Monday, January 31, 2011

My Haiku

La solitudine tormenta.
La folla infastidisce!
Pensieri tuoi...

--- dreamcatcher

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Fountainhead - Objectivism made simple

“Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.”
--- Ayn Rand

I am a huge fan of Ayn Rand and her book 'The Fountainhead'. Until I had read it, I used to feel that I was abnormal because I was so different from the people around me. Then I read it and right from the first chapter I saw myself in Howard Roark, the protagonist of this book (I say this without a shred of presumption). Every single thing that Rand says in this book made me feel that these were my thoughts exactly that she had somehow intuited and written down. The way Rand points out and deals with the problems with our society left me completely speechless. First, because she talks about a way of life, the Objectivist philosophy, without once seeming to preach. And second because I could identify with so much of her philosophy.

Since then, I've tried many times to explain the concepts of Objectivism to others. And everytime I end up looking stupid! After all, its not easy to convince a person programmed by our society that selfishness is not such a bad thing! So instead of actually explaining anything, I've decided to post the best bits from the book here. Its the best way to share the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Her way of thinking is best summed-up by her attitude to religion. According to Rand, the essence of religion should be the great aspiration of the human spirit toward the highest, noblest and the best. The entire philosophy of the book revolves around three types of people - man-haters, man-worshippers and second-handers.

Man Hater:

One who regards man as a helpless, depraved and contemptible creature and struggles never to let him discover otherwise.

Here are some quotes of a man-hater (Ellsworth Toohey) that crystallize his way of thinking:

--- A man braver than his brothers insults them by implication. Let us aspire to no virtue which cannot be shared.

--- Not by what we are shall we be judged, but by those we serve.

--- Don't set out to raze all shrines - you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity - and the shrines are razed. Reason can be fought with reason. How can you fight the unreasonable?

The problem with this kind of thinking?
--- Where theres sacrifice theres someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there is service, theres someone being served. The man who speaks of sacrifice speaks of masters and slaves. And intends to be the master!

The opposite of a man-hater is a man-worshipper...

Man Worshipper:

One who sees man's highest potential and strives to actualize it. One who is dedicated to the 'exaltation' of man's self-esteem and the 'sacredness' of his happiness on earth. The chief man-worshipper and the hero of 'The Fountainhead' is Howard Roark. The other man-worshipper is Dominique Francon.

The mindset of a man-worshipper:

--- The egotist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. In all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone. This is the only possible form of relationship between equals. Anything else is a relation of slave to master, or victim to executioner.

--- A person who accepts anything is not the true lover of mankind! The person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. He expects nothing and so no form of depravity can outrage him.

--- Love is reverence, and worship and glory and the upward glance, not a bandage for dirty sores.

--- Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea

--- Howard Roark wondered why ineptitude should exist and have its say.

--- People meant very little to Mike, but their performance meant a great deal.

Howard Roark : "I don't usually let things happen to me"

Howard Roark : "I can find joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But best is a matter of standards, and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may perhaps stand at the beginning of one."

Howard Roark : "Never ask people. Not about your work. Don't you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know? How can you let others decide for you?"

Roark to his Dean : "I don't care whether you agree with me or not."

Dean : "Who will let you?"
Howard Roark : "Thats not the point. The point is, who will stop me?"

Dean : "Everything beautiful in architecture has been done already. We can only choose from the great masters. Who are we to improve upon them? We can only attempt, respectfully, to repeat."
Howard Roark : "Why?"
Dean : "But its self-evident"
Howard Roark : "Why is it so important - what others have done? Why does it become sacred by the mere fact of not being your own? Why is anyone and everyone right - so long as its not yourself? Why does the number of those others take the place of truth? Why is the truth made a matter of arithmetic - only of addition at that? Why is everything twisted out of all sense to fit everything else?

Roark to a scupltor he admires : "Your figures are not what man is, but what men could be and should be. Because you've gone beyond the probable and made us see what is possible. Because your figures are more devoid of comtempt for humanity than any work I've ever seen. Because you have a magnificient respect for the human being. Because your figures are the heroic in man."

The last and the most pathetic type of people are the second-handers...

Second hander:

People who do not have the strength or the integrity of man-worshippers nor the clever wickedness of the man-haters. They are a kind of parasite of the society. A majority of the people in our society are second-handers. Peter Keating is the chief second-hander in 'The Fountainhead'

The mindset of a second-hander :

--- He was certain it was profound because he didn't understand it. "A thing is not high if one can reach it, it is not great if one can reason about it; it is not deep if one can see its bottom" - this had been his credo. It spared him any attempt to reach, reason and see.

Dominique Francon to Peter Keating : You have to flatter people whom you despise to in order to impress other people who despise you.

Dominique towards Keating : A glance so gentle that it could mean nothing but contempt. She could not pay him the tribute of hostility!

Peter Keating : "Why do you hate me?"
Howard Roark : "I don't hate you."
Peter Keating : "Well thats it. Why don't you hate me at least?"
Howard Roark : "Why should I?"
Peter Keating : "Just to give me something. I know you can't like me. You can't like anybody. So it would be kinder to acknowledge people's existence by hating them."
Howard Roark : "I'm not kind, Peter."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Football Jokes from the Guardian, Part 3

--- 'It is very difficult to say "Listen you are good enough to beat Liverpool, but you are not good enough to play at Tottenham",' said Wenger, contradicting himself by saying it perfectly.

--- Spurs boss Tony Soprano remains desperate to end Spurs' eight-year wait for a trophy, mind. 'It is the only thing in football. Are you potential winners or are you average? That is what we have to find out.' He should be careful what he wishes for."

--- But aren't we forgetting something? And isn't that something the fact that Wayne Bridge isn't very good? He was possibly, but by no means certainly, good enough to be a not-quite-good-enough stand-in for the England team, and probably good enough to be back-up to the man who is good enough for the England team. But England has several other not-quite-good-enough left-backs who are not noticeably less good enough than Bridge, none of whose wives or girlfriends, so far as we know, have been romantically involved with the England captain. So we're all fine. No change. Get over it.

--- The bus was late, the dog ate my homework, my satchel spontaneously combusted. When he was a school teacher you can be sure Gérard Houllier heard every excuse imaginable. Clever man that he is, he noted them all and trotted out their football equivalents whenever his Liverpool side lost. Now he's at Lyon and performing tolerably ... and that, it seems, is good enough for the FA, who - you're going to like this - want him to be the next England manager! Magnifique! He couldn't get France to the 1994 World Cup - four years before they won the bloomin' thing - but, according to the Independent, the FA seriously thinks Houllier could be the man to guide England to Euro 2008! Admit it, all of a sudden you don't care whether Martin O'Neill is English, Irish, Greenlandian/ish/i or a Martian - you want him, don't you?

--- "Please can you refer to the other rubbish Denilson as 'the other rubbish Denilson' in future? As an Arsenal fan I nearly spat tea all over my keyboard when I read that someone paid £21.5m for him" - Rupe Ward.

--- Moving north, Celtic's own highly-rated youngster Shaun Maloney will have to decide whether Newcastle's hefty paycheck is worth the inevitable string of injuries and underwhelming career when Toon suits come knocking in January.

--- Elsewhere former Argentina coach José Pekerman will avoid the difficulties he endured this summer by taking charge of a USA team that doesn't have any great players for him to substitute at inopportune moments.

--- "Your aside about the coach being stuck in traffic - the bus, not Arsene - puts me in mind of the time I made a similar mistake on hearing of reports that the team coach had been stoned after a match," recalls Rosie Spowart.

--- "I think there is a little rule that actually doesn't allow this, but maybe if Spurs could start without Arsenal, they could go a few goals up, and get some breathing room," suggests Nick Claxtion. They could, but they'd have to win the toss and elect to kick-off first and be careful not to be offside at any stage before scoring the first goal. Then they would have to wait for one of the Arsenal players to turn up to restart the match, unless of course the ref decided that Arsenal's non-appearance constituted time-wasting. Then ... actually, I haven't really thought this through

--- As for Arsenal versus PSV, we're predicting lots of pretty play, several missed sitters and a game that ends with - oh, fancy that - Frenchmen sobbing about the unfairness of it all.

--- The days of Damien Duff being the second-best left-winger in Newcastle are over : Arsenal will snap up Charles N'Zogbia for £5m in January.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message "He is Dead"
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: 'I was wrong'

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

--- W.H. Auden

Wrath of a Mad God - The Darkwar Saga, Book 3

Perfect end to a great trilogy. Pug, Magnus, Nakor and Bek continue their fight against the Dark God of the Dasati from his home world, Omadrabar. The entity that contained Macros's memories (it wasnt really Macros!), provides useful clues. Valko leads the revolution with the help of the Bloodwitch sisterhood and a handful of other followers of the White. Meanwhile, the Dasati have invaded the world of Kelewan. Miranda does her best to defend the Tsurani homeworld, ably assisted by Kaspar, Caleb's sons and Alenburga, the General from Novindus. A whole bunch of storylines are thrown at the reader - an invasion of Midkemia by creatures from the Void; existence of yet another kind of elves and the creatures they protect, the Quor; the battle of the Tsurani against the Deathknights and the Great Ones against the Deathpriests; the eventual evacuation of Kelewan; an amazing revelation about Nakor; the true extent of the involvement of Banath, the God of thieves; the revelation that the Talnoy on Midkemia are really the Dasati Gods & their return to their world; the revelation that the Dasati dark god is in fact a Dreadlord and the final destruction of the Dreadloard with Pug's magic and a Godkiller crystal.

Great writing, great story and very good narrative. The part about the Quor seemed totally pointless, as if Feist just wanted Tomas to make an appearance in this book and thought them up for that sole reason! Besides that one tiny flaw, not much else I can find wrong with this book. May the magic continue to flow from his pen!

Into a Dark Realm - The Darkwar Saga, Book 2

We are back to the heart of that which matters the most, 'The Conclave of Shadows' and its most powerful magicians. While Pug, Magnus, Nakor and Bek commence a journey into the second realm of reality, Miranda is left on the first realm to deal with the Assembly of Black Robes in Kelewan. Add the mad & hugely powerful magician Leso Varen, now inhabiting a Great One's body, to the mix, and things really start to boil over. Meanwhile on the Dasati world, we get a glimpse into the chaotic, barbaric & extremely disturbing society of the Dasati through the eyes of Valko, a Deathkinght just returned from the Hiding & undergoing training to become the lord of his house. The Deathknights, Deathpriests, TeKarana and the Dark God himself provide an overdose of insights into the twelve worlds that make up this very dark plane of reality. As a side-plot, Caleb's sons are sent to Roldem to continue their education and initiation into the Conclave. Things come a head at the end; where Miranda is captured by the Dasati Deathpriests, Valko realizes his true destiny to be the harbinger of revolution & facilitator of resurgence of the White, Pug's band of the most powerful Midekemian magicians finally reaches the home of the Dark God of Dasati, and most importantly, the return of the most powerful magician ever, Macros the Black!

Feist does a great job of handling the 4 plot-lines concurrently, although the part with Tad, Zane and Jommy does seem quite pointless. A really well-written book with a wonderfully intricate plot and many philosophical abstractions to ponder. The series is now nicely set-up for the finale!

Flight of the Nighthawks - The Darkwar Saga, Book 1

This book continues from where the "Conclave of Shadows" series left off. 'Exile's Return' ended with two big questions. The mysterious & extremely dangerous killing-machines from another world, called 'Talnoy', and a resurgence of the band of assassins, the Nighthawks. This book takes place mostly in the Empire of Kesh and deals almost exclusively with rooting out the Nighthawks (although we see precious little of the assassins). Nakor, Pug, Miranda, Magnus, Caleb & his foster sons and Kaspar, ultimately manage to repulse the evil plot of Sidi to spread chaos in Kesh, and destroy most of the Nighthawks in the process. Sidi though is not dead and continues to live on, now in the world of Kelewan. The biggest contribution of this book is the introduction of Ralan Bek, the enigmatic youth from Novindus who seems to have a spark of 'The Nameless One' in him.

Feist has set such high standards with the Riftwar series that every time I expect something grand from his stories. This book is hugely disappointing in that respect. The climax is built up very well, but then the actual ending seems very tame! Also, Sidi has come back to life so many times, that now it seems quite pointless when his host body is destroyed. Feels more like a warm-up to the Darkwar series, rather than a proper first installment! On the bright side, the series can only get better from here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Football Jokes from the Guardian, Part 2

- Arsène Wenger has spotted 74 goalkeepers better than Lukasz Fabianski and is locked in a ferocious battle with his own ego to determine whether he will admit it.

- Arsène Wenger wants to "add one player, and add more defensive strength to our team", a slightly gratuitous use of the word "more".

- Now Arsenal's complaints are getting more and more irrational: Everton having competent defenders last week, West Ham celebrating a goal yesterday.

- Chatter coming out of Marseille suggests that Arsène Wenger hasn't given up on Franck Ribéry, and might get his man in January. "Franck has a price," wibbled Marseille sporting director José Anigo, before pointing out that grass is green and water is wet.

- Milan are desperate for anyone who isn't Dida.

- Stuart pearce displaying some of the witless delusion he usually saves for his own team's press conferences. Because realising you're not very good at a young age, and then blithely ignoring the evidence, is always a firm foundation on which to build a successful career, isn't it Steve?

- "But at the moment I have a contract until 2010." By which time Eto'o will be 29, a perfect age to Ballack up the remainder of his career at a Premiership care home near you.

- If you have a manager like Roy Hodgson in charge you don't get discipline problems," he said. "Although you don't get any points either," he didn't add.

- The Mirror report that the reason England's passing was so awry against America on Saturday is not, in fact, because they are almost to a man a bunch of overrated clodhoppers, but because the FA contrived to lose 25 Jabulani balls that were delivered in February. The upshot is that England did not get to train with the official World Cup beach ball until they reached Austria in May, with the idea of getting 25 more delivered apparently beyond the wit of man.

- Chelsea have £50m to spend this summer and it'll all go on Kaká. Or Fernando Torres. Or Sergio Agüero. Or Bastian Schweinsteiger. Or possibly Dani Alves.

- OK, so the Mill is rarely funny, accurate, interesting or coherent, but at least it's always on time. Before you quibble, know that Time is the name it's given to the malodorous, hooch-stained beanbag flung in the darkest corner of GU Towers, where the Mill lies far from the boss's thoughts, out of its own mind.

- Calf knack has forced Micah Richards out of England's Euro 2008 defea... sorry, qualifier against Estonia.

- Chelsea are the only club who could grow bemused that the wrong astronomically expensive forward is scoring the goals.

- Frank Rijkaard is said to be seething at the lack of players in his first team squad sharing his first name, and has ordered the board to rectify the situation immediately (well, this summer), by trading Deco for Frank Lampard. Lampard is said to be tempted by the move after realising that £90,000 a week is still £40,000 less than Michael Ballack is getting.

- "There have been too many refereeing mistakes against us in the last 10 days. They can't be accidental" - Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti just can't understand why his side aren't getting the decisions they were last season.

- Then again, press reports routinely claim to know all sorts of things they couldn't possibly be aware of. For example, if the Mill had aspirations to be a proper sports journo, it would not content itself with telling you that free agent Didier Agathe is on the verge of signing for Aston Villa. No, in order to reinforce your belief that it is an intrepid insider it would also disclose that the deal will reap him a tidy £45,000-per-week. Not having seen the contract nor extracted the information from any of the select band of people privy to it, it couldn't have any idea whether the figure it announced so authoritatively was even in the carpark besides the ballpark, but it would sound vaguely plausible and we'd all be happy. And the needle would return to the start of the song and we'd all sing along like before; then the Mill blows its 'proper journo' cover by quoting Del Amitri.

- Niall Quinn reckons there is not enough of Ireland in Sunderland and will remedy that by signing Manchester City's Stephen.

The Parsifal Mosaic

After the disasters of 'Holcroft Covenant' and 'Chancellor Manuscript' Ludlum is back to somewhere near his best. This book is good because Ludlum sticks to what he does best - spies and their strategic games; leaving aside tedious politics and economics. The story is essentially just strategies, traps, moves & countermoves devised, executed and subsequently taken apart by the best of the spies in the Consular Operations and the VKR (a right-wing part of the KGB).

Micheal Havelock, our hero and the best secret agent of the Cons Ops, saw his love, Jenna Karas, die on a beach in Barcelona following what he thought was a betrayal. The shock is enough for him to exit the game. Then a chance glance at a crowded Rome train station changes everything. He realizes that she is, in fact, NOT dead. What follows is a really convoluted plot starting with Russian, French, Corsican & African agents and going all the way to the most powerful man on earth, the President of the United States. Throw in a Russian mole at the highest reaches of the State Department and the very real possibility of nuclear war involving the US, Russia & China, and we have an absolute humdinger of a book!

Ludlum writes as ever with an economy that makes his action seem very real. The pace is just nice, and the twists don't stop right to the end. A great read!

The Aquitaine Progression

A good book and a great plot. The only negative was that it is a lot longer than it should be. Ludlum is great with any story where the clandestine services are involved, and even though thats not precisely the case here, the hero could very well be an intelligence agent. Even if at times it tends to drag, on the whole this is a well-written and decently paced book.

A group of formerly highly-regarded but extremely right-wing generals from some of the west's biggest countries (US, UK, Germany, France and Israel) are planning a military takeover of the entire west under the codename Aquitaine. This daring, ambitious and meticulously executed plan hits a bump when a former POW and current attorney in international law, Joel Converse, is brought in to expose the generals. His efforts take him all over Europe and on the way, he's forced to become the lethal soldier he was in NAM in order to survive. A string of false charges, thanks to a compromised Surete, Interpol and almost every law-upholding agency in Europe makes him a pariah, a fugitive running from everyone and able to trust no-one. Just when all is lost, his ex-wife enters the picture. With her resourcefulness he finally manages to make contact with the few people in Washington who he can trust and the generals' plan is thwarted at the eleventh hour.

Exile's Return - Conclave of Shadows, Book 3

While this is officially the last of the "Conclave of Shadows" trilogy, it felt more like the first of the next series. The story takes off tangentially from the previous 2 books of the series, and the original hero, Talon, is nowhere to be seen until the end. Moreover, the villain of the previous books, Kaspar, becomes the main guy now.

But thats not necessarily bad. The story sees Kaspar, formerly Duke of Olasko, ousted from his duchy by Talon and exiled to Novindus. Here he comes across something very sinister and ends up lugging it back to Sorcerer's Isle. But not before several near-death encounters. He journeys to the Pavilion of the Gods and is granted an audience with the Gods (Banath & Arch Indar)! Back in Midkemia, an assualt on Elvandar forces Tomas to don the mantle of the Dragon Lord, Ashen Shugar, once again.

After a beginning thats a tad slow, the story picks up pace and never relents. By the end it goes into hyper-drive and we are re-acquainted with a lot of familiar faces. I can feel that the stage is nicely set for the next trilogy "The Darkwar Saga", especially with Pug and The Dragon Lord re-uniting to fight the forces of darkness. And while we're meeting old acquaintances again, I really hope 'Macros the Black' makes a comeback too :-p

Feist is as good as ever with his writing. Great story & intriguing characters, topped off with a wonderfully fertile imagination. A very good fantasy book!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Football Jokes from the Guardian

- Sir $tevie Me is agonising over whether to retire, or drop down the divisions for one last hurrah with Chelsea, and assorted England footballers are packing for a trip to Brazil, for the McDonald's Innocent Smoothies Fuji Visa World Cup finals. Never mind that they haven't qualified and won't be allowed to play, it's their destiny and they deserve to win, so they're going anyway.

- Defending just isn't as funny as it used to be at Newcastle since Titus Bramble left, so Sam Allardyce will look to bring in former Arsenal calamity Pascal Cygan quick-smart

- Derby boss Francis Begbie will ensure his side's January relegation by signing Matthew Etherington and Ricardo Vaz Te.

- Jolly Jim Magilton is said to have been tipped over the edge by his players' fecklessness. The QPR manager, who has issued a statement denying any wrongdoing, was suspended by the club today following allegations that he was involved in an alleged dressing-room altercation after his team's alleged [You don't really need that one - Fiver Lawyers] defeat at Watford on Thursday, allegedly involving Hoops midfielder Akos Buzsaky ... allegedly [That should do it - Fiver Lawyers]. Claims that Magilton also [Snip! - Fiver Lawyers] Buzsaky with his [Snip! - Fiver Lawyers] and then [Snip! - Fiver Lawyers] his [Snip! Snip! Snippety-snip! - Fiver Lawyers] are unconfirmed.

- Burglars on Merseyside won't be the only people scanning Liverpool's lengthy injury list before making their final selection and heading off to work tonight. Ahead of his side's must-win Big Cup game at Lyon, Rafa Benitez will do so too. And upon seeing the options unavailable to him, the Liverpool manager might decide his best chance of finishing the season with silverware lies in swapping his tracksuit for a stripy jumper, a Zorro-mask and a sack marked "Swag".

- "Thanks for the fix for the glitch that removed all the headings from Fiver 2.0. Have you got one for the glitch that seems to have removed all the humour?" - Simon Cherry (a reader letter)

- AC Milan either have or haven't received bids for Kaka from either, both or neither of Real Madrid or Chelsea that may or may not be in the region of GBP120m.

- After no speculation whatsoever, Javier Mascherano puts us all out of our misery by signing a four-year deal with... Liverpool! "I am at a top side and I know I can win titles here," he said with a straight face.

- Meanwhile in Liverpool, players and fans of the second-best team on Merseyside are still reeling from the latest humiliation to be heaped upon their once-proud club, which can now add the boast Comically bundled out of the 2007-08 FA Cup by Barnsley to that glorious tradition money used not be able to buy

- "This was the biggest decision of my footballing life but this is a club of champions," piped up the possibly misguided Torres, as Benitez proudly displayed a graph depicting the bottom 18 Premiership sides from last season. "Just to know Rafa has confidence in me is massive," he continued, clearly unaware that Rafa has previously had confidence in Fernando Morientes, Antonio Nunez, Jan Kromkamp, Craig Bellamy, Mauricio Pellegrino, Mark Gonzalez, Josemi, Bolo Zenden, and (tee-hee) Kuyt, to name just nine.

- He(a club coach) wants to buy Cluj striker Lacina Traore, because that's a surname that inspires instant confidence.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Power of Simplicity or The Pretentious Literary Elite

Alright! Now that I've paid my homage to Stephen King, its time to pay homage to simplicity and more importantly to speak out against the pretentious literary elite.

Just to be clear, I have nothing against complexity. I enjoy convoluted prose (if done properly) as much as the next guy. But what I can't stand is the assumption perpetuated by the literary elite that anything simple is not good enough. I take exception to this. I have read best-selling authors (Stephen King & J K Rowling, the prime examples) and I've read award-winning authors (Salman Rushdie & Arundati Roy, for example). And I'm convinced that King is no less a writer than Rushdie and in the same vein Rowling is no less a writer than Roy.

What convinced me to finally write this, is the comments of a supposedly acclaimed literary critic who lays into King and Rowling for being too simple. So does simple = bad? Lets see, while you can read Rowling and King in a smooth flow, almost every sentence from Rushdie has to be read at least twice to get its full import. Reading Rushdie is an act of faith. He makes it so difficult to understand his story that often the reader must keep faith that the point will eventually emerge through the fog of words created by the writer. With King and Rowling, on the other hand, you can simply enjoy the story.

Rushdie's style constantly gives me the feeling that his main purpose in writing a book is not to tell a story but to show off how convoluted he can get with his writing. Where Rowling wants to tell her brilliant story in the simplest terms (which is still brilliant by-the-way), Rushdie seems to be almost hiding behind his words. Both are good, but in very different ways. Its the difference between 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and 'Closer'. Poles apart and excellent in very different ways

Rushdie is pretentious. His writing screams - "Look at me! I'm a brilliant writer, look how convoluted I can get with my prose". In my opinion, the first objective of any good writer should be to tell a good story. King and Rowling write with this objective. Rushdie seems more preoccupied with showing off his writing skills than the telling of his story. He's too aware of his writing genius and so ends up sounding highly conceited.

In the end, the honest, simple writing of King and Rowling is as good, if not better than the conceited, convoluted writing of Rushdie and Roy.

The literary elite seems hell-bent on proving that anything simple is not good. Its about time they know that there are other intelligent people out there who understand writing and who are not buying into this notion!

Krondor : Tear of the Gods - The Riftwar Legacy, Book 3

"The Tear of the Gods" is a mysterious artefact from which all magical power emanates, allowing contact between humans and Gods. An attack on a ship carrying it causes it be lost at sea. Jimmy the Hand, with the help of William, Jazhara, the new magician of the Prince of Krondor's court & Solon, an Ishapian monk embarks on yet another mission for the Crown. He encounters foul creatures aplenty, chiefly vampires & undead monsters, along with the usual assortment of the bad guys, Nighthawks (real & fake), mercenaries and goblins on the way. No prizes for guessing that the Tear is successfully retrieved at the end.

This book promised a lot but had a very tame ending, hence the low rating. The major questions raised throughout the trilogy are still unanswered. Who is the Crawler? What's his purpose really? Who or rather 'what' is Sidi? There's nothing wrong with the writing. Feist, after all, is a most accomplished fantasy writer. I just felt this whole trilogy was totally unnecessary. Disappointing!

How Do I love thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

--- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Krondor : The Assassins - The Riftwar Legacy, Book 2

The Moredhel army has been thwarted in their mission to get hold of the Lifestone. Back in Krondor, a spate of murders and attempts on a visiting dignitary's life get Prince Arutha concerned. Jimmy the Hand employs his considerable skills to uncover the reasons and arrives at the conclusion that Nighthawks are to blame once again. Their pursuit takes him, along with William and Arutha, to an abandoned fortress in a desert, where things get out of hand. Mostly because, in addition to hundreds of assassins, the lair turns out to be harboring a Demon as well. It takes all of Jimmy's shrewdness, William's courage & Arutha's calm leadership to vanquish the Demon and most of the Nighthawks. At the end, we get a hint of much greater, not to mention much darker, powers at work behind the Nighthawk's activities.

As expected from the second part of any trilogy, the book sets up the series nicely for the final book of the trilogy. Considering the number of unresolved questions raised by this book, 'Tear of the Gods' should be a cracker. The writing is what I've come to expect from Feist. Uniformly well-written, although at times, it seems like he's holding back his best stuff for the finale. This is why the book comes across as just good, rather than spectacular.

Krondor : The Betrayal - The Riftwar Legacy, Book 1

A new Moredhel warrior has risen in the Northlands and unites the Brotherhood of the Dark Path for a charge on Sethanon to retreive the Lifestone. Jimmy the Hand, Locky, Owyn, Patrus & Arutha have their hands full trying to stop the dark army while dealing with a new wave of Nighthawks. A renegade dark elf & Pug have important parts to play to once again save the Lifestone from those who would use it to bring back the Dragon Lords.

This is a pretty good stand-alone fantasy novel by itself, even if it doesn't quite read like the first part of a trilogy. Feist doesn't disappoint. As usual great writing & wonderful imagination. For the the first time, it struck me how immense in scope his books are(not necessarily this one, but most of his books). The numerous worlds, the diverse cities & continents and an amazingly long cast of important characters. Feist is very good at narrating several parallel storylines and tying them up nicely in the end. Also, its great to see the stakes get progressively higher with every book. An added bonus was the consistently great humour scattered throughout the book. This book is another feather in his much-decorated cap!

Friday, January 07, 2011

A History of Violence (6/10)

A classic example of how difficult it is to make a good film. There are too many aspects to a good film and if even one is missing the end-product is disappointing. In the case of this movie, the missing product is good dialogue. The cinematography is good, the acting, the casting, the camerawork, everything is just nice. But the dialogue lets the movie down badly. Disappointly, too oftern it jars and destroys the entire scene.

Then theres the gratuitous violence. Alright, I know that from the title I should have expected violence. And its not violence that puts me off, if done properly and where it serves the story, and..... ok, I'll admit it.... if not too excessive. Here its excessive, and gratuitous. Many times the violence is not just excessive but unnecessarily brutal. Obviously a decision of the director to make it so, without a thought to whether it serves any purpose. I don't like movies that give in to the whims of the director. A film should remain true to its story. A good director instead of indulging himself must be driven solely by the demands of the plot, facilitating the telling of his story.

A decent movie that could have been a lot more impressive with good dialogue.