Swiss Bliss Day 12 (Part 2)

St Gallen

St Gallen on a Sunday is basically a dead town, almost all the shops are closed. Except for the restaurants, even those they serve at a much later hour. I like this concept of a weekend, where the shops take a rest. Back here in Malaysia, there is no such day, the weekends is the time when all the shops are open for work. Certain shops will take a rest day on one of the weekdays but mostly it’s all open, 18 hours a day, all days of the week. Seldom do we see such a curious thing of having nothing open on a particular day.

Shops are closed, let the good times roll.

Shops are closed, let the good times roll.

We saw a procession of Volkswagen Beetles, the old type during our short stay at St Gallen. I guess that’s what the Swiss countryside is for. On a nice day like this, Sunday nonetheless, time to head to the hills!

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Swiss Bliss Day 12 (Part 1)

Having traipse all over Zurich the day before, it was time to take a trip to the outskirts of Zurich. We took an hour’s train ride to find ourselves in the town of St. Gallen. Of all the places, we chose to come here because of the Stiftsbibliothek located in the Abbey of St Gallen. A UNESCO heritage.

Train station

Train station

The town itself is explorable on foot so pack your comfy shoes and prepare to walk your way around town. We were there early and since it was the weekend, nothing was open. We were the only visitors there. It is advisable to choose a day where there’s less visitors or be there pretty early because the Stiftsbibliothek is not bookable and it’s a first come first serve basis. And since it’s a really small room, they don’t allow to many visitors at the same time, nor do they allow photography.

Devoid of tourists

Devoid of tourists

“Why is it so famous?”

“It’s the oldest library in Switzerland and it holds at least 2,000 books and manuscripts that dates back to the early ages. Some are placed on display although we might not understand the written language.”

“There is one thing you should look out for — The Magic Square.”

Admission is CHF10 per person but it’s free with the Swiss Pass, which is why we took the trouble to visit this place.

Tip: Check out the magic square of 4×4, filled with the numbers from 1 to 16, which amount is the same when you add the numbers horizontally or vertically.

UNESCO Heritage (click to enlarge)

UNESCO Heritage (click to enlarge)

The rest of the abbey can be visited but as with old dated places, photography is not allowed. It seems that the flash from the camera could destroy the pieces in some chemical way. Or probably that’s another way of saying, “if you want to visit it, you have to come over here”.

Where are the people?

Where are the people?

(to be continued)

Movies in 2014 (Part 4)

Spoiler alert.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Dragons?

Dragons?

The story carries on where the first one left us, Hiccup and Toothless have now taught the rest of the people of Berk on how to be friends with the dragons. They have dragon competition, using dragons as tools and helpers. And Hiccup has resumed his role as a pioneer, mapping and searching out other places. Unfortunately, his father has other plans for him, namely to make him Chieftain of Berk.

As usual, he rebuffs the father and went off in search of uncharted lands, which lands (pun intended) him into more trouble as he come face to face with Drago, another chieftain with a certain hatred of dragons. Kind of like Magneto and Xavier of the X-Men, both having their own ideas on existing, either together or with one having a domineering role over the other. In the meantime, Hiccup met up with his long-lost mother Valka, another dragon lover like him, except that she chose to forsake her family and choose the dragons as kin.

Compared with the first, this sequel lacks a bit of oomph. The first had the portrayal of Hiccup on his first ever dragon flight with Toothless which was lacking in this sequel. But then again, this is part of a trilogy and as always, the middle part gets all the negative reviews. Which is neither here nor there. But rather a showpiece for Hiccup as he moves away from a scrawny teen and into his future role as Chieftain of Berk.

There’s an easter egg in one of the scenes between Astrid and Eret (voiced by Kit Harrington), when she asked him, ” Don’t you know anything?”. This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Kit Harrington’s character in the Game of Thrones, Jon ‘you know nothing’ Snow.

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Movies in 2014 (Part 3)

Spoiler alert yet again!

The Equalizer

Ballet-style fighting

Ballet-style fighting

OCD to the fore in this action movie by Denzel Washington who plays the title character Robert McCall, an ex-CIA Special Branch super soldier who currently works at Home Depot. He seldom sleeps and due to his OCD, there is a timely pattern to his daily activities. That all sounds good until someone messes up that routine, and that someone turned out to be prostitute Teri, played by Chloë Grace Moretz. McCall had already left his fighting days behind him but when Teri gets manhandled and mistreated by her pimps, he steps in.

What he thought was a one-off warning, which ended up in a very calculated 20-second cuts and speed up fight scenes in which Washington’s character make full use of the things around him to take out the thugs. This is no blurry fight scenes choreography but a very methodological OCD-style fighting, shown in bits and pieces. But the effect is just as good.

Once McCall had waded into this business of ‘protecting’ other people and doing good with the skills that he has, his life started to unravel the more he tried to help. And his activities irked the mafia mob boss into sending the Russian version of McCall, Teddy to clean up the mess. The climax of the movie ends at the very same Home Depot that McCall works in and he calmly takes out each and every mobster with all the equipments on hand.

Director Antoine Fuqua plays out the fight scenes in a very unique way, kind of like a dance scene or a ballet, but with severe consequences. There’s no love story to complicate matters and it basically sets up Denzel Washington for more McCall scenes for future sequels if it comes to that.

All in, a simple action movie for a quiet weekend viewing.

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Movies in 2014 (Part 2)

Spoiler alert. Do not proceed if you haven’t watch these.

Boyhood

Who's this?

Who’s this?

Director Richard Linklater’s 12-year biopic-cum-documentary into a life of a 7-year old boy, Mason, as he travails life until his admission into college. Surprisingly, the show took only 40 days of filming but across 12 years, which is about 4000 days give or take.

I think we all could identify certain aspects of the movie in our own lives. How as a little boy he had to endure a divorce, then getting to know his new stepbrother and stepsister. Attending a Harry Potter movie. Discussing about Star Wars. Things that you could have done when you were at his age. And as he grew older, the influence of peers, hanging out, parties and eventually getting into college.

You could be forgiven if you couldn’t distinguish when the transition in between the years started and ended but if you look closely, you could see it through Mason’s ever changing hairstyle. The movie makes you feel like a voyeur peeking into a life of a boy as he walks through life and into early adulthood. For those who are interested in anthropology, this movie could be it.

Go and watch it. Experience it.

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Movies in 2014 (Part 1)

For the latter part of last year, I was watching a lot of movies. So I decided to come up with my own review of a few of them. Well, not really a few, I watched almost a bucketload of movies last year and am still watching some of it this year, since their releases here do not coincide with the releases in the US. So for those who aren’t big on spoilers, I think it’s time to look away.

In no particular order except alphabetical, which I felt is the better choice because there will always be those that like/dislike the movies, anyway.

Amazing Spiderman 2

Yo Spidey!

Yo Spidey!

The rebooted franchise continues with Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey, one of my favourite comic book character outside of the X-Men franchise. Garfield has done himself good, as a rather pitiful Peter Parker, struggling with his post-graduation life which includes being a  part-time cameraman and a part-time superhero. They even have a montage of him saving people even when he’s sick. Which is what he does in the comic books besides fighting some of the other well-known nemeses.

And boy, does he have a lot of them. As seen in this movie alone, he goes head to head with The Rhino (briefly), Electro and the rebooted Green Goblin. But for those with sharp eyes, you would have spotted The Chameleon (Dr Kafka at Ravencroft), Black Cat (Felicia Hardy, Oscorp employee) and the exoskeleton with four arms (Dr Octopus) plus the metal wings (The Vulture) which were seen on display at Oscorp.

The writers even had a different backstory for what happened to Peter’s parents. Which was a significant departure from the comic books. The on-and-off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) played a part in Peter’s development, she probably saved him more than he saved her.

Nevertheless, being a blockbuster, you do get a feeling that a lot of money was thrown into the movie just to make it a little more ‘splashy’ and ‘flashy’. Especially with Electro’s electrical power. But in truth, you didn’t expect to go watch the Amazing Spiderman, only to get a 2-hour plus dialogue-filled movie, now do you? No way! We want to see explosions, we want to see Spidey swinging left, right and center.

By the way, Gwen Stacy dies in the movie, just like she did in the comic books. And as a nerd, I can even tell you that it happened at exactly 121 minutes into the movie and if you noticed the spinning hands on the clocktower, it stopped at exactly 21 minutes after one. Why is it so significant you ask? Gwen Stacy dies in The Amazing Spider-Man comic book #121.

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