Tuesday, September 18, 2012
After re-reading this... can't believe I actually wrote something that sounds pretty... decent/professional? Hahah. Inspired by how much I liked the book I guess.
“ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE “ by Diana Wynne Jones
( 2nd Prize Winner - Andrea Chan )
A castle that moves around on its own, seven league boots, invisibility cloaks, fire demons, witches and magicians. What else could one ask for from a fantasy story? The book “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a fantastical tale full of all these exciting elements and more. Even though one might dismiss the book as yet another Harry Potter wannabe, the truth is that Diana Wynne Jones wrote this book way back in 1986, before the advent of the Boy Who Lived.
Every story revolves around a hero or a heroine. “Howl’s Moving Castle” is no different in this case. The story starts with Sophie Hatter, the oldest daughter of a milliner in Ingary. Sophie believes, as per Ingary’s custom, that as the oldest, she will definitely fail first and the worst of all, especially since her parents aren’t even poor woodcutters. After Sophie’s father dies, her well-meaning stepmother Fanny, sends Sophie’s two younger sisters to be apprentices of different trades.
Meanwhile, Sophie gets stuck in her father’s old shop where she seems to have developed a talent decorating hats. Even though the shop’s business is booming, Sophie still feels unhappy with her life. Upon learning the truth of Fanny’s intentions, Sophie becomes determined to seek her own fortune outside. As Sophie is packing, she is interrupted by a very grand-looking lady who ends up cursing Sophie to become an old lady and unable to reveal the cause of her misfortune.
Not wanting to face her family with her new look, Sophie sets off into the countryside to find a solution to her unsatisfying life. After some misadventures, it is nearing nightfall but she soon spots the infamous moving castle of the Wizard Howl. She manages to make her way inside and convinces Michael, the resident apprentice to let her stay the night.
Though Sophie knows of Howl’s reputation of eating young girls’ hearts, she is comforted by the thought that Howl would have no interest in old ladies like her. Later, Sophie is startled to discover a fire demon named Calcifer, who takes advantage of the situation and makes a deal with Sophie. In return for breaking his contract with Howl, he would change Sophie back into her original state. When Howl returns, she finds him a handsome but rather slippery person as he neither agrees nor disagrees to let Sophie stay on as the new cleaning lady.
Over the next few months, Sophie uncovers many strange things while enjoying her new life of disorderly but intense cleaning. The castle’s movement is powered by Calcifer and with the turn of a knob, the front door opens up to a different town, as the castle is amazingly located in 4 different parts of Ingary. When Howl isn’t busy courting various girls, he works as a magician under various names in the different towns and Sophie somehow develops a reputation as a sort of witch herself. She slowly becomes friends with Michael and Calcifer but Howl seems to think of her as a meddling nag who always needs to be busy.
The odd foursome’s lives begin to change once Howl is requested by the King to become the new Royal Wizard. Howl is upset by this as his predecessor was believed to have been killed by the Witch of the Waste in his search for the King’s brother, Prince Justin. Sophie is scornful and disgusted with Howl’s cowardly actions. Unable to explain why, Sophie becomes even more bad-tempered when she learns that it is because the Witch is trying to curse Howl for leaving her. Sophie’s well-meaning but disastrous actions set the Witch’s plans into action and the curse catches up with Howl. Thus begins a series of showdowns between the two. In the final battle, Sophie discovers that she is truly a witch who is able to talk things into life and together with Howl, manages to save the day. She frees Calcifer from his contract and Prince Justin is found and released from the Witch’s control. Sophie and Howl finally admit their love for each other and in the fashion of fairy tales, everyone lived happily ever after.
The first thing that attracted me to this book was the title. It sounds so exciting and different from the other fantasy stories I’ve read before. From the title, you’d think that the story revolves around Howl but the main character is actually Sophie. It’s very refreshing to find that the heroine is stronger than the hero and ends up saving everyone. Sophie is also unlike your average heroine, since for most of the story, she is a wrinkled old crone who bosses others around in her attempt to improve things. This makes her more realistic and likeable than those perfect and beautiful princesses of old. For once, younger readers will have a real female to look up to.
I think readers like us would also appreciate the various aspects of Howl’s character. He seems to have a love-hate relationship with Sophie but the sparks between them are obvious. His methods of courting Sophie are subtle and incredibly different from when he’s courting other girls. Though Sophie usually thinks of him as
a lazy ‘slitherer-outer’, most people do look up to him. Howl is usually melodramatic and expresses his unhappiness with green slime, but he also has a compassionate side with the weak and the poor. Most of the time, Howl does seem cowardly but his unorthodox ‘non-plans’ tend to work out.
It’s unique that elements of classical fairy tales are fused with unlikely ideas, such as the moving castle, cowardly heroes and ancient heroines. The moving castle is such an extraordinary element that it almost seems like a character itself. If being able to move around on the power of a fire demon isn’t enough, it’s also located in four different places! This feature is really appealing as I’m sure everyone has wished that they could be in two places at one time, at least once in their life. Everyone, especially busy students and lecturers like us would definitely be happy to have this feature installed at home as it’d save us time traveling to and fro.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” is such a hit that it was an honour book for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Even those who don’t really like reading can enjoy it as acclaimed animation company Studio Ghibli adapted the story into an animated movie of the same title. The movie was nominated as Best Animated Feature Film for last year’s Oscars. This book definitely would appeal to all types of readers, as it has a bit of everything for everyone. There are so many things about this book that makes it stand out and any reader would be hooked by the characters and storyline. It would be great if Swinburne’s library had a copy so I could recommend more people to read the book. I’m sure they’ll love it as much as I do, for we’re never too old to read good fantasy stories.
Monday, June 04, 2012
This year's birthday was celebrated multiple times...as usual? Haha. Started off with a dinner with classmates and lecturers at Fullhouse, The Hills. It was originally a dinner to thank our lecturers for all their help after our exams. There's another classmate who shares the exact birthday, down to the year, with me so they got us a cake. My gay classmate also baked us a cake....wow. First time someone has actually baked a cake for me....
Then I had a birthday party at home with close friends...a lot of people didn't make it as they were away or had prior engagements already, but it's ok. I'm kind of past that stage where I actually care how many ppl turn up. Of course, it's best when more friends can join the celebration, but can't help it at times. It was rather stressful for the family as everyone had their own jobs to do for the dinner. I was mainly in charge of the groceries, picking up of the food and cake ordered from Mr. Ho's and just general coordinating. My father contributed a dish of crabs that he bought from Sematan. My mum was in charge of the tuna bake pasta and green salad. Brother was the head chef who dealt with the aglio olio pasta and potato salad. Grandma baked chicken too. I rank the lowest in the kitchen and was relegated to menial tasks such as slicing, prepping and etc. From Mr. Ho's, we had roast pork knuckle (which wasn't fresh and refunded), crispy pork and a moist chocolate cake (which they got from a 3rd party baker).
Besides the usual food and chatting, when it came to time for the birthday cake, my brother made me drink a shot of Patron tequila to start off the night :P. Interestingly, my father's friend who joined us, has learned a little bartending and is interested in wines and alcohol. He showed us a few tricks and tips for bartending and mixed up a few tequila based drinks. So I kind of had imported entertainment from Johor. Haha!
First shot of the birthday
After a quick change, it was off to Backstage with the brother and Alyssa, his girlfriend in tow. Allan had organized a birthday party for me...and it was mostly just the guys this time. Seriously a year of firsts, as this is the first time someone had organized a birthday party for me...very touched. The big brothers were all there, and we had tequila and played drinking games. There was no cake but there were cake slices from Hilton :) And I even had a stripper! Haha..sort of. The guys pointed out the most buff guy among them and told them he had to take off his shirt for me and he did! Seriously good body with six-pack and buff arms....way way better than the Singapore stripper we saw in SG for Sun's hen's night. Haha and that was just the upper body!
A very loud birthday song...thanks guys... see I was so happy!
My brother was sadly the main culprit in getting me drunk though. He kept bringing over assorted drinks and insisting I drink. Then after getting tipsy, I made a request for 'Bring the cute guys over!!' And so Alyssa brought over some guys and they made me drink more. So I definitely got drunk but thankfully Alyssa took very good care of me. Aaron and Alyssa brought me home and got me into the house but I don't know how I got myself up to my room... where I promptly passed out on my bed till the next morning...still with my dress, make-up, contacts and eyelashes. Haha...terrible.
I woke up feeling pretty horrible with a queasy stomach...basically your birthday hangover. It kinda feels worse when you remember that you have yet another birthday party that night. Managed to recover in time for another birthday dinner, this time with the whole family, plus Dad's friend from the previous night and my uncle and auntie who had come in that day to visit my Grandpa. Seems to be tradition that I have Peking duck for my birthday...I just like the skin. *sinful*
Then rushed home and off to Backstage again where this time we had the whole gang. Plus brother and Alyssa who joined late. I told them all that I could only manage 1 birthday drink instead of the usual 2....as I was still feeling weird from the night before. So I chose the 3 birthday shots as I didn't have to drink it at a go. Technically, I should...but I just didn't want to. So they ordered me the shots and I paced them with a 15-20 minute gap. Of course, I ordered a bottle of tequila and when Allan arrived later...he brought along a bottle of Patron. That made a total of 2 bottles of tequila but when we were all fairly drunk, some of them decided to keep the half bottle of tequila I ordered with the bar instead of letting us drink more. Plus, Allan was evil/kind enough to order a Flaming Lamborghini for me just after midnight. I admit to wanting to throw up straightaway and rushed to the toilet. After which, I felt more sober and normal. CY and the others got me a fruit tart from Hilton...which coincidentally was the one she got me for last year's birthday...haha Hilton does fruit tart promo in June every year?
With CY and Christy..thanks for the present and cake!
Big brothers Julius and Chiang
Birthday shots - B52, Tequila and Slippery Nipple (ugh..the worst one) :P
With Aaron and Alyssa.. for getting me drunk and taking care of me..LOL
Allan.. thanks for the birthday party and er..getting me drunk
My fruit tart that they got...plus a cake-holder..ahha
Feeding brother...hey..shouldn't I be the 1 getting fed? It's my birthday! Bring me a cute guy to feed me
Proof that I drank the Flaming Lamborghini
Overall, fairly tiring weekend of birthdays, but I seriously had a lot of fun with everyone. And touched with all their efforts with the presents, parties and wishes. Felt very loved by all :) So thanks to everyone..
With this birthday...I feel that I've become a little more accepting of who I am. That I am still work in progress and there is still room to improve. There is so much more for me to learn in this world and that I seem to be a lot happier with my life. There's of course my new masters course and career that I'm just starting but am enjoying a lot. But generally I feel that I am happier with my life. Of course, it could be better, but I am still thankful for all that I have and what/who surrounds me. Though I am not as young as before, I feel more confident in myself and my looks and body. Haha....it helps when you have friends who are equally generous with their brutal honesty and appreciation of you. I've also learned a lot from my friends, both new and old ...especially about life. I think I've become even more open-minded, patient and relaxed? I rather prefer just enjoying the simple things in life... than to get overly stressed out over minor things. I just want to have fun...haha. So here's to growing older gracefully ...learning more and....staying young at heart. *big hugs to all!*
Monday, May 21, 2012
So it's been a week since I fell sick and well...I am slightly better, but the cough and blocked nose is still there. Plus with all the phlegm, I feel like I'm about to hack up furballs all the time. On Saturday morning, it all culminated in me almost losing my voice. I taught both classes on Saturday with a voice that couldn't make it through 3 words without croaking or breaking. Of course, it greatly amused the students. Some were quite concerned, especially the morning class, and kept telling me to drink water, or to go home and buy lemons to go with honey. My little rubbish collector said 'Teacher, you go back and buy lemons then you put honey ok?' I said I do that every day already. 'But Teacher, no ice wor!' I laughed n said I'm using hot water and he went 'Then??!' I said it doesn't seem to be helping.
The assistant principal gave me some chinese medicine and it helped for a bit before it all went downhill again in the afternoon class. The afternoon students weren't quite as caring tho, they were quite enthusiastic for me to lose the voice completely. And took advantage by showing attitude again. I told them off, that either they can choose for me to save my voice and I would shut up, so they could just do the work without my explanations or they could shut up and let me explain. If I was willing to sacrifice my voice for them to do well, they jolly well better pay attention. So of course they shut up, for a bit.
After all that, went home to dinner and then crashed for 2 hours. Woke up feeling slightly better and continued to do marking till almost 3am when the guys told me they were at 3rd Mile Siang Siang watching the match. By then, I was kinda distracted and in need of de-stressing so I did go over and watch, despite having only a total of 4 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours. And good grief, the match went into overtime and penalties, so by the time I got home, it was almost 6am. -_-|| So that was the latest that I went out...and the 'earliest' I came home. And all without alcohol.
It was pretty fun though, listening to their commentaries and snarky comments. And it's definitely different, watching with a big crowd, than watching by yourself at home. Though yes, we have Astro HD and air-conditioning and a comfy sofa at home. Though I admit, there were some of us who were falling asleep in extra-time. I was one of them, but hey, since I had the least sleep, I'm excused. But things were of course more exciting in the penalties. Haha.
Later that day, Julius also texted me 'Come see Cech play later...' since Chelsea won the Champion's League...he would be dressed in Peter Cech's full kit. I agreed to go at 5pm, since it was the last few times they would be playing futsal there. After all, I'd been promising for so long too. Of course, i had to Google Maps the place first before going. So I finally got to watch the Drink Team play, but I was only there to watch the keeper, striker and defender. Haha.And it was quite interesting to watch them play. THough I wish that some of them could 'perform' at full level, but I guess we were all running at limited battery coz of the late night. There were a few moments where I got worried coz I was the only person sitting there and the ball was coming in my direction. But in all, a good experience. Some were worried that I got bored watching them, but I was actually paying attention to wherever the ball went. So it was all good. And yes, that was a footie packed 24 hours.
Spot my favourite keeper, striker and defender! Haha.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Just finished a group presentation for genre studies an hour ago and received some feedback on it, including our previous written assessments. Wasn't too happy with my marks as this is probably my favourite subject and well, I try to do well in it. But I definitely couldn't fault the lecturer's comments as they were true. Most of us in the class could analyse the texts well on their own, but we couldn't critically compare them with each other or to critically explain why we pinpointed those features of the text. We just did them because we had to.
This is so similar to the mindset of the students most of us teach. They learn and do the things they do...simply because they HAVE to. Or so they think. In the current Malaysian education system, this may be the case, where we just have to learn these pre-set subjects and focus on these areas so we can do well in exams. But once students reach university, these concepts go out the window. In most good universities, critical thinking is crucial. This is also later seen in their future careers and life itself. We may be able to identify the problems or things to focus on....but the lecturers don't want to know what is the problem. They want to know, WHY is that the problem, and why is it important....and well...how do you fix it later? What are the consequences if you don't fix the problem...why do you fix it in such a way..and so on. We need to link the Why to What we do....
So, the most important question in studies and basically life in general...is...WHY?????
We get so caught up in our busy lives, trying to finish our never-ending to-do lists...trying to balance everything that we do, from life to playtime. But I think most of us tend to forget, why are we doing all that? Why do we work so hard everyday? Why do we slot in time to do some things..and leave out others? It becomes methodical and automatic for us to just make time for everything, but we never stop and think, is it really an important thing to do? Could we make do without doing that? If we turned down someone's request, would they really suffer without our help...or die? Why do we do things a certain way, and why not another way?
There's so much that I could actually write on. But basically, I think most of us have gotten so used to things that we never actually question ourselves...or question the status quo. I think I will try to live my life in such a way, that I should always ask myself 'WHY???' first before I do anything. Instead of just accepting something as it is...I should ask 'Why should I do it? Why is it important? Why is it done in such a way? Would another way be better?' and more. Basically, look at the big picture, instead of focusing on the small details right off the bat.
So despite feeling bad about my marks, which were actually not too bad, but the competitive side of me refuses to accept them...I need to think of the big picture. Will I ever remember how I did for this assessment after some time, or will I remember that because of this, I was reminded to look at the big picture? I think, I will be more likely to remember that I need to think of the 'Why?' in life, or anything at all. Always think critically and try to link what we notice to what we learn. Not to accept status quo or things as they are. There is never 1 set rule for doing things, coz different people see and do things differently and we just have to accept that. So sometimes, we need to think out of the box and be open to various possibilities. So one month later, I probably won't remember that I got 10.5 out of 15...but I will try to open my mind to the big picture. It helps that I'll be in Bali, this time next month. Hehehe. :)
Monday, April 30, 2012
After doing so much for others...running around organizing things for them...making them happy.... when it's my turn, will anyone bother to even remember? Will they actually do something, or just leave it up to me, the person who can handle it all? Will I be forced to have to plan something for myself..as I usually do?
Perhaps I should do a little experiment. For a change, I shouldn't plan anything, and see if anything happens. I guess that will tell me where I stand with the people in my life right? After all, not quite in the mood to be doing anything....plus...it's usually tricky to organize. Ah well....we'll see when it comes.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Never ever think that you're not good enough for someone else. If you get told that, tell them to go screw themselves. Coz baby, you're worth it..and more! You should always think that you're an awesome person. Coz in your own way, you are. Everyone of us should love ourselves more before loving someone else. How can you expect someone to love you if you don't even love yourself?
Don't say that you can't match up to someone because of what qualification/monetary status they might have. If you really think about it..isn't it just paper? In the end, when you leave this world, can you bring those with you? What is more important, is your personality, the actions you do and how you spent your time on this earth. That's what people will remember about you. In every relationship of any sort, whether it is a friendship, girl-boy relationship, teacher-student.... it is both parties who will bring something to the table. It is never a one-way street. Even if people say that the students just takes knowledge from the teacher...that is so not true after just 3 months of teaching. You can learn quite a lot from your students...maybe not book knowledge, but how you see things or react to situations. Sometimes their honesty and varying point of views make you open your eyes to new possibilities of doing things or situations.
So, you should always remember that even though it might seem like you're not up to someone's standards, even tho they have never said anything about it....you have your own unique experience/knowledge and contribution to be shared with them....everyone is special...no 2 people are exactly alike, so why can't you appreciate your own colour?
I think people fall into the trap of treating any relationship as a trade and barter thing. If you get something from someone, you need to give them something in return. That's not how a relationship or love works. Real love is when you give something to them without expecting anything in return. You're doing something because you love them, not because you want something in return. Plus, if you're doing/giving something... don't judge the value based on monetary worth or size or scale.... it's not about how much it costs.... but more of your feelings. It could be a really cheap handmade gift that you spent a lot of time making...but I'm sure your loved one will appreciate it way more than an expensive gift that you spent 5 minutes picking out. Super cliched but it really is the thought and effort that matters more to someone.
For example, if you asked me to choose between an expensive 3-star Michelin dinner and a personally cooked meal from the guy I like....of course I'm picking the expensive dinner. Joking!.. I'd definitely pick the home cooked meal. You can always earn back the money you've spent...but you can never get back the time spent on something....
The whole point of being with someone...is because you love and accept them. Not because they are clever, rich, successful, handsome, funny.....those are good criteria a person can have. But you should love someone because you accept them completely for who they are... both their strengths and weaknesses. There shouldn't be a reason for loving someone. You just love them, plain and simple.That means, if you appear in front of them with your hair in a mess, no make-up and slouchy clothes...and they still want to spend time with you...that's real acceptance. It's not real if you expect to keep up your perfect facade in front of them all the time, and hide your 'flaws'. Everyone has flaws....so we should just learn to accept them. If they really love you, they can accept it..why can't you do the same, right? I think most of the people in my life have probably seen me in super 'i don't care about appearance' mode...and haven't really batted an eye. If they did, I'd know that they aren't real friends....haha.
Hmm..my recent posts are starting to make me feel like some self-help guru wannabe...ahaha. I don't know... in my busiest moments..i get struck by these random thoughts and decided to write them here. Partly for my own future reference..and also to express my opinions ..since i hear a lot of these things from surrounding people.
Whoa! What happened to blogger? Confusing new layout...but i digress. So, Vampire Diaries readers/viewers would obviously know what i'm talking about. Heck yeah, i'm on Team Delena! Not sure what i'm talking about? I've been telling everyone I know to watch Vampire Diaries, coz it's freaking good. Every episode leaves you shocked/stunned/amazed...with all the twists the writers throw at you weekly. It helps that the actors are all gorgeous in their own ways...but they are really good too...you can't help but feel for their characters, the way they want you to.
So, Team Delena...of Elena, the main lead girl who's good, strong and well...everyone falls in love with her. Has a tendency to be boring...Hmm..i see similarities in myself..except the ppl falling in love with her part. Haha! And well...she fell in love with Stefan Salvatore, the good vampire brother....but had lots n lots of chemistry and sexual tension with the 'bad' vampire brother, Damon Salvatore. Being me, of course you guys know which brother is my fave! The broodingly smouldering Damon of course! His eyes are really something..but there's just something about him. He comes off as evil to everyone...but Elena is the one who always sticks up for him....coz he's not really THAT bad. Story of my life!...
In the latest episode, which I took a short break from work/studies to catch up on, 'Heart of Darkness' Ep19 of Season 3....was a total treat for Delena fans. Not to give it all away...but i thought there were some compelling quotes from that episode.
Elena: Why don't you ever let anyone see the good in you?
Damon: When people see good, they expect good. And I don't wanna live up to anyone's expectations.
Rose: It's not just that she makes him a better person. And she does. But he changes her too. Damon challenges her, surprises her. He makes her question her life, beliefs. Stefan is different. His love is pure. He'll always be good for her. Damon is either the best thing for her, or the worst.
Rose took the words right out of my mouth...not necessarily about Damon...but basically about what i kinda look for in a guy. Damon kinda embodies that in some ways. I like guys who can teach me..about life, about seeing things differently, living life to the fullest. That I shouldn't be too complacent about things, but continually challenge myself to be better, more innovative and keep improving on myself. Of course, these kinda guys...aren't always easy to be with...or they come with baggage...or...just unattainable for me! I agree...that the things/people you learn the most from, tend to be those who are both the best or worst thing in your life. They can bring you happiness...but bcoz you care about them...they also have the most power to hurt or destroy you.
Still, I don't like guys who are 'square' and follow the rulebook to a T and thinks Mummy is always right. If we just live life listening to what others tell us to do...that's not OUR life..that's theirs. If our seniors/parents/family tells us something wrong..we have to be able to stand up and say..'hang on...that's not right.' It's not being rude..it's being honest about something when we should be. Part of life.