The Brothers Lionheart – Favourite Childhood Book

Lionheart brothers

Sometimes you come across something that is perfect. A moment frozen in time that you can return to time and time again. Books can be good at that. Such a perfect book for me when I was a child, that I still read every several years, is The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren who is best known for writing Pippi Longstocking.

I first read this book in the third grade. A story about life and death, a story about living under occupation, of fighting for freedom where freedom should be assured for you, for life after death, about death after death. It is a story about sacrifice, of growing up, of love, of loving your older brother, of being loved by your older brother. It is a story about being weak. It is a story about mythology.

What is the plot about? Karl adores his big brother Jonatan, and they die, then they get to live in this land beyond death, but treachery and an evil tyrant loom over the peaceful valleys. And things progress from there.

 When I tell you that the book is perfect, and that I really love it, I mean it. Look on its Amazon page, out of 53 reviews, 50 give it a five stars. That’s almost unprecedented. We have two copies of this book in our household, as I was unwilling to give the book to my younger siblings to read. This book, it is just mine.

This book does not cut corners. The protagonist is a ten-year-old boy. I read it as a nine-year-old boy, the first time. And yet, as you can see, those are some really heady issues that the book does not shirk from. You get to face these issues squarely as Karl, the protagonist, does. This book speaks to children without making light their capability to understand these topics. As such, it’s also a book that you’d be perfectly happy to read as an adult, because it’s a book that speaks in the language it does, not trying to speak to children or over their heads.

I don’t have much to say of this book, because I have SO much to say of the book. I could write thousands and thousands of words about the book, but it’d be best if you’d read it. I could write thousands upon thousands of words regarding the book, but I’d rather do it in a discussion with you guys, and not here from my position as a blogger.

I have said often before that one of the main criteria I use to judge books is its emotional impact. I can use that criteria to judge this book. Both using that criteria, and not using that criteria, this book is just about perfect.

This book gets a 10/10 score, and only because I can’t give it 11.

So what are your favourite childhood books, and why? And do you think you’ll still enjoy them today?

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Yaoi/Slash is Porn; But Does it Have Males?

Zephyrus and Hyacinth; Attic red-figure cup fr...

So, here’s the deal. Slash is a form of fan-fiction written that for the most part covers (male) homosexual relationships between two characters, from the same fantasy world, or even crossing boundaries (pun). Yaoi is anime/manga focused on homoeroticism.
So far, so good?

These are porn, and the characters written within them often fail to portray people of the gender they seemingly portray, not unlike lesbian pornorgraphy (pornography with two (or more!) women, mostly aimed at men, as distinct from pornography aimed at the lesbian community).

Now, I’m going to leave aside the discussion of whether Porn is or isn’t bad, but if we’re honest, fiction written in order to get people sexually aroused and which people use in order to get sexually aroused? I don’t really see any term to use to describe it aside from pornography.

My other claim which is a bit more controversial (that is less to say, it’s more of an opinion), is that there’s a “gender-swap” going on. The men in yaoi/slash, while they are males (biological distinction), are not men (social distinction). What they are, is women, or to put it in a crass but catchy manner – they are chicks with dicks.

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Discworld and Deus ex Machinas

Cover by Paul Kidby.

Discworld and Deus Ex Machinas; Foreshadowed DEM are still DEM.

So I’ve been reading, well more like re-reading, some of my old Discworld novels recently (ny Terry Pratchett), and something hit me as I reached the book that stopped the manner in which I’ve read them, the onslaught, the flood. The book was Making Money, the second Moist von Lipwig book.
The fact that I’ve read that book reasonably recently probably also had a part in it, as my memory of it was still pretty fresh. But the issue that came up in this book is one that had come up in other Discworld books as well, in a manner at least, but it is in another iteration what makes up for Discworld’s “charm”. The issue is that of Deus Ex Machinas, so to speak.

Discworld books often have iterations and re-iterations of things. We have a specific issue crop up time and time again in a book, and that is part of what makes it “Funny”. Scare-quote funny in parts, genuinely funny in others. Anyway, it is the repetition that gives things power, as we either get the same idea across time and time again in the same manner, or with subtle changes.
The idea that comes up, or the sentence, in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, for instance was “He  could to take down a dog,” which is usually applies to rats, so it’s quite some feat. At a certain point in the book we’re told that X was strong enough to take down a dog, but Y was strong/mad enough to take down a wolf. And let me tell you, after we read the same sentence time and time again, in the context that this was posted, it made me all teary-eyed. It hit hard, the way that it was changed.

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Scott Pilgrim – The Awesome Zeitgeist.

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim against the world. A comic book released in the form of books, 5 released and 6 total planned, by Bryan Lee O’Malley.  Well, there’s a movie now so I’m sure more people will hear of it, and hopefully the creator will also earn more money. It’s not like independent comic writers (comic sold through Oni Press, which houses a lot of independent and manga publications) are known for the piles of money they swim in.

Anyway, it may very well be that Scott Pilgrim is a reflection of the generation that I am a member of, the “Y Generation”, or in the case is, which Scott Pilgrim makes quite convincing, the “Yeah! Generation.” You see, Scott Pilgrim feels to me like an invention that hails in spirit from Seattle, though it’s actually Canada, but let us assume that it is Seattle’s spirit for the moment, the city that had brought us Grunge, the city that had brought has Starbucks. In other words, it’s a hipster city. I have hipster friends who live in Seattle or in its environs and whom I can think of as “Seattleans” in my mind – even though I’ve never actually been to Seattle myself.

So Scott Pilgrim against the world. The plot as there may be is that Scott falls in love with this girl called Ramona (note, it’s been two-three years since I’ve read any Scott Pilgrim). But there’s a problem, Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends, all seven of them. What follows is a mocking super-hero-esque series of fights where the hipster, broke, slacker Scott Pilgrim is someone we (IIRC)  find out to have never lost a fight, and who is “too cool for school”.

Note: It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read Scott Pilgrim, so on one hand consider it a review of my memory of the comic, and on the other, I use it as a stepping stone to speak of a wider issue. Thank you.

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Some Musings on Genre and Adherence.

Yes, I know this post is long overdue, but once you slide off, it’s really easy to keep not posting. I am posting this now and not procrastinating (even longer) because once I get this up, I will return to posting. Expect some editorials on what I’ve been doing (miniatures mainly), and the promised “Geekhood in Israel” which will be interwoven with my own personal story of ascending to Geekhood Godhood, because it’s my story.

"Those Bloody Ruins!"

Speaking of stories (which is one of my favourite topics), you might remember my Micro-Fiction of the “Nameless man”. That was a homage, and as such, it really was a “genre” snippet.

Writing or telling in genre can be easy or hard. When your goal is to mimic and recreate a genre, it’s sometimes hard to not overdo it, to make it clear that you are drawing and referencing ye olde favourite genre while not being too hackneyed. It also keeps you very self-conscious, because genres are often less about what you tell and more about how you tell it; both the shape and form of the story, and the construction of the sentences. You really pay attention to every word.

Of course, some people just write, and since they think in this genre, whatever comes out will be of the genre, without them giving this much thought. But then, it’s not really homage, it’s just how they write.

Anime is a medium, but it also is a genre to a degree. It has tropes to itself, and certainly to its subgenres, such as “Determinator Shounen”, “Moe”, “High school”, “Dating sim romance”, etc. And part of what I’ve spoken about before regarding comedies, and how we’re all about the “insider jokes” to show and prove (even if only to ourselves) that we are “in the know”? That’s not just tidbits, it’s also the genre-trappings, the things that happen which show us we are actually watching something “of the genre”.

Anyway, here’s a small genre-entry. You guys shouldn’t have a hard time recognizing the genre; provided you like reading ;)

The God-Machines of Atria Crumbled.

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(Media) Moments Frozen in Time – Favourites.

Favourites are moments which had been frozen in time. At least the ones which we can find in media, because as we all know, memories are something which is constructed, and not only at the time in which they occur, they keep being constructed after the fact to fit with new information received.

Media memories are memories, or rather, occurrences from books, movies, series, music, they are frozen in time, crystallized, so to speak, because we can return to them, time and time again. The passage that had stirred our blood so in a novel, the elation that we had felt when listening to an overture in an opera, and so many others.

But can we truly return to these perfect moments, to revisit these perfect memories, or are our memories moments that are constructed from an alchemical fusion of two things, which can never truly be reproduced, as Dr Jackyll had found to his dismay? A unification of the media section, that indeed can be experienced again, and of our emotional and psychological state at the time, which are not only something one would be hard pressed to reproduce, but even to merely identify?

Read more, and please share your own frozen perfect moments!
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Whisper of the Heart – The Dreary versus Fantasy (Worlds).

The kids, and the cat.

So I’ve watched Whisper of the Heart in a Hayao Miyazaki focused film festival of sorts last Friday (along with Porco Rosso, I’ve watched all the other films they had there previously), and I was bothered by something  in Whisper of the Heart, well, a couple of things.

There will be a certain amount of spoilers, be advised.

The first is that it had a “point”, a moral, a lesson it had tried to pass, when I think it’d have worked better as a “Slice of Life” story that just showcases something. Porco Rosso on the other hand was cute, but it was rambling and a bit directionless.

Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku Tsukihima, a girl who loves reading books, at her senior year of junior high school. In a way, she lives in the world of imagination, reading books voraciously, and fantasizing about the boy whose name appears before hers in many of the books she loves.

By the by, she is a junior high school student, and while some aspects of her and her classmates seem a bit off in age, as in, some fit high schoolers better, and some actually fit elementary schoolers (and even 4th-5th graders at that), on the whole, it seemed fitting, the behaviour, which meant quite a bit. I hate it when films totally butcher how younger people behave for the sake of cliches.

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