The Literary Prince Charming

The Sunday Times in the UK recently revealed some sneak peeks of the third volume of the Bridget Jones Diary, a book I have never read. The startling revelation in these extracts was that the male lead, named Mark Darcy, was somehow dead or something, because Bridget Jones was seen obsessing over a 29-year-old man instead. I don’t know these chicklit things, but Bridget Jones had been a bestseller and so numerous women all over the world were horrified at this unexpected turn of events, because Mr Darcy had been the stereotypical dream man. He was tall, dark, handsome and devoted.

I think most of us have our own literary romantic figures as well. Maybe they’re not portrayed so explicitly as tall, dark and handsome (though I must say something about this “dark” part; do people really like extremely tanned men? Or was there some other meaning to “dark” in Victorian times?), or pretty, dainty and fair, but it’s interesting that we’ll always imagine them to be of favourable appearance. The book may say quite little about what these people actually look like, but we take them and we impose on them an ideal image that we find pleasant. It’s a bit like making friends on the internet. Theory has it that we imagine these people to be a lot like us, and to be nice, good-looking people. It’s an instinctive assumption. And so this ideal image sticks. Sometimes they look like an actor, sometimes a cartoon character. It’s more fun than in movies because we don’t always like the actors in movies.

I must say I can’t say offhand who my literary Prince Charming is, though. I do rather have a strange attraction for Jalil in EverWorld, but he’s younger than me by now so that’s wrong and I don’t think about it anymore. I have a good opinion of Jonathan Strange in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but I think the book already stated that he was a charming lad. Maybe an unconventional one would be the guy in The Shadow of the Wind, forgot his name. I thought he was probably really cute. David, I think his name was.

But it gets harder and harder for us to think of literary people that we admire and love. Now that almost every book we’ve read is turned into a film, oftentimes we defer to the film adaptation for the final say on how the characters look. So we have a pretty awkward-looking Harry Potter and an absurd Voldemort with no nose, even though I expected Voldemort to wear more black in the book. But no, rarely do we criticise a character’s appearance based on how he was written in the book, because rarely do we remember enough to prove that they’re vastly different. I mean, no one seemed to have raised any complaint that Willy Wonka in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’s movie was totally off and didn’t have a goatee as he was supposed to. And the next time you ask somebody what Willy Wonka or Voldemort looks like, they’ll definitely give you the movie portrayal as if it were the absolute truth all along.

But don’t abandon your literary princes and princesses, people! Hold fast to them, even in an era of visual stimulation, over-skinny bodies and plastic surgery. Hold true to your perfect beauty, with the perfect personality, who cannot be described in mere imagery, whose soul lives on in the text of your book. Even if their soul might be flaky like Bridget Jones.

And on the authors’ perspective, maybe there’s some merit to not spelling out a character’s appearance anymore than needed too. You may have an idea of how your characters look, but don’t restrict the fertile imaginations of your readers. Words provide suggestions, never enforcement.

For The Team

Research has shown that people feel friendlier towards a person that they did a big favour to. Yes, read that sentence again. You’ll grow to like a person when you’ve risked some benefit towards yourself in helping that person. You’ll sub-consciously justify it in the other direction, that the person has got to be very important to you in order for you to sacrifice so much for them. This also works for initiation. If you notice, people who had to undergo an arduous initiation regime, or otherwise give up something, would feel more committed and bonded towards the group when they received entry finally. This sounds very counter-intuitive, and I don’t expect you’ll be convinced till you see actual examples, but this may shed some light on why individualism does not necessarily make a person happy, and why there is a whole lot of countries in the world who value self-sacrifice for the good of the larger group.

It can be very hard to grasp the bridge between individualism and collectivism. Books about the topic often compare them in terms of extremes and opposites, citing countries like America against Japan, for instance. Reading the materials makes me aghast at how the companies could be so different. And yet, in reality, are they really like that? Of course I can’t judge until I’ve been there, but from the Singaporean groups I’ve been associating with, we haven’t been as collectivistic and “relationship-oriented” as the books state. I’ve hung out with Westerners, but they haven’t been as individualistic as one would expect either. Is it because the world is moving towards a “global village”, where cultural differences are stamped out by geographical co-operation?

And when one thinks of cultural difference, one invariably thinks of entertainment. Hollywood has infiltrated Asia for a while now, so many of us would be familiar with how they “get things done” over there. In the recent decades, though, the opposite has also happened, if you think about it. Anime and K-pop, believe it or not, are as large a part of the United States and Europe as Hollywood is in our land, or are going to be, gradually, steadily. Does this mean, one starts to think, that the Caucasians are also becoming increasingly… Asian?

There’s no definite evidence of that as yet, but we do know that Westerners are starting to favour cute, young people and things, which used to be an Asian preference (think of perhaps One Direction?). Americans can be pretty hot cosplayers, and you should see K-pop fans explaining the structures and politics of Korean groups. But Japan-ophiles and Korea-nophiles are still a niche crowd over there, and we don’t know if their liking for Asian entertainment really translates into office behaviour, just as how China still functions on their internal “connections” system. But even though anime is starting to cater a lot to international audiences (with obviously English names like Sword Art Online, or European settings like Gosick), the Japanese still leave visible remnants of their philosophy in the plot. We see things like “For the organisation, I will fight!” and “believe in him!” and all their “Hai!” to commands and their team uniforms that are so convenient for cosplay. They do it so happily! Will the Americans feel less argumentative after watching anime? Will they become more deferent to their own superiors and organisations?

I like collectivism. I like the feeling that I’m not lonely in the pursuit of my own goals, that when I feel weak I have a strong support network behind me, who will help me out knowing that I will reciprocate the favour in the future and feel great pleasure in helping others in return. However, I also love individualism. I love that individual efforts reap individual rewards, that people get what they deserve. Can we have a mix of both though? Or the question might be, do we actually already have a mix of both?

iPhone 5-and-a-half is Out!

That’s old news by now, I know. And I bet you just have to guess to realise that the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C are taking the world by storm, yet again. Apple seems to be releasing these “Current Version Plus” models on a regular basis now, with the “not really iPhone 5” iPhone 4S and now the “not really iPhone 6” iPhone 5S and 5C. Why do they do that? What sets these versions apart from the next number? I’d appreciate anyone who could enlighten me on that.

From what I know (as an Android user), the iPhone 5S and 5C both boast colours now, which is such a great thing and our older phones totally never had colours before and this is a great invention pioneered by Apple. The 5S has gold, silver and grey rings around its buttons and frame edges. Probably only the golden model is noticeably different from a normal iPhone 5. As for the 5C, it positively comes in an explosion of bright pastel colours such as green, blue and red. Has Apple decided to take after Google’s work culture?

Another exciting difference, which I find more interesting, is the introduction of the iPhone 5S’ fingerprint lock system. Just press your finger on the button at any orientation and you can unlock your phone, make purchases, etcetera! You no longer have to waste time and risk carpal tunnel syndrome unlocking your phones with a password lock everytime.

What’s also funny, though, is that immediately someone came up with a video on how to hack into such a system, which involves photographing the fingerprint on a piece of glass, then using a laser printer and wood glue to replicate it. You should see the site; the commenters were all divided over whether this technique would even faze them. I mean, who would really bring a laser printer and glue out on the streets, ready to steal fingerprints (and if they did manage to get the fingerprints, there would still be the next step of getting the phone). But I hear Apple has already fielded many questions, such as whether criminals could now cut off the owner’s finger and use it to unlock their phones, and they also mentioned that the iPhone detected the sub-dermal layer of the finger’s skin or something so it was more hack-resistant than conventional fingerprinting locks. It seems this iPhone isn’t 100% safe yet still, but it gets plus points for convenience.

And I think every criminal dreams of cutting the fingers of all sorts of people. It would be so easy to get through customs then.

Well, I do like the idea of adding vibrant colours to my phone, and I might make the switch to iPhone just to see what the fuss is all about. Then again, Android’s been doing very well, and at least there’re many more brands than simply Apple, all offering products that look different from one another. Okay, mildly different at least. I’m really eager to find out what my next phone will look like.

News of the World, Grossology Edition

Many of you enjoyed the News of the World post I did a long time ago, where I posted up some interesting news from different parts of the world. I’ll try a Take 2 of this here, but for some reason some of the news I’ve found have been a lot more gross than interesting…

1. Man’s belly brews own beer

A 61-year-old man showed up in hospital in Texas one day with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.37% even though he had not had a drop to drink at all. His wife said that he would often get drunk out of the blue, especially after exercise or not eating.

It turns out he has gut fermentation syndrome. He had been a home brewer of beer and had been regularly exposed to brewer’s yeast, which had found its way to his gut and happily fermented away on any carbohydrate-rich food he ate. What was the treatment? Anti-fungal medication and a strict no-sugar, no-carbohydrate and no-alcohol diet during the period of his recovery.

I can’t begin to imagine how dangerous it must be to be involuntarily drunk at anytime of the day. Not only is there a high chance of liver cirrhosis, there’s also a high chance of a car accident, or just very bad social behaviour. Gross!

2. Convicted animal abuser eaten by own dogs

No, no, I can’t stand all this hideousness anymore. I promise you I’m going to look for completely safe news after this one.

So basically this woman has been charged with counts of animal cruelty previously, and she really loves to transport dogs and keep them at home. She had a whopping 184 dogs in her premises in 1999 and refused to sterilise them, meaning the numbers continued growing, and growing. And she began to have wolf-dog hybrids as pets.

And it seems she died of illness one day, quite alone. And her numerous dogs, with no food to eat, decided to consume their matchmaker. Authorities found only a skull and jawbone at her home.

No, I can’t go on anymore. Moving on to the next article!

3. Nigerian grad student uses magnets to prove gay marriage is wrong

This article is also disgusting. Disgustingly brainless, that is.

Apparently some award-winning student shows in his experiments that the like poles of magnets repel each other. This shows that “man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. That is how I used physics to prove gay marriage wrong.” His words.

And it seems he didn’t stop there. Mathematics have also enlightened him about the same principle. I shall copy-paste the block here because I cannot bear to read it again.

In mathematics which is another core area of science, I used what is called the principle of commutativity and idepotency. Commutativity in mathematics is simply the arrangement of numbers or arrangement of letters in which the way you arrange them don’t matter. For example, if you say A + B in mathematics you are going to have B + A. For example, if I say two plus three it will give five. If I start from three, I say three plus two it also give you five showing that two plus three and three plus two are commutative because they gave the same results. That shows that A + B will give you B + A, you see that there is a change. In A + B, A started the journey while in B + A, B started the journey. If we use A as a man and use B as a woman we are going to have B + A that is woman and man showing that there is a reaction. A + B reacted, they interchanged and gave us B + A showing that commutativity obeys that a man should not marry a man and a woman should not marry a woman. If you use idempotency, it’s a reaction in mathematics where A + A = A. Actually in abstract algebra, A + A =2A but we are less concerned with the numerical value two. We are more less concerned with the symbols A, you find out that A + A will give you A showing that the whole thing goes unchanged. It didn’t change unlike commutativity A + B give B + A there is a change. A started the journey in commutativity and A + B gave us B + A and B started the journey after the equality sign. But in the case of idempotency A + A will give you A showing that it goes unreacted. You started with A and you meet A ,the final result is A. Showing that a man meeting a man A + A will produce a man there is no reaction, it goes unreacted and in chemical engineering you have to send the material back to the reactor for the action to be carried out again showing that it goes unreacted. That is how mathematics has shown that gay marriage is wrong because commutativity proves that gay marriage is wrong. Idempotency also proves that gay marriage is wrong. So these are the principles I have used to prove gay marriage wrong in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and by the grace of God I am the only one that has proved this in the whole world.

However, this news source came from a largely incredible site, and so I shall take it that they made this story up and are being prejudiced against Africans. Those dicks. I hope it was an interesting tale nonetheless, and taught you much about science.

4. Sex shop forced to close due to lack of “kinky” locals

Have you heard of the town of Aberystwyth?

It is a seaside town at the west of Wales where the Prince of Wales went to study Welsh for a term in the university in 1969. And recently a sex shop opened which garnered not a lot of sales at all. The shopkeeper guesses that the locals just aren’t kinky enough, and no one wanted her sex toys and erotic literature.

The locals themselves said that the way they did the shop window display wasn’t overtly sexual, but rather quite sadly comical. And there were elderly couples going up to peer through the shop windows, which can never be a good sign for trade.

Such a very pure and idyllic-sounding town. I might consider going there for my retirement.

5. Male Dallas Zoo Gorilla To Get Therapy For Sexist Attitude

ROFL, take that, male chauvinist pigs!

It seems a gorilla named Patrick will be taken to South Carolina for therapy after biting one female gorilla and sneering at a few others. He’ll be living the bachelor life in there, which is known for working with gorillas with behavioural problems.

The zoo where he’ll be going to, known as the Riverbanks Zoo, says that initially Patrick will be separated from the zoo’s 3 other male gorillas, but will be able to see and smell them. Eventually he’ll be introduced to them and they may just live together in a spacious wooded “bachelor pad”. Goodness their wording is just cute.

It seems there’s reason for Patrick’s behaviour. He was abandoned by his mother at birth and transferred to the Toronto Zoo where he was hand-raised by a male of about the same age. He probably just hates all women because of his mother complex! Aww, the poor motherless kid.

The article also reported that he got on well with humans and tolerably with other males. He just makes an abusive husband, I suppose.

No One Was Really There For The Cars

They say the Singapore F1 Grand Prix race track was one of the least entertaining ones in the world.

Because Singapore was such a small place, the track just basically curved around and around, leaving barely any space for cars to really overtake each other at crucial points of the circuit.

But really, I bet more than half of the spectators at the 2013 Grand Prix held from 20th to 23rd September couldn’t care less about the race. They were there to see the performers, who were as showy as expected. We had the heart-melter Justin Bieber, we had Big Bang, Rihanna, Owl City, The Killers, and various other artistes from other parts of the world that I totally don’t recognise. Kudos also go to Singaporean bands such as The Great Spy Experiment and The Sam Willows. If even I know who they are, they’ve got to be something.

But of course you know I wasn’t paid to write any of these, so I’m not going to sugar-coat these fellows anymore. Not saying that I’m not open to sponsorships, of course. I mean, I’d love to have been there, but no I was at home instead, probably watching TV or using the computer at the time. I have school as a legit excuse.

And really, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed the event, really. I hate staying out at night, in bright, crowded, noisy surroundings, watching specks zoom dizzyingly around me. I hate listening to bands ripping my eardrums out with music I don’t recognise. I hate being without my bolster. And so I would never have been caught dead at Marina Bay during that time.

What I find interesting was that Justin Bieber’s appearance seems to have sparked off some local Bieber-hate again. Justin Bieber, together with our old pal Twilight, are the object of pop hate in the entertainment fandom world. The Twihards and Beliebers are seen as hysterical teenage girls who are blind to quality, and sometimes I really think the people on the opposing end of the spectrum do go a bit far in their insults. You wouldn’t dare to admit anymore that you like Twilight or Bieber if you want to be seen as a reasonable rational adult. You’d be much better off geeking over a children’s book like Harry Potter, and still win more respect for that.

On an entirely digressional note, the 1World music festival, which was supposed to be held nearby at roughly the same time, was cancelled. Reason given? The religious leaders who blessed the Grand Prix concert forgot to walk over to the other side to bless the 1World performance location, so the show couldn’t go on.

No, I assure you, Singapore’s a secular nation. It’s so secular that we have to ensure that every religious leader from each of our recognised ethnic groups has performed their respective ritual in order to ensure equality for all.

However! I have heard an alternative reason for the cancellation. Apparently 1World made all these bold promises of M-Flo, Snoop Dogg, etcetera, without actually confirming with them in person! Apparently 1 of the entertainers Tweeted that he had no idea why he was cited to be a performer when he knew nothing about it. But 1World has come out to say that these speculations are false, and it was really the whole religious leader thing. Not as if either reason was really better than the other.

Quite a mess of musical gossip today, but the moral of the story is: concerts have their fun and their ugly sides.

Fall Season Anime Preview

And once again, the fall season is upon us. It’s been a merry year of interesting productions, from Chuunibyou to K to Robotics;Notes, and the recent wave of Shingeki no Kyojin and Valvrave. The fall season is traditionally known to be a fruitful one of major productions, but will it hold true again this year? The first anime to kickstart the fall season arrives in only 4 days!

Well… you know me. I’m a pessimist when it comes to new anime line-ups, and I must regrettably say that nothing has really made me change my mind this time.

But you find out for yourselves, okay?

1. Diabolik Lovers

Diabolik Lovers started off as a visual novel for the PSP, and I’m fairly sure that as an anime, if it ever follows the twisted plot of the game, it deserves a rating of M18 or higher. Diabolik Lovers is certainly not for the faint-hearted. It’s classified as Supernatural + Romance, and basically teaches viewers that girls really like bad, screwed-up, twisted vampire boys.

So basically this girl named Yui can see supernatural creatures, and she is abandoned by her priest father and forced to stay in a household of 6 brothers who are vampires. I won’t say what happens next, but do not expect this to be like Twilight.

On the bright side, it features cast such as Hirakawa Daisuke, Kaji Yuuki and Kondou Takashi. Not quite enough reason to get me to watch this yet. Airs 16th September.

2. Kyoukai no Kanata

Ever since Free!, I’ve noticed there’re many anime fans who will watch anything by Kyoto Animation, no matter what the anime’s about. Good news to such people, for Kyoukai no Kanata is here! So if you enjoyed Free!, Chuunibyou and/or K-On, you may like Kyoukai no Kanata too.

KyoAni returns with its familiar grown-ups-looking-like-kiddos art style. The show seems to talk about a guy named Akihito who saves a girl named Mirai from jumping off the roof of their school, only to find that both of them have pretty peculiar abilities. Sounds like it’s going to be all about spiritual powers in a real-world setting again, but we never get sick of that, do we?

Features some less-known cast such as Taneda Risa, KENN (Phinks from Hunter x Hunter) and Chihara Minori. Yeah, they haven’t quite made it in the big scene yet, but then again, isn’t that another trait of KyoAni? This show starts 2nd October.

3. Gundam Build Fighters

This isn’t really a gundam anime! I find this extremely humourous because the show is listed as part of Sunrise’s Gundam franchise (the thirteenth instalment, in fact) but is about 2 boys who like to build gunpla models. Judging from the poster, though, their plastic gundam models do become life-size in the end, which is something to look forward to.

The air date is set to be in October but we’re unsure when. No further details have been found, but there’s confirmation that gundam collectors will have something new to swoon over now.

4. BlazBlue: Alter Memory

Ahh, what’s not to love about this? It comes from a popular game that has seen incarnations in PS3 and Xbox 360, the letter “z” is silent in the Japanese reading of the word (making it sound like Bureburu — not to be confused with that Flow song!), and one of its production studios is Lantis!

It’s hard to summarise the storyline, but it’s set basically in a world where magic is strictly controlled, and there’s a rogue with some powerful magic skills who wreaks havoc. The government sends out a bounty to catch him, and thus attracts a team of capable people. It’s a fighting game, yeah?

You get some pretty cool people such as Sugita Tomokazu, Saitou Chiwa and Sawashiro Miyuki. Yup, not too sure where the A-listers have been going to this season. Oh wait a sec…

5. Kakumeiki Valvrave 2

Yup, that’s where your beloved Seto Asami, Tomatsu Haruka, Kayano Ai, Yuuki Aoi, Horie Yui, Fukuyama Jun, Miyano Mamoru, Ono Daisuke, Mizuki Nana and Toyosaki Aki, among many others, have busied themselves with this season. The second season of this laughingstock. Everybody just watches it for the lulz and the cast, and also to hear Mizuki Nana sing with T M Revolution. By the way, they’ll be singing yet again in order to capture your attention, so stay tuned to Season 2 sometime in October.

6. Pokémon XY

Just copy-paste the plotline from Pokémon Seasons 3, 6 and 10, because they’re all the same. Everything. Even Ash and Pikachu. Especially Ash and Pikachu. They didn’t even bother giving it a fancier season title now.

Aaand that’s it for all the notable things coming up! Do tell me if you think there’s any anime I’ve missed out that you’re particularly looking forward to. Enjoy the last few episodes of Shingeki no Kyojin!

This Blog May Get Banned, Too

Name some of your favourite books, off the top of your head.

Well guess what, I can bet you that at least 1 of those books has been challenged or banned from libraries and/or schools. For instance, the following titles are all heavily challenged.

1. Captain Underpants

2. Fifty Shades of Grey

3. The Kite Runner

4. The Hunger Games

5. Harry Potter

6. To Kill A Mockingbird

7. Brave New World

8. The Catcher in the Rye

9. Of Mice and Men

10. essentially every book I thought was pretty good

Some of you may snicker gleefully at the knowledge that Fifty Shades of Grey as well as Twilight are also on this list, but think about it. If they’re banned from reading, nobody will know what they are, and we won’t get to see all these cute memes and silly (and not so silly) criticisms. The fun in Twilight and Fifty Shades comes about because they’re so popular and well-known.

These bans take place mostly to protect children from undue influences, and also to prevent boys from getting Their First Erection (yup I told you this blog was going to get banned), and kids from Their First Gunfight, Their First Swear Word or Their First Realisation That The World Isn’t All Pinky Pie. Not that Enid Blyton books are any bad, but can you imagine being 12 years old and still forced to read Enid Blyton and nothing else?

Because “force” is indeed what is implied here. Censorship is placing a false wall around the children, shielding them from the reality out there. I can understand when parents decide not to buy a book or video game for their kid till they are of a certain age and have been educated enough to acquire some intellectual maturity, but if society decides to interfere on a large scale it gets a bit contrived. Many kids started to love reading only after Harry Potter, and I don’t see them growing up any bad.

This reminds me of a picture I saw some time back.

What do you see?

This picture is entitled Message of Love From The Dolphins, The hypothesis is that only adults and dirty-minded people will see a man and a woman getting it on; innocent infants will only see the dolphins. While I don’t really believe this hypothesis for a moment (the foreground is too obvious from the background), the reasoning behind the Banned Books seems to me to follow the same pattern. Harry Potter is banned for being ungodly and offending religion, but I doubt any adolescent really thought that hard about religion while reading it, and I don’t see Christians switching to atheism after the novel.

There are some pretty silly reasons for challenging books too. For instance, To Kill A Mockingbird was challenged for institutionalising racism, and Animal Farm had images of alcoholic drinks and pigs which went against Islamic values. Has anyone ever heard of an allegory?

If you agree that some of your favourite books don’t deserve to be shamed like this, take part in Banned Books Week! It started yesterday (well, it’s still today in American time) and lasts up to the 28th (Saturday). There’s a banned books shout-out going around in the United States but you could always pick up a banned book (there’s no lack of choices) and read it aloud in public (or to your friends and family). There’s a spiffy website for this here: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

And can someone please tell me why Goosebumps is also on the list? For inciting horror in young readers, I suppose?