Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the Force

I love Star Wars. I love the story, the mythology, the premise, the characters, the cities and the aliens and enduring battle between good and evil played again and again on distant battlefields. And not just the movies, either - the entire body of work that constitutes the Star Wars storyline, from the novels to the games to the comics.

One can tell that a franchise has surmounted the bonds of unreality when an entire community of Star Wars lovers has arisen in both the real world and the electronic one. Star Wars is not merely a successful movie series, nor is its massive popularity a result of nostalgia over the good ol' 1970s (and such arcana that we will never truly know). It has grown into a cultural phenomenon, no less real than Elvis or eating with chopsticks. It is a legitimate facet of global culture - Star Wars is unabashedly Western, but its appeal is universal and it harbors no ill will toward any race or creed (save, of course, those that have been indentified as Profoundly Evil). It embodies a fresh and unfettered view on morality, while at the same time introducing subtle moral vagaries such as the right of redemption. It is simple to understand and yet profoundly deep. The wider universe of Star Wars is a sandbox of the mind, allowing free rein in a galaxy that stretches infinitely in both time and space.

The movies have ceased to be the only defining aspect of Star Wars - the Star Wars mythos has extended through popular media, tinkered with and expanded by the unceasing labours of hundreds of creative minds. It has grown into one of the largest self-consistent chronologies ever created. It is the ultimate escapist fantasy for the Everyman, but it is by no means an ideal world - it is filled with enough grit and noir to please most who look for quality in the grim and the dirt. The gleaming and immaculate spires of Coruscant against the dusty sandstone of Tatooine or the slime-filled sleaze of Nar Shardaa, the insouciant heroism of Luke against the dark and contorted souls of the most conflicted characters in space opera - Darth Vader, Dooku, Exar Kun and the rest. The supercilious nobility of the Senate against the rough but open manner of smugglers like Han Solo and Talon Karrde - Star Wars has characters that speak to us, that we may identify with, characters that can be loved and hated, characters that change, age, mature. No cookie-cutter Rambos in Star Wars, despite appearances. Not even the Jedi are perfect. The Fall of the Galactic Republic echoes that of Foundation and conversely that of Greece.

One of the best things about Star Wars is its capacity to expand. It is an agglomerate of concepts, ideas, and grand mythologies spawned in hundreds of dreams and visions. It is a sweeping and self-sustaining universe, dynamic and ever-changing, encyclopedic in its detail, grand in premise and scope. Star Trek really cannot hold a candle.

To those who scorn Star Wars because it seems like conventional Hollywood fare, simplistic and explosive, you haven't bothered to look deep enough. Granted, the Prequel Trilogy hasn't been brilliant. But the Originals are, along with the vast account of SW history of the books, comics and games, that speak to me more clearly than the gothic travesties of overly complex and grim steamy sci-fi tomes that critics love to sneeringly compare to Star Wars.

In short, Star Wars has transcended mere fiction; more than most, it lives on within not merely my mind, but also in my heart.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Come Potter Finale

The Harry Potter series is nearing its grand finale, following the release of the penultimate book in the series, the Half-Blood Prince.

What tidings will Book Seven bring? What ill news, what seeds of new hope? What comic affectations and tragic setups? What absurdities, what profoundities, and what tangents will branch off from the great colossus of the epilogue?

Here are some speculations, conceived and brought to tremolous ripening by the warm rolling tides of the postmeridan clime.

About the Great Conflict:

What should happen:
- Harry Potter destroys the last horcrux and confronts Voldemort, who does eerie twisting motions with his eyebrows, and apparates to the Moon after using the Bubble-Head Charm. Harry checks his Apparition licence and follows, leaving his heart behind. On the Moon, Harry and Voldemort face off while fending off strange Moon fairies and explosive decompression. After farting soundlessly into the night, Harry Potter gets sick and tired of the game and points his wand on the Moon's surface, screaming Reducto. The ensuing conflagaration smashes Voldemort into a pulp while Harry disapparates back into Hogwarts and realizes that he never read Hogwarts: A History. Amazed by this revelation he looks up at the sky and sees the exploding moon with tears of happiness brimming in his eyes, while mass-species extinction events take place in America. Soon after sleeping through a civil war he retires into Albania and finds a gigantic canvas containing images from Harry's most intimate dreams. He then find's Quirrell's turban, puts it on his head, and finds a vestige of Voldemort's soul within, along with a flowery note of apology bidding adieu to the world. Amidst the general rejoicing and adulation Harry then writes a book called The Dark Wizard Who Only Wanted to Show the World His Dance Moves, which subsequently reveals that it was the word dark in dark wizard that started all the trouble in the firstplace and Voldemort was in fact a nice guy and didn't mean to hurt anyone. The ensuing controversy destroy's Harry's reputation as a saviour and leads people to call him the Monoxide. Harry then takes Ginny and Quirrell's turban and disapparates to many distant planets, searching for a world where Voldemort can once again show his dance moves. Subsequent novels will deal with Harry's adventures on the world of Luputamia and how he discovered that werewolves were a beautiful species which bit their victims in the mistaken assumption that they would all go into doggy-heaven.

What May happen:
-Harry Potter destroys all the Horcruxes and confronts Voldemort, who will reveal choice bits of information about the world and Harry in general before proceeding to cackle evilly and set in motion devious traps for Harry. While Harry dodges many poorly aimed spells he will discover many things about himself and the world in general. Somehow a couple of people will sacrifice themselves to let him have a shot at old Voldemort, which he promptly succeeds at doing. He will then experience many conflicting emotions and despair.


Severus Snape

What should happen: While concocting a particularly vile potion Snape slips on his greasy little head and falls head first into his cauldron, causing him to mutate into the hideous reptilian monster known as the Wizzard (to avoid confusion). In tattered robes he then proceeds to battle Spiderboy (aka the spider-bitten Draco Malfoy) in a fit of pique and promptly drops dead for breaking the Unbreakable Vow.

What may happen: During Harry's faceoff with Voldemort he will reveal his true colours and kill Voldemort with a well-placed Avada Kevadra spell (because the prophecy never said they had to kill each other). He will then die heroically.

Draco Malfoy

What should happen: Malfoy gets bitten by a spider and becomes Spiderboy, and expresses his undying love for Pansy Parkinson after placing her under the Imperius Curse to ensure that she doesn't talk back. He later battles the Wizzard, dying in the process.

What may happen: Malfoy will mend his ways and become a stalwart member of the DA, dying in the process like Snape.

Bellatrix Lestrange

What should happen: While torturing little cats with a pair of chopsticks and some boiling water she will trip over a bit of catnip and impale herself on her chopsticks, whilst simultaneously strangling herself on her own knickerbockers and getting knocked down by a passing freight-train.

What may happen: A lot of poetic justice, hopefully.

Sirius Black

What should happen: Sirius returns, for a little while, yet, lo! he is not Sirius Black, who fell into darkness. He is Sirius White, who has returned from death. And he will wander, as he has always done, giving aid to friendly peoples, helping the weak, grudging no favours to the strong, binding the races of Men and All Other Assorted Creatures as one, to face the great Enemy who lurks yonder, in the Land of Shadow (a.k.a the Riddle House).

What may happen: Very little.

Rubeus Hagrid

What should happen: He will come into his own as the rapper. Yo.

What may happen: He may die heroically saving Harry.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Winter Wish

In Winter

I yearn
For summer solitude

and autumnal ash
Of leather leaves
That saunter down for spring.

That make a laurel crown
For gentle grass and green.

In Summer

I wish
for winter withering

and blinding white
of silent snow
and lakeside jewel-laid.

And midst the quietude,
A snowy enfilade.

Monday, July 17, 2006

On Books

Like music books are often connected to a memory, or a sensation, or an emotion one feels upon finishing; terrible regret, yearning, warmth, sadness. The best of books induce emotion, yet so do the worst. When do such emotions indicate a good book? When that emotion was identifiably the author's intent, or of a purpose and cause relevant to the content.

Some of the most powerful books induce in me a yearning. It is a yearning for the characters to become relevant, to somehow leap from the pages into reality and engage in a series of illuminating conversations with each other. It is a yearning for the fulfillment of the author's universe, for it to leave some print, something more that merely trivial, on the world. The dreary, less-than-perfect real world more complex than even the most cynical of tomes can effectively describe.

To experience a yearning after finishing a book is to subscribe to the ideal that a book represents. To someone reading a historical novel it is that desire to relive moments enshrined in the past that we can never visit save through the weavings of another's words; to read Harry Potter is to yearn for Hogwarts and magic, escapism into a world inherently magical and exciting, despite the conflict that is so central to the plot progression.

I have always associated the beautiful classic Watership Down with sunlight and gentle wind, quietude on a summer day, despite the fact that I don't know what summer is like, save as an observer in the goings on of the rabbits in the book. And I yearn for the characters to be real, that what has taken place, the heroism and the romance and the tragedy, even, has somehow taken place, has somehow assumed the label of reality, of being real, not merely in the mind, but in the flesh. The stuff of human thought sprung forth into the world, sharing a place with the real and the dull, infusing some life into tired senses.

Perhaps that is why fiction is such a terrible thing; good fiction and its contents are ever fated, like an unrequited lover, to suffer entrapment in the medium of mere words, when the words themselves are like cages of a real beauty, that, like a marble sculpture or an engraving, show off the fine curves of their charges in all their splendour while all the time keeping them from bursting forth into life. And it is up to the reader to imagine that it happens.

And yet, had not the craftsman made the statues, the reader would never even have the pleasure of imagination

Friday, July 07, 2006

Mr Brown

I just heard the Mr Brown podcast called "Resident Smilers".

It's revolting, disgusting, perverse, cynical, demeaning filth. It may have been meant as humour or irony, but the manner of its execution is needlessly vitriolic, relentlessly pessimistic, savagely ironic, and grotesque in the extreme, from the poster of the gruesome, surgically-altered grimace to the very content of the podcast.

Is Mr Brown suggesting that we are mindless syncophants? Is he casting the government's harmless and well-meant intention to INITIATE A WELCOME to the WB and IMF summit delegates, an exhortation to just MIND OUR MANNERS, to be the workings of some cynical plot to pander and suck up to Westerners? Is his ironic scorn meant as a jab at the government, or is his portrayal of us Singaporeans in the podcast meant to reflect our true natures?

That podcast is disgusting and demeaning. Worse still, it is told from the point of view of the foreign delegates, symphathetic to them, and it begs the question of who exactly he wishes to criticize and to insult; a relentlessly campaigning government whose aims are, at this juncture, benign, representatives of an ineffectual and unpopular group of delegates, or Singaporeans themselves.

I suppose we should all act our surly selves when they arrive, and throw rotten tomatoes at their passing cars, rather than extending them the courtesy that is their very right as human beings.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


The sun is shining and the sky is blue and the light shafts down in a dusty sky, and it's beauty, beautiful, splendid. Here we are in Common Tests Drudge still.

Trapped in time, trapped in school life. Unlike space, there is no avoiding time, that which is inevitable. It's like being strapped to the front of a bulletrain. Bullet rain, bull trains, bullet trains.

Have absolutely no desire to mug chemistry. Mathematics is now done.

Hearken back to the days of 2005, where the greatest worry now was readjustment to school. Now its readjustment to school and exams and school and more school and EE and CAS and the pressures of being alone.

Music from Harry Potter bounces around in my head, coupled with strains of Euro Techno music and the Chemplanet in the envirochem competition, plus Romeo+Juliet. Or What You Will.

I desire to watch many movies, including Batman Begins, Contact, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Superman Returns, X-Men 3, V for Vendetta. Still searching for the Lindsay Lohan flick.

Desire a nice book along the lines of science fiction. Desire to go out for a bit, set chemfile aside.

Mired, though.