Next-in-Reading #25: Biophilia

Next in Reading

Title: Biophilia
Author: Wena Poon
Year: 2006
Publisher:
BookSurge Publishing

“Note to self: never get slapped twice by a polar bear. Especially a Nagy polar bear. You may not survive the second time.”

When Imogen gets transported to Nagy, she meets talking animals (Gromer, the wise overseer Polar Bear and Tristram, the common sergeant in many battles, to name a few) and learns of the parallel wars each universe is going through. Not to miss what could be the most interesting experience of her life, she ropes in Kai as they join the side of the animal allies against the Penumbra, human-like zombies bent on expanding industrialisation on Nagy. 

Character(s)

Imogen Park, Sophisticated WildChild

Introduced as a rebellious, independent girl in the beginning of the book, Imogen is quick-witted and highly-adaptable – getting used to Nagy within days and being able to switch jobs without much complaint for the sake of survival. However, what many may miss out is how Imogen is quite the sentimental.

Despite seeming to give up her dream as a writer in New York City, she continues to muse with her best friend, Kai Montserrat. At the same time, she insisted on bringing Kai to Nagy, placing their friendship above all else. Their dynamic already embedded into her being, Imogen recognises the importance of Kai’s presence in her life, risking missions in Nagy to ensure that this best friend of hers remains alive.

Theme(s)

Environmental Protection and Freedom

Earth is in constant war over resources. Nagy is in constant war over land and sea. Earth’s enemies are its own people. Nagy’s enemies are the Penumbra – often placed with descriptions parallel to that of humans.

The title of the novel itself, Biophilia, speaks of the love of flora and fauna. On Earth, Imogen often voices her displeasure at how humans are attacking each other due to their own carelessness in the past. Conversely, she feels free on Nagy, which is much bigger than Earth itself, and where animals ruled with nature – the talking animals show her and each other more respect for their capabilities, despite their differences.

However, it could also be due to Imogen’s crave for freedom – she was able to do most things without restriction, as compared to all the laws she had to face when she was back on Earth.

Style & Structure

Biophilia was told in the first-person perspective of Imogen, which, like many other first-person novel, immerses the reader into the world which has been built by the author. At the same time, the flashbacks between Imogen’s life on Earth before her landing in Nagy may be slightly disorientating at first, but it also reflects the complexity of the human mind, together with how easily distracted we are in this age of countless needs.

The Biophilia series is written by Wena Poon. You can find out more about the series and her works here.

In the meantime…

And with the start of September settled, I’ll see you next week!

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Update [August 2014]

Literary Event of the Month

August was pretty hectic, with two trips to Malaysia within the month itself. However, I was happy that I got to attend the Liquid City Volume 3 launch in Kinokuniya Kuala Lumpur to support the Tiger’s contribution to the publication.

GROUP SHOT!!

GROUP SHOT!!

Blanket Fortress Play

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GENCON!!! I was not there, but I thought it’ll be cool to say that. This month’s Blanket Fortress Play presents shots of my sessions with an old classic – Monopoly Singapore: Then and Now, and a sadistically comedic classic – Cards Against Humanity. Hope you enjoy those posts! (Also, I need to start playing more games as well.)

Writery Endeavours and Wattpad

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As with the previous months, there are two new uploads on my Wattpad – “Unwanted Utopia II” (credited for being published in KL Noir: Blue at first), and “Going Home”, something I scribbled and started for fun, with the hope that I will be able to edit it to something better. Do check them out.

Writing-wise, I’ve sent in my application for the Mentor Access Project (MAP), together with a couple of stories for 24 Flavours’ bonus issue. For those who have submitted to “In Transit”, the anthology, results of the selected stories should be coming soon so good luck to everyone!

Coming Next Month…

While August draws to a close, stay tuned next month for the following updates:

  • Results of the Mentor Access Project
  • Singapore Toys, Games, and Comics Convention (STGCC)
  • More Next-in-Reading posts
  • More Wattpad and Tumblr uploads!

And I’ll see you next month!

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Book Bites: Liquid City Vol. 3 Launch – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Book Bites

Touching down in Subang Airport at about 10 in the morning, the Tiger, his parents, and I made a quick dash to KLCC for the Liquid City Volume 3 launch in Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur.

Managing editors for the publication, Sonny Liew, and Joyce Sim, were already at the event area, introducing the other contributors to each other – one of them being Lefty, country editor for Malaysia. Other artists included Benjamin Chee, Chong Fei Giap, Reimena Yee, Stephani Soejono, and the guys from Gilamon Studios, among others.

Launch Panel

Launch Panel

Stephani's story, co-created with another creator.

Stephani’s story, co-created with another creator.

Ashel's illustration.

Ashel’s illustration.

The Tiger's work =)

The Tiger’s work =)

The dynamics of the people speaking was there – with experienced artists, budding storytellers, passionate illustrators, and savvy designers. And as each artist introduced him or herself, they each gave a slight peek into their interests and influences to their works.

With Tumblr and many other portfolio sharing sites becoming popular, many of these artists and comickers (especially the editors) spoke about how much the gap has been reduced, and encouraged other budding creators to seek consultation and exposure should the opportunity arise.

Lefty speaking about coordinating entries.

Lefty speaking about coordinating entries.

The Tiger speaking about his story.

The Tiger speaking about his story.

Sonny and Joyce holding him the Tiger's work.

Sonny and Joyce holding him the Tiger’s work.

Live drawing time!!

Live drawing time!!

As the end of the event drew close, all the artists present whipped out their pens and pencils for an impromptu drawing session – the first group of Liquid City 3 buyers for the day will get artwork from contributing artists. That added a new element to most of the events I have been to.

Between drawing and signing countless books, I would say that the Tiger had as much of a good time as I did, especially since it came with a good wind-down tea session with our friends after the event.

Signing his nth book.

Signing his nth book.

Speaking to a fan.

Speaking to a fan.

His live drawing piece.

His live drawing piece.

GROUP SHOT!!

GROUP SHOT!!

The Liquid City anthologies are edited and compiled by Sonny Liew and Joyce Sim. To find out more about each collection, click here.

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Decode: Adventure: Penang – Food Part 2

Decode Adventure

On to Part 2 of the food journey!

(If you have missed out on Part 1 of the Penang food adventure, click here to catch up on what we were eating during the first few days.)

Inche Kabin

Inche Kabin is the name of a Penang-style fried chicken which is neither breaded nor battered, but just marinated and deep fried until it reaches the texture and crispness of the fried chicken that we are used to. While having dinner with the Tiger and his extended family at Restoran 747, I got to try this signature dish.

The top layer of the chicken had a crisp exceeding the quality of most fried chicken I’ve ever had. And since there is no obstruction of thick batter and breading, you get to the meat and the flavour almost immediately – the outer layer of spices and sauce complement and mix well with the succulent texture of the white meat underneath.

Ice Kacang

From what I was told, there were two rival Ice Kacang and Chendol stalls which have been direct rivals at Macalister Road for the longest time. And it seemed rather apt to label their competition as tense – especially since they are just positioned opposite of one another.

Teochew Ice Kacang! =)

Teochew Ice Kacang! =)

We got Ice Kacang from the Teochew Chendol stall – one that the Tiger and his family have been going to for years. After having my first bite, it’s not difficult to see why – chock full of ingredients, the mix of textures and sweet syrups meld nicely in your mouth, while keeping their distinct tastes.

Beef Kway Teow Soup

Awesome beef kway teow soup with Pat Poh drinks =)

Awesome beef kway teow soup with Pat Poh drinks =)

Across the Penang Fire Station sits a beef kway teow soup stall which the Tiger swears by for a long time. With smooth, kway teow rice noodles and succulent strips of beef, the entire dish was brought together beautifully with the all-encompassing broth. A great mixture of beef broth, herbs, garlic, and spices, it provided a great depth of flavour – the perfect base canvas to a simple delicacy.

Cafes

More than 20 cafes opened over the span of the last five years in Penang. During our visit there, we managed to visit two of them – The Mugshot Café and China House.

The Canteen at China House

The Canteen at China House

The selection of desserts!

The selection of desserts!

Since its opening in the early 2000s, China House has expanded and is now as big as two shophouses with their backs facing each other. Serving hot meals, desserts, and drinks in different areas of the place, each section was specifically themed. We were a relatively large group, and they seated us in a whimsical section, where it was a communal table with loads of sunlight and quirky decorations.

We were there for dessert, and the selection was almost heavenly. With different flavours of cakes, milkshakes, and desserts, you will be spoilt for choice. I had a salted caramel cheesecake, while the Tiger’s parents got a towering slice of tiramisu.

Soft and melt-in-your-mouth, the salted caramel cheesecake was a burst of rich sweetness, leaving the slightest hint of saltiness at the end of the aftertaste. The smooth, creamy filling blended well with the crumbly, butter base. Definitely worth a try and you can find out more about them here.

Welcome to The Mugshot Cafe!

Welcome to The Mugshot Cafe!

Freshly made yoghurt with Kiwi and Honey!

Freshly made yoghurt with Kiwi and Honey!

Breakfast bagels and cappuccino!

Breakfast bagels and cappuccino!

Rainforest Bakery and their of pastries.

Rainforest Bakery and their of pastries.

Mugshot was a place the Tiger wanted to go from the start. When we finally got there, I could see why.

Located along Chulia Street, The Mugshot Café serves homemade bagels and yoghurt, and is a collective with the Rainforest Bakery and a few other smaller shops that serve freshly-squeezed juices, food truck burgers, and desserts. Limited as their food menu is, I absolutely loved the simplicity of this café.

Each table came with a jar of brown sugar, which gave you a cheesecake-like taste for every cream-cheese-filled, wood-fire-heated bagel. The bagel with bacon and egg was a great favourite of mine as well – an awesome savoury breakfast bagel to fill you up for the day. After all that, top everything up with their fresh yoghurt, thick but light, with fresh fruit and local syrups (Gula Melaka, Honey etc…) to end your brunches on a high note. Find out more about them here.

Of course, this was not all we ate, just some of the key highlights I felt should be covering this time. We also had great Tambun biscuits, Pong piah, and this amazing Youtiao which managed to stay crispy even though they were just sitting in the plastic bag for 4 hours.

Coconut!!!

Coconut!!!

Cutting the edges off the Nyonya Kueh =)

Cutting the edges off the Nyonya Kueh =)

The Tiger says that the picture is him in 50 years time.

The Tiger says that the picture is him in 50 years time.

And the Tiger and I both agree that one would probably discover something better or different just by walking through popular places like Chulia or Armenian Street.

P/S – If you would like to follow our Penang posts, just search for the tag “penang adventure 2014”.

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Next-in-Reading #24: Little Women

Next in Reading

Title: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Year: 2012
Publisher:
Vintage Classics

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

The March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – have gone through thick and thin with their mother while their father left home as a Chaplain for the Civil War. With four different and distinct personalities, the sisters continue to get along, and share their journeys in family, health, work, love, and life.

Character(s)

Josephine “Jo” March, the independent writer

Popularly known as the protagonist of this story, Jo March had already made it clear that she detested the socially-acceptable norms of becoming a lady (or as mention in the book, a little woman). She is independent and protective of her family – taking it upon herself to support the family during the time of their father’s absence, and almost always the first one to comfort her sisters during a bad day. She is also able to stand by what she believes in – rejecting Laurie and a perceived, easier life for her career and the fact that she does not love him in that way.

However, she does show signs of being somewhat a conformist – using phrases like “I wish I had been born a boy!” or saying that she took more pleasure in playing “boys’ games”, instead of going along the lines of saying that women are as capable as men. This could be attributed to the time the story was published (1868) where she might not have the exposure due to her upbringing.

Lastly, her passion for reading and writing presents her as one who has a thirst for knowledge despite her circumstances. Forced to leave school before she was 15, she continued to feed her hunger for knowledge with Aunt March’s library, going further to share the knowledge by opening a school with her husband, intellectual-soulmate Friedrich Bhaer, for children.

Theme(s)

Women and Society…

While Jo March has always been marketed as a new feminist, and Little Women, a novel which talks about the progression of women and the questioning of gender roles over the years, I do feel that all four March sisters represent a facet of the values the author probably held dear.

Margaret / Meg represents the wisdom and the manner to conduct herself and stick by her stand without turning crude or violent. While critics often note Meg as “weak” or “conformist”, what many miss out is the courage and the wisdom Meg has when it comes to advising her sisters, especially when it deals with conversations or presences with others. Having the wisdom to carry oneself while staying true to yourself is not easy, especially in a time where appearances seemed to determine your life.

Josephine / Jo represents independence and drive to go for one’s goals and dreams. Unlike her sisters, Jo charges forth with great drive, seeing her life journey as her own and going for goals set by herself, not what is expected of her by society.

Elizabeth / Beth represents kindness and charity to both strangers and people around you. While she is shy and had been sick, Beth spared no effort in extending kindness and charity where she went – putting others before herself. While her life was unfortunate in the eyes of the general society, her kindness was contagious, spreading to headstrong people like Amy and Jo – leaving a legacy of kindness and showing that a little kindness and patience does last a long way.

Amy represents creativity and an appreciation of beauty through open expression. Despite being shown as self-centered or greedy, she is one of the sisters whose passion for art and drawing never really died out through the book. She does not draw for money, as Jo writes for both passion and money, but more out of the appreciation of the things surrounding her. Her observation allows her to stop and smell the roses, as people have been increasingly urged to do so.

Style & Structure

While the story was mainly told through the third-person narrative, there were snippets of the first-person voice of the narrator in certain areas. Going through the times linearly, it reflects that time and life will neither rewind for us, nor will it fast forward. The sisters are shown to grow gradually, both personally and with each other, without convenient breaks where no one knows what happened. That, in itself, does portray a somewhat more accurate reflection of life.

Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott and has been printed and reprinted through the years. To find out more about the book, click here.

In the meantime…

And that’s it for August! Stay tuned for the next few posts of September and I’ll see you then!

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Museum Escapades: The Blue Mansion a.k.a. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Museum Escapades

Back in the years of being a colony, businessmen around the area flocked to Southeast Asia, especially around the Dutch and British strongholds in present-day Sumatra, Java, and Malaysia. One of the most celebrated Mandarins of China and one of the pioneer capitalists in the East, Cheong Fatt Tze’s story carries on with the mansion he has left behind in Penang.

The entrance to the mansion.

The entrance to the mansion.

The greeting lobby.

The greeting lobby.

Born a Hakka in Taipu County, China, Cheong Fatt Tze came to Southeast Asia at the age of 16, first working and learning the ropes of business in Jakarta (then known as Batavia, Dutch East Indies) before gaining the trust of the colonialists and setting up business in Penang. The Blue Mansion was constructed as evidence to show that Cheong was not a fly-by-night merchant, but a serious businessman.

While much of the mansion was constructed with western influences, Cheong stood close to his Chinese roots, with the house built on a manmade slope and according to general fengshui practices. As explained by our lively guide, Pat, the general layout of the house was centered on harmony and wealth, to keep the family as peaceful and harmonious as possible.

Our lively and wonderful guide, Pat. Regaling us with the history of Cheong Fatt Tze.

Our lively and wonderful guide, Pat. Educating us on the history of Cheong Fatt Tze.

View from the second level balcony.

View from the second level balcony.

The beginnings of one of China's finest Mandarins

The beginnings of one of China’s finest Mandarins

Stories on the restoration.

Stories on the restoration.

Mdm Tan, Cheong's 7th Wife and the one he fell in love with.

Mdm Tan, Cheong’s 7th Wife and the one he fell in love with.

The second level of the mansion focussed more on the restoration of the Mansion, together with Cheong’s achievements and personal life. It was also the entrance to the Chinese Fine Dining establishment which opened within the Mansion itself.

When the last living descendant (who lived in this mansion) of Cheong Fatt Tze died in 1989, the mansion was in disrepair. Soon purchased by a group of Chinese businessmen, they found out about its historical value and got the place restored for tourists. Historically, many of Cheong’s descendants have not been mentioned, as many of Cheong’s sons sold his assets and businesses so that they did not have to work.

The Blue Mansion in that same shade of blue it was.

The Blue Mansion in that same shade of blue it was.

Now restored to its glory, it was a filming location of French film “IndoChine” (among others), and is now a guest house, with daily tours, and a holder of the Most Excellent Project, UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards in 2000. To find out more about the Blue Mansion, click here.

P/S – If you would like to follow our posts on our Penang trip, just search for the tag “penang adventure 2014”.

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Signal Boost: How Was Your Day?

Signal Boost

If some of you may recall, I did an analysis / review of How Was Your Day?, a comic anthology released during Comic Art Festival, Kuala Lumpur (CAFKL) here. It was so popular that it actually sold out on the first day of CAFKL itself.

Pic courtesy of Max Loh.

Pic courtesy of Max Loh.

Now I’m incredibly excited to let everyone here know that there has been a second print run and you will be able to get How Was Your Day? in Books Actually, retailing at SGD24.

So yes, if you like comics and would like to see more regional work or comics close to our hearts, head down to Books Actually and give them your support. Find out more about How Was Your Day? here.

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