Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where to? Neverwhere

I am a pretty strained person if asked what next to read. The things I read are mostly lecture notes or course textbook, which are interesting in their own ways. Yet, I consistently put 'reading' as a hobby in any form where I need to put my hobby. Well, I read some Douglas Adams' works, Tolkien's, ...and popular science, the kinds of 'A Brief History of Time', or 'The Elegant Universe'. In fact I spent a lot of time in my relatively brief senior high days reading popular science ...and Phantom of the Opera (I just had to mention it, that book was great).

Enough of nostalgia. There's this little ritual of mine to shop for books at the end of a semester. To help me brave through holiday (rather, to help video games and sleep help me brave through holiday, which doesn't really need a braving through in the first place). Now, I watched stardust, and I liked it, very much. Especially Captain Shakespeare and the fact that the movie depicted some kind of nuclear fusion toward the end ('what do stars do?" ...nuclear fusion!). I really like all the imagination. So it's a given that the ritual book-shopping has to involve a Neil Gaiman book in it (and must not involve burning things, strange incantation, or human sacrifice, what'd the world say!).

I know I'm getting too verbose about nothing here, two paragraphs about liking books and oh-that-movie-was-good-I-have-to-read-more-from-the-author and all. It is obvious that I was reading Neverwhere, considering the title of this post and the picture at its beginning, let me say it anyhow: I read Neverwhere. I like it. A world below another world, and no one knows. I easily fall to books that beautifully create its own world with its own culture, quirks, strangeness, and that lead to interesting characters (this is a selling feature for RPGs to me too). And the villain mastermind! Call me uninitiated but I was surprised. I'd like more detail about that character, but I guess what's there makes for a nice imagination anyway. In Tolkien books, the villain overlord is introduced in the beginning, do something bad, then in crawl to its little dark cave, sending minions for our brave heroes to slaughter. Happened in both Melkor's and Sauron's age.

I thought that the ending kind of dragged too, but that's before the little surprise at the end. Heh, that Marquis. It's also a surprise that Gaiman wrote a book about Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. I don't think I'd be reading it soon though.

Currently burying my face in Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights (I don't hear very good things about the movie, compared to the book, but I haven't seen it, so no objectivity here). Depending on how interesting it is, I might get to the two sequels immediately. But after that, I think it's certain that I'd read another Neil Gaiman's. Recommendation?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Courage and Tenacity (2)

Spirited Bear Jr. hit the street with guitar on hand. Every step that he took was another stop the massive rockification of the world, nay the universe. Of course, reality wasn't so kind to just give him a stage, some several millions of audience, and a large cup of hot chocolate every single morning. Like every honorable bears and penguin out there that did make it big, in anything, Bear Jr. had to fight his way.

The first issue was highly functional. Bear Jr. didn't have a roof to sleep under, a fridge to hit at meal time, much less food to fill the hypothetical fridge. But that was not something that he couldn't remedy. In a flash Bear Jr. was hired by the fisher-bears and fisher-penguins guild as part time land staff. This would take care of rent and meal, Bear Jr. thought, and because he's working part time, he'd have much time to practice his craft.

He more or less got it right for the rent and meal part, but dead wrong about the rest. Naive Bear Jr. didn't think that there's anything fishy in his contract, except that it involved a lot of fish, but any half-experienced part-time-job-hopping wannabe-rocker bear would immediately realize that part time meant just that, a part of time, a MAJOR part of time. How does 14 hours workday sound? It's surprising they could get away with the ridiculous scheduling, with labor unions and all.

It's not Bear Jr. if he didn't have the tenacity to find a way even in a very trying time. He began carrying his guitar to the port for work. Most of the time he didn't have to do anything anyway, he just had to be there in case some administrative work needed to be done, which was rare, at least for the kind that he was allowed to handle.

Returning fisher-bears and fisher-penguins would then listen to Bear Jr. shred. Shredding to ...oldies. Well, Bear Jr. needed some audience, any audience, and there were a lot of old penguins and bears in the guild. Tough old penguins and bears. But they melt at the first sound of an old romantic tune. In a matter of weeks, Bear Jr. became a kind of full-time port musician and part time part time administrative staff (yes, there are two "part time"s there). One day, he was offered to work on a fishing boat, told that a no-challenge desk job wasn't a good thing to spend his youth on. Bear Jr. never planned to spend his youth doing some desk job, he planned to spend it rocking the world and blowing people's minds, well not spend, invest. But he accepted the offer, the strong waves and vengeful storms of the sea would get his creative juice flow like a waterfall, so he thought.

Poor Bear Jr. in his first time out in the open sea, he fell from the boat during a storm and lost, needless to say, he died. His body was never found. The end.




Well, not. The fishing trip went smoothly, for the veterans at least. For our Bear Jr.? Well, he fell and died didn't he? Actually no, he was safe, very very much exhausted but safe. He has never been on a professional fishing trip before, but the other crew said he did pretty good. Skipping ahead, Bear Jr. became a fairly good fisher-bear, and a better rocker. He event wrote some songs during his fisher months. Most of the songs sounded like seafood recipe, but some are pretty decent.

Their haul gets better after Bear Jr. was on board several months. The fishes, some of them are weird, dig his songs, it seems. Oh yes, Bear Jr. sang on board, every single trip. He wanted to be a rocker he's got to work for it. The old sailors began to ease up to listening to modern rock too.

After a while, our hero couldn't stay being a fisher-bear, he's got to go to the city and live the dream. So he went, leaving his sailor friends who now look very much like a biker gang. Bear Jr. decided to walk to the city. Not because he wanted to prove something or he couldn't afford transport. It's just very near. But in the middle of the road, a very big truck carrying a lot of fishes of all kinds, including weird ones, lose control, swerved, and hit him. Bear Jr. died instantly.




No, he reached the city in one piece. Well, he was thirsty and his feet was killing him, and he regretted his decision to walk, but he's fine. It's better to regret doing something than regret not doing something, he thought. Now struggled at sea, practised everyday, declared dead by a mean writer twice, Bear Jr. was on track to the rockification of the world. The first step, little concerts on the street.

Let's skip a lot of effort and just say that Bear Jr. was tenacious, unbelievably tenacious, and strangely declared dead three more times by the mean writer. He made it big, but not massive. He had many teen fans, scored enmity from their parents, won a small-time record contract, and for good measure declared dead five more times, by various means from drowning to catastrophic mental breakdown which involved a lot of bricks, all false, of course.

But what propelled him to fame was Our Beloved Fantastic Teacher The Great and Kind Penguin of Passion and Willpower's campaign. Because he jumped to support the moment the campaign was launched. His honed rocking skill and passion and willpower made him a major champion of the campaign. His personal goal? Planet Earth of Rockified Passion and Willpower. Well, it didn't happen immediately, lots of people and penguins and bears prefer metal, pop, classic, or even pure white noise. But he got a title: The Epic Bear Jr. of Courage and Tenacity. Well, Bear Jr. preferred Fantabulous to Epic but he made sure that his every performance was both epic and fantabulous, out of personal ego and a name to live up to.

Okay, we know the story from Papa Bear and Bear Jr., how about Mama Bear? She seemed to be some kind of villain in both the story, but she wasn't! She got what she wanted in the end too, but that's not for now.

By the way, at the declaration of Planet Earth of Passion and Willpower Bear Jr. sang, and a huge speaker fell on his head and killed him. No, of course not. He sang and rocked the earthlings and went home safely to feast on ice cream and chocolate cakes.