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008. Ready Player One

Ready Player One, Ernest Kline

This is a book that I'd read months ago but I never got round to posting about this -- thank the Internet for Goodreads, eh? Originally, I didn't do a review of the book because I thought I had friends whom I could chat with about it, but that didn't work out. Meta-fandom takes a certain type of fan, I guess.

(Moreso than social media, I think face-to-face interaction is replacing my need to blog about the feelings pent up inside. Already I spend most of the day glued to some kind of screen, be it my office computer or my smartphone, and it's usually to communicate with a faceless person. Since blogging is essentially venting to a hypothetical online audience, well, now I'd rather make an appointment with an old friend to catch up and commiserate about work-life angst instead. For fandom-related stuff... I met with blueberlin earlier this week for a prententious screening of Coriolanus and during dinner we observed that we've 'outgrown' fandom, in the sense that we feel less of an urge to squee. It's not like I've lost touch, because the Hobbit folks are pretty active, and there's Tumblr, of course, but the fandom experience is somewhat less all-consuming now.)

At times it does seem like Ready Player One is trying to be a little too clever, winkwinknudgenudge spot the obscure nerdy reference, and truth be told, it's not all that enjoyable when you don't know what Kline is referring to. I'm not old enough to get the homage to 80s geek culture either, unlike some gents approaching middle age I could name. This fetishization of nostalgia these days is getting out of hand, especially in Singapore. It is useful to note at this point that 'nostalgia' was coined to describe a form of depression, and I did spend a couple of weeks exploring this in HL303 when the prof made us plumb the depths of Heidi.

The book did offer a sense of vicarious validation as someone who did spend a good part of her youth obsessing over movies and games and anime though. All that useless trivia -- it's not for nothing! You can make a living out of it! Nerds have taken over the world! There are also several interesting themes that could have been be explored a little further, like the entire notion of reality, and the utopia/dystopia setting... it's a bit of a waste actually. I guess that overall, what the book represents, rather than Kline's literary prowess, is what makes it a keeper for people who are into the geek scene.


The end and the beginning

I'm not really into this resolution business because:

1. I hardly keep them after the first few months anyway;
2. 1 Jan isn't a big deal anymore since I didn't take any time off in Dec and worked through the traditional holiday period, so it's just another week at the office instead of the start of a school term; and
3. As my sis put it, why wait for the New Year to decide that you want to make a positive change in your life?

But at Sunday School today, I saw the two boys whom I've been teaching since I first joined the ministry 5? 6? years ago graduate and join the Youth officially. It felt like the end of something, and the beginning of something. When we started out, they were half my height, scrappy little boys I could lift bodily when climbed atop a tall stack of chairs, and now one is bigger than me and will be playing rugby at ACS(B), where he's starting Sec 1. I pray that they will continue to grow in wisdom and in stature.

With their leaving come new kids into my class, and that's what made it feel like 2014 to me, more than any countdown business. It's an opportunity to start things afresh, to renew my covenant with God, to re-examine myself and what I've been doing with my life.

Happy new year.

007. Earth Unware

Earth Unaware, Orson Scott Card

(O hay, I've been neglecting my blog again. Can't believe I'm still at #7; I'm sure I've been reading more than that these few months. I'll post a series of reflections these few days, then -- I'm trying to work myself up to writing a proper Travel Post for my Hanoi trip.)

Earth Unaware is the prequel to Ender's Game, of which we are very excited about the upcoming movie adaptation starring the delightfully creepy Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggin, Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff, and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham. Alright, as with all adaptations, there's also a sense of dread, but Battle Room looks gorgeous in the the trailer (which is pretty darn spoilery, but I guess people who haven't read the book won't get it):

The enemy's gate is down, oh yeah.

Since we're talking about the prequel here, only Mazer Rackham is of relevance because the book covers the first Formic War, or more specifically, the first encounter humanity has with the alien insectoid species that became known as the Formics. He doesn't even play that much of a role here; instead the book introduces a new cast of characters and it really seems to be setting the stage for something else to happen rather than being a standalone novel like Ender's Game. Meaning that nothing much happens. I also thoroughly dislike the new characters, so my view is that the book isn't fantastic at all.

I suppose part of it is because the Enderverse was conceived as YA fiction, with the teenage characters being endowed with excessive maturity and insight and the adults acting like children. Reading it as a teenager, you feel that WOW, THIS REALLY RESONATES WITH MY EXPERIENCES (think Capslock!Harry). As someone who has hopefully moved on from stage of life, there's a bit of dissonance -- I'm not proud of how I saw the world as when I was that age, and I know now that authority figures fully deserve our sympathies too rather than being the easy target for adolescent angst. Thusly, the main characters Victor Delgado (genius teenage mechanic whose adult shipmates don't think highly of him, oh no) and Lem Jukes (grown man in his thirties who still has lingering daddy issues) are not appealing protagonists. Add on to Card's usual habit of assigning reductionist racial stereotypes to all his characters -- it annoys me hugely that Victor Delgado's ship is so very, very Hispanic, from the the lingo to the emphasis on family and community over self to rigidity of gender roles; you would've thought that cultures in the future were less exclusive and more mixed -- it makes me feel pretty strongly against them.

This also is the reason why I'll keep on reading this new series anyway. Because Card can draw such strong reactions from us, because I still want to find out if these characters stop being so idiotic, dammit. And above all, because Ender's Game did touch me at a certain point in my life. Once, I fell in love with the Enderverse, and I guess there's no going back, eh? I've changed, the quality of writing may be inconsistent, but that doesn't change the fact that back then, I was moved by the story of a group of young people who had to cope with all the pressures that the world threw at them, and was able to make a real difference in spite of it all.


Traditional blogging is dead.

I wrote in an email at work earlier this week, "Traditional blogging is dead." It was just a thought that came to my head when thinking of types of content for a website, but it's coming back to haunt me because I think it's going where I if I'd known, I'd have phrased it a bit more tactfully.

But it's true. Shrug.

Anyway, today really made me miss being a part of the digital media sector; saw a couple of familiar faces from two years ago this morning and I think it was the most fun I had at work since I graduated, ever. It hit me that I'm now a Colleague in the sector and not an Intern, an equal, which feels pretty damned good. One of my mentor-figures from back then also gave me a call in the afternoon to catch up and discuss my thoughts on the project and omg, so full of glee. I can say what I think without having to be too sensitive of what and how I say it at last! Looking back at my posts from two years ago, somehow... It's an environment where a touch of eccentricity is the norm, come on. That's probably more where I belong.

006. The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"

I haven't posted here in months, but I think those of us still on LJ are well aware of the decline of "traditional blogging". For myself, besides the usual distractions of Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr and the relatively low commitment required for those platforms, I think there's a fear that I might say something I shouldn't, especially given where I work. It's not about the public nature of the posts; rather, the knowledge of digital natives that the Internet is written in ink and it's so hard to take back anything said once it's published.

Regardless, this time spent does help to anchor my sanity, and I'll try keeping this habit as far as I can.

"The New Colossus" -- during the White Paper debate last week, I think I heard/read the famous lines "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" being quoted somewhere. Maybe it's in reference to how crowded Singapore is becoming and the increasing numbers of immigrants, and how people are feeling the squeeze on their pockets these days too, with the price of housing and transport spiraling the way it is. I don't know. I've talked about this, a lot, over the past couple weeks.

What I really want to think about was when I first heard the poem, back in 2010 during a Cultural Studies lecture at UT. We discussed the idea of nationhood, identity, and immigration -- the same things this country is discussing now, except that Singapore and the United States are so, so different. They've got several hundred years of history behind them. They've got space.

I love this subject, you know. I thought I could enjoy myself, working on stuff that aimed to help people understand these concepts and translate them to something that would make a positive impact in society. But maybe I'm too emotionally vested in this. And I guess I didn't factor in the other considerations, the RL ones that are so easy to forget in the free-flowing exchange of ideas in university.

It's just that: ideas. They mean nothing out there, until... until we can break ourselves out of our comfortable box, and dare to do something different.