Monday, 28 February 2005

Sweeping dust covers under the rug

I find dust covers incredibly irritating.

You know, DUST COVERS. Those flappy, glossy paper thingies that wrap-around hardcover books and usually contains the synopsis and illustrated cover of the book itself.

I hate it when I'm reading a book and the dust cover keeps slipping down, coming off at one end, or flaps around when one is holding just one end of the book. It annoys me. I can't concentrate on the book when the dust cover is coming off half the time. And I hate it when I get oily fingerprints all over a dust cover that is made of glossy paper. I feel like I'm defiling the book or something.

What are dust covers for anyway? Do they keep dust off? Not really. Do they protect the book? Not when half the time it's slipping off. Sure, the cover of the actual book is usually quite dull, and it's the dust cover that makes the book attractive to buy in the first place. But couldn't they have made the dust cover a little less annoying?

I have two ways of dealing with annoying dust covers. One way is to just get rid of the thing. Not throw it away, mind you, but just take the damn thing off the book, and keep it somewhere save where it won't get oily fingerprints all over it. I have a whole shelf full of dust covers that I just took off a book I was reading and never bothered putting back.

I usually do this when the hardcover book is REALLY heavy, because in those cases, the dust cover just seems to slip off one end a lot easier. Probably because while holding the spine of the book to support it, the bloody covers will hang down, and as a result, the dust cover just slips off and you're left holding the spine of the book with two silly flaps of paper hanging down.

Another way is to wrap the book in such a way that it KEEPS the dust covers inside the plastic wrapping, and so that it won't come off. That way, it keeps the dust cover nice and shiny, and it won't slip off the covers.

However, the problem is, wrapping hardcover novels are such a HASSLE. You'd think it'd be the same as wrapping paperbacks, but it's not. The covers on hard-back novels tend to have a life of their own, flapping up and down when you're trying to wrap it properly, and the covers themselves are so thick you need a lot more plastic to go around them to make sure the wrapping STAYS there.

Bah. I still don't see why we need dust covers anyway. Not when all my books are left on the shelves so long that ALL of them have dust on them anyway, WITH or WITHOUT a dust cover....

Random Grief and Memories Past

I donno why. I just can't stop thinking about Sepet. It's been replaying in my head since I saw it on Saturday.

Maybe it's the fact that racial relationships formed a huge part of my life since I was a kid.

Maybe it's because it was set in Ipoh, and that dredged up a lot of happy (and unhappy) memories of love gained and love lost.

Maybe it reminded me of the heartache I felt when a good friend of mine got pregnant at 18 and had to drop out of school.

Maybe it's because I really DO believe in love at first sight.

Or maybe it's just because the lead actress is cute.

Either way, I think I'll go see it again.

Will post again later. Need to get over grief of Liverpool losing last night.

Sunday, 27 February 2005

Racing the Racial Prejudice

Growing up in a small Pahang town like Temerloh, one learns a lot about the other races.

My best friends when I was a kid were two boys from my neighborhood - one Christian Indian, and one Malay kid who was just as skinny as I was (or rather, am). We'd play badminton in the evenings, and later progressed to chasing each other around on our bikes and crashing them into one another.

And we'd never think that we were inferior to either friend because we had different skin colors.

At school, I learnt to speak Malay like a kampung-bred Malay, while learning Chinese at the primary school. Even now, I''ve been mistaken for a Malay more than once. I even had a conversation once with a Malay guy for half-an-hour before he realized I am Chinese.

Anyway, in my school, Malays were the majority. However, the Chinese and Malays students all got along pretty well. There were even a few instances of Malay guys going after Chinese girls, and Chinese guys chasing Malay girls. I even had a little crush on a cute Malay girl once in secondary school.

And it was all normal to us.

In fact, one of my closest friends on the state athletics team was once in this long distance romance with a Malay guy in Johor, and would only be able to meet each other whenever we went for national sports meets. I was often asked to tag along whenever they met, so that no one else would suspect anything.

Should race, religion, skin color or even language be an issue when two people fall in love? I certainly don't think so, but sometimes, stereotypes and prejudices are hard to avoid. Like that friend of mine, who was afraid that her parents and teachers might punish her if they found out about the Malay boyfriend.

Thankfully, racial prejudices in Temerloh were not really rampant, even though there were still fights among Chinese and Malay gangs sometimes. Many of us had good Malay friends, and those of us who left Temerloh for bright lights and big cities have carried that attitude with us.

Malaysia is all about the different races coming together. Sure, some races may tend to be more dominant than others in different fields, but the fact that having all these people from different cultures, different religions, and different languages coming together under one flag is a huge miracle in itself. And I haven't even mentioned all the inter-racial mixing in Sabah and Sarawak. Will leave THAT story to Erna.

However, I still hate it when the race issue is played up, where in big national news, or small day-to-day interaction. It grates on my nerves.

I may complain a lot about certain traits and quirks of certain races sometimes (including my own, if I may add), but I don't hate them. Some people have actually questioned my 'Chinese-ness' since I usually only talk in English, and I write in English for a living, so they usually just assume that I'm 'betraying' my race. I just LOVE the look on their face when I return their insult in Chinese.

Nevertheless, I don't really give a damn what people think. The fact is, that I don't really think of myself as Chinese.

I'm a Malaysian, and proud of it. Live with it.

Oh, BTW, go watch Sepet. It'll make you think.

Friday, 25 February 2005

To Dream The Stupidest Dreams

Everyone has weird dreams. Mine are too. A few nights back I had a dream (or rather, a nightmare) about being involved in a 10 car pile up.

I was driving along a rural country road in Pahang (complete with rubber estates around me), and as I turned a corner, I saw a massive accident in front of me. I swerved left, turned right, jammed on my brakes, swerved again, and miraculously managed to avoid the mess.

Then I pulled over. I looked back. And I saw that I'd drop something (don't ask me how. It's a dream lar).

So here's the inexplicable part. I TURNED the car back, rev-ed the engine a few times, and SHOT my car into the mess again, once again swerving in and out to avoid the crashed cars.

What an idiotic dream-me.

This time, no luck. I clipped the back of a car, and the car spun out of control, squishing a few drivers haggling for compensation at the roadside.

Funny thing is, I distinctly remember thinking (in my dream), "God, the bill for this is going to kill me."

That's when I woke up to the biggest sense of relief I ever had waking up from a dream, since the time I woke up in a cold sweat one day before my SPM because I'd dreamt the night before that I MISSED the exam.

Stupid dreams.

While I don't believe that dreams 'symbolize' anything, I do believe that dreams are affected by what we do or think in real life.

The last time I had a marathon session of South Park, all the people in my dreams that night were short, squat, and couldn't move their arms.

A lot of times too, if I'd watched a movie or played a game before I slept, I'd be dreaming that I was IN that movie or game. Case in point: I once had a marathon three-week non-stop session of trying to finish Final Fantasy VII, and in that period of time, my dreams mostly consisted of me either cuddling up to Aerie, fighting stupid monsters, or chasing Chokobos.

Another thing I really believe about dreams is - if you dream about somebody (or something) pee-ing, chances are, your REAL (sleeping) self needs to go to the bathroom, like, NOW.

I kid you not. One of my most vivid dream sequences involves four fruits (two lemons, and orange and an apple, to be exact) pee-ing beside a road.

That's when I woke up, and had to run really, really fast to the toilet.

I've also had lots of really vivid 'story' dreams where the whole thing unfolds like a fantasy novel. When I wake up from these dreams, I try to write them down in case I can use them for my future novel (right), but somehow, eight-headed orange monsters living in a mine just don't make as much logical sense as they usually do in the dream.

I also had a dream about traveling around Malaysia and visiting my friends in a hot-air balloon, and started to write that down, before I realized that Jules Verne had already done that.

But I think dreams are fun. though I hate it when I wake up from a dream too tired to think; I also hate it when someone wakes me up BEFORE I'd finished dreaming a dream that I was enjoying, and make me forget everything that happened.

Makes you wish you could continue dreams at will sometimes. If we could do that, maybe I could continue that dream last night where there was this hot chick taking a shower in the middle of KLCC.....

Thursday, 24 February 2005

Spoilers Spoiling the Spoils

I'm tired.

Have also been trying to edit a 4000-word email interview full of scientific jargon into a manageable 1500-word article. Took me two damn days to finish that.

Been trying to wake up at 3am for the past two days to watch football, but have not been successful both times. Both attempts resulted in me feeling even more tired the next morning, even though I didn't even watch the games.

I'm up to three cups of Nescafe a day now, and I didn't even notice that I was drinking so much coffee until my stash of Nescafe finished in less than half the time I used to take.

Darn it.

I got really irritated yesterday too, because when I went for tea, some of my colleagues were talking about Sepet, which I have not watched, and giving away minor spoilers.

I. HATE. SPOILERS!

I hate it when people tell me crucial parts of a movie that I would have prefered to watch on my own. Imagine watching The Sixth Sense and knowing the ending. I don't like knowing how a movie goes BEFORE I watch it, because it spoils the entire movie for me, and I will spend the whole movie just thinking about how this adds up to that, instead of just sitting back and letting everything unveil properly.

I learnt the hard way never to peek at the back of a book to find out how it ends. I was reading Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and being young and clueless then (I was about 8, I think), I happily flipped to the end, found out who the murderer was, and promptly banged my head on the wall because I just realised (too late) that I'd just spoiled my enjoyment of the book.

I have NEVER flipped to the end of a book ever since.

I have a history at screaming at people who tell me spoilers. I also have a tendency to walk (or rather, stalk) off whenever conversation turns to a movie I have not seen, because spoilers inadvertantly rise whenever a movie is discussed.

The latest one was when I was talking to my brother about the last Amazing Race, and I mentioend I liked one of the teams and hope they'd win. He then proceeded to tell me, "Oh, they didn't." That REALLY killed the conversation, especially since I stalked off after he told me that.

The worst one was when someone told me who died in the last Harry Potter book before I'd finished it. I just blew up and almost yelled at her. In the middle of Kinokuniya.

I also get REALLY cheesed off when 'reviewers' give away the entire story in their 'reviews'. One idiot I once read gave away the ending to ALL the three M. Night Shyamalan movies (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs) in his 'review' of The Village, AND added The Village's ending as well, for good measure. What an IDIOT. Good thing I'd already watched all the movies, or I'd REALLY have ben pissed off.

Of course, I also had a FIELD DAY making up fake spoilers and telling them to people who ONLY want to watch the LOTR movies, but couldn't be bothered with reading the books. Among these fake spoilers were:
  • Gandalf dies
  • Sam betrays Frodo into giving up the Ring to him
  • Arwen rides into battle at Minas Tirith
  • Legolas, along with all the other elves, are wiped out in the battle in ROTK
I'm evil, I know. :-)

Right now, I'm trying very hard not to read anything about the movies I most want to watch, especially Star Wars Episode III. That's getting pretty hard because all the action-figure websites I always visit are all filled with news about the new Star Wars toys, and there are a LOT of spoilers there.

Sure, we all know Anakin becomes Vader, but what happens BEFORE that? Don't tell me, I don't wanna know.

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

The MPH No-Books-I-Want Sale

I just got back from the MPH Warehouse Pre-Sale, and what a disappointment it was.

The hall itself was pretty big, but the selection of books was really nothing to shout about. Sure, they had 30% discounts on new and popular books in the front shelves, with discounts on everything from Dan Brown to Terry Pratchett; but that is really not what an avid fan of book warehouse sales like me is looking for.

What I was REALLY looking forward to were the budget bins. You know, the ones that have stacks and stacks of books, going for less than RM10 each.

In the last warehouse sale I went to last year (the Times Warehouse Sale in PJ), I spent more than RM300 on almost 30 books. That’s only about RM10 each, and most of these were real gems.

This time around at the MPH sale though, all I could find in those bins were books like:

  • How to Quit Golf
  • Chicken Soup for the Traveler's Soul
  • A Peek into the Lives of the All-Saints
  • An Interview with J.K. Rowling: The 'Genius' Behind Harry Potter' (GENIUS?!?!?! Puh-Leeeeeze)
  • Collin's Laotian-English dictionary
  • The Unofficial Pictorial Guide to Leonardo Di Caprio

Not a decent fiction or fantasy book in sight. I DID manage to find (after much digging around) two Terry Brooks books, a Robin Hobb book in really bad condition, Terry Pratchett's The Color of Magic (the first ever Discworld book, BTW), some Puffin classics and one miserable Artemis Fowl book.

Even the toys section was pathetic. At least the last MPH warehouse sale had a whole choke-load of Star Wars toys going for dirt-cheap prices. This one had lots of rather expensive board games, some unwanted dart-board game thingy, a pile of big Mr. Incredible toys, and Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic jigsaw puzzles.

The CD section was slightly better, though not by much. I found one Supergrass album and a whole pile of Beatles: Anthology sets among the Boyz singles, Kriss Kross compilations and soundtracks to movies like Universal Soldier: The Return and The Waterboy.

There WERE some pretty decent graphic novels on sale though, more than any warehouse sale I've been to. There was Batman: Hush, Neil Gaiman's Sandman books, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellblazer, and a few more fairly decent comics. But these were in the nice 30% shelves in front of the hall along with the shiny Dan Browns.

My pathetic personal 'haul' for the two whole hours I spent there says it all, I think. I got:

  • Batman: Hush graphic novel
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel
  • A tattered copy of The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) for RM3.00
  • Three rolls of cellophane tape.

All for a grand total of RM81.10, 90% of which was the cost of the graphic novels alone. For that amount of money, I could have gotten a whole basket-load of books at the Times Warehouse sale last year...

Sigh... I hope Times does another one this year too...

Tuesday, 22 February 2005

MPH Warehouse Sale!

I got this in my email yesterday. Hopefully, my gaji will be in by Friday....

MPH Warehouse Stock Clearance Warehouse Sale!!!!

Date: 25-28 February 2005
Time: 9:30am - 7:00pm

Venue:
Dewan D'Kelana,
Kompleks Sukan MPPJ,
Jalan SS7/5, Kelana Jaya,
47301, Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Map:




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So much for my plans to save money next month.... sigh...

Monday, 21 February 2005

A History of Eyeris' Music Taste

Foreword: The idea for this post was 'borrowed' from Amelia's (Stories from Sonobe) post Of the Soundtrack of My Life, mostly because it's a good post, and I'm too darn lazy to think of something original

I've had different 'music phases' throughout my life, and I really can't say which particular album or singer has influenced me most. I shall thereby separate my musical tastes into different phases of my life and go from there.

The Eighties Impersonation
Since most of my music during this period of time was based on what my parents used to listen to, I kinda got hooked to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles and even Kenny Rogers during this period.

I could memorise the lyrics to the entire S&G compilation album we had, some of the early Beatles stuff. I could even recite Roger's The Gambler by heart. Even till today, Simon & Garfunkel are still one of my favourite bands of all time.

I also grew up on a staple of 80's music. The period between 1984-1987 was particularly memorable, because we had this recorded video of music videos taped from TV, and I would watch them over and over again, even memorising the moves to Michael Jackson's Beat It and Bad. I even did impersonations.

Yes, it’s embarrassing now, I know. At least I stopped short of learning the Thriller moves. I found it cheesy even though I was only seven at the time.

Thank goodness this period had some good songs too, and the ones I particularly liked at the time were Every Breath You Take (The Police), Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler), and a few others that were on that same recorded videotape. I watched that the Police video so many times I can still remember every detail of it. Well, almost.

The Chinese depression
Towards 1987-1990, in the late years of Primary school and early years of secondary school, my musical tastes began to lean more towards Chinese songs, thanks to several Wang Jie albums my mom kept in her car.

Wang Jie is this Taiwanese singer who had a pretty sad and melancholic (sometimes bordering on depressing) style of singing. I have every single album he released from 1987 to 1996, and could memorise practically every single song.

An overdose on Wang's songs basically accounted for the pretty depressing outlook I had on things during my secondary school days.

I was also hooked to singers from Hong Kong and Taiwan like Jacky Cheung, Beyond, and was clued in on almost every single singer in the Chinese music business. I had a lot of time back then.

I also listened to a bit of Malay music at this time, actually. I liked Iklim's Budi song so much I couldn't stop singing it for weeks. Also Fotograf's Di Alam Fana Cinta. I used to wait for the song to come on the radio, and then record it on an empty cassette. Blur, but effective. :)

The Guitar Obsession
The first modern rock album I bought was Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory, and I couldn't stop listening to it. This was around mid-Nineties, I think, after the days of Vanilla Ice.

BTW, I could memorise Ice Ice Baby by heart too. I don't know whether being able to memorise lyrics is a gift or a curse. In the case of being able to memorise and sing Ice Ice Baby, it's definitely a curse. Ditto U Can't Touch This.

Anyway, back to modern rock. After that Oasis album, I got into other bands, and thanks to pre-commercial-overload Hitz FM, I got back into English songs. At the time, Chinese songs were getting pretty boring anyway.

Today, I usually don't listen to anything without a guitar riff in it. Very predictable, yes, but at least I know what I like.

I also know what I DON'T like, and that's hip-hop. It's just a bit too.. er... hoppish for me.

Ok, that's the history of my music tastes. At least for now. I'm too tired to think. I need another coffee...

Oh, and BTW, here are my favourite albums of all time (will stick with English ones. Chinese albums too hard to translate):

1) Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory
2) Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
3) Green Day - American Idiot
4) Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American
5) Oasis - The Masterplan
6) Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme
7) Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
8) Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends
9) Goo Goo Dolls - Dizzy Up the Girl
10) Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dreams
11) Michael Jackson - Bad

Will add on more albums when I think of more. For now, am getting hungry, so am going for tea.

Return to the Real World

Sigh... I'd almost forgotten how it is like to come to work.

I had to rush my review of Saturday’s Sam Hui concert as soon as I got in, so that was my morning gone. I got through my second cup of coffee before it was even mid-day. I didn't even have time to go for lunch, eating in the office instead.

Above all that, I've got a headache, and I can't think straight enough to blog. All those Sam Hui songs are still stuck in my head.

Ten days off can do that to you, especially when you've been doing nothing but laze around all day at home. I’ve managed to finish two and a half books in these ten days (which is still pretty slow, considering one of these was Uncle stories), cleaned up my room, spent quality time with my girlfriend, and even found some time to blog a little from home.

But for now, I think I'll leave off with this post, announcing my return to the real world once again....

Saturday, 19 February 2005

Book Review: 2-in-1 Uncle Stories (J.P. Martin)

Daphne's been pestering me to read this book since the dawn of days (ok, maybe just since the dawn of a certain day in 2004), and I finally got around to it last week.

Finished it in two days, and my head is pretty messed up now. Not because it's confusing, but because it's just so ridiculous sometimes. Ridiculous, but fun. :-)

Here's a mini-review:

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Title: 2-in-1 Uncle Stories
Author: J.P. Martin

Synopsis:
Uncle is a millionaire elephant who lives in Homeward, a castle so large that even he has not seen most of it.

This book consists of two books: Uncle, and Uncle Cleans Up. The first book follows his adventures exploring his castle and battling the bad guys in Badfort, led by Beaver Hateman. The second has Uncle exploring the castle again, and cleaning up some bad hats that are lurking within his home.


Main Characters (courtesy of The Places You Will Go):

Uncle: a millionaire elephant who lives in a castle called Homeward with his faithful retainer the Old Monkey and Canute Goodman, a white cat who likes to read the morning paper. Uncle wears a purple dressing gown and likes drinking hot chocolate which is served to him in a pail.

Old Monkey: Uncle's faithful retainer, who loves crowds, because he loves running over the heads of people.

Beaver Hateman: Uncle's mortal enemy, who calls the elephant "the world's fattest dictator." He is not a beaver.

What I Liked:

  • VERY VERY FUNNY!
  • Very non-sensical and ridiculous, but in a funny and silly way
  • Brings to mind some of the more entertaining Enid Blyton books such as The Wishing Chair, and Faraway Tree, because it consists of purely made-up ideas and stories, and very simple plots.
  • Quentin Blake's illustrations are brilliant, especially the one of Uncle kicking up Beaver Hateman
  • Lots of very interesting characters, most of whom have their own unique personality.
  • I'd LOVE to explore Homeward!

What I didn't like:

  • The somewhat haphazard style of the story. It's as if Martin just wrote down every single thing that he thought of, and didn't bother how it was silly or not.
  • Sometimes, it's TOO ridiculous!
  • There are too many characters at times. I had to flip back a few times to just find out who a character was, and when he was mentioned first.

Summary:

This book is both silly and funny, and makes for an entertaining read, one that people who grew up on Dr. Seuess might appreciate more. A vivid imagination is the key to reading this book, since you gotta imagine an elephant in a bathrobe kicking up people into the sky, and a all sorts of weird and crazy stuff.

All in all, a great and fun read!

for more info and some pictures of this book, go to Daphne's post HERE.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005

A Labyrinth of Libraries

Libraries seem to have featured a great deal in some of the recent books I've read.

I just finished Uncle Stories (J.P. Martin) last night, and Uncle (who is a millionaire elephant who goes around in a purple dressing robe) has a HUGE library which has MILLIONS of books (and Uncle buys more than a thousand for it every year) a patent chair that can bring you to the top shelves with a push of a button, a magical ink fountain, and a bear-shaped stationary machine which shoots out postcards from its mouth if you hit it in the right eye or paper and envelopes if you hit its nose.

A wondrous library indeed.

Now, compare that to the pathetic excuse for a District Library we had in the little Pahang town of Temerloh, where there were only about 12 shelves of books, and most were outdated encyclopedias, worn-out Malay novels, and you can imagine my envy at libraries I read about in books.

Well, at least it DID have a few fiction novels and Dr Seuss books, as well as a set of 'How To Be a Spy' children's books that I used to read for HOURS. I can never find those now.

My school library was even worse. Most of the English books there were children's books and Nancy Drew novels.... And this was a SECONDARY school, for crying out loud!

I've heard enviously, time and again about Erna's school library back in Sabah (which turns me green all the time), in which she was a LIBRARIAN, and read almost every book in it. I'll leave it to her to elaborate more on that Wondrous Library in Sabah.

I've been so disappointed with libraries after my experiences with the ones in Temerloh, so I've never really bothered to go to the ones here in KL.

I like the ones in Singapore though, especially the one above Takashimaya on Orchard Road. Now THAT is one cool library. If you get bored of reading, just go downstairs and go shopping. There's even a Kinokuniya downstairs! Some kids even go to the library to hang out! Now THATS something you won't see here.

You're likely to see more people hanging out at MPH or Kinokuniya than in the National Library here. The current one is pretty inaccessible (unless you happen to live in the area), being stuck in the middle of Jalan Tun Razak, one of the busiest roads in KL, and with no LRT in sight. Which is why I've never bothered going there.

Anyway, one of my favorite literary libraries is the one in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, the one in the Unseen University, to be exact.

The Librarian there is an Orang-Utan (who was once a man but was turned into an Orang-Utan by magic, and seems to prefer being an ape), and the library is filled with dangerous books, some which have to be chained to prevent it from hurting people.

Also, Pratchett's theory is that whenever there are too many books in one place, it bends the time continuum, and one can get lost for hours in the library (or something like that).

Libraries also feature heavily in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke), as Mr. Norrell's library of books on magic is the most extensive one in England, and much of the magic done in the novel depends on the books in his library.

Also, in The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) (another over-mentioned book in this blog) the library is again central to the entire plot, as the Abbey in which the murders take place is home to the most extensive library in the land, and life in the Abbey revolves around books.

Can anyone recommend any more good libraries (real OR literary)?

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PS: BTW, I will be away on holiday until Sunday, so obviously there won't be any updates until at least Monday, when I get back to work. Until then, have fun! :-)

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Welcome to this world!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you this breaking news announcement:


Daphne of The Places You Will Go has just given birth to little baby girl I-Shan!

*Clap clap clap*
*Flags waving*
*Much rejoicing*

According to an SMS she sent out (Daphne, not I-Shan. I don't think the baby's THAT technologically advanced yet), I-Shan apparently looks like 'Queen Victoria at 70'. Haha

Welcome to this world, I-Shan. It may not be a perfect world, but with a little bit of magic, valor and courage, some handsome knights, a magic ring and a hobbit or two, it can really be a real fun place to be in!

Congratulations too, to the happy parents Daphne and Martin, and I-Shan's two brothers Elesh and Ekath!

*Clap clap clap*
*Flags waving*
*Much rejoicing*

Happy Green Grammy Day!

Yesterday was the Grammy Awards, and although I don't usually follow this awards show very closely (being not very musically inclined anyway), yesterday was the first time I actually watched the whole damn thing. Well, ALMOST the whole thing.

I turned on the TV in the morning just in time to catch Green Day's performance of American Idiot. And that, was basically the only reason why I wanted to watch the show.

I like the American Idiot album a lot (See my review HERE); in fact, I couldn't stop playing it two-three months after I got it. So naturally, I was rooting for the group all the way in yesterday's awards.

They deservedly won the Best Rock Album award, beating Elvis Costello's The Imposters, Velvet Revolver, The Killers and Hoobastank (HAH!), but lost out to U2's Vertigo in the Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song categories. I kinda expected this since American Idiot the SONG is not really as good as the ALBUM.

And lets face it, there was no way they would have won Best Record or Best Album with Ray Charles in the mix.

But as far as the Best Rock Album award goes, they thoroughly deserved it, IMHO, because it's been a while since I've heard an album that I can't stop listening to, an album that is as fun as it is loud.

As Billie Joe Armstrong himself said while receiving the award, "Rock n' Roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time." And I think the album really epitomised that philosophy.

Keep on rocking, dudes!

Monday, 14 February 2005

Romance across the Pages

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm staying home blogging. Oh well, she's coming up to KL in two days time, so it's still all goo000d. :-)

Anyway, I'm not exactly a great believer in Valentine's Day. After all, why wait until February 14th to buy roses when you have the entire YEAR to do so? After all, if you bought one rose stalk for her everyday on January, it would still probably cost less than the dozen roses you buy on Valentine's Day itself.

It's crazy.

But anyway, since it IS a celebration of love of sorts, I'll do MY WAAAAAY, and pay tribute to some of my favorite fictional couples in books (movies cannot lar, too many).

Oh, BTW, I'll probably leave out a lot of 'classic' romances, not because I don't think them worthy, but because I haven't READ those books yet. So as always, my list will probably be mostly fantasy couples, and I'll probably leave out lots more, since I can only remember so many from the top of my head now.

But feel free to add YOUR favorites to the list in the comments! :-)

1) Eowyn and Faramir (From the Lord of the Rings)
They began their love despite the realization that the world might end soon, and after both had lost father figures (and one, her first love). This is one couple whose love was born out of pain, loss, anguish and hopelessness. Baring that Mills & Boons moment atop the battlements of Gondor, this is one romance that was romantic because of the hope for love, more than the love itself.

3) FitzChivalry Farseer and Molly Nosebleed (from Robin Hobb's Farseer & Tawny Man trilogies)
Another case of tragic love. Childhood friends become lovers, eventually torn apart by circumstance, magic and tragedy. Sounds familiar?

4) Georgina and Dick (From Enid Blyton's Famous Five)
I forget, were they cousins? If they were, then banish all thoughts of romance between these two, please! And forget the fact that they were kids. :-S
I've added them here because when I was reading the Famous Five books, I always imagined that they'd get together when they grew up, especially since they were the most fun characters of the five (yes, even more than Tim the dog), and imagine the havoc they'd wreck in their household. Hehe.

5) Hermione Granger and Viktor Klum (From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Hey, I have a thing for girls in glasses, ok? :-) One of my first crushes had glasses and was the brainy type, so I kinda like Hermione too. (And it helps that Emma Watson's pretty cute too. Wait, she's only 14. ARGH!) And the part where Ron and Harry find out that Viktor's date was Hermione was probably the most memorable part of Goblet of Fire. (Again, please disregard the fact that these are KIDS please).

PS: Will add more later if I happen to think of anymore. In the meantime, feel free to give me YOUR favorite literary couples!

Sunday, 13 February 2005

The Hellblazer Reviewed

I watched Constantine yesterday, and I liked it.

So that The Visitor's time is not wasted by posting long long comments here, here are the links to his posts on his blog about the movie HERE, and his comments about the movie on Saving Dreams HERE.

See Visitor, I saved you some time! Haha!

Anyway, as I was saying, I liked the movie. It was not too bad, especially since it could have been far worse. I was expecting it to be much, much worse. And not having read the comics either, I was pretty much keeping an open mind on it.

Acting-wise, Keanu "Wooden Plank" Reeves was his usual kayu self, and his lines were somewhat forced. But Rachel Weiz was CUTE. :-)

The story? The story was not too bad. The twist was pretty predictable (except for one part), and the pace was not too fast, but not too slow either. And it didn't resort to fancy-nancy special effects like the Matrix sequels did.

Anyway, there've been lots of reviews of the movie on lots of blogs already, and since it's too hot now, and I can't think properly, here are some links to those reviews instead:

Now, go judge for yourself. :-)

Saturday, 12 February 2005

Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

Time to get cracking on the review for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, so as always, I shall post a mini-review here, which usually consists of points I shall be putting in my PROPER review. :-)

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Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke

Synopsis:
Two magicians shall appear in England.
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me.

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past.

But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French.

Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell.

So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.


Main characters:

  • Mr. Norrell: One of two English magicians who is destined to restore magic to England. Mr Norrell is dry, boring, secretive, uncharismatic, petty, and a great foil to Jonathan Strange.
  • Jonathan Strange: The second English magician destined to restore magic to England. Strange is... well, strange, and is excitable, eccentric and affable, but is also prone to over-streching himself.

What I liked

  • The concept of slotting magic effectively into the real world is good enough, but interspacing it with REAL historical events like Waterloo, and adding real historical characters like Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon was just brilliant.
  • The two main characters are so different that it is fun to just read about their interactions.
  • MAGIC! BLOODY MAGIC! The magic used here is spectacular at times, mundane at others, but when you consider the two very 'English' gentlemen who conjure the magic, the contrast between the dull and spectacular really streaches the imagination.
  • The story is slow at times, but builds up at all the correct spots. There are several parallel plotlines at times, but these come together nicely.
  • When there IS action, the proceedings are portrayed vividly enough to be complex, yet simple enough to imagine easily.
What I didn't like

  • The weight of the book. It's HEAVY. It meant that I couldn't finish it as fast as I would have liked to.
  • The SIZE of the book is daunting. 800 pages and dozens of LONG footnotes that are stories within the story.
  • The footnotes that Clarke puts in time to time are sometimes interesting, but tend to be really distracting sometimes, especially when the footnotes are LONGER than the actual text on a page.
  • Mr Norrell is both a fascinating character, AND a frustrating character. Half the time I wanted to strangle him.

Summary:
I'd say this is one book I'll be reading again, if there was a smaller edition. It's too big to bring around conveniently. :-)

But weight aside, it IS a good book. The writing is fresh and simple (which is no mean feat, considering the book is set in 1806, and most of the characters are stuffy English gentlemen.) Clarke can be quite funny at times too, in a subtle British kind of way.

I liked the plot, and the idea of magic as a 'profession', and as something anyone can do as opposed to the usual fantasy-stereotype of 'you must be gifted and train with the greatest mages'. The historical references are also fun, and Strange's interactions with Wellington are among my favorites in the book.

It's not a typical fantasy book, to be sure, but it is precisely because of that that it is good to read. You never know what to expect. Even the footnotes themselves tend to be short stories in their own right, though some are so long it distracted me from the main story.

Would I recommend it? Definitely. It's pretty original, fun to read, and is immensely entertaining.

Just don't bring it around in your backpack or you'll break your back.

Friday, 11 February 2005

A Return to Less-Boring Things

I'm back!

It was a rather uneventful return to the hometown this Chinese New Year, with lots of angpaus, and lots of eating. Also, since Prai was pretty dull (and I didn't want to brave the traffic jams in Penang), I spent a whole lot of time reading. In fact...

I FINISHED JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORREL!!!!

Now I don't have to lug that piece of brick around anymore.

Look out for the mini-review soon (which will be up fast, because I'm also working on my proper review for the paper).

In the meantime, I'm now reading Daphne's copy of Uncle Stories and it's pretty fun. REally non-sensical, but really, really fun. :-)

Anyway, as I was saying, Chinese New Year was pretty dull this time around. Didn't exactly turn out to be the BIG gathering that I expected, but also wasn't as somber as I thought. It was good seeing my grand-dad though. He looks healthy. :-)

However, am glad to be back in KL, where the grass is dead, and the air is hazy, and the good times are blowing. Am planning to take advantage of the empty roads tomorrow and take a drive to Kinokuniya for a nice browse, and maybe catch Keanu 'Wooden Plank' Reeves in Constantine.

After all, I have a nice long holiday without work, and I'm planning to use it to the fullest. :-)

Cheerio!

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

The Long-Expected CNY Message

This year's Chinese New Year celebrations is set to be my family's biggest (almost all of my 10 uncles and aunties are turning up), but possibly most subdued one yet; because there is a prevailing feeling that it could be my grandfather's last CNY.

He has been in and out of the hospital for the past few months, and many of us have already been prepared for the worse for some time now.

But enough of these sad thoughts.

It's a whole new day tomorrow, it's Chinese New Year, and we're determined to make it the best ever.

In case I don't post again today, a very Happy Chinese New Year to everyone (Chinese AND non-Chinese alike).


Update (4:51pm)
PS: As it turns out, this IS my last post before CNY. I'll be on a long break from work until 21st February, so the posts here may not be as often as I'd like it to be.

But anyway, Happy Chinese New Year to all! Gong Xi Fatt Choy!

Monday, 7 February 2005

*Fidget fidget*

It's almost Chinese New Year. I'm looking forward to my coming holiday. TEN days of no work. Wheeeee!

Oh wait, I still need to finish that review of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel for Daphne. Drat.

Anyway, I have a feeling these two days is going to be very tedious, not least because three quarters of the office has balik kampung, and it's freaking cold here.

And I still have a deadline to catch! Aiyor... So no proper post today. Maybe tomorrow...

Am gonna have a lot of time to myself this holidays, so I'm looking forward to finishing some chorse I've been putting off for a long time (like dusting my action figures), wrapping some books, and of course, FINISHING some books.

Hopefully by the time I get back to the office and can blog regularly again, I'll be able to post some mini reviews (which have not been posted since three months back with The Mango Season. Goes to show how many books I've read since then).

Till then, tomorrow's the last day of work before the holiday.

Whee! Can't wait, can't wait.

*Fidget fidget*

Saturday, 5 February 2005

Painting My Feelings

Daphne blogged HERE about her favorite paintings today, inspired by a Jimmy Liao painting that Amelia had on HER blog HERE.

Jumping on the bandwagon in usual EoE style, I shall also talk about my favorite paintings here. However, my taste is somewhat eclectic (or rather, non-existent), and pretty much mainstream. But anyway, here are my personal favorite paintings/illustrations, chosen based on what I feel about it rather than how good artistically it really is.

First up, the 'real' artists.


Van Gogh - Wheat Field with Crows (pix taken from http://www.vangoghgallery.com)

I like Van Gogh's paintings because of all the lovely colors, and I especially like this painting because of the rather somber feeling I get when I look at it. When I look at this picture, I feel sad, yet hopeful at the same time.

Another painting I like is this one:


Edgar Degas - L'etoile (The Star)

The first time I saw this painting, I fell in love with it. Since then, I've bought posters, jigsaw puzzles and postcards of this painting, and one day, I want to go and see the actual painting with my own eyes. Strangely enough, I only like this painting by Degas, while I'm pretty indifferent to his other works.

I also grew up on a lot of Hong Kong comics, and some of my favorite 'paintings' come from the covers of Ma Weng-Seng's Storm Riders comics. These two here are my favorites, depicting my favorite character in the comics, Nie Feng:



This character is named after 'wind' and these two pictures have a quiet yet confident feeling about them. Ma's cover art is one of the best in the Hong Kong comics industry, and I count a lot more of his covers for Storm Riders as my favorite 'paintings'.

What of book illustrations then?

I have logged before about loving John Howe's illustrations for both The Lord of The Rings and Robin Hobb's books, so I won't mention him again. (though if you want, just go check out the pix HERE)

I also like Paul Kidby's illustrations for Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, and the cover for A Hat Full of Sky is one of my favorites yet, because of the serious look on Tiffany's face, and the contrast of the crazy Feegles on her hat:



And since Daphne didn't include Narnia or The Hobbit in HER choices of favorites, here are two pictures from these books that I quite like:


Pauline Baynes, Prince Caspian cover art (pix taken from http://www.narnia.com)

This Prince Caspian cover was on the first ever Narnia book I ever laid my eyes on, and since reading that book resulted fueling a love for fantasy books, I count this as one of my favorite book covers ever.

And now, I shall leave you with my favorite cover for The Hobbit, depicting Bilbo's barrel ride down the river:


J.R.R. Tolkien, Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raftelves (cover art for the 1974 Ballantine paperback edition of The Hobbit, pix taken from http://members.aol.com/tishede/tolkien.htm)

Friday, 4 February 2005

My Morning in Mixed Hell

When I entered my office this morning, I instantly knew something was not right.

My office is usually so quiet, so peaceful (well, most of the time). However, something was wrong today. There was this incessant and irritating sound in the background, a combination of music and constant jabbering that was incredibly distracting and annoying.

Then it hit me - it was piped-in music, and it was MixFM.

It drove me half-mad.

At first, I just tried to ignore the noise coming from the speaker DIRECTLY above my head. It worked for five minutes, since at the time, they were playing Keane's Somewhere Only We Know, so it was still tolerable.

Then came the first batch of commercials. And I remembered exactly why I don't listen to local radio stations anymore. Not only are the commercials breaks annoying and long, MixFM took it upon themselves to remind us over and over about how "We listen to YOU, and we made MixFM BETTER".

There are a number of reasons why I have so many CDs in my car, and one of it is that I absolutely hate listening to the local radio stations, mostly because of the commercials.

Anyway, back to my morning in hell.

Daphne had tried calling the tech people to get them to turn it off, or at least turn down the volume, to no avail. After the first batch of commercials, I still gamely carried on TRYING to work, even sitting through a Gareth Gates song, a few more repeats of the Chicken Rice Shop ads and some particularly annoying callers.

Then came the last straw.

A familiar 'tick-tock-tick-tock' opening intro, and the opening line: "One, Two, Three Four Five..."

GAAAA! Lou Bega!!!! GAAAA!!!

I screamed (not too loud lar), stood up, went out of the office, went to my car, and got my Oasis CD, went back inside, borrowed a pair of earphones, and blasted the CD at full blast to drown out the MixFM sound.

I turned my music on so loud that I gave instructions to everyone that if they wanted to talk to me, they'd have to get my attention by waving first.

Thankfully, when I came back from lunch, Daphne had managed to get the music turned off, and the sound of silence reigned again...

Now, if I could only get hold of the fella who thought it would be a good idea to force everyone to listen to Lou Bega...

Thursday, 3 February 2005

The Horror Revisited

I have a bad habit of making fun of things. I make fun of The Visitor's hair-style, I make fun of Daphne's orange ribbon Uruk-Hai, and I make fun of Erna's affinity for salmon.

Sure, this habit has gotten me into trouble more than once, but I can't help it. I'm like Chandler in Friends, I can't help shooting sarcastic remarks at everything.

However, there ARE certain things I do not make fun of.

Erna's post HERE about self-help books mentioned my disdain for these books, and mentioned Dr. Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.

I may not have read the book, but rest assured, I will never make jokes about it.

Dr Frankl is a survivor of Auschwitz. He survived the Holocaust, the most horrifying and most evil act in the modern history of humankind. It is not a subject for ridicule.

I've personally visited Auschwitz and Birkenau (also known as Aushwitz II) in Poland, the largest mass concentration camp in Europe during World War II, and I count that visit as one of the most sobering experiences in my life.

There is just something about the place that chilled me. Whether it was the thought of all the people who died here, or the sight of piles and piles of shoes, bags and prosthetic legs that used to belong to the victims, or being inside an actual gas chamber, or the huge mountain of human hair that is still on display on the site; for weeks after the visit, I just could not get the place out of my mind.

When you think of everything that has happened there, you can't help but feel thankful that you did not have to go through the tragedy that was the Holocaust.

Before going there, all I knew of World War II was the stuff we learn in Sejarah lessons, and even that is all Malaysian-ised versions of the War. Nothing is mentioned of WWII in Europe, and certainly nothing is mentioned of the Holocaust.

We Malaysians are so sheltered.

It is my belief that everyone should visit Auschwitz, if only to learn the true horror of the Holocaust, and as a sobering reminder of the evil that humans can afflict on their fellow humans.

But since Poland is too far away a place to easily visit, there are some good books that should give you an idea of what the Holocaust was all about. The ones I know of are:

  • If This is a Man, by Primo Levi
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank

There is also a website HERE that lists some children's books about the Holocaust.

Other websites that lists books on the Holocaust are:

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

The Eyeris Book-Wrapping Technique

I used to be very rajin at wrapping my books in the past. I have whole sets of manga that I liked very much all nicely wrapped up in clear plastic.

In fact, I used to wrap books so often that I had my own little routine/technique for wrapping books. Here it is:

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THE EYERIS BOOK-WRAPPING TECHNIQUE
(Done in glorious non-technicolor and zero-picture style!)

Tools/Materials:
* 1 book (looks like lots of pieces of paper with words on them, all nicely bound together.)

* 1 Plastic Sheet (preferably clear, and without sickly pink hearts or 'cuddly' Pooh bears; easily available in rolled up tubes at stationary shops for less than RM2.00)

* 1 Knife (I prefer using knives to scissors, because I always get blisters on my fingers if I use scissors for too long a time at one go. The best knives are the ones where you can push the blade up and down. Donno what they're called though)

* 1 Ruler (preferably short, and made of metal)

* 1 roll of Cellophane Tape (Any size will do, as long as it's sticky. Even better if you have one of those sticky-tape dispensers where you can just tear off the tape without cutting it with scissors)

* 1 floor (preferably not made of wooden paqeut or marble, unless you want knife marks all over your precious floor. Of course, it's easier to do the cutting on a layer of newspaper or something like that, but where's the fun in that?

Instructions
1) Roll out the plastic on the floor.

2) Place book on the plastic sheet.

3) Cut out a piece of the plastic sheet that can cover BOTH covers of the book, with some leftover at the sides that will be folded INTO the book covers. (No need to measure wan, just agak only lar.)

4) Fold the parts of the plastic that stick out from the SIDES of the book cover (the part where you turn the pages) into the book cover, and smoothen it REALLY flat, so that it doesn't bounce back up.

5) Repeat for the back cover.

6) Cut away the plastic that is sticking out of the SPINE of the book.

7) Now, fold the rest of the plastic on the upper part of the book covers (the parts that join to the spine lar), and sticky tape all of it together.

8) Voila! The book is wrapped!

9) Now, check and see if there are any stray strands of hair trapped inside the plastic (which usually happens if you'd neglected to sweep the floor before laying out that plastic sheet).

10) If there IS some hair in it, you'll have to open up all the cellophane tape and get the damn hair out.

11) Repeat steps 1-10 for additional books and continue until you have no more books to wrap or you run out of wrapping plastic.

Disclaimer: The writer bears no responsibility for any torn covers, wasted plastic, or botched folding procedures while using the above instuctions as a guide for wrapping your books.

And don't ask me for pictures to go with the instructions. Me too lazy to take em'. :-)

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Now you can read your book without the fear of curry staining the cover, or getting oily fingerprints all over that glossy book cover!

However, nowadays I am too damn lazy to wrap my books, which accounts for a lot of dog-earred and curry-stained covers. But if I have time, I'll do it again, because it's damn addictive to see all your books all lined up on the shelf, all nicely wrapped up in nice gleaming clear plastic, looking like new.

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

My fantasy phase 'To-Read' list

I'm in the mood for another fantasy reading phase, and just as soon as I finish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I'll get to Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea quartet (in fact, I'm already halfway through A Wizard of Earthsea, mostly because it's smaller and easier to carry around than Jonathan Strange).

After that, maybe I'll get to Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart (which was sent to me by Amelia of Stories from Sonobe. Thanks Amelia!).

Or maybe I should get to Daphne's Uncle stories, since that should be easier to finish. And finish Artemis Fowl at the same time.

Then again, maybe I should get to The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Stephen R. Donaldson) which I've had for years, and have yet to read.

I'd really like to stay in this 'fantasy phase' this time around (at least for the next 4-5 books), because I'm not feeling up to reading anything particularly heavy (in content, I mean) or intellectual. Yes, I can be very shallow at times.

That's why Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Supremacy was taken off my 'What I'm Reading' list in the sidebar, because I don't feel like reading something that's too grounded in the 'real world' (if you can even refer to Ludlum's highly exaggerated spy-thrillers as 'reality').

For now, no guns, spies, car chases, political conspiracies and invincible assassins please. I want dragons, knights, 'duh'-like heroes, talking dogs, singing swords, floating castles, scantily-clad heroines with big swords, and magic, glorious magic!

I'm also planning to read more of the books that I have been putting off for a long time now, so that when I review OTHER books and compare them to these, I'll actually KNOW what I'm talking about. :-)

Here's my 'To-Read' list of five books I shall read next, as of today, excluding Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and Earthsea, which I am already reading.
  • Uncle Stories (J.P. Martin)
  • The Light Ages (Ian R. MacLeod)
  • Artemis Fowl (Eion Colfer)
  • Kushiel's Dart (Jacqueline Carey)
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Stephen R. Donaldson)