Friday, 23 July 2004

Of flying knives and the King of Bittons

Damn, it's been a long time since I last posted. Oh well, here goes... In the time since my last post, I've watched two movies that have close connections with books and comics (in my mind, that is) - King Arthur and House of Flying Daggers.

King Arthur (the movie) was really bad in MY book. The dialogue was cheesy, the characters were weak, the story was too linear, and the acting was unremarkable. As a movie that is supposed to tell the 'true story' of the legend of King Arthur, it ended up trying to be a Gladiator-Braveheart-Troy clone that tries too hard to be credible.

To tell the truth, even a mindless parody of the legend like Monty Python and the Holy Grail was better than Jerry Bruckheimer's re-imagining (and murder) of the legend (more on Monty Python next time :) )

Anyway, while King Arthur the movie was bad, I asked around and found out that King Arthur BOOKS are pretty good. At least that's what people have been telling me. I personally have just started on T.H. White's The Once and Future King, and it is pretty promising. Here are other King Arthur related books that were recommended to me:
  • The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Pendragon Cycle (Taliesin, Arthur, Merlin, Pendragon & Grail), by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green

On the other hand, House of Flying Daggers was a great 'wu xia' movie that had captured the elements of wonder and martial arts that I loved so much in the comics I mentioned before in my previous post Spiderman vs the Storm Riders.

My major gripe about the movie is the fact that Andy Lau sticks out like a sore thumb. His pronunciation of Mandarin was pretty weak, and I just don't think he can carry of a Chinese traditional costume as well as he can carry off a suit. His face just looks too... modern.

Other than that, the movie visuals were stunning (it IS a Zhang Yimou movie after all), Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro gave good performances (Takeshi had some really good lines) and had pretty good chemistry, the fight scenes were good (but not spectacular), and the opening dance sequence was just beautiful.

My favourite part of the movie has to be the flying daggers themselves. I'm not talking about a faction or a group here, but the actual DAGGERS that the fighters threw. I was in awe every time the daggers appeared, soaring through the air, twisting and turning, stabbing and cutting. You could see every detail on the dagger, how it turned, how it punched through wood and flesh, and how each fighter employed the daggers in their own way. Flying daggers (and arrows) were always a favourite of mine when I read the Hong Kong 'wu xia' comics, so to see them come alive on screen was just magical.

My verdict? Although it is not a movie you might want to watch again and again (though some actually might do so), House of Flying Daggers is a movie that simply MUST be seen, if only to see the beautiful scenes and the FLYING DAGGERS! (Yes, I'm obsessed with them to the point that I wish they'd make a replica of it for me to keep at home)

Wednesday, 14 July 2004

Decisions, decisions -What to read next?

I've just finished Tom Holt's The Portable Door (which was quite ok, BTW) recently, and am currently faced with a difficult question, one that I always seem to face whenever I finish a book: What do I read next?

Although I AM reading Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate, it is not exactly the my type of book, being 1) a non-fiction book, and 2) it's a book about Tan's life and musings, which is hardly gripping stuff in the first place. I get very restless reading non-fiction, and there is nothing like a good, made-up fiction book to help me get past my occasional bouts of boredom and inactivity (Read: Too lazy to work).

Anyway, whenever I go to my bookshelf, I am faced with a dilemma. I can't decide what to read next. The problem isn't that I have too few books to choose from, it's that I have too MANY books to choose from - ranging from 12-book fantasy epics to some pulp fiction novels by authors like Sheldon or Archer.

Of course, if I have any new books, or books that I have to review (even if I don't want to read them), then I'd pick those first. But right now, I don't have any. So I'll have to go through the rather difficult task of deciding which of the 200 odd unread books I have sitting on my shelves I want to read most.

One stumbling block I always encounter is that I have too many fantasy series’ that stretch to three books or more, and I start thinking, ‘That’s too long’, and wind up reading The Hobbit for the umpteenth time instead. Other times when I actually FEEL like starting on a series, my collection is either incomplete (strangely, I always seem to be missing either the second or third book in ANY series I buy), or has not even been finished by the author. So I wind up reading LOTR or David Eddings’ Belgariad books again.

It also depends on what kind of mood I am in. Sometimes I think I’d like a nice, light fantasy novel that does require too much thinking, and other times, I prefer something heavier (in content, not weight). One time, I read The Beach (Alex Garland), The Power of One (Bryce Courtney), Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) and Solaris (Stanislaw Lem) consecutively, because I was in a weird phase of wanting to read slightly more ‘intellectual’ books than I was currently reading at the time (Don’t ask me why).

Anyway, here’s how I usually choose a book:

1) Decide whether I want something heavy or light (in CONTENT! CONTENT!)
2) Depending on what I had just finished, I’d then figure out whether I want to read another fantasy book (which is almost always the case), or try something contemporary.
3) Go through my bookshelves to decide which books I REALLY should get down to reading.
4) Select two or three choices that I feel like reading (and this time, the weight of the book DOES come into play, since I HATE lugging hardcovers around in my bag on the LRT).
5) Just pick one, based on how badly I feel like reading it.
6) If the decision is TOO hard, I choose the book I want to read by throwing all three books into the air towards my bed and reading the one that lands face up. Works like a charm…. most of the time (excluding the odd occasion when I ended up reading a Jane Green ‘chick’ book instead of what I REALLY wanted to read).

Right now, I have yet to choose what book to read next. It’s a toss-up between FINALLY reading Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King (since the King Arthur movie IS coming out soon, I figured I should brush up on my Arthurian knowledge), and another reread of the Narnia series (After A Hat Full of Sky, I feel like going back to all those children’s fantasy classics). Then there's also that copy of The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) that I borrowed from a friend er... last year... and keep skipping to read something else. Maybe I should start reading that...

Oh well, time to bring these books to the bed...

Monday, 12 July 2004

REVIEW - A Hat Full of Sky (by Terry Pratchett)

Just got back from holiday, and just a quick post here to point to my review on Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky which appeared in The Star on Friday:

here's the link:

Title: A Hat Full of Sky
Author: Terry Pratchett

FULL REVIEW: A Perfect Fit

Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Spiderman vs the Storm Riders

Yup, I watched Spiderman 2 last week, and boy was it great. It was spectacular, amazing, and whatever other speculatives the comics use to describe the webhead. Go watch it, it's probably the best movie this year.

Anyway, on the subject of Spidey, I have to admit that though I'm a big fan of the movies, I've hardly touched the comics themselves, besides that daily strip in The Star that I've been following religiously even until today, since I was a wee little kid stuck in Pahang with no comic shops in sight. In fact, all I ever knew about Spiderman were those strips, and the occasional appearance in the Children's TV show The Electric Company (Spiderman, where are you coming from; Spiderman, Nobody knows who you are!!!) where he would throw nets over the bad guys instead of webbing.

Anyway, this here blog is supposed to be about mostly books and reading, so I shall talk about my comics addiction in the past. Nope, I did not read English comics by Marvel or DC, even though I like the superheroes themselves. What I DO know about the characters themselves, I pick up from the Internet, and those nifty 'guidebooks' to the world of the X-Men, Spiderman and so on, that they sell in Kinokuniya.

The Comics I DID read came from a nearer country - Hong Kong. I used to be addicted to Tin Ha comics, (aka. Storm Riders) and Ba Dao (literal translation: Powerful Knife. Sounds stupid, I know.), and other Chinese 'Wu Xia' comics and books. These were the comics where the fighters could 'fly', and had super-duper 'powers' that involved using their 'Chi' to fight. It sounds stupid on paper, but trust me, the comics were great fun to read.

Tin Ha was created by Hong Kong artist Ma Rong Chen, and the main story revolves around two martial arts/'wu xia' heroes called Nie Fung (aka. Wind), and Bu Jing Yun (aka. Cloud). Their stories start from being obscure kids who are 'adopted' by an evil overlord (there's always one of THOSE in these comics) called Xiong Ba to pass his martial arts to. Wind ends up being a master of Xiong Ba's 'Wind God' kicking techniques which emphasizes on speed, while Cloud learned the 'Pai Yun Chang' (Literal translation: Cloud palm technique), which emphasizes on unpredictability of the strokes. Thus, Wind ends up being one of the fastest martial arts exponents in the world, while Cloud becomes a powerful fighter that is known for his unpredictability and power.

The main draw of the comic was the martial arts, which for me were great fun to read about. All the different strokes and outlandish techniques made for immense fun, and it was always great to see Wind overcoming the odds with his speed, or Cloud just beating the heck out of his enemies.

ALSO, the stories in Tin Ha were unlike all the other comics at that time, especially stuff like Drunken Fist and Long Hu Men, where the characters would just beat the crap out of one another, with hardly any story going on. In Tin Ha, at least the two lead characters had vastly contrasting stories and backgrounds, and had very interesting stories to boot.

The comic has been running for AT LEAST fifteen years (if memory does not fail me), and although I sort of stopped reading them a long time ago, I still have my stash of comics which I hid from my father a long time back. I remember reading a Spiderman comic once while I was still in that Tin Ha-craze, and thinking, "What the heck! So boring!"

Well, now I think the Spiderman comics are ok reads, but compared to what I felt reading those Chinese comics back then, I think I'll settle for the Spiderman movies instead. (Oh, and BTW, don't bother watching the Storm Riders movie that came out some years back, the one starring Ekin Cheng as Wind and Aaron Kwok as Cloud. It SUCKED).

Thursday, 1 July 2004

Panduan LOTR (ENG-BM-AB) yang ada sikit gila-gila

For want of something else to write about, here is another batch of wacky LOTR translations.

Disclaimer: This writer is not responsible for any exams failed or projects cancelled as a result of using this guide as reference for translations.

For professional purposes, DO consider taking the excellant Ah Beng 101 course offered by Institute Beng and Lian (HQ in Plaza Sungai Wang.)



From the ashes, a fire will be woken.
A light from the darkness shall spring.
Renewed shall be blade that was broken.
The crownless again shall be king.

------------------The BM translation---------------------

Dari abu, satu api akan dikejutkan.
Satu cahaya akan mengelonjat dari kegelapan.
Pedang yang telah dipatahkan akan diperbaharui.
Yang tiada takhta, akan menjadi raja semula.

------------------and now, the Ah Lian version!---------------

Dali itu habuk, ada api bangun tidur.
Ada itu lampu lompat keluar dali itu gelap-gelap.
Beli balu itu sulah pecah punya pisau besar.
Itu takde topi cantik-cantik punya olang, akan jadi laja lagi!



No, Sam. I can't recall the taste of food,
nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass.
I'm naked in the dark.
There's nothing - no veil between me and the wheel of fire.
I can see him with my waking eyes!

---------------The BM translation------------------

Tidak, Si Sam.
Saya tidak lagi teringat rasa makanan,
Atau bunyi air, ataupun sentuhan rumput.
Saya seperti bogel dalam gelap.
Tiada apa-apa - tiada penyelindung di tengah saya dan roda api itu.
Saya boleh melihatnya dengan mata membangun saya!

-----------------and now, the Ah Beng version!------------

Tak boleh lah, Ah-Sem.
Gua sudah tak boleh ingat itu makan punya rasa,
Sama itu ayik punya bunyi, sama itu lumput punya 'feel'.
Gua macam tak pakai baju dalam gelap.
Apa pun talak - takde itu kain depan gua sama itu ada api punya tayar!
Gua kalau tak tiduk pun boleh nampak dia!


Enter Tok Janggut Pokok!


Saruman. A wizard should know better!
There is no curse in elvish, entish or the tongues of men for such treachery.
My business is with Isengard tonight, with the rock and stone.
Broo-ra-rum... Come, my friends.
The ents are going to war.
It is likely that we go to our doom,
The last march of the ents.

------------------The BM translation-----------------------------

Saruman. Seorang ahli sihir sepatutnya faham dengan lebih baik!
Tiada sumpahan dalam bahasa pari-pari,
Bahasa orang pokok ataupun bahasa manusia, untuk pengkhianatan sebegini.
Urusan saya malam ini adalah dengan Isengard, dengan batu dan batanya!
Broo-ra-ruum, marilah kawan-kawanku.
Orang-orang pokok akan pergi berperang.
Kemungkinan besar, kami pergi menghadapi kemusnahan kami
Perkawadan terakhir Orang-orang Pokok.

---------------------and now, the Ah Beng version!-----------------

Apalah Saluman. Dawid Copperfewl pun lagi pandai.
Gua tak tau ada apa 'kata-kata busuk' yang gua boleh guna dalam cakap Hakka ka, Hokien ka atau Milayu ka, buat marah ini tak bagus punya pelangai.
Ini malam, gua mau buat bisnes sama itu Ah-Seng-kad punya batu!
Boo La Lulu! Jom, member-member gua!
Kita sumua macam pokok punya olang, akan pegi gaduh besar!
Tapi hor, nanti kita mesti mati lamai-lamai punya
Ini macam, jadi kita ini macam pokok punya olang, 'last-last' punya jalan-jalan!