“The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks

10 09 2009

John Twelve Hawks - The Traveller

“The Traveler”
(Book 1 of The Fourth Realm)
by John Twelve Hawks

“The Traveler” begins with the life of Maya who grew up in London to become a Harlequin whose role is to protect Travelers – people who have the ability to cross over different realms with their spirit. Trained to fight against the Tabula – which has the mission of killing all Travelers – and to hide from The Grid – which is the system to which people have given up their freedom (installed CCTV everywhere, government’s ability to track information, etc.) for an illusion they believe as safety and security – Maya was given the mission to find two Travelers living in Los Angeles and protect them.

One very particular thing I can talk about this book is that it has the ability to be adapted into a film or a TV series. The author, JXIIH (Shortening of John Twelve Hawks), presents a very dynamic visualization of the different scenes and showed that every character in the book can never be forgotten as they would contribute later on in the story. At first, the story seem to focus a lot with the life of Maya from her childhood when she was being trained by her father Thorn to become a cold blooded warrior who did not care about anything but protecting a few people who were not only special for their abilities but were also threatened by the Tabula. But it shows a lot more about the world these characters are living in where everyone is thought to be in this so-called Grid which is being compared to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon – the world became a prison where people think that they are being observed even though they are not being observed which is a really smart way to create a setting.

The idea of fate was dealt with in this novel. Maya, Lawrence Takawa, Sophia and the Corrigan brothers had situations where they were presented their roles in a world where everyone believed that Travelers, Harlequins, Pathfinders and the Tabula do not exist anymore. Maya did accept her fate eventually in this story which is rather different from what she believed she wanted which is having a normal life working in a company. She did protect a Buddhist monk before and her life was being threatened the moment she met up with her father for the last time in Eastern Europe who gave her the mission of finding the Corrigan brothers in the US.

Fate is a hard thing to accept especially it deals with something that we as human beings do not have control over. Fate would be a given with regards to our gender and race – although that is changing these days. But association with a religion, culture, political setting, status, or work/profession is something that we can change as we live in this world and Maya proved that considering her situation. Be an ordinary citizen, be a Harlequin, the novel gave that indication when she became lonely because of her so-called fate – she should have just kept a low profile and not bother with what the crazy Harlequins are up to.

I like those moments when Maya (and in certain parts, together with other characters) try to escape from the Tabula who has more access to the Grid which provides information about every individual not just their identification, name, age, gender, birthdate, etc… but the Grid is also able to monitor people through thousands of CCTVs installed in every country and track everyone’s credit card number and chequing information. The key to their escape is always change: movement from one place to another, disguising themselves, using fake IDs and false information; all of this for the sake of hiding from the real enemies, the Tabula, who has the ability to hack through the Grid’s computer systems to hunt down Travelers, their Pathfinders – people who will determine whether a Traveler is real or not – and the Harlequins.

It gave the idea that life probably won’t become static unless we move on by escaping from it through change, through adventure and through accumulating experience.

Overall, it was a good read, probably the first time I finished a 400-page book – the story was enjoying and it looked short but the flipping was what made me turned off which resulted to me finishing the whole book in around 1 month which I don’t usually do with a 250-page book which has larger page dimensions from this one which is a mass-bound paperback that I could finish in 2-4 days. Setting trivial things aside, probably when I have read the second book of “The Fourth Realm”, I will probably talk about what crossing over different worlds would mean – “The Traveler” only gave us the whole deal with spirits crossing over different realms.


Happy 100th Anniversary to Anne of Green Gables

12 06 2008

I haven’t watched the films nor have I read “Anne of Green Gables” but I am pretty aware about how it is a Canadian story and that it is set in Prince Edward Island. The story spread throughout the world as far as the United States, Europe and Japan.

The book was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery and was published in June 1908. It was aimed at fiction readers of all ages, translated in 33 languages, and was adapted into TV Series, Film, Musical Play, and even into an Anime series in Japan who at that time was adapting tons and tons of stories from the west (others I might remember are “The Sound of Music”, “Princess Sarah”, “Heidi”, “The Dog of Flanders”, etc… I might try to find the time reading the book and have my reflections on it – living here in Canada, I think I really need to read it. From studying Canadian History, I only read “Marie Chapdelaine”, “Kiss of the Fur Queen” and part of “Obasan”.

But that aside… For now, I’d like to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables since its publication.

Anne of Green Gables helped a lot with the tourism industry of PEI where half of the tourists came in all because of the novels. This year, there will be an event called “Anne 2008” and the organizers and facilitators are hoping to not just make it into another event which will just draw tourists but also a way for the islanders themselves in PEI to revisit and become fascinated once again to the story of Anne as well as the life in the island more than a hundred years ago.


“Welcome to the NHK” by Tatsuhiko Takimoto

29 05 2008

“Welcome to the NHK”
by Tatsuhiko Takimoto

It took me 3 days to read the whole book.

The story begins with Tatsuhiro Satou, a recluse – he is one of the so-called “hikkikomori” which are people who lock themselves in their house afraid of interacting with people and the society. He thought that there is a conspiracy that is trying to bring him down, an evil organization that aims to keep him the way he is. Yet, all it takes to solve his hikkikomori problems was to meet up with a girl named Nakahara Misaki who wanted to help him remove his disorder. But along the way, his high school classmate and next door neighbour who is partly a hikkikomori named Yamazaki Kaoru met with him and shared the ideas about women and happiness through “eroge” or erotic games.

Let me start this book reflection by telling everyone reading this to please follow these advices of mine: Don’t do drugs; Don’t make bombs; Don’t try to commit suicide; and Do not download child porn. I warn you if you ever read this book, it’s contained with information about drugs, violence, bombs, eroticism and things which some I’m glad were reconsidered from being included in the anime series.

I apologize for those who were expecting this to be a journal on the anime series or the manga. This is about the original novel to which the ideas were taken from – well some of them that is.

The anime series is a lot lighter. It includes a romantic element on it between Satou and Misaki, Satou and Hitomi, and Yamazaki and Nanako (Nanako never materialized in the novel but the anime wanted to create her to make some kind of completeness and story to the character of Yamazaki’s girl) rather than following the dark contents from the novel. The manga is more devoted to the original novel and of course the novel is the god of them all hehehehe. anyway…

Takimoto’s interpretation on the novel in comparison to the anime series is just mind-blowing. For every page I turn, there are always issues that brings me into deep reflections – many were dealt with in the anime series but the novel catches your mind a lot more with the language that can sometimes go beyond the reasonable and it had made me sort of involved with the crazy world they made – the only difference is that I’m not the one high on drugs.

It’s funny how the character of the narrator Satou seem to send the message that these thoughts are all his and we should care a lot more with what we think and what our worldview is all about – in short, we should just mind our own business.

But I have to point out one very important reflection. It’s when we think too much about our failures in life – with accepting defeat and the fact that we are useless and no-gooders in this world. We even go through thoughts of suicide which amazes me cause it’s always one of the options being considered by depressed people.

In this book, I was so drawn with the idea of happiness according to the narrator. That our loneliness is caused by our interactions and relations with people. We refuse to feel hurt by how other people will react towards our utterances and actions. Yet we also refuse the so-called half-assed sense of happiness – partial happiness in simple terms – which brings the conclusion of being a loner as the best solution.

But this is something that I found worth reflecting as I read the part when Satou and Misaki were about to finish the hikkikomori program… Once we actually move on in our lives – whether by our own actions or through a certain miracle – we will suddenly suppress those depressing thoughts from our minds and come to the conclusion that life is great despite how mysterious it may be. And Satou was able to realize that in the book.

Another issue I found was on the idea of “conspiracy” according to the narrator – that there is an “evil” entity (or organization) conspiring to bring individuals down from moving on with life. That evil is something people want to disperse and as bad as it may sound, religion and gods seem to be one of the ways that evil can be defeated.

But the idea in this book is that “evil” is not something that is external from the individual. Evil is something that is within us and we – the self – are the only witnesses to that evil.

What message this brings to us is that we have the evil in our own lives as well as the good. Each individual have created their own little world so that they can tell to themselves that “this is how I understand life” or “this is how I understand the universe” or “this is how I perceive love, hate, romance and erotic sex”.

We have created these entities in our minds in order to accept who we are and tell the world to respect it. This brings me to this philosophy that I have taken by heart – Anything is possible in every human being! What stops us from that idea is fear and choice. Consider this! And I hope people who would read the book can find something valuable from it with regards to life and how you can believe in the limitless possibilities of being a human being.

“Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie

27 05 2008

“Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress”
by Dai Sijie

Amazing work by Chinese-French novelist Dai Sijie! I love the story and I became a lot emotional as symbolisms and important events reveal itself.

The book revolves around two teenage guys who were sent outside of the city to be re-educated in a rural village as ordered by the Chinese Government when Communism was at its strongest grip in the early 1970s. They didn’t have any hope to be released from the re-education because of the fact that their parents were among the so-called “enemy of the people”, a label that the Chinese Government gave to them because of being either immoral or being reactionary against the preachings of the power-hogging government. But as they stayed in the re-education process, they found a beautiful girl from next town and a suitcase filled with banned books which brought change to the lives of Luo and the unnamed narrator. These events started to change the lives of the two to the point that they felt freedom from re-education.

This book deals a lot about learning. We learn as we experience life as it progresses in many ways. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sensational experience – going to university for the very first time, going to another country, meeting new friends, having a new hobby, playing a new game, studying a new subject, even reading books – all of these can bring forth new ideas that will make a person wake up into a new world. In the novel, the encounter between them and the little seamstress as well as the event when they read a banned book for the very first time since the time which gave them the opportunity brought Luo and especially the narrator into many reflective moments which then became a coming-of-age story for them. They learned about love, sex, romance and freedom in a world which tries to tame them from even thinking about those notions.

It acknowledges the existence of teachers. The villagers, the books and their experiences have become a great source of learning for the main characters…

Yet there is a line in the story that have drawn me to what the whole deal is all about: “Dancing is not something that could be taught… The same is true of diving and writing poetry, for the best divers and poets are self-taught. Some people can spend their lives having lessons and still resemble stones when they hurtle into the air. They never achieve the lightness of dropping fruit.”

Learning will always take place. But in the end, it’s all about us – the self. Learning is quite distant from the person. The only way to learn really isn’t from the outside but from the inside. It involves how we understand life and how we can approach it so that it can work for us – so that we can learn easily – and so that we can benefit to our surroundings as well. We are taught to be reflective. We are encouraged to show empathy.

Through the tenacity of all the forces that our minds absorb, we then find a way to learn for ourselves.

But here’s another thought that I made… No one can control those forces – not even a government who may have all the power to kill anyone who is devious in the social or political order.

In the end, we are all individuals – we have minds, we have souls, we have individual aspirations, we have good and bad traits, we are all hypocrites and opportunists, we are all caring and loving, we are all desiring, we are all needing; all of these in certain levels among us… in the end… we are all… “unique”…

And that uniqueness is what we should respect and understand.

“Naomi’s Tree” by Joy Kogawa & Ruth Ohi

22 05 2008

“Naomi’s Tree”
by Joy Kogawa
Illustrated by Ruth Ohi

I was in the Japan Foundation two weeks ago and I was able to meet with these two wonderful people when I was volunteering for their book talk event: Joy Kogawa, a Japanese-Canadian children’s book writer and novelist; and Ruth Ohi, also Japanese-Canadian who draws for children’s books. These photos were taken with my own camera.

Left: Ruth Ohi talking about what inspired her to draw and how she does it.
Right: Joy Kogawa sits down and talks about their book, “Naomi’s Tree”.

Ruth Ohi and Joy Kogawa after the Book Talk event together with their new book “Naomi’s Tree”. I requested to take their photos and to tell you, they’re really nice. I do hope the photos are just fine if ever they see it. I had a chance to get a copy of “Naomi’s Tree” and had both of them sign it. I also had a copy of “Obasan” by Kogawa which the author alone signed.

The first time I encountered Joy Kogawa was in the novel “Obasan” back when I was still in college. I wasn’t a really hardworking student back then which is why I didn’t have the chance to read the novel cover-to-cover. I’m sure I’ll be able to go through that book very very soon.

For now, I want to talk about one of Joy Kogawa’s children’s books which was done with the help of the creative and expressive drawings of Ruth Ohi.

I was able to learn all about the lives of Japanese-Canadians in Canadian history back in college. This book just gave me an idea of the events that time from the perspective of an individual who is a Japanese-Canadian and who went through those experiences along with her family. From the time they were living peacefully in the beginning of the century as immigrants to Canada up to the Second World War which have affected drastically the Japanese-Canadian community, and even until today…

I was able to learn about how it is so important to “preserve love” within the lives of people no matter how unavoidable separation can be even if separation itself could last for a long, long time. Kids need to value the importance of love – of caring for other people, of spending quality time with other people, of making peace and harmony within family and friends a great deal. “Naomi’s Tree” have provided that experience through the relationship between Naomi and the cherry tree – the Friendship Tree, whose role is to become a symbol of love which lasts for a long time and is preserved for generations to come. This love is shown through its beautiful pink petals during spring and its sweet fruits as they ripen.

But the best thing about this is that it relates to the life of Joy Kogawa who had this exact experience and who realized great things throughout those encounters in life. Thank you very much for sharing those experiences.

With regards to Ruth Ohi’s drawings. I have to admit that there are emotional moments in the book that the pictures do intensify and I really liked it. And of course, these images can be appreciated very well by the youngsters who can open up to different perspectives of life aside from just sticking to their out-of-this-world imaginations which parents always find really interesting.

I hope everyone was able to acquire something valuable out of my reflections to this work. It was a great read! I’m pretty sure that I will pass this literature on to my kids if ever I would get one hehehe.

“The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom

21 05 2008

“The Five People You Meet In Heaven”
by Mitch Albom

First of all, thanks to Beryl (http://beryl22.multiply.com) for giving me the opportunity to read this interesting novel full of very insightful ideas about life and most especially death as it is interpreted by the author.

[20mayMMVIII – status: after 2 days, 145 of 196 pages done]

I couldn’t believe I can actually read that fast in just two days. Well for one thing, the plot had a very interesting style to it – the linear events were organized in a way to make us understand the relationships between the past and the present which were pieces to the puzzle of the life of Eddie, the old mechanic from Ruby Pier who died and went to heaven only to be reunited with his past. I won’t tell you the rest of the story since I definitely want you guys to read it.

It kinda grabbed my attention when there was a reference to the Second World War to which Eddie participated in and guess where the setting was… it was in the Philippines back then when the Japanese colonial rule took over the country.

Once I read the entire novel, I will definitely find some words to fit in the question of what idea this story is trying to give us.

But for now, after 146 pages, i see that the book is so mind-blowing because the author’s description of the settings, the moods, even the feelings of the characters themselves grab my imagination which then drove all the way to my senses – the feelings of love and affection, to hatred and negligence, through the good times such as being together with family and friends and through the bad times such as encountering wars and diseases. Those feelings are even associated with fear, anger, madness, mistrust, and sometimes calmness, happiness, humour, empathy and sympathy.

The story taught us about how important life is and how valuable everyone and everything in our lives are that we might be just taking them for granted yet they connect to us. There is relativity in this world even before we were born and even if one have never seen a certain person or face or name in their entire life, everything in this world affects each one of us and we definitely should think about showing gratitude for the existence of things that bring us great opportunities in life, great endeavours and feats, and even in our own daily survival in life.

[21mayMMVIII – completed]

Mitch Albom really put a brilliant ending to this masterpiece. I definitely did not expect it myself. I have to tell everyone that I cried reading the last few pages of the book and I really want all of you to get your hands on the book and be touched as it did for me.

It still shivers me to be freaked out in immersing myself with the image of heaven brought about by Albom in this novel.

To learn that all of our life stories are related in one way or another and that we need to fill in the holes of our pain and suffering through going back to our past is a magnificent thing. Yet it brings me to the idea of mystery which a lot of people hesitate and some are even reluctant to investigate.

As I felt every description interpreted in the novel, I kept in mind the idea of heaven which contributes a lot to this book. Heaven or life after death is interpreted here as a place where the mysteries of your life is clarified. It is where the process of “resting in peace” takes place. And all it took were a few people and one’s own life story for the purpose of heaven to work for Eddie.


Favourite Quotes:

“…no one is born of anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now [after death], here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.”

— this drew my attention a lot because it’s something that we don’t just have to do once we have already died. It is always important to reflect upon our lives and re-evaluate our feelings from anger to sadness and even our feelings of happiness. As we move on in life, is it really worth it focusing on certain aspects of life and embedding them with specific meanings that in turn reflect towards our emotions? A supermarket where you have worked at for many years (for example) may have been associated with hardships and difficulties in life which breeds a lot of loneliness and anger; but does it really matter once you have quit working there? Some people would vow to themselves never to take a single step in a supermarket ever again once they quit. We forget to reflect on how much we have helped and served other people and how you should consider them as part of your life – as the people who help the company where you’re working at grow a lot and returns back the favour by giving you income.

“Lost love is still love… It takes a different form.”

— Indeed, this is powerful. Love is lost when people break up or when husbands or wives are widowed. And it is even more devastating when someone can never take it back either through loving something else or through doing something to divert one’s own sadness. But no matter what, love still exists because the thing that is lost is those who love you, it’s not love itself. You still appreciate people around you, show them respect, care for them… it’s normal for people to feel that way cause that’s love.

“Hitching Rides with Buddha” by Will Ferguson

18 04 2008

“Hitching Rides with Buddha: A Journey Across Japan” (Canadian Title)
“Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan” (USA & UK Title)

by Will Ferguson

Being here in Canada, I got a hold of the one with the Canadian Title. So I guess I’ll take you through “Hitching Rides with Buddha”. But I don’t think there’s any difference between the Canadian and the US/UK Title in terms of the novel itself.


Progress: Done 6 Chapters

“Hitching Rides…” tells the story of the author’s journey across Japan from the tip of Cape Sata on the South to the northern tip of the island of Sapporo on the north.

It’s quite amazing to see Japan in the eyes of a foreigner because you are able to figure out two value systems which are conflicting at each other. Will Ferguson is a Canadian humourist and being in Japan, there is no doubt that he would write a lot of interesting facts and funny reactions to it.

Sometimes these writers would come up with something satirical but my favourite part in these first 6 chapters was the reference on TV Shows like “Ultraman” and “Godzilla” and how monsters are destroying Japanese cities. There were fans of these shows from a certain city – Fukuoka maybe – who were mad because their city was not chosen to be the victim of the humongous monster about to be defeated by Ultraman. Seeing your city destroyed on a TV show… I have to say the Japanese people definitely are amazing with all their bizarreness.

Ferguson have made me laugh throughout this book and I do recommend it to those who are in love with Japan, its culture, and its society, and to those who are looking for an adventure in this very comprehensive travel diary that the author have wholeheartedly shared with a title he have always wanted to put up. For the US and UK publications, the title is “Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan”. From the introduction, Ferguson said that the American and British publication companies said that the Canadian title was too religious.