Next-in-Reading #32: Myth of the Stone

Next in Reading

Title: Myth of the Stone – 20th Anniversary Edition

Author: Gwee Li Sui
Year: 2013
Publisher:
Epigram Books

“The most natural thing in a dilemma like this is to return to where it all began.”

Singaporean Li-Hsu, stumbled into his adventures in another world as he tries to undo the mistake of his persistent curiosity. Along the way, he learns life lessons from various mythical creatures before having to face off a formidable enemy.

Character(s)

Li-Hsu, Chosen and Confused

A young boy in a curious age, Li-Hsu finds himself in trouble as a result of his stubborn curiosity. In the process, he gets shocked and terrified of the usually-scary changes around him – especially after his entrance into the other parallel. Despite that, he manages to stick to the rest of his journey, slowly breaking away from his dependency and taking responsibility of his actions, knowing the impact he can create on his own.

Theme(s)

The Shackles of Humanity…

Going through the first few pages, the main thing that struck my head when the mechanics of the new dimension Li-Hsu was transported to were explained was simply, “Genesis,” (the first book of the Bible) but Genesis inspired and spun into another awesome angle while keeping the essence. With the similar notions of a diabolical enemy and an omnipresent leader, the story later evolved into a coming-of-age tale, with Li-Hsu struggling with his own weaknesses and fears.

Dr. Gwee’s story of the Demon King Ourhimun, who controls all imps, goblins, and nasty creatures, present a great parallel to the shackles of humanity and roads of least resistance. Living in a state where your societal worth is dictated by wealth, status, and power, it can be either very or shockingly easy to relate to the same control which the Demon King holds over the mere imps. (Motives powered by ease or money, anyone?)

Faith and Courage…

He moves along to bring about the lessons of Faith and Courage, from the little lessons that helped Li-Hsu rescue his newfound friends, sneak into enemy ground, fight in battles, and even walk over thin air. The power almighty, White Lord of all, Maudus Rex, acts as the omnipotent figure, always ready to forgive and provide Li-Hsu with the much needed strength and courage. The courage he later used to defeat the Demon King before returning home.

Style & Structure

Myth of the Stone is done in graphic novel form. While a bit messy at the front, the setting is set up very quickly. On top of that, Dr. Gwee made good use of images to bring out the imagery of the written piece, balancing the visuals and the speech. While it was a little messy or cramped in the first few pages, I would attribute that to the need of setting the scene before continuing the story.

This edition of The Myth of the Stone celebrated its 20th Anniversary. For more information on Myth of the Stone, click here.

In the meantime…

Only one more to go for this month, so I’ll see you next week!

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Book Bites: The Wordsmiths of Sultan Hotel

Book Bites

Near the southern coast of Singapore, lies a cultural treasure chest known popularly as Kampong Glam. Within that chest are a couple of gems known as The Sultan, and The Writers’ Centre. And those were the places I had a weekend to remember for a long time.

WELCOME TO THE MENTOR ACCESS PROJECT RETREAT 2014

Just to give a bit of a background, accommodation for the retreat was at The Sultan Hotel, and most of the workshops and lectures were done nearby at The Writers Centre, Aliwal Arts Centre. A two day – two night event which I utterly enjoyed.

Day #1

I checked in during the early afternoon, and it turned out that it was one person to one room so that was nice and fancy. Soon after, everyone gathered at The Writers Centre (TWC) Studio for ice breakers and stuff, which turned out to be some National Education quiz on the lesser-known historical facts of Singapore. We almost passed (hangs head in shame).

No matter, we had a great walking tour of Kampung Glam and Kampung Rochor, courtesy by our wonderful guide, Vikas.

Vikas giving us a tour of a grove near the Rochor Canal.

Vikas giving us a tour of a grove near the Rochor Canal.

While it was supposed to be inspiration for a piece of writing we were supposed to present at the end of Day #2, it was a good glimpse into the traces of history left in Singapore. Combining communication and architectural knowledge, Vikas gave us historical anecdotes and told us about the changes in the Singapore landscape as we went through today’s modernity in search of glimpses of the past.

Dinner was at Sari Ratu Nasi Padang, and it was satisfying end to walking for about 3 hours non-stop.

Day #2

Day 2 was probably the most fulfilling and productive day. Starting with Colin Cheong, we were treated to a couple of hours of him telling us about his writing journey. Highly entertaining and useful, the talk had us walking away with a whole lot of laughs and a good list of local writers to put in our “to-read” lists.

Colin and his recounts.

Colin and his recounts.

The Breakout sessions post-lunch were, to me, possibly the most interesting and satisfying part of the retreat itself. For mentees doing fiction and non-fiction, our facilitator was Miguel Syjuco, Man Asian winner of 2008.

Miguel listening intently to our readings.

Miguel listening intently to our readings.

Most of us actually came out of this Breakout session really satisfied. Together with the facilitator, we read and critiqued our work using a combination of constructive workshopping techniques and the Oreo critique (what you like about the work – things to be improved – a good finish). By the end of the session, it felt incredibly satisfying – not because there was some degree of validation, but because you really felt like the critique was useful and you knew what to keep and what to improve.

This made networking / bonding over food incredibly interesting and fulfilling.

Day #3

Day 3 had us meeting with Josephine Chia and Robert Yeo – two of the many literary pioneers of Singapore. They recounted how the literary scene in Singapore has changed, together with the issues affecting writers then and now.

Josephine Chia and Robert Yeo speaking to us about writing back in those days.

Josephine Chia and Robert Yeo speaking to us about writing back in those days.

Finishing off, NAC DCEO and SWF Festival Director for this year Paul Tan gave us a kind of “reality check”, talking about the parallel artistic and economic lines we will face.

Paul being totally relaxed. LOL.

Paul being totally relaxed. LOL.

While it seemed like an unwelcome jolt of real life, it was rather encouraging of Paul to state that regardless, we should continue to do what makes us happy. And even if our artistic line is moving faster than our economic line is, it is still up to us to decide if we want to continue, not the market’s.

That’s it from me so far! It was a great 2+ days with fellow mentees, guest speakers, and various writers. Many thanks to the National Arts Council’s and The Writers’ Centre’s Mentor Access Project, especially Annabel, Marc, and Savinder.

And if there was an opportunity to go to another retreat as fulfilling as this, I would definitely go for it.

For more information on the Mentor Access Project, click here.

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Decode: Adventure: River Safari

Decode Adventure

I wanted to go to the River Safari the moment I saw the artist’s impressions of the place, so I was incredibly excited when I got to visit the place as a birthday celebration gift from Val =).

Let us begin, shall we?

Let us begin, shall we?

We got our tickets online – and I highly recommend doing so if you can because you actually get quite a substantial discount if you do (plus, no queue!) – and made our way straight to the entrance. The River Safari is located on the right of the Singapore Zoo entrance so it’s pretty straightforward once you’re in that area.

Amazon River Quest

At the same time, we booked the 11AM slot for the Amazon River Quest, so we brisk-walked our way there first. (You have to pass through the Amazon Flooded Forest and walk for another 15 minutes or so) It was very much like lining up to go for a theme park ride and thank goodness we were early, or we would’ve probably been swamped with other visitors later in the day.

On the way in...

On the way in…

Getting into the quest boat. Or something like that.

Getting into the quest boat. Or something like that.

The River Quest is very much like a tram ride through open enclosures, only that you were on water. And because of the narrow “river” you were going through, you got to see the animals up close (almost touching distance but please don’t touch the animals). My only regret through that ride was how I spotted a Toucan but did not get the chance to take a picture of it. Oh well.

Yes. We didn't get to take many photos because of the light. And occasional splashes.

Yes. We didn’t get to take many photos because of the light. And occasional splashes.

P/S – Brace yourself for the start of the ride. =P

Rivers of the World

The River Safari is heavily themed, going from one iconic river of the world to the next. Starting with the Mississippi River, it flows into the Congo, the River Nile, Ganges River, Murray River, Mekong River, and the Yangtze River, where the Pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia reside.

First thing you see upon entering River Safari.

First thing you see upon entering River Safari.

The first river on the menu - the Mississippi, USA

The first river on the menu – the Mississippi, USA

Gar Fish!

Gar Fish!

People crowding around tanks.

People crowding around tanks.

The Congo River, Republic of Congo

The Congo River, Republic of Congo

The River Nile, Egypt.

The River Nile, Egypt.

The Ganges River, India.

The Ganges River, India.

Resonances of India.

Resonances of India.

The Murray River, Australia.

The Murray River, Australia.

Going down the slope.

Going down the slope.

The Yangtze River, China.

The Yangtze River, China.

Each river is carefully themed, with colourful insights and concise write-ups on either side of the enclosure. Featuring the animals living predominantly in or along the rivers, one of the rivers that captured our attention for a while was the Mekong River – mostly because of the clear waters and the variety of huge fish and rays.

The Mekong River...

The Mekong River…

The clear blue waters of the creatures of Mekong.

The clear blue waters of the creatures of Mekong.

Perhaps it also had to do with its proximity and how close such nature was to our city.

Amazon Flooded Forest

On the way to the Amazon half.

On the way to the Amazon half.

This is, without a doubt, my favourite enclosure to the entire park. Apart from the fact that it is fully air-conditioned (this, we did not know until we actually visited), the artist’s impressions of the Amazon Flooded Forest before the River Safari officially opened was one of the main draws of the place for me.

Manatees!!!

Manatees!!!

Replicating the bottom of the Amazon Flooded Forest.

Replicating the bottom of the Amazon Flooded Forest.

A great place to just sit and enjoy.

A great place to just sit and enjoy.

The central focus of this place was definitely the tank and seating area, which is located on a lower level. The area is dimmed, replicating the shade of the forest, while you faced the giant take, where you could see the roots of the forest. You could see manatees feeding, rays gliding, and for the both of us, a lazy catfish who refused to leave a single stump in the middle of the tank.

Needless to say, I enjoyed my day thoroughly at the River Safari. Most of the place was well-sheltered, with bright themes and an easy-to-follow route which will not leave you wondering if you had missed anything out. I did hope that I could have gone on the Amazon River Quest a few more times though (but extra cost).

Regardless, the River Safari is a nice place to spend the day at. To find out more or to book tickets, click here.

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Next-in-Reading #31: Divergent

Next in Reading

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Year: 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”

In the future, Chicago was split into five factions – Abnegation the Selfless, Amity the Peaceful, Candor the Honest, Dauntless the Brave, and Erudite the Intelligent. When Beatrice “Tris” Prior from Abnegation sits for the aptitude test every 16-year-old has to go through, her results were inconclusive, landing her the official label of ‘Divergent’. Despite that, she chooses to transfer to the Dauntless, where she undergoes harsh training. However, when she discovers the Erudite’s plan to overthrow her old faction, she struggles with proving herself worthy of her position among the Dauntless, and proving herself worthy to herself.

Character(s)

Tris Prior, Dauntless

A transfer from Abnegation, Beatrice “Tris” Prior is already stated to possess the traits of Selflessness, Bravery, and Intelligence through her Divergence. These traits do contribute to making her a fighter for a cause she believes in. And unlike most who allow their circumstances to shape them, Tris is one of the few who stays strong on her actions and her attitude, despite her physical vulnerability (pain) sometimes getting into the way of her stubbornness.

Theme(s)

True Courage

The greatest irony which I found in the entire course of the story was how cowardice was openly rampant in a faction that values courage. Instead, brutality and cruelty seemed to take over, with the flimsy rationale that brutality was to force initiates to become braver and stronger. Bullying the seemingly weak, cruel beatings, and attacking other initiates in the dead of the night are brushed off by leaders, with Four even telling Tris to appear vulnerable to gain more protection.

Despite that, acts which required real courage – facing their fears, standing up and resisting by doing what’s right and not just what they are told to do, remaining loyal to a good cause – get their glory, often together with the putting down of bullying and intimidation in the process. Peter, Molly, and Drew’s comeuppance also serve to show that true courage lies not in physical strength, but the strength of the heart.

Style & Structure

Roth uses vivid descriptions in the first person setting to draw the reader into the world – a place where the protagonist is trying to fit in a place which she wants, although she not necessarily is. The fast pace keeps the reader going, and the descriptions are vivid, piquing the senses as the surroundings should do to the Dauntless.

The Divergent trilogy was written by Veronica Roth. To find out more about the series, click here.

In the meantime…

And that’s it from me this week, I’ll see you next post!

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Book Bites: 24 Hour Comics Day – The Spectator Edition

Book Bites

Imagine having to come up with a concept, write, and draw a 24-page comic in 24 hours. Impossible? Not from what I’ve seen.

All of them hard at work.

All of them hard at work.

This year, I attended the Spectator Edition to support my friend, Stephani Soejono, together with a few other 24HCD Singapore artists – Jerry Teo, Benjamin Chee, Gene Whitlock, Wayne Ree, the lot.

By the time I got there at the start of Spectator Edition, the halls were empty sans the sound of creativity and the application of ink on paper. Except you know, Room 502.

Gene and Wayne rocking it.

Gene and Wayne rocking it.

Stephani hard at work (and ahead of time!!)

Stephani hard at work (and ahead of time!!)

Ben multi-tasking =)

Ben multi-tasking =)

Jerry in full concentration

Jerry in full concentration

The other room Jerry was in.

The other room Jerry was in.

Stephani, Gene, and Wayne were probably in the “noisiest” or the “most happening” room in the entire level – the same room where JF registered participants and signed in on the international 24HCD forum and engaged other chapters around the world in live chats. Jerry was in a neighbouring room, experimenting with something he was not used to, and Benjamin was in one of the bigger halls, doing 24HCD and selling Charsiew Space at the same time.

It was great feeling the creative energy coming from all the artists that day, especially when many of them took the opportunity to make this experience as fun as possible; Some providing soundbites to the roving camera, and some going from room to room to check up on friends and give encouragement (and cup noodles. LOL.).

The best part of my visiting was definitely Radio 502, with Wayne and Gene played music and well,  being Wayne and Gene.

This is the rare Genius Whitlockius, notice how he side-eyes the photographer over his pets...

This is the rare Genius Whitlockius, notice how he side-eyes the photographer over his pets…

So that’s it from me and my spectator version of 24HCD Singapore – it was also great bumping into Peter from HereBeGeeks, who was visiting as well. Another wonderful year (JF said the number of participants for this year is a record 180 people) for 24HCD Singapore, here’s to another one!

P/S – Great notes to take for when the Nanowrimo Singapore Chapter starts organizing bigger stuff. I hope.

And a special mention from Steph in her comic. Thanks Steph!!!

And a special mention from Steph in her comic. Thanks Steph!!!

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Next-in-Reading #30: Fahrenheit 451

Next in Reading

Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Year: 1991
Publisher:
Del Rey Books

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.”

In a world where intellect is considered dangerous, firemen set fires, not put them out. Specifically, firemen set fires to books – objects considered to be the tools behind world war. However, when Guy Montag meets a curious girl from next door, he starts thinking that there is more to life than his line of work and the glut of media and entertainment being stuffed down their throats.

Character(s)

Guy Montag, Finder of the Spark

A believer in the system at first, Montag represents the general state of people in our world – changing due to a line of triggers. Upon meeting the likeness of the girl next door (who claims him to be unhappy), seeing his wife go through non-personal treatment and consuming countless media without question, and finally, an older lady insisting on being burnt with her books, he starts thinking.

And as it is in reality, having ideas is a wild card and either way, there will be a good number of people who will discourage these ideas. However, Montag demonstrates curiosity and the resilience to go through with that curiosity – finding older professors and people of the same likeness, even if it meant leaving the life of comfort he knew before he finally read his first book.

Theme(s)

Intellectualism vs. Consumerism

The main issue within Fahrenheit 451 was the battle of intellect versus pure entertainment. Justifying the need to maintain peace, the government abolished all forms of ideals and unneeded knowledge, training the people to be proficient only in what is needed to get through in living, everything else will be nothing but mindless entertainment to keep the mind distracted.

Though written in the time of the World Wars, the novel touches on a topic which we are facing contemporarily. Like in the book, our media channels now have a bigger focus on entertaining content, instead of content which will help intellect and people to think of ways to improve or move forward. At the same time, it shows the ultimate result of such exposure, something we are facing now as well – a intellectually neutered population – people who would rather follow instructions without question than question the effectiveness of instructions and whether things can be done better and how to find the appropriate situation to question.

Style & Structure

Fahrenheit 451 was written in a third person narrative with bursts of emotions written as if they were experienced in the first person. Montag’s thoughts and actions when he reflects or is under pressure switches seamlessly to a few paragraphs of the rushed imagery running through his head. This can reflect how we consume media in general – looking at it from a third party perspective, only to have it affect you as the thoughts and influences go through your head.

In the meantime…

I’ll see you next week!

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Next-in-Reading #29: Where She Went

Next in Reading

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Year: 2011
Publisher:
Dutton Books  

“And there it is. A hollow blown through my heart, confirming what some part of me has always known. / She knows.”

Three years after her accident, Mia Hall is a rising star in Juilliard and maintains zero contact with her high-school sweetheart, Adam Wilde. Adam, on the other hand, is a rock star in the midst of constant round-the-world tours, popping pills and dealing with the kinks of celebrity life – celeb girlfriend, uncomfortable interviews, and feeling like his music is lost. When he’s in New York, the pair chance upon each other again, and neither of them know if they were really going to pick up from where they left off those years back.

Character(s)

Adam Wilde, the Lost Child

Portrayed as a confident musician who knew where he wanted to go in the prequel, we see Adam as who he is when the perspectives have changed. Confidence is replaced with depression, and Adam is shown to only be stable with the help of cigarettes, pills, and Mia’s presence. Behind the cold, stressed, and sometimes-rude exterior, he is quite a sentimentalist, basing his sanity and his energy to keep going on his happier life in Portland, with his band back then, and Mia.

Mia Hall, the Music of His Heart

Like Adam, Mia’s character changed with the change in perspective. From a slightly awkward, nervous, and innocent girl in the first book, she is now portrayed as a carefree, confident, and talented individual – a reverse in roles between the two. She shares Adam’s sentimentality of their past. However, she continues to base her life on her other passion – classical music – and uses it to shape herself to the way she wants to, without free passes and pity.

Theme(s)

Love

Being the basis of this novel itself, the many types of love are seen throughout the entire story – familial love, platonic love, love and passion for the industry, and romantic love. While all the aspects are shown in certain parts of the novel, romantic love remains the most prominent.

Adam’s constant musing of Mia and his frustration at her closing communication with him is a mark of him being unable to let go of her. In turn, he has allowed his frustration to be translated to the agitated lyrics of his songs, only to have the music leave him when he continues to pine for her more, as he had mentioned. Conversely, meeting Mia stirred something within him, and they play together for the first time in three years – an experience which had been uplifting, something Adam had not felt in a long time.

Likewise, Mia, despite her seemingly cold attitude towards Adam in the events throughout the story, bought his signature guitar at an auction, showing the love she had for him despite all she had said about wanting him to let go of her.

Style & Structure

Opposite to its prequel, Where She Went is told at the perspective of Adam (instead of Mia in If I Stay). This not only provides the perspective from the other side of the relationship, giving a deeper sense of being for Adam, it also represents the fact that every relationship has two sides to the story and how much each party plays up the character of their significant others then. With both books, we are able to get a full, well-rounded view of both parties.

In the meantime…

That’s all for me now, and I’ll see you next week!

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