Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Going Solo by Roald Dahl

Going Solo

Title: Going Solo
Author: Roald Dahl
Year: 2001
ISBN: 0-14-131142-8

Going Solo is the second part of the two-part autobiography that continues Roald Dahl's life immediately after he had left high school at the age of 18. Although the author's mother wanted him to enter university, he decided that he have had enough of life as a student and wanted to start working instead.

Dahl applied to work for Shell Oil Company. He was first accepted as a trainee in 1938 and when he was confirmed as a permanent employee, he had requested to be posted to East Africa. Dahl worked as a  fuel salesman for Shell and was based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, then known as Tanganyika. 

Dahl met many different kinds of people and acquired many unusual experiences in life during his working life in East Africa. He learned to speak Swahili and how to survive the harsh and unforgiving African environment. His work for Shell was suddenly interrupted by the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939. 

Dahl was enlisted as a RAF fighter pilot and was assigned to the Western Desert front in Libya. However, he had a serious crash there and was sent to a hospital for a six-months recuperation in Alexandria, Egypt. He was then sent to Greece to fight the advancing Germans after he had supposedly recuperated fully from the injuries he suffered from the crash. However, he was medically invalided in June 1941 due to the side effects of the crash while fighting in Greece and was sent home.  

Dahl once again told his story in a manner where readers would be immersed completely into the story and the era he had once lived in. Readers of all ages would find this book a very entertaining read. Going Solo is a must-read for readers who have previously read Boy: Tales of Childhood as it is the continuation to the author's life story as a young adult.

As with Boy: Tales of Childhood, I would give a double thumbs-up for Going Solo. It is an extremely exciting read as the former and should not be missed if readers have begun to immerse themselves in the world of Roald Dahl. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

In two days' time all Muslims around the world will be celebrating the end of the fasting month, i.e. the month of Ramadan. The arrival of the month of Syawal signifies the end of the fasting month and a celebration of thanksgiving in fulfilling one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Malaysia, being one of the uniquely unique multi-racial and multi-cultural countries in the world will experience the annual activity where people from all walks of life, different races and cultural backgrounds come together harmoniously to join in the festivities in the form of open houses. Family and friends of the Muslim people will spend time with them catching up with each other, especially for those who are not able to do so during the normal time of the year due to work, family and other life commitments.

Many different types of Malay and Muslim traditional foods, cakes and cookies will be served during the open houses. Many perennial favourites such as beef rendang (dried curry), lemang (glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk in hollowed bamboo sticks), ketupat (rice dumpling cooked in woven palm leaf pouches) and kuih bahulu (little sponge cakes, crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside) will be served during these open houses.

The Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays will also witness an exodus of many Muslims who are working in major towns and cities throughout Malaysia travelling back to their respective hometowns or villages to be with their respective extended families. This will render most major towns and cities to resemble ghost towns as they will be devoid  of the usual crowds of people and vehicles, which can be quite a welcomed sight for native town and city folks like myself.

However, although most major towns and cities may be akin to ghost towns, there will still be some activities going on, only that they are in a more subdued manner. For those people who will be not celebrating like myself, it is time to heave a sigh of relief from the daily grind and hustle and bustle of life in the major towns and cities.

Nevertheless, I would like to wish all my Muslim friends a blessed and wonderful Hari Raya Aidilfitri. May this holiday season be a meaningful one, as all of you are spending some quality time with your loved ones. Not to mention, please remember to keep safe when travelling on the roads.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

Title: Boy: Tales of Childhood
Author: Roald Dahl
Year: 2001
ISBN: 0-14-131140-1

Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl (1916 - 1990) is the first part of a two-part autobiography he had written and was first published in 1984. This review is made to the edition published in 2001 by Puffin Books. This book tells the story of Dahl when he was a young boy from the age of seven until he left high school at the age 18.

Dahl was one of the best loved and a well-known children author. His childhood was one that was quite out-of-the-ordinary but Dahl never enjoyed his schooldays although there were funny and exciting happenings. These amusing and exciting happenings were described in a quirky manner, the typical style Dahl used in writing his other books. 

Dahl told the story of his childhood, focusing on family summer vacations and schooldays. However, he never enjoyed his schooldays due to the strict and harsh discipline methods practised by both the day and boarding schools he had attended throughout his life. The not-so-good experience of being punished by the headmaster and/or teachers, not to mention senior students who bullied him made Dahl felt very aversed to his schooldays, and he would have preferred never to experience them ever again. Despite of them all, one good thing that came out of those miserable times was that Dahl had excelled in sports, especially Fives (a game similar to that of American handball) and squash-racquets. 

Family summer vacations were better memories for Dahl. He relished the times he spent with his family and was tremendously close to his mother. Those vacations were spent in Norway, the native country of Dahl's parents. The memories of these vacations were funny and happy moments to him and had very positive impact on his childhood.    

Not only that, Dahl was able to capture the essence of the suspense and excitement he had felt during these happenings with such vividness that readers would feel that they are transported to the time when those happenings took place. Readers would most likely be able to identify and relate to the emotions Dahl had experienced in this book.

Although Boy: Tales of Childhood is targeted primarily to children, adult readers would find this book to be entertaining in a quirky and light-hearted manner. It is an excellent book to introduce readers who have yet to come to know about this author and the books he had published during his lifetime. Readers would also come to know how and where Dahl had acquired ideas for writing those books.

I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages - it is an appropriate way to be introduced into the world of Roald Dahl, and yes this was one of the first books about him I have read when I initially discovered about this author not too long ago.    

Monday, August 22, 2011

The experience of chopping most of my hair off

As a follow-up of my previous article The BALD truth... how ladies should handle this sensitive issue, I have chopped off most my hair this past Friday. It was an eye-opening experience for me, I actually look OK despite my round face. My hair has actually gone out of control where trying to tame it is concerned. Not only that, it has been dropping like a dog's or cat's fur in which frustrate me to no end. This was how I looked like before I went for the hair cut:

It was extremely stifling to have let my hair grown this long when I am so used to having very short hair. It can be quite unreal for me to say my hair is dropping so much at this length but it is the truth, especially when I wash my hair. Thus, I took the liberty of chopping most of it off, and this how I look now:

Although, I look more like a boy than a gal now, I actually LOVE this new hair cut, very much shorter than what I am used to. The length now is half an inch, but it is quarter of an inch at the nape, front and sides. And I think I would want to keep this hair style at least for the time being.

Honestly, I can say that the experience of cutting my hair this short is liberating beyond description. I may even consider going virtually bald or completely bald in the near future just for the experience of doing it. And I know I would look reasonably good having this kind of hair style. Not to mention, I have a very skillful hairstylist to help me achieve this great look.

Review: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan

Title: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
Author: John Grogan
Year: 2006
ISBN: 978-0-340-93684-9

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog was written by John Grogan about his experience of adopting a male dog that was flawed in many ways than one. Marley was an uncontrollable ninety-seven pounds steamroller of a Labrador retriever. It was a challenge to raise Marley where John and his wife, Jenny had never come to expect at all.

Marley was the opposite of the textbook description of how Labrador retrievers should grow up to be. He was one of those dogs where even the most ardent dog lovers would question if he was worth at all to go through the trouble of adopting and raising. John and Jenny faced tremendous challenges of bringing up Marley, however, in return, through all his flaws, Marley has taught them that unconditional love could come in any form and way beyond their imagination.

John and Jenny, indirectly through Marley have also learned about parenting skills in which much later they found out took its natural course, and they had three beautiful children, Patrick, Conor and Colleen. Apart from this, the loopy and uncontrollable Marley taught John and Jenny to enjoy simple pleasures of life, where most people failed to do and/or realised.

When Marley finally reached his twilight years and death became an inevitable topic of discussion in the family, the dog actually taught them that there is still much hope in face of such adversity. Marley went through life in his twilight years no differently when he was a young dog. When death finally came to Marley, John realised that this loopy and uncontrollable dog has taught the family more about life than most people John has known throughout his life could have done in their lifetime. 

Although Marley is the central character of this book, I found it to be more of a heart-warming family-oriented true story. John has highlighted the life of his family members in the book as well. This is what made Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog an extremely interesting story that even non-dog lovers would enjoy reading.

John Grogan's first attempt at writing a book, i.e. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog has proved to be an extremely successful venture as this book has sold five million copies around the world since its first publication in 2005. I LOVE this book to bits because the story was told in a simple manner yet it was heart-warming to know that despite Marley was flawed in more ways than one, John still paid a fitting tribute to this dog.

I highly recommend this book to readers who are into true stories, regardless if they are dog-lovers or otherwise. This book is guaranteed to be a page-turner that you would not want to put it down until you are finished reading it. John Grogan has done a great justice writing this book about Marley. So good is this story that it has been made into a movie, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Watch this space for the review of the movie, coming soon.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays With Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie is a actually a true story written by Mitch Albom and was released as a home movie in 1999. I had the privilege to watch it on 8TV last Thursday night but have yet to read the book. The story revolved around the life of Mitch Albom played by Hank Azaria as a sports commentator and journalist who were so caught up with the rat race of his career.

Mitch being too immersed in his career, he even begun neglecting his romantic relationship with his girl friend Janine played by Wendy Moniz. His life came to almost a screeching halt one day when he saw on TV that his professor from his university days, who had taught him Sociology gave an interview. This professor, Morrie Schwartz played by Jack Lemmon revealed he was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

As Mitch was extremely close to Morrie, he began to recall the times he had with him, especially the good times they had together and the life's lessons Morrie had taught him when he was a student. Thus, Mitch decided that he should spend the remaining time he still has with Morrie. During the initial stage of doing it, Mitch faces tough opposition from his immediate supervisor, as the latter feels he is neglecting his duties with the organisation he is working for. Not only that, this immediate supervisor also contemplated of firing Mitch from his position in the organisation.

Mitch chose to spend the limited time he has with Morrie, at the risk of losing his career and the romantic relationship with Janine. Thus, began the appointments of spending time with Morrie every Tuesday. However, during those long duration spent with Morrie, Mitch learned some of the most valuable lessons about life and human values, especially where the issue of death is concerned. Last but not least, Morrie encouraged Mitch to salvage his strained relationship with Janine. Finally, when Morrie died, Mitch having a better understanding about life and human values, managed to save his career and his relationship with Janine.

This movie is in fact, very slow paced and to some extent it can be extremely boring. However, if you are patient enough to sit through it, you would be able to understand the message about appreciating the issues surrounding life and death. Not only that, it also teaches the importance of human values especially when it concerns the relationship with the people whom we are close to and care about most.

I would think the book itself would be a better investment, as it usually contains intimate details and nuances that won't be found in the movie. Since I have yet to read the book, I would seriously consider of getting one to better understand the story. My guess would be the story is better in the form of a book than a movie as this is usually the case.         

Monday, August 8, 2011

Potter mania: What next after this?


After more than one decade, to be precise 14 years from the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997 to the final silver screen installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 on July 15 2011, Potter mania has at last come to an end. It was a whirlwind of a phenomenon never before seen in both the publishing industry and box office collection. Which leaves the question - What next after this?

This question I am quite sure has been playing in many minds of fans of the Harry Potter saga, including yours truly. I, however, is more of a fan to the books than the movies, as I personally feel that those movies could only complement the books that have been painstakingly written by J.K. Rowling.

The dramatisation of the the Harry Potter saga was done excellently but there are still intimate details and nuances in the story that weren't shown in the movies, my guess would be due to budget and time constraints. The time constraint I'm referring to is that the story of each book would need to be told within a three-hour time frame at the maximum with the exception of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was divided into two parts.  

Harry Potter Years 1-7 Part 1 Gift Set

However, fans of Harry Potter need not fret as J.K. Rowling has created, web site dedicated to the seven books she has written. I hope she would also include books that she has written in aid of Comic Relief - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages as well as the Tales of Beedle the Bard in which was written in the aid of Children's High Level Group and was co-founded by Rowling. These three books were very much part of the Harry Potter saga that I'm sure many fans like yours truly have splurge a small fortune on them, apart from those seven books. 

Quidditch Through the Ages    Comic Relief: fantastic beasts & where to find them   

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

I hope that will be a web site that will do justice to the Harry Potter phenomenon. In fact, just like any other fan of the Harry Potter saga, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the end of this mega successful phenomenon. No more anticipation on new Harry Potter movie releases in the future. Although I am not a big fan of the movies, I would still watch them again to enhance the experience of reliving the story. My first choice would still be the books first, then only the movies.

Not to mention I would definitely take a peek into to find out if it will be worth experiencing the Harry Potter saga from a different perspective; this time from the the cyberspace point of view. I think Rowling would do just as exceptionally well with with this web site; to appreciate the dedication and support from the Harry Potter fans who have been following Harry's story right from the beginning until the very end.   

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review: Destiny in Her Hands

Destiny in Her Hands is a Mandarin drama series co-produced by NTV7 Malaysia and Mediacorp Studios Singapore. It is a story about a lady who was born with broken lines on both her palms. It seems according to Chinese cultural beliefs, if a person is born with broken lines on his/her palms, especially if the person is a female, she would face a life of extreme hardship and bad luck.

The story begins with the main character Luo Jin Yu played by Jeanette Aw of Mediacorp Studios was born to a fried mee hoon seller mother and a gambling addict father. She was born at the backstage of a Cantonese opera travelling troupe that was coincidentally was in town for a performance. Jin Yu's mother was devastated to find out her firstborn daughter was born with broken lines on both of her palms. She had wanted to abandon Jin Yu but an opera performer who found her at the backstage had advised her to instead bring up her daughter as best as she could.

Life proved to be incredibly a long and hard journey for Jin Yu as she experienced indescribable hardships and challenges in life right into her adult life. Adding more misery to her life were the births of her three younger brothers and one younger sister, where her mother favoured them over her as the eldest child in the family.

Jin Yu was denied the basic right to education although she was an above average an conscientious student, she had to stop schooling and was forced to work in a factory at the age of 15 to support her family due severe poverty. After she got married to a colleague working at the same factory, she later discovered that she has the talent for writing and she decided to venture into it to earn extra income to support herself and her family. However, her husband was never supportive of her ventures to keep their family financially afloat.

Her husband was a womaniser and also hot-tempered and abusive towards her and their children, a mentally-challenged son and a daughter, which led her to become independent to achieve her ambition to be a famous script writer and the best possible wife and mother to her husband children. However, there was a time that Jin Yu even contemplated suicide because she believed the broken lines on both of her palms meant that she be destined to fail in her life.

A prolific journalist, Pan Li Hua who later became her best friend, advised her that her life is still worth living, and suicide would not solve the problems she was facing in life. Jin Yu then decided from then on to be in control of the direction her life would take but not at the expense of her family and ambition. She finally managed to take control of the destiny of her life but not without facing some of the most horrendous challenges life has imposed on her. Jin Yu's story ends as how it has begun, i.e. at a Cantonese opera travelling troupe stage but this time she was married to a man as her second husband who shared her passion for script writing and performing in the Cantonese opera.

I do not normally give much notice to drama series shown on the television but this is an exception. Destiny in Her Hands is a Mandarin drama series with an exceptional story plot, which is worth being noted. Jeanette Aw led the stellar cast together with of some of the well-known Malaysian actors and actresses; Steve Yap, Jess Teong, Goh Wee Ping and Monday Kang just to name a few.

In book terms, Destiny in Her Hands is really a page-turner. When I was watching it on NTV7 recently, I would often be in a situation where I was extremely eager to find out what happened in the next episode when the current episode was being shown ended. This Mandarin series also proved that Malaysia has good local talents for the TV as well as the silver screen. They are just waiting to be discovered, and the presence of Jeanette Aw in our local Mandarin drama scene has boosted the credibility of our local actors and actresses, especially those who have worked with her in Destiny in Her Hands.

Destiny in Her Hands is one Mandarin drama series I wouldn't mind watching over and over again. Its excellent story plot and stellar cast made it to be one of those rare series produced locally in Malaysia that should deserve a noteworthy mention. My only regret is that I have yet get to see Jeanette Aw in her first Mandarin drama series produced by Mediacorp Studios Singapore, entitled The Little Nyonya, an award winning Mandarin drama in which propelled Jeanette Aw to fame.  


Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy Ramadan Al-Mubarak

It is the time of the year again where Muslims all over the world would be observing the fasting month of Ramadan. This is the time where abstinence from food and drink dawn to dusk is practised for 30 days. Not only that, Muslims are encouraged to carry out charitable activities to help fellow Muslims who are less fortunate and also be closer to God. Other than these, they are also encouraged to practise moderation in all aspects of their daily living, not to mention enhancing closer family ties as well.

The month of Ramadan is also regarded as a time of soul-searching and self-reflection on one's deeds during the past year. Thus, this month is regarded as one of the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. Malaysia, being a multi-racial country, the fasting month of Ramadan is a time where interesting sights, sounds and smells would be evident, i.e. in the form of Ramadan bazaars.

The Ramadan bazaars that sprout during this time  is really a sight to behold. Not only the Muslims who are fasting would frequent them but also people from all walks of life and different cultural backgrounds. It is really a unique scene hardly can be found in other parts of the world.

Having said that, the fasting month of Ramadan is more about practising moderation in all aspects of daily living including the intake of food and drink. Not to mention abstinence from unhealthy social activities and personal habits. Most of all it teaches humility, tolerance and patience that Muslims should possess at all times towards people of different religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds.

Therefore, to all my Muslim friends, I wish all of you Selamat Berpuasa. I hope that this holy month of Ramadan will bring much blessings and a more meaningful life to you and your loved ones.