Tuesday, 29 November 2011

So I guess I can say now that the summer holiday's finally here. Today I will be moving my things out of my apartment, leaving only those that I will either throw away or bring home, which isn't a lot. Already my room looks empty and messy, with things everywhere.

In a few days, I will be leaving Melbourne to go back home. Around this time last year, I was doing the same thing- packing up to leave for home, though last time I was in a very different state of mind.

I definitely enjoy Melbourne more. Everything about Melbourne seems more to my liking than Adelaide- the people, the lifestyle, the culture, the infrastructure (oh yes, even if I don't go in skyscrapers seeing them is good enough).

I'll save those reflection-styled entries for the end of the year, since that's what I normally do (but if you don't see them, fret not, for I'll be in a place where Blogger might be blocked!), but just comparing my two years, living in two different cities, I can see how far I've come, and how much more I enjoyed myself this year.

In case you're wondering, I will actually be heading to China for 6 weeks, so it is another winter season for me. I do wish that I would be able to enjoy summer more, but the fact is that I have to sacrifice certain preferences to do what I want.

Melbourne's weather is quickly becoming what I like- sunny and warm. I believe I do not need to tell you how much I hate cold weather and winter, so being in China during its winter season will definitely be an interesting experience, one that I'm very thankful for. But more on that later.

I've received my uni results, and it was pretty much the same as last year, still pretty good, but when you factor in all my other commitments this semester, I'd say they were excellent. Not that I was really hoping for anything, I think with everything I've been doing, I didn't have such a big focus on uni, but rather wanted to have a more well-rounded experience here, and so I stopped directing my attention solely on getting that HD. So long as it gives me the window to pursue an honours degree (I've not made up my mind on that yet, hence I want to keep my options open), I'm happy.

Anyway, now it's time to get back to the packing. Adios!
Read more
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Why I Admire Writers

I'm ashamed to admit that even though I have been on holidays I have not gotten around to writing any of the things that I had wanted to write. They're rather intriguing stories, too, would've been nice to see them being put down in proper form rather than just scribbles. But discipline has always been my biggest enemy when it comes to writing.

So perhaps I cannot accurately myself a writer, because I do not write as diligently like some authors out there. They sit down, and write every day. But then again, these are well-known authors who were fortunate enough to be able to make a living by writing. Writing to me will probably always be a part-time (if you can even it that) thing.

I like reading about writers. I find them very interesting. But I would never accept any writing tips, because from what I read, every famous writer has a different set of routine and preferences- some like to write in public places, some do it in the comforts of their home, some like writing as they go along, with just a main idea in mind, some like having every single detail planned out before writing anything. They all have their own way of doing things, and that's the approach I've taken as well- I do what I think suits me. Speaking in the context of the given examples, I'm a write-at-home person, and like having the entire plot committed to a piece of paper somewhere before I start writing anything.

I remember once, when I wrote a fan fiction of a movie, I had written down the entire plot, but of course, lost discipline halfway through. I think it was about two years later that I resumed the story, and it was really great that I still had the plot with me.

Recently, I have been reading some books by Kelley Armstrong- she writes fantasy novels, and what I really like about her series is that the novels can be read in any order, and you won't feel like you're missing out on anything if you skip any of them. I've read some of the later books first before going backwards, and still there were only minor stuff that I already knew. Most, remained unknown to me. Which is really cool, I hope to be able to write like that someday.

Perhaps one day I will find myself in an exotic island with nothing to do but write. Perhaps then I'll produce some actual writing and (I really wish this would happen) get published.

Or maybe I will stumble on a treasure chest (or maybe win a reality show) and use that money to travel and write about it (and get published, of course).

Or, better yet, maybe I will find the discipline that I have with showering at least once a day, with waking up at 730 so that I can go about my morning to prepare for a 930 class (though obviously that's stopped now), with planning my day as detailed as I can... and I will somehow produce lots and lots of stories! (Though it doesn't mean that I'll show you any of them)
Read more
Saturday, 19 November 2011

Here are a few trailers I amassed in the last few weeks. They're rather interesting movies, I assure you.

In the past week, I've visited this far out place in Victoria (about 5 hours by train then another 15 minutes by bus), where I did nothing but relax and watch movies. It's a nice place, small town by the lake, reminds me of the setting of many movies and TV shows (somehow, small towns have this appeal for keeping secrets, which is perhaps what most movies and TV shows are about).

The trip actually made me a little nostalgic, as it reminded me a lot about the friends back home. But perhaps in a complete about-turn, the nostalgia was more of a fond memory rather than a bittersweet one, as in the past I thought about these things with a tinge of sadness that I've had to leave those people behind. But now, while I miss their companionship, it appears that I have started seeing me being here very differently.

I wonder why- either I've grown up enough emotionally that I can feel more detached from things I hold dear, or I've just discovered my hidden psychopathy.
Read more
Monday, 14 November 2011
Which Way?

I'm in a dilemma.

I've been blogging for a while now, and I've seen my writing style change and improve throughout the years. It's been a very sweet journey, but as I've mentioned, I have a decision to make.

I do remember when I first decided to start this blog- I had started reading some books written by local authors on the idiosyncrasies and quirks that exists in our country, and I had thought that I have quite a few opinions of my own, so that was my original reason for opening a blog- that I had a lot of things to talk about.

But it's not easy to keep it up for such a long time, and so somewhere down the line I had begun to make it more of a journal as well. Then I slowly added more things, like trailers and reviews. 

Then there's the audience. I do recall at a certain point in time when I did have a more diverse readership made of people other than my friends and family, but now, all I entertain are the very few friends who still blog.

And of course, there's the change in myself that's been happening over the years- my attitude towards this blog and what I want to write about.

And therein lies my dilemma- it appears that this blog is at crossroads.

For the past year or so I've tried not to write about my personal life, and that's why in recent times there's not been a lot of updates on what I've been up to lately, and certainly less about the people I interact with in my life.

I've tried to focus on writing about other things, focusing on the issues that are often highlighted in the media and give my own take on it, which is essentially going back to what my original purpose for starting this blog was.

I do not wish to continue writing this as a journal, but on the other hand people who visit this blog read it to know what's going on with my life, so yes, I am in a dilemma, a dilemma of what direction this blog should take in terms of its content.

Fear not, I'll still be updating as usual, so whatever change that happens will happen slowly that you probably wouldn't notice.

What do you think?
Read more
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Movie Review: Anonymous

Taking advantage of the holidays and cheap tickets (on Mondays), I went to catch movie, Anonymous.

It's about the theory that Shakespeare did not, in fact, write anything that he is famous for- that it was actually written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Being that the movie was set in Shakespearean times, it was also the Elizabethan era, so it was rather interesting to have a portrayal of the society then outside of the royal circle, even though most of the movie did keep it within the aristocrats.

At the beginning, I definitely felt a little out of the loop even though I had read rather extensively about the Tudor era England, as the countless nobility fed to me was a little of an overload. Plus, the movie used flashbacks to put some of the dialogues and actions into context, which meant that for some characters, there would be 2, and perhaps even 3, actors playing them at different ages. And given that the peerage system is confusing for many people, I was left stumped as the many Earls referred to each other by their titles. It was really a case of 'who's playing which character'?

 Young-ish Queen Elizabeth and her court.

But soon after I familiarised myself and suddenly everything made much more sense. I understood the characters better, I understood their motives and why they do what they did. And the movie became much, much more enjoyable after.

Another aspect that made the movie harder to understand was that it did not have a specific time for the events. It started at a certain period, then there was a flashback to 20 years ago, before coming back to the present, then another flashback to 40 years ago. The problem here is that no year was ever stated, and for me that made the story a little less convincing. Timeline is something I myself value very much in a good story.

When writing a story of my own, I would always plot out the timeline of important events so that everything would fit in place and I wouldn't contradict myself, e.g. saying something happened in January and then saying it happened in February later. Attention to detail is something that I enjoy in a good story, and I think that for historical fiction this aspect is even more important, so the fact that the movie did not state any year made it less believable; the few anchors I have is that I know who Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare are, and that they lived (if I'm not mistaken) in the 15th century, during the Renaissance period.

Not that it made it a lot easier- the actress who played the younger Queen had to play it in two different periods, which I would assume is sometime in her early 20s, and again sometime in her early to mid 30s. Another anchor was William Cecil, her advisor, who was played by the same man at all ages. So by judging how old he is, I knew whether or not it was a flashback. And good thing I recognised him too, he plays Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter movies.

Again, Queen Elizabeth- at different stages of her life. I've no idea how old they were, though.

One thing I did like about the movie is that it had much more scenes where it concerned just the 'normal' people- those who have to work and earn their wages, who are not fortunate enough to have titles to their names upon their birth. I'm not too sure about how accurate a portrayal of society at the time was, but it was nonetheless enlightening. For example, bets on animal fighting was widespread (grizzly bear versus several fierce dogs), and drinking was as common as it is now, though only those of the lower classes appear to get drunk. And not to mention, hygiene at the time was appalling- the ground was constantly muddy from the rain and footsteps of people, and the people appeared to have no regard for cleaning up after themselves- they always appeared rugged and just gives you this sense that they have never taken a bath (okay it was a luxury then).

Timeline aside, the story itself was convincing enough; when I came home after watching the movie I had immediately Googled the characters and events, and most of it was fiction. For example, Edward de Vere was not adopted (there was a twist, though expected one, at the end about his adoption) as a baby. And the Queen did not have any illegitimate children (related to the adoption, if you can put two and two together), at least I couldn't find any rumour or conspiracy theory about it.

So I guess in that sense, the writer of the script did a rather good job of adding aspects of fiction into a historical period in time, and of course, the main topic of did Shakespeare write his plays, sonnets and poems? This movie explores how it is possible that Shakespeare did not- apparently, none of it was written in his handwriting. From my online research, I can confirm that Edward de Vere is indeed, a possible author of Shakespear's works, if he did not indeed write them himself.

 Edward de Vere in the movie

There were of course elements of surprise in the movie, most of it revealed in the last few minutes by Robert Cecil, son of William Cecil, and who inherited his father's position and aptitude (cunning and ambitious, but yet loyal to their queen- very interesting characters).

All in all, Anonymous is a movie that was at least worth the money I paid for, and is perhaps worth spending more time to watch a second time (without taking into account the money cost involved), although it definitely is not movie of the year material.

Here's a trailer if you're interested:

Read more
Saturday, 5 November 2011
A Quick One

So the holidays have been treating me well. I've been getting a lot of rest, a lot of time at home. Not saying that I have entirely nothing to do, as I do try to keep myself occupied, though I try to be as un-occupied as possible. I think sometimes it even makes me anti-social.

But I suppose that's how most writers are, isn't it (wow, I'm actually considering myself a writer)? They are cooped up at home, or in some coffeeshop, while they write, and write, and write. Now I've not actually been paid for any writing that I've done, but I still like to think myself as a writer. Hey, I do have a byline to my name and a story or two! I did come up with a story idea, but have yet to begin writing it. Perhaps now would be the best time to begin.

I've also been reading. Not a lot, since I rarely have time to read these days, but I've picked up a book from the Melbourne City Library, titled 'Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?', about this guy who quit his Wall Street job and took on a casual job as a Lonely Planet guidebook author.

His book is a memoir of his experiences there, when he had shared an apartment with a prostitute, when he justified attending parties as research on nightlife even though he was completely worn out, and most shockingly, how he sold drugs in order to sustain himself when he ran out of money.

These experiences made me think of my own travelling dream. I thought about whether or not I would be able to live as precariously as he did, or whether I would be able to tolerate living in a hostel whose walls are paper thin (literally) and apartments whose landlords secretly inspect your belongings. I wonder if I would be able to put up with these hardships, if I were to ever be able to travel the world.

I guess that's the perfect reason why I should go travelling while I'm young, because that's when you can put up with a whole lot of crap and still have a good time.

Grand Canyon, USA. Taken from Nomadic Matt.

Places like these, are the reason why I would want to travel. That, and because I want to 'see the world'.

Let's hope that one day, it will become a reality, eh?
Read more
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Close Encounters of the... Other Kind

Just last week after I completed my university assignment, I had attempted to relax by heading to the library's DVD collections area, and lo and behold, I found one of my favourite series, Survivor. And it was the first season no less, which aired in 2000 or 2001, so it was a good ten years ago, a lot earlier before I enjoyed the show.

So I quickly began devouring each episode one after another. Fun fact: the first ever Survivor was held at Pulau Tiga, somewhere in Sabah. One of the challenges was particularly interesting- the host had started by telling the contestants facts about the local culture, and then proceeded to hand them video cameras which they have to film themselves heading into the jungle and search for masks. Behind these masks are questions, and they have to film their answer. Once they've collected all the masks and return, the host will check if their answers are right.

Now I wasn't so much interested in who won the challenge, but I was more interested in what the host had told them. It was, eerily creepy. So as you know, we Malaysians have a lot of superstitions regarding supernatural beings in the jungle. But before I tell you what the host told them, I should provide a little context. So in Survivor, you start off with two teams, or tribes. After a certain point in the game the tribes merge and it becomes an individual game. Hence, only one person wins the entire game. Every time they will go to Tribal Council where they vote off a person. The person voted off will have their torch extinguished by the host, to symbolise the end of their life in the game.

 According to this, I'm a nerd who prefers to be a hipster, but can't due to some technicalities.

So what happened was, after the merge, during Tribal Council everytime before the votes were announced, the person who was going home had their torch's flame go out without notice, while the others remained fine. Producers then had to relight it without the contestants (and the cameras) noticing so that the torch could be extinguished ceremoniously.

Another thing is that snakes supposedly bring good luck, and disrespecting it will bring bad luck. Apparently, once a contestant had chased a pit viper out of their camp, and he was voted off at the next Tribal Council.

Finally, the host said that head hunters used to blow this shell that will induce the gods to bring about rain. He said that he has blown it every single time before Tribal Council, and lo and behold, it's rained at every Tribal Council.

Here's the video of the challenge where he said that:

In that Tribal Council, the person voted off had his torch already extinguished, perhaps to prove the point. Now of course there will be sceptics who think that it's all just for TV, but it's creepy nonetheless!

I'm sure we've all heard similar stories; I would say all Malaysians would have gone through their life with at least hearing ONE supernatural tale. I myself had heard countless ones, some even creep me out to this day and gave me sleepless nights when I first heard them. Heck, I've even had a (sort of) supernatural experience once.

So for this Halloween, I pose this question- do you believe in the supernatural? Do you believe in ghosts, spirits, and other supernatural beings? Have you had an experience of the supernatural sort?

Growing up, I had always been afraid of the supernatural. I remember how some family members would watch shows like The X-Files and it got to me so badly that I wouldn't be able to sleep. I mean, how else are you supposed to react? I don't understand how people can be so unaffected, especially when these beings supposedly can mess up your life.

Of course, later on I got less and less scared about it. I think that till now, I still get spooked about these things but I handle it much better now, and I think having to live alone for a year definitely helped out a lot.

I'm going to tell you an embarrassing confession now- when I first moved to Adelaide, into my apartment, living all alone, with the surrounding area so alien and pitch black, I was so scared that for the first week or so I had to sleep with the lights on. By the end of the year, I couldn't be bothered by most noises (and there were a lot of weird noises in the apartment, I assure you). This year, moving in with someone I know well, made it even easier. Or perhaps I'm just less affected by this now? I hope so.

Anyway, I'll end this with a couple of spooky things that I read yesterday in a book that I found in the public library:

1. Legend of the Bell Witch 

This is about a ghost who haunted this house and family in the 1800s:

Some members of the family began seeing strange looking animals around the property. Then late at night they started hearing knocking sounds on the doors and outer walls of the house. Later sounds were being heard in the house. Sounds of a rat gnawing on the bed post, chains being drug through the house, stones being dropped on the wooden floors, then gulping and choking sounds.

It was not long before people were coming from miles around to hear and witness this unseen force that was terrorizing the Bell home. Before long this unseen force had gained enough strength that it now had a voice. When asked who and what it was, it gave different identities. It once stated that it was the witch of a neighbor woman named Kate Batts. This is what many people believed, and from then on, this unseen force was called "Kate" the "Bell's Witch".

It seemed that Kate had two main reasons for visiting the Bell home. The main one was to kill John Bell. For what reason no one knows because Kate never gave a reason why. The second reason was to stop John's youngest daughter Betsy from marrying a certain neighbor boy named Joshua Gardner.

Over the next three years "Kate" tormented members of the Bell family almost daily. John and his daughter Betsy was the ones who received the worst of the physical abuse. Betsy had her hair pulled, she was pinched, scratched stuck with pins and even beaten. While John Bell began suffering from spells of swelling of the throat and often had the feeling of a stick being stuck sideways in his throat. Then came the twitching and jerking of the facial muscles. Kate would blast him with curses and hideous threats during these spells. As time went on John Bell became weaker and weaker.
(the story ends with him dying) 

2. Borley Rectory

 One of the alleged sightings

Borley Rectory was reputed to be the most haunted house in the UK. The rectory was built by the Rev. Henry D. E. Bull in 1863 near the river Stour, Essex, to house himself, his wife and their 14 children. However the rectory burnt down in a fire started in mysterious circumstances in 1939.

It's thought that the rectory was destined to be a haunted house from the start due to the events that had occurred on the site many centuries before.The foundation was an age old Priory on land that contained a 12th century Church, Caretaker's House and other buildings. A.C. Henning, the rector in 1936, discovered that the Doomsday Book told of a Borley Manor prior to 1066, so he concluded a wooden church was probably also built around that time. The foundations contained underground tunnels and a complex of vault rooms. The Rectory had 20 rooms, was about 3 stories high.

The most popular story to the background of Borley was that in 1362 Benedictine Monks built a monastery on the site which would later hold the rectory. Legend told of a nun from the Bures convent, 7 miles southeast of Borley falling in love with a monk from the monastery. They had decided to elope to be together, but the elders discovered their plans. A friend of the monk was to drive a carriage to help them escape. On the fateful night they were captured by the elders. The coachman was beheaded, the monk hanged and the nun was bricked up alive in the walls of the vaults beneath the rectory. Their ghosts have haunted the site ever since.

3. Epworth Rectory haunting

(From Wikipedia) 

The Epworth Rectory haunting is one of the best-known English poltergeist events, and has been described as "the second-best-authenticated ghost story in history". Epworth Rectory, in Epworth, Lincolnshire, was home to the Reverend Samuel Wesley and his wife and their 19 children, one of whom, John Wesley, grew up to become a founder of the Methodist Church.

From December 1761 until January 1762 it was plagued by a series of regularly occurring mysterious loud noises and knockings, apparently caused by a ghost the eldest Wesley daughter nicknamed Old Jeffrey, who made his presence known to all on Christmas Day 1761. In Mrs Wesley's words, "there was such a noise in the room over our heads, as if several people were walking, then running up and down stairs that we thought the children would be frightened".

As she and her husband searched the house in vain for the culprit, Old Jeffrey continued "rattling and thundering in every room, and even blowing an invisible horn at deafening decibels". Old Jeffrey disappeared in January 1762 just as suddenly as he had appeared.

4. Robert the Doll

Robert, otherwise known as Robert the Doll, Robert the Haunted Doll, or Robert the Devil Doll; is a doll that was once owned by Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. The doll is alleged to be possesed by evil spirits and has a terrifying reputation. The doll, which is allegedly cursed, has become a fixture of ghost tours in the Key West area since it was inducted into the Fort East Martello Museum.

Aesthetically, Robert resembles an early 20th century American Naval officer. Contrary to popular belief, however, the doll's hair is not made of human hair, but rather, it consists of a synthetic material resembling wool yarn. Eugene was given the doll in 1904 by an African servant who, according to legend, was skilled in black magic and voodoo and was displeased with the family. Soon afterward it became clear that there was something eerie about the doll.

Eugene's parents said they often heard him talking to the doll and that the doll appeared to be talking back. Although at first they assumed that Eugene was simply answering himself in a changed voice, they later believed that the doll was actually speaking. Neighbors claimed to see the doll moving from window to window when the family was out. The Otto family swore that sometimes the doll would emit a terrifying giggle and that they caught glimpses of it running from room to room. In the night Eugene would scream, and when his parents ran to the room they would find furniture knocked over and Eugene in bed, looking incredibly scared, telling them that "Robert did it!".

In addition, guests swore the saw Robert's expression change before their eyes. When Eugene died in 1974, the doll was left in the attic until the house was bought again. The new family included a ten year old girl, who became Robert's new owner. It was not long before the girl began screaming out in the night, claiming that Robert moved about the room and even attempted to attack her on multiple occasions. More than thirty years later, she still tells interviewers that the doll was alive and wanted to kill her. 
And just for laughs, here's a video of someone's visit to a haunted house attraction (which means it's not really haunted, by the way) that will make you laugh. I could not control myself laughing when I saw it on TV.

That's all for now, have a great week ahead!
Read more