the complete opposite of exaggerated movements and emotions in manga. I once mentioned my observation of “static” drawing that I often found in Western graphic novels or comics, and the weakness couldn’t be more emphasized in what is supposed to be full-action comic like Mouse Guard.

Overall, I was underwhelmed. Mouse Guard is part of a series and I don’t think I’m rushing to get to the next book. Recommended if only for the illustration, but don’t expect too much for anything else.

3.5 stars
2007, 176 pp

Challenges
Graphic Novels Challenge 2010

Also reviewed by
In Spring it is the Dawn
| Sasha & the Silverfish

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieI’ve been intrigued by The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie since it was featured on the First Tuesday Book Club late last year and how it is often included in the various book lists (e.g. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read). Coincidentally, Muriel Spark is an author who is well loved in the blogosphere. I finally picked it up a couple of months ago (the post is severely delayed because I needed to find the time to watch the movie first to talk about them together).

First thing I noticed was how little I know about UK in general. I had to look up Edinburgh and The Brownies (thinking surely this is not brownies the chocolate cake?). Set in 1930s at an all-girl school, there are Miss Jean Brodie and her set of six girls–her “crème de la crème”.  As a teacher Miss Brodie is highly opinionated about what should be taught, what is important, and what’s worth learning, often straying off the school’s curriculum path, to the horror of the school’s principal. The girls, as such impressionable ages (starting since they’re 10), for better or for worse devouring everything that is passed by their favorite teacher.

A couple of techniques Spark used in the book that really stood out for me were flash-forward (the reader is often given a glimpse of the future) and repetition. Now I dislike repetition in book (which is why I didn’t like The Road) so I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. For such a short book however, it helped to distinguish the multitude of characters. For examples, one of the girls is repeatedly described as the one “famous for sex”, one has “small, almost non-existent eyes”, one likes Math, one is good at gymnastic, and one dies in the fire.

I liked the intricacies of the characters and their relationships. As a small book, it contains a lot of ideas and an array of intriguing characters. So though The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is not earth-shattering for me, it whet my appetite for Spark’s works and I will look out for more in the future.

I leave you with a passage that echoes what I often thought as a teenager.

muriel spark

“Supposing that passion struck upon them in the course of the evening and they were swept away into sexual intercourse? She saw the picture of it happening in her mind, and Sandy could not stand for this spoiling. She argued with herself, surely people have time to think, they have to stop to think while they are taking their clothes off, and if they stop to think, how can they be swept away?” ~ Sandy, p46

4 stars
1961, 170 pp

First line
The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on the far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycle between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment the boys were likely to be away.

Challenges/Projects
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Read the Book See the Movie

Also reviewed by
Arukiyomi | Books 4 Breakfast | Suko’s Notebook | A Work in Progress (this and other Spark’s books)

The Movie (1969)

the prime of miss jean brodie film

There was a gap of a couple of months between me reading the book and watching the movie. I didn’t feel much about the book so I didn’t have high expectation. But after somewhat of a slow start, the movie almost suddenly became really really good! And I was left really impressed at the end of the movie! Maggie Smith was amazing in this role, like she’s born for it, like the screenplay was written for her! Little wonder then that she won Oscar for Best Actress in 1970 for the role of Miss Jean Brodie. It was the perfect cast.

But wait, there’s more! The girl who played Sandy (one of Miss Jean Brodie’s girl) was just as amazing! Unlike movies these days where people are usually cast for much younger roles, the girls here seem to be at the right age, like they are in the book (okay, I checked that Pamela Franklin, the girl who played Sandy, was 18-19 during the movie, so she’s actually older, but still.) In any way, she totally blew me away. What a shame that she doesn’t play another prominent role after this film and seems to disappear into obscurity.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable movie. It stays true to the characters and to the spirit of the book. The Brodie set was minimized into four girls instead of six, and a couple of girls were combined, but I think it worked just as well. Since the movie emphasized some of the scenes, I got to understand the characters even better than when I was reading the book. Odd I know. It rarely happens that a movie is better or on par with the book, but I think this might be just one of those cases.

Rating: 8/10

ps: There was nudity in the film. How shocking is that for a classic film such as this?

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