Wednesday, June 29, 2005

... a medieval future

Robert Jordan, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Isobelle Carmody; Stephen King (to a lesser extent). These are just a few writers whose work I enjoy, specifically when their work involves tales of a ‘medieval future’ of sorts.

Take Isobelle Carmody’s Obernwtyn series, which is set in post-apocalyptic Earth. After the devastation of a nuclear holocaust, survivors slowly repopulated the non-poisonous areas; it is eerie how the gaps and tension between rich & poor, or administrators & religious & military, can be so easily recreated (and mistakes repeated). While I very keenly follow the thread of the author’s tale in this excellently imagined future of telepathic birds and ‘misfits’ with paranormal abilities who unravel a mystery from before the apocalypse, it amuses me to no end to ‘hear’ tales of the ‘ancients’ who flew across the skies in silver birds get lumped together with other tales about creatures that are half-fish and half-human. “Historical” records seem so improbable to the population at that time, that these tales are considered as fabulous our own fables and fairy tales of today. Ironic, eh?

In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (as yet UNFINISHED despite book 11 coming out at the end of this year, you fan-milker!!) * ahem * errr yeah… moving on… yeah… this series * may * be set in a far far distant future here on planet Earth, but I can’t be 100% sure on that, no thanx to the author dragging the tale out unnecessarily! But again, glimpses into the ancient past indicate technology comparable to what we currently see, although how much of that was ‘magic’ vs ‘technology’ is not very clear. I like the idea of random males & females being born with the ability to touch the ‘One Source’, and the various things that can be done with this ability.

Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s 7-book Death Gate Cycle tells a tale of a post-Sundered Earth, tho as we move forward in the story, pieces of the past get filled in: humans almost wiping out life on the planet, reemergence of dwarves and elves, emergence of ‘mutant’ humans who become demi-gods due to their innate magic abilities, war among two ‘branches’ of these demi-gods, and how even such ‘intelligent’ creatures can fall into the trap of thinking they can and should and must control the lives of the lesser creatures (humans, elves, dwarves). I found references to "the Mangers" who built a mysterious machine in the "Factree" really amusing :D

Stephen King’s Dark Tower series also includes many references of the remnants of the Old Ones, from the time before the world ‘moved on.’ In a decidedly cowboy / western setting, you have the improbable existence of robots (Andy, Messenger Robot (Many Other Functions!)), and onshore oil rigs and oil tankers with ‘meaningless’ brands such as CITGO and MOBIL! This is not so much ‘our’ Earth in the future, but rather one of an infinite number of parallel worlds with the Dark Tower as its nexus.

Why do these types of tales appeal to me so much?

I suppose it’s all too easy for me to imagine the world as we know it to slide downhill into oblivion… and that whatever we leave behind will be totally meaningless to those who come after us. Despite our technological advancement, our superiority,,, in the end, will we just be a puzzle for future archeologists, trying to put together a picture of our society based on a McDonald’s logo, a piece of an X-box circuit, a jawbone with titanium implants and a ‘selipar Jepun’ for example?

I like the idea that society of the future ‘regresses’ in a way, where we are no longer ‘slaves’ to technology or machines… so while we may be back to hard and difficult times, the pleasures in life are also simple. In other words; all the technological advances we have today have not actually improved our quality of life. Yes, our lives are easier, but at the same time, less meaningful, don’t you think?

I think it’s because I long for the insanity to end…. The world as we live in it today is in a horrible state… so many things that are happening are caused by age-old hatred and fear, so much so that so many people don’t even know what they are fighting for, or why anymore, except that “that’s how it’s always been”. And this willful stubborn blindness is not only seen in the literal fighting of let’s say the Middle East… How about people who just can’t accept change; who can’t accept that the only thing constant IS change??

I wouldn’t be surprised if this world does actually get destroyed by a nuclear disaster precipitated by U.S. vs “Muslim” vs North Korean vs whoever else’s forces. I really don’t forsee any resolution to the unrest in the world today… unless a miracle happens where everyone decides at the exact same moment to give peace a chance…

So to escape beyond this immediate world… to one where this disaster has already happened… plunging the world into a totally different environment… seeing humans (tho not limited to this species) learning to survive again in a totally different but brave new world… ah, THAT is what I like…

Of course, the same old mistakes, the same old behaviours still get repeated… after all, who am I kidding…. A world of total good would be totally boring!

I like the analogy of life as a pendulum which swings to and fro, to and fro, with the peak on one side being ‘good’ and the other ‘evil’ : such oscillation is natural, and is reflected in the rise and fall of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dynasties, for example. But what if during one of these ‘good’ dynasties, the well-meaning people attempt to arrest the pendulum there at the ‘peak of good’? An unnatural event, right? And while those living at that age would enjoy the unnatural extended good/peace, what happens when nature exerts its laws, and starts the pendulum swinging again? Balance must be kept… so the world would be plunged into a deep and black turmoil, would it not? Balance!!

Reminds me of something I read about the difference between was it Chinese/Asian philosophy and that of the druids… Both strove for this ‘balance’, but went about it in totally different ways… one ( I don’t remember which, but would guess it was the Chinese/Asian) would strive for a state of stillness in order to maintain this balance (my guess is meditation as one of the paths to this), while the other sought movement and understanding of ‘extremes’ for without knowing the two sides / limits how are you going to recognize the balance/middle?

Ah yes, my rambling again… do bear with me, dear readers… back to why this particular type of tale appeals to me so much… it is my ardent hope that humankind one day realizes that so much of what they are looking for actually resides inside themselves.

To quote from Babylon5: the exiled G’Kar, serving an eight-week prison sentence for assaulting his sworn enemy, when being informed that he seemed “happier in here than you were out there” he replied,

“In here, Mr Garibaldi, you cannot hide from yourself.
Everything out there has only one purpose:
to distract us from ourselves; from what is truly important.
There are no distractions in here.
You can learn much from silence.”

Wow.

Meditate on that, why don’t you?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

... what sorta blogger am i?

Here are the results of two 'blogger-type' quizzes I have taken... quite amusing, teehee :D

my thanx to lion3ss and kennysia :)

First, from blogthings' What kind of blogger are you?:




You Are a Pundit Blogger!



Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few
.


(how many of you really know what 'pundit' means? To tell you the truth, I always had a vague idea that it meant something to do with punting/kicking! Turns out it originates from Hindi / Sanskrit word meaning learned, so a pundit is a learned person (teacher) or someone who gives opinion in authoritative way (critic). Cool, eh?)

And from KennySia's Which Malaysian Blogger Are You?:

Congratulations Lynne, you are...




Jeff Ooi of www.jeffooi.com

You are humble, mild-mannered yet wise. Your knowledge is vast as an ocean, but when confronted with an issue you are passionate about you are tough as a mountain. You have an aura of style, quality, excellence surrounding you that cannot be denied. In a way, you are a rebel, but that's because you are always willing to help out your peers by challenging authority without asking much in return. People respect you. You are a natural born leader, people stop to listen when you speak, and follow you wherever you go. You also have a little bird.




(I dunno how many other possible results that could be generated by this quiz, but I thot it was amusing to be pointed in the direction I already know, i.e. I already drop by JeffOoi's site pretty often. But s'ok, I'm using MyCen to start exploring other Malaysian blogsites... maybe will even get myself onto this directory? We'll see...)

Friday, June 24, 2005

try not to check-in your bags, people!

I have yet to run thru details of my trip to the u.s. in late May, but some articles in the online Malay Mail last week (here and here) plus stumbling on this blog today, had prodded me to give my two sen worth on the issue of theft at KLIA:

It's one of those things... you've always 'known' that there's a problem with baggage at KLIA... tho i think most of us would think of the breakdowns of the baggage handling system first... turns out baggage theft is a bigger problem... heck, it seems some of these thieves would actually disrupt the baggage system in order to get their hands on a targeted bag or two!!!

It's ridiculous that such things can so easily happen...

'Disappointing' doesn't even come close to describe how I feel about these officers who do not uphold the amanah of their job... heck, I bet to them the job is just a means to illegal 'wealth'!

And to top it off....

I bet these thieves have been having a GREAT time recently with U.S.-bound baggage... what with the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) insisting that bags be unlocked for random inspection!

ok ok ok to be 'fair' to the TSA, they actually ask for folks to lock their baggage with TSA-approved padlocks, which means that the TSA essentially has the 'master key' for these locks. If you DON'T have a TSA-approved lock, and they choose your locked bag for inspection, they WILL break it open. Fun, eh?

Maybe the TSA can ensure that the use of these master keys are properly controlled, but I really am not that keen on the idea that some baggage handler could maybe get his/her hands on such a key. I know if they ever instituted such a system in Malaysia EVERY Tom Dick & Harry would have a copy of the master key in their hands!!

At the same time, just because a bag has the TSA-approved lock doesn't mean that the lock won't be damaged, or even go missing!

Then again, the TSA has on their website a claims form for damage/loss... but you'd have to be able to prove that whatever you're claiming was due to TSA inspections and not KLIA baggage handlers, for example!

Can't really win, can ya?

For Anita, who is gonna be heading to the u.s. in august: maybe you can look into the availability of these locks in KL? Maybe the u.s. embassy itself can point you in the right direction... after all, it's THEIR government that's making this hassle for people, right??

Some relevant pages:
1. from Stupid Security (exposing fake security since 2003)
2. a list of supposedly “accepted and recognized” locks (i.e. brands of bags with locks that the TSA have master keys to)
3. Travel Sentry page
4. review of Travel Sentry products

Whatever it is... to me the bottom line is, as far as possible, travel light and don't check-in luggage unless you REALLY have to, for both U.S. and Malaysian destinations!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

... a walk in the park ...

Found what looks to be 'reflexology steps' over at Crystal Lake Park!!

Doing a 'morning walk' thing the way i was in my last few weeks in KL is not quite the same over here... for one thing the weather overall is actually pretty cool, and therefore i don't seem to be able to sweat! :(

And yes, it's a WALK. I have never been a fan of running/ jogging... and what with my shins acting up like crazy again the last 2 months, i certainly do not want to aggravate anything any further... heck even walking activates it somethimes :( that's why my fave cardio machine in the gym is the elliptical stepper thingy, as opposed to the 'normal' stepper or the treadmill, where i move the whole leg as one unit, as opposed to moving feet & knees...

cause of my shin pain? according to one gym instructor, it's something that afflicts people who play sports that involve "lots of running" like football and tennis. according to aonther friend of mine, it's because i actually have in the past, gone jogging and/or running. whatever it is, it wasn't bad before, but like i said, in the last 2 months or so it's been there more often than not whenever i walk. bummer. will be looking for someone to massage the pain away, tho i bet here in the u.s. it will be expensive.. *sigh*

anyway... i digress.. i started this with the discovery of the reflexology steps in the nearby park. that was yesterday. I'd spied the steps before, but my route kinda took me in other directions. Yesterday I decided to take a closer look. Kinda run-down, certainly not maintained in quite a while... but i'd been longing to find some rough/uneven surface to walk on for quite a while now, so this was great for me! Off went the shoes (socks stay on, of course!), and I musta spent a good 10 minutes just stepping pretty much in one spot... aaaaaaah, so nice!! :D

another tale of the park: Crystal Lake Park has, of course, a lake, and lots of ducks. one day i was walking along the path, which is separated from the bank of the lake by a vehicle road... and spied ahead a whole bunch of the ducks that had decided to have a gathering on the path. The path would bring me right thru the middle of this group. Having seen enough American Funniest Home Videos of people being pecked in their nether regions by vengeful ducks/geese/swans, I decided to walk on the far side of the road, skirting the ducks. Of course, i did see that one duck standing in the MIDDLE of the road, and thought to myself 'great, it would be just my luck if that one duck is the one to give me trouble when I pass this group'...

and guess what? yes that one duck WAS the one to give me trouble as i passed! It arched its neck, looked directly at me, took a few steps towards me, and even HISSED at me!! yikes!!

I gave it an even wider berth, walking on the grass beween the road and the lake (instead of just on the edge of the road), and increased speed... and didn't look back until I was well away from that spot... no sign of pursuit, whew!

... so that was my brush with the local wildlife :D

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

… Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came …

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Stephen King’s magnum opus, almost 35 years in the telling, is finally complete (kinda). The above was penned in 1970, and was the start of Book I, while the (end) of the tale was penned in April 2004.

And in the wee hours of this morning, I myself came to the end of book VII…

I actually stopped reading about halfway thru – FORCED myself to stop, in fact, and instead turned my attention to the Star Trek movies (1 – 4), of all things – because I was starting to cry my eyes out at what was happening to the characters.

Two days later, I picked it up again… and didn’t let up until the tale was done.

There were still a few ‘painful’ sections, but after the pain of the first, the rest were bearable.

I remember thinking, while reading the part that had my eyes leaking like crazy, “I bet this was even worse for Steve to write… did HE cry as I am crying at the fate of (insert character’s name)? I bet yes, and worse than me, too!”

So much I’d like to say, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the books (yet).

I know of one person, looking for new books to read, whom I’d pointed in the direction of the Dark Tower series. She’d stopped after Book I, saying it was too ‘dark’. I could see how she’d think so, and unsuccessfully tried to get her to move on to Book II (definitely less ‘dark’ AND containing many intertwining plots). Now, after I have made it to Book VII, I am gonna renew my attempt to get her onboard to experience the rest of Roland’s quest: It is an excellent tale, my friends, an excellent tale…

It was a tale that almost didn’t get told…

A few years ago I picked up Steve’s “From A Buick 8”, and found out, at the end of the book, where he usually shares his thoughts with his Constant Readers, that he was lucky to be alive: in 1999, he’d been hit by a vehicle while walking along the country roads in his neighbourhood. One of those freaky things too: “From A Buick 8” which was written before the accident but published after it, contained a detailed description of a character being hit by a truck… Steve’s accident was pretty similar to what he’d made up for the book. Life imitating art?

Well, this incident helped galvanise Steve into action: he didn’t want to leave without finishing Roland’s tale. So he set about completing the remaining volumes (Books 5, 6 & 7), and had them published within a year of each other, such that by the end of 2004, the tale was finally told.

I re-read Books 1 – 3 in March 2005, Book 4 in May 2005, and read Books 5 – 7 in May & June 2005.

And will be rereading the entire series again within a year or so, I bet.

I highly recommend this tale to you, dear readers.

Please set aside your prejudice and stereotype of Steve as a ‘horror’ writer: he’s so much more that that. If you don’t want to start on a 7-book tale you don’t know if you will like or not, then check out some of these instead:
- The Stand
- The Talisman (with Peter Straub)
- The Eyes of the Dragon
Were you to read the above, I hope you’d agree that these fit in the fantasy, or fiction, section of the bookstore, not in ‘horror’…

And these also ‘fit’ in the Dark Tower tale, in their own way, so you’d even be doing some ‘background reading’ before launching into the Dark tower tale itself! A reread of one of his classic ‘horror’ tales – ‘salem’s Lot - would also be useful.

I can’t ‘gush’ over this the same way I was gushing over Meat Loaf a while ago… I am still in a daze from how it all (kinda) ends… Take it from me, I am a voracious reader, yet few books touch me the way this tale has.

Pick up Book 1 and start this journey, do ya, I beg.

Say thankya.

Monday, June 06, 2005

... first foray into the 'net in weeks!

greetings, dear readers

voila, a sign of life! :D

will post more later.

right now, am just (finally) checking in to say i arrived safely despite some MAJOR delays out of KLIA; had a surprisingly easy time passing thru immigration; have been enjoying the mostly warm weather; have played racketball three times already not to mention have taken lots of walks in the nearby park including a minor run-in with local wildlife!

will expand on the above plus more later later later later :D

cheers!

(yeah... ignore that 'click here for more' thingy over there... nothing more to this post teehee!) ---->
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